Phan interned at Rubin Pfeffer Content, a literary agency representing children's and young adult literature. There, she was responsible for reviewing manuscripts, evaluating their viability, and following up with writers. One of her tasks was to write rejection letters, a challenging responsibility she approached with thoughtfulness and to which she applied her experiences from the classroom at UMass Amherst. "With each manuscript submission, the author attached a brief letter that described their writing process, personal background, and the inspiration for the story," she says. "As I read each submission, I used my critical reading and peer review skills I learned from my classes to determine whether or not the story should be rejected."
The internship allowed Phan to see firsthand how literature and writing can reflect what's going on in the world. Following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, her supervisor called for submissions from writers of color and received a flood of submissions. "I began to realize how much it really took to get a book published and the societal significance a book really represents," says Phan. She began to weave this perspective into her review process, asking herself "whether or not a book would benefit someone, somewhere in any way. Would it make someone be seen? Would it make someone more compassionate and empathetic? Most importantly, I thought about whether a manuscript would inspire the reader to be better and do better, in any and every capacity possible." She's grateful for the opportunity to complete this internship, through which she learned valuable skills and gained a deeper understanding of the editorial process.