Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Peyton Vance

I’ve been a writer, in a sense, for as long as I can remember. Even before I knew how to spell my name I was conjuring up stories about spaceships and adventurers, making my own toys and building worlds around them.

Countless trees have fallen victim to my adolescent phases, such as drawing comic book spoofs of TV episodes. Dozens of mismatched comics I believed were worth millions, now sit in a folder in my closet, where they’ve been seen by 3 people, myself included.

When I was older, I started writing novels. Well, not exactly novels. More like the first two pages of the first chapter of the first part of a single novel. I would do this about a dozen times before I realized I was not good at writing.

Once I was in high school, I started taking creative writing classes. I received runner up for a stage play called “Olympus Family Therapy”. My mom helped me write it. She was an AP English teacher, so she got runner up for a stage play called “Olympus Family Therapy”. And I was still not good at writing.

Shockingly, my parents did not cry when I told them I’d be an English major, concentration; creative writing. And that’s where I was thrown in the deep end. My writing muscles went into maximum overdrive, and I wrote stage plays, screenplays, short stories, fiction, nonfiction, and even a web horror comic.

I have worked with UT’s literary arts magazine, The Phoenix, for over a year. I am the current prose editor. I’m also a creative intern for UnwarranTed, UT’s comedy sketch group. This year alone I have published 5 different pieces. I hope to publish and write more.

When people ask me what I want to be when I graduate, I tell them I am going to be a professional homeless person. I then explain it’s because I want to go into production, write screenplays or draw storyboards, and eventually pitch my own cartoon.

I’m still trying to be a better writer, and working with Sundress will not only help me learn, but it’ll be a crap ton of fun.

Project Bookshelf: Megan McCarter

Megan Desk Bookshelf

I have always loved looking at other people’s bookshelves. Whether it be a small shelf over their desk or an expansive library spanning floor to ceiling if there is a bookshelf I am bound to be found snooping through its titles and well-loved spines. What better way to earn a glimpse of the person who collected these stories or find your next favorite?

My room has been overtaken by books barely constrained to the shelves they live on. The titles have shifted and changed over the years but the number has only grown. There is something about living physically among books that goes beyond mere aesthetics or a book as an object. It is about living among stories and words, little portals into faraway lands. As much as each book tells a story, so does each bookshelf that houses them.

Megan Tall Bookcase 2The story of my own bookshelves must be an odd one. I can count three different copies of Frankenstein, two of The Classic Fairytales, and three of The Arabian Nights. John Milton’s Paradise Lost is nestled next to a worn paperback of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. Collections of Sherlock Holmes sit beside Bruce Coville’s children’s series, the Unicorn Chronicles. There are at least eight copies of Shakespeare’s works, though I’ve probably missed a few among all the stacks. Never mind that shelves can begin with Christopher Paolini’s Eragon only to be interrupted by books on mummies and solitary confinement, poetry by Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser, only to end up at Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. And all of this on one bookshelf alone!

Through these books I can trace the path of my life. Scattered on the shelves are my childhood favorites and heroes, like Bruce Coville and Tamora Pierce. On another bookcase are the collections of writing prompts, research ideas, and folktales that I fell in love with during high school. The brown shelf over my desk is laden with favorite authors and series I Megan Black Bookcasestill haven’t stopped rereading years after I first discovered them. I can mark the exact moment that I became an English major in the presence of Norton Critical Editions. Along the way, there are clusters that stand out with frightening titles like Buried Alive and Severed from a class I took on the Anthropology of Horror and what our fears say about our culture. Even the slew of children’s classics like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Tom Brown’s School Days remind me more of a pair of classes I took on children’s literature than they do of my own childhood.

Looking through all of these books, new and old, the ones that are missing stand out to me as well. On the middle shelf there used to be Erin Hunter’s Warriors series and my collection of Harry Potter books, both gifted years ago to my little sister when she began to read. The collection of my books waiting to be read barely fits on my black bookshelf, tucked under the Tamora Pierce books I have set aside to reread this summer in a book club of friends. No matter how my shelves shift and change with the years, I am proud of the story they tell and I can only look forward to what new adventures they will collect.

Megan Short Bookcase

Megan McCarter PictureMegan McCarter is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a BA in English. She is a founding editor of Call Me [Brackets] literary magazine and has presented her research at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association annual conference. You can find her in Tennessee playing with her pets, nose deep in folklore, or working on her latest story.


Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Jacquelyn Scott


I was raised in Jefferson City, Tennessee, which is about 40 miles north from where my ancestors were forced off their land for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I grew up in the wilds of my mountains. Hiking and camping, I sometimes traced my way from the Ramsey Cascades to the Whaley-Big Greenbriar Cemetery, where my family is buried. I used to stand in the middle of that cemetery and look down at the headstones, thinking about my relatives beneath me. One headstone reads, “S.B. Whaley.” I imagine her name was Sarah Beth and question if she, too, felt confined by her gender.

There are ruins of an old school on the trail to my ancestors’ graves. I wonder: if there wasn’t a national park, if that school still stood, if my family still lived there, would I have learned the names of Jhumpa Lahiri, Carmen Machado, ZZ Packer, or Aimee Bender? Would I have found my love of writing Appalachia and Appalachian women through a feminist lens? As Carmen Machado wrote, “I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.”

I am not a traditional student. I took my time returning to college after I graduated from high school, instead searching for a career path in medicine and psychology, and when I moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee for community college, I came back thinking I would major in nursing and try to write on the side. However, I felt unhappy and constrained because I wasn’t learning the craft of writing like I really wanted. Miranda July once wrote, “But, like ivy, we grow where there is room for us,” and I always found room in literature. When I transferred to my university, I changed my major to creative writing, where I could study how to represent women like me in an artful and literary way.

While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I discovered a passion for literary citizenship. I worked my way up from a fiction reader to the assistant editor at my university’s literary magazine, the Sequoya Review, and started working at the writing center as a peer tutor, helping other students become better writers, both academically and creatively, improving my own writing in the process. In addition, I volunteered as a reader for several literary magazines, such as upstreet, Spark, Ember, and Zetetic, and now, as I pursue my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from The University of Tennessee (Go Vols!), I am honored to intern for Sundress PublicationsI look forward to learning the publishing side of the literary world where I have made my home.

Jacquelyn Scott is a student at The University of Tennessee where she is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and The Write Launch. Find her on Twitter @jacquelynlscott.

Meet Our New Social Media Intern: Maria Esquinca

IMG_6491-2I must have fallen in love with storytelling as a child. I remember my uncle reading out loud to me from a big fairy tale book. I loved hearing his voice bring to life the characters within the page. After that, it was only a matter of time before I was reading on my own.

I grew up in a dysfunctional family, and I was also a very awkward kid, so reading became a form of escape for me. I could read for hours. Eventually, I started writing, and writing became a way for me to process trauma. It was therapeutic. So, I’ve had a very personal relationship with reading and writing for most of my life. My advisor and professor has told me “writing saved my life” and I believe it has saved mine, too.

Currently, I’m getting my M.F.A in poetry at the University of Miami. A huge portion of my writing has been about immigration policy. I live on the border so immigration has been a topic that has always impacted me. I call myself a Fronteriza, it comes from the word “frontera” which means border in English. I was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and grew up in El Paso, Texas. The two are often described as sister cities because of their proximity. I also write about my family and identity.

I’m excited to bring my experiences point of view to Sundress Publications, but more importantly, I’m excited to intern in a press that cares about diversity, representation, and is women-led.

Maria Esquinca is an MFA candidate at the University of Miami. She is the winner of the 2018 Alfred Boas Poetry Prize, judged by Victoria Chang. Her poetry has appeared in The Florida Review, Scalawag, Acentos Review and is forthcoming from Glass: A Journal of Poetry.  A Fronteriza, she was born in Ciudad Juárez, México and grew up in El Paso, Texas. You can find her on Twitter @m_esquinca.


Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Megan McCarter

Megan McCarter Picture

Ever since I was little, I have been in love with the art of storytelling. Whether it was creating adventures for my stuffed animals or making up stories to go with picture books before I could read, I have always been enamored with the possibilities that a story can hold. Once I learned to read and then love reading, that delight in stories only grew greater. Every bookstore held the promise of a new adventure. Every library became, and remains today, an old friend. Among stories, whether written or spoken or acted upon screen or stage, I feel at home.

Growing up, I always knew that my life would be filled with stories. As early as middle school I began writing my own stories, building little scraps into scenes, then novels, then series’ and worlds. In high school and college, I became involved with numerous literary magazines, book clubs, and writing groups. I couldn’t get enough. There were too many stories out there that I had yet to hear and too many adventures just waiting to be explored.

During my junior year of college, I became involved with the University of Alabama press as one of their editorial interns. Despite writing my own stories, the process of professionally turning an idea on a page into a physical book you could hold in your hands was magical. So often people are told that writing books is a solitary venture, but seeing the hard work of writing guilds, magazines, and presses helping turn a novel into a polished book is an experience far from isolating. It is wonderful to be around others who care as much about stories as I do, and I look forward to taking the next step in expanding my knowledge and my family of fellow story lovers. I couldn’t be more delighted to work with Sundress Publications and help make the stories of the future an adventure for everyone.


Megan McCarter is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a BA in English. She is a founding editor of Call Me [Brackets] literary magazine and has presented her research at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association annual conference. You can find her in Tennessee playing with her pets, nose deep in folklore, or working on her latest story.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Kimberly Ann Priest

DSC_1183.jpegI’m a poet and an educator, but I didn’t become either until my late thirties when divorce propelled me to seek therapeutic tools to map experience and explore a catalogue of emotions that had been repressed for several of my adult years. As acts of both survival and exploration, I earned a BA, MA, and MFA—all with a focus on creative writing—and began to write and publish poems. These endeavors naturally led me to take on a number of academic teaching roles, primarily instructing first-year composition courses, but with a few opportunities to teach creative writing here and there.

Over the past six years, I’ve had the good fortune to learn from some excellent faculty/poets and have my work published in several notable journals including The Berkeley Poetry Review, and Welter, in addition to the publication of my first chapbook White Goat Black Sheepa series of lyric stanzas about two young sisters reeling in the wake of sexual assault. Most of my poetry explores themes related to trauma, sexuality, the female body, and motherhood. Writing on these topics has opened my world, both in terms of internal space and public interaction. I’ve been able to write through personal traumas and help others do the same.

Currently, as a writing professor at Michigan State University, I am working with a number of inspiring teachers and writers who are equally interested in how various forms of written composition impact health and well-being and I’m looking forward to leading workshops in the community to help survivors integrate grief and stabilize self via artistic expression. I am a strong believer in art, broadly defined, as essential to navigate difficult experiences, order chaos, beautify madness, and enact empowerment by re-shaping stories. When life spirals out of our control, art allows us to regain individual agency and invite community to share in that process.

This is why I’m delighted to be an intern with Sundress Publications and support their visionary concerns for community, diversity, and healing. I look forward to discovering how this internship will broaden my understanding of the publishing world, expand my writing community, and enhance my practicum as an educator.


Kimberly Ann Priest is a professor of first-year writing at Michigan State University, a poet, and a mother of two very-recently-inaugurated young adults. She likes to buy coffee mugs from coffee shops that impress her during her travels. Though she’s already visited nearly all of the forty-eight mainland United States, she will never turn down a road trip. You will either find her contemplating life and writing poetry or cruising in her Mini Cooper “Marilyn” (Monroe). This year, she has work forthcoming in The Coachella Review and Glass Poetry.


Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Erica Hoffmeister


I know it’s cliché to say: I’ve loved books more than anything for as long as I can remember… but, it’s true. Before my tiny little body could even form concrete memories, I began to build my life around reading and writing.

I learned to read early. I was two and a half years old when I began checking out books from the library to read on my own, to earn that coveted end-of-summer prize. I was so young, so small for my age, the librarian didn’t believe I could read yet. My mom tells me that I took a stack of a dozen picture books and read them cover to cover to prove to her I knew every word. It was a sense of determination to learn—to know—and it was clear that reading was the key to everything.

My paternal grandmother was an avid reader and walking dictionary; she’d have me practice using words in sentences and do crosswords out of the Sunday paper with her (always with a pen, never a pencil). At bedtime, she’d read me Agatha Christie, and I’d sway into dreamland as a too-young child, images of bloody-cat prints and mysteries filling my head. In contrast to that particular librarian, my grandmother never treated me too small, not smart enough.

What I soon noticed was that the stories and characters in the books I read never did, either. On the other side of the coin, my maternal grandmother was a writer: she was never published, she never even graduated high school. But, when I was seven or eight, I’d work in the corner beside her at her desk with my very own word processor—one of those fancy, early 1990s digital ones where you could type a whole line at a time before the keys would stamp ink onto the paper. She wrote romance westerns and she’d read them to me, ask me what I thought, have me proofread the drafts. I’d sit for hours, a stack of 500 manuscript pages on my tiny legs, read things that weren’t age-appropriate, but that’s what made it special. By then, I knew I was going to be a writer, too.

I didn’t know it would take me until age 30 to start publishing. I didn’t know that through all those wish-careers (Journalist for the UN, Travel Writer, Children’s Author, Big-Time Literary Agent in NYC… mostly my grandmothers’ ideas), something in me wouldn’t be able to keep this learning and knowing to myself.

And so, a long winding road led me to now teach writing. Only until recently did I truly realize publishing and editorial work was a crucial part of the puzzle in academia, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to intern here at Sundress. Here I am, feeling like the first day of summer, 1988, writing all seventeen letters of my name across my brand new library card with a shaking toddler hand, mostly faking confidence, excited to learn how to do something brand new again.

Erica Hoffmeister holds an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from Chapman University, and teaches college writing across the Denver metro area. She is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). She’s obsessed with pop culture, cross country road trips, and her two daughters, Scout and Lux.



My bookshelf might look a bit small, but this is a fraction of all the books I own! Most of my books are still at my mom’s house, as I’ve been moving around a lot throughout college. Choosing which books to bring to college and which to leave behind was challenging – it was so hard to prioritize which books to bring! As you can see from the stickers on the spines, I get most of my books from Thriftbooks, which is one of the best places to buy books hands down! However, I don’t buy books as often as I’d like to – ever since I came to college, I’ve usually checked out books to read from Hodges Library.

My poetry collection has some works by poets whom I admire. Lucille Clifton’s Blessing the Boats was one of the first books that got me into writing poetry seriously. Jasmine An’s Naming the No-Name Woman and Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf are both filled with powerful poems that are definitely worth the read (and reread!) and have been formative to my own craft. In the future I hope to acquire more poetry books, especially works by queer and trans poets.

I have many of my favorite fiction works on my shelves. Growing up I read lots of fantasy, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series has been my most-loved fantasy series thus far. I have a lot of nostalgia for the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, and I like to revisit them every so often. Currently, my favorite fiction book is Hector Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier, which I read for a course at UT last year.

The rest of my books are miscellaneous short stories, essays, and other works. When I came to UT, I started reading more short stories, since I can usually read one or two in between readings for class. The Forbidden Stories of Marta Veneranda by Sonia Rivera-Valdes is my favorite collection of short works, and I’m always on the lookout for more short stories to read!

After I graduate, I hope to move somewhere where I can keep all my books together and accumulate even more! There are many authors and poets who inspire me, and it feels good having a few of their works on my shelves.


Parker Anderson is a queer writer and English student at the University of Tennessee. They are an emerging poet and essayist who loves reading, spending time outdoors, and playing video games. Most nights, you can find them experimenting with spices in their kitchen or chatting about dogs behind the front desk at Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Library.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern, Parker Anderson

chicken...I have been passionate about books my whole life. It seems like I’ve spent more of my life with my nose buried in one than not. In middle school, I read every book at my school’s library and hungered for more. Libraries have always been like a second home to me. I love the smell of books, the feel of their pages, the promise of change that comes with finishing the finial section. In high school it seems like I spent more time at my local library reading and writing than I spent at home!

Words have always inspired and excited me. I wrote my first short story when I was four years old (called “The Kitten Rescue” – my mom has kept track of it to this day), and I have not stopped writing since. Throughout my childhood, I filled a large chest with notebooks containing short stories, poetry, and countless ideas for novels, a few of which I managed to finish. Writing has always been an integral part of my identity, and I do not shy away from leaving pieces of myself in my works.

When I came to UT, I changed my major from pre-med to English with a concentration in
creative writing within the first week. Writing was so important to me, and I relished the idea of learning the craft from experienced authors and professors. While I learned a lot during my first few years in college, I felt uninspired, with little time to read or write for myself, and poor mental health causing me to struggle with the mundane.

My inspiration was sparked again, however, when my advanced poetry writing course was picked up by Erin Elizabeth Smith. Erin provided useful feedback on my work and encouraged me to start writing recklessly. I began to experiment and take risks with my poetry, which has led me to finally start making progress with my craft.

With my renewed vigor for writing, I am thrilled to be the new editorial intern for SAFTA. I am looking forward to discovering and promoting local authors, and I know this internship will give me the opportunity to grow and develop as a writer while learning about Knoxville’s poetry scene. I value the opportunity to meet other people who are just as excited about writing as I am. Find me at one of SAFTA’s reading events – I’ll be sure to say hey!


Parker Anderson is a queer writer and English student at the University of Tennessee. They are an emerging poet and essayist who loves reading, spending time outdoors, and playing video games. Most nights, you can find them experimenting with spices in their kitchen or chatting about dogs behind the front desk at Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Library.

Project Bookshelf: Riley Steiner


I don’t remember ever making a conscious decision to use it like this, but growing up, I realized that I only allowed my bookshelf to house my most-loved books. A book had to have earned its place on my shelf—captured my heart and my imagination in some spectacular way. Anything short of that went to the basement.


As a result of this buildup of my favorite books over time, my various bookshelves tell a kind-of-chronological story.

Each book reminds me of a certain point in my life when I look at its spine nestled among the others, even though the books may not be strictly organized in the order in which I read them. I can see evidence of my growing love for fantasy in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit; my adolescent years (where the books all have kick-butt high school heroines); and the point in my life where I discovered my passion for rock music and the stories behind it.

The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye are beloved holdovers from my high school sophomore-year English class, where, like all of the best educators, my teacher transformed these routine reading assignments into lifelong favorites of mine. You can see, in my collection of memoirs by (mostly women) actors and comedians, where I became interested in who the people I watched on my television screen really were—not only their filmography but how they impacted the world beyond a movie set.

IMG_5142.JPGAnd then there are my ever-present (and ever-growing) piles of books I want to read or re-read, stacked on the floor after I ran out of shelf space. These are old and new books, books I’ve borrowed from friends and books of my own. These paper towers contain everything from books of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Hanks to Dave Eggers’ The Circle and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. No matter how much time I spend reading, these piles never seem to grow smaller, but I’m okay with that—it means I always have something new to throw myself into. Tellingly, there’s a beige plastic bag sitting on my floor at this moment, partially enveloping my recent purchases of Circling the Sun and The Age of Miracles.

Oh, well. My floor has been home to my cluttered array of books for so long, I think it’d feel bare without them. One day, maybe I’ll be able to even out my ratio of books purchased to books read—but I doubt it.


Riley Steiner is a senior at Miami University, where she studies Creative Writing and Media & Culture. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she enjoys baking, cheering for the Green Bay Packers, and spending way too much money at Half Price Books. Her creative work is forthcoming in the Oakland Arts Review.