Creative Process

It all starts with an idea. Maybe a short phrase, combination of words, a visualization of some lines on a page. It could be bigger picture, it could be a title or a color combination. The idea is spontaneous! Maybe it comes in the middle of a lecture or on a lazy weekend, just before settling down for the night. The idea is the romantic part, the exciting part, and the part that everyone day dreams of. A flash of inspiration, striking through a cloud of other miscellaneous thoughts. Something that HAS to be put down immediately, for fear of forgetting it.

After the joy of inspiration comes the reality of creation. Putting the pen to the paper or the brush to the canvas. People like to inject a romantic sense into this part of the process as well. The vision of the suffering artist, alone in the studio, standing before some unfinished piece. Playing some instrument and screwing up the tone over and over until it’s done correctly. I think this is the section that draws reverence from people. Everyone has had that stroke of genius, where they came up with some idea or plan that would change the world, or at least the neighborhood. But people who have followed through? Those people are the heroes. At least to some individuals.

The movements of creation can also carry the form of rituals and standard processes. Everyone has their favorite musician to listen to, candles to burn, rites to perform. It’s a personal journey for a lot of people, and their secret to turning out something they are proud of is known to them and them alone.

There is one truth to a lot of creativity. The one step that is the most impossible to overcome. The act of creating daily. Cutting through all the secrets and rituals, and the hushed whispers of secret tricks that produce awe-inspiring works, is the hard fact of repetition and consistency.

So write every day. And draw every day. Read every day. Whatever you want to be great at, do it every day.


Making an Issue

Crafting a magazine, like many other things, is best described in analogies. Electing leaders, choosing stories, arguing the merits and demerits of work that strangers (and your peers) have offered for consideration. It’s all like sculpting, or building a house. It’s like sweeping out a garage.

The first day of the semester a person could feel the weight of the ideas and hopes their peers held for the magazine. Everyone brought with them their individual aspirations, and those aspirations had a tangible presence in the room. Expectations were high, and rightfully so. It’s a pleasure to be amongst a group of people who all share an identical end goal. A common desire for something that is important, and expertly crafted.

It is also a pleasure to debate the finer points of submissions, and reaching conclusions on inclusions. Not pleasure as in especially enjoyable, or pleasing, but rather a pleasure meant in the literary sense. The sense that any emotion inflicted upon a person is a pleasure – whether it be frustration or happiness or relief- is a pleasure. The conclusion of Steinbeck’s powerful Of Mice And Men leaves the reader saddened for the finality of things and frustrated for the fact that it may not have turned out a specific way, but still fulfilled, and still happy for they have learned from it. Making an issue of Mush is a pleasure in this way.

Final stages are things many don’t consider in the first few days. Filling out graphs, talking about your favorite lines from a poem or colors in a photo, those are fun. Those activities are, to use an analogy, summer days. Clear skies and chirping birds. Those are the first weeks. With crunch time comes details, and details are frustrating. But details create the parts a person can notice and appreciate. Details move a block of marble to David.


Morality in Huck Finn

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a story filled with promises and friendships, both made and unmade throughout the course of the narrative. Mark Twain utilizes the relationships Huck forms, with a particular focus on Jim and the royal pair, as a device to highlight the development of the main character. Specifically, Huck creates and solidifies his own sense of morality through the instances of loyalty and treachery he encounters on his travels.​

At the beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the titular character is depicted as a boy with common sense but lacking a strong moral compass. It is important to note that Huck is not as dreadful as the character Pap, and at the same time is not as rigorous in his ways as his foster parentage, Miss Watson or the widow. It’s the gray area between these two poles in which the reader meets Huck. It is not until Huck meets Jim and begins his journey down the river that the reader begins to observe Huck developing his own sense of priorities and morals.

The companionship and kindness shared between Jim and Huck provides a strong foundation off of which Huck begins to build his own ideas of right and wrong. An early instance of this loyalty to one another impacting Huck takes place after the pair reconvene, following a bout of fog, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself… and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterwards, neither… I wouldn’t done that one if I’d a knowed it would make him feel that way.” (183) It is clearly displayed here that the connection between Jim and Huck resulted in Huck feeling compassion and guilt, thus realizing the value of friendship (or at least beginning to). Most important is that Huck makes this connection on his own. Jim scolds Huck for hurting him, but rather than brush it off as he would a sermon from Miss Watson or jibe from Tom Sawyer, Huck vows to never hurt him again.

But while the nurturing heart of Jim demonstrates a kind nature to Huck, it is necessary for a crucible of sorts to truly solidify Huckleberry’s morals and beliefs. This crucible comes in the form of the lost King and Duke. This vagabond pair engages in cheating behavior which, with each occurrence, sours Huck’s disposition towards the lifestyle. The most vivid example of their behavior comes when the pair poses as the family of a deceased, wealthy individual in order to rob them of the deceased’s assets. Huck takes great issue with this, “I says to myself, this is a girl that I’m letting that old reptle rob her of her money!… And this is another one…”(238). It is at this point in their adventure that Huck recognizes the repercussions of such treacherous living, and is visibly disgusted by it. Huck goes so far as to say that the perpetrator of the act is less than human. It is nearing the end of Huck’s interactions with the pair of royalty that he grows into who he may be, morally speaking, for the rest of his life.

The finale of the story also gives us the finale of Huck’s moral development. The ‘strength of his steel’, so to speak, is tested upon Jim’s capture at the hands of the King and the Phelps family. Huck determines that he has been granted an opportunity for salvation, going so far as to say that “Providence had slapped him in the face” (261) if he were to send a letter to Miss Watson and turn Jim in. However, after a brief reflection of his journey with Jim, Huck comes to realize his own stance on the issue and acts for himself, dramatically asserting, “All right, then, I’ll go  to hell” (262). No other moment so clearly defines Huckleberry’s development than this one as it involves a decision he knows to be legally wrong as well as conflicts with the beliefs Miss Watson attempted to instill in him. It’s a choice made in contradiction to his teachings and upbringing but in line with his own personal morality. The decision to spring Jim, and thus become an out-and-out guilty accomplice to a runaway slave, is one Huck makes because Huck believes that it is the right thing to do.

The story Mark Twain has crafted contains a host of messages and interpretations. The points I have argued are far from the only message of the novel and even farther from the only purpose Jim and the royal pair serve. Despite this, I believe Mark Twain wrote these characters and these situations in an effort to display the importance of development of self and realizing one’s own priorities. Through the interactions shared between Huck, Jim, the king and the duke, the reader not only observes Huck’s decisions and internal monologue evolve throughout the story but the reader, too, is invited to reflect on the occurrences.

The final final deadline is approaching. One day away, to be exact. This is the third submission window of the 2015 edition of Mush Magazine, and the extra time has served us wonderfully. The amount of submissions allows for great debate amongst the team.

I’d like to take this opportunity to explain the method with which the Mush team narrows down our submission pool. It’s a largely democratic process, involving a tally of votes of all the editors. These totals are then used to influence discussion and, at times, argument about the merits of a piece, and whether or not it should have a higher score. After months of debate specifically appointed prose, poetry and art editors compile the top vote getting pieces into a packet for further review, which spawns even more weeks of conversation on the submissions.

This is where we will find ourselves following the closing of the submission window. Just a few months from publishing the results of not just the staff’s hard work, but also the students. We are eager to see the results!

Continuation of Submissions

Hey, readers!

The Mush staff has been hard at work narrowing, editing, and responding to as many individuals as we possibly could. The entire crew is putting in the necessary effort to bring forth the quality that is expected of our favorite literary magazine.

In this spirit we would like to remind everyone that the submission deadline has been pushed back to allow for more individuals to send us their works! Remember, we allow a wide variety of mediums! Short stories, artwork, photographs, poems. If you can create it, you can submit it.

Thank you, from the Mush crew!


Hello all Mush followers!

The editorial staff is excited to once again get together for continued efforts on this year’s edition of Mush! We are lucky to welcome two new faces to this semester’s class and are eager to see the value they will no doubt bring to our dedicated team. The group has picked up right where we left off at the conclusion of last semester, reviewing the campus’s wonderful submissions and making the tough calls of what to include and what must be cut.

The staff is also excited to announce a deadline extension to the submission window! We wanted to give all students ample time to create and refine their works, and we are doing so by allowing all students of the MC or the NTC to submit works up to and including February 20th! That’s right, you have roughly one more month to get those works in.

Get crackin’, students. We’re looking forward to what you create!

Thoughts On Ninth Letter Fall/Winter 2013-14 by Dan Kondzela

       The Fall 2013 issue of Ninth Letter is an interesting mix of the familiar and the alien. The magazine, which itself is always a striking mix of personable stories and inhuman artwork, strikes a particularly poignant tone in the eyeball covered installment.

        Situated near the beginning of the issue is an inviting look at the midwest through photographs of decaying neighborhoods and a calm story of a dying tradition. I understand the contradiction of the pairing of the words ‘inviting’, ‘decaying’, and ‘dying’ since if one were to search the words out in a dictionary they would find sharply contrasting definitions. Ninth Letter, however, defies the common assumption in this way. It’s not that viewing a photograph of a weather-stripped tree or rusted and busted pickup truck creates a sense of desire, but rather a sense of familiarity. The photographs show environments that people can link themselves to, either physically or emotionally.

        Situated amongst these photographs (with a great relevancy, I might add) is a story called “Turkey Detour” by Ceridwen Hall. The short non-fiction piece tells of how one individuals seasonal tradition changed over the course of half a lifetime. Small hints at unfamiliarity pepper the piece, such as getting lost on the way to the poultry processing plant or the early celebration of a holiday due to conflicting schedules. Each paragraph carries with it some sort of downtrodden description or saddening epithet and the resolution leaves a sense of bittersweet acceptance. The two pages here convey in writing what the photographs that surround it convey in visuals, something sad but not completely without its positives. A feeling that things aren’t great, but at least they’re still there.

        From this point on the magazine strays from its midwestern angle and is open to more variable interpretations. Acknowledging this, the remainder of the review will subject you to my personal interpretation.

These interpretations stem from the abstract artwork which punctuates the written work every few pages. The artwork, colored mostly red and blue to complement the 3D glasses provided with the issue, is often depicting something natural which has been altered in some way. An example of this is a mountain range surrounded by stamps of a similar mountain range, repetitious from the top of the page to the bottom. Also the face of a monkey which has been copied and shifted to cause a strange duplicate sensation. I feel as though these pieces of art are meant to contrast the generally human bent of the published works. For me, at the very least, it heightened the impact of the stories. It created a mountains and valleys feeling, where the depths some of the written works traveled to were made all the more noticeable by the sharp contrast of the bold and upfront nature of the artwork. The title pages of this issue are a good representation of this. Take for example the piece “Dispatches From The War” by Adam Peterson, a short and abstract fiction piece which is situated between two geometric title pages. The story reaches very deeply into longing and violence while being bookended by two inhuman and unrelatable blocks of color.

       The aforementioned primate’s face is used to complement a second story, a work of fiction this time, called “The Dilemma Olympics” by Robyn Joy Leff. The story focuses on the surfacing of a home video online and the repercussions it has amongst a single mothers family, as well as her own development. The video in question surfaces forgotten memories of a period during infancy, where the narrator’s father raised his children alongside a primate for the sake of an experiment. The experiment, as revealed later in the story, failed for rather frightening reasons. The story seems to have a running theme of human development, and asks the question ‘what is it that contributes to the way we turn out?’ The question, as well as the ensuing search for answers, as represented by the narrator’s unending curiosity, points out what I believe to be Ninth Letter’s main aesthetic, an examination of human nature.

        This mission seems to be made more prevalent in a third story, “Super Awesome Sexy Weekend” written by Colin Winnette. This story, situated near the tail end of the Fall 2014 issue, is truly over the top. It’s my belief that the editors chose to gradually introduce readers into the theme with more grounded stories such as “Turkey Detour” and “The Dilemma Olympics” placed in the earlier pages before exploring their  theme in more abstract ways near the end. The Winnette story places the narrator in a summer camp setting, with stereotypical drinking, sex, and general revelry associated with party culture. The story’s main conflict arises with the ominous disappearances and eventually gruesome murders of the campers. Granted, the premise presented is not one wholly original. It’s a story seen numerous times in countless horror movies. What makes the piece original is the over the top nature and its darker interpretation of the classic scary movie plotline.

        The madcap murder and gore, which eventually escalates to the blowing up of twenty plus campers at once, acts as almost a wink to the reader that the death of teenagers is not the focus or intent of the author. Instead, the violence serves as a vehicle for a story of overcoming difficulties and perseverance in the face of adversity. At one point in the story, after numerous arrows through heads and instances of suffocation, the campers begin to sit down and sink into mud. The narrator defies this and instead runs for the woods in an attempt to escape, something shown to clearly not work earlier in the story. This sense of necessity in the face of futility portrays a tangible sense of the humans will to live. The narrator acts because the narrator has to, and that’s that.

        These stories, as well as other works in the issue not discussed, seem to contribute to Ninth Letter’s overall mission of examining the multiple facets of the human condition. The published works in both this issue as well as the Spring 2015 issue offer insight into different lives of different people, from deplorable women-beaters to mysterious murder survivors. Each story and poem contributes to the readers overall knowledge of human life and the many forms it may take and increase their appreciation for the diversity in both actions and challenges taken and faced by those individuals. The magazine, in my view, is phenomenal. It doesn’t miss a beat between pages and succeeds in creating a sense of sadness with purpose. The stories within in the magazine teach the reader about the true nature of what makes us ‘us’, and while it’s not always pretty it at least always feel true. That, I believe, is the greatest strength of Ninth Letter, its ability to teach the individual holding the magazine about themselves, in a way. Maybe that’s granting a literary magazine too much credit.