Mastering Mischief


“…passionate understanding, formal accomplishment, and serious mischief.”

By Grace Haynes

 Shenandoah displays artistic work that meets the standards of “passionate understanding, formal accomplishment, and serious mischief.” This phrase touches on each aspect of creativity a writer seeks to achieve. After reading this statement on the first day of class, I felt excited to explore what Shenandoah is really about.

 As writers, we begin our process with a passionate understanding. We feel a deep connection to an aspect of the world around us. We establish personal connections with our surroundings. We observe the minute details of everyday life. This could be the rich color of our favorite sweater, the crispness of autumn air, or the smell of old library books. We describe the relationships we value with friends or family members. We develop a passion for the details of life and expand upon it through our individual, creative interpretations. We express ourselves through this passionate understanding.

 As writers, we mold this passionate understanding into formal accomplishment. Some qualify this achievement as getting a story or poem published in a literary journal. Others reach this goal by receiving an “A” on a school paper. I have watched my peers attain this formal accomplishment by reading their poems and short stories for an audience at Studio 11 in downtown Lexington. For me, reading one of my own stories to my grandmother fills me with this sense of accomplishment. But at its very basic meaning, it is the act of successfully transferring our thoughts—our passionate understanding—to words on a page through which reader directly relates.

 And as writers, we stir up a little mischief along the way.

 A spark of madness—a moment of disobedient thought—fuels our journey from passionate understanding to formal accomplishment. A muse strikes our attention, and an idea pops into our minds. Intrigue sends us on a quest to develop this thought. We silently observe situations like flies on the wall, careful not to spook our subject. Investigation, examination, consideration of our subject. Writing against the norm and establishing a new, unique voice of our own. Scheming and envisioning the ultimate idea we wish to portray.

 As humans we are all born with a bit of mischief inside of us. As kids, we broke the “no talking during announcements” rule at school. As teenagers, we broke curfew and gave our parents fits. One summer, I pierced my ears without my parents’ permission, and needless to say, this disobedient act got me in a lot of trouble. I knew that I was doing the wrong thing, but the mischievous nature of the act was far too intriguing.

 That’s the attraction—we’re drawn to the mischief that comes along with writing. There’s a temptation in writing about a complicated, sensitive subject. There’s a risk in portraying debatable topics. But the rebellion entices us and sends us on secretive missions to follow twisted plotlines or to uncover hidden truths. I’ve noticed rebellion in the submissions for Shenandoah, where some writers argue topics like race and religion and others reveal family secrets. The writers take a risk in exposing personal viewpoints or private information.

We are troublemakers, stirring up mischief that provokes thought within the minds of the reader. We present a story that makes the reader pause for a moment from their hectic routine. Something that makes the reader think. Something that evokes a quiet moment of self-reflection.

 Or maybe we’re just giving a new perspective on a small, unremarkable detail of the world. It’s different and unique—there’s a rebellious nature embedded within the simple acts too.  

 As writers we pinpoint small moments of life through our passionate understanding and reveal the hidden beauty of the ordinary, completing a formal accomplishment by mastering the art of mischief.

 So blog readers, what sparks mischief within you?



About Nick Smith

Nick Smith is a senior English and History Major and Creative Writing minor from Alexandria, Virginia. Nick loves all flavors of literature, but he has always had a fondness for science fiction and fantasy, especially when paired with comedy.

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3 Responses to Mastering Mischief

  1. Amanda Newton says:

    I hadn’t thought about the discussion of race or religion as a type of mischief, but the categorization seems fitting. What comes to my mind is also a playfulness that Shenandoah balances with its discussion of more serious works. Where else might you find a quote from Camus immediately followed by one from W.C. Fields?

  2. Nick Smith says:

    I love the variability of mischief Grace presents. Personally, Jonathan Swift always defined rebellious literature for me. Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal play with social norms magnificently.

  3. Laura Berry says:

    Mischief to me means messiness; the black crayon that dodges in and outside of the lines rather than carefully filling the space between them. Our magazine is by no means messy, but I’d say we value work that pushes boundaries. To me, this is the best kind of art.

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