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Interview with Taryn Zavalin (’11)

Z Eihausen: How would you describe your educational career?

Taryn Zavalin: I attended UTK for my Bachelor’s in English. I didn’t choose my major until my junior year—I just took classes to fulfill my gen ed requirements and noticed which subject I took the most.

ZE: Which classes/resources at UT were most beneficial to your success, if any?

TZ: The classes most beneficial to me were technical editing, women’s fiction, international fiction, and creative writing; though, I would argue biology and French have been helpful in my career as well. The writing center and the library were fundamental to my success—I wouldn’t have made it without those resources.

ZE: Did you complete an internship while working towards your undergraduate degree?

TZ: I completed an internship in the fall after graduation with Sundress Publications. 

ZE: What experience were you hoping to gain when you first started your internship?

TZ: I hoped to gain insights into the publication world, like training to do some real world projects, specifically in writing, emails, and spreadsheets. I also hoped to network and gain career-long mentors (which I did! plus they became dear friends).

ZE: What responsibilities did your internship entail?

TZ: My biggest responsibility was to send submission emails to authors and poets for an anthology we were producing—this included rejections and acquisitions. But, I also worked on a draft of a grant proposal.

ZE: How did your internship contribute to your academic and/or professional life?

TZ: My internship helped me get my start as a professional writer; it was the first step in my decade long career.

ZE: Do you feel as though your internship prepared you for post-graduate life? Why or why not?

TZ: My internship was a very comforting soft-launch into my post-graduate life. My leader was kind, helpful, and always happy to give me direction, plus they willingly took direction on how to communicate with me to make sure I understood the projects. This was a huge help as I stepped into the corporate world.

ZE: Did your internship introduce you to other career opportunities that you had not previously considered? If so, how?

TZ: Yes! It helped me realize that I’d prefer to be an editor for a tech company, rather than literature, because I didn’t like sending rejections to authors. Even if I could do it quickly and well, I felt a lot of empathy for those rejected (having been in their shoes myself). This is very important work for a publication company, but it wasn’t for me and I’m glad I had the internship to help me understand that.

ZE: What is one piece of advice you have for undergraduate English majors when preparing for the job market?

TZ: My biggest piece of advice for young English majors going to the job market: remember if you can do 60% of the work on the job application, please still apply. English degrees are much more versatile than people give them credit for and you can do a lot more with it than be a writer/editor/teacher, unless that’s your dream. If so, know those jobs exist and they pay well.

This transcript has been edited for length. 

Taryn Zavalin (she/her) is an editor, writer, and reader specializing in customer-driven content and fiction. She has over 10 years of experience in developmental and line editing, including everything from technical copy to poetry. She’s worked for major tech firms, like Lyft, freelance-edited four published books, and is currently querying her own novel for publication.

Z Eihausen (she/her) is an emerging writer from Tennessee. She is currently a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville studying creative writing and philosophy. She previously interned at Sundress Academy for the Arts and is now Staff Director. She also likes bees.