Meet Our New Intern: Heather Domenicis

Writer/editor Heather Domenicis speaks into a microphone at Niagara Bar. She has brown hair, is wearing a blue denim dress with white sneakers, and is holding a sheet of paper.

A lot of writers start these intros by saying they’ve been passionate about writing forever, penning stories since they were little. And I did author one serialized ghost story in the sixth grade, passing new chapters scrawled in my black-and-white composition notebook off to fellow classmates and even my teacher (who had no idea I was writing most of it under my desk during science and math.) But writing was never really a part of my life again until college.

I had room for an elective to put towards my English major and jumped at the chance to take Intro to Creative Writing. I started writing mediocre short stories about girls with missing fathers they still loved, abandoning mothers they never knew, and rollercoaster romantic relationships. I gave my leading ladies cool names with “main-character energy,” like Lou, Leila, Lyra, and Jo. And many of them smoked cigarettes, though I had never touched nicotine. I wanted them to be edgier. 

But it was all a fraud. Every one of my characters could have easily been named Heather, letting myself bleed onto the page more honestly. My stories got decent feedback, but nothing remarkable. Then, I wrote an essay about my father—who, at that point, I hadn’t spoken to in a couple of years—and it was selected for publication in my college’s literary magazine. Several of my professors read it and told me that while my fiction was “good,” my non-fiction was better; I needed to tell my story. 

I switched gears entirely, writing openly about a past I’d pushed deep, deep down to make room for the “normal” self I was trying to build at my elite undergraduate institution. I began writing about being born in a jail to a meth-addicted mother, spending years as the subject of an intense custody battle, visiting my dad in prison, and missing him all the time. 

The next summer, I interned in criminal court in Manhattan because I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Court was riveting, but most days I sat impatiently in those pew-like benches, eager to later splay out on a blanket in Washington Square Park with my notebook and a pen. I longed to be like Eileen Myles in Chelsea Girls or Patti Smith in Just Kids: cool, edgy, and pursuing an artistic dream. That summer, I decided that I wanted to be a writer and live in New York.

After graduating in 2019, I landed a sales job at an early-stage tech startup, reckoning it would be a stable way to sustain myself in my dream city. I traded Washington Square Park for Washington Heights.  

A couple of years, a few small publications, and several Catapult (RIP) workshops later, I ended up at The New School, where I continued writing my own story and completed my MFA in Creative Non-Fiction in 2023. Still working at the tech startup, I’m finishing my memoir manuscript in my free time. Having recently served as a Non-Fiction Editor at LIT Magazine, I’ve fallen in love with the editorial side of the writing world too, and am so grateful for this opportunity to keep growing my editorial skillset at Sundress Publications.

Heather Domenicis (she/her) is an Upper Manhattan based writer and editor moonlighting at a tech startup. She holds an MFA from The New School in Creative Non-Fiction and her words appear in Hobart, JAKE, and [sub]liminal. Born in a jail, she is writing a memoir about all that comes with that. She sometimes tweets @heatherlynnd11.

Meet Our New Intern Jillian A. Fantin

Surrounded by blurred-out houses, fences, and grass, the author is shown from the waist up in a black compression tank with a gold septum ring and a gold nostril hoop. Their right arm contains a number of black and grey tattoos visible, including fuschia flowers, an American Traditional snake, and an envelope with a heart seal. They have a medium-brown, wavy mullet, dark thick eyebrows, and are looking straight at the camera with a blank stare.

According to my family, my toddler self regularly restated the same full sentence from Disney’s Dumbo (1941) when expressing excitement: “You said it, we rolled ‘em in the aisles!” This line is impossibly obscure, and it took my parents weeks to discover the source of my incessant parroting. Oddly enough, this two-year-old in their parents’ student flat in Sheffield predicted a life not unlike the shrouded circus clown stripping away their last performance of the night and reveling in the response of a crowd.

My tendency towards being a little court jester, eager mimic, and linguistic alchemist emerged at quite an early age. I adored reading, especially the part when I slipped into the different word-worlds of poetry. In second grade, I memorized and performed A.A. Milne’s “Market Square” for my class’s Mother’s Day celebration, complete with four stuffed rabbits that smelled of leftover Easter chocolate. When my mother laughed, something clicked. I had chosen that poem because it made me laugh to read, particularly because of its repeated “silly-sounding” words like “Tuppence,” “rabbit,” “mackerel,” and especially the sonically-charged “nuffin’.” Who wouldn’t love rolling all those sounds around in their mouth? When tired of memorization and recitation, I turned to books, any books that I could find, for a glimpse into the way different people and their different worlds played with language. From a very worn anthology of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and the “Looking Back” sections of every American Girl historical chapter book to the translation of Ancient Egyptian myths my father brought back from his workplace, I devoured worlds and joined them as their excitable spectator. My favourite words, though, remained the silly ones: ones with so many syllables you tripped over them before you reached the last letter, ones that made you think of something completely opposite of its assigned meaning. I adored words, and would copy them down in shaky cursive over and over until even the lines seemed to take on their own sound.

My early love of silly words, especially the way sounds felt in and escaped from the body, became a fascination with gibberish, which morphed with a love of performance—specifically the artistic presentation of my own body—and the creation and implementation of rituals for the purposes of artistic creation. Acting became one of the many outlets of my urgent need to express, as did regular reverent listening sessions of David Bowie, Meat Loaf, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. Ultimately, though, neither theatre nor music satiated my interests in the creative explication of language, and I left for university truly believing I would only ever have the chance to use language as a tool of clear communication and literary analysis. However, what hegemonic economic and educational values attempted to squash, writers and scholars like Joyelle McSweeney, Johannes Göransson, Elise Houcek, Mark Sanders, Roy Scranton, Zoe Darsee, and more than I can ever name, fostered. Through their generous advice, workshopping, research, and insight, I found a platform—namely, poetry—for taking gibberish seriously. As a poet in my MFA cohort, I explored sonic expression in written text, the dissolution and restructuring of words in shape and definition, and the way systems of power privilege certain words and grammatical structures over others, among other fascinating aspects of performativity, identity, and expression. Honestly, Milne’s “Market Square” and those chocolate bunnies feel closer to me now more than ever (and honestly, I might do some erasure-ekphrasis to try and find a similar moment sometime soon!).

Though I’m not exactly a John Lennon fan, I do admit he sang the truth in “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I never imagined I would share CAConrad’s Advanced Elvis Course and Adrian Matejka’s Standing on the Verge & Maggot Brain with the students attending Holy Cross College in Westville Correctional Facility. I still cannot believe that I led discussions on Kim Hyesoon, Eileen Myles, and Akwaeke Emezi in self-designed Intro to Creative Writing and Intro to Poetry classes at the University of Notre Dame, and I certainly never dreamed that I would be taken seriously in my love of the silly, the stupid, the gibberish. Now, I perform the personas found within my poetry manuscripts, including a sentient necktie, a transmasc seahorse collective, and a parody of Platonic dialogue based off the relationality between the friends of the Jackass franchise. There is no masking to be found in my poetic expression regardless of these various beings speaking and moving through my body. Rather, there is clownery: a profound act, a display of my whole body and its ability to generate an authentic form of energy through intentional performativity.

Regardless of when I’m actively performing poetry or not, I think I’m still like a court jester, tiptoeing the line of potentiality often forced between poetry and humor. Poetry and clownery, for me, work hand in hand, and my serious drive in both of these fields necessarily intersects to negate any powers that claim the authority to hierarchize words, sounds, and linguistic expression. The mothers, dogs, and clowns, as Bowie sings in “Life On Mars?”, have no need for such hegemony. Perhaps that’s the reason I cofounded RENESME LITERARY, a Twitter-based literary project based in the themes of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and, more broadly, in what our journal calls “abominations”—that is, any work of literary art that strays from and even defies mainstream publishing ideals, as well as the works pushed out of traditional venues in favor of maintaining the quiet of a status quo. I am excited to be part of Sundress Publications to uphold these exact values and support the great work of all writers, especially marginalized and oppressed writers.

Writing about myself is never going to get any easier, and this is no different. Nevertheless, my excitement to be part of Sundress Publications as an Editorial Intern this year eclipses those feelings of inadequacy. But then again, I think of with these words from Meat Loaf’s “Bad Attitude”: “Behind every man who has somethin’ to say / There’s a boy who had nothin’ to prove.” And I also remember the opening line of Jericho Brown’s “Duplex” that I’ve carried with me every day for years, especially for those moments when I think of negating my artistic worth due to my love of explicating gibberish and nonsense: “A poem is a gesture towards home.” A poem is a gesture towards home, and each writer looks towards that home through their writing, whether they know that home yet or not. However, I’m finding that home slowly but surely, and I look forward to continuing that journey through service to Sundress.

An ending manifesto: I am a clown, I am a poet, I am a poet clown. I’ll have them rolling in the aisles, and I’ll applaud in the aisles for them the same night.

Jillian A. Fantin (they/them) is a poet with roots in the American South and north central England. They are a 2021 Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Poet Fellow, a 2020 Jefferson County Memorial Project Research Fellow, and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of RENESME LITERARY. Jillian received BAs in English and Political Science with an emphasis in Political Theory from a small university in Birmingham, Alabama, and an MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Poetry and a graduate minor in Gender Studies from the University of Notre Dame. Their writing appears or is forthcoming in American Journal of Poetry, Spectra Poets, Barrelhouse, and, among others.

Meet Our New Intern: Lyra Thomas

I chose my name, Lyra, like I chose this career path. When I heard it, it just felt right. Besides, I’ve always loved the idea of being named after stars and constellations. I’m a black, nonbinary poet from St Louis, and believe me, I never shut up about it. I’ve been writing since I was eight, although my writing started with silly comedy sketches (I grew up watching All That and The Amanda Show in the early 2000s, so there’s no shocker there), it evolved into something more graceful as I grew older and experienced more than fleeting childhood bliss. Between my parents’ divorce and school bullies, I had writing material for years on end. Naturally, in school we read Shakespeare, Beowulf, and the rest of the dead white man works, but beyond those assignments in the depths of the 2010s, I found myself infatuated with the uprising contemporary poetry scene. After school, I submerged myself in spoken word YouTube with Button Poetry’s channel, as well as speakeasynyc’s channel with gems like Phil Kaye’s original reading of “Repetition.” Investing in poetry and hearing about the individual worlds of my favorite poets helped pass the time on the drives between mom and dad’s house, and helped me put my own feelings into better words, even if only for my own ears. 

Grade school through high school, I never really fit in, so my journals heard all the secrets I was too scared to tell anyone else. I often turned diary entries into poems, teaching myself how meter and syntax worked in a way that reads and looks good on the page. Part of the reason I didn’t fit in was because in the majority of STEM studies, I was subpar. However, when it came to English, I was the best in class. I grew to anticipate my peers’ faces when I would read my work in creative writing class—finally awe and not a smirk. I took the only creative writing class McCluer North High School offered my junior year, and I think that’s what sealed the deal for me when it came to choosing it as my college major. The class instructor, Miss Hobin, was often the only reason I managed to get out of bed back then. She was also the first instructor who told me I had genuine talent as a writer, which always stuck with me, even after she passed away in a motorcycle accident. I’ve always known whenever I release my first collection of poems, it will be dedicated to her. 

Naturally, I went on to major in creative writing, but that’s not where life took me after graduating. Instead, I landed in a comfy Human Resources role that ended up propelling me into a three-year career in various big name corporations in the St Louis area. By 24, I was making about as much as my mom did at the peak of her educational career. Despite the financial comfort, the independence, and the beautiful apartment, I knew I wasn’t happy. I knew my life was incomplete without writing, and the burnout from the 8-5 life overpowered every urge in my soul to write. After being laid off and let go and every other wording of that phrase enough times, I decided I was tired of settling for a career I never even felt appreciated in—a field that never truly made me happy. I decided, why not apply to an MFA program? COVID-19 seemed to be making the world fall apart anyway, so that’s exactly what I did. In the Fall of 2021, I came back to my alma mater, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, for an MFA in Poetry.

Now, ten years after that first creative writing class, and two years since leaving what I now call “corporate hell,” poetry is my lifeline. I’ve never once regretted going back to school. I’ve re-dedicated my life to my craft and what I love the most, and I’m incredibly proud of myself for doing so instead of settling for the comfortable path with its too-short weekends and too-long days. Some say they can’t believe I gave it all up for college town pizza parlors and late nights writing through tears. I say I certainly took the road less traveled by.

Lyra Thomas is a black nonbinary poet from the St Louis area, currently residing in Carbondale, IL for their MFA in Poetry from Southern Illinois University, which is also their alma mater. They received their BA in Creative Writing in 2018. Lyra enjoys reading/writing poetry, curating Spotify playlists, and cuddling with their cats Max and Silver.

Meet Our New Intern: Fox Auslander

Fox Auslander, a white nonbinary person with short copper hair, leans against a pale gray column. They are wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt, a black skirt, and a pair of rainbow-colored wings. They stare into the camera.
Photograph by Amanda Swiger // Swiger Photography

Though I’ve spent my entire life in Philadelphia, I sometimes feel dishonest when claiming the city as my home. Put another way, I was raised in a secluded Northeast neighborhood known as Bridesburg, where nothing amazing has happened in years. Everyone I know attends the same local school and scuttles off to one of five churches on Sundays. Aside from the cemetery in the center of town, there aren’t many means of escape.

I realized early on that I didn’t fit in—for a few obvious reasons. One: my family made up a sizable portion of Bridesburg’s Jewish population. Two: I oozed audible queerness from the second I could speak. Three: when the former two traits put me at odds with the neighborhood’s social conservatism, I learned to prefer books over people. 

While classmates spent their summers at Walt Disney World, I traveled to the Northeast Regional Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. I swallowed stories where boys swapped bodies with girls and no rule set in stone was ever sacred. Ordinary children were suddenly burdened with a dying alien’s powers. A pair of siblings constructed a new home within the walls of an art museum. Alongside the books themselves, their authors’ invisible presence filled me with hope—that one day, I’d meet others who had pushed past feeling strange and unwanted.

Over the past two years, I’ve been thrilled to have had a hand in Alien Magazine, a dedicated literary hub for outsiders, and to spearhead operations at Delicate Friend, including coordinating issues focused on marginalized forms of intimacy. I’m honored by the opportunity to learn from my fellow interns and staff at Sundress Publications, and I look forward to supporting much-needed perspectives in the publishing space.

Though nothing amazing happens in Bridesburg, I have to give credit where credit is due. Between silent summers and sidelong glances, I learned to hold close spaces in which fresh voices can be heard. To treasure stories I may not always understand, but which open my heart to a world of difference.

Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet and editor based in West Philadelphia. They serve as the editor-in-chief of Delicate Friend, an intimate arts and literature magazine, and one of three lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine, a literary hub for outsiders. Their work appears or is forthcoming in beestungVoicemail PoemsEunoia Review, and beyond. They believe trans love will save the world. 

Meet Our New Intern: Solstice Black

A white young woman with short bleached hair stands in front of a background of greenery, smiling. She has brown octagon glasses and is wearing a lace top with a gray button up sweater that has a blue collar.

I grew up a writer and a reader. My mother, who I emulate, is a writer, and, because I was home-schooled, she’d take me to her college classes when I couldn’t be watched elsewhere. I was an eight-year-old girl in the 10th percentile in size, meaning absolutely tiny, and was dwarfed by a giant, blue, book-filled backpack. I’d sit quietly at one of the desks in the back of college English classes with my mother. Once, I followed the class exercise, writing something about dance-polished kitchen floors, and handed it to the professor alongside my mother’s work, and the professor marked it up with pencil and smiley-faces. When she handed it back she told me to write every chance I got, fill the margins of my books with ideas, and never stop writing. I was starstruck by college classes, and the idea of getting taught how to write as well as I hoped to. My mother encouraged me to write, and I dreamed of following in her footsteps. By the time I reached the middle of high school I’d found a program that would let me start college early. 

I started college before the end of high school and took writing seriously. So much of my identity was tied up in writing; I’d picked up reading easily and books had become my best friends since childhood; I’d greet my favorites at the library and keep them by my pillow like a baby blanket or an open window, letting in the breeze. And aren’t they windows?

I consciously realized I was bisexual because of a novel I read, and when I started writing my own novel it evolved to focus on the queer characters as I evolved to realize my sexuality. I started writing two separate novels, joined the honors program, maintained a 4.0, and got a few of my poems published. I’m now a guest reader at The Wardrobe for August 2022, am still an undergraduate, and now plan to continue to study writing through graduate school. I’m also planning to begin a literary journal to help publish other’s writing and bring more writing into the community, with the hope of bringing others as much joy and belonging as writing has brought me. 

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

Meet Our New Intern: Kaylee Young-Eun Jeong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Our New Intern: Eden Stiger

A picture of Eden Middleton. She has long blondish-brown hair and blue eyes. She is wearing a white turtle neck sweater with a green lanyard and a necklace with the Deathly Hallows symbol around her neck.

Someone pinch me.

I’ve dreamed about becoming an editor since my senior year in high school. I’d only fantasized about writing my own stories—not helping others craft their own—but just before graduation, one English professor pulled me aside and uttered the words that set me on this path: “Have you ever considered a career in editing?” I hadn’t, but as the question circulated in my mind , the more I realized how much I enjoyed marking up other students’ papers with red ink. Running the risk of sounding like some grammar warrior, I mean that helping others on their path to better writing fills me with a sense of usefulness and purpose. I’ve only wielded these skills to help my former classmates and myself, but now it’s time I help authors create amazing work, so here I am!


I currently live near the creepiest of the Great Lakes, but you’ll find my roots stretch back to a small Kentucky town called Middlesboro. Although it sounds as classy as the English city it was named after, it’s anything but. Unconsciously trying to avoid all the skeletons and vampires roaming its streets and a toxic relationship just outside my bedroom door, I discovered my escape into the colorful world of black and white. At 12 years old, I became obsessed with reading every historical romance novel Mom had piled on her bookshelf and then gradually selected YA novels as I grew older. (Ironic, I know. On the plus side, spicy language has never scandalized me; it only made me want it more.) When senior year was almost upon us, my plan had been to pursue a BA at either the University of Kentucky or Stephens College in Missouri. Neither of those happened. Instead, I met my wonderful boyfriend-turned-fiancé of nine years through an online dating app, moved to northern Ohio shortly after, and later on graduated from Terra State Community College and the University of Findlay.


I will literally go out and do anything—except skydiving. You won’t find me outside
an airplane unless I’m about to meet God. Oh, and traveling to Australia or South America. Big, scary bugs that are the size of rats and with bites that can kill you in a matter of hours? Harddd pass. I’ll stick with reading a good novel or manga by the poolside, staying up into the AM trying to figure out how to plan the murder of my Sims, and watching anime with my two loves (fiancé and kitty).

Future plans?

I’m getting married to my best friend in less than a month, so I want to laugh, scream, cry, all the above. I’m hoping to start a new day job (current Shift Supervisor of Rite Aid) after and then move this fall. Oh, and visiting Japan is in the works somewhere…


Eden Stiger obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of Findlay in 2022. She currently resides in Findlay, Ohio, where she assists with the literary magazine Slippery Elm as poetry editor and layout editor.

Meet Our New Intern: Emory Night

Settling into wanting to do something has not come easily to me. I know a lot of people who would say the same, but coming into my fifth year of college has made me reckon with that fact. I have had to examine everything about me, from where I come from to where I want to go to who I want to be. I looked back at my childhood, my teenage years, and tried to find something, anything, that would point me in some direction.

Everything always seemed to lead itself back to writing. 

As a child, I was the kid who made the worlds we played in. I was the kid who helped people develop wild backstories, who helped people feel seen in their roles in what we played. I was the one writing “lyrics” for the band that my cousins and I were totally going to start. I was that middle schooler who wrote fanfiction and always had a notebook to just jot something, anything, down whenever I could. In high school I took advanced English classes, studied musical composition in relation to the written word, worked in the school’s library in the morning, and wrote essay after essay about what I wanted to do for college.

It’s funny to think that in those essays I was writing about becoming a kinesiologist. That, of course, didn’t last. Before orientation, I had already changed my major to public relations, something I was absolutely fascinated with. I saw it as an opportunity to use my voice and have an impact and was so excited for it. First semester of sophomore year, I realized that it wasn’t quite right. I wanted to help people and PR didn’t really seem like the best way for me to do that. I switched around a lot of communications majors until switching to psychology. It felt closer to what I wanted to do, but nothing really clicked until I switched to English.

It feels obvious looking back. Of course the best way to use my voice and help people would be through English, through writing. Questioning what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, has led me to this most amazing place in my life where I am finally recognizing what I want. I wish I could take credit for this realization, but honestly it was my friends who noticed it before I did. Part of that is why I am here in the first place. If I had not had others to lift me up, I would still be unhappily working towards a degree that didn’t suit me. Community is always something I want to strive to participate in and create. Being here means that I get to do both.

Emory Night is currently studying at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. They plan to graduate with a BA in English and a minor in secondary education. They are an intern with The Jones Center for Leadership and Service and read regularly with Writers Block, a writing club at the University of Tennessee.

Meet Our New Intern: Crysta Montiel

When I was a child, I imitated the many books that I read, silently narrating my day-to-day. Although my personal stories were always mundane, to me, they were never boring. My unpleasant French teacher, who I won’t name, became Miss Trunchbull. My childhood crush was as dashing as Prince Caspian. A walk with my best friend had the potential to be as riveting as an adventure with Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins. I clung to these stories because they prescribed me a sense of order and predictability as a child. When a narrator speaks, one can usually expect a happy ending. While I now know that that’s not always the case in real life, cultivating an inner “literary” monologue allowed me to better interpret the outside world.

As I grew older, my child-like narrative voice slowly faded away. Instead, I had an intense longing to engage with others’ storytelling. I wanted to understand how they perceived the world, but, most of all, I wanted to help them master the necessary tools to tell their stories. I imagine that everyone has their own inner narrative voice, and that the task of a good editor is both to nurture it and to help writers clearly convey their tales to readers.

With this in mind, after high school, I decided to enroll as an English and Philosophy major at the University of Toronto. As an undergraduate, I refined my literary criticism by studying theory and reading the classics. However, my real schooling began last semester when I was fortunate enough to intern at a literary agency based in New York City—this experience solidified my passion for the publishing industry.

With revitalized vigor for the opportunities that lie ahead, I’m excited to join the Sundress Publications team this year and learn more about what literary publishing entails.

Crysta Montiel is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto in Canada, where she studies English Literature and Philosophy. She previously worked as an editorial intern at Ayesha Pande Literary Agency. When Crysta’s not digging through treasure troves of queries, she’s completing her Criterion Collection bucket list and playing with her cat. 

Meet Our New Intern: Laurel Elizabeth

I was lucky to be raised in a house with too many books to fit on the shelves. Lucky that my mother worked in a bookstore when I was in elementary school—a place I remember as vividly as my childhood home, even though it closed years ago. That my homeschool curriculum left room for me to read a book in a day, or write strange little novels for weeks at a time instead of studying.

It wasn’t until high school that I realized just how lucky I was. When the magic of stories gave way to something even more valuable to me—the chemical reactions between language and emotion that I found in poetry.

I took a British literature course in my junior year, which used portions of a text called Sound and Sense as the curriculum for a poetry module. Only a handful of chapters were assigned, but from the first lesson, I was so enamored with the process of dissecting poems and identifying craft elements that I completed the entire book, answering countless analysis questions and over a dozen essay prompts in the process. I was hungry to learn what made the poems work—and why they worked so well on me.

I still remember how haunted I was by the images I found in poems like Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room.” The music of Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song.” How every lowercase line Lucille Clifton etched on the page seemed louder than some entire novels. Poetry became more than meter I couldn’t quite grasp, or dense blocks of antiquated phrasings. It became voice, vision, a birthing.

And it led me to writing my own poems. Small offerings in private notebooks and a Tumblr blog, at first. Later, creative excavations in my college classes: from an independent study of poetic influences in creative nonfiction; to a dissection of how I write about race from my position as a white poet during a course on racial literacy; to a cento composed of lines from an assigned novel, seeking to understand a narrator’s voice from the inside out.

It even infiltrates my writing in other genres, like fiction—transforming not only my sentences, but the tones of my stories and the beats of my characters’ lives. Poetry continues to expand my attention to language, and by extension, everything else I create.

It has made me more than a writer, though. I want to stoke that fire in someone else like me (or, even better, someone entirely unlike me.)

Poetry gave me language to unearth interior dimensions of my self—finding joy in queerness, acceptance and advocacy in chronic illness. Things I once preferred to keep in dark soil, infertile and untouched, now brought into the light.

And it gave me confidence to excavate intellectual curiosities; to see education as possibility, instead of simply a task. Now that I understand how empowering language like this can be, I want to help others cultivate their own creative lens—their own new ways of seeing and articulating their worlds.

I was lucky that poetry found its way to me. However, I know creative discovery and empowerment is not a given for everyone, especially in rural communities like mine. But I still believe the fire is always there. For that reason, I am endlessly grateful to be joining the Sundress Publications team, and to see first-hand how they connect with their authors’ visions and help carry them into the world.

Laurel Elizabeth is a writing tutor and success coach for Kennebec Valley Community College’s TRIO program, where she recently earned an associate degree in liberal arts. Additionally, she is a graduate of Vassar College’s Exploring Transfer summer program, and aims to begin a BA in English this fall. An emerging writer and aspiring English teacher, she has a special interest in the role of creative empowerment in education.