Reconnecting

PICTURE JordanI made a best friend in first grade by falling on my face. I stumbled gracefully off our morning bus onto the concrete. My friend, Dorian, helped me up and sat with me every morning after that. He listened to me tell stories about my brothers, class pets, anything that came to me. Stories kept us interested for the hour-long bus ride, and it became a routine for us until my fourth grade year. He switched schools before I wrote anything down. This was before I had a phone or social media, so losing contact felt like losing a friend and my favorite audience.

It’s embarrassing to think about what I did eventually start writing down, but I had to start somewhere. Until I became a part of the writing program at Douglas Anderson, I didn’t show anyone. Partially because I wasn’t comfortable with my work, but also because I didn’t think anyone would care as much. Since, I’ve become more confident. That probably has something to do with not writing like a first-grader anymore.

Dorian and I have been catching up recently. And his memory is unbelievable. I almost wish he didn’t remind me of elementary school or where my stories started, but it says more than anything that they were memorable. I’m sure he appreciates the improvement, but we do talk about the cute stories and laugh. He is still great at listening, and more than anyone, my favorite to share my work with.

-Jordan Jacob, Senior Editor-in-Chief

The Importance of Oral Tradition and Storytelling

Elan Blog Post image tatianaOral tradition is defined as “a community’s cultural and historical traditions passed down by word of mouth or example from one generation to another without written instruction.” In other words, everything we know about our parents (and their parents, and their parents, etc.) we learned from stories told through what they wore, what they drew, and what they made. My mother tells me stories about the crazy 80s fashion she went to high school with, but my father tells me about growing up in east Eritrea with dirt walls and no roof. Writing these stories down lends privilege to the lives we’d otherwise forget. Textbooks take down facts, writers take down the heart.

As we close in on Élan’s 30th consecutive year in publication, it’s important to remind ourselves why we have made it this far and why we will continue to publish in the future.

Through writing, we get to see what others left behind, and through our own writings we do the same for the readers who come after us. No one was there when the world began. I will never see my mother’s crazy 80s fashion and my father’s dirt walls. We have unanswered questions about how the world began and why we’re here. We’re all born into our own reality (our own truth) that’s continuously shaped by our experiences. With each story told, we chip away at that Truth. Élan does so much more than share the works of young writers. It keeps tradition from slipping through the cracks. It shares the stories we love hearing and forces us to listen to ones we don’t.

Storytelling helps us cope with the unknown. It finds joy in those questions. Sharing our stories makes us a part of a larger one, and while we may never put our Truth into words (perhaps we were never meant to), storytelling makes that Truth accessible. In the last three decades, Élan has held onto those values. We have been a consistent, reliable, and important source of stories for the last thirty years and will continue to be so in the future

-Tatiana Saleh, Senior Layout & Design Editor

Art Means Breaking Rules

picassoquote3I have a thing for rule breakers. J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye basically gives the middle finger to background introductions. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road completely ignores the existence of quotation marks. William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury jumps from perspective to perspective of a dysfunctional family. In a way, the writers that break the rules become the “Gods” of fiction. Their brave and daring choices burn a mark in eternity.

Personally as an artist, I try to foil and warp the rules of writing as much as I can. I picture all these rules in a little cardboard box: use punctuation. Use correct grammar. Use one point of view. Have a “proper” beginning, middle, and end. The most ridiculous rule I’ve heard is that writers shouldn’t use alliteration in fiction. The reason for this is that “The story matters first. Don’t try to make the language all frilly. Focus on the plot and characters, etc.”

However, I find exquisite worth in a complete story that involves sound devices. I write to make art, not color in a checkbox of “correct tenants of fiction.” Sound devices in general provide so much interest. It is more than okay to be poetic in a fiction paragraph. In fact, it is beautiful. A textured paragraph is like a jalapeño chip. It’s seasoned and spicy and hot. It’s jumping with flavor. As a reader, it makes me want more.  As a writer, it makes me want to create more.

Now, I can’t say all this without some disclosure. I’ve trained at art school for writing. I wouldn’t be able to understand the worth and purpose of breaking outside the box if I didn’t place myself in water to swim the basics. Overall, writing comes down to two main things for me: passion and intent.

Passion creates life in a piece. I spark on a thing I care about and from there I flavor it with seasonings, such as personification, sound devices, symbolism, etc.

Intent comes from deep, spiritual realization. A discovery at the end of a reading journey really wraps the bow on a whole story. It’s the perfect touch. It’s the purpose for reading. It’s the purpose for creation.

At the end of the day, I find a purpose within my existence to be an artist. I don’t care about “what’s right” and “what’s wrong.” Stories belong to something that’s larger than society’s box of rules. Traveling the road of “safe fiction” in the land of writing is alright but I’m done being a tourist.

If stories are islands, my goal is to climb to the top of a volcano, and splash in the hissing lava. I want to make the words on the page flicker, and I want to make them burn.

-Kat Roland, Art Editor