Writing and Stuff Pt2: The Benjamin Rozzi Story 

My road to writing creatively began in perhaps not the most conventional manner. In fact, prior to my first semester as a college junior, the extent of my writing repertoire began and ended with class-assigned essays and lab reports. I always flirted with the concept of writing a book, but who has time for writing recreationally when you don’t even have time to breathe or eat lunch or what have you; and when I did have the time—as far as a plot is concerned—every stone I upended fell flat on the ground where I first found it.

However, what most people don’t know is I struggled pretty heavily with depression from the beginning of my sophomore year in college up until I found myself in my writing. I’ll be the first person to admit that a part of my depression was brought on by overreactions to personal situations, but another part—and the part that was far more substantial—was my rather sluggish realization of trying to be something I wasn’t anymore. As a chemistry major, I began falling into a miserable cycle of waking up—if I got any sleep at all that night—and going through a set routine, eventually to the point that the day of the week constantly escaped me. As I continued to push myself through a discipline that was pulling out what little life I had left within me, the depression became debilitating to the point that I felt crushed under an intense, yet nonexistent, weight. Getting out of bed in the morning was, perhaps, the biggest struggle. Lying in bed, wrapped in my makeshift blanket burrito, with nothing but darkness around me was an aesthetic I wore far too long; everyone knew I was self-destructing, but no one knew why because everyone saw me as I was before—the brainiac with dreams of being a surgeon.

 

To try to stray away from using platitudes, I won’t accredit writing with saving my life, but that creative writing class in the fall of 2015 was certainly a bright light in an otherwise dark existence. That same year, I made the brave decision to change my major to English and attempt to finish my degree in but a year and a half, something I am proud to say I am completely on track to do despite my late transition.

 

Since making that brave leap, I’ve found a lot of success. First, I was named a Content Creator for theodysseyonline.com, eventually working to the point where I was brought on as a Contributing Editor for my community. Just a few days after finishing my creative writing class, I submitted a short story and three poems to my college’s literary journal, The Wooden Tooth Review, and all but one poem was published. Shortly after the end of my junior year, I had a few columns published in my local newspaper, Herald Standard, and I was named lead prose editor for The Wooden Tooth Review’s 2017 volume (for which I wrote a new short story and poem, which are being considered for publication). And, that’s when 1932 rolled around.

 

Although 1932 isn’t my brainchild, I still treat it as if it was. My official titles are Managing Editor of Prose and Social Media Coordinator, but I go far beyond what those positions entail. I pour every inch of myself that I can into making sure that it has a chance at being successful, not just because my name is on it but also because I know how much it means to Layla, who was brave enough to follow her dreams. Our first issue, which will be in print soon (shameless plug), houses one of my short stories—the first piece that I ever wrote. If that’s not a storybook ending to my struggles over the past few years, I don’t know what is.

 

As far as tips for writing are concerned, I have a few that—much like my story in finding creative fiction—are unconventional, but I try to employ them in every piece I write. The first is that you shouldn’t always give your work a fairytale-style ending. Life doesn’t always end as neatly as Disney movies portray, so you shouldn’t be afraid to capture the evils that we and others around us face. The second is that a blank screen isn’t your worst nightmare; it’s the beginning of something potentially beautiful. Don’t let the absence of words deter you from finding your own. And, lastly, don’t be afraid to use your own experiences to fuel your writing fire. People will respond well to your writing if they can feel emotion exuding from the page.

 

Dare to be creative, find inspiration in nothing, and make yourselves vulnerable.

Writing and stuff: the Layla Lenhardt Story

When I was seven, I wrote a screenplay inspired by the Hall&Oats song, Rich Girl. But before that, I was writing stories with the help of my mother. My mother raised me in a library and I found books and knowledge to be the most respectable thing. My mom made me memorize Poe’s Annabelle Lee before I could efficiently spell and that jump-started my love for memorizing and reciting poetry (I know more Sylvia Plath than Ted Hughes did), and ultimately, for becoming a poet myself. In middle school, I was a gigantic fan of the pyramid scheme called Poetry.com and I had many of my  “poems” “published” which basically meant I wrote some nonsensical, existential bullshit about the world was always moving and people’s lives were always ending and Poetry.com told me they’d “publish” it and I could buy the book for $80.00USD or some craziness like that. Through this, however, my infatuation with seeing my own words written in a book had been sparked. It wasn’t until I started smoking cigarettes (which I do no longer) in high school that my poetry had gotten better. I found things a lot more inspiring at that time -though the cigarette smoking was merely incidental. My biggest dream was to fall in love and it inspired two unpublished novels (we can thank my first unrequited love, Dr. Eric Emilio Casero), and many poems and short prose. My writing found a home on Xanga, and I was pleased by it.

It wasn’t until I actually fell in love that I realized I could no longer write about love. My words no longer could explain love or give it justice. And I’ve continued to struggle with this quandary since then when writing fiction. In the next eight years, a lot of things happened. I believe life is a series of vignettes, each one completely separate from another, and I have volumes of them, all which inspired my writing. I fell in love with my honey-haired first love during a Sufjan Stevens song while counting cracks in the sidewalk, I lived in, and subsequently, got deported from the UK, I travelled the world with a man with a gambling addiction, I did some drugs and played some music, and, despite all odds, I moved to the Midwest with the person who has inspired most of my writing. My writing had a lot of inspiration, but it was still really hard to write at times.

I never got much recognition for my writing because I never looked for it. Save for my xanga friends, my college professor and Isreali author, Pearl Abraham was really the only one to outwardly recognize my writing and I look to her as a really special and important influence; I mean, she showed me Kate Chopin. This lead to a series of professors helping me become the writer I am today. Andrew Mulvania followed Pearl, and finally it was Dr. George David Clark. Dr. Clark chose me to be the editor-in-chief of our college literary journal, The Wooden Tooth Review, and I loved every minute of it. It was four AM and I was drinking bottom shelf whiskey from an orange Starbuck’s mug, while looking over the poetry submissions, totally exhausted, and I said aloud to no one specifically, “Oh my god, I love this. I need to do this with my life.” And I meant it, I was a law school drop out who really had no idea what I was going to do.

So that’s how 1932 began. I moved to the Midwest from a fast paced, east coast city and I was lonely and bored and drunk in a swimming pool. It was then that I realized I could take control of my life and do whatever I wanted to do. And I wanted to make a literary journal in hopes that I could share the feeling of pride and fulfillment with others, in hopes that I could bring people together. And it has been truly incredible.

In my time after college, I have gotten three poems published in literary journals and I’ve gotten about 13 rejections. Being a poet is basically constant rejection littered with an occasional acceptance. And while waking up on a Monday morning to a rejection letter absolutely blows,  that one acceptance letter will lift your spirits higher than e.e. cummings’ hot air balloon and honestly, it will inspire you to write that much more. So I guess the moral of this story is never give up and it’s okay to feel discouraged, but there always will be that acceptance letter just waiting around the corner for you, and it makes it all worth it.  If I’ve come this far, anyone can.