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.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Jenna Geisinger

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Reading has always been an escape for me. I felt like books were places of comfort, that tucked you in and welcomed you back just where you left off. Most summers I begged my mom to drive me to our library, and I’d take out the five book maximum, then return the next week for five more books. I spent hours reading without realizing how much time had passed. I was the kid that came to school zombie-fied by a book I couldn’t put down. To me, the lives of the characters in the books were more interesting, or fulfilling, than my life.

In elementary school I started writing. Sort of. It started with my own version of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I spent three long sentences describing every aspect of Mr. Poe—the olive green of his jacket, the bristle of his mustache, the scuffed shoes, his nervous hands—I wanted to make Mr. Poe standing at the door so real. I wanted to make it as real as the book was to me. Thankfully, I learned to pare down my sentences, but the first drafts are still gunked with too many adjectives.

However, writing will never provide the same escape for me that reading has. Writing is gruesome. It’s tiring—it’s writing five drafts simultaneously of the same story because you can’t make up your mind about the narrator. It’s rereading and rearranging the same paragraph, reading it aloud to yourself and hearing where the flow hiccups, but having no clue how to smoothen it out. I love writing, but it is work, and it is too vulnerable to my doubt and criticism, as well as that of others. Reading is intimate, accepting you in whatever mental or emotional state you’re in, and lets you step into someone else’s life for a little while. It wows you with shiny sentences, and tricks you with plot structure, but it’s free of the worry and overthinking that writing welcomes. I want to give that to someone else. I want to welcome them into a story and tell them everything will be fine, everything else can wait.

In the last year or so, the pressure has been mounting about what to do after college. Senior year ticked on, the deadline inching closer, waiting for my decision. I spoke extensively with my mentor about whether I should apply to graduate school. Was it worth it? In her small office, closed in with wall-to-wall bookshelves, she asked me what I pictured myself doing. I told her that I would love to write novels, but that is impractical. That is a side project. Then I looked at her—this polished writer with an award-winning chapbook under her belt—and said that I thought I could be happy being a part of the process to create published work. My favorite part of workshop classes was editing. I loved polishing my peers’ stories, showing them what they couldn’t see. I am really excited to intern at Sundress Publications and be so close to stories.

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Jenna Geisinger is a fiction and creative non-fiction writer from New Jersey. She attends the MFA Professional and Creative Writing Program at William Paterson University, while working as an associate managing editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal and a reader for Philadelphia Stories, where she has been published.