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


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

Movie Weekend: Writing

Hey all you writers and cinephiles!!! It’s Sam, the Opus Art Editor. Want to know what a really great writer thinks? What life as a writer might be like? Just want some writing inspiration? Check out these 10 movies about writing, supposed to be some of the best writing movies ever created!

AdaptationNicolas Cage is Charlie Kaufman, a confused L.A. screenwriter overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, sexual frustration, self-loathing, and by the screenwriting ambitions of his freeloading twin brother Donald (Nicolas Cage). While struggling to adapt “The Orchid Thief,” by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep), Kaufman’s life spins from pathetic to bizarre. The lives of Kaufman, Orlean’s book, become strangely intertwined as each one’s search for passion collides with the others’.

MiseryAfter a serious car crash, novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is rescued by former nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who claims to be his biggest fan. Annie brings him to her remote cabin to recover, where her obsession takes a dark turn when she discovers Sheldon is killing off her favorite character from his novels. As Sheldon devises plans for escape, Annie grows increasingly controlling, even violent, as she forces the author to shape his writing to suit her twisted fantasies.

CapoteReading of the murder of a Kansas family, New York City novelist Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) decides to cover the story himself, and travels to the small town with his childhood friend, aspiring novelist Harper Lee (Catherine Keener). When Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) are arrested and charged, Capote forms an emotional bond with Smith during his jailhouse interviews despite the young criminal’s apparent guilt.

ReprisePhillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman Høiner) have been best friends since childhood. Both young men share a passion for the works of reclusive novelist Sten Egil Dahl, and both harbor literary ambitions. However, fate deals differently with the friends as each strives to make his dream come true.

The Ghost WriterWhen a successful ghostwriter, the Ghost (Ewan McGregor), agrees to finish the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), England’s former prime minister, his publisher assures him it’s the chance of a lifetime. Instead, he begins to uncover evidence that suggests his late predecessor knew a dark secret about Lang and may have been murdered to prevent it from coming to light.

The Diving Bell and the ButterflyJean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), editor-in-chief of French fashion bible Elle magazine, has a devastating stroke at age 43. The damage to his brain stem results in locked-in syndrome, with which he is almost completely paralyzed and only able to communicate by blinking an eye. Bauby painstakingly dictates his memoir via the only means of expression left to him.

Barton FinkSet in 1941, an intellectual New York playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) accepts an offer to write movie scripts in L.A. He finds himself with writer’s block when required to do a B-movie script. His neighbor tries to help, but he continues to struggle as a bizarre sequence of events distracts him.

An Angel at My TableBased on the autobiographical work of New Zealand writer Janet Frame, this production depicts the author at various stage of her life. Afflicted with mental and emotional issues, Frame grows up in an impoverished family and experiences numerous tragedies while still in her youth, including the deaths of two of her siblings. Portrayed as an adult by Kerry Fox, Frame finds acclaim for her writing while still in a mental institution, and her success helps her move on with her life.

Wonder BoysGrady (Michael Douglas) is a 50-ish English professor who hasn’t had a thing published in years — not since he wrote his award winning “Great American Novel” 7 years ago. This weekend proves even worse than he could imagine as he finds himself reeling from one misadventure to another in the company of a new wonder boy author.

The ShiningJack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.

Friendly Encouragement (or how to survive as an artist).

   As artists, we often need encouragement when we work. I’m not talking about having a team of cheerleaders beside us, screaming our names as we feverishly type or slash brushstrokes across the canvas, though that might help the more extroverted artists among us. I’m talking about the kind of encouragement that inspires us to keep slugging through those drafts even when we feel that there’s no hope for our piece.
            I stumbled on advicetowriters.com a few months back. A man named Jon Winokur took his time compiling quotations from famous writers about writing. These quotations come in the form of inspiration, admonishments, and warnings. It might be just the resource for those of us who need a reminder that writing is hard, that we won’t get it right every time—but, despite this, the most important thing is that we keep trying. Jon Winokur updates the site with a new quotation every day so that, when you inevitably scroll passed the first few quotations and find yourself digging for a solution to your terrible writing in the dredges of the site, fear not—tomorrow, there will be another quotation to inspire you.
            For example, a quote of the day by Wallace Stegner: “If you have to urge a writing student to ‘gain experience with life,’ he is probably never going to be a writer. Any life will provide the material for writing, if it is attended to.” See what I mean? You have what it takes already, in case you needed a reminder.
            Here’s another quotation for the would-be writer who just can’t get that first draft done because it isn’t perfect—this one by Syd Field: “Write from your heart and don’t be afraid to write shitty pages. You can’t change something from nothing. Get it down on paper first, no matter what it looks like.”
            So, unless you’re one of the few among us doesn’t need the occasional pick-me-up advice, give advicetowriters.com a try. I often check out the quote of the day before each of my writing sessions, just so I know I’m not alone in the universe of creative writing.
            A final thought from Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Dillard: “One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now.”