Silhouette’s outgoing Editor-in-Chief Isa Diaz discusses her organization’s mission of artistic inclusivity on Virginia Tech’s campus, the obstacles her staff has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, how she uses literary art to communicate to others, and her visions for the magazine’s digital future. As she prepares to pass the torch onto the next editor-in-chief and transition into her director of social events role, Diaz reflects on how Silhouette has helped her identify a leadership style that she can apply to planning community engagement events next year.
Collegiate Times (CT): What is your year, major and a career goal of yours?
Isa Diaz (ID): I'm a junior studying creative writing. I plan on adding a minor in cinema. It's my career goal to write screenplays and maybe eventually come back to teach at a university.
CT: When did you get involved in Silhouette? Why did you choose to join in the first place?
ID: I got involved with Silhouette as a sophomore when I joined the team as a blogger. At the time, I was also a double major in journalism, and I really wanted to be a part of a student publication on campus. I saw how involved Silhouette was with creative writing and the arts and decided I wanted to be a part of it.
CT: What positions have you held in the organization and what is your upcoming role?
ID: So far, I've only been a blogger before I was editor-in-chief this year. After I step down next year, I'll become our director of social events.
CT: What are some of your goals you have for your upcoming position?
ID: I really want Silhouette to have more of a presence on campus beyond just publishing our magazine. It was one of my goals for this year that kind of got sidelined due to COVID-19. In addition to planning engaging in-person meetings for our staff, I'd love for Silhouette to have some events, like readings or writing workshops. I'd also like to make sure our magazine launch parties are successful and draw people in.
CT: What is Silhouette's purpose on the Virginia Tech campus?
ID: Silhouette's aim is to bring our entire community together by fostering a shared love of art and creativity. Whether you're a fine arts major or an engineer, you're not only welcome but encouraged to submit. We believe everyone should tap into their creative side. I don't believe in the myth that you have to be a prodigy at something in order to love it and take it on as a hobby. You can be a chemistry major and still have a passion for photography, or a BIT major who loves to write poems. If you love something, you should do it, instead of letting the fear that you won't be good enough hold you back. Art isn't about being good, it's about expressing yourself. That's the kind of attitude we want to encourage here on campus.
CT: How has 2020-21 challenged Silhouette as an organization?
ID: This year has been really difficult for us in terms of community engagement. Silhouette is an organization that's used to meeting in person and hashing out ideas, and being stuck with Zoom and email communications really put us in a kind of rut. I think people had this idea that the pandemic and all of the time we spent in isolation should have inspired more creativity, but I think for a lot of people, it actually stifled their ability to be creative and find inspiration. It made it really hard for us to bring in submissions and for us to stay on top of things as a staff. We ended up having to push back magazine production until next year.
CT: What positives have come out of the past year for your organization/staff?
ID: The main positive thing about this year for Silhouette was that it was a huge learning experience for us. I figured out the hard way what worked for us as an organization and what didn't. I'm able to pass a lot on to my successor about the best ways to communicate with the staff, bring in submissions and schedule things throughout the semester in order to minimize stress. I was a little resentful at first about how difficult this year was for me in terms of managing the magazine, but I'm working on seeing it as a valuable experience that taught me a lot about my own leadership style and provided me with valuable advice to pass on to the next editor-in-chief.
CT: Tell me about your art and/or writing style.
ID: My personal writing style is very much drawn from the language itself and from my own internal dialogue. I'm the kind of person who thinks with a little voice in my head, so even if I'm not scribbling in a notebook or writing in a document, I'm really always writing in my head, taking what I see around me, and playing with the words. I'm obsessed with the sounds of language and the way words create rhythm with each other. A lot of my poetry and prose contains repetition and alliteration and different ways I can play with the way the words sound. I always imagine what my writing would sound like if read out loud because that's what it sounds like in my head.
CT: What does visual/written art mean to you?
ID: For me, art has always been about my own experiences and how I want to communicate them to others who might not understand them. I often use my ADHD as an example, because the way the inside of my brain works is sometimes difficult for people to understand, even if they know all of the typical symptoms or understand it in a basic sense. Describing my experiences with my writing as the vehicle is a way for me to give people a little window into my mind and how it works. Even if I'm writing about something fictional or completely unrelated to my real life, pieces of my personality, my identity –– all of that is going to show up in whatever I write. When people read my writing, they see me as I want them to know me.
CT: How do you see Silhouette changing or evolving in the next year or so?
ID: Silhouette has been on the precipice of fully jumping headfirst into the age of digital publishing for the past few years, and I think we're just about ready to finally take that leap and move a little ways away from just putting out a print product. We've been tossing around ideas about how we can modernize and make Silhouette a little more relevant on campus again without sacrificing the heart of the organization, and I'm excited to see some of those ideas come to fruition in the next few years.
CT: What is a fun fact about yourself?
ID: A fun fact about me is that one of my poems was actually an honorable mention in the Giovanni-Steger Poetry Prize this year. I was lucky enough to have Nikki Giovanni as a professor in the fall, and she's just about the coolest person I've ever met in my life, so getting to hear her read out my name at the Celebration of Poetry last month was definitely one of the highlights of my Virginia Tech career.