Mindi Popovich ’15 lived an English major’s dream this summer as an intern at Image Journal in Seattle, Washington.
The recent Hillsdale College graduate and Pratt, Kansas, native worked as an administrative intern at the literary journal which Gregory Wolfe ’80 founded in 1989. Popovich first met Wolfe, publisher and editor of the journal; his wife and Image Executive Editor Suzanne Wolfe; and many artists and writers associated with the quarterly publication in fall 2014, when they visited campus for a celebration of Image’s 25th anniversary.
“When everyone from Image was on campus I was very impressed with who they were as people,” Popovich said. “It was a really good experience, seeing a different side of publishing. Mostly I’ve worked in commercial places, but Image was more creative.”
Image Journal is a quarterly literary publication that Wolfe founded to “demonstrate the continued vitality and diversity of contemporary art and literature that engage with the religious traditions of Western culture,” according to the Image website. Image publishes prose, poetry, and art that showcases artistic achievement not represented in other circles, with the journal’s cover bearing the tagline “Art. Faith. Mystery.”
Popovich had plans to pursue a career in publishing, and a summer as one of Image’s three interns worked perfectly with that goal, connecting her with the publishing industry and providing practical experience. She and her fellow interns worked to digitize and categorize Image’s new online archives, which meant an opportunity to read the journal and acquaint herself with the contemporary work that it publishes. Work from Kathleen Norris, Franz Wright, and Gregory Orr especially stood out to her.
“Mindi gave a huge boost to our office’s productivity this summer, helping with events, marketing, and with our transition to a totally revamped website,” Mary Kenagy Mitchell, Image’s managing editor, said in an email. “We were all impressed with the way she took initiative in projects, by how professionally and courteously she conducted herself, and by how meticulous and responsible she was. In return, she got to see how a small, thriving nonprofit works from the inside — the good, the bad, and the coordinated chaos.”
Popovich was inspired to go into publishing because of what she sees as the dismal state of much young adult and children’s literature available today. After reading Wintergirls, a 2010 young adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson which focuses on two teenage protagonists with eating disorders, Popovich was struck by the hopeless tone of the book.
“It’s [eating disorders], a really important topic to talk about because it’s something a lot of people struggle with,” Popovich said. “But the novel was very nihilistic, a symptom of general society and how selfishly we think about things. I was so disturbed by that.”
For Popovich, Image Journal represents a place for contemporary writers who want to incorporate other themes into their writing.
“In contemporary literature there’s no hope and no striving for beauty and everything is very edgy and very sensational,” she said. “Image creates the community for writers who want to explore themes of faith, combine faith and beauty, and want to look into the void and see something that is not the void.”
Popovich wasn’t alone on the West Coast for the summer, but she doesn’t think she’s cut out for the big city. Other Hillsdale alumni in Seattle and Portland allowed her to enjoy time with friends, amid secretarial and administrative work for the journal, a two-hour commute, and new places to explore. She’s joining an Eastern Orthodox church, and the parish life was another source of community for her and her co-intern (and student at nearby Spring Arbor University) Alexandra Harper.
“I had a nice community out there and I think it kept me from being homesick,” she said.
Creating community is also where Image excels, according to Popovich. Through its Glen Workshop programs, writers find fellowship with like-minded artists.
“The whole summer, we got letters from writers who went to the Glen,” Popovich said. “Creating a space for authors who have a goal with their writing is definitely the most important part of what Image does.”