The Importance of Élan

Tatiana's Blog PictureAs we close in on Élan’s 30th consecutive year in publication, it’s important to remind ourselves why we’ve made it this far and why we’ll continue to publish in the future. So often, young writers are marginalized by their age, lack of experience, societal status, and perceived lack of skill. Most “big” publications skim over these authors, mistaking those qualities for an inability to craft a compelling story full of depth and growth.

The youth’s perspective is one often distorted by social media and trends. It’s because of this that the young person’s perspective in literary communities is all the more important. The stories of people our age are just as important (in some cases, more important) as the stories written by established writers, particularly in these developmental years where so much is unknown to us. And not the post-adolescent Judy Blume novels written by an adult on the life of a young person, but actual stories written by actual young people motivated to share their own truths, flawed as they may be. We’re all born into our own reality that’s continuously shaped by our experiences. With each story told, we chip away not at the answer, but at the question. Élan does so much more than share the works of young writers. It keeps young writers from slipping through the cracks. It shares the stories we love hearing and forces us to listen to ones we don’t.

Élan’s 30th anniversary marks an important milestone in more ways than one. In some ways, it proves naysayers wrong by reminding the community of the drive and motivation of young people to tell stories. In others, it reminds us writers there is demand for our work, and sometimes, all it takes is that boost to bring us back to why we do this. To chip away at the question. To stick it to the man. To tell a badass story.

-Tatiana Saleh, Community Outreach Editor

Reading the First Élan

Jacob's Blog Post PictureWhen working within a publication with as long a history as Élan, it’s easy to forget how complicated and interwoven tradition is. For 30 years, this magazine has collected and judged student writing and art under the supervision of teachers and students. There have been dozens of print issues, ranging from handwritten construction-paper projects to typewriter printouts, from small wads of paper custom-printed for Extravaganza to professionally produced full-color journals. Hundreds of staff members have worked on the magazine, and thousands of authors have given their work to the custody of the advisors, the editors, and the staff members of Élan.

It’s easy to forget. You work on only the most recent content, the newest poems, stories still in such rough drafts that writers will change entire plotlines when asked to. For those submitting work, it’s the same concept. Writing is new—it’s unique, it’s singular for the person creating it. Even if a long tradition of writing exists for a form or a character type or a style, the work feels like it only exists in a moment. Still, over time I realized how much my own writing had benefitted from the ideas and works of other authors—never from my contemporaries as much as from long dead authors who had been all but forgotten in the modern day.

It was thinking about tradition that made me want to investigate the history and lineage of Élan. To understand my role in the publication and the role of the work we were creating, I knew I had to look to the past and see where we had come from.

It started in 1986 with the first edition. Élan began as a letter-size stapled magazine, supervised by the English department with advisors that included Ms. Lynch and Mr. Lipp. Each piece was type-written and Xeroxed into the actual magazine, often with strange but eye-catching layout and almost always accompanied by illustrations, not by contributing artists but by the staff members themselves. The cover is blocky, grungy, impressively raw. The art is black and white, simple, almost primitive in its action and emotion.

But the most impressive part of the first edition is the writing. One would think that writing so unpolished and unprofessional, so unguided by the structures of a formal department, would be hard to read—spiky, sharp. And one would be right—the poems often rhyme, the stories are simple, and the style overall is what one would expect from any high school, not an arts magnet. But the honesty of the writing still shows. An essay from an English class, strange as it would be in our Élan, feels like it has a place in the first edition because it was written with care and passion.

Passion sums up the first Élan. It was simple, it was D.I.Y., but the people making it cared about writing. They cared so much that they started a magazine. It’s our job to continue that tradition of caring and passion—even if it feels rote and mechanical, art began and still begins in a place of creative excitement.

-Jacob Dvorak, Senior Fiction Editor

30th Anniversary Alumni Appreciation: Jenn Carter

Èlan Literary Magazine is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. In honor of our longevity we are posting work from our editorial staff alumnus, which includes biographies, Q&A’s, and excerpts of their pieces.

Jennifer Carter Blog Post PictureJenn Carter graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in 2013. She is currently a double major in Theater and Creative Writing at Florida State University and will be graduating Summer 2016. Her play Missouri Hymns opens as a part of FSU School of Theater’s original works festival New Horizons this spring. This play stages poetry in a unique immersive theatrical experience. After graduating she plans on continuing to research how poetry blends and transforms when paired with other artistic mediums, especially theater. She awaits to hear back from many MFA programs, and has currently been accepted into Episcopal Service Corp in Washington, DC.

How did your experience at DA influence your current artistic development?

It gave me the discipline to endure as an artist in the collegiate world. It gave me a home to fondly look back on, and gave me the strength to continue writing.

 

Trailer Park Aubade

 (From Èlan 2013)

Last night

your smile has a yellow haze of

“good old days”,

the sunset over the drugstore

making out by

the dumpster, our initials

scrawled on the belly of a metal beast

fed on

empty beer cans.

 

This morning

Stevie lyrics

bring back memories beneath

barnyard cobwebs.

A slow dance to the hum

of moths orbiting florescent

moons.

 

You touch my hair,

nibble my ear and I

I shake you off

an indefinite hangover.

 

We stare out the window.

A series of white trailers stand

at attention like rusted

submarines, and you salute

then with your naked frame.

 

A pink tricycle wheel

still spins.

A mutt chews

Last night’s take out.

A patriotic bird house

with chipped paint

is vacant.

 

Poet’s Drive

(Performed at the Èlan 30th Anniversary Alumni Reading)

Anne Sexton says it only matters
how I remember him. The man
he actually was is irrelevant.
Sexton curls her knees to her chest
and reads Stanislavsky.
She drives down Tennessee Street,
a dream catcher and a rosary hanging
from her rear view mirror. I drive
by her in a 1987 Ford Ranger
we miss each other in our hurried passing.

I’m in a chapel cleaning windows.
He asks me how many windows I cleaned.
I mumble about the pollen.
He doesn’t know about all the poets
driving around in this town.
How we call each other late at night
from the cold side of our pillows.
Instead on the couch he tells me
my poetry is my music.

He doesn’t know Anne Sexton
is a method actor at the podium.
She says by the time she is at the last line
of her work she is a naked woman.
Her voice becomes small and exposed.

I drive away from his house
blasting my actual music
so the last pieces of me
can bleed into his life
as he closes the front door.

 

I roll down the windows
open the sun roof at night
pretend there is a texture
to the air in this town.
There is mystery in this
fluorescent neighborhood.

I park my car outside
my apartment. Anne is writing

 

from my third floor bedroom.
She is writing my shadow
against a dimly lit ballad.

I am on repeat driving him home,
watching him slide out of the car
almost always pulling him back.

What do you wish someone had told you about the experience of being a creative writer at DA when you were a student? (Think about things you wish you’d appreciated more when you were here that you now realize brought you value).

My teachers always said, “Never again will you have a community quite like this,” and they were right. And I have been a creative writing major at FSU. I hope to be in a poetry MFA program one day. But I was writing with my peers at DA (most of them) since I was eleven. We were learning to read, and write- we were forming what language and art meant to us for literally the first time. And realizing that is key, but something that doesn’t come fully until you have the perspective of leaving.