My Story (the short version)

Two plus years ago I entered YSU an aimless 27-year-old, full of uncertainty and with no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life besides “be a writer.”

I spent my first three or four semesters adrift in majors such as Professional Writing and Editing and the even-more-specific “Undeclared.”  But as stimulating as it was writing technical reports and taking a bunch of “interesting” courses, it soon became apparent to me that a man with my prdilections belongs in the more creative corner of the English department.  Thus I settled into an English major and Creative Writing minor.

As I found my groove in the realm of English Lit, I also got my feet wet writing fiction, which was something about which I was always a little apprehensive.  I was fortunate, however, to become acquainted with a professor whose fiction writing class I was taking and whose sincere encouragement made me want to put forth my best effort.  He made me feel as though I might actually be good at something that I’d once idealized, something that I’d eventually come to see as just the product of a desperate romantacism that played itself out in liquor bottles and smoky rooms.  But I learned that my resignation and fear of being “no good” was just a load of crap and that I simply needed a kick in the ass and a deadline.  Simply put, I had met a teacher and mentor who had managed to rekindle my ambition to write creatively, something that I thought I had lost.

I eventually took an English Internship course in which my classmates and I worked to put together the spring issue of the “Jenny” on-line literary magazine that was started by the Student Literary Arts Association (SLAA) a few years back.   I really connected to the idea behind the magazine, which was all about unearthing the creative side of a seemingly forgotten city and showing the world that Youngstown still has something to offer.  I also had an affinity for the visual aesthetic of the “Jenny”, as I have always felt drawn to desolation and how it has great potential for new life.  I think that’s one of the threads that stitches the issues of the magazine together.  These were the initial elements that drew me to be a part of the process.

I became an official member of the organization the previous semester but didn’t offer much in the way of contribution to the magazine’s creation, as I joined when much of it was finished.  However, being at square one of a new issue, I was looking forward to being a part of it from the beginning this time.  I was fortunate to land the role I wanted as fiction editor (though I wasn’t entirely certain what my job would entail), as well as being able to contribute to the efforts of the other departments of the magazine.

The fact that I knew almost everyone working on the magazine from either my fiction class or from SLAA meetings and events helped me feel right at home.  Also, I was familiar with many of these individuals’ own work, so I had the utmost faith that we had a solid, talented group of people.

More recently, some of the original founders of SLAA and the “Jenny” have graduated and the torch has been passed in order to keep the group and the magazine alive.  The original members are still very much a part of the group, but several of the officer positions have been filled by new people.  And I think I can speak for the new officers collectively when I say to the founders of SLAA that it is an honor (albeit often an intimidating one) to be a part of carrying on what you started several semesters ago.  I intend on doing my best, as I’m sure the others will, to not let SLAA or the “Jenny” wither and fade.

We’re into yet another semester, and we’re moving along on getting the next issue of the “Jenny” put together for release in late November.  We’ll keep people updated on upcoming events such as open-mics, readings, benefits and more.  In the meantime, check out our past issues of the “Jenny” at jennymag.org and check out the submission tab on the homepage for guidelines if you’re intersted in submitting your own work.

I can’t express my gratitude enough to the other members of SLAA and to Professor Barzak for helping me find, and welcoming me into, a community I’d spent years searching for.

That being said, it’s now two plus years after I first became a student at YSU.  I’m now a 30-year-old, full of uncertainty and with no clue as to what I want to do with my life besides “be a writer.”  But as of this moment, I’m okay with that fact.

Needless to say, I’ve been inspired.  And I continue to be.  By you.  And you.  And…you.

-William R. Soldan

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