Finding Light

Mary Feimi Blog Post PictureWhen I was a high school freshman, I came to the Douglas Anderson Writers’ Festival with pens packed in my pockets. With each step I took, the paper from my empty notebook clashed against my fingers. I remember rubbing my eyes because the night before I stayed up and re-read each authors bio over and over, re-read pieces I already analyzed because how could one choose a workshop to attend with such an abundance of good writers? I remember being beyond eager to take a “real” workshop from published writers and college professors.

Schedule in hand, I had messed up the times and ended up in a poetry workshop. I thought to myself, “Poetry. Yeah, right. The only thing I can do is write nonfiction.” My palms sweat, my stomach clenching, I sat down. This wasn’t any poetry workshop; this was the workshop of Patricia Smith, the woman who could make Hurricane Katrina beautiful, all through fresh lines packed with imagery and diction. Ms. Smith stood at the podium moving the hair out of her face. What I didn’t know at the time was that she was going to ask me to write the most difficult exercise I had ever done. To write a poem where the person you have had a difficult relationship with is dead in an empty room, laying on a marble slab, and you had to dress them.

For starters, at this point in my life I had never written a poem I was proud of, or even considered writing something this complex. Ms. Smith just kept telling us, all we had to do was try. By the end, I had dressed my father in an Armani suit and leather loafers. Towards the end of the workshop, a couple of people shared what they had written, a couple of people cried. I didn’t write a great poem, or something that would make anyone cry, but I did write something real, something packed with emotion, and thoughtful decisions on why I chose the words I did.

After the workshop I bought Patricia Smith’s book Blood Dazzler, and fell in love with the way her poems made me feel. She signed my book and, as I write this now, I look at it and am still as inspired as I was that day to become a poet. It reads: “Mary, I hope you find light here. I realized that it wasn’t poetry I was afraid of; I was afraid of the journey poetry would take me on. Two years later, with several portfolios of poetry I am proud to say I have written, I look back on that day and am thankful for the exposure it gave me, as well as the inspiration.

With the 2016 Douglas Anderson Writers’ Festival line up full of amazing writers, I anyone who attends can have the same experience I did, if they just try. You too can find light here.

– Mary Feimi, Junior Editor-in-Chief

Community Through Writing

Logan Blog Post PictureI will never forget the day I was accepted into Douglas Anderson as a freshman, a fresh teenager, a creative writer. I expected to learn about imagery or symbolism or whatever colleges were looking for at that point, but didn’t anticipate how important a community can be towards honing my writing skills. The experience that I have gained as a result is nothing short of invaluable.

Class activities were surrounded by group critiques and group discussions. When my submission was accepted into Élan, I was offered a glimpse into the inner workings of the magazine, and the staff who critiqued my piece to help it get to the place it needed to be. I saw a force that was indestructible: teamwork at its finest. This, I thought. This is what I want to have.

And so the years have offered me such as I have wanted. If I need help with a piece due the next morning, I can text a classmate and they will offer me points for revision. If I need help with a piece I have written on my own time, I come to the same group. And, with my entry into the Élan staff, I have found the community of editors to be all I desired and more. There is always help offered, and there is always a person at your side who understands.

It is a horrible feeling, to think of a future where I do not have the connections I possess now in terms of accessing writers who can help me further my work, and vice versa. Consulting writers is the foundation of how I write; I need unbiased judgement on the pieces I’ve drafted five times. I need fresh eyes on the pieces I don’t know how to finish. Community has changed the ways I write for the better; community is essential to writing. After all, how would Élan have begun if not for such a strong foundation of writers?

-Logan Monds, Junior Social Media & Marketing Editor