In Pursuit of a Better Élan

Élan in its final form–the beautiful, glossy print book chock-full of unique, brilliant art and writing–is, in truth, the realization of a dream rooted in a 30+ year legacy of publication. Every year, through the power of collaboration and teamwork, we somehow manage to spin a book out of thin air. Of course, this takes a lot of care and foresight that may seem difficult or obtuse in the moment, but every inflection in the process ends up visible in the final product.

One of the biggest problems the role of Poetry Editor presents is that it is nebulous–ever-changing and thus reliant on its respective staff member’s initiative and desire to maximize their time on Élan. The process of selecting writing to print is arduous and intense, and it is not a system without faults. In pursuit of efficiency, we are always looking for a way to manage this system: to streamline it, edit and tweak a role or two where we can, to make sure we produce the best product as efficiently as humanly possible. It’s all about automation–making sure that in the little assembly line of publication, everyone is doing their part well and spending their time wisely.

In my last year of being on the Élan staff, I, along with my co-genre editor want to take personal charge of the fine tuning of this process, which should frankly be the raison d’être of the staff: making sure we get a book out in as timely a fashion as possible. Realizing that that initiative was all I needed to kickstart the process was my biggest hurdle to leap last year. Understanding that, if I wanted to change things, the only way that change would be realized through is my own dedication to my goals, took a surprisingly long time to realize. In a standard, public learning environment, students are so rarely forced to think for themselves in an interesting manner. How often have you entered an English class and the teacher, upon first seeing you, asks “How do you want to change things?”

Getting my brain used to that mode of thinking took a long time. I learned–perhaps a little too late in the game–to check in with myself, to explore dissatisfaction and make a gambit to ameliorate the problem, and, most of all, that change is good. Suggestions are good. If it means an Élan that runs smoothly and powerfully like the well-oiled machine any good magazine should be, change must be welcome from all sources. In pursuit of an ever-better Élan, Excelsior.

Conor Naccarato, Senior Poetry Editor

Fears and Wonders

When I was a Junior learning the ropes of my role as Art Editor, I was daunted by my responsibilities. Now that I am a Senior, however, and I know the entirety of this process, I plan to utilize those skills I gained to take me through this year. As Art Editor, it is my responsibility to choose visual art pieces to pair with writing pieces in the Élan book. We receive work from Douglas Anderson and other schools across the nation (and even other countries). I keep communication with DA’s art department through Art Liaisons; they are the ones who collect pieces from DA artists. I also keep communication with the Managing Editor because they receive art that comes from outside of school.

After all the art is compiled, my Junior partner and I sift through what we have, narrow the pieces down, then present them to the rest of Élan to conduct the voting process – it is here where the submissions will get narrowed even further. During this process, we search for story potential and uniqueness.

My role blends two art forms – visual art and writing. As a person passionate about both, this was the job I knew I wanted when I stepped into Élan; it’s always so satisfying to send out those acceptance letters to the artists who get into this publication. It makes you realize how much of an opportunity Élan’s platform gives to emerging artists. It is so important to fuel the next generation of creative minds – that is Élan’s goal in the long run.

That is why students shouldn’t be afraid to submit to this publication! There is always a sense of pride when something you’ve created is recognized by others. I remember when I got accepted into Élan Freshmen year – for one, I was surprised. I didn’t think my Freshmen writing was up to par with any of the works that were accepted in that publication. It gave me validation. After that, there were submission periods I did not get published, but that just made me work harder for the next time. You’ll surprise yourself with things you didn’t know you could do. Besides, it never hurts to try.

Submitting your art can also encourage growth and trying new techniques. Since that first acceptance letter, my writing has improved significantly. Granted, I lean towards poetry now, whereas fiction was my go-to Freshmen year. I still appreciate both branches of writing equally, but it’s the raw emotion in poetry draws me towards it. For many, poetry gives them a space to show their most authentic selves, reevaluating where they stand in their own lives. At least, that’s been my experience. Poetry has opened a window into myself where I can see the emotions I need to draw out. All Art, in fact, has this universal release. It teaches, connects us to universal experiences, and heals us. For many, it gets them through trauma, other life struggles, and helps them process the world – many young people don’t know they have that power.

As Art Editor, I am exposed to so much vulnerability in both visual art and writing. In many ways, seeing that openness has encouraged me to be more vulnerable in my writing.

 As I leave this chapter behind in the next couple of months, passing down the Élan legacy to the next generation, I realize how daunting life is. There are so many things I have yet to experience, as well as things I fear experiencing. Even with these fears, however, I am still left with my writing – a space that allows me the opportunity to explore these wonders and terrors.

In the end, they are more than words, and visual art is more than the visual. Humans give art life; a story beyond this very one we still barely know anything about. Élan gives students a space to show those struggles, fears, and wonders. That is why Élan is so important to me, and why I am going to make this year count.

In fact, I am already making plans so these next couple of months run smoothly. I will be focusing on expanding Élan’s submission reach and locating new art schools in and out of the country. I will also be working to maintain a steady stream of communication within Élan, keeping track of dates, and knowing what is required of me at all times. Through this organization, I carry the weight of my role and keep Élan from falling behind. If there is anything I learned in my Junior year, it is that this is a team effort. By exposing me to such a professional environment, I have learned to be more productive and responsible. It is these skills that I will carry on with me in the future. That is what I want others to see about Élan – the process is rigorous, but we do this because we are passionate about it.

Reece Braswell, Senior Art Editor

Continuing the Legacy

In the beginning of my junior year when I was choosing which role on Élan I would most like to be on, I picked the junior fiction/CNF editor. I’ve always loved reading fiction, and knew that I would enjoy playing such a large part in what pieces get selected for Élan. I was lucky enough to get the role, and throughout the year I learned so much through the senior editor, Valerie. At the end of the year I felt prepared to take on the role of the senior fiction and was excited to continue refining the role to make it as good as it can be.

As genre editors, both the senior and junior fiction and poetry editors lead the reads process. We remind the Élan staff of our guidelines and what qualities we should be looking for in work for Élan. When the staff is done reading all of the pieces, the genre editors and the editor in chief come together to select the pieces that will go into Élan. Last year the genre editors did a lot to make the reads process run smoothly and efficiently, and I hope we continue to do so this year. The genre editors hope to take on as much as we can within our selection process, and continue to select pieces for Élan that represent the magazine and its legacy well.

Playing a big role in the submissions process taught me a lot about who I am as a writer as well as what writing I am drawn to. It also taught me how to leave my personal taste aside and think about what pieces would fit the magazine best. At first I wasn’t sure how to select pieces for the magazine, but when I truly considered what Élan’s values were I felt better about selecting pieces. Without Élan, I would have never had the chance to learn from an experience like this. It is one that is truly unique as well as educational. It’s inspiring to read other writers work, and I am excited to continue doing it in my senior year.

To any teen writers that are hesitant to submit their work, my strongest piece of advice would be to just submit. Rip off the bandage. It can be nerve-wracking to send your writing out into the world, but Élan is a magazine for teen writers made by teen writers. The Élan staff is here to uplift young voices and we are eager to hear your stories. Submit your fiction, CNF, poetry, art, etc. If you don’t get selected, it’s good practice for submitting your work to magazines. And if you don’t get selected, continue to submit! We encourage as many submissions as possible. Go through past editions of Élan to see what we are looking for as well as our guidelines. Once again, Élan is here for teen writers and we encourage you to submit!

Anna Howse, Senior Fiction/CNF Editor