From Poems about Whales to Now

maddie-oct-nov-picture When trying to learn about the earliest civilizations, archeologists look to cave paintings as clues to what humans used to be like and how we have evolved. If you think about it, all of the writing in the world creates an entire body of work that represents our society’s evolution of thoughts, feelings, inventions, politics, culture, etc. I think a writer’s work from the time they are a child often does the same.
The earliest poem I have a memory of goes like this, “I love whales painting there nails. They look so nice in there long tails. They are so younge they don’t like mails. And they love good sales.” Note the spelling of “there”, younge”, and “mails”. The second memory I have of writing was a narrative story in fourth grade about my dog Keiser that died when I was four. It was a very vivid moment for a young girl and it made its way into my writing a lot. There are obvious advancements in my writing like spelling, phrasing, diction, syntax, and imagery, but aside from that I don’t think the topics of my writing have changed a whole lot.
In my fiction, my pieces stem from my own life and personal truths that I need to explore through fiction in order to process and make sense of on my own. I still really enjoy writing things like creative non-fiction, so my piece about my dog Keiser isn’t that far off from something I would write now. It would be a lot more subtly tied to my life and it would of course be more descriptive and have more of an emotional arc and message, but the root would still be that it’s a story about my life that changed me in some way that I needed to express through my love of words. Death is something I often explore in my work. Religion and dealing with death and how those connect are something I struggle with processing and making sense of and writing it out through other characters is sometimes the easiest way to deal with it.
I recently wrote a fiction piece loosely tied to my extended family and all the issues we seem to have with each other. When first writing out the piece, I remained angry at that side of my family that was causing all this drama and didn’t feel the need to work to forgive them, but through the course of revising the piece, I grew to understand the characters I created as individual human beings that had made mistakes and were worthy of small acts of forgiveness. I didn’t have to let them in completely, but I could open myself up in slight amounts.
My poetry is also almost always rooted in my personal experiences. While I have no encounters with whales that I can truthfully write about, nature is something I often incorporate into my poetry. One of my favorite pieces I’ve written was a coming of age poem centered on how my family and I used to spend our free time going to the beach and hunting for sharks’ teeth.

If you were to line up all of my work from the time I was a child, you would see an illustration of my life up to this point. You would see my initial love of nature, particularly whales, then my first encounters with death, dealing with family issues, coming of age, and they will continue to follow my life from the big moments, like grieving, to the small moments, like just finding beauty in a creature. As a senior, I am moving towards college and deciding my future. I want to be a pediatric physical therapist and I only hope my writing will be able to follow me and illustrate the next stages of my life.

-Madison Dorsey, Community Engagement

Winter 2015 Online Edition

Winter Cover 2015Winter represents to us the traditions we love and the beginnings we create. This year, we welcomed an almost entirely new staff, and learned as much as they did in the process of making the first book. We built from the framework that was laid previously, and are proud to represent the publication in its 30th year.

At this point last year, I was terrified of this position: responsible for every part and piece coming together by deadline.  I was confident in my ability to contribute, but not to run the show.  Teaching a completely new group of staff members made the task more daunting. In reality, the situation was ideal and allowed for us to take the publication in any direction we wanted. I allowed myself to be comfortable with all aspects of growth, including starting from the ground.

I’m proud of what each member of Élan accomplished this go-round, and honored to have the opportunity to watch their growth, as well as the magazine’s.

-Jordan Jacob, Senior Editor-in-Chief

Writing as My Definition of Community

PICTURE AlexisI never fully understood the meaning of community until I came to Douglas Anderson to study creative writing. Previously, I’d attended an arts middle school for theater, where I found life-long friends and transformed from a shy writer churning out pages and pages of fiction in her free time to a boisterous, enthusiastic performer carrying polished monologues under her belt. I auditioned for both theater and creative writing for Douglas Anderson—the first only to see if I’d get in, and the second with the actual desperate hope of getting in. After being accepted for both, I was forced to make an important decision I’d already subconsciously made years before. Because writing holds much more significance to my personal growth and future, I chose writing.

In middle school, my theater community was my first real impression of how it feels to belong somewhere. Here, it’s different. Writing had always been just a side hobby—an art I practiced after everything else that not many people knew was as important to me as it was. But being around writers every day, given the same assignments and struggling through similar issues as I am, who are just as passionate about writing as I am, not only deepened my own passion for writing, but gave me a deeper sense of belonging that I’d never experienced before.

I find my Junior Poetry class to be the most unifying. Learning tools such as sound in texture and meter in poetry and the collective excitement my class shares for these tools we’re introduced to that we can now utilize in our poetry, like keys for various locks that remained anonymous freshman and sophomore year, reminds me why I chose to further my study of this art. The community of the Creative Writing Department solidifies my passion for writing and serves as a foundation for exponential growth in my craft that I will carry under my belt for the rest of my life.

-Alexis Williams, Junior Editor-in-Chief