Discovery

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.

New Perspective

Being a part of Élan this year has opened my eyes to art and writing in so many new ways. Before, I think a lot of my perception of art was limited to what I’d seen at Douglas Anderson because I hadn’t really been to many art galleries before or seen professional artwork in an environment outside of the school. Being on the staff, though, I got to read pieces and view art that was completely different than the things I’m used to seeing. At first I was surprised by the pieces because they were nothing like those in the various art galleries at DA, these pieces were more abstract and vibrant. However, I came to appreciate them for their raw talent and how looking at them made me feel like I could create something like that as well.

The same goes with the writing that we read as a staff as well. It’s kind of cliché to say, but I was used to the “doom and gloom” that often comes from the depths that the creative writers around me reach into themselves to put into their writing. Knowing that there’s more to write about, different voices to speak from has really opened me up to trying new things on my own time. I’ve been more inspired to write on my own more this year than I have in all three years I’ve been at DA, and I owe a lot of that to Élan and the many artists who submit to the magazine.

I also learned what it means to be a part of a team this year. Of course, I’ve been on teams before so I know the importance of working together, but this year taught me how essential that skill is. If we don’t work together and tell each other what we need we’ll sink, and we’ll all sink together. Communication is the most important part of being a team because if you don’t tell each other your needs, nothing can get done.

I really hope to bring the same amount of passion and dedication to the staff next year that I’ve experienced this year. Having a smaller staff will be a challenge, which will require more dedication and commitment. However, I really enjoyed the staff this year and I know that I’m ready and willing to dedicate my time to keep it afloat next year.

I also hope to bring a better unity to the staff next year. This year, I sometimes felt out the loop when it came to community events or things going on in class. I know that it’s not a priority to keep the people who aren’t a part of an event in the immediate know, but if an extra hand is needed and we have to pull someone in, it’s better if they come in knowing what to do so things will go easier. More importantly, though, I just hope to continue the legacy of Élan successfully and that the coming years continue it as well.

Kinley Dozier – Website/Submissions Editors

Writing on the Outside

Being on the Elan staff has shown me that there is more to being a writer than just putting words to paper. By that I mean writing is a craft that takes practice to be improved on. Earlier in my life, I never really practiced writing. It was never something I did for myself, it was mostly just a prompt I was handed or an assignment due in the next class. Writing like this can make it feel more like a job and less like an art. On the staff, I saw the work put in by other members and realized that being a writer involved work outside a pen and paper. Production of work is very important, of course, but if there is no outreach, no work towards spreading the arts to the community in and out of the walls of the publication, then there is no publication.

On the staff, I was exposed to a lot of writing in different genres from very different voices. This exposure has impacted my own way of writing. I think it is very true that to be a better writing, one has to read. I use to think reading published work from masterful writers was what improved another writer’s art. Being able to read the work of young emerging writers has taught me techniques of stylistic choices and character in all genres.

What I hope to bring to the staff next year is what I’ve learned personally as a writer and what I learned in my positions on the staff.  Again, as a writer, I learned the importance of reaching people with writing, taking our art to the community. Through the positions I held, I learned what it is to take responsibility for this outreach and what it means to be a member of the staff.

-Lindsay Yarn – Website Editor/Creative Non-Fiction Editor