2022 Prose Open Reading Period Selections Announced

Sundress Publications is thrilled to announce the results of the 2022 Prose Open Reading Period. The winning selection is José Angel Araguz’s Ruin and Want. The book is scheduled for release in 2023.

José Angel Araguz, Ph.D. is the author most recently of Rotura (Black Lawrence Press, 2022). His poetry and prose have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Poetry International, The Acentos Review, and Oxidant | Engine among other places. He is an Assistant Professor at Suffolk University, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Salamander and is also a faculty member of the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program. He blogs and reviews books at The Friday Influence.

The Editorial Board of Sundress assigns Honorable Mentions to:

Mi Gente/My People, Amelia Díaz Ettinger
The Fallen Ones, Michalle Gould

Finalists

Pro Infirmus, Sarah Giragosian
Undocumented Desert Rose, féi hernandez
Water Study, Freesia McKee
Different Kinds of Death, Dorothy Neagle
Scruffy City, Arabella Sarver
Between Worlds, Deepak Singh

Semi-Finalists

Small Cruelties, Joanna Acevedo
Recto/Verso, Liz Asch
Bitten by the Lantern Fly, Frances Cannon
A Handful of Earth, Jesse Curran
Forecast 2031, Marlena Chertock
Naked Phoenix Child, Brooke Gitzel
Intrusive Thoughts, Phoebe Rusch
Moon Scribbles, Kimberly Ann Priest
Reliance, Julia Tagliere
Boy in the House of Art, Gregg Williard

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents “Writing Animals”

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present “Writing Animals,” a workshop led by Juliana Roth on August 10, 2022, from 6:00-7:30 PM. This event will be held over Zoom. Participants can access the event at tiny.utk.edu/sundress (password: safta).

From Eileen Myles and Paul Lisicky to Ross Gay and Gary Snyder, we will explore writers documenting animals with nuance, reverence, and respect.  Using these examples, we’ll turn our attention to the animals in our own lives through guided prompts and a short meditation that asks you to inhabit the body of a nonhuman animal. 

You will craft poems, stories, or essays on your chosen animal subject after these exercises, whether that be your pets or that cute frog you saw that one time on a park bench. Perhaps your relationships with animals are conflicted: you actually don’t like them, maybe even fear them or contend with cultural complexities over domination and control of animal bodies. Every shade of awe, alarm, and shadow projection on what we see as nonhuman—or animal—is welcome. During our time, we come closer to understanding the mythology of the animals in our lives.

While there is no fee to participate in this workshop, those who are able and appreciative may make donations directly to Juliana Roth via Venmo at @juliana-roth, via PayPal at https://paypal.me/julianaroth, or through Anchor at https://anchor.fm/drawinganimals/support

Juliana Roth is a writer, filmmaker, educator, and performer. She’s worked for the World Animal Awareness Society, the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, Vegan Outreach, and the Ecology Center and formerly lived as a volunteer on an organic farm in Maine and out of a backpack in the wilderness of Utah’s La Sal Mountains. She now teaches writing at NYU. You can receive her weekly essay, podcast, and doodle inspired by our interconnection with animal lives, Drawing Animals, by subscribing here.

Project Bookshelf: Eden Stiger

I’ve had a few boyfriends in the past, but my mother’s bookshelf was my first love.

A picture of the middle layer of a bookshelf with multicolored books of red, orange, and green titles.

Mom’s bookshelf of 300+ books seemed to tower over me, but I was never intimidated. In fact, I remember sitting on the floor, pulling each book off the shelves, and selecting the ones with the best covers (those that were drool-worthy, of course). I was mesmerized by authors like Catherine Feehan, Catherine Coulter, Judith McNaught, Julia Quinn, Amanda Ashley, Lisa Klepas, and Johanna Lindsey. They introduced me to passion, pain, sex, and life outside of our small trailer.

When I was old enough for my first job, I would stop in at Books A Million every chance I was off and purchase more books for the bookshelf. One particular series I remember adding in was Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy novels. The story follows St. Vladimir Academy student Rose, a half-human-half-vampire teen who’s in charge of guarding her best friend, Princess Lissa, from evil vampires. I haven’t read any VA novels in over ten years, but I can say this was my first taste of the vampire craze I soon developed—yes, I love Twilight, and I’m not ashamed.

Hmm, I don’t know. That’s a hard one. Lemme give you my top five instead.

A picture of a hardback book of Jude Deveraux's called Remembrance. The cover is blue with a blue ribbon and vintage handheld mirror.

Most have a difficult time picking their favorite book. Not me. Mine is Jude Deveraux’s Remembrance. It’s a time-traveling, reincarnation romance all rolled into one. The extraordinary love between the MCs takes my breath away and I could read it again and again forever.

The rest of the women in the room were bustling about, trying to look busy so no one else noticed the faint whispers of a dying girl.

“My child shall be your child; Your child shall be mine. They will be one spirit in two bodies. They will live together; they will die together.”

Remembrance, Jude Deveraux

Up until the last couple years, my bookshelf has been solely dominated by YA and romance. I hate to admit it, but I was never interested in anything else for a long time. Literature made my head hurt, picture books robbed me of my own interpretations, and anything that wasn’t fantasy was boring. But oh, how I’ve woken up and smelled the pages. Now, you’ll find that fic, nonfic, Brit Lit, and mystery have started their takeover on my shelves. Some of my favorite works include Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I’ve recently started reading mangaWotakoi: Love Is Hard For Otaku—being my first, and I plan to read Spy x Family, Jujutsu Kaisen, Fruits Basket, and whatever else I can get my hands on. If you’re interested in more that I’ve read or plan to read, you can check out my Goodreads!

“You do not yield.” –Kingdom of Ash, S.J. Maas

One series I hold near and dear to my heart and that will always maintain a special place on my bookshelf is Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass. I discovered this collection when book four had just released in 2015. If you’re into that rogue-meets-royalty vibe, you may fall in love with it. I say may as Maas catches a lot of flack for her debut series (she started ToG at age 16!), but I was enthralled from the first chapter. With each book, you watch as this young, haughty assassin battles with death, rage, betrayal, and loss time and time again and yet still manages to keep that inner light aglow. These are the stories I cherish, that I turn to and hold onto when the color fades from my pictures. It’s stories like Celaena Sardothien’s that encourages me to keep going, to keep fighting, and to keep reaching for the rainbow.

A picture of a lower layer shelf on the same bookshelf with blue, purple, and black book covers.

_________

Eden Stiger is a Kentucky-bred, Ohio-living college undergraduate who recently received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of Findlay. She is the current poetry editor and layout editor for the literary magazine Slippery Elm.

Sundress Reads: Review of City of Skypapers

City of Skypapers by Marcela Sulak

The title of Marcela Sulak’s collection, City of Skypapers, encompasses the fact that the work was written each day for three years as Sulak lived in the city of Tel Aviv, and is also a perfect fit for how she blends urbanity, government and war eloquently with earth, sky, art and the human mind. 

In the first section, Sulak begins each of her poems except the last with the words “To get here today…” and proceeds to describe vivid scenes of things she’s witnessed and done before the present. Sulak uses a matter-of-fact voice to discuss topics like daily bomb sirens and friends in dangerous places, which strengthens the reader’s grasp on the  implications of being a civilian caught up in the crossfire of a war-stricken land and the resilience one must harbor. Sulak mentions the bombings and sirens more than once, as well as “the place the soldiers get off” between memories of doing normal things with her daughter, like riding a bike to school or washing with soap in the bathroom. She has wonderfully mastered the use of contrasting tragedy with simple, everyday things, lacing the two in, out, and around each other and making the latter seem all the more lovely, important and innocent. 

The first time this technique struck me was in the very first piece, titled “To Get Here Today (A Piano).” Sulak begins recalling her own childhood in Texas, cutting fruit and putting frog eggs in the tub with other children. Whether friends or siblings the reader doesn’t need to know- only that after the eggs were submerged, they would “caress them saying caviar, / by which we meant luck and money, the stars.’”  Then she shifts to the present day and the place where soldiers arrive and depart and, although unwritten, often don’t return. As she observes this place, which is a spot in her everyday adult routine, she notices a fence that someone has painted like a piano. The unspoken hope and innocence of a musical instrument perhaps allows her to remember wishing for good fortune during her youth in the face of grown-up weariness. 

From the beginning of the collection, Sulak uses incredible imagery. Certain things come up throughout the book: friend’s names, bomb sirens, kingfishers, bicycle seats, her own legs. The uncensored observations of a woman with a poetic mind show that certain things circle back into focus when perceived against the chaotic world. I love her description in “Surface Tension,” when she writes “our taxi’s the needle through the white / and pink lace of almond blossoms / along the ‘Settler Road’ to Jerusalem”. She recounts embarking on trips and adventures to holy places, always noticing the flora and fauna of her surroundings in stark, descriptive detail. The perfect and effortless existence of nature brings peace where it grows in her work.

Sulak is a modern woman who feels the depth of Judaism and the history of the city she lives in, knowing it’s all important, while simultaneously wanting to break free and write a new narrative. We feel her respect for Jewish tradition as she forms her work around certain religious holidays and Yiddish words. She italicizes these phrases and explains them in depth at the end of the book. We also feel her desire to make sense of things in her own way when she notes that her friend named his daughter after his ancestral city, whereas she named her own daughter after a woman. 

In the poem “Genesis,” pertaining to the seventh day after God created the world, Sulak explores the idea of her and God both resting. She studies her own thighs while God watches a kingfisher. She admits that God created her legs, but she sculpted them with her many feats: running, giving birth, climbing ruins in high heels, growing and carrying a monstrous yam. God has created the nature that she observes so closely, and she sculpts it, writing with metaphor and grace. She puts God in a familiar role, as a friend or colleague when she writes “it’s just the sort of thing God would say”. 

You can tell that Sulak is a successful translator by her careful choice of words and her complex vocabulary. In “Purim,” she writes “to get here I had to / understand that so many compound / words in my life do not employ the use / of the hyphen to hold them. They’re bound / by habit, I guess: ice cream truck, inner tube,/ love letter, makeup, love life, ice tray, nightstand,/ steel jaw trap, and hitchhiking priest”. She takes the understanding of language and her skilled translations to a new level of human activity, peculiarity and familiarity. She uses words like “audacious” and “schadenfreude” and gives personification to plants that acted drunk, bouncing around in a basket on a bike ride home. 

Not only does Marcela Sulak vividly pull her reader into the life of a nation plagued by war, the mystery behind it, and the world of an intelligent single mother, she attempts to bring attention to societal and government issues as well. In “Correspondence,” she writes about comparing a country’s missile accuracy with a friend, about the sound a bomb makes, and about the evil of politics. She breaks apart the word conversation and notices how the beginning is “con.” She acknowledges the consequences of living closely in masses, letting leaders deal with business, and how society has advanced to be able to reach anyone at any time without being charged for it. Sulak includes her personal experiences with photographers and how they try to capture photos of other people’s lives for the media and make up their own story about it to get attention and evoke false emotion.

There is an underlying tone of detachment when Sulak speaks of war and loss throughout her days in Tel Aviv, which may come from the desensitization that humans experience in the face of adapting to something that is always around us. In her piece “Siren: Silenc,” she speaks about a siren going off during bath time and how a child’s silly comment made the two of them laugh in the face of terror. She notes a bus exploding near a hospital, but adds that things are worse in Gaza and Syria. This attitude of troubled acceptance appears again in her piece about the Waste Department in Tel Aviv. The poem is about the incessant consuming of humans and the discarding that follows. She imagines a mountain of garbage, painting the trash collectors as otherworldly to not be burdened by the weight of it. They grab bags with “hands gloved in winter,” predicting the cold and harsh environmental outcome we are in the process of creating. 

All of these things: religion, government, education- are distractions from what? Perhaps war and the banality of evil. One line that gave me chills was in “Sudoku,” where Sulak wrote “For the radio waves rest as lightly on our heads as air stirred by a hand moving from a blessing.” Before that observation and after are others of more tangible circumstance. The whole poem speaks to me about the subconscious knowing of things larger, more sinister, and more spiritual than what modern times want us to acknowledge. This truth inside pulls us toward things of simple, soft measure. Like flowers, birds, the bond between mother and daughter and the one between friends. Although City of Skypapers takes on the exploration of multiple topics, it appears overwhelmingly about observation and the human spirit and mind. Perhaps Sulak notices the beauty in small things so often because she wants to balance the darkness of mankind’s past, present, and future. She exhibits strength and toughness from the things she has endured through her honest telling of them, without asking for anything more than awakening and listening. In her words, Sulak invites readers to look more closely at the world, to practice self-reflection, and that there may be redemption somewhere, for those who look hard enough.

City of Skypapers is available at Black Lawrence Press.


Emily DeYoung (she/her/hers) is a student of the world from Michigan, who travels as often as possible. She has been to over 25 countries since graduating high school, and uses the people, places, and small moments she experiences for inspiration when writing. Emily has one published poetry collection, How the Wind Calls the Restless, which won first place in the Writer’s Digest 30th Annual Self-Published Book Awards Contest last year (2021). She loves reading memoir, camping, large dogs who think they are lap-sized, and listening to classic and punk rock.

Meet Our New Intern: Kaylee Young-Eun Jeong

Growing up Korean in suburban Oregon, I often felt misunderstood, excluded from the majority white communities surrounding me. And while I loved reading and writing, finding them both outlets for my loneliness, I soon came to realize that an overwhelming number of the YA novels I read centered entirely around white main characters, and even the characters in my own rudimentary stories had blond hair or green eyes and called their parents Mom and Dad, not Umma and Appa.

This realization, which occurred around the time I began high school, marked a sudden swerve in my literary trajectory. From that point on, I began actively seeking out literature by authors who weren’t white, particularly authors with similar experiences as queer, first-generation children of immigrants. Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities immediately comes to mind, or Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. Discovering these texts, I felt inspired to write my own experiences for the first time.

My first forays into personal experiences of race and sexuality were simplistic, hesitant to raise any red flags with readers by entering the full complexity of my experience. These sorts of works being reductive and easy to swallow, they were palatable to the predominantly white audiences that received them, and were often rewarded with praise. However, as my writing evolved and I grew bolder, I noticed a striking change in the way peers, teachers, and literary magazines reacted to my work.

As I allowed myself to be frustrated and demanding in my work, or write stories that didn’t explicitly unpack my Koreanness and queerness, I was turned away. “Not Korean enough” was a comment I never explicitly heard but was the obvious implication when readers asked me why my stories didn’t mention slanted eyes, or the smell of kimchi. And of course, when I criticized the overt racism of (well-intentioned though oblivious) teachers at my high school, those stories never went over well with the administration. People wanted to hear feel-good stories about how I hated my Koreanness then grew to embrace it, or stories featuring comforting classic Asian stereotypes like being forced to play piano as a child (which I admittedly was, but I’ve never cared to write about it). I despaired, wondering if this was my only way to succeed in the literary world: by creating a caricature of myself and of queer Koreanness I didn’t believe in whatsoever.

But since then, I’ve gained hope. I declared an English major in college and eagerly took every course I could in literature written by historically marginalized voices, trying to surround myself with the comforting presence of people who dared to challenge, to subvert, to be radically, fiercely honest. I think especially fondly of required reading such as Percival Everett’s Erasure, which reminded me (with many good laughs along the way) of the need to actively resist harmful stereotypes in literature. I saw that instead of trying to force myself into the problematic prescriptions of the existing literary world, I could work to create a better, more inclusive one.

I’m thrilled to be working with Sundress, then, following their mission of uplifting traditionally underrepresented voices. With them, I hope to create a place for every story, like and unlike my own.


Kaylee Young-Eun Jeong is a Korean American writer, currently studying English at Columbia University. She edits for Quarto, Columbia’s official undergraduate literary magazine, and serves as a poetry reader for the Columbia Journal’s Incarcerated Writers Initiative. A 2019 Sundress Best of the Net finalist in poetry, her work has been featured in diode, BOAAT, and Hyphen, among others.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Now Accepting Residency Applications for Spring 2023

Sundress Academy for the Arts

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is now accepting applications for short-term writing residencies in all genres—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, screenwriting, journalism, academic writing, and more—for their spring residency period which runs from January 2 to May 14, 2023. These residencies are designed to give artists time and space to complete their creative projects in a quiet and productive environment.

Each farmhouse residency costs $300/week, which includes a room of one’s own, as well as access to our communal kitchen, bathroom, office, and living space, plus wireless internet.

Residencies in the Writers Coop are $150/week and include your own private dry cabin as well as access to the farmhouse amenities. Because of the low cost, we are rarely able to offer scholarships for Writers Coop residents.

Residents will stay at the SAFTA farmhouse, located on a working farm on a 45-acre wooded plot in a Tennessee “holler” perfect for hiking, camping, and nature walks. The farmhouse is also just a half-hour from downtown Knoxville, an exciting and creative city that is home to a thriving artistic community. SAFTA is ideal for writers looking for a rural retreat with urban amenities. 

SAFTA’s residencies, which also include free access to workshops, readings, and events, offer a unique and engaging experience. Residents can participate in local writing workshops, lead their own workshops, and even have the opportunity to learn life skills like gardening and animal care.

As part of our commitment to anti-racist work, we are now also using a reparations payment model for our farmhouse residencies which consists of the following:

  1. 3 reparations weeks of equally divided payments for Black and/or Indigenous identifying writers at $150/week
  2. 3 discounted weeks of equally divided payments for BIPOC writers at $250/week
  3. 6 equitable weeks of equally divided payments at $300/week

Black and/or Indigenous identifying writers are also invited to apply for a $350 support grant to help cover the costs of food, travel, childcare, and/or any other needs while they are at the residency. We are currently able to offer two of these grants per residency period (spring/summer/fall). If you would like to donate to expand this funding, you may do so here.

For the Spring 2023 residency period, SAFTA will be offering the following fellowships only: 

  • LGBTQIA+ Fellowship: one full and one 50% fellowship for writers who identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community
  • Black & Indigenous Writers Fellowships: one full fellowship for Black and/or Indigenous identifying writers

This year’s judge for the LGBTQIA fellowships is Rita Mookerjee. Rita Mookerjee is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Worcester State University. She is the author of False Offering (JackLeg Press 2023) and an editor a Honey Literary and Split Lip Magazine. Her poems can be found in the Baltimore Review, Hobart Pulp, Lantern Review, New Orleans Review, and the Offing

The application deadline for the spring residency period is September 15, 2022. Find out more about the application process at www.sundressacademyforthearts.com.

The application fee is waived for all BIPOC identifying writers. For all fellowship applications, the application fee will also be waived for those who demonstrate financial need; please state this in your application under the financial need section. Limited partial scholarships are also available to any applicant with financial need. 

Sundress Reads: Review of Cup & Dagger

A row of 17 mini-chapbooks on a white background.
Photo: Sword and Kettle Press

The Cup & Dagger mini-chapbook series transports readers through 17 diverse stories, all published in tandem by Sword and Kettle Press. Swinging from experimental horror and poetry to fairytale retellings and fantasy, these stories harmonize through the emphasis they put on women’s experiences, using the fantastical as a vehicle for understanding. It’s this centering of women’s voices that makes these mini-chapbooks important and like few others. In society, we too often prioritize male voices and stories; but in this series, a diverse range of women’s voices is offered, fearlessly calling out the treatment of women in society and the standards we hold them to, while delivering a commentary on our treatment of the environment. Each no more than 12 pages, they contend with body issues, model culture, male cruelty to nature and women, and so much more. These mini-chapbooks dare to imagine worlds where women unite in grief, women help each other through times when they are shunned by the world, and where love is always valid. This way of storytelling, combined with depth of emotion and experimental ways of writing, is what makes this series worth amplifying.

In an innately heteronormative society, the works in this series decimate boundaries; in the six mini-chapbooks featuring romance, love is love, a desire for romance isn’t required, and queer romance is celebrated. Women find peace and harmony with wolves and androids, with women and men and no one at all, and each romance—or even shunning of romance—is no more or less valid than any other. For example, Encounters with Wolves in Three Acts by Shreya Ila Anasuya gives power to queer love while simultaneously relegating gender in love to irrelevancy with the story of verdant love and acceptance between woman and wolf in the woods at the center of an unforgiving concrete city. Corporate America, patriarchy, homophobia, and the rigidity of an artificial city are contrasted against nature, nurturing, and play, cradled by a family of wolves in the deep woods in the center of the city, as woman and wolf find love even as they find themselves pulled apart. Although the wolf is mentioned as female, ideas of gender can’t be fully projected onto this romance since we cannot assume that our ideas of gender correlate to those of wolves. In this way, the gender of the wolf becomes almost irrelevant, perhaps showing the irrelevance of gender in relation to love.

The impossible standards for women’s bodies, the dark side of the beauty industry, and the vagaries of modeling are illuminated as well. In A Hole Walked In by Sarah Cavar, a woman bleeds from every orifice, streaming from eyes and nose and mouth in great vision-staining rivulets that are dismissed as unconcerning by all that see her. While bleeding in the mall, a modeling agent “solicits me like a street preacher cries hellfire. I pretend I have been waiting for him my whole life […]. You have the look, he tells me.” Her body seemingly becomes not her own, something for display and something to be ashamed of, to stuff and pinch and beat into submission as she emerges into the modeling industry. The blood gushing from her face, clotting in her lungs, becomes a casual talking point as the damage that is occurring to her body (perhaps a metaphor for internal wounds) is normalized as a part of the effort to be pretty. The way that this story shines a light on how we bleed for a society that cares nothing for our health, with the hope that it will value us for our emaciated bodies, is vital. This mini-chapbook and others unapologetically challenges our society and forces the public to reckon with the harm intrinsic in the beauty standards we hold for women.

Dealing with themes of death, patriarchy, and love beyond barriers, the mini-chapbooks in this series often return to one unwavering truth; in our darkest moments, it’s often women and nature who can save us. Women find each other despite all odds. Sometimes, they unite in love; other times, they escape together from a world not meant for them, build new homes, save each other’s lives, or sew each other back together. Mothers warn daughters of men and sailors while nature provides them a home, as in The Seawalker’s Flame by Rebecca Payne, and female sirens teach a drowned woman how to live again with nature, as in No One Saw Ophelia Drown by Grace Noto. But there is not always a path through the darkness. At times, women shop alone in psychedelic post-apocalyptic grocery stores reminiscent of the work of Kelly Link, as in Bury Me In Iron and Ivy by Monica Robinson; live forever gaslit by male society about their own body, their comfort found in men only temporary, as in Take Care When Made of Glass by Rachel Brittain; and sometimes there is nothing left but to stand together with the soul-wrenching music of grief, as in Our Ballad in Soil by Bisola Sosan.

In this way, by providing a balance of support and disorientation, love and grief, this series shows women in glory. I wish that in this time of intersectional feminism it had gone even further; I’d like to see a continuation of the series which includes an even more vibrant array of inclusion. But the current collection still does something vital in that it encourages women supporting women, validates women’s struggles, centers women’s voices, and encourages acceptance of all people. Every Cup & Dagger mini-chapbook is worth reading, with tales ranging from those of unusual creatures inspired by Chinese-Malayan myths from Singapore, to vanquished love and mortuary work in Russia, to burning ballerinas and the things we do for our image. With these implications and this broad coverage of tales around the stories of women, the voices of these micro-chapbooks echo and stay with us far beyond the page. Much like the haunting voice of the singer in Our Ballad in Soil, the voices of these writers “would go on until those ashes in the ground felt satisfied. We would keep humming with [them].” And perhaps we will use them to build a better feminist society.

The Cup & Dagger mini-chapbook series is available at Sword and Kettle Press


A young white woman with short bleached hair and octagon glasses stands before a green background. She wears a collared shirt, gray sweater, and blue lace top.

Solstice Black (she/they) is a queer poet and novelist living in the Pacific Northwest. They are currently undertaking a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chautauqua, The Fantastic Other, and A Forest of Words, among others. They hope to pursue an MFA in creative writing and a BFA in visual art in the next few years. Her cat is both her greatest joy and torment.

Meet Our New Intern: Nicole Bethune Winters

A photo of Nicole, a white woman with blonde hair, wearing a sweatshirt and resting on a fence at sunset overlooking the ocean.

Growing up, when I wasn’t running around barefoot outside, you could find me reading, writing, or in the midst of a very messy art project—and to be honest, not much has changed. Two decades later, I’m still writing voraciously, and end most days splattered in clay. My creative life is fuelled by adventuring into the wild and connecting to the environment around me, and I pursue that inspiration without abandon every chance I get.

Creative expression has long been a vital part of who I am as a human, but when I first graduated from college, I was a little lost. I went from being in this beautiful creative incubator with safe spaces to get vulnerable, collaborate with other artists, and receive constructive criticism, to being very alone in that practice. But, something about moving to California felt like moving back into that incubator. Within a year and a half of moving to San Diego, my first collection of poetry was accepted for publication, and my pottery business was thriving. It definitely didn’t happen overnight, but I finally landed in a place where I could bloom.

Moving west woke up a piece of my soul that had been lying dormant for far too long. Surrounded by a vast variety of accessible and gorgeous new landscapes, I developed a strong pull towards the outdoors. I have always been a beach kid, but every time I jet off on a camping trip, I find more of myself in the mountains and desert. Being fully immersed in nature is what gets me going. I feel alive out there, and leaning into that has been huge for my creative work. I began carving the landscapes I fell in love with on my pottery, and writing them into poetry, and felt my pieces begin to connect with people on a different level.

That connection is something I have chased since I graduated college, and my ultimate dream is to find a niche in the editorial world that allows me the capacity to travel, while providing the opportunity to connect with a greater community of fellow writers. I am jazzed to work for Sundress Publications, and to have the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of publishing while helping foster a space for others to share their work.


Nicole Bethune Winters is a poet, ceramic artist, and yoga teacher. She currently resides in Southern California, where she makes and sells pottery out of her home studio. When she isn’t writing or wheel-throwing, Nicole is likely at the beach, on a trail, or exploring new landscapes. She derives most of the inspiration for her creative work from her interactions with the environment around her, and is always looking for new ways to connect with and understand the earth. Her debut poetry collection, brackish, will be published by Finishing Line Press in August 2022.

Sundress Publications Open for Microgrant Applications for Black and/or Indigenous Writers

Call for Submissions for Light Bill Incubator Grant

Sundress Publications is now open to submissions for grant applications from Black and/or Indigenous identifying writers with a chapbook in progress. All eligible authors are welcome to submit during our application period from August 1st to October 31st, 2022.

The Light Bill Incubator Microgrant will award $500, a slot in Sundress’s reading series, a residency at the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, TN, and the potential for digital publication. This award will go to one Black and/or Indigenous writer with a chapbook in progress, to support the completion of said project

All applications will be read by members of our editorial board. One writer will be selected, who will then work with Sundress’s reading series coordinator, residency team and editorial board. 

Applicants may apply with any genre; however, the proposed project must be chapbook-length, meaning the planned final version should be no more than 48 pages. 

To apply, please send a sample of the chapbook in progress along with a brief (no more than 500 words) artist/personal statement. These items should be sent to our editorial board as DOCX or PDF files at sundresspublications@gmail.com. Please include the phrase “Light Bill Incubator Microgrant Application” in the subject line. There is no fee to apply.

Sundress Reading Series Seeks Readers for Fall 2022

From August to November of 2022, the Sundress Reading Series will move back in person at our new venue at Pretentious Beer Co in the Knoxville Old City. We will now also feature comedy and music alongside literary readings!

The Sundress Reading Series is an award-winning literary reading series previously hosted on-ground in Knoxville, TN, just miles from the Great Smoky Mountains. An extension of Sundress Publications and the Sundress Academy for the Arts, the Sundress Reading Series features nationally-recognized writers in all genres from around the US while also supporting local and regional nonprofits. 

Our readings take place the last Sunday of every month from 1-3PM EST.  The fall series will take place on September 25, October 30, and November 27.

Performers will receive publicity across Sundress Publications’ social media channels in the lead up to their event, an opportunity to sell books and music, and a minimum of a $50 honorarium.

We are currently seeking readers and musicians for our series with an emphasis on marginalized voices; please note in your cover letter if you identify as a BIPOC writer, a trans and/or nonbinary writer, and/or a writer with a disability.

To apply to perform for the fall, send 6-8 pages of poetry, 8-15 pages of prose, or a 5-10 minute clip of your musical performance (either as a video or sound file). You will also need to include a 50-100 word bio, CV (optional), and a ranking of preferred reading dates to sundresspublications@gmail.com. Please make sure the subject line reads “Reading Series Application – Your Name.” 

Applications to participate as a performer are open and the deadline to apply August 15, 2022. Those selected will be notified by late August.