I remember when a friend of a friend asked me if I was embarrassed because I wanted to go into the arts rather than study something “practical.” I looked down at the shirt I was wearing—which said, “I’m silently correcting your grammar”—and the pendant around my neck—which said, “The book was better.” While that moment says nothing for my fashion choices that day, it does capture my unapologetic fever for reading and writing. To me, passion is more important than practicality.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been gobbling up books and scribbling down stories. My mom likes to say that I practically knew how to read before she even taught me, like my heart was just waiting for someone to give me the letters to unlock the words and stories I had longed for before I even knew. I was the kid in elementary school English class who had to have the full-size pages rather than half pages they offered for the stories we would write for the end of the year—the ones with thick cardstock covers and fruit scented marker pictures on the opposite pages from the writing. I was the one who got scolded for staying up late reading or getting new ideas down and walking slowly behind everyone because I couldn’t lift my head from my book. I remember many late-night car rides, reading books one line at a time as we passed under streetlights. Some of my senior pictures were taken with towers of my books surrounding me. Most of my life has been feeding and being fed on stories. Being part of Sundress—something that feels like a big story buffet for everyone—is an absolutely magical experience to me.
Bayleigh Kasper is a senior creative writing major at the University of Evansville. She dreams of owning a tiny home in Colorado where she can adopt cats, make music, write, and eat very judge-worth amounts of chocolate without actually being judged.