About this time every year the papers run articles about the pros and cons the cultural manifestation called “the internship.” In theory, having some extra help in the summer makes sense because regular employees want to take vacations then. But the articles I’ve read are filled with complaints from employers and interns alike: the interns don’t know how to dress or how to work; the bosses give the interns nothing but photocopying.

Every year we wonder if we’re really going to hear from suitable interns. We don’t have photocopying and coffee fetching for them to do, but much higher level of work that requires attention and intelligence and a some genuine understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish, and the quality we’re aiming for. That sounds good, but on the downside we also expect them to be incredibly flexible–ready to jump on a new project at a moment’s notice. And we’re a tiny group, without the kind of hierarchy that bigger companies have. That often sounds attractive, but the reality is that it can be confusing, and frustrating.

We’ve had wonderful luck with interns in the past–Julie Bourbeau from last summer has a job open here any time (sadly for us, she wants to work in DC!). This summer’s looking even better because we have a total of four interns. Tom and Rachel are old hands, but this year we have Jake Makler back, too. He’s a high school student who has a remarkable capacity to plough through huge amounts of manuscript, doing clean-up work but also paying attention to what it’s about, and figuring out how to use macros and such to speed up tedious editorial chores. Last year he worked on Patterns of Global Terrorism; I hope we’ll have more uplifting topics for him this year!

Ashley Winseck is a college student who was put straight to work on a task known at Berkshire Publishing as ARFing: the entering of changes from Author Response Forms for our Global Perspectives project. This is not a job for the faint of heart. It requires meticulous care, and this project is especially difficult because our authors come from around the world and the subject of the work is controversial. She has excellent guides in editors Marcy Ross and Cassie Lynch, but it’s still quite a challenge. The great thing about having interns and other staff recently out of college is that they help us shape our publications to respond to their questions, their concerns about the future, and their desire for straight talk, humor, and even a little style. (Yes, sometimes I feel I’ve walked into a student center. But not, fortunately, like I’ve walked into a dorm, at least not yet, though there is something odd going on on the whiteboard in one of the offices.)

In bloom in Great Barrington: Flanders poppies. Read about them.