“What job can you get with an English degree?” is a tired, repetitive question that I find myself asked often. One reason I dislike this question is because I truly have no idea! My ever-changing answer runs from the practical to the fanciful: bookseller, editor, farmer, baker, someone who sits in a sunny patch of grass and reads books all day, librarian, etc. The other reason is because such a question feels so limiting and unimaginative, like if there’s not one capitalist career path then an English degree must be futile. However, I believe that there is nothing more worthwhile and meaningful than slowing down, getting quiet, and listening to other people’s stories.
Most of my life has been spent holding and being held by stories. Ever since I was little, I’ve run wild and barefoot through the world, imbued by a sense of adventure and romance from the books I read voraciously. Whether it be staying up past my bedtime with a book light and curled paperback in my hands, or nestled in with a hardcover, cat, and cup of tea, reading is pretty much all I’ve ever known. I even happily spent my lunch breaks in elementary school helping the librarian organize her bookshelves! For me, books don’t feel like an escape from the world, but rather another way of being fully present in it: curious, engaged, and connected to other beings. I always feel so grateful and full of light and wonder when I can enter such magical stories.
When I became a writing consultant in my university’s writing center, I knew that I enjoyed reading and editing other people’s words more than I enjoyed writing. Though maybe I first realized this when I spent more time editing my friends’ college admission essays than actually writing my own. My favorite part of university has definitely been my poetry classes. I didn’t read much poetry until college, but when I finally did, it felt like discovering an entirely new language to think and dream in. From Adrienne Rich to Tracy K. Smith to Robyn Schiff, I had no idea that poems could be such intimate, electrifying things. I especially love our peer workshops because of the way we collaborate and laugh and share in the joy and labor of creating poetry. It has been such a luxury to spend way too much time debating the meaning of a single word, or sharing what each other’s poems make us feel and see.
I always thought I would have to become an author or a poet in order to be a part of the literary world. However, I know that reading, editing, and publishing stories is just as vital as the actual writing and creating part of it. This is why I am so honored to have been given the opportunity to work for Sundress Publications as an editorial intern; I want to learn how to help others tell their stories, and I hope to contribute to a community of people who know that everyone has something urgent and beautiful to share with the world.
Abigail Renner is a junior at George Washington University studying English and American Studies. She is currently a writing consultant in her university writing center, where she loves unearthing writers’ voices and reading across a myriad of genres. She dreams of living on a farm, filling her shelves with romance novels, and laughing with friends over cups of peppermint tea.
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