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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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Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Valerie Lick

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In elementary and middle school there were three things I was practically guaranteed to have on hand: a fruit-flavored tube of lip balm, a book, and a backup book in case I finished the other one. I would read practically anything; my literary opinions weren’t refined beyond the point of “romances are gross” and “dragons are cool.” All I wanted was to be a writer. I scrawled my first “novel” in a spiral-bound notebook—it wasn’t very good. My parents said I was creative, and my teachers said I should stop daydreaming and get better at math.

I did eventually get better at math, but I never stopped daydreaming. Even in the couple years after middle school, when I went to great lengths to avoid getting caught reading, daydreaming was a creative skill that never left me. There are people and things in the world that just call for daydreaming or writing (which is just a more tangible form of daydreaming)— the old bearded pastor who tells you his small town gets smaller every year, the great blue heron flying over the county swimming pool, the abandoned barn turned canvas for spray paint. There’s a multitude of stories behind everything, and so many of them are worth imagining or even telling.

And what about my own story? I’m not sure where I’m going yet, which is why I’m exploring fields like writing, publishing, and journalism through internships. I’m also working on my BA at the University of Tennessee, where my major is English, my minor is Journalism, and my passion is literature. I’m considering a second minor in “making corny statements.”

If I want to work in the publishing industry it’s high time I demystify the publishing process for myself. That’s why I’m thrilled to work as an editorial intern at Sundress Publications this summer and fall. The raw material of stories doesn’t go through some mystical, arcane process in its journey to be published, but I know I’ll need some practical experience to bring my knowledge of the publishing industry past “here there be dragons”.

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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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Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Laura Villareal

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I wasn’t always a reader. I remember looking for picture books about kids with the same skin color as me but there were very few. At some point I think I internalized the idea that books weren’t for kids like me. This idea was reinforced in school when we only read books by white male writers, and when my teachers expressed doubts about my writing being my own. They believed it was “too good” for someone like me. I was detrimentally shy, but I refused to be underestimated so I continued to work hard. Looking back now I realize that those experiences had less to do with me and more to do with how the world perceives people who look like me.

My parents never stopped encouraging me to read and write. They played audiobooks in the car, gave me books they loved, and let me read whatever I wanted.  Eventually, I learned to love exploring the lives of people different from me. Each new book taught me empathy. I fell in love with the limitlessness of language and how it costs nothing to tell a story. My mom used to tell me that if I couldn’t find a book I wanted to read, then I should write it.

It wasn’t until I was in grad school at Rutgers University-Newark that I discovered a community of writers. Everything was new to me. I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas and had limited knowledge of all things literary. The closest library near my home only housed poetry books by white poets and dead poets. It didn’t occur to me that the world of poetry continued moving and growing like the world of fiction did. That’s naive to admit, but I’ve been lucky; the kindness and generosity of my peers and teachers saved me. Their book suggestions, conversations on writing, and invitations to readings exposed me to a world I couldn’t imagine back home.

After graduation, I moved back to Texas and felt displaced. I continued reading and writing, but didn’t feel like I had a community anymore. By living in a house surrounded by fields instead of my fellow writers, I’ve learned that writing shouldn’t be done alone. I believe that it’s essential to build community, support other writers, and champion their work.

Last summer, I found a community that allowed me to do all those things at VONA/ Voices. All 9 poets who were in my workshop are brilliant and the best people I know. Every day I feel grateful for their support and friendship.  

All of this has led me here to Sundress Publications. I’m always looking for ways to participate and learn more about all the work put into presses and journals. The hard work of writers, editors, and readers at presses and literary magazines is what sustains the writing community. I’m excited to go behind the scenes as an editorial intern with Sundress Publications.

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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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Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Hollie Householder

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When I was in first grade, I presented my mother a hand-written letter saying that “Your Dawter has been promoted to the second grade.” Of course, my seven-year-old mind could spell “promoted,” but not “daughter.” I believe I almost had her on that one.

Then, in middle school, I wrote a note to a little boy who caught my eye. I think I told him that his hair reminded me of an orange peel. My writing was obviously great – he’s my fiancé now.

Although these are stories that I look back on with humor, they also make me realize that I’ve spent my life in writing. I enjoy the idea of sharing my work with someone and having them laugh, or fall in love, or be interested. I also enjoy the thought of someone reading my writing and tearing it apart. I like that I have something to offer people that can evoke any kind of emotion.

I believe writers are some of the most influential people you can come by. I expect my internship at Sundress Academy for the Arts to enforce my beliefs and welcome me into a community where each word and work means something.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” – Anais Nin

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Hollie Householder graduates from Maryville College in May 2018, where she declared a major in Writing and Communications and a minor in Sociology. She has had her poetry published in the local literary magazine Impressions and enjoys participating in workshops with other writers. She loves meeting new people and sharing laughter with others. Her least favorite writing prompt is a third-person bio.

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Project Bookshelf: Snigdha Koirala

 

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My current bookshelf marks a transitional phase in my life. Having moved away from home (and thus having to limit the books I could bring with me), I had the problem of any other bibliophile in this situation: an understocked bookshelf. Around the same time, I was listening to various podcast interviews of one of my favourite writers, Jhumpa Lahiri. She explained that she too faced the dreaded understocked bookshelf after her move to Rome from New York. As an antidote, she displayed covers of books, which took up more space on the shelf, and simultaneously created an art installation of sorts. And in true fashion of a devoted fan, I did the same.

My books are organized in no particular order. Most recent reads tend to have their covers displayed, and eventually move to the side or are stacked under other books as I add more to the shelf. There are, of course, a few that I never move, particularly Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. These books, apart from having colourful covers and being stunning visual pleasures, have played a significant role in my young life, shaping me as a reader, a writer, and a person. Their placement on my shelf (and forgive my sentimentalism) is an ode to their influence.

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I also have a small stand-alone shelf on my wall. Here, I place books I am most excited to read. Most of them are attached to a vivid memory of their purchase: Bharati Mukherjee’s Leave It To Me and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth bring to mind a trip to San Francisco with my two best friends; Anita Desai’s The Collected Stories a day in London with my mom; and Jean Rhys’ The Collected Short Stories a perfectly uneventful summer afternoon in Toronto. In many ways, this shelf (again, my sentimental self makes an appearance here) is a diary, which logs happy days waiting to be revisited.

 


Snigdha Koirala is a third year student of English Literature. Born in Nepal and raised in Canada, she is currently living in Scotland, where she is pursuing her degree at The University of Edinburgh. Her love affair with prose and (more recently) poetry has led her work to appear in The Ogilvie, The Inkwell, and other publications. In her spare time, she can be found wandering the streets of Edinburgh, watching cheesy Rom-Coms, and reading bell hooks.

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Meet Our New Intern, Snigdha Koirala

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I hate to start my introduction with a cliché, but I’m afraid I must: I have loved stories for as long as I can remember.

This love first began with my grandfather. He was an avid storyteller of Hindu folktales, stories about the Nepalese royal family, various historical events, his childhood memories, and anything else he thought worth sharing. When I was eight, however, my family moved to Toronto. And as such, I had to find some other way to satiate my hunger for stories. This is when I turned to books. I was reluctant at first – books were incontrovertibly associated with schools, and to my eight-year-old self, nothing could be worse. But, and I’m sure you can guess, it didn’t take long for that reluctance to chip away.

Since then, I have been reading and writing, writing and reading. Along the way, I’ve developed particular tastes and expectations for the books that I come across (and the books I hope to one day write!). Whether in prose or poetry, I cherish works that elucidate voices that have historically been neglected, that push the boundaries of the quotidian, that prompt readers to think beyond their comfort zones. It is with this spirit that I come to Sundress. Working with individuals who share the same ethos for literature has been a dream of mine for a long time.

Needless to say, I’m excited to be the new social media intern, to talk about books and words with Sundress followers!

 

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Snigdha Koirala is a third year student of English Literature. Born in Nepal and raised in Canada, she is currently living in Scotland, where she is pursuing her degree at The University of Edinburgh. Her love affair with prose and (more recently) poetry has led her work to appear in The Ogilvie, The Inkwell, and other publications. In her spare time, she can be found wandering the streets of Edinburgh, watching cheesy Rom-Coms, and reading bell hooks.

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Meet Our New Editorial Intern, Samantha Isler

sam-w-maitaiI was born in 1992, exactly twenty years after Bewitched aired its final season. Coincidence? Yes. But my parents named me after Samantha Stephens, the nose-twitching witch at the center of the show, so it is a weird coincidence. I cannot wiggle my nose, which is probably the one thing holding me back from my magical destiny.

I once saw a ghost in my undergraduate college’s theater. He followed me for a month and would appear directly in my line of vision, not at all like the stories of shadow men in the corner of your eye. A year later, visiting alumni were discussing their own sightings. One woman described exactly who I had seen. “That’s Harvey,” she said. He had been appearing for at least thirty years.

I started college as a biology major before switching to English/Theater. I’m now a second-year graduate student in Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program, but I still love science. My best friend mapped the genome of a species of lactating beetle. Did you know some beetles lactate? You do now.

A well-made video game can be one of the best storytelling tools in the modern world. However, I am an absolutely dreadful gamer. Years of practice have done nothing. I have owned every generation of Playstation and still forget where the buttons are. If you ever see me on Destiny, run away. It’s for your own good.

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Samantha Isler loves thunderstorms, campfires, and most cheeses. She lives for science fiction, horror, and fantasy in any medium, including comics and theater. Sam is a student in the Writing, Literature, and Publishing graduate program at Emerson College.  Before coming to Emerson, she worked in a bookstore for four years. Her bookshelves have not recovered since.

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Meet Our Newest Intern, Danielle Hayden

 

SundressHeadshot_DanielleHayden I learned to read at a very early age, and I’ve been a word lover ever since. In my burgeoning logophilia I would, with great fervor, read Dr. Seuss books–Green Eggs ‘n Ham was my favorite–aloud to my father. And we’d have spelling bees in the car sometimes: ‘Anthology’ was my favorite word to spell; ‘Massachusetts’ the word I kept getting wrong. I amassed a large collection of books, devouring everything I could get my hands on so long as it wasn’t boring. Some kids dragged blankies from place to place, but I carried a book pretty much everywhere I went, a trend I still continue today on occasion (one reason I carry large handbags).

If that wasn’t nerdy enough, I’d often sit at the dining room table and I’d read the encyclopedia as I ate my food. Other times I’d read my brother’s Calvin & Hobbes books while eating, a fact that I hope regains some of the coolness points I lost when I mentioned encyclopedias. The bottom line is that I had my head stuck in a book pretty much every day, which was fun in and of itself but also well-suited to my introversion and shyness. Reading gave me such joy, probably more than anything else did growing up.

My writing came a bit later. I was reading all these stories and I decided that I wanted to start creating my own. They weren’t very good, of course, and endings were always hard for me (they still are, actually), but I had fun making up tales. I decided in high school that I wanted to be a writer, but that I would write only on the side–just for fun. I was going to become an amazing, life-changing English teacher (the kind they made movies and Oprah episodes about) and then I’d publish a bit here and there. Despite the judgment I received for not going into a STEM field, I declared a major in English Language & Literature, with a minor in philosophy (just ’cause it’s so fascinating) and headed out into the field of education to start what I was sure would be a decades-long career exploring the canon of William Shakespeare (fun fact: he and I share a birthday).
Like so many other things in life, stuff didn’t go according to plan.

I did become an English teacher (as well as an Algebra and French teacher; I really, really love math and foreign languages too) but I realized that pedagogy was not for me. I even went to graduate school and then came back to try teaching again in a different environment, but I still couldn’t stick with it. I taught for a little while but I concluded that I had the heart for it, but not the stomach. I still worked and volunteered on occasion as a tutor, and I helped launch a blog, Lolly’s Classroom, where teachers could write about children’s books; education was still important to me. Unfortunately, however, I had to leave the classroom.

So, I was back to square one. I took some odd jobs here and there, trying to figure out my proper place. Eventually I ended up at a 9-5 office job and I was pretty miserable; I liked my colleagues a lot but the work itself was suffocating. I always had a passion for the written word that had never waned. But I would always dismiss it as just a hobby, not something that I would pursue full time. Then a couple years ago, I got tired of going from job to job to job only to leave dissatisfied and unfulfilled. I decided to take the plunge and follow my heart (a very Millennial thing to do, yes, but I refuse to feel bad about it). Working with words was what I really wanted to do. Words, I reasoned, have been consistent in my life. I have many goals and many interests, and I identify strongly with Emilie Wapnick’s idea of a “multipotentialite”, but words are still number one on my list and will likely always be.

…Which leads me to where I am now. A freelancer’s life can be difficult and demoralizing–especially for a sensitive soul like me. But I’m not giving up, at least not yet. I’ve worked with an art museum, I worked with a local press. I sent some of my writing out, reached out to some websites to see if I could help with copy, I applied to this and to that. Some things have worked out, others haven’t. But I’m still here, and I’m determined. My main responsibilities right now are as editor for the online literary magazine Pif, as a grant writer for the non-profit organization Our Golden Hour, and as a research assistant on a linguistics project. I’m very excited to begin working with Sundress Publications so I can fill my life with even more words.
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Danielle Hayden is a freelance writer and editor who grew up in Detroit and now lives in Seattle. Included among all the things she loves are: learning, books, watching films, making lists, and collecting great quotes–sometimes as tattoos. She reads about everything, and writes about almost as much. Danielle is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts and of the Oxford comma.
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Project Bookshelf: Emily Corwin

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My boyfriend, Joe and I just got this bookcase from a friend who is moving to Poland. We’ve been looking for an extra bookcase for months since we both have so many books (and, let’s face it, we’re going to keep buying them). For now, I’ve been putting favorite books and recently-read books on this shelf. My goal this summer is to read through all of the poetry collections I gathered during the school year. Some recent favorites on here:Blues Triumphant by Jonterri Gadson, Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open by Diane Seuss, Gilt by Raena Shirali, Careful Mountainby Sara June Woods, Take This Stallion by Anaïs Duplan, Meet Me Here At Dawn by Sophie Klahr, Wasp Queen by Claudia Cortese, Bestiary by Donika Kelly,Wunderkammer by Cynthia Cruz, Landscape with Headless Mama and Protection Spell by Jennifer Givhan, and Sugarblood by Liz Bowen.

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Emily Corwin is an MFA candidate in poetry at Indiana University-Bloomington and the former Poetry Editor for Indiana Review. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, Day One, Hobart, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, THRUSH, and elsewhere. She has two chapbooks, My Tall Handsome (Brain Mill Press) and darkling (Platypus Press) which were published in 2016. Her first full-length collection, tenderling is forthcoming in 2018 from Stalking Horse Press. You can follow her online at @exitlessblue.

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