I’ve always been a storyteller. As a child, I wrote my first poem about the changing leaves in Michigan autumns. I would spend my afternoons writing and illustrating stories, complete with hole punches on the side and glittery ribbon intertwined to bind them. I would write newsletters for my small family and write descriptive menus for Thanksgiving dinners. In high school, I took my first creative writing workshop and the teacher told me my writing was too sad, which should have been my first instinct that I would eventually become a poet.
I went to the University of Toledo and was planning on getting a degree in Adolescent/Young Adult Education with a concentration in Language Arts. I worked multiple jobs, including bartending at the local zoo, being a poll worker around election time, a librarian on campus, and as a counselor for a kids camp with the Michigan Parks and Recreation Department. I was always chatty in the workplace and thrived on communication and getting to know the stories of the people around me. When I took my first workshop my sophomore year, the professor told me I had a talent and should keep taking workshops. It wasn’t long after that I switched majors to Creative Writing and began learning about the publishing industry and modern poets. In college, I took a book building class with my mentor, and printed 75 copies of a poet’s manuscript on a Vandercook SP15 Press. I printed the poems on Mohawk Superfine paper and saddle stitched every copy. I didn’t realize MFA programs even existed until my mentor suggested I apply to them. I knew I had an interest in learning more about publishing and book building while also focusing my attention on my manuscript, which made UNC Wilmington one of my top choices.
My MFA has given me ample time to write my manuscript and multiple opportunities to learn about publishing. I have read poetry for Ecotone, interned with Lookout Books, and edited with Chautauqua. These experiences opened a door for me to see the surface of the publishing world and I’m so excited to be here with Sundress, a nonprofit whose mission I have such respect for. My personal stakes in working in publishing have grown from my aspiration and commitment to being an integral part of the writing community and continue to practice literary citizenship while recognizing my privilege of being in this industry. I want to be an active part of the ecosystem and community writers operate in, and strive to take great care of contributors’ words when reading or editing, just like the attention I hope other readers give to my work. I look forward to reading the stories here at Sundress Publications and witnessing the important relationships between the author and the publisher.
Ryleigh Wann is an MFA poetry candidate at UNC Wilmington. Her past experiences include reading poetry for Ecotone, editing with Lookout Books, teaching creative writing, and working for the Parks and Recreation Department in Michigan. Her writing can be found in Rejection Letters, Flypaper Lit, and Kissing Dynamite Poetry, among others.
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