Published July 30, 2021

Two University of Virginia undergraduate student interns, Melissa Zhu and Aaron Rose, joined the Virginia Festival of the Book during the 2020–2021 school year. From interviewing authors to working behind-the-scenes on social media, these interns helped bring the past year’s virtual programming to your screen! Get to know Melissa and Aaron—as well as their take on interning at the Festival—in this Q&A

Do you have a passion for books and an interest in getting internship experience in arts and culture administration as well as non-profits? The Virginia Festival of the Book offers paid internships to students at the University of Virginia, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and other colleges or universities in Central Virginia. Learn more about the Festival’s hybrid internship program and apply today.

Name: Melissa Zhu

Class: 2021

Major: Psychology

Minor: English

Festival: Why did you apply to become a Festival intern? 

Zhu: I love books, and I find it so powerful and important that we can read the world through the words of many authors, so I knew I wanted to get involved with the literary world in some way. I found the Festival through UVA’s Career Center, and I was excited by the work the Festival does to uplift authors and their stories. I applied to contribute to this work while gaining professional skills along the way, and I’m really glad I did!

Favorite part of being a Festival intern?

I’ve really appreciated how the staff at the Festival always welcomes interns’ curiosity and values our thoughts, from the intern tasks we do, to the questions we have about larger Festival planning. I love being able to join staff meetings and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Festival’s programming is thought through and pieced together. Plus, the free Festival books and first peeks at cool author events aren’t bad either…

Favorite event we’ve promoted or taken part in during the internship?

I’m very bad at picking favorites. Since I have some creative freedom when designing Shelf Life Instagram Stories, I’ve had a lot of fun promoting events with fun and unique themes. The True Heart Intuitive Tarot event with Rachel True comes to mind. As for those I’ve taken part in, Festival 2021 events like An Evening with Jacqueline Woodson, O Wondrous World! with Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Finding Home with Louis Chude-Sokei and Nadia Owusu stick with me.

What is your go-to genre? Who are your favorite authors?

I love a good, immersive sci-fi/fantasy novel, but I’ll read anything I find compelling! I’m probably forgetting many authors, but I admire N.K. Jemisin and Ocean Vuong, and I have huge childhood nostalgia for Kate DiCamillo, Patrick Ness, and Phillip Pullman. I’ll definitely read whatever R.F. Kuang writes next.

What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?

I just finished reading Chanel Miller’s memoir, Know My Name, and was promptly blown away.

Name: Aaron Rose

Class: 2021

Majors: English and American Studies

Festival: Why did you apply to become a Festival intern?

Rose: I wanted to find an internship opportunity that would allow me to express my love for literature and to explore the marketing and publishing fields, and working with the Festival seemed like a perfect way to do just that! After viewing a few Shelf Life events online, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the awesome work that the Festival was doing, so I applied to be an intern and the rest is history.

Favorite part of being a Festival intern?

One of my favorite responsibilities as an intern has been researching online about authors and books coming to the Festival for social media posts. As a result, I feel like I’ve learned so much about diverse, interesting topics like the origins of barbecue, spring bird migrations, and Appalachian folklore. Also, getting to conduct Q&A interviews with authors has been a blast! 

Favorite event we’ve promoted or taken part in during the internship?

During this year’s festival, I was able to hang out (virtually) behind the scenes before the Art of the Short Story event with authors John Lancaster and Te-Ping Chen. Getting to meet these authors in a more informal setting was so great, and the conversation that followed about their short story collections was even better!

What is your go-to genre? Who are your favorite authors?

These days I tend to gravitate towards historical fiction, literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, and mysteries, but I also have a soft spot for fantasy since that genre helped instill in me a love for reading early on in my life. Just a few of my favorite authors include John Steinbeck, Carlos Fuentes, Toni Morrison, Alice McDermott, and Umberto Eco.

What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?

I recently started Rumaan Alam’s Leave The World Behind and I am hooked. I would definitely recommend.

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