What baking muffins at 5am taught me about being a writer…

Last night a series of comical, unfortunate, satirical events led to me realizing I hadn’t baked two dozen muffins for a volunteer event occurring at 6:30 the next morning. Already in bed for the night, instead of staying up late I opted to set my alarm for 5am.

 

The list of tasks for the next day unfolded in my mind as I drifted to sleep. I had two responsive essays to write, poetry to edit and analyze, a brit lit reading to do. Oh, and Opus submissions were due (and who submits to Opus more than 12 hours in advance from the deadline…not the prose-editor of Opus, apparently).

 

How was all of this going to get done?

 

Well I woke up at 5 am today and realized this: my mind was clear and eager to write. I quickly whipped up some muffins and threw them in the oven. As they baked, I cracked open my computer and began typing away. I’d expected to be foggy and cluttered in thought, but I couldn’t remember the last time words seemed to be spilling that easily onto a page. The distracting, stressful thoughts that built over the course of yesterday had erased themselves with the night’s rest (however brief that rest was). My mind was fresh at that time in the morning. Now I’ve known I was a morning person for a long time, but amongst the crave of college I’d forgotten to save my mornings for creative space.

 

Don’t worry, I know most college students aren’t morning people; I’m not here to convince you the best writing technique is to wake up before sunrise everyday. But here’s what I did learn from my morning: we all have our creative hours, and fencing those times off for writing is key to the writing process. I’ll admit I prefer it when it doesn’t come at a time that inhibits my sleep, but folks, if worst comes to worst, my one piece of advice is this:

 

There’s no lack of sleep or writer’s block a cup of Lemonjellos can’t fix.

 

So if you’re wondering where to find me on this Friday, you’ll find me nestled in the corner of my favorite coffee shop, with a tall cup of black coffee, scribbling poems into my notebook. I’m taking back my mornings for my own creative space and I encourage you all to join me in searching out your own time of day when the creative flow gets a rollin’. Be shameless about it! Take that time for your own. Cozy up in your favorite nook, break out the pen and paper, and write yourself silly.

Reading as a Writer

In my intro to creative writing course we have been discussing the topic of “reading like a writer.” “Reading like a writer” refers to being consciously aware of the devices and techniques that are used in the pieces you read so that you may attempt to emulate them in your own writing. We often do this subconsciously, drawing inspiration from the writers or artists that we enjoy most. However, the concept of “reading like a writer” focuses on recognizing effective styles more intentionally.
The problem with this task is that the start of the semester is always so hectic it is hard to find time to explore artistic pieces. When you finally do find time, you are so sick and tired of reading material for classes that you would rather turn on Netflix and mindlessly watch The Office.
Because of this, I made it a personal challenge this week to apply the concept of “reading like a writer to my Human Physiology and Psychology textbooks. In doing so, I became more aware of writing techniques that the textbooks used and was inspired to create some interesting, goofy, gosh darn terrible poetry about glial cells (on account of it being 4AM the night before an exam). While the techniques I saw in these textbooks may not have been as creative or poetic as the ones I observed in my creative writing textbook, there were certain devices used by the author that helped me understand the material easier; such as allusions to larger scale occurrences to help explain microscopic events. Unexpectedly, I even found creative inspiration here.
My point is that art and inspiration are everywhere around us. Even stashed between graphs of action potentials and tables of organelle functions there is poetry, beauty, and lessons to be learned about effective writing. All you need to do is read like a writer.
You are artists! You are writers! You are poets, coming from the Greek word “poetes” meaning “maker” or “creator.” So CREATE! (And then submit to Opus at opus@hope.edu).
Ryan Woodside

Poetry Editor

Opus is Back!

Hello all!
We are so excited to kick off a new year of Opus. This year, we have not one but TWO new coeditors PLUS an entirely new staff and a whole lot of eagerness to see your work! The submission deadline this semester is Friday, September 23rd, so gather up all of those poems, stories, paintings, photos, etc. that you have been working on all summer and get ready to submit them to us (just email opus@hope.edu)!
We want to encourage everyone not to get hung up on whether or not your piece is 100% perfect or “good enough” to submit. While we encourage a healthy revision process and want you to always be working towards bettering yourself as a writer or an artist, sometimes it is hard to be objective about your own work (after all, we are our own worst critics). So give yourself and your art a chance and SUBMIT. We also want to encourage everyone to submit all types of art and writing. Opus exists to showcase the variety of talent that Hope students have to offer and we want to help show just how unique you all are! If you are worried about whether or not your style is our cup of tea, please don’t be, and again, just submit.
After we have received all of the submissions, meetings will start up again, and we are hoping to see as many of your excited faces as possible in attendance! Remember that our meetings are completely open no matter who you are – meaning that even if you don’t produce art or writing yourself but are interested in it, we want you there! This is a wonderful chance not only to learn more about art and literature and how to talk about it but to commune with a group of likeminded people who have the same passions that you do.
We wish everyone lots of luck as the new semester starts and can’t wait to see what you all will have to offer this year!
Submit away!
Grace Hulderman

Co-editor

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

 

“Can I sail through the changing ocean tide? Can I handle the seasons of my life?”
“Bye, bye, Little Sebastian. I’ll miss you in the saddest fashion.”
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My time as co-editor has come to an end. After three years of working with Opus, obsessing over it, Abby and I (Sadina) leave it to Grace Hulderman and Madison Veverka. I know they’ll keep Opus thriving with dignity and diversity. This has been a unique privilege, and I’m leaving feeling bittersweet.
Here are some things I’ve learned from my time as co-editor:
1) No matter how many emails I send, no matter how many posters, cutouts, speeches to the class, shameless plugs, people will still ask me what time my event is and where. In this same regard, people will still be confused when it comes to sending submissions. How many pieces, what email to send it to, how many pages. Not all emails are meant to be read, I guess. Patience is key.
2) I can use “I” language during meetings, remind people to use inclusive language themselves, and people will still be biased when it comes to commenting and voting during meetings. I’ve learned that this means they’re passionate – they care enough to speak about the piece, which means that on some level, the piece is working. I’ve also learned that this means the creative process is a tough one – sometimes, some pieces don’t get in that really do deserve to get in. Democracy at work, but there’s something beautiful about it. Tarfia Faizullah said that writing is probably the most democratic form of art there is, and I agree.
3) If I want anything to be done well, to excel, I need to rely on my staff. There have been so many times when I thought I could handle it myself, but after my staff pitched in, I realized I couldn’t have done it without them. I hired my staff for a reason, and I am part of a team for a reason. This is especially true when it comes to art – everyone has a different opinion, and it’s important that they’re all heard. My staff this year are all beautiful people. I was very lucky to have them on the team.
4) Some art is meant to be fun. Though it’s important to be professional and not make light of any submissions, it can be easy to take a humorous poem that is playful in form and criticize it for not being “high art.” Art is for everyone. When I read submissions, I try to think who the demographic will be, and how they will enjoy this piece. Our demographic is everyone, because the students on campus are from everywhere. Something will appeal to everyone if we do our job right. Part of that means having fun and taking it a little easy when it comes to criticism.
5) College ends quickly. Suddenly, it’s my senior year and I’m writing my last blog post. I hope everyone who is reading this takes a moment to realize how they got where they are, and how quickly this can all go. My time at Hope College has been more than I could have expected, but my time with my staff has been the most important. Their strength, maturity, humor, intellect, and talent has made me remember why I wanted to write and why I wanted to run Opus in the first place. I believe that Opus can do something for campus: bring voices to light that never really get heard, show students through art that they are not alone, remind us that we are balancing several aspects of our lives and it’s delicate and hard, teach us and show us how to improve our art. Opus is so much more than a literary magazine. I hope that it continues years after I graduate, that it expands and becomes a collaborative, important resource for students. I hope that it stays independent of the faculty and board members, that students recognize they are capable of running the magazine and producing something that can make Hope College proud. There are hundreds and hundreds of talented students on campus, gifted with the ability to communicate their truths through art, and Opus is privileged to see their vulnerabilities, creations, extraordinary abilities. I love Opus. My time went by too quickly.
Grace Hulderman, Madison Veverka, Shanely Smith, Ryan Woodside, and Joy Rhine – I wish you luck and congratulate you. Make Abby and I proud – we know you will. And, of course, remember to keep creating ;).
Thank you for reading Opus people. I’ll miss you.

~ Sadina 

Farewell: 5 Things Opus Taught Me about Life

I write this with deep sadness; it’s my final Opus blog post. Over the past year as co-editor, and the semester before as poetry editor, I’ve had a wonderful experience. And I don’t just mean that in an abstract way. Nope. I’ve loved working with and learning from everyone that Opus reaches. I don’t know another setting quite like that of Opus–the shared joy over creative writing and artwork, the welcoming of new faces to open meetings, the enthusiasm of the staff, and the encouragement of peers, professors, and our adviser. As a transfer student, I was unsure of myself and my place on campus when I arrived at Hope. The Opus community, and really the entire creative community, welcomed me and let me know I had important things to offer.

But enough about me. Let me share 5 wonderful things I’ve learned in my time at Opus that I will carry with me–and you should too. I will mostly focus on the written aspect of Opus, but this applies to visual art as well!

1) Write. Write when you don’t feel like it. Write when you feel like it, but you don’t have the right words. Write when the feelings hit, and the words come out as a jumbled mess. Write even though that jerk in class laughed at your piece. Write because if you have the urge to write, there is already something beautiful happening.

Ray Bradbury once said about writing, “Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” The most important thing is that you take that first jump.

2) Don’t give up. Submit your work. Get rejected? Revise it; submit it again. Does your work not quite say what you want it to? Don’t settle for the close word…keep searching for the perfect one. This obviously applies to so much of life.

3) Be friendly; be open. It’s a little weird for people to share work. Opus is a strange sounding organization to many at first. But that’s where the lovely people I work with come into play. I’ve seen editors inviting people to Opus meetings, encouraging someone in their work, telling that extra-shy person in class that every voice is worth hearing in art, coming up with an open mic night so that all who are willing can share their work and their voices, letting people know they matter, that they are important. I’m getting choked up just thinking about the beauty in these little interactions that invite and encourage people. Honestly guys–Sadina, Sam, Grace, Tommy–we all thank you for your attitudes and enthusiasm.

4) Spend time with people that get it. Sadina and I spent nights that faded into mornings holed in the basement of Dewitt bent over a shared computer screen. Did we get frustrated? Oh yes. Did we eat candy to not hate life? Oh yes. But ya know what, I will miss those nights because we were working toward a common goal together, and art is more important than sleep. And there’s something so great in spending even stressful times with someone who gets it.

5) NEVER. EVER. STOP CREATING. Okay I basically said this. So you get it. But SERIOUSLY. Please don’t. I want you to create in beautiful moments, in painful moments, and in moments that are just absurd. And really, it has nothing to do with what I want. But be honest, you NEED to create.

Alright. Whew. There’s so much more I could say but I’ll stop. I’ll just leave you with a picture of prince and some dank memes.



Keep your hearts burning, and your arms open to the universe.
~Abby, Co-editor

How to be a Successful Writer

As if I could even begin to tell you. Who am I? I’m just the prose editor of Opus. But I know some really talented writers who can tell you how to be a successful writer. And awaaaay we go!

Some wisdom from this year’s Big Read guest, Tim O’Brien: “No book ever gets written by thinking about it or going bowling or playing golf. You have to put your butt down and spend many, many hours in front of a computer or a piece of paper, and don’t get up, even if you’re blocked or don’t know what’s going to happen next or you don’t know what the next sentence should be. You’re like a donkey, you just keep plodding. And that quality of stubbornness and perseverance is really important.” How do you like that? Your bestselling novel isn’t going to write itself.
Even Toni Morrison gets stuck. Her advice? “When I sit down in order to write, sometimes it’s there; sometimes it’s not. But that doesn’t bother me anymore. I tell my students there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block,’ and they should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.”
And, finally, a last bit of advice from F. Scott Fitzgerald that reminds us how tough the writer life can be. “Work like hell! I had 122 rejection slips before I sold a story.”

Summer Plans and Open Mics

As this spring semester comes to a close, many of us are preparing to begin our summer plans. For some, this means hanging around Holland, starting an internship, or perhaps even studying abroad. But for others, the summer may not look so hopeful. If you are anything like me, planning for the summer can seem like a daunting task. It can be difficult to meet the early application deadlines, find housing arrangements, or even to find the right job in the first place. So if you are looking ahead at a summer with no real plans, don’t get discouraged!
While I am not trying to discount the importance of something like securing an internship, I do want to use this blog post to remind you that a seemingly empty summer is not the end of the world. Give yourself grace.  Remember that life does not only consist of ups, and that the downs are necessary for growth. Seize the day, but try not to put an unreasonable amount of pressure on yourself. Also remember that the worst thing you can do is nothing at all – if you are worried that it’s too late to begin planning, try anyways. However, if you do wind up back home for the summer, do not look at this as a failure. Take this opportunity to plan for the next summer, decide now what you want to do and get a head start.  Build on your portfolio; write a book or teach yourself a new skill.  Bottom line: stay active and hopeful – things will only become a failure if you let them.
 Thanks for reading, and remember that the Opus Open Mic Night is THIS TUESDAY at 7:00pm in the Depree Art Gallery. And it’s not too late to sign up! Send us an email at opus@hope.edu if you would like to read and share your art with us!
Hang in there, only 3 weeks left!
 
Grace Hulderman
Poetry Editor

Natural Heat — Get Weird with It

Hello everyone! It’s Sadina here, one of the Opus co-editors. This month is so exciting because Opus has so many events scheduled!

Next week, Tuesday April 5th at 8 pm in Winants Auditorium (Graves Hall) there will be a reading from our beloved professors themselves with pizza and conversation after. The professors reading include:
Jesus Montano
Susanna Childress
Rob Kenagy
Priscilla Atkins
Pablo Peschiera
Brandon Krieg
Greg Rappleye
David James
This is going to be a really fun time, so come one, come all! It’s right after the grad school panel, so hurrah for English events! Here’s the poster for it:
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The next Tuesday is a Student Reading! We invite you all to email Opus if you’re interested and we’ll write your name down for reading. This will take place at 7pm in the Depree Art Gallery. There will be snacks, art, and fun. Anyone can read anything (remember, there will be professors there, so keep that in mind before you read anything you’ll regret) and we ask that you limit your reading time to five minutes.
THE LAST EVENT, THE ULTIMATE EVENT, THE BEST EVENT … okay, so maybe not the best, but it’s pretty exciting for Opus … is Opus Soup! This will take place (you guessed it) on Tuesday, April 26th at 7pm in the Martha Miller Rotunda. Opus Soup is the release of the Spring 2016 edition where the artists will share their work and we can celebrate with everyone. There will be snacks and conversation after.
Okay, enough PR. Now for the blog. In one of my creative writing class taught by Dr. Susanna Childress (Prof C as she’s lovingly referred to), she passed around lavender oil and told us to put some on our wrists. Then, she had us pick a spot on the floor, turned off the lights, turned on The Hours soundtrack, and had us write for about twenty minutes. The challenge was to focus on our white hot center, to get to the heat of our writing as much as we could before the time was out. It sounds weird, and it kind of was, but it was also beautiful and now I want to do it every time I write. What I’m getting to with this is that Prof C reminded me that authors have several habits that help them write.
When Tim O’Brien came to campus, he talked about how he’ll “write crap” until he felt like he got to something good, then he wouldn’t move until he felt like he had most of it down. He mentioned how important it is to take time to get into the writer’s mindset, because we don’t want to write about nothing, we want to write about what hurts and write it well. He said for every novel he has that he feels is successful, he’s written at least five novels that he has thrown away.
Louise Erdrich said that she would tie herself to her chair with scarves so all she could reach was the keyboard. She wrote and wrote, finally untying herself when she feels like she’s getting to something good.
I read once that Truman Capote couldn’t think unless he was lying down, so he would stretch out on a couch or the floor to write, calling himself the “horizontal author.”
David James Poissant said that he spends at least four hours every day writing, and he won’t leave his desk until the four hours are up, but sometimes those four hours turn into 12.
The point is, writer’s have their weird writing habits. The moral of the story: do whatever you need to in order to get yourself to create. Find a reward system, tie yourselves to the chair with scarves, only write next to a candle and don’t stop until it burns out, anything that makes you reach your white hot center. Create until you feel the heat, then create some more.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at some (or all – what?) the Opus events! Keep writing, keep creating!
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**Images courtesy of Google images**

Whose Opinion Matters Most?

When I make things, whether I’m scribbling a poem or finishing a painting, I struggle with two different standards: mine and everyone else’s. I think this is a major struggle for artists of any kind. I often say I am content with calling a work finished and beautiful so long as I like it. However, this is much harder to do in practice than to say it. When I started making artwork, I measured my success by the standards of others, much as we do with everything we learn. How do you know you are good at something or if you are doing it right at all? You ask someone else, most often someone who has done it and is known for being good at it. So I’ve learned almost everything I know about art in this way: I make things, and I ask others along the way if I’m doing well and how I can make my things better. At what point, then, do we as the artist become the judge of our own work? When are we “good enough” at what we do to decide for ourselves if our work has value? When we graduate? When we receive validation from professors? When we sell our first work?
My artwork might not be understood by everyone, but if it looks the way I had envisioned and it speaks to me, is it good enough? I would like to think that yes, it is. Obviously, I am not an expert, but I resonant with innumerable poems and works of art that are not widely known and that many other people dislike. When I see something or hear something that reminds me of my life, of my emotions, of me, I see value in the person and the work that could convey that shared experience to me. I like to think that my work has value as long as one other person can look at it and say, “Yes, that makes perfect sense to me. I know exactly how you’re feeling.” Of course, that doesn’t mean that I will be successful as an artist. Unfortunately, selling one piece of art or one book to the ideal person does not an artist make.
The question that follows is what does success look like for you? Is it enough to just put yourself out there and sell a few things to the people that really understand and appreciate them, or do you want validation by the broader public that you are doing well at what you do? It might seem simple that this is the base question that you should ask yourself when judging your own work, but it’s a question worth thinking about. My opinions and my answers change with what I’m working on, and they have changed a lot over the years. With my answers, my work has also changed. When I let go of some of the expectations I knew other people held me to, I discovered new perspectives and techniques that I hadn’t dared to discover before. In that sense, I think everyone needs to set up a time when they decide that good enough for them is good enough. However, I think the question of what success is can help you decide who you’re working for and answer my original question: whose opinion matters most to you?

Samantha Grody, Opus Art Editor

Treasuring Opportunities

Last Friday (and last night, because I’m overindulgent and quite smitten with the performance) I was able to attend the Hope College Dance Department’s production of Dance 42. One of the best parts about being a college student is the countless amount of opportunities that exist to attend such a broad range of events. As an artist in constant search of inspiration, I feel wildly fortunate to have it right in front of me almost anytime I go looking. With dance, specifically, it is really neat to see ideas that I am constantly wrestling with in my own art, come to life in such a fresh and singular way. Since the subject of most art is humanity (that is to say, an attempt to capture what makes us human), an encounter with the body as a medium is a really wonderful element to bring into your work. Some dances made a statement about social justice issues, while others captured the stages of growth, but each dance, regardless of genre or statement, was an equally poignant praise for the body and a true pleasure to witness. I left the performance (both nights) full of appreciation and energy that I could not wait to transfer to the pages of my sketchbook and the lines of my poems.
One of the primary purposes for art is to engage in conversation. When you get an opportunity to foster that conversation, it is so important and rewarding to take it. This blog post turned into a bit of a shout out for Dance 42, but whether your preferred event is a dance performance or a discussion on economics, try and treasure your opportunities as a student!
Have a weekend full of peace and adventure and remember to keep your head up – only one more week until Spring Break!
Grace Hulderman
Poetry Editor