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Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Nikki A. Sambitsky

The times I am happiest are when I’m reading and/or writing. Most would say that I came to the writing game late in my life. In 2012 at the age of 35, and after having my first child the year before, I decided to return to college to get my BA in journalism. In my 20’s, I worked in and out of the newspaper industry. I even returned to school a few times after that to reinvent myself as a licensed massage therapist and esthetician.

But no matter what career field I worked in, the gravity of the writing life kept pulling me back to center. It was just a matter of time before I found myself back in the thick of things again.

Flash forward to 2018, and I am the proud owner of a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing with a couple of published essays under my belt. It’s hard to properly put it into words, but I truly feel alive, vital, and necessary when I am writing and learning. I’m slowly but surely making my way in this writing world while navigating the challenges and ups and downs of having two small children. But no matter what comes our way, my husband and I seem to make it work.

If there’s anything that I have learned about the writing life, it’s that it’s all about making meaningful connections and constantly evolving while engaging in the hustle. (And I mean hustle in the most positive way!)

When I’m not writing lyric essays or teaching about unconventional forms of creative nonfiction, I tutor, read, and now intern at Sundress Publications. It’s an understatement to say that I am beyond excited to work with Sundress. I have always wanted to learn the inside workings of the publishing industry and am thrilled to see things from the other side of the writing industry.

Nikki A. Sambitsky earned her MFA in creative writing, specifically focusing on the lyric/fragment essay (creative nonfiction) from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. Sambitsky holds a BA in journalism from Central Connecticut State University. She is currently working on her collection of lyric/fragment essays, which center on mental illness, her family, and her husband and two autistic children. Sambitsky enjoys writing essays that explore family, family issues, and autism. Her journalism work and creative nonfiction has appeared in many publications including The Helix, Gravel Magazine, and West Hartford Magazine. She was a scholarship recipient to the 2018 Slice Literary Writers’ Conference, and her essay, “Happy Birthday (Numb)” was selected as a finalist in the nonfiction category for the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference Emerging Writers Contest. Sambitsky was also a scholarship recipient to the 2018 Murphy Writing Workshop of Stockton University. Her most recent essay, “Penny Drop,” is slated for publication in Longridge Review, in November 2018. She lives with her husband, two children, and way too many animals in a peaceful, rural, area of Connecticut.

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Project Book Shelf: Hannah Kitterman

My book shelf went through a massive downsizing after I graduated. I moved back to Clarksville to live with my parents for the summer, and most of the books that I had collected throughout my literature-based classes are still in boxes in their basement. When I got my service position with AmeriCorps, I went through those boxes in an attempt to only bring the books I could not live without which also had to fit in my car. After a good deal of soul searching, the books that made the journey with me are ones that are related to moments in my life. These are books, or plays, that I like to revisit often.

I know most of Much Ado About Nothing by heart, but I can never part with my copy because my dog tried to eat it when he was a puppy. I have my used copies of Dubliners and Ulysses, both books that I read in my last semester at UTK which held my hand as I prepared to graduate. I have a copy of Mindy Kaling’s newest book, Why Not Me,which is hysterical and something I should not read in quiet places. I have my collections of poetry by Rupi Kaur and Mary Oliver, both of which I can rely on to lead me on an emotional roller coaster.

My cookbooks were a necessity and I am a very big supporter of using baking to relieve stress, much to the pleasure of my friends and roommates. On top of my book shelf are odds and ends that I have kept up with, all which either hold some small memory like the bottle cork from my graduation party or, like my swimming goggles, are just something I use regularly. I still feel a little sad to not have my full collection of books in Knoxville with me, but I am also looking forward to the greatest luxury not having my immense catalogue of literature has forced me to get: a library card.


Hannah Kitterman is a native Tennessean currently living in Knoxville. She graduated from the University of Tennessee last May where she studied English Literature and French. During her time at UTK Hannah was a member of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band where she played the trombone and gained experience with heartbreaking losses and feverous fandom. Hannah is currently serving as a member of AmeriCorps with I Bike KNX, a nonprofit that advocates for safe bicycling habits. You can find her at various intersections in Knoxville counting the number of pedestrians and people riding bicycles or reading with a cup of coffee while on the lookout for dogs to pet. She has never met a burrito or a dog that she did not love.

 

 

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Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Hannah Kitterman

My relationship with books and with reading has been constant for my entire life. Both of my parents are English professors, and I have been fortunate enough to be around an environment that put reading and talking about books in a place of high esteem from a young age. There was really no escaping this environment, actually, and I just ended up really lucky that I happened to love every facet of it.

I continued loving my books, sometimes to the extreme, in all situations. For family vacations I would have the heaviest bags because of all the books I wanted to bring. I was notorious for asking for a IMG_3999.jpgbook and then finishing it in a matter of hours, no matter how lengthy.

However, despite my devotion to reading and my willingness to take down any obstacle to be immersed in a book, when I registered for my first semester at UTK I had no intention of being an English major. I had decided to study French because it was a subject that had thrilled me as much as my English courses throughout High School, and I had an idealized notion that I would become an academic in French Literature and possibly move to France.

Within the first month of my Freshman year I had switched to a double major in French and English Lit. There was a physical pull that I felt whenever I was in my English classes and when looking at the catalogue of courses and I found myself pouring over all the offered English Literature ones. After I declared my double major, I lost my notion of how my life was going to end up. I felt so unsure and also so happy because in a way I had found my identity again.

I know I am happiest when I am working with any type of writing or writing based art, so I am really looking forward to this internship with the Sundress Academy for the Arts and a new chance to learn and grow with others in a field that brings me the utmost joy.


Hannah Kitterman is a native Tennessean currently living in Knoxville. She graduated from the University of Tennessee last May where she studied English Literature and French. During her time at UTK Hannah was a member of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band where she played the trombone and gained experience with heartbreaking losses and feverous fandom. Hannah is currently serving as a member of AmeriCorps with I Bike KNX, a nonprofit that advocates for safe bicycling habits. You can find her at various intersections in Knoxville counting the number of pedestrians and people riding bicycles or reading with a cup of coffee while on the lookout for dogs to pet. She has never met a burrito or a dog that she did not love.

 

 

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PROJECT BOOKSHELF: NIK BUHLER

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As you can see, my bookshelf isn’t so much a bookshelf as it is multiple bookshelves and stacks of unplaced new buys. As a virgo sun, I am extremely anal about having everything in alphabetical order (by authors last name, of course) to achieve the feel of a real home library. However, as a gemini moon and sagittarius rising, I can never buy just one book! Because of this, I often end up purchasing books by the tens and twenties, resulting in the stacks of books haphazardly thrown on shelves while my anxiety screams about how disorganized it is as well as how long it will take to organize.

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I love collecting odd trinkets that catch my eye for whatever reason whether they be weird, interesting, or funny. Various shelves are adorned with these trinkets such as my hungry hippo, old lost photographs, glowing alien toys, and carved wooden stump. Similarly to my fascination with odd trinkets, I have a fascination with odd books. Many books found on my shelves are those found browsing places like yard sales, GoodWill, and McKay’s. Funky books like my ombré, vapor-wave copy of Hamlet, my copy of The Practical Guide to Tarot and the Runes, and a copy of Woodburning with Style add a fun flare to my collection and opportunities to read on fun things I might not have normally picked up.

 

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Additionally, I have many books of sentimental value that have been passed along through my grandmother, aunts, my mother, and finally I such as my collection of Steven King novels or original copy of A Night to Remember. These books have been well taken care of for many years and you can feel the love in the pages. They mean so much to me as the first novels I ever owned – though perhaps that is slightly macabre. Similarly, I have an unfortunate obsession with Franz Kafka and own every book he has published, including a completed work of texts just to be absolutely sure i’ve missed nothing! I even own a collection of aphorisms that I carry around like the world’s worst bible.

The rest of my books are miscellaneous selections left over from English and Philosophy classes taken previously at UT. As a double major in two reading and writing intensive studies, i’ve managed to amass quite the collection of novels and academic texts, all of which I still enjoy reading to this day despite the fact that they may of been attained for a simple freshman 101 course. If you asked me to pick a favorite book from my shelves, I don’t think I could do it; I simply have too many to decide!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Project Bookshelf: Jenna Geisinger

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As you can see, my bookshelf isn’t much of a bookshelf at all. Right now, it is a box and three piles on the floor. I am in the process of moving to North Jersey for graduate school. This is not all of them. I have a terrible habit of leaving the books I’m currently reading out on coffee tables, counters, armchairs of couches, etc… It is this habit that made me want a bookshelf because my family will use my books as coasters (my biggest pet peeve) and leave coffee stains on covers, or just stain the entirety of Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. The pages are warped and stuck together. (My mom is trying to convince me to leave some books home, but I will lay in traffic before I leave my books with those careless people).

Some of my books are pieces of comfort—stories I love and reread over and over. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorites. When I transferred to Stockton University from community college, I was so nervous. What if I couldn’t do it? I found solace in Rowell’s novel, whose protagonist suffers the same social anxiety as me. Cath’s life and circumstances were very similar to my own, and even though she subsisted off of protein bars because she was too afraid to ask where the cafeteria was (100% something I would do), she made it. It was the first time I found a book where the protagonist suffered from anxiety, but the anxiety was merely a trait of the character, rather than the focus of the novel. I felt like someone understood how I thought and felt.

Other books I love because of the stories of course, but also because of the memories associated with them—as if they could be pressed into the pages like a flower. I reread them and remember who I was when I first read them, where I was when I bought them. I bought Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalist and read most of it on a trip to Yale with my independent study, where Shilo and I explored New Haven, CT, getting lost trying to find a bookstore. We went to handle the earliest edition of Aphra Behn’s Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister, which we had been helping our professor edit in terms of where to put footnotes for “The Clever College Student.” The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, which I bought in the second-hand bookstore we eventually found. Tenth of December by George Saunders is in the mix there, which I started reading because a professor commented that a short story I wrote reminded him of George Saunders, and then it became a comfort after I was in the hospital room when my beloved grandmother took her last rattled breaths.

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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.

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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.

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Project Bookshelf: Valerie Lick

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I had to make some difficult decisions for this project. Should I pretend I typically organize my books in any way other than “there’s room here”? Should I remove the objects that probably don’t count as literature, such as the packets of instant noodles? Should I move my potted plants into the frame so it looks like I at least have my aesthetic together? In the end, however, I decided to keep it authentic.

Let’s start with the bookshelf. You’ll notice that, rather than being suspended in the air like any self-respecting shelf, it simply rests on the surface of my desk. By the time my university saw fit to grant me a bookshelf (three maintenance requests into the year), the supports on which I could hang the shelf were already occupied by other important things like my ridiculously large scarf collection.

Next: the contents. This is, as the ramen suggests, a dorm room bookshelf. Many of the books I grew up with are a hundred miles away. I still have a pretty solid, eclectic collection here in Knoxville. They’re all mixed together: writing manuals and government directories and best-selling mysteries. There’s a copy of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God found in a used bookstore’s free bin and annotated by three different owners. There are two gigantic literary bibles, one of Shakespeare and one of theoretical approaches, both of which are on their third renewals from the university library because no way am I paying for that kind of paper. Also pictured: my university’s literary arts magazine, an account of my hometown’s strike history that I’ll definitely get around to reading someday, and a copy of The Great Gatsby fairly studded with sticky notes as a result of a paper on classism and sexuality that nearly killed me from exhaustion.

A couple of these books and authors are the reason for my English major. I was a bookish kid but from eighth grade through tenth grade I was deeply ashamed to be caught reading for fun. But in the summer before eleventh grade, I picked up an anthology of Toni Morrison novels (the one slightly to the right of the ramen) and read the entirety in a week. Since then, I’ve gone back to reading widely and wildly. I’m very into American literature from the latter half of the 20th century, but I’ll also always be in love with modern literature, especially if it’s a sci-fi thriller or it references Appalachian folklore. I have yet to find a book that combines both qualities, so please send me your recommendations!

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Valerie Lick, the artist currently known as Val, loves those tall, weedy plants that are kind of like daisies except the blooms are really small. She can be found looking mean and studying literature at the University of Tennessee, where she is a rising junior. She thinks that there should be more intersections between science fiction, Appalachian folklore, and fashion journalism.

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Project Bookshelf: Laura Villareal

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I enjoy reading across genres, but I mostly own poetry books. I love reading YA, nonfiction, and adult fiction, but I don’t usually read them again so I check them out at the library. Essay collections, short story collections, and poetry books are endless sources of inspiration for me. Those are books I like to keep on my shelves. I come back to the books on the top shelf often. I’m also a return reader of literary magazines like Poetry, Tin House, and One Story.

Here are some of my top shelf books:

Coin of the Realm by Carl Phillips

Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler

SanTana’s Fairy Tales by Sarah Rafael García

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Beast Meridian by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

Hour of the Ox by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

Hum by Jamaal May

All of Ada Limon’s books

In the Garden of the Bridehouse by J. Michael Martinez

mxd kd mixtape by Malcolm Friend

Our Lady of the Ruins by Traci Brimhall

Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky

Under that I have one cubby for Popchyk and two cubbies for poetry books. The other shelves are for miscellaneous books. There’s really no order to them. I have books like:

Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother by Amy Stewart

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

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Laura Villareal is from a small town in Texas with more cows than people. She earned an MFA from Rutgers University-Newark. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Apogee, Black Warrior Review, Breakwater Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Freezeray, Reservoir, The Boiler, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and scholarships from The Highlights Foundation, Key West Literary Seminar, and VONA/ Voices. She’s also a reader at Winter Tangerine.

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