REVEALED! PC's Big Secret Project!

I've played coy for a while now, but the time has come for me to share what I'll be up to on my upcoming sabbatical from Woodberry Forest School:

In the spring of 2011, I'll be working as an intern at Living Bird Magazine.

As you may already know (especially if you read my last entry), the magazine is a publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which explains my recent trip to Ithaca: I was meeting the editor, Tim Gallagher, in order to see the lab, meet some of the lab and magazine staff, and discuss our plans for next year.

The idea of working at LB came upon me a while back when I was thinking about what I'd like to do with my sabbatical trimester. Two obvious answers were "write" and "bird," but I was also thinking somewhat about my own professional development. I've spent the last three years as a faculty advisor to our school newspaper, including one trimester when my co-advisor was on her own sabbatical, but my actual experience with publications consists of working on the SPEC yearbook at Grey Culbreth Junior High (1978) and the Hillife yearbook at Chapel Hill High School (1980). While I've had plenty of experience writing for publications on a freelance basis, my knowledge of what happens on the other end of the lance is pretty much nil. Thus, as I considered my options, the thought of getting some hands-on experience at a magazine seemed to offer some practical benefits for my future work at Woodberry (and potentially for my future writing career).

Just applying for a trimester-long job didn't look like a workable idea, however, particularly given my dearth of journalistic experience. Luckily, asking to work for free makes you a much more appealing candidate. Unpaid internships are fairly standard at many magazines, and recent college graduates will apparently even fight to get them at major publications like Esquire or Vanity Fair (where one of my former students interned and now edits) in hopes of getting the contacts and experience necessary for kick-starting their careers. Obviously, I'm not in exactly that same position, but the basic idea made some sense to me: with Woodberry willing to provide me with living expenses, I wouldn't need the magazine to pay me, so an internship would be the best thing to pitch to the magazine in question.

But which magazine?

Well, given the abovementioned "write" and "bird" plan, I figured the best option would be a magazine devoted to birds and/or birding, and right there, bookmarked in my Firefox browser, was Cornell's very own magazine of exactly that sort. I had been fortunate enough to come in contact with Tim Gallagher through this 2005 article by's Colleen Mondor, for which she interviewed each of us about our birding and writing experiences, so I shot Tim a note asking if he needed someone to spend a couple of months editing copy and/or making coffee--for free. (Yes, I said "for free" very clearly in my email's first sentence.) We agreed to meet and work out some of the details, and now that I'm back from that meeting, you can expect to see me posting from Ithaca starting sometime next spring.

In the meantime, all of you who do not already have subscriptions to Living Bird should click here and subscribe. You won't want to miss a single moment of the thrilling conclusion!

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on July 19, 2010 4:02 PM.

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