by Jess Sexton
Grub Street Managing Editor
Grub Street Design Liaison
When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined the yearbook team. I thought the class would be an easy ‘A’ and I looked forward to my rising GPA. But to my despair, on the first day of class, the advisor told us that this would be one of our most challenging courses. We had to stick to deadlines and themes, all while producing a memorable book for the entire school. The yearbook would be our baby. And our advisor was right.
We spent nine long months creating a book that captured our school’s spirit and personality. That doesn’t even include yearbook camp that we went to each summer; sounds nerdy, right? It totally was. But that’s where the book was conceived. We designed templates and narrowed down our theme. We stayed up all night writing mock-stories just to have them thrown away the next day.
But it was all worth it. Each year, our yearbook won best-in-show. We knew that if we poured ourselves into the creation of the book, we would be able to publish a masterpiece. I was on the yearbook team for three years; the two years I was a section editor, it was like a part-time job. We would stay after school every Thursday, order Old Bay cheesy fries, a soda, and a pizza from the local pizza shop and work until about nine o’clock.
After those long nights designing, writing, editing, crying, and cursing under our breaths, our baby was born. Published for the whole school to see. I was terrified. Would they like my writing? What about my photos? It didn’t matter now, the 400-page book was no longer in our hands.
There are many moments I’ll never forget. But the most memorable were from when I was complimented by my teachers who loved the stories written about their clubs or classes. I won awards for my photography. Had I actually made something that people enjoyed?
Because of moments like that, I knew I had to keep publishing. The feeling of starting an idea from scratch to having it in my hands was one of the best things I have ever experienced. I cannot wait to experience it once again with Grub Street.
by Nathan Buckman,
Grub Street Managing Editor
One of my favorite writing maxims is this: We do not write to fill a page; we write to fill an idea. With this maxim in mind, I approach literature with something akin to the reverence given holy writ, for literature’s probative exploration into the nuances of thoughts and feelings animates the depth of good literature as it gives testament to what it means to be human. For instance, I love poetry for its concision and its emotive verve. I want to feel something when I read literature, but I don’t want to be bogged down by sophomoric sentimentality.
Literature must be salient and must retain its dignity. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter pierced my soul like the stitching of the emblazed A over Hester Prynne’s breast. The tormented Claude Frollo and his Ananke (fate) in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame from the prolific Victor Hugo delved into the darkness of a man driven by his own demons. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein reverberated the cacophony of nature and science—the painfully human tale accentuated the true characteristics of a monster. These stories had gorgeous emotive vitality without succumbing to sentimentality.
Stories have fascinated me throughout childhood, and now, in adulthood, I study them and their effect, their mechanical structure and poetic cadence—and the rhetoric of language. I read voraciously as a child. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer filled my aspiring mind; Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain taught me the connection to nature and the need to nurture wonder; Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Sign of the Beaver gave me an identity. Literature does that—gives an identity to the reader.
Like David Balfour in Kidnapped and Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island from the auspicious Robert Louise Stevenson, I want literature to breathe in that exuberant adventure of life. James Baldwin, a Harlem Renaissance writer, says: “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” Words have meaning and can elevate a person’s soul to the peaks of the Himalayas or can descend that soul to the cavernous heart of the mountain. In that pursuit, there is no nobler an Ananke than reaching for the green light in the distance (reaching as Gatsby did in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby). Through (L)iterature, I reach.
by Megan Clark,
Grub Street Marketing & Publicity Director
Grub Street Poetry Team Member
The first time I was published, I was 12 years old. Sounds ridiculous, I know. It was my middle school's yearly literary journal that highlighted student work, chosen by teachers at the school. The fact that my seventh-grade language arts teacher chose MY short story to be printed in the magazine along with the yearbook inspired me. I felt so important and appreciated. I felt on top of the world.
It sounds so lame but it's true. I ran home from the bus stop to show my mom on the last day of school. The story was from an assignment that Mrs. Colgan gave us. Rewrite a classic nursery rhyme or fairy tale. Seems simple enough but I was stuck between ideas.
I ended up going with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” I wrote about a boy who found a fallen star. The star didn't know how to get back up in the sky, so the boy found a new job for him; to live inside the broken traffic light on his street corner.
It was a pretty cute story, if I do say so myself.
I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer. No longer did I hope to be a veterinarian, a computer scientist, or professional basketball player. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to tell people stories and make them feel something.
I had a poem published in the magazine as well. It was about my dog, Charlie, who had just passed away. He was the family dog and my father took it the hardest. I had written a poem as a free-write in class about Charlie’s life from beginning to end, and it made my dad cry.
I wanted to do it again. Not make my dad cry, but make someone feel something that moved them in that kind of way. Whether it was laughter, sadness, or comfort, I yearned to recreate that moment.
Since then, I’ve been published small scale a few times: The Odyssey, school literary magazines, and the local online newspaper. Each time is a rush that I never want to stop experiencing.
The image above is "Flight" by Gillian Collins.