Reflecting on Opportunities

My experience on the staff of Elan Literary Magazine has helped expand my perception of what it means to be a writer. For a long time, I viewed writing as a solitary endeavor, something I did for myself and myself alone. And while I’m grateful for the impact writing has had on me as an individual, I’ve grown to love the art form even more as I’ve become a member of the literary community here in Jacksonville. Through this class, although it’s certainly more than just a class, I’ve been able to interact with some amazing people and share with them how much writing and Elan mean to me.

As a young writer, I am so grateful to Elan for giving me a chance to share my voice. I’ve been able to speak about things through my writing which I can’t imagine discussing outright, and Elan has given me the power to put those thoughts out into the world. Last month, a girl I’ve met in passing told me she read my poem, Oil/Water, in the fall edition of our book. She said the poem really resonated with her and her experiences. In that moment, I completely understood what writers mean when they say all of the drafting and struggling would be worth it if just one reader identified with their work. This interaction meant a lot to me personally because I often feel like my writing exists in a vacuum, read only by my teachers and my mother. To see my work impacting other people was an incredible feeling, and Elan made this possible.

An experience this year that’s been especially rewarding was volunteering at Elan’s booth during Color Me Kona, a community event full of local artists and vendors. The crowd at Kona was a little bit different from our usual crowd for galleries or readings because the setting of the skate park attracted a variety of people, which made it an even more valuable experience to me. We had many people —some who love writing and some who haven’t read a book in a year— approach our booth and listen to us speak about our publication. Being a part of that event made me realize how important art is to everyone, no matter how old they are or where they come from.

As I move on to the next stage in my life, I know that I will take many skills, experiences, and ideas from my time on the staff of Elan. Beyond the technical skills I’ve learned, like how to perform a blind reads process and format books in InDesign, I’ve learned a multitude of interpersonal skills. As a staff, we take on a lot of responsibilities, and it’s sometimes a challenge trying to get everything organized and carry out a successful outreach event while simultaneously trying to publish an edition of a literary magazine. Elan has taught me, however, rewarding all of the hard work is in the end.

Meredith Abdelnour, Senior Layout  and Design Editor

Growth Through Art

As I am nearing the end of my senior year at Douglas Anderson, the excitement of my life outside of high school is directly paralleled with my equal disappointment of having to leave behind all that I deemed important to me. Elan would be one of these. Though I have only been able to be an art editor for two years, what I learned from my experience on the staff will follow me the rest of my life.

An Elan event that I know I will never forget is the Yellow House gallery we put together in 2018. I was the art manager, allowing me the responsibility of selecting, procuring, and displaying the visual art that would be accompanying the written pieces chosen by other members on the team. This process took a lot longer than I had hoped it would have, given that the artists often already had their piece displayed elsewhere, or they simply were not responsive to email. However, I will never forget the payoff of all our hard work the day of the show. Throughout the entire process, we prevailed. Every obstacle that presented itself was always immediately countered without hesitation, making the process almost seem seamless despite the constant need for plan revisions. The teamwork, dedication, and organization that was required of all the members participating in the creation of that event was unlike any I had experienced before. It was the newness of that experience though that taught me so much about how to keep situations under control in my own life through similar strategies of compromise and calmness despite all that may fall in the way of a goal.

Outside of my general personal growth, I have also become a better artist through my time on the staff. I have been exposed to so many different mediums of art, all of which are utilized as a form of essential expression. Of all the lessons I have learned in Elan, the most important is the vitality of art. I have adopted the understanding that it is the most important form of individual expression that allows universality the further you reach into yourself. The connection that can be made with other people in speaking hard truths is one that cannot be replicated by any other practice. As an art editor, I was exposed to so many stories and lives through something as simple as the analysis of art they submitted for publication. The beauty and truth of visual art has fueled my own writing’s creative process. I am inspired to speak to feelings I fear acknowledging or that I don’t know how to name in a word or two. Exposure to art pushes to me move against my own limitations. I constantly create in pursuance of my personal truth, as it is in my ability to create that I am granted freedom and solace. At this time in my life, my identity as an artist has become one of the most important pieces of my definition of self.

Kathryn Wallis, Senior Art Editor

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