Z Eihausen: What can you tell me about your educational career?
Tori Finklea: I did community college for two years, and then I came to UT to finish my Creative Writing and Philosophy degrees at UT. After I graduated UT, I went to the Columbia publishing course in New York for the summer of 2022.
Z Eihausen: What experience were you hoping to gain from your development internship at Sundress Publications when you first started?
Tori Finklea: Honestly, I didn’t have any expectations because it was the first real internship that I had. I wanted to learn more about publishing, working for a press, and what that looks like. Sundress is good for that because it has a lot of moving parts. There’s a lot going on, a lot of different tiers, a lot of different sections. I didn’t really know what I was walking into, so I got to walk in with an open mind.
Z Eihausen: How did your Sundress internship contribute to your academic and or professional life now?
Tori Finklea: Very heavily. Right now, I am an Events Coordinator at Union Ave Books, and a huge part of my confidence in my ability to do that was my work with Sundress…not quite my internship, but my internship was what got me into the role of Staff Director, which is where I got the experience of creating graphics, making sure that everybody knew where they were supposed to be, and essentially the very basic level of planning an event. Working remotely, working with a team in general–especially in a professional setting–and learning to work towards deadlines in a way that wasn’t school work was something I hadn’t done before.
Z Eihausen: Do you feel as though your internship at Sundress prepared you for postgraduate life? Why or why not?
Tori Finklea: This is going to sound silly, but my ability to write emails. I didn’t know how to say what I meant without being so straightforward that it’s rude. I work in publishing now, in addition to my job at the bookstore, so it gave me the sense of what it looks like to work with writers, even in their different capacities, how to deal with writers who are putting their hearts and souls out in submissions, and advocating for writers in the development internship. It also gave me the confidence to advocate for myself. When I was Staff Director and Creative Director, leading workshops and introducing people for the Reading Series gave me that confidence and ability to lead events and talk to people.
Z Eihausen: What is one piece of advice you have for undergraduate English majors when preparing for the job market?
Tori Finklea: Don’t give up, and don’t short yourself. There’s lots of places that need the skills that you gain in an English degree. Everybody’s journey is different. Your path is yours, so don’t give up and don’t change yourself, because the things that you learn are important and valuable.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
As a book lover and community enthusiast, Tori Finklea (nee Mullins) makes a point to fill her plate with the things that bring her joy. When she isn’t managing events at Union Ave Books or working as an intern with Fortier Public Relations, you can find her binge-reading fantasy, watching cat videos with her partner, or drinking tea with her friends.
Z Eihausen (she/her) is an emerging writer from Tennessee. She is currently a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville studying creative writing and philosophy. She previously interned at Sundress Academy for the Arts and is now Staff Director. She also likes bees.