Meet Our New Intern: Kathleen Gullion

One evening when I was eight or nine, the Texas sky broke into a classic afternoon thunderstorm. It would be over before dinner. But the rain raged through the evening and the power in our house went out. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked my mom. Without TV, the computer. “Read a book,” she suggested. Read a book? I’d rather count my leg hairs one by one.

Months later, on a day spent home sick from school, I ended up reading a book. Then I read another, then another. I reread books until the covers fell off and the spines split. Although I didn’t realize this at the time, whenever I read, I looked for myself in the pages: a word or a phrase or a character that felt familiar. I felt less alone realizing a part of someone else’s brain overlapped with mine. That’s still why I read.

I came to writing in a roundabout way. There was an attempted novel about Neopets in the fifth grade and some very cringe-worthy poetry in high school. And then, in college, I joined a DIY punk band. We named ourselves Genovia Forever (like The Princess Diaries). I wrote lyrics about princess lessons but also abuse and healing. I could be as intimate and personal as I wanted because during our shows, I screamed the lyrics in an indecipherable sludge. No one could tell what I was saying, but they danced anyway.

Meanwhile, I was directing and acting, and moved to Chicago to pursue theatre, but quickly realized that playing characters and working with others’ words wasn’t for me anymore. I needed an art that was all my own. I started writing strange performance pieces and devised plays based on my own experiences. The performance aspect of my work fell away, and I was left with just the words, and finally, I felt at home in a mode of expression.

This led me to apply to graduate school, and I recently earned a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There, I discovered a love of fiction and found my voice: one that balances humor and pain, lightness and darkness, and always veers toward weird. I’ve written stories about a lesbian couple who is forced to reckon with their relationship after watching a monster truck show, and a father and daughter who bond over hunting rattlesnakes in the desert. I’m currently working on a novel about a girl in Texas who is forced to take up the family business of dachshund racing when her mother gets wrapped up in a scandal and can no longer race.

Now, when I think back to the girl who combed pages of books looking for herself, I hope my own writing can inspire the same feeling in others by providing language for complicated feelings or experiences. While making them laugh, too.

My southern-ness and gayness are huge parts of my identity and my writing, and I am so happy to join Sundress Publications as an editorial intern, so I can take part in the work they do uplifting underrepresented voices and providing a platform for amazing writing and poetry.


Kathleen Gullion is a writer based in Houston. Her work has appeared in the Esthetic Apostle, Coachella Review, F Newsmagazine, and others. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Meet our New Intern: Ashley Hajimirsadeghi

I wrote my first story when I was three years old. It was a classic feminist tale, one inspired by the frustration I felt while playing a Mario game on my older sister’s Gameboy. Why did I have to save Princess Peach every time? Why couldn’t Mario be the one who was kidnapped for once? So I wrote my own story, reversing the narrative. There were no damsel-in-distresses in my world: only women who beat up the antagonists with an umbrella.

I’d lock up the little rainbow Care Bear journal those stories were written in It was an artifact of a distant childhood, lost in history until high school, lost until I decided to become an archeologist and really dig deep into my personal lineage.

I went to a little arts school in Baltimore County, Maryland, where I majored in literary arts. Auditioning for the school, I thought writing was “kinda cool,” and when I got in, it only seemed natural to pick it over the two law magnet schools I’d gotten into. And, indeed, it was “kinda cool.” Our classrooms had couches, we had workshops with teenage angst poetry, there were literary feuds—it was the kind of surreal writing dream I never knew I wanted.       

So I began my descent into the rabbit hole at this school. I swore off poetry until my junior and senior year, proclaiming it for hipsters and nerds, but when I actually sat down and wrote a poem, I found that I kind of liked it. It turned out I was pretty decent at it, so I continued with it. I thought of my life as a black and white film, shot with a grainy 15mm lens, before I began to take writing more seriously.

Once, I used to briefly live and study in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. I went to Ewha Womans University in Seoul and had to commute over two hours to actually get to my classes. On the crowded 900-bus from Anyang to the outskirts of Seoul, I used to translate Emily Dickinson poems from English to Korean, and I found myself memorizing these lines, writing them in Korean on the foggy windows. It was here I learned the power of writing, as I made new bus buddies who wanted to talk about poetry to the foreign girl. Literature truly connects in a unique way, transcending international borders and linguistic barriers.

Now I go to the Fashion Institute of Technology. I study International Trade, but I never really forgot how writing made the narrative of my life bleed from black and white into color. Yeah, sure I’m a business major, but I still discover pockets of poetry in my mundane everyday routine. I read for three different literary magazines, I’ve taken workshops with Brooklyn Poets, and now I’m interning at the Sundress Academy for the Arts! As I grow older, I’m finding that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life.   

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is an undergraduate at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her work has appeared in Into the Void, Corvid Queen, and cahoodaloodaling, among others. She attended the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute and was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow. Currently, she is trying to figure out a happy intersection between her writing, film, and photography endeavors.

Meet Our New Intern: Kanika Lawton

I read voraciously as a child. I imagine anyone would in my position; I had a loving family, but I was teased mercilessly throughout elementary school. I spent most of my time alone: sitting in my favorite corner of the school library thumbing through the bookshelves, wandering into the forest next to my school and imagining being on a daring adventure. I became fast friends with a dog whose owner lived in a house right next to the field; I would tell him that, one day, we’ll explore exciting places far away from here.

My urge to read everything I could get my hands on got me into trouble. I was reprimanded in Grade Six for reading books meant only for Grade Seven students (the highest grade in my school) and scolded for reading Seventeen magazines when I was nowhere close to being in the “appropriate” age range. Still, I held onto books and the small sense of freedom and hope they gave me because, at the time, they were all I had. This world of brave girls and quests and imaginary lands made me feel less alone.

In Grade Five I started writing down the stories I would make up in my head to pass the time. They were strange—one was about a small snake trying to follow a wagon train à la Little House on the Prairie, while another was about a tennis ball who rolled away from his family—but my teachers liked them, so I felt encouraged to keep going. Eventually, I found my way into Honours English and AP English in high school, where I fell in love with Shakespeare’s plays and the Romantic poets and, surprisingly enough, James Joyce’s Dubliners (if you’re reading this Mr. Wallace, thank you for bringing us to so many Bard on the Beach performances and letting us read Dubliners). I read its final short story—”The Dead”—over and over again, struck by the epiphany that nearly brought Gabriel Conroy to his knees. Maybe this story came to me at the right time; on the cusp of graduation, not knowing what I wanted to do while telling everyone I had a plan. I bought a copy while I was in Québec the summer before I started college, holding it close when I made the sudden decision to change my major.

I’ve had a few small epiphanies since then: realizing this is what I’ve always wanted to do while sitting in my honors Arts program, when I decided to go to grad school for cinema studies, the first time someone told me my poetry meant something to them. I’ve been chasing that sudden clarity since, that breathless moment when everything either fits into place or shatter in the most exalting way possible. When I read, watch, or experience something that makes time stop around me, it etches itself into my memories, like it’s a part of me now.

Maybe that’s what drove me to establish my online literary and art journal L’Éphémère Review and dive deeper into writing and editing and becoming a better literary citizen; chasing epiphanies and sharing them with as many people as I can. Stories have intrinsically changed who I am as a person and giving back to the communities that shaped me is the least I can do. This is why I’m grateful I have the opportunity to work for Sundress Publications; we are all made up of stories that deserve to be told, and being able to help others tell their stories is something I feel like I was meant to do.


Kanika Lawton holds a BA in Psychology with a Minor in Film Studies from the University of British Columbia and an MA from the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute. She is the Editor-In-Chief of L’Éphémère Review, a 2018 Pink Door Fellow, and a 2020 BOAAT Writer’s Retreat Poetry Fellow. Her work has appeared in Ricepaper Magazine, Vagabond City Literary Journal, Glass Poetry, and Cosmonauts Avenue, among others.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Emily Bradley

I was supposed to be in med school by now.  Actually, I suck at dissection, so scratch that.  I’d have probably wound up in a lab, looking at nice, sterile slides under a microscope.  Science was the plan. It had rules and tangible logic, a promise that greater study would positively correlate with greater understanding.  In high school, I was the everything AP science kid, the never-missed-an-exam-prep-session kid, the kid who origami folded what looked like a voice out of textbook pages and prayed it never got wet.  But then, of course it did.    

Perfection is a dead end.  A perfect test score ends in a zero, is applauded and then silenced on a transcript to be filed away.  I was a size double zero senior year of high school, the ideal anorexic for four and a half years by that point, not sick enough to demand attention, not well enough to quit walking round and round the same cul-de-sac whittling my stomach down.  I could achieve these goals, but without fresh air they would decompose into a dark garden inside me one day.

My cousin killed himself during the fall of that year. He was twenty years old. We were never close—spread across the eastern half of the U.S., my extended family typically gathers only every three or four years for a requisite wedding, graduation, or, in this case, a funeral.  Nonetheless, the image of his powdered face and overstuffed chest flash flooded my years of panicked perfectionism, dissolved carefully pleated calorie charts and diagrams of cellular respiration into bits of colored paper, arranging themselves into some visceral understanding of why he did it. Suicide—by gunshot, poison gas, alcohol, and silence—had marked both sides of my family tree, and I knew that no equations or scholarships could keep it from blossoming in my imagination as well.  Stuck in my cul-de-sac, I needed something open-ended. So, I started writing.  

It didn’t fix me.  I was bad at it, but I also learned how to honor imperfection.  My first poems were collections of teen angst clichés – hearts, oceans, and all – but poetry taught me resilience.  I started college as a biological engineering major, and by the middle of the first semester I switched to English and Spanish. The more I studied, the less things made sense.  Once, I wrote an entire paper about how I didn’t understand Ezra Pound, and that was okay.  

Junior year, I decided to seek professional treatment for my eating disorder and writing became a tool to free lies that had lain silent at the bottom of me for years.  I still struggled, still panicked watching my years’ worth of rules and self-control dissolve as I learned to cry open-ended instead of running in circles to numb out. But I learned to love open-ended too.  To give myself to others in a way that didn’t fit neatly into an equation; no matter the numbers, there was always some remainder left. And the better I learned to care for my body, the stronger my voice became.  Eventually, I heard about something called an MFA and decided to apply to graduate programs in creative writing (my undergraduate university didn’t offer a CW program).  

Graduate school has pushed me to rethink much of what I thought I knew about learning.  It’s introduced me to writers whose work has entirely shifted my relationship to language.  Poetry workshops have shattered my ideas about reading and writing and how a classroom can function.  Moving from a rather insular community in Arkansas to a new city stretched my sense of self in unexpected directions, and here I’ve found a group of writers and friends who continually teach me what it means to be fully human.   I’ve met mentors who honor my voice but also call me on my bullshit and push me to put my truth rather than just my intellect on the page. And I never would have guessed how hard that would be.  

So, I wasn’t born with a pen in my hand and a song in my heart.  Sorry if that’s what you were expecting. Hell, I didn’t even sing along with the radio as a kid.  But I do now. Writing taught me how to break patterns that would have tethered me to a legacy of silence and slow destruction.  Slowly, I’ve built a voice that’s no longer paper-thin, and it’s taken me far away from that old cul-de-sac, though I’ve still got farther to go.  

Emily Bradley is a second year MFA candidate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she teaches and serves as the assistant poetry editor of Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts.  She loves poetry, falling asleep on the couch, and the color yellow.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Emma Hudson

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I never dreamed of being a writer, yet here I am: writing. Growing up, I daydreamed while taking bus rides home from school about having superpowers. I played outside on historic military weaponry like military brats living on base typically did back then. I also played inside, but only with my younger sister, who’s five years my junior—she was the only one who understood the importance of maintaining societal standards that reflected High School Musical.

I especially loved to pretend I was going to become a mega-rockstar. Maybe I still have time to fulfill that dream despite my complete lack of musical talent.

Until the day comes when I absorb superpowers or musical prowess, I enjoy writing: I want to write no matter if I attain any of these seemingly unrealistic qualities.

In my own right, I feel like a rockstar. My experience as a writer in middle school and high school was nonexistent outside of papers for class. I didn’t think much about those papers. I thought more about the books I read in school and in my free time.

Each English class I took throughout my years in high school typically ended up being my favorite class. I annotated, took notes, and participated in class—giving my take on how I thought Romeo and Juliet were more desperate than star-crossed and how drawing comparisons between characters like Heathcliff and Edward Cullen weren’t as applicable as my peers believed.

I had no idea where I wanted to go for my higher education experience. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do or become. My dad, my forever peer-reviewer, pointed out I was always reading and writing. Sure, I wrote rough drafts of story ideas on my laptop: I even dreamed about publishing a novel, one that could surpass the likes of John Green, whom I later discovered would be the center of some UTK Creative Writing Club jokes (Apologies Mr. Green, we mean well and admire your success).

I only applied for two schools and only for their writing programs. I got into both, but I picked the University of Tennessee. It wasn’t the bright orange beckoning me or because my dad graduated from the university in 1989 that I chose to come here. I came to discover myself.

If someone from today’s present went back to tell college freshman me that I would become motivated to join a lot of organizations thanks to the empowering music by seven men from South Korea, I would have no idea what to think.

Today, I still write more for class than anything else, but I love writing more than ever. As an English Major with a double concentration in rhetoric and creative writing, I’m learning about various forms of writing, challenging myself to write within multiple disciplines.

Since freshman year, I’ve been a member of UTK’s Creative Writing Club. Without my friends, I wouldn’t have the bravery to share my work. In the following year, I joined Honey Magazine in its first semester. Now I’m the Editor-in-Chief and hope to finalize our first publication by the end of the 2020 spring semester.

During the same year, I became a member of Sigma Tau Delta and ran for the Executive Board. In the year I’ve been a member, I will get the opportunity to present my rhetorical research on K-Pop group BTS and their fandom BTS ARMY at an international conference that focuses on literature. It’s crazy and a wild dream come true.

Another dream come true is getting to intern for Sundress. I might’ve never grown up dreaming of becoming a writer, but learning how to become a writing rockstar sounds amazing to me.

Emma Hudson is currently a third year student at the University of Tennessee working on her double concentration BA in English: Rhetoric and Creative Writing, along with a minor in retail consumer science. She’s a busy bee; she is the Editor-in-Chief of the up-and-coming Honey Magazine. Emma is also a long-time member and leader in UTK’s Creative Writing Club and on the Executive Board for UTK’s Sigma Tau Delta, Alpha Epsilon chapter. In her free time, she figures out how to include K-Pop group BTS into her research projects and watches “reality” tv shows.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Peyton Vance


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Editorial Intern: Grace Prial

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Often when I am asked for some reason to describe my relationship to literature, I find I am met with a deep sense of urgency. Over the course of my undergraduate studies I’ve come to appreciate books––novels, stories, poetry––as incredible microcosms, reflections of a mind molded by historical and social circumstances, that set out to put something down. I believe the most powerful insights into history––the story of how we all got here––are to be found in literature, and for that reason I find myself evangelizing. I want to urge everyone I meet to read literature and to learn to understand its place in history, in order to glean its significance in relation to ourselves. When we read we may gain insight not only into individuals and communities, but the vast global forces which shape and interconnect us all. Books may be vehicles for empathy, and when more than now have we needed that?

I realized that I wanted to become involved with publishing when someone asked me what my dream career might be. I answered “I have no idea,” and then said, “Wait. No. I know.” The answer was, and is, that I would like to be a person involved in a community which fosters work that needs to be read. Sundress Publications is one such community. It is the first step on that path for me, and I could not be more grateful for my editorial internship.

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Grace Prial is a graduate of Rutgers University–Newark with a BA in English. She lives in New Jersey and is passionate about her studies on the reflection of political movements in literature.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Nik Buhler

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No matter how old I was, it’s always been unlikely that you’d ever find me without one, if not three or four, books with me. I would stay up well past my bed time, reveling in how sly I was, just to finish a few more chapters of the most recent story I just couldn’t put down. Even as I advanced to high school where I became more involved taking AP and dual enrollment classes, playing varsity volleyball for four years, and becoming an active member and even president of multiple organizations such as the Gay-Straight Alliance and HOSA, my love for reading never waned but instead morphed into a challenge of how many novels I could finish without neglecting my school work!

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to pursue academia in the long term. In high school, a select few of my teachers and professors further impassioned my love for reading and learning, even going as far as to help me find degree programs that would best suit me for college. Upon entering my freshman year at the University of Tennessee, I became mesmerized by all the options available to me; I wanted to learn everything there was to learn but I couldn’t help but gravitate towards text and writing based courses. Eventually, I found myself in a Philosophy course and became enamored with the subject immediately. I loved the analysis, the debate, and the thoughtful, structured writing that came along with it. However, it was still missing something for me – literature! I quickly picked up a second major in English literature where I could explore the expanses of both subjects that truly speak to me,

With the help of many wonderful professors and mentors during my time so far at UT, I have been lucky enough to encountermany positive, life-changing experiences. The people I have met here have pushed me to be the best version of myself that they are confident I can be while not letting me be limited by insecurities or anxieties. Because of this, I have been blessed with the confidence and support to reach towards dreams and goals of mine through submitting works, participating in a poet residency, seeking out well suited graduate programs, and, of course, this internship with SAFTA! I know my time here will further propel me forward towards my goals in collegiate work and studies through encouraging me to better myself and reach success beyond what I though possible.

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Nik Buhler is a queer poet from middle Tennessee who attends the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where they are a senior who studies English Literature and Philosophy. When they are not at home chainsmoking, drinking beer, and playing with their adorable cats, Buhler can be found in coffee shops and libraries craving fries, furiously typing out papers due the next day, and screaming about the existentialist movements influence on modern literature.