From Fan to Senior Poetry Editor: How I learned what it meant to be a part of a long-standing tradition

Aracely's Blog PictureBefore I joined the Élan Literary Magazine Staff I was a fan and a contributor. In my sophomore year of high school I was giddy to learn the publication accepted my creative nonfiction piece about my process of character development. The following year, my junior year, they published my poem about my revelation concerning my sexual identity.

At the end of both years I held the glossy finished product in my hands. I flipped frantically to find my work in there, sure enough with its own page, and my name among the table of contents.  As with any budding writer it felt wonderful to feel validated, my words printed definitively into the page.  I still have the books, tucked lovingly next to yellowing copies of Black Beauty and The Collected Poems of Pablo Neruda.

But this time around the published book will hold a greater weight.

My Senior Year I joined the Élan Staff, not quite sure how I was going to contribute but knowing I wanted to dip my hands in the process of compiling and creating the book.

My first taste came when the reading process took place to prepare for the publication of our winter online book. Before I knew it I was bursting with nearly a hundred poems, all of them singing the particular cadence of a young writer. I sat there, knowing I had a major hand in deciding which ones would find their way to the book. I’ll admit, I was overwhelmed. To make matters worse the poet in me was flailing with indecision. One poem would distract me with its fascinating imagery, and another with the blunt, lyrical voice of its speaker. Eventually I settled myself and made decisive albeit difficult choices.

Next came helping those whose work fell into a tricky in-between. To clarify, those who the magazine wanted to publish, but whose work still needed some polishing. Again, my position came into play. I sat down with young poets like myself and tossed myself into their poetry. I sat for several minutes going line by line, making notes, and then later talking to them face to face. Though intimidated at first, I grew to love the investigative nature of it. Learning to respect the writer’s voice and work while discovering the intricacies that needed improvement.

Since 1986 someone or several people have been in the same position as I am. Falling gently for the poetry finding itself in front of them. As well as left pondering over paper with thumb pressed to their lips, brow thoughtfully wrinkled.

Though Élan has a myriad of books chronicling its literary journey since the 80’s, it also carries a group of former editors behind it. It pleases me to think that my experience with Élan is a shared one, and will continue on to be just that for those who choose to involve themselves in the magazine. The magazine itself will go on to enrich the community and encourage young writers through sharing their work, just as it did for me, and just as I am doing for others.

-Aracely Medina, Senior Poetry Editor

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

Writing Communities

1-writingIt pains me to think that some people finish their education and never read another book. Words have woven themselves so deeply into my life. If I stopped reading and writing I wouldn’t be myself anymore. It would be like reincarnation.I don’t know who I would become.

Lately, I’ve been telling myself this quote a lot: “Dream big, work hard, stay focused, and surround yourself with good people.” Right now my classmates and I share a common goal to work hard and focus on becoming better writers. A community like this should never be taken for granted. It should be appreciated completely.

Pretty soon, I will graduate from high school, and perhaps, I will never see some of these amazing people again. My creative writing class has become a family. Writing reveals such intimate, personal parts of ourselves, and over the past four years, my classmates have come to understand, accept and love each other. It takes a lot to create a community as strong as the one we currently have.

It’s strange to think where we’ll all be ten years from now. Which of us will stay writers? Which of us will get married, have kids, or live somewhere other than Jacksonville?

Maybe our decisions will not only surprise others, but ourselves. I’m such a calender, plan oriented person. Maybe I will make a decision and forget who I am. Maybe the person I will become will be better than the person I am now.

I can’t believe that all of the years of learning, workshopping, and critiquing are almost over at Douglas Anderson.Whoever the members of my class become, we will always know each other within the experiences of our pasts.

I can’t ignore the power of having other writers in my life. People influence each other. I want to stay connected with other writers. Being with other writers creates an even stronger desire to create an art with words.

I will forever try finding other writers to connect with. The power of a writing community creates incredible bonds and paves pathways for improvement.

In the future, the worst thing that could happen to me is that I would wake up one morning and realize I never pursued my passion.

My life is all about the people I surround myself with. Graduation, the summer, and the start of college will really test me. Staying connected sounds like a good plan, but people drift, and meeting new people and making connections takes a leap of courage.

For right now, I’m going to appreciate every moment I have with this writing community. We’re all different and come from different areas of Jacksonville but we cam together for one thing. The love and support a group of strangers can create when they come together is powerful. I can’t say thank you enough for my experiences here at Douglas Anderson with my teachers and peers, who have become my writing family.

-Kat Roland, Art Editor