One of the biggest treasures given to me by being on the Elan staff is a complete submission of the art community in my own city. Outside the walls on an art school, where often times it feels like I’m being smothered by teachers telling me the importance of art, Elan has shown me the community it directly aids. I’m no longer a student in a school for creative writing, taking classes to deepen my craft. I’m an artist whose work and dedication is folded into a binding book. Elan has drawn me out of the comfort zone of my school and placed me in middle schools advocating for literature and art galleries presenting amazing art to people who want to see it. I look at local artists differently, at Jacksonville differently, and myself different. Invaluable as precious stones, Elan has demonstrated to me the absolute need I have for art and the need the world has for it too.
Unlike a math or even an English class, the skills I’ve gained in Elan have shown me more about myself than anything else. For example, I can become a leader but I can also be a supported and follower. The many, many, many ups and downs we have had a staff (sometimes we can’t always work as solely friends) has enabled us to meet a professional level of respect. I don’t feel like my voice is snuffed out, and it empowers me just as much when I see my friends succeeded in Elan too. Often times we forget that compromise sometimes can only be reached during discussion, and I think the Elan staff has grown in professional ways along with compassionate ways. We’ve been able to brainstorm together, compile resources together, and create beautiful events (and obviously a beautiful book!) together.
When my time comes to walk away from Elan and let a new year continue without me, I hope to have gained a deeper involvement in my community. I want the artists at my school to be recognized and for the books we produce in Elan to be stretched all over Jacksonville. I hope to gain more knowledge on how to engage with our audiences, to understand the mechanics of marketing a product people in this day and age don’t seem to notice much, and to develop a bigger voice for young artists than the four walls of the Elan room. We already know our voice is loud and our material is powerful, we just need to get it out there.
Along with all the regular responsibilities us Elan staff members have, the seniors have gained junior counterparts to be there for the entire process this year. Last year, some editorial roles had juniors – like the Layout and Design Editor and the Editor in Chief – but this year I, Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Editor, have my own! She’s already proven herself to me that she wants this position to grow just as much as I do, and that she’s ready to take our important editorial role by the horn. I want this mentorship to be a place for her to examine what I do and how I do it so she can soon fire back with her own understandings of the role. I can already tell she’s strong-minded and dedicated, and I’m aware that she won’t need as much help as I would’ve wanted desperately last year when I was a lone editor. It’s going to be a learning process for both of us, me learning how to actually be a mentor to someone and Anna learning to become an editor, but I have no doubt she’ll be successful and give great points and ideas to each discussion as she’s already beginning to do. I plan to never leave her in the dust confused, and I expect her involvement will be just as important as mine in each project we tackle together!
– Valerie Busto, Senior Fiction/CNF Editor