Reading has always been an escape for me. I felt like books were places of comfort, that tucked you in and welcomed you back just where you left off. Most summers I begged my mom to drive me to our library, and I’d take out the five book maximum, then return the next week for five more books. I spent hours reading without realizing how much time had passed. I was the kid that came to school zombie-fied by a book I couldn’t put down. To me, the lives of the characters in the books were more interesting, or fulfilling, than my life.
In elementary school I started writing. Sort of. It started with my own version of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I spent three long sentences describing every aspect of Mr. Poe—the olive green of his jacket, the bristle of his mustache, the scuffed shoes, his nervous hands—I wanted to make Mr. Poe standing at the door so real. I wanted to make it as real as the book was to me. Thankfully, I learned to pare down my sentences, but the first drafts are still gunked with too many adjectives.
However, writing will never provide the same escape for me that reading has. Writing is gruesome. It’s tiring—it’s writing five drafts simultaneously of the same story because you can’t make up your mind about the narrator. It’s rereading and rearranging the same paragraph, reading it aloud to yourself and hearing where the flow hiccups, but having no clue how to smoothen it out. I love writing, but it is work, and it is too vulnerable to my doubt and criticism, as well as that of others. Reading is intimate, accepting you in whatever mental or emotional state you’re in, and lets you step into someone else’s life for a little while. It wows you with shiny sentences, and tricks you with plot structure, but it’s free of the worry and overthinking that writing welcomes. I want to give that to someone else. I want to welcome them into a story and tell them everything will be fine, everything else can wait.
In the last year or so, the pressure has been mounting about what to do after college. Senior year ticked on, the deadline inching closer, waiting for my decision. I spoke extensively with my mentor about whether I should apply to graduate school. Was it worth it? In her small office, closed in with wall-to-wall bookshelves, she asked me what I pictured myself doing. I told her that I would love to write novels, but that is impractical. That is a side project. Then I looked at her—this polished writer with an award-winning chapbook under her belt—and said that I thought I could be happy being a part of the process to create published work. My favorite part of workshop classes was editing. I loved polishing my peers’ stories, showing them what they couldn’t see. I am really excited to intern at Sundress Publications and be so close to stories.
Jenna Geisinger is a fiction and creative non-fiction writer from New Jersey. She attends the MFA Professional and Creative Writing Program at William Paterson University, while working as an associate managing editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal and a reader for Philadelphia Stories, where she has been published.