Sundress Reads: Review of Confluence

Confluence Book Cover

“In the distance, a gunshot” is the ending line of the first poem in Samantha Deflitch’s collection, Confluence. When a gunshot rings out, one subconsciously suspects different scenarios. Someone had a successful hunt. Someone is playing target practice. Maybe a race is starting. A disagreement between two gangs turned south. A home-invader was caught and stopped. For Samantha Deflitch, it was the sound of the beginning of deep wondering. About what it means to grow old, about the strangeness of human habit, and about why a boy she knew named John decided to take his life with a bullet. Confluence is a beautiful and hauntingly written story where each piece can stand alone, but as the work progresses, the reader realizes each chapter builds on the last. Deflitch allows us powerful glimpses into the scenes of her life in Pittsburgh and unveils the tragic loss behind that lone, echoing gunshot. 

The first poem, “Downed Birds,” introduces us to some of the recurring themes throughout the book’s entirety: birds, oranges, the time being seven-something in the evening, aging. Deflitch notices small things everywhere in the city and sees herself in unexpected places. In “Unfenced,” she sees herself in a dead frog run over in the street. In “Crossing the Hot Metal Street Bridge,” she sees herself in an old woman yelling prophecies. In “Turnpike Toll-Taker,” she sees herself in the red-ringed eyes of drivers heading west on the highway. Always in these mirror-images, Deflitch uses the repetition of “me, me!” to make it seem like she just came to the realization that she is part of the thing she observes. Deflitch studies how she compares to and fits in with miniscule details of earth, and because she notices these intricacies for a moment in time, she becomes part of something outside herself. Not only does Deflitch find herself in unique existences around her hometown, she hears herself echoed in silence and in other people’s voices, such as her mother’s and her grandmother’s in a dream. Her words remind us that everything is connected, even when we get wrapped up in our own worlds. 

Even though Confluence is about Pittsburgh, readers can relate to one’s own hometown when Deflitch writes about certain gas stations she frequents, the local Macy’s department store, her father waiting for her to buckle her seat belt, Taco Bell and Christmas music. We all have our own versions of these memories. Beginning the second chapter, Deflitch uses the same line as the first poem from chapter one: “I peeled open an orange.” Maybe she expects the fruit to be different- not rotten inside this time like the last. Deflitch is navigating a city that changes each day, but also stays the same in many ways.

Deflitch’s simple statements and detailed descriptions about everyday things make one stop and ponder how strange human habits are. This is exhibited strongly in the piece “Laundromat in Irwin,” where Deflitch finds herself watching the royal wedding on loop while waiting for her wash. As she waits, she gets a sense that the air is heavy as she contemplates how she “did not graduate from anything, or get married, or find a job today”- all milestones carved by society to measure success. And yet, the pressure of these expectations seems trivial to an artist who lives with a keen awareness of mortality and its limits.

In a later chapter titled “Ohio,” Deflitch revisits many of her earlier poems with a powerful piece called “Come Out, All You Moths.” Suddenly, each small scene and memory starts forming to center around John. There is an explanation between the lines for her fascination of what it means to grow old and why she imagined herself as the elderly woman yelling prophecies in the beginning of the book: “To grow old means really nothing / because I am growing old and the dog / is growing old and my parents / are growing old and John is not – / why? Because he didn’t want to.” A simple answer to a throbbing, painful question leads to the next theme in Deflitches writing – a search for miracles. 

The loneliness of a Midwestern winter is a despair I can relate to in “Giuseppe,” when Deflitch wrote that her father’s barber referred to Midwestern sunsets as “stark, sad things.” Being from Michigan, I know how little sunlight these states get from October to May, and how restless it can make a girl. As Detflitch watched a small bit of sunset from a school parking lot with bus exhaust catching the light, she concluded “other places have miracles in the night.” This idea is followed up later in “Extra Omnes,” where she begins the poem by stating “I heard you moved / to cornfields near me, or near / where I once lived before / I left to find a miracle.” It seems that Deflitch escaped her home town for a while, and met a lover somewhere on the coast. She begins referring to a woman she loved, referencing the sea, salt, and “crepuscular wonders.” 

Perhaps Deflitch found a true connection away from Pittsburgh, but never quite escaped the ghost of John, who she remembers watching Pulp Fiction with, and keeps writing about him from different time frames following the tragedy. Deflitch almost seems to detach herself describing the scenes before John’s body was discovered, stating “A woman’s voice echoes. / She has called the police. / She is crying that John has gone missing. / This sort of thing happens. / Neither she nor the police yet know / that John has put a bullet in his head,” as if to try and make sense of the words herself. Deflitch is unafraid to address raw topics, and her unique voice and style choice of shorter prose is thoroughly effective in yielding emotional gut punches throughout the collection while keeping the reader hooked.


The building up and interweaving of particular objects, moments and days in Deflitch’s life tell a stirring story of loss while offering hope in the simple beauty of a girl’s life as she navigates through the mundane and holy. Throughout Confluence, Deflitch reminds us of how we all try to make sense of and come to peace with things far out of our control. She teaches us how to appreciate the lessons that come with each season of recovery and transition, and how something as innocent as peeling an orange or watching a bird can hold the depth of epiphany. The book is a welcomed reminder to cherish the people whose paths cross ours – briefly as acquaintances or coworkers, and over the course of our lives as family members, friends and lovers – for time yields to no one and everything around us will one day pass.

Order your copy of Confluence here.

Emily DeYoung 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.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents November Poetry Xfit

Sundress Academy for the Arts

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present Poetry Xfit hosted by Marah Hoffman. This generative workshop event will take place on Sunday, November 20 from 2 to 4 pm EST via Zoom. Join us at the link tiny.utk.edu/sundress with password “safta”.

Poetry Xfit isn’t about throwing tires or heavy ropes, but the idea of confusing our muscles is the same. This generative workshop series will give you prompts, rules, obstructions, and more to write three poems in two hours. Writers will write together for thirty minutes, be invited to share new work, and then given a new set of prompts. The idea isn’t that we are writing perfect final drafts, but instead creating clay that can then be edited and turned into art later. Prose writers are also welcome to attend!

Marah Hoffman is a 2022 graduate with bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing from Lebanon Valley College and the Fall 2022 Writer in Residence at the Sundress Academy for the Arts. In college, she served as co-poetry editor of Green Blotter Literary Magazine and Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society president. From the LVC English department, she won The Green Blotter Writer Award. She has been featured in journals including Green Blotter, LURe Journal, Oakland Arts Review, Beyond Thought, and Asterism. Now, she is discovering new literary communities and new methods of igniting creativity. She loves creative nonfiction, intertextuality, whimsicality, cats, lattes, distance running, and adding to her personal lexicon. Her favorite word changes nearly every week.

While this is a free event, donations can be made to the Sundress Academy for the Arts here: https://sundress-publications.square.site/product/donate-to-sundress/107?cs=true

Each month we split any Xfit donations with our community partner. This month our community partner for November is Bryant’s Bridge. Bryant’s Bridge intends to provide affordable housing and a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth to prevent homelessness and promote growth in the areas of education, employment, health and mental health to develop strength of character and promote healing and independence in a world where societal structures create obstacles and hinder support systems necessary to adequately navigate the transition from youth to adulthood.

To donate to Bryant’s Bridge, please check out https://bryantsbridge.networkforgood.com/projects/150398-become-a-bryant-s-bridge-sustainable-supporter or https://www.bryantsbridge.org/ways-to-give

2023 Sundress Subscriptions Now Available

Sundress Publications is excited to announce that 2023 subscriptions are now available!

This year’s catalog includes full-length poetry collections from Heather Bartlett, Caleb Curtiss, Amanda Galvan Huynh, Tatiana Johnson-Boria, Athena Nassar, and Hannah V Warren as well as José Araguz’s debut memoir, Ruin and Want, plus a copy of our handprinted letterpress broadside from this year’s contest winner!

Subscribers receive all upcoming titles, complimentary swag, plus FREE entry into all of our 2023 Sundress contests, open reading periods, and Sundress Academy for the Arts residency applications for themselves AND a friend. That’s a $180+ value right there!

From now until the end of the year, you’ll receive not only the entire 2023 catalog but also a FREE Sundress title of your choosing along with a subscription letter suitable for wrapping if requested.

Subscribe today!

Interview with Arielle Cottingham, Author of Machete Moon

I was beyond excited to receive the honor of interviewing poet Arielle Cottingham about their new poetry collection, Machete Moon. This was my first author interview, and being the writer of a poetry collection myself, I couldn’t wait to read Cottingham’s pieces and dive deeper into the art process behind the words.

Cottingham is a well-traveled poet, but also uses their talents for performing, educating, and editing while touring. Cottingham has work published in several different journals and they also have a chapbook, Black and Ropy, with Pitt Street Poetry. In their newly released collection Machete Moon, Cottingham emphasizes their role as an immigrant and offers an unapologetic voice in an often times ignorant society. Cottingham doesn’t shy away from any topic, exhibiting strength and common sense in areas of pain and discrimination. I was also taken aback by the craft with which they blended prayer and conversation, showing language and religion as the brilliant tools or horrifying weapons each can be used as. I was eager to find out how Cottingham navigates the complex and frustrating conventionalities of the world in order to find and secure a place of creativity and individuality.

Emily DeYoung: What is the significance of the book’s title, Machete Moon?

Arielle Cottingham: As much as it is seen as a weapon, especially in the Anglosphere, the reality of the machete is that it’s an everyday tool. My first memories of being around them involved my maternal grandfather and my father pruning the rulo (plantain) trees that had sprung up like weeds in our backyard in Houston. The pruning allowed them to fruit more often, so I associated machetes with farming and feeding people until I started seeing them in heavy-handed films about Violent Brown/Black People. I know that a majority of people will see the title and assume more violence of its contents than what’s actually present, and subverting expectations⁠—of race, gender, and my general presentation in life—is a reality I’ve come to enjoy living in.

The moon’s associations with tides and blood make it feel like it’s present in nearly all of the poems in this book, even when it’s not explicitly mentioned. Poets love the moon, and I’m no different. The alliteration between these cornerstone images sealed the deal for the title.

ED: Can you speak more about “Southern Nostalgia” and how it portrays a moment when the speaker feels the weight and ties of their ancestry colliding with modern society’s shortcomings, especially around “survivor’s guilt and imposters syndrome”?

AC: The hook for Jay-Z’s “Story of O.J.” was the starting point for this poem. Even if you’re mixed, lightskin, whatever—people still have the one drop attitude. You still feel the fear when the red and blue lights shine in your rearview. Colorism is a disease, and surviving getting pulled over in the middle of nowhere—when so many people you love wouldn’t—is a symptom of it. Of course you’re relieved, but that relief is tempered by survivor’s guilt. Code-switching lies at the heart of this piece because, to paraphrase Trevor Noah, speaking someone’s language makes them feel safe around you, even as a stranger. So often, cops skirt justice by crying that they had feared for their lives. If speaking to them in a familiar tongue will put them at ease enough to let you go with just a ticket, it’s an avenue of survival—but one that feels like a betrayal, nonetheless.

ED: There is a recurring theme of religious references and prayers laced with personal experience—how does religion play a role in the journey of finding oneself?

AC: Religion has its place in people’s lives, and the path to finding myself happened to be the one meandering out of it. Growing up in the Catholic Church means that a lot of the traditions, cadences, and prayers have taken up real estate in my brain that can never be removed—so I renovated.

ED: You craftily mix Spanish, slang, and English words in some of your poems. What is the significance of this or the intended impact on the reader?

AC: My Spanish is not what it used to be after years of living and working in predominantly white, English-speaking spaces. Mixing languages is for myself and readers who similarly struggle with a language they were once raised in—maybe a moonbeam guiding us slowly back to fluency.

ED: “Cup Runneth Over” is the shortest piece, and is written in a very raw, relatable form. What was the thought process behind this piece and how does it fit with the others? Is this piece a shifting point in some way, considering its placement in front of “Boihood”?

AC: I placed it in front of “Boihood” precisely because people menstruate regardless of their gender presentation. Menstruation interrupts your life every month, and ignoring it in a collection that’s so intensely personal would feel like a serious omission. Also, it’s shaped like a menstrual cup, y’all.

ED: “On Hurricane Season” describes your love/hate relationship with Texas. Has the way you view your birthplace continued to change over the years?

AC: I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to definitively feel one way about it. Texas is a complicated place, both horrific and ecstatically beautiful. How much I miss it fluctuates frequently.

ED: Who is “A Letter Home” addressed to?

AC: My family.

ED: Even when you traveled halfway across the world to Germany, you still found a connection to hurricane season in “And the Tide Goes Out.” Can you elaborate on the relationship?

AC: There’s a strangely European attitude to racism—that it’s a problem in the US and the UK, but other countries have solved it (they haven’t). The motif of hurricanes in this poem is a callback to an older poem that I’ve somewhat retired; the lines about history being an ocean of hurricanes repeating itself are lifted from it. Domestic work has always been split along racial and class lines. During the pandemic, I paid bills by cleaning and babysitting for wealthy white women who were astonishingly comfortable delegating their domestic work solely to women of color. They probably thought they were being generous and progressive, giving Black and Brown immigrant women/femmes jobs, never once considering that they were just playing into the ongoing normalization of BIPOC in subservient roles in their households. The half-white, half-Black person working (or being forced to work) in the house is an old story, but one that persists, even in modern Europe—they were the creators of the Middle Passage, after all.

ED: “If Not Anger Then What” came off more cryptic to me than other pieces. Would you elaborate on the meaning and inspiration behind it, including the quote before the poem?

AC: I cannot recommend Krista Franklin’s poem “Marie Says Bow Down”highly enough. It pays homage to an apocryphal story about Marie Laveau hosting a gathering of Black folks, and the mere gathering itself being enough to excite the whites into calling the cops—hence, the line quoted at the beginning. Queer spaces have a similar history of being heavily policed when people are minding their own business and living their lives, and every form of protest is slowly being legislated out of existence. Marsha P. Johnson threw a brick that paved the way to the present, and I liked the idea of that brick being part of the Yellow Brick Road that’s gotten us to where we are. We still have far to go, but throwing bricks is illegal now, which gives way to even heavier policing. If we are not allowed to feel or express our anger at being harassed and murdered for being who we are, then what?

ED: There seems to be some juxtaposition in your writing between your Texan and Afro-Latine roots. I noticed it in “Southern Nostalgia” in lines such as “the legacy sewn to my tongue louder / than any of the blackest things about me” and “he is my father John the doctor, / who hates illegal immigration, / loves my immigrant mother.” How do you navigate these contrasting backstories?

AC: I’ll have an answer when I can stop writing about it.

Read Machete Moon here.

Texas-born, Afro-Latine poet, editor, performance artist, and educator Arielle
Cottingham
 has toured four continents in five years, giving performances and teaching
workshops across Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia. Their work explores the
fluidity of intersectional identities and has appeared in multiple literary journals both online
and in print. Notable performance spaces have included 48H Neukölln, the Alley Theatre,
Glastonbury, the Museum of Old & New Art, and the Sydney Opera House, where they
won the title of Australian National Poetry Slam Champion in 2016. Their work has been
published in literary journals including Stellium Literary JournalBOOTH, Pressure Gauge
Press
, and About Place Journal, and their chapbook, Black and Ropy, was published by Pitt
Street Poetry in 2017. They are currently pining for falafel at their desk in Berlin.

Emily DeYoung 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.

Sundress Reads: Review of Bird Body

Content warning: Sexual assault mentioned

A sketched bird lies in the center of the book cover amid drawn ferns. Bird Body is written above in lowercase italics. Below the image is written "poems by Zoë Fay-Stindt"

What does it mean to inhabit a woman’s body in a world that tries to break it? This is what Zoë Fay-Stindt explores in their poetry chapbook, Bird Body. Fay-Stindt weaves intricately between birds and the stories of women to shine a light on women’s and femme’s experience in our misogynistic world. Fay-Stindt writes of the speaker’s emotional pain and exhaustion following their sexual assault. Here, healing can take the form of being picked apart by birds even as our speaker is devastated by their own inability to help others with their pain.   

Birds, Fay-Stindt appears to say, have levels of meaning and such a depth of representation that even we are birds. Sometimes we are brutal, then too-easily crushed by the world, yet containing within the cages of our ribs wrathful howls and cries of mourning and the ability to, despite it all, keep “opening [our] eyes every morning.” In such exploration, Fay-Stindt offers us the great gift of understanding what it is to survive in our problematic world.

Much of the chapbook is around the assault of the speaker and the emotional aftermath, although the assault is itself never described in much detail. Instead, much of the focus is on the effects and the ways that society compounds them by teaching the speaker to invalidate her own experience, even telling her (when she does begin to write about it in poetry) that she speaks of it too much. Bird Body dives deep into the emotional effects of something that is so innate to many women’s experiences, as 1 out of 6 women in the U.S. face sexual assault in their lifetime and 90% of sexual assault victims are women (“Scope of the Problem: Statistics.” RAINN).    

In “that’s it, now” Fay-Stindt compares the speaker to the mourning dove in her grief and exhaustion, imploring the reader to not pity the dove (or, perhaps, the woman) as she weaves laments yet still opens her eyes each morning, holding her “tremor and her great loud voice / in the same body.” This emotional depth and exploration makes clear the impact of an event that many still invalidate, bringing forth shockwaves from the event in all directions so that it can be fully felt—and understood—by the reader.

Bird Body also looks at the way terrible events echo backward, affecting the speaker long before it even happened through the fear women must live with. Through such writings, Fay-Stindt connects us in community, building bridges between us in order to share often overlooked and unspoken experiences. Fay-Stindt writes of the prelude to the rape, “I’ve been training for a lifetime—my body / knows the drill: I won’t yell. Instead, / offer a bargain: not tonight, or I promise / I’ll make it better next time, or I owe you one.” As a woman, this line had a profound effect on me because it touched on something not often discussed; the way that we spend our lives preparing for the possibility of an assault, finding responses to catcalls and men who approach us, finding the ways to battle our own instincts of rage in an attempt at survival. And this prevalence makes it all the more necessary to discuss.

Fay-Stindt expands the examination to include our human fallibility, broadening the chapbook’s relevance for all potential readers. They write in “a robin at the bus station” of the devastating inability in the face of others’ pain to do more than “build beds, soft spaces to land,” and show how our best attempts at help can make matters worse when the speaker accidentally kills a robin in “swallow.”

Yet, as the chapbook explores, there is so much more to a woman’s experience. From their relationship with their mother, to breast cancer, to pap smears, to finding a connection with and healing in nature, to having one’s body picked apart and prodded like it’s nothing more than a vessel, Fay-Stindt touches on much important and often-overlooked aspects of what it means to be a woman or femme in their poems.

But let us not evade how the speaker’s body is treated as a visceral vessel throughout. Their body is picked apart by a heron, washed clean, then squeezed and entered by a doctor during a pap smear. In this way, although both situations are geared toward healing, a comment is made on the objectification of women and femmes as nothing more than a body, how they are treated as such by society.

Bird Body is a vital read since it shows these experiences without flinching away, and makes obvious that you cannot completely tell a woman’s story—or understand it—without showing the grief, the connection to nature, our helplessness to aid each other, our objectification by society, and so much more. Fay-Stindt creates a vibrant, moving ode to women, femme people, and our bodily experiences by shining the spotlight on aspects of our lives that are often overlooked, and in so doing allows us to understand ourselves, and even humanity in all of its cruelty and struggle.   

Bird Body is available at Cordella Magazine


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 ChautauquaThe 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.

Sundress Reading Series Seeks Readers for Spring 2023

Sundress Academy for the Arts

From February to May of 2023, the Sundress Reading Series will be back in person at our new venue, Pretentious Beer Co. in the Knoxville Old City. We now feature comedy and music alongside literary readings!

The Sundress Reading Series is an award-winning literary reading series hosted in-person 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 and performers from around the US while also supporting local and regional nonprofits.

Our events will take place the last Sunday of every month from 1-3PM EST. The spring series will take place on February 26, March 26, April 30, and May 28.

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 $100 honorarium.

We are currently seeking readers and musicians for our series with an emphasis on marginalized voices particularly writers of color, trans and/or nonbinary writers, and/or writers with a disability.

To apply to perform for the spring, 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 is December 1st, 2022. Those selected will be notified by early January.

Find our more or to view some of our past performers and schedules, visit us our website.

Project Bookshelf: Z Eihausen

I must make a confession; I have not always been fond of sitting down to read a book. It wasn’t until recently that I rediscovered my affinity for reading.

During my formative years, it was not unusual to find me curled up with a Bill Wallace book in an empty bathtub, filled with throw pillows and a sleeping bag might I add (a fantastic reading spot). My habit of staying up until the early hours of the morning to finish a good read then instantly picking up another was borderline unhealthy. Somewhere down the line, however, I began to lose this velocity and fell out of love with the literature world. It felt like a chore. One might say I experienced “reader’s block”.

A few months ago, I stumbled into the book section at Goodwill where James Finn Garner’s Politically Correct Holiday Stories piqued my interest. It’s a fool’s mistake to judge a book by its cover, I know, but I simply could not resist. The collection of retold Christmas tales was an interesting read and highly satirical. It quenched my thirst for comedic relief while simultaneously leading me to venture out to find more reads.

After my Goodwill treasure find, I sought after my current interest, poetry, first. One of my favorites is Amanda Lovelace’s the mermaid’s voice returns in this one. Lovelace’s use of mystical, fairytale-like references as a medium for tackling darker traumatic themes is incredibly raw and emotional. Empty Bottles Full of Stories by R.H. Sin and Robert M. Drake is another favorite of mine. I was encapsulated by the Sin and Drake’s stylistic choices and the contrasts in the speaker’s ideas. It was a heartfelt read, as well as an inspiration to my own writing. My current read, Lang Leav’s Sea of Strangers, has me reaching for tissues and a tub of ice cream. It’s as if Leav took an afternoon stroll through my mind and put everything I wanted to hear on paper. 

I’ll admit I was nervous to branch out beyond poetry. I grow tired reading the same thing for too long, though I decided to dabble around in the fiction and academia genres. John Nolt’s Environmental Ethics for the Long Term: An Introduction and Roy Sorensen’s A Brief History of the Paradox are my current favorite philosophical reads. Both were insanely thought-provoking and left me questioning my entire existence. Michele Filgate’s edited piece What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About is a collection of stories from fifteen different authors about relationships with their mothers and its effect. I appreciated the changing perspectives from each story and related heavily to my own experiences. One thing I ask myself constantly is, “What is there to say when everything is already said?” The way that writers find new means to put thoughts into words is baffling and amazing.

It’s safe to say that I have moved past my reader’s block. I will definitely continue to add to my bookshelf!


Z Eihausen is an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she studies English and Philosophy. Her extracurriculars include dancing (poorly), hanging out with bees, playing saxophone, and attempting to make peace with her beloved cat.

Sundress Publications Social Media Internship Open Call

Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit publishing collective founded in 2000 that hosts a variety of online journals and publishes chapbooks, full-length collections, and literary anthologies in both print and digital formats. Sundress also publishes the annual Best of the Net Anthology, celebrating the best work published online, runs Poets in Pajamas, an online reading series, and the Sundress Workshop Series, which offers free virtual writers workshops.

The social media internship position will run from January 1 to June 30, 2023. The intern’s responsibilities include scheduling and posting promotional materials on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), maintaining our newsletter, and promoting our various open reading periods, workshops, readings, and catalog of titles. This will also include creating promotional graphics, digital flyers, logos, and social media images. Applicants for this internship must be self-motivated and be able to work on a strict deadline.

Preferred qualifications include:

  • Familiarity with Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and/or Canva
  • Familiarity with social media scheduling tools
  • Ability to work under a deadline and multitask
  • Strong written communication skills
  • Knowledge of and interest in contemporary literature a plus

This is a REMOTE internship with the team communicating primarily via email and text messages and is therefore not restricted to applicants living in any particular geographic area. Interns are asked to devote up to 10 hours per week to their assignments.

While this is an unpaid internship, all interns will gain real-world experience of the ins and outs of independent publishing with a nationally recognized press while creating a portfolio of work for future employment opportunities. Interns will also be able to attend all retreats and residencies at the Sundress Academy for the Arts at a significantly discounted cost.

We welcome, encourage, and are enthusiastic to see a diverse array of applicants in all areas, including race, ethnicity, disability, gender, class, religion, education, immigration status, age, and more.

To apply, please send a resume and short cover letter detailing your interest to Staff Director Kanika Lawton at sundressstaffdirector@gmail.com by November 30, 2022.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Open for Editorial Internships

The Sundress Academy for the Arts at Firefly Farms, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is seeking editorial interns. The position’s responsibilities include the preparation of documents necessary to run an independent writer’s residency, as well as online participation in literary events including readings and workshops. This part-time internship would consist of approximately 5-10 hours of work per week and run from January 1st to July 5th, 2023. All applicants must be local to the greater Knoxville, TN area.

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is an entirely volunteer-run organization that hosts residencies, workshops, and retreats centered on creative writing in all genres. Located on a 45-acre farm twenty minutes from downtown Knoxville, SAFTA’s mission is to give writers of all levels a chance to workshop with nationally renowned professionals in their field as well as uninterrupted time to focus on their creative work. 

The editorial intern’s responsibilities will include writing press releases, composing blogs, proofreading, working with social media (Facebook, WordPress, etc.), collating editorial and residency data, research, and more.  The intern will also be needed to help facilitate Zoom readings and events. 

Preferred qualifications include:

• A keen eye for proof-reading

• Strong written communication skills 

• Experience with WordPress, Zoom, Google Sheets, and other online mediums

• Knowledge of contemporary literature a plus

While this is an unpaid internship, all interns will gain real-world experience in working with online event planning, nonprofit management, running a residency, communications, and more while creating a portfolio of work for future employment opportunities. Interns will get to work alongside members of both the local and national literary community through SAFTA workshops and readings, which interns are able to attend for free during their tenure with the organization. 

To apply, please send a resume and a brief cover letter detailing your interest in the position to the Staff Director, Sarah Harshbarger, at saftastaffdirector@gmail.com. Applications are due by Monday, November 29th, 2022.

For more information, visit our website at www.sundressacademyforthearts.com.

Project Bookshelf: Nicole Bethune Winters

From the time I learned to read, I did so almost obsessively. My mom actually set a rule for the holidays: that I couldn’t start reading the new books I got as gifts until family left town, because once I turned that first page, I was fully absorbed in the story. One of my dreams as a kid was to have a library room, like the kind you read about in the mansions of the Victorian era. The kind of room lined with shelves and books and a sliding ladder. I have always loved the way that books provide an escape into another world, a portal you can pull from a shelf and dive into.

I haven’t quite built that room yet, but the bookshelves I do have are a collection of those worlds, and will tell you quite a few things about me: what classes I took in college, that I gravitate towards fiction and poetry, but that I love a good memoir. I’m sentimental and have every one of my old yearbooks, that I’ve been studying yoga therapy, and that most recently, I’ve been reading the Wheel of Time series. They defy organization, and show that I’m the kind of person that thrives in chaos and messiness. They will tell you that I’m a sucker for a tangible book—the turning of the page, the threat of a coffee spill spreading the ink, the crack of the spine when you make it far enough through a paperback to fold it in half. And, they reveal that one of my favorite things to do is search local bookstores for old and vintage prints—the illustrated or leather bound copies, the ones with character, and especially those written by Jane Austen. There’s something special about reading from something that’s been around longer than you have, and my first ever leather bound was an edition of Pride and Prejudice, given to me by my grandmother. Austen hooked me instantly with her carefree snarkiness and satire. I admired her for writing and publishing at a time when she couldn’t even take credit for her work, and the fact that she shared it with the world anyway. There’s a particular importance in that kind of art—the kind you don’t get recognition for, but feel compelled to share.

Consequently, my favorite books tend to have less to do with the story, and more to do with the circumstances under which they found me: where I got them or who gave them to me, my emotional response to the text, what life experiences I was going through as I read them. In these, you’ll find earmarked pages and handwritten letters, sticky notes, and creased spines, salt stains and sand from the beach, blotches from spilled coffee.

Like music, book recommendations are kind of like a love language. I’ve also always been the sentimental type, and there’s something special about giving or receiving a book as a gift. When you give someone a book you adore, you share with them the piece of your soul that resonated with it. The gift of a book brings you closer, it creates a tie, a shared experienced. I’m still working on the home library, but I know now that I don’t want the books to just be there on the shelves, but to have each one mean something.

In response to this post, my roommate told me to read Outlawed by Anna North, and I am ordering it for the shelf as we speak.


Nicole Bethune Winters (she/her) 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.