Creative Writing major Alina Labrador isn't graduating until May, but she's already grabbed hold of a rung of the editorial ladder.
She credits Queens' Creative Writing faculty with helping her to make the necessary connections and gain the needed confidence to pursue opportunities.
After taking the Literary Publishing and Editing course last spring, Alina was recommended by her instructor S. Craig Renfroe Jr. for an internship at Main Street Rag Publishing Company. The Charlotte publisher then hired her as an associate editor.
According to Renfroe, "Alina is a joy to teach because of the enthusiasm she brings to the class, where she's not just a responsible member but a leader. She has an enviable eye for detail and mature voice for a young writer."
While in Renfroe's English course, which works on publication of the campus literary magazine Signet, Alina also researched Tin House magazine. "They are exceptionally good," said the native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. "I was like, 'Hey, I would love to work there one day.'"
Within the year she was. She met Tin House founding editor Elissa Schappell at an MFA writing workshop offered to undergraduate creative writing students. Alina made an impression.
"You could tell she was serious about writing," said Schappell. She enjoyed Alina's "mature prose style" and found her well read and articulate. "She understood that writing is editing."Schappell encouraged Alina to apply to be a "slush pile" reader at Tin House. Now, every two weeks Alina reads 25 works of fiction or poetry that have been submitted unsolicited to the magazine. If she gives them the nod, they get another reading.
Although she describes herself as "at the bottom of the editorial ladder," Alina says she's learning a lot about publishing. "You can't submit your almost-best work. You have to submit your best work," she said. "You have to be ruthless with yourself.
"There are a lot of good writers out there, but there are a lot of people who are two classes or one mentor short of being great."
While she continues to study with her Queens mentors, she's found working with Tin House and Main Street has changed the way she reads, too. "Now, even if I don't like it, I get a lot more out of it because I look at the technique," she said. "It makes stories more transparent to me."