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

What a 30 Year Old Book can Teach a 17 Year Old

Maddie 30th Anniversary PictureOur literary magazine, Elan has been around for 30 years, almost two of me. I imagine that through the years, with the many different staff members, editors, teachers, and readers, that this book has learned a few things. When I first came on staff and took on the position of Junior Poetry Editor, I went back through some of the older editions of Elan and tried to figure out how the editors before me picked the poems that would be in the book. I decided it wasn’t editors that picked apart poems and threw them in “yes” and “no” piles, it was the book that made the decisions. The essence and aesthetic of Elan showed me that we want poems that speak to the big and small, that can be read and understood immediately or others that need to be unpacked. It told me to look at where a poem takes my breath, where it makes me grimace, where it makes me want more, those are our poems.

Along with teaching me how to feel poetry, it’s taught me how to come out of my shell. This book has so much to offer people and as part of the staff, our job is to convince people that they need this book in their life. You need to read these pieces that students have poured themselves into, you need to invite them in, let them settle inside your soul and tell you a story. It’s become a drive and passion to share what this book has to offer with my own friends and family, the community of Jacksonville, and the community of writers. I’ve met and had more conversations with random people that I never would have before by just walking up to them and asking if they enjoy reading and writing, and just letting the conversation go from there. It has almost always led somewhere interesting. At Art Walk, I met two former theater majors and got to learn about their time at Douglas Anderson. I also met an older gentleman who was so excited for Writers’ Festival, he actually had a countdown going.

So, as a member of the Elan staff, in my year here, it has taught me a lot, but I think it has something even more to offer to our readers. Readers who can be any age and any gender and any type of person, there is something in this book for everyone and it has been that way for 30 years, offering the same quality and raw material every time. Elan would also say to its readers that it’s best enjoyed curled up on the couch with your favorite tea, taking in the sweet musings of teenagers from thirty years ago to now and all they have to say.

-Madison Dorsey, Junior Poetry Editor

Reading the First Élan

Jacob's Blog Post PictureWhen working within a publication with as long a history as Élan, it’s easy to forget how complicated and interwoven tradition is. For 30 years, this magazine has collected and judged student writing and art under the supervision of teachers and students. There have been dozens of print issues, ranging from handwritten construction-paper projects to typewriter printouts, from small wads of paper custom-printed for Extravaganza to professionally produced full-color journals. Hundreds of staff members have worked on the magazine, and thousands of authors have given their work to the custody of the advisors, the editors, and the staff members of Élan.

It’s easy to forget. You work on only the most recent content, the newest poems, stories still in such rough drafts that writers will change entire plotlines when asked to. For those submitting work, it’s the same concept. Writing is new—it’s unique, it’s singular for the person creating it. Even if a long tradition of writing exists for a form or a character type or a style, the work feels like it only exists in a moment. Still, over time I realized how much my own writing had benefitted from the ideas and works of other authors—never from my contemporaries as much as from long dead authors who had been all but forgotten in the modern day.

It was thinking about tradition that made me want to investigate the history and lineage of Élan. To understand my role in the publication and the role of the work we were creating, I knew I had to look to the past and see where we had come from.

It started in 1986 with the first edition. Élan began as a letter-size stapled magazine, supervised by the English department with advisors that included Ms. Lynch and Mr. Lipp. Each piece was type-written and Xeroxed into the actual magazine, often with strange but eye-catching layout and almost always accompanied by illustrations, not by contributing artists but by the staff members themselves. The cover is blocky, grungy, impressively raw. The art is black and white, simple, almost primitive in its action and emotion.

But the most impressive part of the first edition is the writing. One would think that writing so unpolished and unprofessional, so unguided by the structures of a formal department, would be hard to read—spiky, sharp. And one would be right—the poems often rhyme, the stories are simple, and the style overall is what one would expect from any high school, not an arts magnet. But the honesty of the writing still shows. An essay from an English class, strange as it would be in our Élan, feels like it has a place in the first edition because it was written with care and passion.

Passion sums up the first Élan. It was simple, it was D.I.Y., but the people making it cared about writing. They cared so much that they started a magazine. It’s our job to continue that tradition of caring and passion—even if it feels rote and mechanical, art began and still begins in a place of creative excitement.

-Jacob Dvorak, Senior Fiction Editor