Meet our New Intern: Nicole Drake

Lonely kids make the best creatives, I hear.  We play with dolls and direct the drama of their complex inner lives; we talk to ourselves; we read and read and read and read.

I grew up, homeschooled, in a tiny town in Illinois, current population 1,977.  My whole world could have fit inside a thimble. By the time I turned 15, I had read 362 books.  I jotted notes for stories down in the margins, half-cast scenes in the spaces between chapters.

I was lucky: my world didn’t stay small forever. A few years and a move to Florida later, I was applying to colleges, an impending major in writing or linguistics ahead of me, and found out I was accepted to a program that would have me move to Europe for a year. Specifically, Italy. My grandma called my mom four times in the span of two days to tell her that “She does know that they speak a different language there, doesn’t she?” and “How is she going to get there, is she going to fly by herself?”

I, despite my grandmothers expectations, made it there alive and continue to be alive to this day.

What living in another culture taught me is how expansive the world is. Writing, for me, has always been about expression. We write and read in the languages we have grown up in, that wrap cozily around us like blankets. But expression changes when it’s filtered through other mediums, through the half-garbled words of a language you’ve only just started piecing together, or through the stories of someone who has lived a life totally opposite to your own. We take for granted our perspective, our insular reality. But there’s a whole world out there.

I moved back to the states for the last three years of my degree at Florida State University. I took as many unique literature classes and writing workshops as I could cram in my schedule. I developed a passion for Post-Colonial literature and other genres that tell the stories of historically underrepresented groups. I was diagnosed with the type of illness I would never recover from. Despite that, I kept living. I graduated with a degree in creative writing, triumphant and exhausted.

In the year since, I have had so much opportunity to grow. I pursued my passion for books and publishing by serving as the Fiction Intern for the Southeast Review, which allowed me to channel the hard-won literary skills I gained in school into something tangible. I taught Argentine Tango for a scientific study focussing on tango’s effects on patients with Parkinson’s disease, and got to see the continual progress of each patient who, the day before, had said that they could never do that impossible thing. I’ve worked as a Social Media Manager for a tattoo shop, and trained others on my team in new skills that even a few months ago, I thought were impossible.

All of that has, gloriously, lead me here. It has been a year of never-ending expansion, and I am so grateful that I will have the ability to bring that growth as well as my passion for words to Sundress Publications.


Nicole Drake is a graduate of Florida State University with a BA in Creative Writing. She has served as a reader for the Southeast Review and the Seven Hills Review, and currently works as the Social Media Manager for Capital City Tattoo’z. She teaches dance and works her way through her endless “To Read” list in her spare time.

Meet our New Intern: Mary B. Sellers

My sweet-tooth for stories and books is entirely my mother’s doing. From the beginning, she ingrained in me the importance of make-believe; the easy, seductive escapism that goes along with a good book. My childhood library was a vast, impressive thing, which my mother also had a hand in making. On my last visit home, I climbed the winding staircase with the odd bend in its middle up to my old bedroom, where I remembered seeing these childhood books last.

I found them neatly stacked—tall and glossy with the hardcover’s requisite fierce laminate shine—on the old twin-sized trundle bed, their pages stuck shut by time and that species-specific dust bunny native only to suburbia.

I tried to be gentle as I sifted through them, rereading some entirely like Audrey Wood’s King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, which I remember being one of my particular favorites as it was about a king who did just that—held court in his bathtub. Bubbles pop and soak marble floors while jesters make silly grimace-grins: I imagine it must have inspired from my then-toddler-self, a deep awe for the interdimensional aspects of the average-looking bathtub. Others, too, like Grandfather Twilight, about a kind old man who puts the moon in the sky after his evening walk each night; The Rainbabies, too—a classically structured folktale dealing in magic rain, the moon, and wishes coming true—depicted in careful sketching and pastel watercolors, soft and cool-toned.

The first time I “seriously” wrote anything was the summer my mother had her first manic episode (bipolar psychosis), and her first stint at the psych ward. It was the summer before eighth grade. It was also the last summer that my mother ever wrote anything seriously again. Specifically, I mean the book she’d started writing a few weeks after quitting her job as a speechwriter. I’d been beyond excited at the prospect of having a real-life author for a mother. I fantasized about this scenario, made sure to brag to my friends at school about it. My mother, the writer.

Because it was true, how it’d always been: my mother was the writer in the family; the reader, the dreamy girl who spent her teenage weekends with bent, seventies’ paperbacks. Looking back on photos of my mother as a teenager and young twenty-something, I see a pretty girl with olive skin and dark fly-away hair who seems to always be laughing with a book in hand. It’s the true sort of happiness that’s hard to fake. Bliss, joy, a silliness I’ve never seen on her. There’s light in those black eyes of hers, and the skin around her happy mouth is stretched tight and young with delight. I wish I’d known her then, could talk to that version of her now that I’m grown.

Originally from Jackson, MS, I now live and work in Seattle, WA, with my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who I (nerdily) christened Daisy Buchanan after the leading lady in The Great Gatsby. (I’ve always loved her ‘beautiful little fool’ quote towards the beginning of the novel.) I currently am a part time children’s creative writing instructor for Pacifica Writers’ Workshop, a Split Lip Press nonfiction reader, and a freelance writer. Side hustles include: web development, selling on Poshmark, dog sitting, and trying to write a novel.

I graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Mississippi in 2013 and an MFA in Creative Writing with a Fiction emphasis from Louisiana State University in 2018, where I served as graduate prose editorial assistant for The Southern Review, social media editor for New Delta Review, and cohost for the Underpass Readers & Writers series. In 2018, my graduate thesis—a hybrid novel, Rapunzel Has Insomnia—was a finalist for the University of New Orleans Publishing Laboratory Prize.

My fiction, essays, articles, and reviews appear in Psychopomp Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Grimoire, Third Point Press, Sidereal Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, Literary Orphans, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Dream Pop Press, The New Southern Fugitives, Click Magazine, Mississippi Magazine, Young Professionals of Seattle, and New Delta Review, among others.

For the past decade, I’ve attempted to keep at least one toe in the book publishing and literary worlds, which is why I have such eclectic work experiences: summer editorial assistantships for lifestyle magazines, an NYC-based literary agent, and a couple of online magazines, and Thacker Mountain Radio, a weekly radio show. Fresh out of college I even worked for Fat Possum Records, a record label located in my college town of Oxford, MS, while studying for the GRE and applying to 12 MFA programs. After being rejected from all 12 schools and subsequent identity crisis, I spent the next year working remotely as associate publisher for the small indie press Blooming Twig Books and freelance writing. They would later go on to be kind enough to publish my first collection of short stories, Shoulder Bones, in 2014.

During my time in graduate school, I had the opportunity to live and workshop my writing abroad for one month in Prague, thanks to the 2016 Prague Summer Writers Program. Also, in 2017, I participated in the Sewanee Summer Writers Residency. Recently, my short story “The Other Mother” was second runner up in Psychopomp Magazine’s 2019 Short Fiction Contest. My personal essay “Inheritance: A Timeline” was nominated for a 2019 Best of the Net award, and my short story “Alice and the Moon” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


Mary B. Sellers lives and works in Seattle, WA, and is at work on her second book, a novel of autofiction. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Mississippi and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Louisiana State University. Most recently her writing has appeared in Psychopomp Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Grimoire, Third Point Press, Sidereal Magazine, and Young Professionals of Seattle.

Meet Our New Social Media Intern: Jessica Lovett

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I’m Jessica and I am a proud Pisces (if that means anything to you), a proud poet (kind of), proudly queer, and proudly Sundress Publications‘ new Social Media Intern! (Can you tell I’m writing this during Pride Month?) 

I’ve loved language all my life, and I like to think it loves me back. As a kid, I barely spoke. I was painfully shy but I was never afraid to write—through writing, I could transform myself. I could say something exactly how I wanted it to be said, rather than fumbling around my words while public speaking. I always knew the words were there to catch me, there to disguise me, even. But as I’ve grown up I’ve come to use words less as a disguise and more as a mirror, a mirror that shows only the deepest, darkest truth, whether that truth is ugly or beautiful. 

I write and I read for this kind of truth. I support artists and creators who are unafraid of their own dark sides—who present readers with a disguise but then let them see beneath it. I also support queer artists, artists of color, and female or non-binary artists. I was drawn to Sundress for their desire to lift up these voices. The voices that have been silenced often have the most to say. I’m lucky that as an intern for Sundress, I can be even a small part of this mission.


Jessica Lovett is a junior at Fordham University, where she studies Comparative Literature and French. Her poetry has been published in Fordham’s Bricolage and ANGLES Literary Magazine. She also loves to write music, impulsively get tattoos, and watch movie musicals.

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

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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 Intern: Bailey Martin

Even the most cursory of glances over my childhood behavior threatens a future in English. My affinity for reading and writing – and my utter weakness in math and science – were noted early on by my parents and teachers. I wrote my first stories about my Barbies. In the fourth grade, I attempted a novel, and soon after I began writing plays to perform with my friends at after-school. To say writing has been a lifelong love of mine would be an understatement – it’s more of a compulsion, a instinct, and an excuse to ignore the real world.

I first began writing poetry in a sixth grade English class. We were meant to bring in and read poems related to what we were studying and instead of doing that, I furiously scribbled my own minutes before my turn. The poems were bad, as they would be for years, and often are still today. Luckily, kind and wonderful teachers throughout my academic career have managed to find potential in me. These teachers, like my high school Creative Writing teacher and many talented professors at the University of Tennessee, have nurtured my love of writing, encouraged me to pursue it relentlessly, and challenged me to grow and improve.

I owe a real debt of gratitude to the writers in my life. Those I’ve been lucky enough to meet inspire me every day with their talent and tenacity. It’s for this reason, among others, that I’m so thrilled to join the Sundress team. I look forward to assisting, however I can, in the telling of stories.

 

Bailey Martin is a writer and English student at the University of Tennessee. She was awarded the 2019 Michael Dennis Poetry Award and Margaret Artley Woodruff Award for Creative Writing. In her free time, she enjoys learning about linguistics, taking photos of cows, and thinking about the circus. 

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!

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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: Nikki A. Sambitsky

The times I am happiest are when I’m reading and/or writing. Most would say that I came to the writing game late in my life. In 2012 at the age of 35, and after having my first child the year before, I decided to return to college to get my BA in journalism. In my 20’s, I worked in and out of the newspaper industry. I even returned to school a few times after that to reinvent myself as a licensed massage therapist and esthetician.

But no matter what career field I worked in, the gravity of the writing life kept pulling me back to center. It was just a matter of time before I found myself back in the thick of things again.

Flash forward to 2018, and I am the proud owner of a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing with a couple of published essays under my belt. It’s hard to properly put it into words, but I truly feel alive, vital, and necessary when I am writing and learning. I’m slowly but surely making my way in this writing world while navigating the challenges and ups and downs of having two small children. But no matter what comes our way, my husband and I seem to make it work.

If there’s anything that I have learned about the writing life, it’s that it’s all about making meaningful connections and constantly evolving while engaging in the hustle. (And I mean hustle in the most positive way!)

When I’m not writing lyric essays or teaching about unconventional forms of creative nonfiction, I tutor, read, and now intern at Sundress Publications. It’s an understatement to say that I am beyond excited to work with Sundress. I have always wanted to learn the inside workings of the publishing industry and am thrilled to see things from the other side of the writing industry.

Nikki A. Sambitsky earned her MFA in creative writing, specifically focusing on the lyric/fragment essay (creative nonfiction) from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. Sambitsky holds a BA in journalism from Central Connecticut State University. She is currently working on her collection of lyric/fragment essays, which center on mental illness, her family, and her husband and two autistic children. Sambitsky enjoys writing essays that explore family, family issues, and autism. Her journalism work and creative nonfiction has appeared in many publications including The Helix, Gravel Magazine, and West Hartford Magazine. She was a scholarship recipient to the 2018 Slice Literary Writers’ Conference, and her essay, “Happy Birthday (Numb)” was selected as a finalist in the nonfiction category for the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference Emerging Writers Contest. Sambitsky was also a scholarship recipient to the 2018 Murphy Writing Workshop of Stockton University. Her most recent essay, “Penny Drop,” is slated for publication in Longridge Review, in November 2018. She lives with her husband, two children, and way too many animals in a peaceful, rural, area of Connecticut.

Project Book Shelf: Hannah Kitterman

My book shelf went through a massive downsizing after I graduated. I moved back to Clarksville to live with my parents for the summer, and most of the books that I had collected throughout my literature-based classes are still in boxes in their basement. When I got my service position with AmeriCorps, I went through those boxes in an attempt to only bring the books I could not live without which also had to fit in my car. After a good deal of soul searching, the books that made the journey with me are ones that are related to moments in my life. These are books, or plays, that I like to revisit often.

I know most of Much Ado About Nothing by heart, but I can never part with my copy because my dog tried to eat it when he was a puppy. I have my used copies of Dubliners and Ulysses, both books that I read in my last semester at UTK which held my hand as I prepared to graduate. I have a copy of Mindy Kaling’s newest book, Why Not Me,which is hysterical and something I should not read in quiet places. I have my collections of poetry by Rupi Kaur and Mary Oliver, both of which I can rely on to lead me on an emotional roller coaster.

My cookbooks were a necessity and I am a very big supporter of using baking to relieve stress, much to the pleasure of my friends and roommates. On top of my book shelf are odds and ends that I have kept up with, all which either hold some small memory like the bottle cork from my graduation party or, like my swimming goggles, are just something I use regularly. I still feel a little sad to not have my full collection of books in Knoxville with me, but I am also looking forward to the greatest luxury not having my immense catalogue of literature has forced me to get: a library card.


Hannah Kitterman is a native Tennessean currently living in Knoxville. She graduated from the University of Tennessee last May where she studied English Literature and French. During her time at UTK Hannah was a member of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band where she played the trombone and gained experience with heartbreaking losses and feverous fandom. Hannah is currently serving as a member of AmeriCorps with I Bike KNX, a nonprofit that advocates for safe bicycling habits. You can find her at various intersections in Knoxville counting the number of pedestrians and people riding bicycles or reading with a cup of coffee while on the lookout for dogs to pet. She has never met a burrito or a dog that she did not love.

 

 

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Hannah Kitterman

My relationship with books and with reading has been constant for my entire life. Both of my parents are English professors, and I have been fortunate enough to be around an environment that put reading and talking about books in a place of high esteem from a young age. There was really no escaping this environment, actually, and I just ended up really lucky that I happened to love every facet of it.

I continued loving my books, sometimes to the extreme, in all situations. For family vacations I would have the heaviest bags because of all the books I wanted to bring. I was notorious for asking for a IMG_3999.jpgbook and then finishing it in a matter of hours, no matter how lengthy.

However, despite my devotion to reading and my willingness to take down any obstacle to be immersed in a book, when I registered for my first semester at UTK I had no intention of being an English major. I had decided to study French because it was a subject that had thrilled me as much as my English courses throughout High School, and I had an idealized notion that I would become an academic in French Literature and possibly move to France.

Within the first month of my Freshman year I had switched to a double major in French and English Lit. There was a physical pull that I felt whenever I was in my English classes and when looking at the catalogue of courses and I found myself pouring over all the offered English Literature ones. After I declared my double major, I lost my notion of how my life was going to end up. I felt so unsure and also so happy because in a way I had found my identity again.

I know I am happiest when I am working with any type of writing or writing based art, so I am really looking forward to this internship with the Sundress Academy for the Arts and a new chance to learn and grow with others in a field that brings me the utmost joy.


Hannah Kitterman is a native Tennessean currently living in Knoxville. She graduated from the University of Tennessee last May where she studied English Literature and French. During her time at UTK Hannah was a member of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band where she played the trombone and gained experience with heartbreaking losses and feverous fandom. Hannah is currently serving as a member of AmeriCorps with I Bike KNX, a nonprofit that advocates for safe bicycling habits. You can find her at various intersections in Knoxville counting the number of pedestrians and people riding bicycles or reading with a cup of coffee while on the lookout for dogs to pet. She has never met a burrito or a dog that she did not love.