Gloves - a brief reflection by Arch Magazine

A single white ladies’ winter glove sat abandoned on the table in the food court.

I could have ignored it, but considering that I all but ran the lost and found, it didn’t feel right to leave it. It was already left behind. But I felt self-conscious as I reached out to grab it. In my mind, someone would dart off the food line to run after me, snatch the glove from my hand, accusation written across their face. “That’s mine!” this imaginary person shouted. “I left it there on purpose.” On purpose? As though to claim the table with a single glove.

No such imaginary person ran after me, but I still felt a hundred eyes on me, though honestly I don’t think anyone noticed.

I logged the glove in the lost items file and tossed it in the lost items bin where I knew it would sit and live out the rest of its sad existence, because no one ever comes to look for gloves and scarves and plain black cardigans. And while scarves and plain black cardigans might live out a second life when we empty the lost items bin for donation, single gloves are about as useless as they come. The odds of finding a sister-glove is always incredibly unlikely. They go to the same place brother-socks go, with the occasional mismatched shoe.

This single glove set me thinking about other things, though. Someone out there may have been missing it or already buying a replacement for it. Gloves do not just appear out of nothing, just as cigarette butts, pink lipstick stains, bobby pins, and stray hairs do not just appear out of nothing. Each is attached (or was attached) to something. Each carries its own ghostly presence, each a quiet reminder of the existence of other people.

No matter how small or ugly or regular a lost item can be, it still bears something of a person I may not ever know or recognize. So I don't think you have to look at the cosmos to realize what a small place in the world you occupy. Instead just pause a moment to observe all the discarded and abandoned items in the environment surrounding you, a life somehow attached to each.

A single white glove - it doesn't really matter if anyone comes to claim it.

- Brenna Croker

Musical Autobiography by Arch Magazine

Being an aspiring musician, I look at the world as a song waiting to be written. I remember getting that first inspiration to write a song. It was a music director that I worked with when I was 15 that showed me how to write songs and I went home that night and wrote something of my very own. I was in the shower and while humming I came up with some words that caused me to cut my shower short and run to a notebook and pen to jot it down. It was a song about bullying that I wrote in the shower. That's how song number 1-10 came into existence. The most important thing I learned about songwriting was letting the listener live through a moment of your life. I started writing about past experiences of bullying, first loves, having friends, bad days - basically everything I could conceive of or have lived through became a song. At the end of my career, I want my life to be told through music. 

Zahid Reddy

The Evolution by Arch Magazine

What marks the difference between a good writer and a great writer?

That’s the question I ask myself when I struggle to figure out what to write for my creative writing class. Getting the ideas is never a problem; I can look outside my over sized window and write about a pine tree. Give me any topic and I could figure something out, although it might not be very enchanting. I consider myself a good writer. But how do I take that extra step to be a great writer?

We all can figure out what a bad writer is like, and at one point we have all been bad writers. Our problems can range from the fact that the story isn’t engaging, the grammar is atrocious, or we just don’t care about the topic. And there comes a point, through repetitive writing and editing, when we evolve into good writers. Similar to the way Pichu evolves into Pikachu: slow, but so worth it.

It’s at this point, I realized, that it’s possible to plateau. We can reach that status of a good writer and just stop, satisfied with what we’ve become. There’s nothing wrong with this, because we all worked hard to get here. But how can we take a step forward? Again, this question plagues me as I struggle to find an answer. Now, every piece I write feels like it’s on the same level as the last one. It’s not amazing; it’s just good.

I’ve come to the answer that we, as writers, must be open to criticism. This means allowing writers better than ourselves to devour that which we have written. And I mean devour, with sinful glutton. This, while it may sound easy, is quite hard to do. We have to be able to take their advice and allow ourselves to not take things personally. If what we write stays behind closed doors, then it can never step out and grow. Writers are prideful; everything we write comes from the heart. This, we must balance our pride with our humility. Since this is one of the best ways to step forward into the category of a great writer.

- Forhad Rahman

Interview by Arch Magazine

Arch Author Interview:

Erin He on “Journey of Faith”

 

Erin He, a freshman at the University at Albany, talks about faith, taking risks, and being published for the first time.

Interviewed by Brenna Croker for Arch e-Journal

What would you like for people to know about you? How would you describe yourself?

I don't have anything in particular I want people to know about me. Maybe the fact that I don't dislike you as much as you think? I get that often. The, "I think you hate me" thing.

I'm not sure, but I think sensitive is the right word. When I was in elementary school, the word always had a bad connotation- if you were called sensitive you are weak or a crybaby, something like that. I am sensitive to things that involve me, of course. I feel overwhelmed easily, and I try hard to forget my mistakes. I feel I may be overly sensitive of racism. But I also care a lot about inanimate, animate things, and even abstract ideas. Sometimes I wish I wasn't.

Sensitivity can be both a good thing. How do you think that's affected you in your writing?

It definitely made my writing more cynical. Especially since I'm aware that some people can careless about the things that are important to me.

Does this relate at all to your story “Journey of Faith”?

Well, I consider being what people refer to as an "ABC" (American born Chinese) an important part of my identity. But I can say the same for my faith back when I initially wrote the piece and now. In Chinese culture, filial piety is very important, and as a child of parents who are atheist but practice Mahayana Buddhism and other rituals for the sake of tradition, I felt like I was trapped in between the two.

So the being torn between atheism and Mahayana Buddhism led you to start a literal journey of faith? Do you think that you've reached the end of that journey yet?

Yes. Less than two years ago I was agnostic.

For the second question, no. To this day my relatives tease me about being Christian. I know my parents love me and want the best for me, but when I was home for thanksgiving, my dad tried getting some family friends who are a couple of years older than me to give me a pep talk about why I shouldn't go to church. But even more than that, the journey is mostly internal. There are a lot of things I don't understand, which cause me to waver and doubt.

I actually don't think I'll ever come to a definitive "end"

Why do you believe so?

In my life, I'm sure I'll experience more things that will shake me, so I guess it's just a feeling. For example, I didn't intend on coming to Albany. I was miserable before classes started, but once they did, I was able to meet so many great professors that have so much to offer and many new people. I also involved myself in several groups and I felt my faith was growing, and thanked God for bringing me here. But then something happens, and I'm confused as to why He allowed it to happen, and I feel like I'm back to square one.

How did you get introduced to this faith if your family doesn’t practice it?

The high school I went to had a special diploma from the school, and in order to get it, students had to volunteer for a certain about of hours. My mom found my sister and I a place to volunteer for the summer- a church's summer bible school. At first I was cynical and thought of the people there as fanatics, but at the time I was struggling in school and with my own expectations. I found solace in God that no one and nothing could have provided me with before

I know you struggled with putting “Journey of Faith” in either fiction or non-fiction. What about it makes the difference?

I started writing the piece will the intention of it being a nonfiction piece. My faith, my questioning, the opposition from my parents and relatives, and my cousin are all real. But in the end... I'm just a sucker for a good story. I don't know what that makes me, but as I'm writing, these small details come to me that aren't "real", but in my mind, would add so much more. I often go between adding it or leaving it out, and in this case, there are details that are fiction. I came to the conclusion that even if it's 99.9% nonfiction and .1% fiction, it should still be labeled as fiction. It makes me feel better about adding those details.

Selfish, if I think about it

Why selfish?

Instead of sticking to writing a nonfiction piece from beginning to end and learning to "kill my darlings", I take the shortcut, label it as fiction, and make myself feel better.

Do you see writing as a more personal thing or do you write to share your work?

I see it as a personal thing. I said before I’m a sensitive person. I don’t know how to express my feelings any way other than writing, and even then, it’s difficult to put down into words exactly what I mean.

But i guess that means I also write it to share with others

What do you mean by that?

I don't know actually. I think it's almost like a two-step process. First I write it down to get whatever is welling up inside of my out, and sometimes I'll feel okay after that. But other times, I feel the need to hold it to other people's faces and scream, "This is what I feel! Do you understand? Why don't you understand?"

I think that's a sentiment that a lot of writers share. Is this first time you've been published? Do you want to be published in the future?

Yeah, it's my first time. In high school, there were so many opportunities but I was always so caught up in wanting to write a masterpiece even though I was aware of my lacking abilities. I do want to be published in the future, but I'm afraid because I can't force myself to write and I feel like I'm like the squirrel in the idiom "even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while"

What made you take the leap this time?

I was tired of my own inaction. If I get rejected, it's better knowing I tried. My professors also gave my peers and I the push and encouragement I needed

Returning to your work, “Journey of Faith” includes words and phrases and names from the Chinese language. Obviously not everyone who reads it will be able to understand that part. Can you tell me a little bit about your decision to include that?

A lot of the pieces I write include Chinese-speaking characters, but I usually write it in English and emulate the seemingly broken grammar Chinese has instead. Other times, I won't even bother doing that. But for this piece, my family's traditional values are part of the reason why they oppose my faith. I think Chinese characters embody some of that tradition.

What do you hope that people who don't have this kind of background knowledge about you take away from “Journey of Faith”? Is that something you considered in choosing it for publishing?

Is it possible to leave that up to the reader? I don't know what to take away from my experience myself.

Absolutely! And as I reach the end of my questions, is there anything else about “Journey of Faith” or about yourself that you haven't gotten to express yet that you think is important? Any final thoughts?

I want to get better at writing.

That's about it.

 

Today I Choose To Live by Arch Magazine

I have an obsession with life.

As long as I keep that at the forefront, I hope to not lose sight of who I am. I create because I want to contribute something to this world that is hell-bent on destroying itself. But I often feel that what I contribute will never be enough to change anything. There is something about creating that leads me to believe that I can change the world. Why else would I bother? Because it's something that cannot be destroyed. Why do any of us bother? That small impact we hope to make is huge and life changing in our minds, and thus fills us with equal measures of hope and fear.

All my life, writing has been a survival tool. I didn't always create because I loved it. I created with the passion and fury that I did because I had to, out of fear of death. But this is transforming. It's not about survival anymore, not in the way it used to be, though there is always the part of the artist that feels as if their very life depends on the thing they are creating. But more and more, my drive is becoming about life itself, rather than the fear of "death."

What I am writing here is a creation, because if I don't know this about myself, I really don't know anything. This piece is life itself for me, in this moment. Tomorrow or the next day, it may not be the same kind of life for me, so I will have to create again, whether through writing or photography or music. I write this out of hope, trying to break through that fear.

I have an obsession with life.

I look for life in everything. For redemption in everything. For God in everything. It's the lens through which I see everything. If God is not in everything I do and see, I would lose hope. I equate God with beauty, redemption, life; I even see him in death. I see beauty everywhere, even in the most dismal places. Especially in the most dismal places. To lose that ability would be hell for me. When I think of creating something, I think it is the most divine activity a human can do.

Ugliness can't be my final verdict about life. I see the ugly and pull out the beauty, even if that beauty is drenched in pain and sorrow. I have always been hungry for life. So keep creating, whoever you are. Keep being obsessed with life, even if for the moment it is filled with ugliness and despair. Creation is why we live, why we survive, how we immortalize ourselves and immortalize the human race. Keep creating and don’t stop for as long as you live and breathe, even when fear attempts to keep you hostage, to keep you silent.

And every day tell yourself:

Today I choose to live.

Naomi McPeters

The Power of Words by Arch Magazine

       I am not a reckless creature.

       Not prone to impulse decisions made quick within my pulse. My resistance to uncertainty narrates my past, attempts at safeguarded behavior to protect what slipping control I possess over life. My polite declines to age appropriate risks have written a persona the drastic opposite of charismatic protagonists saturating popular culture. I am not a wispy, wide-eyed thrill seeker whose intensity for life breathes an aura of dust turned gold wherever she turns, the mundane events of young adulthood transformed into exhilaration and wonder. I am methodical, often cautious, existing right around the always mark of perpetual overthought.

      Thoughts that wind and buffer and jar and run within the circles of my mind’s recess. Thoughts made of words once insignificant in their solitude, but woven magic by their communion.

     This power of letters turned syllables woven to words strung along as sentences guides me. It guides my interest in writing and my fondness of reading. It guides my desire to learn and to communicate, but more than that it guides everything. Such a casual word as “everything” would typically be cast aside in its laziness and all-encompassing generosity, but in this instance it finds an appropriate place. I say this because words and their meanings make up my experience of this life beyond anything else I know.

      One could argue for other senses and experiences, their indisputable power, the cascade of emotions, for instance, released in a single moment of musical transcendence, the intensity of eroticized emotions on display in the paintbrush stroke, or the electricity of even a momentary fingertip graze. And for others these may very well weigh heavier in their importance than words, but my experience is not the meeting of words on occasion. It is words composing the occasions entirely.

      You see, words make or break me. The moments I could offer you which were driven to their capacity by the words spoken within them are endless. Moments of near suffocated hope, redeemed in a choir classroom speaking low, “If my daughter becomes half the young woman you are I will be proud.” Or. Moments released from self, saving sanity through a terrified outburst breathing, “You cannot do this to people. You cannot assume…God, you hurt me…” And words overwhelming my freckled face with a heat stained blush whispering, “You’re different. When I’m with you I don’t feel like something is missing.” Words which have driven me to decisions otherwise impossible, or at least, implausible. Words which have written meanings upon the stages of my experiences, redirecting the trajectory of the actions comprising my life.

     Words matter. These words mattered. Our words matter.

     And so I have found voice and power, decided strength, in the words of my life. In hours of confusion and pain I bring myself to words written down. When chaos ensues I alleviate internalized pressure through streams of words narrated in thought. As another turns to me in fear or indecision I lay words as my balm. Words guide me, but more importantly I guide them. I may not be magnetic in my nonexistent spontaneity, I certainly do not bellow command in a grandness of vocal strength or depth, nor do I exert power in physicality or extroversion. But I do own my words. Most consistently in those written. The page a source of comfort, the escaped sentences my realized assertion. I find my power in the combinations I lay forth for eyes to read, for it is on these pages where my truth finds itself most free. And if I know anything it is that truth is the heart of power, the kind of power which sustains the heartbeats of words which have mattered so much to me.

      I offer this to you not simply as insight into me, but rather to prompt your own consideration of words. Whether you write or sing or scream or think, words are imperative to your life. You may be soft spoken or loudly spoken of, but in either instance those words leaving lips matter. Words inspire. They rally. Gather nations and ignite revolutions. They illuminate experiences, your experiences, experiences that matter. Words bend and break and destroy the best places in people. They are abused, wearing relentlessly at the innocent, and overused without pause. They are thrown as weapons and dropped like acid rain. Words move lives in 90 degree angles and pivot like knives in chests. Words bind souls and cause consent. They heal and mend and build what we know.

     Words are power which I would plead this world not to use flippantly. And your words are one of your greatest powers.

     How will they matter?                                                                                                                    Elena Lipsiea                                                            

My Writing Journey by Arch Magazine

Writing has been for me blank pieces of paper and either a blank mind or one too full for me to even begin to uncover and pull apart everything inside. It has been hours of frustration because something I love to do should be easy, right? It has been crumpled sheets of paper lying on the floor, while I sit at my desk in defeat, wondering why the defeat hurts so much. I wonder why it is so important for the words to come out as they should. No one ever said it is easy, and so I keep at it, but why? I read all these brilliant works of people who are able to bring their words and cut through to my soul, and I wonder why I can’t be like them. My words do not satisfy me. My own writing often comes in the form of poetry, and I remember that first poem I wrote, sitting on the edge of my bed with an ache so deep inside of me I could not name it, a fear so deep I could not find the courage to even look at it. So rather than face it head on, I picked up a pencil and started writing, hoping I could find an escape from that thing I could not, yet knew I had to, face. So like Theseus from the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, I took with me a ball of string deep into the underground labyrinth, so that once I found the monster inside I could find my way out again rather than become the monster itself. Because, you see, this monster doesn’t just kill his victims, he sucks them in and makes them a part of himself. So I struggled to find the words, but I emerged from the labyrinth exhausted, with tears in my eyes and an untouchable pain in my heart, and I wasn’t even sure why. But in those tears was freedom, and the thirst for this freedom became unquenchable. My writing journey began there, the first time I entered the labyrinth and emerged, exhausted, yet victorious.

I rip through drafts and versions and sometimes leave things incomplete and crumpled, yet no matter how many times I declare something complete, I know it is never complete. If we speak of works that live on through the ages, we must know that there is never an ending to the words we write. They are preserved for no other reason than that someone, somewhere, either thinks them ugly enough to despise or thinks them beautiful enough to be kept. Gertrude Stein said that “writing is neither remembering nor forgetting, neither beginning nor ending,” and she is right to say that, because in my experience, writing is living. It lives the moment I write it; it remains alive for those who read it. And even if it lies untouched for thousands of years, when discovered again it is resurrected, and this is why it is important that I persevere through the frustration of the meaningless words that come out because of some desire to see marks on a page rather than a baring of my soul. Because these words never die. They may not reshape or remake anyone’s world but mine, but they are still worth writing because they live. Stein says, “In writing not anyone finishes anything. That is what makes a masterpiece what it is, that there is no finishing.” Writing is important to me for that reason. Words I wrote years ago still echo in my mind because I persevered, because I found my way through the labyrinth of my own memories and experiences and killed that monster, and one does not easily forget a journey like that. And writing, each time, is that very journey. As writers we must return again and again to that labyrinth and find that monster that fills us with fear, and we must kill it. As writers we have a desire to go into that darkness and face whatever it is we find, a desire that cannot be extinguished. Darkness calls out to us and we cannot ignore it; we must answer. We must. It is an ache, a longing, that everyone has yet most are too afraid to admit.

Unwritten words are not remembered, and it is a great responsibility of a writer to makes sure all that can be said is said and remembered, otherwise, what is the point? As a writer, my mind is haunted by words left unwritten. It is as if I faced the darkness, entered the labyrinth, did battle with the monster, and then fled because I lost courage. It is as if I left him wounded, yet alive and therefore victorious over me. Writing takes courage, deep courage, and the life of the writer is to leave no words unwritten that

have the possibility of becoming a masterpiece. We dare not stop before every thought is expressed. They will be rearranged later if needed, but they must not be smothered. This is my greatest mistake and always has been. I smother what I think I cannot communicate perfectly. I do not realize that it takes constant revision to uncover what I am really trying to say. I am afraid to get dirty. And so I give up, far too easily and too quickly, and leave things truly unfinished, out of fear. Fear has halted my mind from exploring, and my heart from feeling, so many times. If writing must remake someone’s world, let it begin here, with mine. For me the goal of writing is too free myself, and if I must, I will spend a lifetime doing just that, returning to the labyrinth, until the monster loses its grip and never again rises.

- Naomi McPeters

Confidence in Your Abilities by Arch Magazine

            Happy Holidays everyone. First off, I want to thank everyone who has contributed and made this issue another great one.  We had our largest contribution pool to choose from, and I know I speak for all of the editors when I say it was a pleasure to see everyone’s works.

            My second point deals with perspective contributors. So if you haven’t contributed and are looking at someone else's piece, if you are a friend of a contributor, or if you are from Suny Albany and are just looking because you heard of us, this message is for you. Trying to recruit for Arch contributors, I always run into the same issue. Confidence. I have seen amazing writers, and talented artists of all sorts, but when I ask if they would be interested, they don’t think that their work is good enough.

            I am well aware of this feeling and I suffer from it as well. It is hard to do something where you express yourself and then show it to others. The other part of it is that you might not be satisfied with the work and you might want to keep tweaking it. As artists, we might never be satisfied with the "doneness" of our work. However, there is little to fear. All of us editors feel or have felt that fear or lack of confidence at one point or another.  Personally, I once had to have about three friends and my mom to tell me to submit some of my writing for a contest. I share this with you not to say that this lack of confidence has completely left me, but I say it because I want everyone to know we get it. I tell you that story to show that sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and it might pay off. The worse thing that could happen is that we say that you won’t be in this issue of Arch. The world won’t end, you shouldn’t stop trying, and we are only one group of people.

            If you don’t get in this time, edit your piece, create another, or try a new medium. The only way you lose in this case, is if you don’t try. I was once at a creative writing workshop and the instructor told me something that I will never forget. “Shut up and read your shit.” The instructor didn’t mean that our writing was bad, she meant that everyone thought that of their own work and it showed. We all made excuses on why we weren’t sharing our work or justifications for it being less than our best if we did share.  After that, we started sharing more and it was rare for someone to read a “bad” piece. Once we all got over our fear, we grew as writers and helped each other improve.

          In short, the only way to get better and gain more confidence is to submit work to places like this. If you are having trouble working up the confidence to submit, come see us and talk to us at our launch parties. We understand what you are going through, and we are a safe and low judgement place for you to explore your hobby or talent.    

 

Until next time,

Danielle York