Becoming Junior Editor-in-Chief this year on Élan has taught me about writing in ways I didn’t expect, because being editor isn’t just about organizing people or putting together the editions. It’s about cultivating a collection of work that defines the publication. My role forced me to look at writing not just for its individual value, or my person connection, but from a critical eye: seeing the merits in work I don’t immediately connect to, defining why a piece matters outside of my personal experience. When we were reading for the spring book, I had to step in for the first time and make executive decisions about every piece we published: Did it represent Élan? Did it show thoughtful and professional technique? In the end, learning to identify the techniques of a piece of writing has given me a new approach to my own art.
Before Élan, I would often produce work, and struggle through understand what exactly happened on the page before me. I knew when a piece was strong, when it fell flat, but I could rarely define why these things happened. Selecting work for our books taught me why: I began to identify specific and thoughtful word choice, structure, characters, imagery, and poetic ambiguity, placed in the right moments, which made the words of a piece come interact with the reader. I was writing poetry myself as these ideas became clearer, and for every step of revision, I found my path more clearly defined than ever before: I picked out where the diction lost its power, where the images came out dull, the metaphors obvious, and moved forward with careful steps to create a new draft. Élan taught me how to read like an editor, and it taught me to become more decisive in my own work.
This year was all about learning for me. How to select pieces, how to release a book, how to pick out spelling errors or comma malfunctions in extensive paragraph. How to build up Élan Literary Magazine, constantly improving what we do and how we do it. I move into next year with an immense amount of knowledge, apprehension, and excitement for things to come. I will be challenged as Senior Editor, to make decisions and set plans other members of the staff depend on for releasing each edition. Perhaps most important, I will be educating the new Junior Editor in how to take on these responsibilities, passing on the Douglas Anderson tradition of this literary magazine to the next year, the next audience.
Bringing together writers and artists from around the nation, and the world, into a single collection, has been an incredible process this year. Few things have been quite so difficult and demanding, but few have been as rewarding. I have gained such respect for the work of student artists: their bravery, talent, energy, and passion for expression. Above all, next year, I am looking forward to reaching out to as many people as this publication can, gathering the stories of young writers, young artists, to share and inspire.
–Ana Shaw, Junior-Editor-in-Chief