A Sanctuary for Growth

Most recently I was commissioned to create work that surrounded an exhibition presented at the Cummer Museum here in Jacksonville, as a part of the closing ceremony for the exhibit. I believe that Elan gave me the confidence and the courage to take advantage of the opportunity and let it stretch me as an artist. To not be afraid to admit I have things to say. To demand to be heard. I think one of the faults of being a writer, especially a student writer, is that when it comes to creating, we move through the world with our heads down; we forget that our work matters to people outside of ourselves. Elan asks the exact opposite of that from its staff members. As the Marketing Editor, I have had so many wonderful opportunities to be an active part of the Jacksonville arts and literary community. Sitting in a small room, such as the one I sat in during Jax Lit 3, and having a conversation about why art is important with people who see me as an artist is not an opportunity many people get to be a part of. I remember someone saying something like, “If one person is passionate about something, it will last, and if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by just a few others who are as passionate, anything is possible.” I feel as if, when it comes to the written word, I am always that passionate person. So Elan has given me the skills to take that passion and craft it into success. Every time I sit in one of those rooms I am shocked back into the root of why I continue to write. I am reminded that I am a creator, a maker. It’s who I am.

Through Elan, I’ve been asked to be present in the moment, to feed those connections and relationships with other artists, and to always consider what matters to me in my own life. After being on the Elan staff for almost two whole years, I’ve come to realize I’m skilled beyond just my writing. That’s something that I used to be insecure about because I would look around a room at so many people who had so many skills, and I felt they could better apply to the “real world” and the ideals that are pressed upon society in day to day life. And there I was, someone who was good at telling stories. But I’ve sat in so many rooms with so many talented and successful people, now, who are doing the same things I’m doing that I could never possibly believe, again, that my skills don’t matter or add up to anything.

Moving forward, I plan to continue immersing myself in the world of the written word and pursuing an MFA in poetry. With Tiffany Melanson as the Staff Advisor, I’ve been encouraged to understand myself and my work outside of the confines of school walls. I think without Elan I would have never had the chance to see myself, really take a step-back and look at myself. Elan has been my sanctuary for growth.

Lex Hamilton, Senior Marketing/Public Relations Editor

Saying Goodbye

It’s hard to believe that my time as a part of Elan is coming to an end. For the past two years my experience on this staff has built so much of who I am today. Freshman year, before I even really knew what Elan was, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it one day. For two years now, I’ve made so many memories and learned skills that I’ll not only take with me after graduation, but also that I’ll cherish forever.

When I first joined the staff, I had no idea all of the incredible opportunities I’d be introduced to. I didn’t know all the wonderful events I’d be a part of. Listening to the seniors talk about their roles and the things they’d been a part of the previous year, I was struck with wonder. For so long I’d felt like I didn’t play a big enough role in the creative writing department and this was how I could change it; by becoming involved, taking advantage of the opportunities that come with being on the staff. At the time, I wasn’t sure what position I’d take on, I didn’t think it’d be something serious at all. When I took on the role of Submissions Editor, I had no clue what it would lead into, that I’d become Managing Editor this year. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, though, because this position has been one of growth and maturity for me.

I was quiet, invisible almost, for the first years of high school. Joining Elan and taking on those responsibilities was the push I needed to finally open myself up some (now, some of my teachers wish I would stop talking). Being a part of a team pushes you, required a constant input. This year more than anything, I had to step out of my comfort zone to make sure things were getting done when they were needed. I was afraid of making my classmates think I was being controlling that I didn’t really want to do it, but I had to step past that fear and find a way to ask for things within deadline without being demanding. But also, without being soft. In that way, Elan has pushed me in growth.

One of my greatest memories of Elan is last year, once the seniors had gone, and it was just the four juniors with Mrs. Melanson. Having that first chance to open the print book and think, wow, my staff created this. My friends wrote these pieces. This art. In that moment, I stepped back and thought of the voice this book has in the world. Because even though our reach is still growing, we are mighty. And our words have power. That’s when I realized, too, how much my own writing matters. Because even though it hadn’t been published, that book was proof that words and feelings matter. So do my own.

There are so many things Elan has showed me. So many endless memories from the stress of planning homecoming to last year’s excitement of new submissions and web updates. This staff has changed me in ways I’d never imagined possible. Beautiful, crazy ways.

Kinley Dozier, Senior Managing Editor

My Time on Elan

As a senior who hadn’t been on the staff in the past, I had no idea what to expect going in. I had friends on the staff in the past and knew about blind readings and all that stuff that goes with literary magazines but I had no idea what I could contribute to Elan. I always thought to myself- what was my role?

Once I got assigned art editor I knew it was the perfect role for me. Everything I had always done in my writing time had been centered around art. I loved seeing weird, abstract things and shaping them into a disgusting, gruesome poem. Or seeing something so beautiful and big that it encouraged me to share whatever story I had myself. Art has been my biggest inspiration for my work because of the complexities and the way people bend the rules to art so frequently. Because of this, my time as an art editor has been greatly enhanced. I loved seeing submissions come in that were so beautiful and eye-catching but also carried such deep meaning, whether it be in context with a writing piece or not. The thing about Elan art is that all the pieces stand out on their own and almost don’t need explanation.

As a writer, my own work, as I said, had already been greatly influenced by art. Elan gave me that accessibility into a world I never even knew about. We managed events that involved heavy discussion with art liaisons where we learned about their world and ours. I learned so much individually about how art is managed and all the requirements they have to meet and their creative thought process as well. It was incredibly inspiring to see kids working on the Coffeehouse mural, for example, and see how they took a small sketch and turned it into this big, beautiful mural despite everyday life struggles and only a two week deadline. It helped make me crack down on my writing and push through during the hard times.

As a student, Elan has taught me many things that I definitely could take with me into the future. It’s really taught me about the value of team work and doing things on time. Elan was probably one of the only classes I would try and be as on time with assignments as possible. I knew if I didn’t get something in on time that I was jeopardizing other people’s roles and responsibilities and making the book process slower. Nothing was ever rushed but it was important to have the respect for one another to get things on time.

It also taught me that hard work pays off. During my year on the staff, I have seen beautiful events take place from homecoming to Yellowhouse that have really blown me away. Walking through Yellowhouse and seeing all the art and writing that everyone put together and laid out into a physical book was pretty jaw dropping. Not to mention everything that was student led and put together. Elan teaches you that even when you’re working hard you know you’re going to see a beautiful end result.

Natalie Filaroski,  Senior Art Editor