An Ending/Beginning

When I first heard about Elan in my freshman year at Douglas Anderson, I thought it was a selective opportunity for upperclassmen. I remember looking through the pages of Elan’s online fall 2015 edition and thinking that I could never have the skills to have my pieces selected. I never considered my writing anything more than mediocre. In my freshman year, writing was a way to understand myself and the environment around me. It was the first time I wrote about culture and the identities associated with my heritage. This is when “Stains of Spanish Grease” was published in Elan’s Spring 2016 issue. This is when I rushed home to tell my parents and friends that I was a part of something important. This is when I realized that I liked writing images and manipulating them into poetry. First, Elan was an outlet for me as an artist. Not only did my friends and family recognize what I was doing, but people in the community valued what I created. Before I was a part of the staff, Elan asked me to read at multiple events in Jacksonville, which made me feel like an authentic artist. I didn’t think of myself as a student who was selected in a high school publication.  I was an artist who created art, an artist eager to be a part of the literary world.

In two short years, Elan has changed me drastically. I took on leadership roles that made me build relationships with the staff. I also learned how to communicate with the staff more efficiently, as well as confront problems that developed over time. One of my biggest projects was curating the “Voices Unearthed” gallery exhibit at Yellow House. The exhibit was a turning point for Elan’s recognition in the community for artists and students. I saw the impact that Elan left on people coming in and out of the gallery, people who were astonished by the publication’s vulnerability and originality. I realized how important the publication was for people who were just discovering their identities and place in the community.

I feel in debt to my staff advisor, Tiffany Melanson, for always being honest and reliable. I look up to her and the changes she has fostered into each one of our lives. She made me appreciate art for what it can do for not only for myself, but the literary community around me. The editorial, communal, and marketing skills that I’ve learned in Elan are unique and valuable for any career I decide to start in the future. The reality that my time in Elan is ending feels bittersweet. I feel like I’m leaving behind a part of myself that took years to develop and mold. However, I know that Elan will continue to positively affect future staff members/artists for years to come.

Evelyn Alfonso, Senior Poetry Editor

The Privilege of Being an Accomplished Writer

Being on a literary staff has proven to me over and over again how my body physically needs, desires, and uses writing. This magazine has displayed more of my insides and what I believe in more than anyone will ever realize. My opinions, my thoughts, even my own writing it in the thick margins of our books and posts. Every event I have helped plan and carry out are more than just rewarding for the grade in the class because when I walk away from a reading or marketing booth, I know that I’m leaving a part of me for the rest of the world to enjoy. The Élan Literary Magazine has even changed how I carry myself, because before this year I didn’t see myself as a writer or poet or artist. Before I truly started being involved in all the activities and social events Élan has done this year and engaging consistently in our community, I couldn’t put myself in any category. But as my life moves forward, I now know I have a welcoming, warm place in the literary world. Outside of the classroom, outside of Jacksonville, I feel like I’m a real member and admirer of literary art.

So far this year, my participation and involvement in all of our community events has skyrocketed. Events like Color Me Kona and Jax Book Fest have been platforms for local artists, young and old, to get out there in the community and get their work out there! There is so much more to writing than sitting in a room with my laptop open! There are people out there who care, who want to talk to you about it, and who admire any writers’ attempts at making art. Color Me Kona was one of the first events of the year that made everyone’s eyes on the staff open to how much potential and importance community events hold. When the Jax Book Fest came around this year, a chance for the staff and our fellow published writers to get their work spoken aloud in a microphone with a room full of people, it was all the more important and beautiful to experience. The clichés are true – we all need art to keep moving forward.

As a writer, I take my own work more seriously. And I know this seems like a weird, funny thing to say, considering the title of this essay, but I truly realized that my work speaks to people other than myself. People appreciate art in all its level, but I think sometimes we forget to appreciate our own work for what it is. Being able to see my art in a new light, it has made me grow as a humbler person. Now as a senior, I know my time on the staff is quickly coming to an end but as it does I have grown to understand more about myself as a leader and partner when it comes to these organizations. Without everyone on the staff, half the things we’ve achieved would have been impossible – that alone gives me comfort knowing that I was a part of something as wonderful and inspiring as Élan.

Valerie Busto, Senior Fiction/CNF Editor

A Sanctuary for Growth

Most recently I was commissioned to create work that surrounded an exhibition presented at the Cummer Museum here in Jacksonville, as a part of the closing ceremony for the exhibit. I believe that Elan gave me the confidence and the courage to take advantage of the opportunity and let it stretch me as an artist. To not be afraid to admit I have things to say. To demand to be heard. I think one of the faults of being a writer, especially a student writer, is that when it comes to creating, we move through the world with our heads down; we forget that our work matters to people outside of ourselves. Elan asks the exact opposite of that from its staff members. As the Marketing Editor, I have had so many wonderful opportunities to be an active part of the Jacksonville arts and literary community. Sitting in a small room, such as the one I sat in during Jax Lit 3, and having a conversation about why art is important with people who see me as an artist is not an opportunity many people get to be a part of. I remember someone saying something like, “If one person is passionate about something, it will last, and if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by just a few others who are as passionate, anything is possible.” I feel as if, when it comes to the written word, I am always that passionate person. So Elan has given me the skills to take that passion and craft it into success. Every time I sit in one of those rooms I am shocked back into the root of why I continue to write. I am reminded that I am a creator, a maker. It’s who I am.

Through Elan, I’ve been asked to be present in the moment, to feed those connections and relationships with other artists, and to always consider what matters to me in my own life. After being on the Elan staff for almost two whole years, I’ve come to realize I’m skilled beyond just my writing. That’s something that I used to be insecure about because I would look around a room at so many people who had so many skills, and I felt they could better apply to the “real world” and the ideals that are pressed upon society in day to day life. And there I was, someone who was good at telling stories. But I’ve sat in so many rooms with so many talented and successful people, now, who are doing the same things I’m doing that I could never possibly believe, again, that my skills don’t matter or add up to anything.

Moving forward, I plan to continue immersing myself in the world of the written word and pursuing an MFA in poetry. With Tiffany Melanson as the Staff Advisor, I’ve been encouraged to understand myself and my work outside of the confines of school walls. I think without Elan I would have never had the chance to see myself, really take a step-back and look at myself. Elan has been my sanctuary for growth.

Lex Hamilton, Senior Marketing/Public Relations Editor