New Perspectives

Ruvi's Blog PictureI’ve had the opportunity of being on the Élan staff for two years, and I’ve witnessed a dramatic evolution within that short time. This is probably due to the fact that I’ve had two different editorial roles within the staff. I started as Fiction Editor last year, and became Web Editor this year. The two exist in completely separate spheres, but they come together to produce the same result; the print book that showcases our yearlong dedication and the unique work of young writers everywhere.

Working as Fiction Editor was very focused. I was involved in the process for a very specific period of time and had one particular realm to work in. Picking the pieces that would be published in the book felt like an intimate process. The initial reading process brings the whole staff together, later splitting off into the individual genre editors discussing the pieces. My favorite parts of the whole thing were the moments in which the Senior Editor and I talked about the pieces we had made decisions on, as well as the ones we had yet to decide on. It was those moments that made me feel the most like a writer, that reminded me that I was a member of the staff due to my love of writing.

I needed those reminders within my first year on the staff. The feeling was always strongest when we were actually producing the book because I could actually see our work coming to life. There would soon be a physical manifestation of all the work and dedication we’d put in, and that was usually the point where I marveled at the sense of community that Élan brought about.

This year as Web Editor brought a very different involvement on the staff. The website focuses more on interaction with the readers and allowing the staff members to be seen from a closer perspective. Last year, I didn’t have any idea who was reading our blog posts or following our website, but this year I got a firsthand account of all of that. That, in its own way, offered some new perspective on the magazine as a whole. It was refreshing for me to see that writers were coming together to read what our staff members had to say, that people were actually engaged in what we were doing.

Being Web Editor also came with more responsibility, because it is so dependent on public response and keeping our readers updated. There was a tighter schedule to keep to and work dates came a lot more often than just book production. I had much more of a hands-on approach, and that is what really allowed me to see the influence that Élan has on the community of young writers. It brings people together that normally wouldn’t have much of a relationship.

That is ultimately what has been the most valuable to me about being on this staff. It gets away from me sometimes, but there are always those very particular moments that say to me, “You are a writer, and you are here to bring writers together.”

-Ruvi Gonzalez, Senior Website Editor

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

Writing Like Me

james-baldwin-the-fire-next-timeAuthenticity: n. The quality of being authentic; genuineness

On my first day of Senior Fiction, my teacher asked me to write down my personal definition of this word. For a Monday, starting my final semester as a senior in high school, I thought this was pretty heavy duty thinking. But after sitting at my computer, watching my cursor disappear and reappear a million –well, more like seventeen- times.

To me, being authentic is what babies are: one-hundred percent human, one-hundred percent embedded in their emotions—what they feel precisely in a singular moment— and completely uninhibited by what others do. If a baby wants to cry, no amount of food or rocking or begging on one knee will stop them from being heard. That’s what telling an authentic story is like to me.

While reading James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, I found myself fluctuating between two extreme emotions: awe (the man is a philosophical genius and an incredible wordsmith) and a high level of uncomfort. One of my favorite quotes from this book is “The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself.” It is always my greatest fear that I won’t tell a story honest, that I’ll sugarcoat a character or over exaggerate the plot.

Doubt is the number one killer of good writing and after four years of trying to find my own voice in my writing I completely understand why. To doubt your writing is to, by extension, doubt a part of yourself. There is no greater justice to telling a story than by telling it how you see fit for it to be told, and this is the best way to be sure that you will be proud of what you produce. To be authentic is tell all parts of a story— the beautiful, the ugly, the stuff your mother should never know about.

And in the end, that— the moment when you no longer fear what your voice has to say— is one of the most defining moment of a writers’ life.

-Shamiya Anderson, Nonfiction Editor