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

Why I Read the Same Novels Over and Over Again as if That’s Normal

downloadMy mother cannot read the same book twice. She just can’t do it. She has made exceptions for franchises like Twilight and Hungry Games, but only as a refresher before she goes and sees the movies. She is constantly looking for new material to entertain her, new characters to meet and new plot lines to follow. I, on the other hand, can’t put a good book down.

The first time that I read “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell was in sixth grade. It’s 1,024 pages long and I finished it in a weekend. Since then, I’ve consistently read it again once or twice every year. Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day or am feeling entirely uninspired in my own writing, I’ll flip to the part where Rhett steals a horse for Scarlett, or where Frank Kennedy falls in love with a girl dressed in drapes as if that’s where I’d left off, and read on from there.

I’m not a fiction writer. I write fiction, sometimes, but it’s not how I identify. I am, however, a fiction reader. I love analyzing the same plot line over and over again; I love crying when my favorite character dies or losses love all  over again. I enjoy it just as much as I enjoy finding new literature to read.

I think, in part, it’s because I understand how much a writer has to go through to create something like this. To write a novel, or even a poem or a short story, a writer has to know their characters fully. We don’t usually make things up as we go along. We usually plan things out, we think about who our characters are; we think about how and why these things are happening to them. To a writer, their characters are real people. So to me, when I read about them, these characters are real people too.

The best part of writing is that it encapsulates humanity. I think that I read the same novels again and again because I can relate to them, even if the story does take place in Georgia during the Civil War or in a constant loop of reincarnation. I see myself in the characters and in the lessons they learn. I want to see their triumphs, to laugh at the funny things that happen in their lives and even to relive their heartbreak. Novels remind me that everything ends, but also that everything can begin again. It’s kind of hopeful. And so, I can’t ever really move on from a story that truly touches me.

Do you have any novels like that?

-Savannah Thanscheidt, Web 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