“I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t get more rejections than acceptances. I submit less often than most, but even I know the feeling of getting a form rejection email and wondering, “Did you guys even read this?” To spend hours writing and re-writing 5,000 words, and getting a little under a hundred in response, it’s terrible, it’s just terrible.
The thing is, I’m on the other side of the equation too, so I know we read the stories. I know because I have all 127 submissions, printed on Grinnell’s dime (if I’m going to pay tuition, I might as well get my money’s worth) in the drawer of the desk where I sit as I write this.
My introduction to English Literature class last semester was subtitled “Literature as Equipment for Living.” The thesis of the class was that literature is more than some abstract study, that narratives are what sustain us as a civilization. Even if the class didn’t always deliver on that lofty concept, I think it still has merit. I think that because, on the deserted fourth floor of the library, on days when I had an absurd amount of work to get through, I’d take a break from reading some long dead literary critic’s supremely confusing argument that knitting is a form of masterburation and read a submission. And it revitalized me in a way nothing else could have.
We sent out a lot of rejection emails this issue. If you got one of them, I want to let you know that your story got me through the nightmarish parts of my first semester of college. And even now, sometimes I get out of bed at night to open my drawer and pull out the stack of submissions. I have to go through them with a tiny flashlight to avoid waking up my roommate. Once I find the one I want, I go through it, line by line, until I find the sentence I dreamt about, the sentence so beautifully constructed I just had to read it. And, more often than not, it comes from a rejected submission.
It’s terrible, I know, but if it’s any help, know that your story isn’t forgotten.”
– John S. Osler III, Prose Editor
“I’m absolutely, madly in love with Regina Spektor and have loved this song since I started listening to her music. This song is not only about growing up, but it has been with me as I grew up. I listened to it a lot when editing and reading submissions. This, I suppose, is part of what growing up is to me, and is partially how I conceptualized the theme of this issue.”
– Joanna Cleary, Poetry Editor
“If I’d had to talk about something iconic that represents the concept of “growing up” for me, it would definitely have to be Taylor Swift for me. Taylor, despite whatever conspiracy boyfriends and/or transitions from humble country to mainstream pop music, has always been there. At least, her music has. And I just feel that’s how music works – at one point, it’s not even about the lyrics or the person singing them or the whole history associated with it, it’s just the tune and the rhythm that is so appealing to the soul you sort of lose yourself in it. So when “Red” came out and Taylor completely left her old roots of country music, it didn’t bother me one bit. I still stayed up all night to listen to the album because each of the songs were gems in some way, and at that point it was not about what the music was about, it was about experiencing it.
And this might be a long shot, but that’s how I feel all poetry works – you don’t have to understand all metaphors or analyze the poem. That’s never the point. The point of reading a poem is to experience it, to submerge yourself in the poem so much that you just become full of feeling. And much like Taylor Swift’s music, that’s how I’d describe all the pieces in this issue – each of them are gems in their own right, because they’re all so different and yet so same. Whether it’s the raw narrative of “Fleeting” or the subtle beauty in the last lines of “Valencia Rain,” it’s the experience these poems will give you while reading them, something to cherish.”
– Smriti Verma, Poetry Editor
“I always thought growing up is a linear process that involves magically learning how to sustain human relationships and gaining soufflé-making abilities overnight. There’s a certain ease ten-year-old me saw in the adults around me. A comfortable, almost languid movement that managed to flow through their bodies. It didn’t scream, but confidently stated its presence, and they seemed to have a sureness of their place in their own skin. I thought that’s something you learn as you grow up, but apparently, there’s a couple of more important lessons that come first. Growing up is often realising how young you actually are. It’s about accepting inabilities and limitations, and finding ways to work with, not through, or around them. But the most growing up I’ve done, I think, is learning how to read poetry without feeling jealous. That’s growing up. I don’t know if I’d ever manage to cultivate that grace I always admired, but some day, I hope I’m sturdy enough to be a solid grown up for some ten-year-old watching me.”
-Harnidh Kaur, Poetry Editor
“Here’s a picture of me in my prime. I’m not sure how old I was, but I’m sure that I didn’t know what growing up would mean for me. I think I had a general vision of who I wanted to be when I grew up—someone collected, poised, and unapologetically true to herself. Growing up has been trying to become that person I created in my head. I thought it would be easy—I didn’t anticipate the obstacles I would have to face to reach that vision. I’m still growing, trying to become the person I’ve always wanted to be and more.”
-Liana Fu, Prose Editor
“Growing up, music always was a big part of how I got by. When I first got into listening to music, it was bands like Paramore, Fall Out Boy, and Breaking Benjamin – all the angsty teen stuff. Since then I’ve delved into many more genres that define me now, but as I find myself on the verge of another change toward being an adult, I’m returning to these old favorites. It brings back a sense of nostalgia that has carried me through the last few months, but this angst and change has been defining for me with this issue.”
-Laurelann Heather Easton, Prose Editor
“These are five different manipulations of an illustration I made of an old family photo, (from left to right) my sister, my mother, and me. Each represent a different aspect of my memory of my childhood and reflecting on it.”
-Michelle Wosinski, Graphic Fiction Editor
“As I read submissions for this issue, I revisited some cornerstones of my literary experience — from Hans Christian Anderson fairytales to The Jungle Book — and saw the same richness in mythology in them as I did in the work written for this issue. Work about, for, and reflecting on childhood is uniquely evocative, largely because of the nature of memory. Seemingly random experiences have been magnified and stored away in perfect clarity for decades, while years can blur away, only defined by a single emotion or relationship. This memory-warp lends itself especially well to poetry, itself a confusing blend of truth and mythology. The prevalence in creation was especially fitting for this issue: two poems, “How Wrinkles Were Invented” and “How Catholic School Was Invented”, invented fascinating histories both remarkably similar and radically different. And from reflecting on the present with help of the past, as in Samara Golabuk’s “Once”, to a full immersion in memory, found in Bayley Van’s “Valencia Rain”, the work in this feature took me both to the past and the future of all our selves. I hope you enjoy this issue. Let it blend into your own experiences, and find its homes in your fictions of infancy and beyond.”
-Shereen Lee, Poetry Editor
“Even though I’m still a freshman and Keegan wrote this for commencement, it embodies that pivotal change of growing up while still recognizing that getting older isn’t a path towards an ending.”
Link to article: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (Yale News)
-Nathalia Baum, Prose Editor
“Truth be told, ‘Growing Up’ isn’t my favorite theme. It is, in some ways, an idea I am afraid of. If I could have anything in the world, I would like to be right here— 17 (okay, maybe 18), snuggled up with a cup of French press, reading Milan Kundera. But, as a voice inside me keeps saying, that ain’t happening.
Growing up in small-town India, one of the first lessons I learnt at school and at home was learning how to respect elders, or ‘grown-ups.’ For a young girl like me, my mother-tongue, Hindi, was puzzling. It had far too many words, far too many suffixes, and far too many names one had to remember while referring to grown-ups, respectfully. I recall asking my mother, “If I drink a glass of milk everyday, will I become a didi?” My mother would nod. And with a beaming smile, I would take her for her word.
However, much to my five-year-old self’s disappointment, the didi I have become is an uncanny, naive soul. It’s a person I love as much as I loathe. Since we started working on this issue, a lot has changed in my life. And a lot will change. In six months, I’ll be starting college in the maze that is New York city. I’ll be leaving friends and loved ones behind, the ones who’ve sustained me through the years. It is difficult to say at this juncture if I will be able to preserve the child in me. If the journey of life was about moving on instead of growing up, it would have been easier.”
–Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief
“‘Growing Up’, I guess for the most part, is learning to fence with a double-edged sword and cutting yourself, sometimes too deeply, in the process. I find the phrase terrifying- the present tense signals some kind of a Sisyphean prison I’m desperately and impatiently trying to escape, the opposite is alluring with the promise of a Peter Pan-esque utopia, the meaning suggests I have to leave a part of my self, my skin, to cross over. I’m 20 and what scares me is that perhaps I haven’t grown up in all the ways that matter. And that’s not, won’t, be okay. This is the way I see it, if ‘growing up’ were a smell, it would be that of a dying person- losing hope, giving up, tasting bitterness, acid, stale hospital linen. It’s a surrendering to the fact that there are some things you can never change, some fragrant places you can never return to, some faces in the mirror you can never see. Yet, living in the present tense has its charms: I know where I’m going, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
-Archita Mittra, Prose Editor