Onto of being a large publication which posts a student produced book every year, and two online editions to be read by anyone on the internet, Élan tries to be a part of the local community more than any literary magazine I’ve seen do. We try to reach outside our four walls and spread out throughout the community. My experience working with the staff to connect and engage our audiences has taken me outside of the editorial room and into middle schools, libraries, art museums, and even skateparks (I know what you’re thinking). What we call “community engagement” in Élan is truly one of our biggest tasks where we sit down almost every day to discuss why we want to get out and what our main goals are with each project. Being on the Élan staff has taught me more about enriching the lives of people around us and people who are interested in our work than I ever thought possible.
Like I said, we’ve visited middle schools to have discussions on literature and have held events in art museums that let us personally capture an audience that is truly interested in the work Élan is publishing. One of the most impactful events we held was one that I personally was the personal in charge. Kona Skatepark, the nation’s oldest running skatepark, holds an event every year in which artist in the community come together for one day and celebrate what makes them inspired. The event is called Color Me Kona and artists of all mediums – singing, dancing, writing, drawing, photography, etc. – join for this special event to inspire the youth in Jacksonville Florida and this year Élan was proud to be a part of it. With our booth and stack of books prepared, the staff stood outside in the blazing sun (and even a little rain in the morning) and talked to dozens of people who we are. Not only did we sell our books, a very important part of any international literary magazine, but we also were able to bring a deeper understanding to why what the Élan staff does is important. I felt like my role in the event helped not only open the minds of children, teens, and adults, but also open my mind to the possibility of connecting with people on a broader scale.
Leaving that event after roughly ten hours reminded me of how much I deeply care about Élan Literary Magazine. It is more than just how many books we sell and if anyone from the event wants to now submit to Élan. I became truly excited about all the growing the staff had done in those ten hours. Everyone’s faces were eager to talk to complete strangers (mind I remind you, we are a staff of writers who can tend to be on the introvert side of things) about not only Élan but writing and why it matters to them. We all felt accomplished when people began to gather around and listen to what we had to say about our trustee staff. When I came into the editorial room the next week, I was ecstatic to share how amazing community events, like Color Me Kona, matter in our society and to me.
– Valerie Busto, Senior Fiction/CNF Editor