Reading has always felt like a constant for me. When I look back at my childhood, I think fondly of each summer in elementary school, of my constant excitement to beat my reading record from the previous year. One year, I managed to read fifty books in a single summer. The pride I felt after achieving that milestone has stuck with me to this day, as a testament to the true comfort that I found in the written word.
Growing up, I struggled to connect with people and often found myself escaping into novels and daydreaming about my favorite characters. Reading made me feel like I belonged, and, easily, it shot straight up to the top of my priority list, even above completing my schoolwork (sorry, mom and dad). I remember my parents trying to limit the number of books I could check out from the library per week (4) and it feeling like they had given me the worst punishment my nine-year-old brain could imagine.
In middle school, as I started expanding my horizons, it occurred to me that I too could write stories. I too could create worlds and characters and do with them whatever I wanted. The power that writing afforded me felt almost too good to be true. My first stories were fanfiction—rewriting the endings of my favorite TV shows, fleshing out stories of side characters I wanted to see more of, that sort of thing—and I loved it. I loved getting to play in my favorite worlds and reimagine things the way I wanted them to go. The writing I do now could not be more different from what I started with, and it has been such a joy to watch things grow and change as I grew through different stages in my life.
During my senior year of high school, I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved in my AP Literature class. I was transfixed by the story—Morrison’s style and craft were like nothing I’d ever read before. I remember thinking that I both wanted to further read and analyze her work, and also learn to write in a way that would leave a similar impact on readers as she had left on me. Little did I know this newfound love for literary analysis would stick with me, leading to my undergraduate honors thesis (on Beloved, naturally, like any stereotypical English major does—reads a book in high school and never learns to shut up about it.) and the desire to further my studies in English. It’s a dream of mine, to spend my days reading and writing, learning the context and breathing new life into old words, as we try to understand the present through the past.
Through the work I’ve done since graduating, I’ve realized that I want to spend my life engaging with literature. Whether that is working in publishing and helping to get a book ready for publication, or working on the academic side and performing an analysis of the text, I want my love of reading and writing to exist wholeheartedly in my life. I want my words to mean something to others, as many stories have meant to me. The intent behind my work has always been to create meaning through making an impact, leaving a mark on the world, because that’s how I have felt most connected. It is always my goal to give that experience to others.
The projects I’ve worked on over the past couple years have solidified this mission. I want to create change through literature, both my writing and the writing of my community, and the best way I’ve found to do that is to immerse myself within the literary realm as much as possible. For that reason, I’m inspired by the work Sundress Publications does to support these ideas; to support writers and readers and publish stories that capture readers and create a larger impact. I value the work Sundress publishes for its authenticity, its heart, and its passion. These are the kinds of stories and perspectives I believe will leave a lasting impact. Being able to work alongside the team and help with the publishing process is an incredible privilege, and I am very grateful for this opportunity.
Neha Peri holds a BA in English from Rutgers University. In her senior year, she was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the university’s oldest literary magazine, The Anthologist. While at Rutgers, she also tutored for the Rutgers Writing Program, completed internships with the Rutgers English Department and the University of Mississippi Press, and wrote an honors thesis. Her work has been featured in The Anthologist. Currently, she works as an intern at the Princeton University Press.