Page 1



Julie Kang Blue Pretzel Studio Stephanie Messick Mohsin Kazmi The Northerners Morgan Treni Travis Lancaster Cheyenne Varner


HELLO Fall 2013 | 02 ART + DESIGN Taking Control Julie Kang | 06 Giving It Everything Blue Pretzel Studio | 16 PHOTOGRAPHY From Sunrise to Sunset Stephanie Messick | 28 Capturing Reality Mohsin Kazmi | 38 PHOTO SERIES Immersed Maddy Talias + Stephanie Craig | 48 MUSIC No Complaining, Only Dancing The Northerners | 66 Here to Stay Morgan Treni | 76 CREATIVE WRITING Assorted Works Travis Lancaster | 86 Assorted Works Cheyenne Varner | 94 GOODBYE Until Next Time | 102

FALL 2013


W: Website // B: Blog // F: Facebook // T: Twitter // P: Pinterest // I: Instagram // L: LinkedIn // S: SoundCloud // P: Phone // E: Email

Emily McNally Founder, Editor, Designer W: P: E:




Creative Writing

Julie Kang

Stephanie Messick

The Northerners

Travis Lancaster















Mohsin Kazmi

Morgan Treni

Cheyenne Varner

Blue Pretzel Studio W:














FALL 2013 CONTRIBUTORS Victoria Riggio

Maddy Talias

Stephanie Craig













Mohsin Kazmi

Jillian Dougherty








P: 614.893.0629


Pictures/243969565634207 E:


Jennifer Vroegop





irst and foremost, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported our debut issue. We truly appreciate you taking the time to check it out and share it with others. Our Fall 2013 issue is the first to feature creatives who approached V23 on their own after coming across the debut issue, which is really exciting; one of

them even has a publication of her own! This issue is full of inspiring young creatives from New York to Virginia to Ohio. Covering a wide range of concentrations, all of the featured artists have unique stories and offer original perspectives based on their personal experiences. Additionally, a new development in this issue is the expansion of the Creative Writing section. Instead of showcasing just one piece by each featured writer as we did in the last issue, multiple pieces are included so that readers can really get a feel for the writers and their work. The contact information for everyone involved in this issue is located on the opposite page; if a particular feature or contributor really speaks to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! If you are interested in contributing to or being featured in future issues, please see the contact information for V23 at the end of the magazine on page 102. While you’re there, be sure to connect with us on social media to join our creative network and get the latest updates on our features and contributors, past and present. Have a great fall season and thank you for your readership and support!

FALL 2013





FALL 2013




TAKING CONTROL Inside the cartoon world of Julie kang Story by Emily McNally and Julie Kang Artwork by Julie Kang


ulie Kang has been a visual person for as long as she can remember. The early days of her childhood were spent scribbling and drawing, anywhere and everywhere; her parents were initially led to believe that she took a great interest in reading, when in reality, she was just studying the pictures. “Growing up, I was

so inspired by the illustrations that I saw in children’s books, as well as the cartoons that I watched on Saturday mornings,” Julie recalls. “They compelled me to want to draw. I even tried creating my own types of Pokemon back in elementary school.” Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Julie moved to Virginia in the first grade and currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. She took art classes all though her grade school years, and proceeded to study the subject in college with a concentration in printmaking. When Julie was a junior in high school, still trying to figure out her college plans, she and her art teacher at the time had a conversation about studying art in college. Her art teacher had gone to James Madison University (JMU) and had studied with an inspiring professor named Jack McCaslin, who taught printmaking courses. She proceeded to show Julie some of her college work; it was unlike anything Julie had ever seen before. This experience sparked Julie’s intrigue in printmaking and she began to seriously consider studying art in college for the first time. Her family also influenced the eventual decision regarding her major. “I grew up with an older sister who was not only a genius, but also very athletic,” Julie shares. “It was difficult to find something that I could do that my sister couldn’t do better or faster. I found art to be one of the only things that I excelled at without having to worry about competing against my overachieving sister. It was something that I could be recognized for without it referring to my sister; something that helped me stand out from her shadow.”

FALL 2013




FALL 2013


Jack became a big part of why Julie took an interest in attending JMU. Once officially a student at the university, she did whatever she could to get into one of Jack’s printmaking courses as soon as possible, even though it was virtually impossible for freshmen and sophomores to get seats after the juniors and seniors had gone through registration. Not only were Jack’s courses extremely popular, but seating was quite limited, and those seats always filled up quickly. Julie didn’t let the slim chances discourage her, though. She stalked the registration regularly, just waiting for someone to switch out of the class and pass up their precious place on his roster. Her dedication eventually paid off, and she was able to slip into her first printmaking class during the spring semester of her sophomore year. At the time, Julie did not know much about printmaking, but she knew Jack was a great professor and that she definitely wanted to get her foot in the printmaking door. Once she began creating prints herself, Julie was officially hooked, as she suspected she would be. She loved the flexibility and endless possibilities that came with printmaking. To this day, one of her favorite aspects of the process is that it is truly all about the journey: what you think you want as your end result when you first begin may not actually end up being the end result, due to all of the tweaking and modifying that takes place along the



way. Julie fell in love with printmaking so hard that when she was immersed in a project, it was not uncommon for her to completely lose track of time and forget about any and all other tasks that she had to do that day, sometimes accidentally missing entire meals. When beginning a new printmaking project, Julie first consults her sketchbook. She skims the pages, looking at things that she has drawn in the past, and ultimately collages different images together to create something new. Her current emotional state almost always affects her work; she may have initially put together a collage while in an uplifting mood, but if she returns to it in a more somber state, that will show. “Art is a really personal medium,” Julie explains. “It’s all about your interpretation of things. I like how my work is completely open to interpretation unless a viewer wants to know what I truly had in mind and takes the time to ask me about it.” As she has grown up, Julie has come to recognize that her art is heavily driven by her personal experiences and emotions. Anyone who has spent even a brief amount of time with her would most likely agree that she comes across as very bubbly and social, but according to Julie, that is merely just her surface. “That is really the only part of my personality that I show to others,” she admits. “This is also reflected in my art. Like my personality, my work appears very upbeat and quirky, but there is a lot below the surface. I tend to mask the meaning of my work through my cartoon characters and bright colors.”

FALL 2013




FALL 2013




When a creative roadblock presents itself to Julie, she usually takes a step back from her work space. “I’ll go for a run, listen to music, do some aimless wandering…you just have to let it pass on its own,” she advises. “When you force it to pass, the work that follows isn’t going to be as strong.” During the spring semester of her junior year of college, Julie hit her biggest creative roadblock to date, right after her art show. “I worked my ass off up until that show,” she remembers. “The show was very successful, but afterwards, I felt lost and empty inside. It was this period of, ‘Now what? What else is there to make art about?’” The success of the show also played a role in the magnitude of the block. “It’s hard to make art when you’re totally content,” Julie acknowledges. Outside of printmaking, Julie enjoys dabbling in her kitchen, another place in her world where she enjoys the satisfaction that comes with creating. Additionally, she loves to collect cacti and succulents – “they are so weird looking!” Julie also has an interest in exploring the application of her art in the form of graphics for fabric or clothing. Upon graduating with a B.S. in Studio Art from JMU in the spring of 2012, as well as earning a K-12 teaching license, Julie has been living and working as an elementary art teacher; however, she has been keeping busy outside of the classroom as well. Julie and her boyfriend recently set up a printmaking studio together, which they hope to expand in the future and see where it takes them. In addition to nurturing her co-founded studio, she hopes to continue doing freelance illustration work in her leisure to keep her skills sharp. “I do feel a bit conflicted in regards to being an artist as well as an educator,” Julie says honestly. “I’m concerned about my art being misinterpreted as immature and impacting my education career, as well as the connotation that being a teacher means you’re a second tier artist as opposed to a true artist because it isn’t your primary career.” Regardless of wherever her professional career takes her, art will always be a part of Julie’s life. “When I started making art, I would collage various cartoon-like characters that I invented to express how I was feeling at the moment and eventually my work evolved into a more systematic expression, almost like a language,” she describes. “Each character came to represent a specific feeling, and when they are read together with others, they create a sentence or a story. Each piece of art I create tells a different story which allows the viewer to catch a glimpse of a moment in my life. These moments are those of frustration or dashed expectations because I often turn to art when life seems overwhelming or out of my control. Creating art gives me control.” n

FALL 2013




The CREATIVE services of blue pretzel studio Story by Victoria Riggio, Emily McNally, and James Gilliam Artwork and Photography by Blue Pretzel Studio


lue Pretzel Studio is a graphic and web design studio based in the DMV area (DC/Baltimore/Northern Virginia). James Gilliam is the sole owner of the company, but it’s very much a team effort. The core group consists of himself, Parvina Mamatova, and Kristin Joseph, in addition to a wide variety of con-

tracted designers and developers who they partner with on certain projects. About a month after graduation, Parvina and James, who met and started dating during their final semester at James Madison University (JMU), were brainstorming ideas for a collaborative art piece over lunch at a Burger King in Woodbridge, Virginia. At the time, a group of young designers (including themselves) had taken to freelancing while they looked for employment and were stuck in the pitfalls not unfamiliar to young freelance artists post-graduation. The group found that it was difficult to find clients and be taken seriously, not to mention extremely tough to get paid what they deserved. Before Parvina’s last semester, she participated in a five-week study abroad trip to Vienna, Austria, which influenced her art and work effort immensely. Over their burgers and fries, she talked to James about a successful design firm that she had visited in Vienna: Typejockeys, a studio composed of three young designers in their twenties. At that moment, it clicked for James and Parvina that starting up a design studio of their own was something that they needed to do. They decided to combine their talents, clients, and marketing efforts and started a professional and credible firm, which offers various design services and speaks to each of their strengths. By the end of the day, they had the name – Blue Pretzel Studio – and had taken the first few steps towards making their dream a reality.

FALL 2013


Blue Pretzel Studio prides itself on being artists first and believes that it is one aspect of their firm that sets them apart from their competitors. Each member of the group has a different background in art, which makes their collaborations quite powerful. James’ background in the arts started back in middle school when he began playing music. For years, his goal was to become a musician. It wasn’t until his junior year of college that he tried something in the arts other than music. Originally a business major, James switched into JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD) and picked up a minor in art. The change came about because SMAD focuses on a combination of marketing and web design skills. From that point on, the realm of art and design just clicked for James. Armed with years of writing and editorial experience from high school, Parvina started her first semester of her freshman year of college as a SMAD major with a concentration in print journalism. During her second semester, she realized that she wanted to expand beyond simply writing, so she took on graphic design as a second major. For the next three and a half years, Parvina double majored in journalism and graphic design, taking printmaking, painting, and sculpture courses along the way. Proving to be extremely successful in both areas of focus, she became Editor-in-Chief of the JMU yearbook for which she won the Pace Maker Award in addition to receiving the Senior Art Achievement Award for her fine arts work. Parvina credits her study abroad experience in Vienna for influencing her to seriously pursue art as her life’s work. Kristin, on the other hand, started her artistic career in high school. She came to JMU with a massive collection of large scale painting and honed in on her skills as an abstract painter; yet, she majored in graphic design for the extent of her college career. Kristin considers herself to be a painter, first and foremost, and is constantly working on new paintings, commissions, and exhibitions. She also apprenticed with a professional of trompe l’oeil murals in 2008. Although the timing and chemistry were perfect for birth of Blue Pretzel Studio, the group quickly learned that running their own business presented challenges, risks, and sacrifices, mostly in the forms of money and security. James was in the position to take a chance. He had no real debts and a very supportive family; however, life as a designer is risky because one never knows when the next paycheck is coming in. “You just have to plan, market, and live accordingly, and you can’t get too caught up by a slow month or a month when the checks are pouring in,” James explains. As far as challenges go, the biggest challenge for the studio is also the biggest reason that the studio came about in the first place: to establish credibility. For the crew, it seemed silly to have two or three artists struggle individually to get work. By teaming up, they were able to compliment their skill sets with one another, thus allowing them to take on more complex jobs and use each other’s strengths as leverage. “By working under Blue Pretzel Studio we were able to get the attention of ideal clients. It’s a lot easier to get meetings as ‘James Gilliam, owner of Blue Pretzel Studio’ than as ‘James Gilliam, twenty-three-year-old freelance designer,’” James admits. Since the point of union, things have moved faster and better for the studio than each member would have been able to individually.



When it comes to designing new projects, it took the group several attempts to figure out what strategy worked best for them. Now that they have a set process to maintain and manage projects, the flow of the business runs much more smoothly. The first step Blue Pretzel Studio takes is to talk to their client, face-to-face, in order to get to know him or her as well as the basic information of the project. “We are not absent designers; we work on creating long-lasting partnerships,� James shares. After establishing the project guidelines, Blue Pretzel Studio takes care of all legalities, such as contracts to ensure there is a timeline and to maintain contact throughout the process. Once legalities are put into place, the studio begins putting together a project brief, which includes a mood board and studies in type, form and color. They present the brief to the client and receive feedback in order to begin designing the first draft. From there, it comes down to the needs and wants of the client.

FALL 2013




FALL 2013




As all artists know, roadblocks happen. To combat these hurdles, James suggests, “Get out. Anywhere. Because chances are, I’ve been sitting at a computer or sketchbook for the last four days straight. There is so much time spent working by yourself that it can be easy to get caught up and lose yourself. So I go to the city and see a show, or go to the country and turn off everything electronic. Anything to break the cycle.” Pulling inspiration from other artists is also a tactic James uses to reconnect with his creativity. He follows several blogs that keep him up to date on what is trending and what is happening within the design world. Additionally, he reads about other design firms and success stories to keep him motivated. James also remains mindful of new gadgets and programs that may be of help in the process of designing, “Being informed about the opportunities to grow as a firm is an extremely important aspect of the business,” James says. A few of his favorite blogs are: The Fox is Black, Design Milk, AIGA, @Issue, Smashing Magazine, and Abduzeedo. As far as designers and studios go: Jason Munn, Neuarmy, Two ArmsInc, StudioNumberOne, and Polygraph are some of his favorites because they have an aesthetic that is instantly recognizable yet completely unique. The biggest influence James pulls from is music, as it encompasses many aspects of art. “The music, the lyrics, the artwork, even the recording itself is an amazing inspiration. My first exposure to art was listening to records with my Dad and talking about the album artwork,” James remembers. “Music also sets the mood for a project.” After the client meetings and notes, when it comes time to design, James tries to make that perfect playlist that fits the theme of the project. “That’s when it all comes together,” he says knowingly. Outside of design, James is constantly working on music, his first artistic passion. He is currently involved in a few different projects and is excited to start performing regularly. On the weekend, Kristin teaches a painting and wine tasting course in Richmond. At any given time, you can find her concurrently working on multiple paintings. Parvina is an avid DIY-er and also loves to create handmade books, write, and screen print. All three members of Blue Pretzel Studio are currently taking part in the Harrisonburg Art lotto, a portrait exhibition in Harrisonburg, Virginia consisting of portraits of artists done by other artists. For James, Parvina, and Kristin, officially opening Blue Pretzel Studio is just the beginning. Their main goal is to expand and hone their skills, both professionally and personally. The amount of growth that the team has seen in the past year and a half has been unbelievable. “I’ve had the luck to meet and work with some extremely talented people,” James acknowledges. “To see the Blue Pretzel Studio network grow and get stronger is awesome. We have some pretty exciting projects in the works and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.” To those who may be looking to embark on a creative entrepreneurial journey, James has one word: commit. “That doesn’t mean you have to quit your job, or start directly out of college, but understand that it is a long and tedious road. The forty-hour work week gets you a job with a boss and a paycheck. If you want your own company, be ready to give it everything,” he advises. “More specific to creative entrepreneurs is to understand that it’s tough for people to grasp the process. They don’t see the hours you spend brainstorming and drafting logos and articles. There is a lack of metrics to our field that you have to learn to explain to your clients; that aside, go for it. Every hour is worth it.” n

FALL 2013




FALL 2013






FALL 2013





SUNRISE to SUNSET The flourishing photogra phy business of Stephanie messick Story by Victoria Riggio, Emily McNally, and Stephanie Messick Photography by Stephanie Messick


tephanie Messick of Stephanie Messick Photography is a Destination and Lifestyle Portrait and Wedding Photographer. Based Warrenton, Virginia, her passion for photography is rooted in the belief that photos preserve the true personalities of her clients, and above all, they capture moments that will last

forever. Stephanie’s unwavering dedication to her career, as well as her clients, drives her passion, actions and experiences in the photography industry. The road that led to Stephanie’s photography destiny was truly authentic. Her initial interest as a creative started in middle school with her plan to become an interior designer. Throughout high school, this plan eventually evolved from interior design to architecture, then engineering, and then graphic design. As she explored her interests, Stephanie happened to take a black-and-white photography class for fun, which she now credits as sparking her initial interest in the art form. While she enjoyed the class, she never would have guessed at the time that it would be the first step on the path towards her future career and lifelong passion. During her college years, Stephanie majored in studio art with a concentration in graphic design at James Madison University. Upon graduating in the spring of 2011 with a B.F.A. degree, she accepted a full-time position as a graphic designer in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area; however, it didn’t take long for Stephanie to realize that city life just wasn’t for her. Eventually, she found a new position with a design firm closer to her home. The shorter commute freed up hours of her time, which really allowed her to begin growing her own photography business on the side.

FALL 2013




Less than a year after starting Stephanie Messick Photography, Stephanie took the plunge and made it official. “In June of 2012, I officially started to file my paperwork to become an established and legal business,” she recalls. “I did not know what I was getting myself into, but because of my passion and motivation to get everything right and learn from my mistakes, I was able to move forward with confidence.” Stephanie’s admirable determination eventually led to her taking on her business full-time just one year later in June of 2013. “Of course, owning a photography business is more than just taking pretty photos,” she acknowledges. “The majority of my business consists of editing, emailing, organizing files, packaging, having client meetings, and keeping up with finances.” Not surprisingly, Stephanie is often asked by others how she handles all of the responsibilities of her business by herself. “Once you find the special ingredients and measurements for running your business, it becomes much more smooth,” she assures. “Figuring it out is the tricky but fun part. Finishing school and jumping into owning a full-time business after only one year was a bold move, but when the timing is right, you just need to go for it and let fate take place.” Stephanie is also fortunate enough to have very supportive and helpful parents who taught her the technicalities and management practices of running her business completely independently.

FALL 2013


My office really is my branding in 3D form. My three brand words are ‘romantic,’ ‘personal,’ and ‘classy.’ With these words and my main colors of gold, pink, and white, decorating was easy! Stephanie Messick



The business aspect of her career aside, Stephanie believes that staying true to one’s style and talent is crucial for success. When it comes to her photography, natural light is her absolute forte. “I only give two options to my clients when it comes to scheduling their sessions: sunrise or sunset,” Stephanie explains. “I believe that it is important to stick to whom you are as an artist, which is why I stick to the outdoors. With the romantic glow of the sun peaking just above the horizon, I am able to position my clients in flattering poses that creates depth, not just by the background, but also by the light going across their bodies.” Even when shooting indoors, particularly for weddings, Stephanie is able to use her light training by directing the bride in positions toward a window in order to have the flattering depths of shadows and highlights present where they’re needed. Being that wedding photography is a primary focus of her business, the essential pieces of Stephanie’s compositions are reliant on natural light and flow within the couple. She learned early on that pressure on a photo shoot is very much due to imprecise directions. Practice and repetition calm the fluidity of a session; it ensures variation in poses and authenticity between the subjects. “You have to display poise and confidence around your clients,” Stephanie affirms. “When clients have trust in what you are doing, they will walk away with a great experience, excited to see the outcome.” Fortunately for her, Stephanie has a sister who loves what she does and loves having her photo taken, so she has been able to practice with her many times. “Really though, you can practice with anything! Even a Barbie doll! Anything that will get to you talking precisely to the client without them looking confused about your directions.” Honing in on client interaction skills is the most prominent improvement Stephanie has made in her first year of business; it allows for consistency in her shoots and it ensures her clients’ satisfaction with her work. Although Stephanie has mastered consistency in her isolated sessions with clients, there is no such thing as a “typical day” in her photography world. Time is the biggest challenge that she faces, as she has hard expectations both for herself and for her business; however, she does adhere to certain daily routines. “I’m consistent in making sure my blog is posted in the morning, going to the gym, responding to emails, editing photos, and of course making time for my cat, Pixie,” she says. “I end the day by spending it with my love. There is rarely a time that I sit down and have nothing to do, so I make sure that I stay active and busy from the morning until I go to bed at night. I like it this way because I am never bored!” Each week, Stephanie makes a list of tasks to complete. This list contains items such as blog posts for each day, personal work, business tasks, editing that needs to be done, packaging that needs to be taken care of, etc. She has found her weekly lists to work effectively for her business, as she can figure out what she wants to tackle day by day. “I love the physical action of crossing off a task on a list,” Stephanie admits. “The feeling of accomplishment is the best booster for my confidence and business, especially when finishing a week and seeing everything crossed off the grand list!”

FALL 2013




During her slower season (January through mid-March), Stephanie is able to spend time prepping for the year ahead and working on projects that get put on the back burner during wedding seasons. “Those winter months are great because my creative juices are flowing and I am able to utilize my skills in graphic design alongside photography.” In fact, Stephanie’s background in graphic design allowed her to independently create a brand identity that perfectly fits her personality and her business. “My branding is very personal, which allows my clients to know exactly who I am just by my business appearance,” she explains. “Keeping consistency through my blog, website, and packaging has been a very effective way for my clients to relate to me. I continue to hear, ‘I feel like I already know you,’ when I first met a new client, and I love that!” Recently, Stephanie moved into a new house and finally has her own office, completely separate from her bedroom. “My office really is my branding in 3D form,” she says. “My three brand words are ‘romantic,’ ‘personal,’ and ‘classy.’ With these words and my main colors of gold, pink, and white, decorating was easy!” Stephanie pulls inspiration from photographers, blogs, personal hobbies, and fellow creative friends. One of her favorite blogs is Style Me Pretty, which focuses on weddings. “It features so many fabulous photographers who submit work that is solely wedding-related,” Stephanie describes. “I find it inspiring to see all of the different ideas and perspectives from other photographers and their wedding client styles.” A few of her favorite photographers include Jose Villa, Mike Larson, and Katelyn James. Respectively, she loves the way Villa captures the environment, the way Larson uses attention to detail, and the way James has conducted her business direction. Stephanie also pulls inspiration from Pinterest, as well as fashion and wedding magazines. In the future, she hopes to book a destination wedding in Europe. “The dream European garden/castle wedding of my imagination has been a hidden secret that I hope to fulfill in the course of my career,” Stephanie reveals. Her short-term goals include booking 25-30 weddings for 2014, as well as keeping up with her daily work flow. Over the course of Stephanie’s experience launching, growing, and running her own business thus far, she encourages hopeful creative entrepreneurs to dedicate their time to learning. “Going through schooling, mentoring, workshops, and conferences really do help spark creativity and the passion to move forward,” she advises. “Every time I attend a big event with other photographers, I leave with a full notebook of ideas and a new perspective. It is great development for not only the exterior but also the interior of your business.” Additionally, have the courage to just go for your passion. “Don’t be afraid to make decisions, even if they are risky,” she advocates. “Everything happens for a reason.” n

FALL 2013




FALL 2013




Capt u ring

Reality How mOHSIN KAZMI IS SAVING OUR RAINFORESTS, ONE IMAGE AT A TIME Story by Emily McNally and Mohsin Kazmi Photography by Mohsin Kazmi


hen nature photographer and rainforest conservationist Mohsin Kazmi was just nine years old, his mother gave him his first camera: a windup Canon 35mm point-and-shoot. “All I remember was trying to take pictures of everything,” he recalls. “Granted, my pictures came

out quite poorly and no one really paid them much attention; however, it was this experience that sparked my lifelong interest in photography.” Mohsin began his photography business by spending his first professional year taking photos of people, events, and wildlife free of charge to build up his portfolio. “Nothing brings me more joy than to be a part of helping others preserve a moment in time,” he confesses. “Whether that moment affects someone directly or enables someone to gain perspective into another world, I am constantly encouraged by the emotions that I have the capacity to influence through my photography.” Once Mohsin felt confident about his first year’s worth of work, he began building his business off of a small clientele. Through this group, he met others who were interested in working with him, mainly through networking and by word of mouth. When working with clients, with his camera in hand, light is Mohsin’s biggest inspiration. “The more I photograph, the more I realize that photographers are architects of light,” he acknowledges. “They mold and shape light, and I enjoy the opportunity to witness how my subjects interact with that light.”

FALL 2013




FALL 2013




Mohsin has had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling while concurrently developing his photography skills. Upon visiting the Montane rainforests of eastern Madagascar during the summer of 2010, he knew that rainforests were a particular type of place that really struck a chord with him. “I was blown away by the sounds and the abundant plant and animal life,” Mohsin says as he thinks back on the trip. “My interest in rainforests took me to the Peruvian Amazon the following year. I witnessed biodiversity that made the forests that I had seen in Madagascar appear to be equivalent to the backyard in my hometown of Ramsey, New Jersey.” During his first hour in the Amazon, Mohsin heard his first gunshot, bringing the chilling reality of where he was to fruition. “That gunshot was imprinted in my mind until the next day, when I heard another one,” he remembers. “I continued to hear gunshots until the sounds of trees falling and chainsaws wailing became familiar occurrences.” In light of this situation, Mohsin was inspired to take action via his photography. “I realized that my pictures could convey the realities of poaching and deforestation in the Amazon to anyone who viewed them,” he explains. “I’ve seen far too many loggers hauling wood down the Las Piedras River, and I truly believe that, through my photographs, I have the power to prevent more of these trees from coming down.”

FALL 2013




FALL 2013




Shortly after graduating from Virginia Tech in the spring of 2012, Mohsin was offered a safe and comfortable job in healthcare. As his first potential post-college position, it was an enticing offer that promised him stability; however, he could not quite get the Las Piedras River out of his head. “I decided to reject the offer, move back home to New Jersey, and dedicate myself to work that I genuinely loved,” he admits. “The risk was exciting, and still is exciting.” Mohsin’s passion for the Amazon prompted him to get involved in a partnership with Tamandua Expeditions, the rainforest conservation company of his friend, Paul Rosolie. “Through Tamandua Expeditions, we are bringing people from all around the world to experience the Amazon rainforest on an intimate level,” Mohsin describes. “Witnessing the participants’ reactions throughout the trips really motivates me to continue to support rainforest conservation.” While Mohsin was certainly taken aback by the rainforests that he has seen thus far, he has not seen even close to all of them. “It is my life goal to travel to every rainforest in the world and to take pictures of these ecosystems that so few get to experience with their own eyes,” he reveals. “I hope that the pictures I share with others can help bring about awareness. These lifestyles and places should be seen, protected, and respected.” Mohsin’s entrepreneurial spirit is inspired by a range of photographers, cinematographers, inventors, and musicians. Andre Baertschi, Robert Richardson, Nikola Tesla, and Stevie Wonder are some of the figures at the top of his list. Additionally, outside of traveling and photography, he loves to ride his motorcycle through the windy roads of southwest Virginia and play music with his friends. Mohsin’s ultimate goal is to be involved in rainforest conservation for as long as he lives. “There is a great deal of work to do and many images to capture,” he notes. “People need to see and understand why rainforests are so important. They have the right to continue existing, not to mention the biological services that they provide for the earth.” It is his hope that Tamandua Expeditions be know for its contributions to conservation, as well as an important part of the Amazon’s story. “I sincerely believe that it is our generation’s responsibility to ensure that the Amazon is preserved for the enjoyment of many generations to come,” he shares. “If my pictures become a part of that story, I will be more than satisfied.” As much as he loves photography, Mohsin feels that the driving purpose of his work is to allow others to encounter something that they may not think about every day. It’s all about changing a few opinions, while inspiring others to find a passion and dedicate themselves to it. “If you think you might love something, the only way to find out is to do it more,” Mohsin states. “Don’t be afraid to take risks, and don’t be surprised if you aren’t rewarded right away; at least you can say, ‘I tried,’ which is much better than saying, ‘I wish.’” n

FALL 2013




A PH OTO series Photography by Maddy Talias and Stephanie Craig Outfits provided by Jeanne Mulvey of Retro Genie Hair and Makeup by Esmeralda Ferretti Modeled by Thomas Friedmann

FALL 2013




FALL 2013




FALL 2013




FALL 2013




FALL 2013




FALL 2013




FALL 2013




“Cross-dressing is something I’ve done a handful of times to entertain people at costume parties, but I had never done it seriously. When I was asked to participate in the story, I realized my reasons for agreeing were personal and political. While I thought the idea was interesting and fun, I also felt some reservations and judgment arise. Will people label me or judge me? Thinking about those feelings and examining them against my core beliefs, I became even more invested. I was interested by the opportunity to do something that flies in the face of what society says a man “should” do. I think these rules are damaging, and I wanted to push my own boundaries. The day of the shoot was wild both emotionally and physically. During the application of the makeup for the later scenes where I’m transitioning into a woman I was absolutely transfixed. I was made beautiful. Then the shoot began, and through the direction and posing, I was able to be this part of myself, take it on, and play. I felt seductive, and masculine and feminine all at once. At times I definitely felt vulnerable. The poses made me feel light, angular, and were sometimes difficult. I had never moved in those ways before. All said after the twelve hours, the experience was enriching, playful, and fun. I was exhausted and satisfied.” Thomas Friedmann

FALL 2013





FALL 2013




THE FOLKED-UP ROCK ‘N’ ROLL THAT I S THE NORTHERNERS Story by Victoria Riggio, Emily McNally, and Justin Khoury Photography by Mohsin Kazmi


e are from Richmond, Virginia (RVA) and our music, I’ve been told, has a nostalgic sound, which may have to do with our influences that are based in Dylan, The Band, and The Beatles. We just try to make something that we personally enjoy, and I think if you get to the point where

you are happy with a song, other people will enjoy it, too,” Justin Khoury of The Northerners explains. The band is made up of Justin on vocals, acoustic guitar and keyboard, Ally Khoury on vocals, Taylor Laub on electric guitar, George Gilliam on the drums, and Dan Mulrooney and Zach Hudgins alternating on the bass. Just over a year old, The Northerners officially got together in August of 2012. “That was the time when I started to seriously pursue music and began to think of it as a future career option,” Justin remembers. “So far, it’s been an amazingly fun, difficult, and educational experience and we’re loving every minute of it.” Initially, Justin thought about joining an established band, but his sister, Ally, approached him and said that she would like to sing. “From there, I thought it would be me on acoustic guitar and vocals, and Ally on vocals, too,” Justin shares. “Like Simon and Garfunkel; however, we wound up finding a guitar player at an open mic who we thought was great, so then we had three. Soon after, George responded to a Craigslist ad and after playing just two songs with him, I could tell he was perfect.” Through George, the group was introduced to Taylor, who joined The Northerners on bass until the band’s original guitar player moved away. Taylor now plays guitar, which is his preferred instrument. “With Taylor on guitar, the music has a color to it that didn’t exist before,” Justin notes. “It’s like he’s painted a whole new sound onto the band.” Since finalizing their united structure, The Northerners have promoted their authenticity through passion, practice, and hard work.

FALL 2013


I heard somewhere that when Conan was at Harvard, he put up his own caricature around campus saying it was for the Conan O’Brien show. The show obviously didn’t exist yet, but he knew that what he envisioned would materialize. It’s that kind of mental focus that I really admire in people. It’s the attitude of, ‘If I can see it in my head I can make it a reality.’ Justin Khoury



FALL 2013


The band’s sound and style perfectly fits the blooming music scene of RVA as The Northerners’ success is greatly attributed to like-minded artists of the area. “I never expected so much help from individuals, venues, and other Richmond bands,” Justin admits. “People really want the best for the city and are working hard to build the music scene here, which has been so kind to us.” The Northerners’ most memorable performance to date was a gig at a house venue called The YERB! It was the first time that the band played to a full room. Set on a three-foot tall stage built in one of two connected living rooms, The Northerners played to approximately one hundred fans. No one was there for anything but to have a good time, listen to quality music, and absorb the raw electric energy. Justin describes the YERB! like any good house venue, “filled with cigarette butts, empty beer cans, dirt, and grime. The walls are painted all different colors and the two rooms are filled with sweaty people mushed together. No air conditioning, no complaining, only dancing.”



FALL 2013




Justin is the primary songwriter for The Northerners. “Usually what happens is, I will complete a song and run it over until I’m happy with it,” he expresses. “Then I’ll bring it into practice and play it for everyone. From there, we just wing it and feel it out as a unit. We keep everything playful and try many variances of the song until we’re content. Songs will constantly change and improve after playing them live. That’s where you get an immediate reaction to a song, and it can be positive or negative.” In regards to certain themes or topics that have a strong presence in The Northerners’ work, love definitely stands out. “There’s a bit of that in every song, whether the words lead you to believe it or not,” Justin reveals. “Most are probably more about the pain of losing someone, or unrequited love, or someone messing with your head. People have reacted to those songs well.” While songs written out of love or loss are the most admired, they are also the most difficult to perform. “These songs are usually harder to sing because they are so honest and revealing; it makes you feel naked,” Justin confesses. “Sometimes it’s just word play and what words fit together nicely…but most lines have a meaning, even if it changes throughout the song’s evolution.” Other sources of inspiration for Justin include “hearing new music, meeting new people, seeing old friends, experimenting, coffee, a good book…anything, really.” Outside of music, Justin loves watching stand-up comedy and greatly admires Louis C.K. and Conan O’Brien. “I heard somewhere that when Conan was at Harvard, he put up his own caricature around campus saying it was for the Conan O’Brien show,” Justin recalls. “The show obviously didn’t exist yet, but he knew that what he envisioned would materialize. It’s that kind of mental focus that I really admire in people. It’s the attitude of, ‘If I can see it in my head I can make it a reality.’” Additionally, Louis C.K. often leaves a lasting impression on Justin. “Every time I listen to an interview with him, I come away with a new perspective or find an underlying truth that I had not realized before,” he says. “Overall, I’m really intrigued by the concept of stand-up comedy: one person getting on a stage with an expectation that he or she is going to make people laugh. I think there’s truth in something that makes you laugh, and truth is what we’re all trying to find, right?” At their current level, the biggest challenges that The Northerners face are management, organization, time, and cost. “It’s expensive being a musician,” Justin acknowledges. “You put much more money into it than you get out of it, at least at first.” Negotiations, organization, and marketing are the valleys that accompany the peaks of performing and creating music. The band members take care of all of these responsibilities themselves on top of working, or going to school, or both. “It can be a lot to keep up with, but you need to be resilient,” Justin affirms. “If you’re serious about pursuing music, just jump into it and try different things, and don’t be afraid to fall on your face. Also, everyone is going to give you advice until your head spins. If what you’re doing feels right to you, then follow that path. Advice is a trap. That’s my advice.” “You,” The Northerners’ latest single off of their upcoming EP, will be available on iTunes and Spotify this October. n

FALL 2013




FALL 2013




Morgan Treni’s Eclectic and Vibrant musical journey Story by Emily McNally and Morgan Treni Photography by Jennifer Vroegop


quick stop at a local music store ended up transforming her entire world. “I bought my first Yamaha keyboard after a philosophy class during my junior year of college. Carrying it home, I remember the cardboard bumping on the sidewalk and just laughing. After setting it up in my room, I wrote some of

my favorite songs included on this upcoming album.” It’s always been about music for Morgan Treni, a singer and songwriter of creative non-fiction from Ramsey, New Jersey. Shortly after graduating from the Ohio Wesleyan University in 2012, Morgan moved out to Columbus, Ohio to seriously pursue her passion. “There is an outrageous music scene here,” she reveals. “I truly feel like I hit gold in Co-

lumbus and that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” While a piece of her heart will always be in the New York City area where she grew up, Morgan has come to embrace the special qualities that a small city like Columbus has to offer. “Everyone in Columbus, quite literally everyone, has been eager to help me pursue my music. It’s very different from New York in that way and I feel very blessed to be here.” Among the many aspects that Morgan loves about Ohio are the smaller community to grow with, the slower-paced and friendlier lifestyles, the abundant space to live and breathe – she considers hitting the country roads in her Volvo, “Old Blue,” to be one of her go-to remedies for creative answers – and the strong connection with the land.

FALL 2013


Music has been consistently present in Morgan’s life in one way or another. Inspired by Broadway, she participated in lots of musical theatre and stage productions during her childhood. In high school, she got into singing jazz, a fire she’s continued to fuel as a young adult. Since launching her original music, Morgan has successfully performed with some of the top names in Columbus, including Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra, Sonia Modes Schottenstein, and Jim Maneri. Her influences span across all of the creative horizons, from Julie Andrews to Grace Potter, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Bill Evans, The Grateful Dead, Simon and Garfunkel, musica de Latin America!, Fleet Foxes, Joni Mitchell, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Vincent Van Gogh, the dustiest book on the library shelf, right down to her own immediate family. Morgan compares her post-collegiate musical beginnings to that of when she first went snowboarding: she rode the lift to the top of the mountain, and fell all the way to the bottom…only to get up and do it again. With each and every performance, Morgan learns where and how to make progress. She has also been getting used to the amount of time and effort that must regularly be devoted to her craft: lots of work, lots of listening, and lots of writing. “In college, one of my writing professors walked in on the first day of workshop and dropped a stack of books bigger than I’d ever read on the table. She said, ‘If nothing goes in, nothing comes out.’ So, on this mission to learn music, every day I apply that principle by spending time with old vinyls, seeing as many live performances as I can, and listening to anything that I can get my hands on, or that my ears will pick up.” Performing at Columbus’ Comfest Music Festival this past June has been Morgan’s most memorable performance to date. “It was the first music festival I ever played, and this particular one brought a remarkable group of people together for the weekend. I’m still glowing about it.” Roop Brothers Bar in Delaware, Ohio also holds a special place in her heart. “It’s my foot-stompin’ home base,” she affirms. “My musical family is a Thursday night open mic night crew. The first open mic that I played there was to an audience of only about fifteen people, and now it attracts up to sixty people. It’s great to perform for your city, your friends; people who have been rooting for you throughout your whole journey. Their encouragement and excitement week after week throughout this ride has helped me to tackle some of the toughest times.” Before beginning a show, Morgan makes a point to take the time to breathe, warm up, and get to that place where songs allow you to go. “I take a lot of notes in between weekly shows. There is always something to learn, so I make sure that I have the intention set for a new way to grow before getting on the stage; and to, again, breathe!”



FALL 2013




In college, one of my writing professors walked in on the first day of workshop and dropped a stack of books bigger than I’d ever read on the table. She said, ‘If nothing goes in, nothing comes out.’ So, on this mission to learn music, every day I apply that principle. morgan treni

FALL 2013


In addition to her passion for music, Morgan loves writing and communication. “Most of the writing I do on paper is in strange shape,” she describes. “Songwriting has been the newest addition to my craft. I’d really just like to talk to people all day long and learn what they have to share. Stories are what make us strong, and therefore happy, in relationships and in understanding ourselves.” While she is in Ohio, Morgan would like to meet as many people as possible. Other interests of hers include outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and power walking (which she credits as “New Jersey mom style”), as well as writing about craft beer and wine. Additionally, she loves to be freely creative and simply color with an elementary pack of eight Crayola crayons, paint with watercolors or acrylics, and write handwritten letters to her friends and family, finding the process of such exercises to be therapeutic. It’s been a little over a year since Morgan set out to begin her musical journey. What began as simple footsteps towards recording an album turned into a mission. Her album of Musical Essays is set to be released on November 29th. “It’s been my dream my whole life to record an album, and now it’s here! There is a lot more to it than I anticipated, but that’s been the fun of it,” she shares. “Life happens in layers, and so does an album: music, arrangement, artist, design…I’ve learned a lot about my own aesthetic eye.” Overall, Morgan’s hope is that her music and writing will grant her wings to travel all over the world. “It’s a big place out there and I want to meet it. All of it. As a writer who draws inspiration from landscapes and people, it’s important that I do that.” But, she’s not in a rush. “Life is a journey. Music is a journey. So, I’ll start with learning Ohio. There is more than enough here to work with already!” Tasting the spicy air of India and dipping her toes in the Antarctic Ocean are also on her to-do list, next to seeing the Austrian Alps to confirm that they’re true. Morgan’s advice for other young creatives seeking to pursue their passions is to be a tree frog. “See your dream. Keep firm against your glass, and don’t drop back. Faith, hard work, and strategy will lead you through. You can get what you want. We can. We can do anything.” n



FALL 2013





FALL 2013


Rolling Over Words by Travis Lancaster

All of a sudden there are three screaming kids in the

effect before emphatically howling the “O”. You remem-

208) and all you can do is take fistfuls of the steering

ber this, as if perhaps the memory of their laughter

wheel, press your foot against the worn mat of the car,

could be used as a compass.

and think to yourself: who the hell are these kids?

You’re not laughing now, though, and you barely

As you study this vision in your rearview mir-

know what you’re doing, much less where you’re coming

ror—three mouths gaping like triplet caves, deep and

from, but the way your knuckles glow white in the dark

dark, from which the howling is escaping like so many

cab of the station wagon; the way your button-down

screeching bats—an enormous tower passes on your

shirt is loosened, and damp in certain areas (armpits,

right, one that explains: “A-B-I-S-C-O” to the night sky,

back, center of chest); the fact that you’re driving in

in resplendent red lettering. A sweet scent in the air

only your socks—soaked and browned on the bottom

begins to remind you.

from God-knows-what—all alert you to the notion that

Then it hits you. Just in time, too: you swerve

this situation might be serious. You hiccup. Drunk? Just

around a red pickup, its bright taillight flashing close

a little. You wonder if maybe you’re being followed, so

enough to remove the stubble hanging unevenly

you sick your pupils onto the dark glass that coats the

from your chin. It begins to come back to you, like a

dangling mirror: The dim lights that line the road behind

dog with a branch six times the size of the twig you’d

remain sessile. For now.

tossed into the woods: maybe these are your kids;

The screaming hasn’t stopped. If anything, it’s

maybe this is your highway; maybe you live at one

gotten louder. You begin to wonder if they’re broken.

point, and your father in law lives at another, and this

The speedometer reads 80, and this fact doesn’t help to

giant, sweet-smelling obelisk is the Nabisco factory

alleviate any of the cries. Looking in the mirror (not at

that denotes the halfway point between both houses.

the kids but past them) you scan the night sky before

A warm, gooey cloud of baking cookie dough has escaped from the tower and is now wafting over the 6

taking an exit. Suddenly you begin to feel like a passenger in the

lanes of the highway. The speeding car slams through

car. Like its being driven by something else; like maybe

it—the scent of chocolate chips scatters like limbs

it’s being propelled forward by the screams of the

after an explosion.

children. Your head starts to feel lighter than the rest of

Though you’re still unsure how they got here, the


one of them sang out “NABIS O!” pausing for dramatic

backseat of the station wagon (screaming down route

your body. A little air, maybe, you think. Then the car’s

kids, at least now you know you’re headed north—the

window rolls down. Air blasts in from the silent night

way home. You can be sure of this because the ABISCO

outside. The car’s window rolls back up quickly. An er-

lighthouse was on your right as you whizzed by. Or was

rant hand combs its way through displaced black hairs.

it on your left? You start to worry; try to remember if

And all of a sudden, your ears start to pick up a low,

you’d heard any of the three kids break their cries, even

growling frequency. A voice. A voice saying something

for a second, to pronounce the new word hanging from

to the kids in the backseat: “Is this what you want? Your

the top of the tower. A favorite game. Just last weekend

mother wants a divorce. Do you know what that means?


Do any of you know what that fucking means?” Then you

out what it could possibly want from you—what anyone,

realize it’s your voice. But it isn’t you. Can’t be you. The

really, could want from you—you continue to float away

voice sounds too certain to be yours—like whatever it has

from yourself; continue to feel farther than you ever have

to say is an absolute truth: like God, or the square root

from your children, from your wife, from this body you’ve

of 36. For the first time during this drive you begin to

come to know so well (always there for you when you

wonder if you’re dreaming, but if nothing else, you know

need it, always a leg to stand on).

better than to pinch yourself while driving drunk.

While the car is busy sailing back down route 208—

The screaming and the growling grow thick in your

back toward the ABISCO tower; back to a time when

ears like honey, and you round a curve at a speed just high

things at least smelled better—you begin to feel as if

enough to make the kids in the backseat brace themselves

you’re being flown like a kite from the antenna of the

against the doors and each other to stay upright.

gray station wagon; as if this thing that isn’t quite your

Again, you try to think where you’re coming from—try

body, but your youness, is flapping in the wind like a

to think why your children in the backseat are screaming

tattered flag. Just behind you, the slot-machine lights

like goddamn banshees. I can’t even hear myself think,

are tight on your tail exclaiming winner! and beneath

you think. But still you hear the screams; still you hear

you, the voice is going on as if sick, coughing out its

this growling voice rambling on, loud and clear (“Is this

sentences: “Just tell me what you kids want. Tell me

what you want? Tell me what you fucking want! Do you

what you want me to do. Do you want me to fight for

want me to fight for this family?”); still you tear through

this?” Fighting, what’s all this talk about fighting? You

pitch-black streets, feeling farther away from the body

don’t see any reason to fight anything. Not from up here

gripping the steering wheel with each passing second.

at least. Peaceful, serene, the night air is cooling.

Finally, you pull up to a street. You look at the house

And suddenly you’re plunged back into the plush seat

and all of a sudden you know damn well where you are.

behind the wheel where the crying has now become

But what you don’t know is why there are three cop

a standard feature of the ’05 Ford Taurus—as real and

cars—lights flashing like you’ve just hit the fucking jack-

unalterable as the cup holders that rest between the

pot—stationed in front of the house.

front seats. You stop listening to the voice now. You stop

The voice stops. You’re unsure if the screaming too

listening to the wailing. You just watch ahead as some-

has ceased, or if you’ve finally gone completely deaf. Your

where far behind you and the car and the kids, a mother,

muscles slack as if you’ve just been smacked in the back

wife, is crying in the arms of her aging father; the words

of the skull by an aluminum bat—but only for a moment.

“your mother is rolling over in her fucking grave” still

The next thing you know, the wheels are turning, and

ringing in her ears, like a cap gun’s pop. You just watch

not only under the car: the growling voice is now burning

ahead as somewhere far behind you (could be miles),

custom rubber as the station wagon peels away—yelling,

a slow, sniffling voice says, “dad, wh-where are your

cursing, spraying spittle across the clear, concave wind-

shoes?” and as you press your foot level with the mat of

shield that’s keeping all of you safe inside of the car. As

the station wagon floor, you crack a window and think to

you begin to listen closely to the voice, to try and figure

yourself: A little air. Maybe that’ll do it. n

FALL 2013


From the Foot of Your Bed Words by Travis Lancaster

When you look to the sky, you wonder  why you didn’t see it coming: The thing you were  expecting; the thing  you were absolutely dreading; the thing that  rolled in with the autumn  wind—a wind you used to love, cherish, hold in  your breast till it hurt. Suddenly the nearby trill of  birds sounds more like  a battle cry, and the  drip, drip, drip of the roof’s Chinese Water Torture slaps  against a thin, green leaf. that thing that wasn’t quite there yet  is now everywhere, staring at you from the corner  of every room you step through,  like a huge black dog. At night the dog sleeps  at the foot of your bed.  And when you finally close  your eyes, the tapping of  sharp, heeled shoes—like the  drip, drip, dripping of Chinese  Water Torture; beautiful,  like a last word—draws near. And the black dog stands up, bares its teeth from the  foot of your bed. n



The Moon at Perigee Words by Travis Lancaster

The day will come when you won’t need me anymore. You’ll stop calling, and not long after, you’ll realize: clouds still pass, and the sand still bubbles when the tide drags out. Perhaps the wind will smell just a little bit sweeter, and the moon might look just a little bit closer, but the night will come when you’ll stare up at that violent glitter and wonder if somewhere, far from you, I’m staring at it too. But I won’t be. Your heart will beat, your lungs will expand, and you’ll wonder: was that a star you just saw, falling from the sky? n

FALL 2013


Red Wall Words by Travis Lancaster Artwork by Jillian Dougherty

Putting love into the heart is like pouring hot grease into a coffee can, and closing it behind the freezer door. n



FALL 2013


Lying in Bed Words by Travis Lancaster

It was early one morning, just before five. We were lying in bed, thinking about what to say—wondering what would come next, before we even thought about where or how to begin. That night you dreamt you were floating, face down, on the lake at sunrise. “I could feel the morning tapping me on my shoulder,” you told me. “But the bottom of the lake was so green, and the water hummed metallic in my ears.” It was that morning, we finally realized, the sun was going to rise whether we wanted it to or not. n



Thick Like Honey Words by Travis Lancaster

I know I haven’t met you, per se, but I dreamt about you  last night. You had on that dress that I’ve imagined you  might wear, and your eyes did that thing I’ve so often pictured them doing when you laugh too hard to breathe. I hope you don’t mind my saying,  but you were stunning, like electricity. And when I woke up, the sky was pink, and thick like honey. The coldest running water couldn’t quench my thirst. n

FALL 2013


I Took You To My Local Farmer’s Market Words by Cheyenne Varner

Your face is like this strawberry, you said, holding one up next to my cheek. Your face is like this plum, I countered, lifting one up in the palm of my hand. You took it from me. You twisted your face into a ha-ha-very-funny expression. My face is not round and

sweeter, I asked. It’s sweet, you admitted. But it isn’t nachos. Nachos aren’t even sweet. I didn’t say sweeter than nachos, I said it isn’t nachos. You’re impossible, I said, and I dropped a little

fat, you said and you began to press each side of the

handful of strawberries into my little green recycled

plum with your palms. It is more rectangular.

t-shirt bag.

You’re bruising it, I yelped. And I snatched it from you as you laughed. Why are we here, you asked. To buy fresh fruit of course, I said. You are so strange, you replied wearily. Isn’t there fruit at your school’s dining hall?

You were quiet, just walking beside me as I scanned the remaining crates of fruit. I pulled out plums and peaches—a nectarine. I bet you’re going to be one of those women who even craves healthy stuff when you’re pregnant, you said. While every other woman in the world wants

I repeated, Fresh fruit.

chips and ice cream, you’ll be nagging, Get me some

You—but—oh my God—why pay money?

fresh fruit honey, please, a nectarine. You laughed at

It’s sweeter, I said. Taste it. I held out a strawberry

your own joke.

for you. You haven’t paid for that yet— I’ll pay for it, I laughed. I know the guy who sells the fruit; he’s not worried about me stealing. You know the guy, do you? You laughed. He trusts you an awful lot, what’s that about? I scrunched up my face, like ha-ha-don’t-youthink-you’re-clever, rolled my eyes and pushed the


strawberry toward your face until you bit. Isn’t it


Oh you think so, I said. And I smiled, just smiled. I guided us toward the cash register. You’ll be all big, you said. Big as that watermelon, you pointed. I looked. I laughed. Your ankles will be as big as those mangoes, you pointed. I turned around and punched your arm, laughing. Your cheeks will probably be puffy and your shoulders all swollen, just all of you swollen.

You are so disrespectful, I said, still laughing and you laughing and everyone around us—maybe they weren’t noticing as much as I felt like they were. I paid Tom for the strawberries; we small-talked our

silliest faces and saying the silliest things. And then you asked, Ann, what are you? What do you mean? You mean… I paused. I’m like a

way through the purchase—it was surprisingly unpain-

quarter Spanish, a quarter White and half Black, I said

ful. Hello Tom, how are you. Oh I’m alright here, Ann,

to you.

just a little chilly. Little chilly? It’s seventy-five degrees

You looked at me for a little while. Then you nodded

out now. Got a fan right behind me. Oh I see, well maybe

and said like a TV commercial, like a so-dramatic soap

you ought to move that. Get’s too hot too quick. That all

opera with purposefully sultry eyes: Yea, but you’re all

for you today? Yes it is. Have a good day Ann. Thank you


Tom, you too. You mimicked me on the way back to the car. Thank you Tom, you too, you said, in what you thought sounded like my voice. I wondered, did you really think that was my voice? No, you couldn’t have. Did you get any grapes, you asked me when we walked into my room. No, I said, setting my bag of fruit down on my desk. Why? Oh, I wanted you to feed me grapes.

You looked at me really seriously like that and then we both laughed. And we lay back. And I stared at the ceiling smiling until my smile faded to a half smile, then a quarter smile, then no smile at all. And I turned to you, really serious, and I said: Sometimes you make me laugh and you shouldn’t. And you looked at me, again, and you said: I know. I wanted to take your hand, but I didn’t. I was afraid.

Who said I would have fed you grapes.

I just lay there, all seriously, all conflicted, wanting and

You would have fed me grapes.

not wanting you to make me laugh again. Wanting and

I don’t think so, I said.

not wanting moments just like these, when everything’s

But fifteen minutes later I had fed you two more

suddenly a mess, but you have someone.

strawberries, laughing because you were making the

I had you—didn’t I? n

FALL 2013




The Story Words by Cheyenne Varner Artwork by Jillian Dougherty I was walking through the dank and aching cor-

called for—may even have been merciful. I think that

ridor that is the subway’s throat. I saw a man with a

bothered me even more than the look on his face as

beautiful bouquet of flowers, turning his head with

he knelt down to collect, one by one, the strewn gin-

haste this way and the other. I saw his eyes fill up with

gery flowers on the cracked cement.

the finding of her face—the woman he approached

As the train pulled off he walked about, giving a

and whose arm he gently touched at the elbow. She

flower to every woman and man who would allow it. His

turned, not startled but interested in the pressure on

shoulders were low like two angels were sitting on them,

her cardigan, her skin. Her eyes were taken in by the

whispering to him, still be generous in this time of grief.

colors of the flowers at first, a myriad of orange hues,

He gave one flower to me. His eyes passed over my face

all different shapes and sizes. He settled the bouquet

like I glance over the sign of a street I don’t need to take.

into her hands and for a moment she held them. Ev-

I thought about it more. Every day I get a mo-

erybody watching was starting to sigh. But when her

ment’s glimpse of hundreds of stories I’ll never be

eyes found his face, her almost-smile faded away; she

told. It bothered me. When I went back to my aunt’s,

was still and tight and then loose, letting the flowers

placed the brilliant marigold into a tall thin glass of

slip between her opening hands. She didn’t look par-

water, it bothered me. I threw myself into bed, pulled

ticularly angry, just not glad. Not wooed or forgiving.

a pillow over my head, tried not to be bothered.

At first I thought, how cruel. But then I thought I didn’t know the story. It may have been perfectly

But every time I saw that flower, I remembered, and it bothered me. I want to know the story. n

FALL 2013


Exist Words by Cheyenne Varner

I went to the student health center because I was feeling particularly crummy. I sat in the purple waiting

tic-wrapped metal bar under my tongue. She shifted it

chair and did not touch anything. In a chair across

once, then twice.

from me a boy sat with his headphones in so loudly I

I’m just moving it around because it said it wasn’t

could hear the beat drop. On the edge of the couch

picking up, the nurse said as she stared into the

beside me a girl with luxurious black hair and a mask

screen in her hand.

over her mouth leaned over and stuck her finger into a little zen-garden-of-sand-and-stones box on a side table. She raked a long curving line through the

I didn’t say anything because I had a metal bar under my tongue. Alright, said the nurse. She wrote something on a

square. Then she carefully removed every stone. She

page clipped to a board. The doctor will be with you

tried to pile each one on top of the other but they

shortly, she said.

kept slipping away, hitting the table, dropping to the carpet. She picked them up and tried again. I was exhausted. I could feel my eyes heavy in their

I checked my phone. Shuffled out of my jacket. Crossed my legs and uncrossed them. Leaned forward, leaned back, unslouched. Straightened my

sockets. I was irritated by the clink clink clink of the

shoulders. Was annoyed by the constant crinkle of the

slipping stones. I could feel each clink as if upon my

patient chair paper. I tried to not crinkle it for a whole

own head. I stared.

minute. I slouched. It crinkled. The doctor came in.

Ann, the nurse said. You can just sit right here, said the nurse when we arrived in the door of the examining room. The


Just a little bit, I said, before she stuck a plas-

How are you today, the doctor asked, which I found very annoying. I could be better, I said. I’m very fatigued, I’ve been

transition felt unnatural, but no matter. I was sick. I

having some body aches, headaches particularly, I

sat. Let’s just get your temperature first. Have you felt

think my face is a little swollen, especially on this side.

feverish, the nurse asked.

I touched my left cheek. Also, my ear hurts, I said.


The doctor leaned back against the wall and

She was right. I didn’t ache. I didn’t have a body.

crossed her legs and crossed her arms. With her face

You don’t have fatigue or swelling or pain at all.

tight with concentration she examined from afar. Mm,

She was right. I wasn’t tired, swollen, or in pain. I

she said. Yes. Then she paced the space between us, pressed her hands under my jaw and around under

wasn’t at all. Ann, the nurse said. She was in the waiting room

my ears. Yes, she said again. She told me to open up.

doorway. The girl with the luxurious black hair and the

I did. She looked in with a little light from her pocket.

facemask was looking at me. The boy with the head-

Now let’s get your pulse, she said. She took my wrist

phones loudly in his ears was looking at me. Another

into her hand, held the spot for pulse-taking. Yes, very

four stones clink clink clinked off of the table and onto

interesting, well I’ve got your answer Ann.

the carpet. I stood up, hiked the strap of my bag up onto

Yes, I asked, feeling greatly relieved.

my shoulder, folded my jacket over my arm and followed

You have a simple case of You Don’t Exist, the

the nurse down a little hallway to a room door.

doctor said.

You can just sit in here, the nurse said. She took my

Excuse me, I said.

temperature. She told me the doctor would be coming. I

The nurse suspected when the thermometer just

sat, I sighed, I fidgeted. The doctor came. She touched my

would not work. I was skeptical, I thought, it’s just

face and my wrist and looked into my mouth. She exam-

equipment, let me have a look and feel. But she was

ined me from against the wall. She made a joke. She said to

right. No symmetry of the face, no throat, no pulse.

me, Well, I’m going to give you this pamphlet about Mono.

You don’t exist. There is some good news, though, the

It could be seasonal allergies. Get some sleep this weekend

doctor said. You don’t have a headache.

and let me know if you still feel like you exist.

She was right. Suddenly my head felt fine—or unfelt. I didn’t feel it at all. You don’t have body aches.

I’m sorry, I asked. If you still feel fatigue persist, she said. Oh, I said. Yes. Thank you. And I left. n

FALL 2013


We Skipped the Last Day of High School Words by Cheyenne Varner

What do you think of creation—of all this, I asked.

rocks, a peak and frightening cliffs. We hiked a little

You said you thought it was cool.

over an hour maybe; I just followed you and you talked

No, I mean really, seriously, I’m asking you a seri-

about the next five years of your life as you saw them

ous question. It was the last day of school and we’d ditched it.

excitement I felt on the inside you shared, fizzling on

You texted me that morning: Let’s do it. I knew what. I

the outside. Then you stopped and pointed to a little

dumped all the books and notebooks out of my back-

rocky clearing. You got the sandwiches, you asked

pack. I put some sandwiches, water bottles, apples

and of course I did, I replied. Plus the blanket, which

and a giant blanket in it instead. Then I ran out the

you hadn’t thought of. You ate the sandwich I made

front door before either of my parents could ask any

for you and kept talking and I ate the other. I listened

questions and I ran down the block to the bus stop

to every word it took for you to talk yourself out. And

where you were standing. I jumped onto your back

then we were quiet for a few minutes, and I asked you,

and you carried me all of ten steps before jilting me

What do you think of creation—all of this?

off because I had another thing coming if I thought

And you said you thought it was cool.

you were going to carry me all day even though you definitely could. I was dizzy with excitement—I felt vibrant—I felt the air sweeping into my lungs and filling me like you can feel the refreshment of water after you’ve been thirsty or really hot for a long time. We walked to and behind that old abandoned high school, where the trees climbed upward on a moun-


unfolding with wild gestures and a risen voice—all the

So I pressed you: No I mean really, seriously, I’m asking you a serious question. And then you were quiet for a few moments, and then you said, I think God gives us mountains so we can carve our image into them. Before we left you got your pocketknife out—found

tain’s slope. It wasn’t a big mountain but it was the

you couldn’t carve your name into the stone we sat on

biggest mountain we’d seen or touched. It had all the

to your satisfaction. So you carved your initials into

features of a bigger mountain: ledges, sharp jutting

a tree and then I carved mine underneath. We stood

edges, foot-trodden pathways, crooks and nannies,

there both of us looking at it until you said you were

little rivulets of water, hazards of wildlife and slipping

ready to leave, and I followed. n


Coffee Creamer Words by Cheyenne Varner

The kids at my lunch table called me coffee creamer.

had to call five months ahead, I could have said. I could

I was not dark enough to be chocolate, not pale enough

have made it into a funny game. I got this skin because

to be Oreo filling, just a shade too shy of toffee. The

my mother fed me tea with extra half-and-half poured

girls in the line at lunch asked me, How’d you get that

in it, and these hazel eyes? They’re the product of

hair?—like my parents took me to the good hair store

bi-weekly drops of morning dew with a touch of honey,

in the hospital and picked it up, pre-ordered. They just

from age three months to two. n

THE WRITERS AND THE ARTIST Travis Lancaster is an adjunct professor of

Cheyenne Varner is a 22 year-old poet and

Jillian Dougherty is a recent University of

English Composition at Rutgers University

short story writer living in Virginia. She

Delaware graduate living and working as

where he is currently pursuing an MFA in

works at a faith-based non-profit serv-

a graphic designer in New Jersey. She is an

Creative Writing. He lives and writes in

ing youth through education and the arts.

avid traveler, yoga enthusiast, and dog lover.

northern New Jersey. When not busy read-

Cheyenne is also the founder and head editor

ing or writing, he can generally be found

of Episodic Literary Magazine, a young mag-

near the bright green of a soccer field.

azine with a focus on highlighting the everyday struggles and beauties in life through literature, photography and illustration.

FALL 2013


WE WANT YOU Interested in contributing to or being featured in future issues? Questions or comments? Just want to say hello? We would love to hear from you! Please contact Emily at for more information.

STAY IN TOUCH Keep up with V23 Creative Magazine! W: B: F: T: P: I: E:




FALL 2013






V23 Creative Magazine: Fall 2013 (Volume 1, Issue 2)  

A quarterly online publication showcasing young adult artists in various areas of creative production.

V23 Creative Magazine: Fall 2013 (Volume 1, Issue 2)  

A quarterly online publication showcasing young adult artists in various areas of creative production.