Meet Our New Intern: Saoirse

A brown femme person with shoulder length black har sitting at a table. They have a drink in their hand and a butterfly tattoo in pride colors is visible on their wrist.

I grew up in a family of six people and four languages. We also moved around quite a lot. Between code switching at home and learning a new dialect with every move to a different city, I learned the power of language pretty quickly. So it was no surprise when I started poking my nose in my parents’ book collection as a child. Always being the new kid in school and being bullied constantly only made me retreat into my books even more.

Not the best idea—according to my teachers, at least. Books can plant the darnedest ideas in your head. They can suggest your school textbooks are sexist and problematic. They can tell you it’s okay—gasp—even healthy, to be your full queer self. They can instill in you a revolutionary zeal. My books got me in quite a lot of trouble—trouble I took as a sign that I was doing something right.

Though I had a habit of juggling languages based on my mood in both my reading and writing, English held a mysterious allure for me. It was the language where I found my identity as a queer nonbinary woman and it was also a legacy of the colonial violence that separated by grandparents from their ancestral lands. I was proud to be articulate in a language that could never articulate its own violence upon my lived reality. It was to understand this fraught relationship that I found myself majoring in English at Washington College on the eastern shore of Maryland.

Washington College, particularly the pedagogical brilliance of Drs. Kimberly Andrews and Alisha Knight, allowed me to come into my own as a writer and a thinker. It was also where I discovered my passion for editing. Over the years, I’ve harnessed that passion into working with emerging writers who don’t necessarily have access to a creative writing workshop. To that end, I founded Palimpsest—a writers collective focused on honing our craft in community with each other. I also serve as a Guest Editor at Oyster River Pages, where I inaugurated the Emerging Voices in Poetry program as well as ORP Schools— our creative writing workshops. These are all an attempt to create spaces that center the creativity of historically excluded folks.

Language is power harnessed through story. There is no ecstasy greater than finding a story that disrupts, enhances, and challenges the trends at any given time and place. And no honor greater than working with the writer to help them achieve precise muscularity of language as they tell their story. That is why I am so very honored to join Sundress Publications in the curation of a diverse and vibrant literary landscape.


Saoirse’s name and passion are the same: freedom. As an exophonic writer, their academic interests revolve around linguistic power dynamics, especially in connection to the land. They are always trying to write, and find, poetry that breaks the English language into articulating its own colonial violence. They are a freelance editor and serve as the Guest Editor for Emerging Voices in Poetry at Oyster River Pages. They are a 2021 Brooklyn Poets Fellow and a finalist for the Sophie Kerr Prize. They find excitement in travel, comfort in a good cup of coffee, and love in their newly adopted puppy, Malaika. Find them at saoirseedits.com or on Twitter @saoirseedits.

Meet Our New Intern: Kathryn Davis

I’ve never been big on football, but I’ve always loved books. Between my third-grade and seventh-grade years, the oldest of my two brothers played college football nine hours away from home, and my parents resolved to attend every. Single. Game. We’d wake up at four or five each Saturday morning, load into my dad’s Ford Explorer without a word to one another, and we’d drive. 

During the first couple hours of those drives, it’d be too dark to read—but around seven or eight, I’d start in. The librarians in town had known me for a while by then (my general book habit was nothing new), but they began to learn the football season drill as well. They’d ask where Joe was playing that week. How many hours away? Twelve? How many of these (gesturing vaguely at the pile of books I’d pulled off the shelves to take with me) do you think you’ll finish by next weekend? All of them? See you next week. 

I’d read from that first light until we parked and headed into the game. We’d settle into the bleachers. Then I’d start again. About halfway through Joe’s college football career, a teammate of his said to him, “Joe—I didn’t realize you had a sister. What does she look like?” Another teammate interjected, “A book cover.” 

I went to college years later in hopes of making books, because there will always be more long drives, more library trips, more football games. In college, I led my university’s literary journal, fishladder, while pursuing a degree in Creative Writing—while writing bad stories and worse poems and working with great writers. I had just about the greatest and luckiest college experience a young writer can have. 

The bad thing about this fact, though, is that the writing life beyond college does not necessarily feature regular three-hour discussions of short stories, debates about line breaks, or exhausting and wonderful workshops. There are long and difficult work days that mean the writing never gets done. There are lots and lots of Submittable rejections and bills to pay. On roadtrips, I’m now expected to put down my books and help drive. All that said, I’m so, so excited to have arrived at this internship with the Sundress Academy for the Arts. I feel like I’m sneaking more time in the backseat of my dad’s Explorer, lucking into more time to draft a story that’s almost-there. I’m so honored to be trusted to help uplift Sundress’s incredible writers’ voices, to play a small role in fostering a community of folks who’d rather hang out behind a book cover than watch the game.

Meet Our New Intern: Sydney Peay

Image of Sydney Peay wearing a pink coat, a pink beret, and glasses, and standing with a cane

Growing up, I always had a passion for reading and telling stories. One of my teachers said I always knew how to entertain myself, and it was because I always had a book in my hand or a story in my head. I loved to tell myself stories each day, and when I got to middle school, I started to write them down. I kept writing until my junior year of high school, when my AP English class made me realize that I enjoyed reading and analyzing fiction far more than I enjoyed writing it. At the same time, I started taking art classes and began dreaming of a career as an animator, using art to tell beautiful stories. I also developed a passion for social justice, as I advocated for the rights of LGBT people at my school.

Yet, when colleges asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I said I wanted to study chemistry with the goal of developing psychiatric medications. While I did genuinely enjoy studying chemistry, there was no passion there. I just wanted to choose a career that would help me earn money, and I didn’t think I would get that with literature, art, or social justice.

In March of my senior year, I was invited to interview for the Haslam Scholars Program at the University of Tennessee, where I gladly peddled my story about a passion for studying chemistry until, during one of the events, a speaker asked us “What do you imagine your ideal self doing?” I started sobbing, because I couldn’t picture my ideal self, but I knew I couldn’t dedicate my career to chemistry. That night, I told my mom that I was going to attend the University of Tennessee and change my major.

I ended up changing my major to sociology, even though I honestly wasn’t sure what sociology was. I found that I enjoyed the program when I arrived at UT, but I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. It wasn’t until I took my first university English class that I realized that what I was missing was the thrill that analyzing stories provided. There was something so special to me about stories and the way they work, and I missed the feeling of close reading, developing an argument, and writing an analysis. It was that spring that I decided to major in English literature.

I have spent the rest of my time at UT studying the intersection between literature and social theory. My thesis project is going to be a podcast dedicated to analyzing the sociological messages of science fiction films and texts, with a focus on how authors and directors use literary techniques to develop social commentary in their work. I am going to continue studying this intersection of literature and social theory when I pursue my masters of library sciences after I graduate.

I am so excited to learn more about the innovative and progressive work that Sundress Publications does, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share this work as the social media intern.

Sydney Peay is a senior at the University of Tennessee pursuing a BA in sociology and English Literature. In addition to managing the social media for Sundress Publications, they manage the social media for the Voices Out Loud Project, an LGBTQ+ archive of East Tennessee.

Meet Our New Intern: Natalie Metropulos

Napa, California

My parents grew up poor. Dad’s situation was such that, on some nights, the only dinner option was a can of pineapples. Mom’s seven-member family lived in a two-bedroom house where she shared a cramped room with her four sisters. When these are your stories, money is everything.

Dad quit high school to support himself. My parents married before they were 20, and Dad worked day and night in the residential building industry to change the course of what would otherwise have been a poverty-stricken future. Mom made sure the money he brought home would get us through the industry’s busy warm months as well as the slower cold ones.

They made an exceptional team, providing a comfortable middle-class life for my three siblings and I. They also instilled in us a strong work ethic, ensured we were college-educated, and impressed upon us the importance of obtaining jobs we could be proud of. And of course, they wanted us to be paid well.

In 1998, when Hearst Publishing offered me an unpaid internship in New York City upon graduation from Penn State, my parents were perplexed. I remember the anger twisting Dad’s clenched jaw. He viewed a college degree as a golden ticket. People with college degrees didn’t work for free.

I turned down the internship. Ultimately, I became a lawyer.

For a long time, I thought that my parent’s unwillingness to support me financially so I could take an unpaid internship prevented me from pursuing a career I would have thrived in and loved. But I’ve come to understand that what I needed wasn’t so much money as it was validation. I needed someone to tell me that the fact that Hearst wasn’t going to pay me didn’t mean that I wouldn’t be doing something of value, or that I wouldn’t be valued. When money is woven into your being from birth as the only legitimate measure of professional success, it’s hard to see how value can be measured in other ways.

It took me more than twenty years to decide that, for me, financial compensation isn’t a reliable measurement for the significance of my experience or contribution. I think I have motherhood to thank for helping me finally come to that realization. I don’t get paid a penny for being a mother, but I see the results of the time and dedication I put into my job, and I’m pretty happy with my compensation package. 

Six months ago, I walked off the partnership path at a highly regarded Big Law firm to find the road I stumbled off of in 1998. I look back to the moment when I turned from that road and realize that I didn’t need money, I needed bravery and ingenuity. Now I’m pursuing a new version of a career I envisioned for myself when I was 20, glad for the opportunity to be an unpaid Editorial Intern at Sundress Publications. At 43, I finally feel brave enough and clever enough to be here.


Natalie Metropulos holds a BA in English from the Pennsylvania State University and a JD from Duquesne University. She is a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University. Although it has been a long time since Metropulos’ writing has appeared outside of a legal document, she has been published (nee Natalie Rieland) in Kalliope, Research/Penn State Magazine, and Pitt Magazine. Metropulos writes fiction and narrative non-fiction for children and adults.

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

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 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.