Meet our New Intern: JoAnna Brooker

I became a writer for the same reason anyone does: a book was my first real friend. I hear this happens sometimes when you’re home-schooled. I spent my childhood nuzzled up in my book nook, reading stories about Anne with the carrot hair, or Elizabeth Bennett’s mouth. I entered public school in the fifth grade, round glasses, half-formed boobs and all. I wrote a short story about a chair falling like a ballerina and I won a writing award. My life’s been chasing that high ever since.

In middle school, I’d write garbled, flowery prose on my old Windows computer,

attempting to emulate the Naruto fanfiction I’d read on I showed my best friend Jennifer my writing when I was 13. She took out her retainer to squint at the neon green ink on my laptop screen. Her only critique? “No plot.”

When my parents got divorced I got actual material. I wrote Tumblr poetry in high school in anonymous bliss, until my classmates found my blog. Their readings of my poetry to my ex boyfriends kept my habits under wraps for years.

Until my senior year of high school, when Mrs. Tharpe shook back her blonde hair and asked us to write three essays about our life, like Joan Didion did. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

 I had stopped journaling when I was 13, after I lost them all in the move. But writing my story again, as it had happened in order to understand it, gave me a clarity and sharpness like I had just tasted mountain air. So I declared myself a Journalism major, and decided to go to the grand University of Tennessee.

Undergrad was a fever dream. I wrote arts & culture pieces for The Daily Beacon for six months, and then for a year and a half I got to write a Wednesday weekly column about women’s adversity called “My Humps”. I got to intern with The Knoxville Mercury (RIP in peace) and witness a deteriorating media company first hand. So, I declared a second major in English–because the loss only showed me how important it was. My Creative Nonfiction and Poetry classes supported this belief. For my last year and a half, I wrote sketches for UnwarranTed, a Volunteer Channel comedy show, and started doing stand up.

Now, I have a B.S. in Journalism and a fervent desire to make sense of the world around me. I have been lucky to have met so many inspiring and encouraging English teachers and professors in my academic career who have challenged me, and helped me focus my needle in a haystack ambitions. I am honored to be given the opportunity to work for Sundress Publications, and excited to learn how to contribute to and connect to this beautiful literary world.


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