Author Archives: sundresspublications

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides by Tanya Singh

 

 

 

This selection comes from Tanya Singh’s book Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides, available from Ghost City Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Hali Sofala-Jones.

Tanya Singh is a non-binary poet, essayist & editor from Chandigarh, India. They are the author of Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides (Ghost City Press, 2018). Their work has been recognized by the Times of India, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, among other places. They are the founder & editor-in-chief of The Cerurove, an arts & literary magazine. They believe in kindness.

Hali Sofala-Jones is a Samoan-American writer. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her poetry appears in Nimrod International Journal, The Bitter Oleander, CALYX, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Milledgeville, Georgia.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides by Tanya Singh

 

This selection comes from Tanya Singh’s book Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides, available from Ghost City Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Hali Sofala-Jones.

Tanya Singh is a non-binary poet, essayist & editor from Chandigarh, India. They are the author of Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides (Ghost City Press, 2018). Their work has been recognized by the Times of India, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, among other places. They are the founder & editor-in-chief of The Cerurove, an arts & literary magazine. They believe in kindness.

Hali Sofala-Jones is a Samoan-American writer. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her poetry appears in Nimrod International Journal, The Bitter Oleander, CALYX, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Milledgeville, Georgia.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides by Tanya Singh

 

 

 

This selection comes from Tanya Singh’s book Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides, available from Ghost City Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Hali Sofala-Jones.

Tanya Singh is a non-binary poet, essayist & editor from Chandigarh, India. They are the author of Heaven is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides (Ghost City Press, 2018). Their work has been recognized by the Times of India, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, among other places. They are the founder & editor-in-chief of The Cerurove, an arts & literary magazine. They believe in kindness.

Hali Sofala-Jones is a Samoan-American writer. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her poetry appears in Nimrod International Journal, The Bitter Oleander, CALYX, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Milledgeville, Georgia.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Vidya’s Tree by Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

 

 

 

This selection comes from Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan’s book Vidya’s Tree, available from Bull City Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Hali Sofala-Jones.

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan was born in Santa Monica, California, and raised in Los Angeles. Claire was an accomplished poet, scholar, teacher, and animal-lover. She received her B.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University in L.A. She went on to earn an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow (under the mentorship of Rita Dove); an M.A. in Literature from the University of California, Berkeley; and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston, where she was a Cambor Fellow. She published two acclaimed books of poetry: Shadow Mountain (Four Way Books, 2008) and Bear, Diamonds and Crane (Four Way Books, 2011). Shadow Mountain was the 2006 winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry.

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan passed away in 2016 and is survived by her husband, Raj, and their daughter, Vidya.

Hali Sofala-Jones is a Samoan-American writer. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her poetry appears in Nimrod International Journal, The Bitter Oleander, CALYX, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Milledgeville, Georgia.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Vidya’s Tree by Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

 

 

 

This selection comes from Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan’s book Vidya’s Tree, available from Bull City Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Hali Sofala-Jones.

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan was born in Santa Monica, California, and raised in Los Angeles. Claire was an accomplished poet, scholar, teacher, and animal-lover. She received her B.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University in L.A. She went on to earn an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow (under the mentorship of Rita Dove); an M.A. in Literature from the University of California, Berkeley; and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston, where she was a Cambor Fellow. She published two acclaimed books of poetry: Shadow Mountain (Four Way Books, 2008) and Bear, Diamonds and Crane (Four Way Books, 2011). Shadow Mountain was the 2006 winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry.

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan passed away in 2016 and is survived by her husband, Raj, and their daughter, Vidya.

Hali Sofala-Jones is a Samoan-American writer. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her poetry appears in Nimrod International Journal, The Bitter Oleander, CALYX, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Milledgeville, Georgia.

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Wendy Chin-Tanner Reads Vera Pavlova

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In this conversation, Wendy Chin-Tanner talks about how reading Vera Pavlova‘s work gave her a model to follow in writing short poems about romantic love and about how Pavlovas’ writing disallows sentimentality and by engaging with the past. Pavlova’s poems are sincere, terse, and often also deal in ars poetica. Chin-Tanner puts them in context with Rilke’s Liebeslied, and identifies them as a “call to see things as they are.”

Jessica Hudgins: How has Pavlova’s work influenced yours?

Wendy Chin-Tanner: Vera Pavlova’s work speaks to me about relationality, its contradictions, conflicts, and nuances, especially in the context of romantic relationships. Her poems are imbued with a masterful compositional musicality that stems from her background as a trained classical musician and are delivered with the absolute greatest possible economy of words. I discovered her when I was working on the poems in my first collection Turn through my best friend, Russian-born anthropologist Veronica Davidov whose father, writer Mark Davidov, had worked with Pavlova. Short form poetry was already of great interest to me, but I was having trouble wrapping my head around how to write a love poem and Pavlova showed me the way. She quickly became both a poetic and personal touchstone, as she writes with urgency, immediacy, unsentimental sincerity, and mechanical precision about the emotional dynamics that underlie romantic love, how they necessarily replicate traumatic and triggering patterns of partners’ families of origin and how they are then called upon to make a choice between reproducing those wounding patterns and doing it differently, a choice between “rehashing” and creating. Not only is this an apt description of emotional processes in relationships, but it’s also a metaphor for the artistic process, and on a meta-level, the conflicts and layers expressed in this concept supply the necessary dramatic tension of the poetry. When I began developing the trisyllabic tercets that make up the majority of the poems in my second collection Anyone Will Tell You, I returned to Pavlova whose short lines and confidence in claiming blank space on the page emboldened me to do it, too. Reading her has not only informed my understanding of craft, but also the difference between sentiment and sentimentality.

Wendy Chin-Tanner reading Vera Pavlova

JH: In both of these poems, Pavlova brings two actions in relation to one another in order to clarify what each word means. So, when I read, “Enough painkilling, heal,” I get worried, and ask myself, “When have I tried to remove something painful instead of trying to heal?” And, when Pavlova writes “to sing or howl,” the difference between singing and howling emerges, just because the words are next to one another. Do you respond the same way to these poems?

WCT: Poem 22 takes a Rilkean preoccupation, as we see in his poem Liebeslied, with the relationship between the self and the other, and the negotiation of the space between engulfment and abandonment, and gives it a fresh twenty-first century psychoanalytic feminist perspective. I read the opening line, “Enough painkilling, heal,” as a call to see things as they are, to face the truth about ourselves and others, and our situations, the good and the bad, in order to affect positive change.

In poem 62, my interpretation of the line, “to sing or howl,” is that it speaks to the gendered performances of masculinity and femininity as the poet addresses her partner as “a wall of stone,” behind which she is both protected (so that she is free to sing on the other side of the gender binary) and unheard (or stonewalled). Our lived experiences cannot occur, regardless of our politics or wokeness, in a cultural vacuum, and the many contradictions of heterosexual love in an unequal society are played out in this poem in both its pleasures and frustrations.

Wendy Chin-Tanner reading Vera Pavlova

JH: What are you working on now?

WCT: Right now, I’m working on the second draft of King of the Armadillos, a novel based on a true story that takes place in New York City and Carville, Louisiana in the mid-1950s that explores the ways in which power, bio-ethics, race, gender, sexuality, stigma, community, illness, recovery, immigration, intergenerational trauma, loss, love, and redemption come to bear on families, relationships, and human experience.


 

Vera Pavolova Vera Pavlova is a Russian writer whose books have been translated into more than twenty languages. She is author of several poetry collections, including The Heavenly Beast, translated into English by Derek Walcott and Steven Seymour;  Letters to the Room Next Door, a collection of 1,001 hand-written poems with illustrations by Pavlova’s daughter; and If There is Something to Desire: One Hundred Poems, Pavlova’s first collection in English.

Wendy Chin-Tanner is the author of the poetry collections “Turn” (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards, and “Anyone Will Tell You,” (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019). She is a poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown, founding editor at Kin Poetry Journal, and co-founder of A Wave Blue World, an independent publishing company for graphic novels. Some of her poems can be found at RHINO Poetry, Denver Quarterly, The Rumpus, Vinyl Poetry, The Collagist, North Dakota Quarterly, and The Mays Anthology of Oxford and Cambridge. A trained sociologist specializing in race, identity, discourse analysis, and cultural studies, Wendy was born and raised in NYC and educated at Cambridge University, UK. She is the mother of two daughters and the proud daughter of immigrants.

Further Reading

Vera Pavlova’s Website
LitHub Interviews Vera Pavlova
Vera Pavlova Reads at PBS News Hour

Wendy Chin-Tanner’s Website
Four Poems at The Account
Purchase Turn


Jessica Hudgins is a poet and teacher currently living in Mansfield, Georgia.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Vidya’s Tree by Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

 

 

 

This selection comes from Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan’s book Vidya’s Tree, available from Bull City Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Hali Sofala-Jones.

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan was born in Santa Monica, California, and raised in Los Angeles. Claire was an accomplished poet, scholar, teacher, and animal-lover. She received her B.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University in L.A. She went on to earn an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow (under the mentorship of Rita Dove); an M.A. in Literature from the University of California, Berkeley; and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston, where she was a Cambor Fellow. She published two acclaimed books of poetry: Shadow Mountain (Four Way Books, 2008) and Bear, Diamonds and Crane (Four Way Books, 2011). Shadow Mountain was the 2006 winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry.

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan passed away in 2016 and is survived by her husband, Raj, and their daughter, Vidya.

Hali Sofala-Jones is a Samoan-American writer. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her poetry appears in Nimrod International Journal, The Bitter Oleander, CALYX, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Milledgeville, Georgia.

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Project Bookshelf: Athena Lathos

Though I love the concept of Project Bookshelf, I am slightly embarrassed to share my own shelves with the internet. In a purely aspirational dimension of the universe, an ideal version of myself maintains a beautifully curated book collection, properly whittled down to only the most worthy titles and complete with the most aesthetically pleasing editions faced out for the benefit of my house guests.In fact, I recently saw an Instagram post from one of my favorite poets, Kaveh Akbar, in which he showed off his and his partner’s gorgeously lit, museum-like library, and I thought to myself yes, that is what I would like my books to look like. The key here, of course, is that they don’t. My partner and are I not a literary power couple, but a couple of twenty-somethings who just moved into a ramshackle house from the 1920s in semi-rural Oregon. And, admittedly, neither of us are particularly neat. Our books are cherished. But they are also scattered everywhere.

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You may see here that I’ve attempted to organize some childhood books, poetry collections, and nonfiction titles on the white bookshelves, along with my slightly embarrassing collection of Plath biographies (a teenage obsession that I know is considered a writer’s cliche). The other bookshelf, though, the light brown one, has a decidedly pragmatic function. It is protecting a mixture of my partner’s and my own books from moving- and construction-related damage. Look more closely, and you might see a fair amount of doubles in this mess of a library, an issue that was undoubtedly caused by two graduate students in English moving in together.

Once, while talking with my dad about getting rid of all of these extra copies of Walden and Leaves of Grass and To the Lighthouse, he looked at me with concern and said, “I don’t know, honey … are you sure you are ready for that?”I think my dad’s reaction is pretty indicative of my abiding love for these mostly beat-up tomes. Like many of us here at Sundress, my physical books tell stories other than the ones that they harbor inside them, and my humble library—though not so pretty to look at—is the most valuable feature of my home.

 

 

 

Athena Lathos is a poet and nonfiction writer from Santa Maria, California. She currently lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where she works part-time as a Student Accessibility Technician at Chemeketa Community College and part-time as a freelance writer and editor. Her work can be found in Enizagam and Verseweavers, as well as on her blog, Bertha Mason’s Attic. Her recent blog post about the job market, “I Applied to 200 Jobs and All I Got was this Moderate-Severe Depression,” was featured as an Editor’s Pick on Longreads. Lathos completed her MA thesis, “A Sea of Grief is Not a Proscenium: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and the Spectacle of Racist Violence in Cyberculture,” at Oregon State University’s School of Writing, Literature, and Film in May of 2017. Lathos was a finalist for the 2016 Princemere Poetry Prize.

 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Vidya’s Tree by Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

 

 

 

This selection comes from Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan’s book Vidya’s Tree, available from Bull City Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Hali Sofala-Jones.

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan was born in Santa Monica, California, and raised in Los Angeles. Claire was an accomplished poet, scholar, teacher, and animal-lover. She received her B.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University in L.A. She went on to earn an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow (under the mentorship of Rita Dove); an M.A. in Literature from the University of California, Berkeley; and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston, where she was a Cambor Fellow. She published two acclaimed books of poetry: Shadow Mountain (Four Way Books, 2008) and Bear, Diamonds and Crane (Four Way Books, 2011). Shadow Mountain was the 2006 winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry.

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan passed away in 2016 and is survived by her husband, Raj, and their daughter, Vidya.

Hali Sofala-Jones is a Samoan-American writer. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her poetry appears in Nimrod International Journal, The Bitter Oleander, CALYX, and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Milledgeville, Georgia.

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Vintage Sundress with Donna Vorreyer

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Our Vintage Sundress series features authors who have published with Sundress in the past and takes a look at what they’ve been up to since their work was released. In 2013, Donna Vorreyer published her first poetry collection, A House of Many Windows, with Sundress, followed by Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story in 2016. For our latest installment, editorial intern Riley Steiner spoke with Vorreyer about her experience with the publication process, her sources of inspiration, and more.

Riley Steiner: What has changed for you since Every Love Story was published?

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Donna Vorreyer: As a writer, honestly, not much. Of course, it’s a delight and a privilege to have books in the world when so many wonderful poets I know still have not had this happen for them. Publication means someone else thought my work worth sharing, which lends some credence to my label as poet.

Calling myself a poet is always difficult for me as I have an enormous case of impostor syndrome. I often think, “Is my voice necessary in the literary landscape?” and the answer that mostly comes to mind is no. Having poets I admire so greatly write blurbs for the book was a humbling and heart-warming experience, but hearing from readers of all ages about how they connect with the work has been the best part of having that book in the world. Everyone can relate to love and loss, whether it’s in an intimate relationship or some other area of life.

As a person, a lot has changed for me. This past year has been especially difficult, losing both parents within a five-month span among other things. It has me thinking a lot about mortality, about how I am choosing to spend my time. Starting to write through those losses has helped with the healing process, but sometimes it also reopens the wounds. It’s a delicate balance, and it has impacted how much I have written and put into the world in the last eighteen months, how much I am willing to give over the time I have to writing.

RS: Your first book, A House of Many Windows, was published with Sundress in 2013. Did your experience with the publishing process differ between your first and second books? If so, how?

41qjcMu+FXL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_DV: Yes! Mostly because I had gone the traditional route of sending the first manuscript out to multiple publishers and contests. I didn’t really have any knowledge about the publishing of poems or a book except researching on the internet and trying to find books by those presses at the library.

After many rejections, I took a manuscript workshop with Daniel Khalastchi that helped me to solidify the poem order. He also convinced me that the book was worth publishing when I was ready to quit.

Luckily, the connection with Sundress happened organically. I had stopped by their table at AWP Chicago to thank Erin for publishing one of my poems in Stirring, and our conversation led to Sundress reading and accepting that first manuscript. (Authors—THANK YOUR JOURNAL EDITORS! You never know … ) For the second one, Sundress asked for a first look and liked the manuscript enough to publish it, so the anguish of the contest/reading period submission was eliminated.

Once the manuscripts were accepted, I was very lucky to have Erin Elizabeth Smith edit the first manuscript and Sara Henning edit the second. Both of them were thoughtful editors, not just accepting the manuscripts “as-is,” but working with me to hone them. Suggesting line edits, changes in order, haggling over section titles—these are all things I appreciated immensely and would expect from any editor who truly cares about the work they are publishing. The second book even had a completely different title before the editing process, and I’m so glad it changed! 

RS: Has the publication of A House of Many Windows, and then Every Love Story, altered your perspective on the literary community?

DV: Certainly, having a book in the world makes one more keenly aware of all the different aspects of the literary community, both in person and online. As I work full-time outside of academia and do not have an MFA, my lit community has been built person by person, through workshops, appearances in journals and in online groups. (I wasn’t on Twitter when the first book came out and had just started using it when the second one did, and the way things spread on Poetry Twitter is a wonder to behold.) I got more readings and attention for the second book as my community had grown, especially online. This helped me to expand my reach for readings and promotion beyond the Chicago area where I live, and that was very exciting.

As a result of not getting much publicity after the first initial push and swirl of AWP for each book, I realized how important it is for books to remain in the public eye, at least in the literary public eye. As a result, I began to write reviews of poetry books, and I have been steadily publishing reviews since the release of Every Love Story. For me, it is an avenue of literary citizenship that enriches me as a reader and a writer as I learn much from the deep reading that a review requires. Although the literary community CAN be a divisive place, full of contention and one-upmanship, I prefer to settle into it as a middle-aged cheerleader, reviewing and promoting the work of others in a gentle and positive way and hoping that the golden rule comes into play when my own work enters the world.

RS: One of the things that struck me the most while reading the poems in Every Love Story was the vivid natural imagery. Do you often find yourself drawing upon the natural world while you write? What are some other sources of inspiration for you?

DV: The second manuscript actually began as a response to my reading of the journals of Lewis and Clark. Their deep scrutiny of a new wild married with my own affinity for the natural world in many of these poems.

Once the manuscript started to be shaped into its narrative cycle, the natural world became an easy canvas of images with which to paint love, loss, descent into despair, and hope, cycling as the seasons cycle. I return to the natural world often as it is the first and perfect mirror for all human experience and a type of imagery with which all readers can connect. I am also often inspired by sounds, and the sonics of a poem are important to me, so much so that often the topical direction of a poem sometimes changes based on the way I want the language to sound. It’s my job as a poet to notice, to observe, so inspiration is easy to find. It’s finding something to say using that inspiration, something unique, that is the difficult part.

RS: What is something worth noting about being published that you would want unpublished writers to know?

DV: Holding your book in your hand for the first time is an irreplaceable feeling, a feeling that never goes away. It may open doors to new people and new experiences. It may bring you a sense of personal achievement or (if you’re lucky) some level of financial success.

But it is not a magic wand. You will not suddenly be in demand to speak around the country or win big monetary awards or get offers to write in a Tuscan villa for a month.  You could, but it’s not likely. You should be pleased that your hard work has put your words in front of readers, made a connection with someone beyond yourself. Which is the point, right? 

RS: What else have you been up to since Every Love Story?

DV: I am always writing new work, sometimes at a snail’s pace, but always writing. I have been writing a lot of reviews, as I said earlier, but have also been publishing poems. A chapbook of prose poems, The Girl, was published in 2018 by the wonderful Porkbelly Press. 

RS: What are you working on now?

DV: I currently have a third manuscript out in the world, and I have been writing a lot about aging, loss, and about, despite how awful the world can be, how lucky and blessed we are to know love. It seems that these two forces balance one another, and the way they interact is of interest to me.

RS: Looking back from where you are today, is there anything you’d tell your younger self before A House of Many Windows, and then Every Love Story, was published?

DV: Well, since I was 51 when House was published, I was long past my younger self already!  I didn’t return to writing poetry with any sort of serious effort until I was in my early 30s, so I never had any expectations that I would have any sort of “success.” If someone told me I would work at it for twenty years, learning as much as I could through reading and taking workshops before I would do any sort of regular publishing, I probably wouldn’t have believed that I would have had the stamina.

I would tell myself then to remember what one of my mentors, Diana Goetsch, told me early on—to write with fire and complete belief in your work, and then send it into the world with absolutely no expectations. This way, you will always be proud of what you’ve accomplished whether the “poetry world” validates you or not. This is always a struggle—to not equate the value of one’s work with the fickle tastes of the publishing world. I would remind myself why I started writing in the first place—because it helps me to both celebrate and figure out the world.


00100sportrait_00100_burst20190104131835673_cover-01-1.jpegDonna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress, 2013) as well as eight chapbooks, most recently The Girl (Porkbelly Press).  Her poems and reviews have appeared in numerous journals including Waxwing, Rhino, Quarterly West, Poet Lore, Diode and Sugar House Review.

 

rileysteinerRiley Steiner is a senior at Miami University, where she studies Creative Writing and Media & Culture. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she enjoys baking, cheering for the Green Bay Packers, and spending way too much money at Half Price Books. Her creative work is forthcoming in the Oakland Arts Review.

 

 

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