Written by Kathryn Ross
Fresh out of college with her spring 2018 degree, Elena Ender is already making waves in the writing world. Elena majored in English with a concentration in writing and works as an Editorial Intern for Tin House, a well-known and widely-respected publisher in Portland, OR. Her role at Tin House has Elena wearing many hats; sometimes she is an editor, others times she is a reader, and still others she is a helper. She elaborates on her duties, saying, “I judge stories, fact-check, fix stories, and try to make people’s lives easier.”
“Intuitively,” says Elena, “I always knew I should work in the creative field. I had fun doing the editorial work everyone else hated. I gained power from writing stories. I felt alive making people laugh. My calling is found in any little moment on any arbitrary day that I spend doing something that fuels my desire to keep living.” Though Elena has always had a natural proclivity towards creativity and writing, she says it was her favorite professors and mentors in the APU English Department who made her dreams tangible. Professors Clark and Kern were especially inspiring for Elena thanks to their approach to teaching writing and life skills. Their practical advice and useful tools inspired Elena, to go out and put into practice what she learned. This advice has certainly paid off, as Elena has had publications in various online and print magazines such as Furious Gazelle, THAT Literary Journal, and, Entity Mag.
Elena’s time at APU also enriched her spiritually. As an Editorial Intern, her desk is flooded with pieces from around the world. They showcase and represent people from different walks of life, different worldviews, and different faith backgrounds. “Let’s be honest,” Elena says, “Christians can be closed off and hypocritically mean to things and people they don’t understand.” She presses that this behavior actually spurs her to be “hyper-aware” of her own ignorance, pushing her “to be better, more loving, more accepting, and more empathetic to others’ experiences.” Elena understands that her current position has entrusted her with “the power, the privilege, to promote art of anyone from anywhere.” She continues,
“I want to prove that Christians can have an open mind to stories that aren’t their own. I want to publish a diverse range of amazing stories, from women, from people of color, from the LGBTQIA+ community, from baby boomers and millennials, from Muslims and Mormons. I want to read tough topics that were banned for being too controversial because I want to understand what other daughters and sons of God have been through. I want to learn how to love them better. I want all of us to be better. I don't want to just hear a funneled version of history. I want to change what we're taking in by busting it open from the inside and piecing it back together with more of Christ's vibrancy and love than ever before.”
On the other side of college, Elena has plenty of wisdom to offer current students. She urges undergrads to stop being afraid and closed off, to stop wanting to be cool and fit a certain image. Elena found her time at APU became most meaningful when she “got over the hump” of feeling too afraid or too cool to get involved in things she was interested in. She encourages current students to utilize campus resources like clubs, physical and mental health services, and extracurricular activities, to practice self care in their friendships, relationships, and housing situations, and to take the necessary time to learn about oneself--what you like, what you don’t like, what makes you the best version of yourself.
“Finding the literary journal and improv team,” Elena says of her own “finding yourself” moments, “groups who wanted me and actually used my skills and gave me space to be on campus: that was meaningful.” She notes that this helped her to be more vulnerable with friends and faculty members who shared (and challenged) her faith and views. Those relationships with friends and faculty helped Elena to find meaning in her work: “Meaning came from action, taking hold of my life and molding it into something I could take pride in.”
Words of Wisdom: Don't close yourself off to people. You're not an inconvenience. Keep trying to make yourself better (still you, but a better version of you--the most you version of you).