Ridge Devil’s Quill to Launch New Website

Heather Qin ‘24

In June 2022, the Devil’s Quill, Ridge’s arts and literary magazine, will be transitioning to a newly programmed and curated website showcasing various types of student work, such as paintings, short stories, book reviews, college essays, music performances, and dance. I discussed the new website, the importance of promoting the arts, and submitting student work with the Quill’s co-presidents, Jasmine Gill ’22 and Rachel Li ’23, and vice president, Sarah Ouyang ’22.

Q: The Devils’ Quill has gone through many changes in its website, membership, and scope. Why did you decide to move to a new website, and how does the new website expand upon the old?

Jasmine: “We decided to move to a new website primarily for easier site navigation and improved aesthetics. A majority of Devil’s Quill’s works are posted online, so improving the site itself was a direct step towards improving reader interactions with writers’ work. It was an idea I originally pitched along with the other Co-President, Rachel Li, during our virtual club meetings last year, and we wanted to expand upon several categories, including the art, music, and drama liaisons. The new website is much more navigable, provides a fresher aesthetic for our digital interface, and allows us to be much more creative with adding new categories and displaying/highlighting works without having to completely rearrange the site. It also lets us access works much easier, as some of them tended to get buried with the format of the old site.”

Rachel: “We decided to move to a new website in order to simplify the uploading process for our editors. Initially, we tried using a Google Site as mandated by the school board, but that didn’t quite work out for us, so we hope that our new WordPress site will deliver a more visually pleasing reading experience.”

Sarah: “Ramesh decided to help us build an amazing new home for Devil’s Quill. Our new website is on WordPress and will be much easier to navigate and take on a brighter, more modern look!

But it wasn’t just a question of aesthetics. The previous website was beautifully designed, but there was just a lot of old content that needed reorganization. We needed to wipe the slate clean to usher in a new era of Devil’s Quill! We’ve kept mostly the same categories, or columns.”

Q: The pandemic has significantly altered the way we create, share, and interact with art and other forms of creative expression. How do you hope this new platform will enrich the school community?

Jasmine: “The pandemic definitely highlighted the importance of having an effective digital creative interface. Our hope for the new website is that it’ll make it easier and more appealing for students to browse club members’ works, and that’s so important to the literary magazine because our overarching goal is to share literary arts with the rest of the student body.”

Rachel: “There are so many people in our school and otherwise who have creative ideas they want to pursue but lack the outlet to share these ideas with others. Devil’s Quill aims to provide these students a way to create and share, no matter how much prior experience they have. Whether someone is even slightly proud of their college essay, school assignment, or personal project, they are invited to have their works published on our site!”

Sarah: “As we’re all well aware, the virtual world has become more important than ever thanks to the pandemic. When Covid-19 shut us into isolation boxes, the internet was a haven and technology the hero. But it looks like recovering means not returning to the old normal, but making a new normal with everything we’ve adapted to.

With its new, more accessible and aesthetically appealing design, we’re hoping the Devil’s Quill website will reach more people, at Ridge and outside alike. Since the pandemic forced us all to become more technologically adept, it follows naturally that clubs and platforms like Quill must follow suit.

However, we want to retain some of that intimate, personal appeal that can only come from face-to-face communication. Some forms of expression are just not the same on screen versus live—the same way smiling and talking just aren’t the same with half your face behind a mask. So we really encourage you to join us during meetings and enjoy the sense of creation and irreplaceable “there”-ness in the room!”

Q: Today, many believe we are a culture moving increasingly toward the valuing of scientific contribution over artistic voice, in which these scientific occupations are often perceived as more essential or necessary. In fact, because it is more difficult to quantify the economic value of a field such as art history or engineering, it becomes easier to dismiss the humanities as legitimate forms of work; thus, arts and music programs are often disproportionately affected by budget cuts. Why do you believe that writing and the arts are important to young people?

Jasmine: “There’s a certain joy and depth to be had in creative arts that, in my opinion, simply can’t be found elsewhere. It inspires creativity, collaboration, and reflection in a way that I believe is both necessary and conducive to personal and scholarly growth. Writing in particular is a form of art that lets us experience such a vast multitude of emotions; beyond that, so many forms of art, like films and music, start with writing. It’s essential to preserve the craft of writing through mainstream education and extracurricular outlets like literary magazines.”

Rachel: “Personally, I find science and math subjects to be very constraining in nature. Or maybe that’s because I was never really good at them. Ultimately, people need a way to creatively express themselves—if that happens to be through STEM, that’s wonderful! It all depends on personal tastes. But the arts are everywhere, and even in the rise of scientific occupations, I thoroughly believe that there will always be a necessity for the arts, whether it be for self-fulfillment, entertainment, or achievement.”

Sarah: “It takes a strong scientific foundation to navigate and innovate, it’s true, especially in today’s overwhelmingly technological world. But where to seek repose from the fast-paced work of science, math, and engineering? Isn’t it necessary for us to have a place to turn to that doesn’t confine us to laws or theorems? That’s where art comes in (art meaning writing, music, visual arts, etc.) and gives us a chance to liberate our minds.

We use our imagination long before we start using reason and logic, because it’s innate—a desire to create, to feel and to express. Where science classifies and specifies, art unites and universalizes. That might explain the special significance of art to younger, liberal minds before we grow—as people generally do—more conservative and more sympathetic to logic and numbers than passion and instinct.

I think there’s a misleading perception of art as wild and unstructured, which makes it seem a bit unapproachable compared to the candid profile of science or STEM. But that’s not really true; art sprouts from creative, intangible thought, that’s true, but that thought also comes from our minds—the same place where our scientific reasonings are formed.

There’s structure in art, just as there’s individuality in science. I like to think that most human creations begin as science and materialize into art—we explore, we practice, we master and then we create. (Actually, I’d say it begins with philosophy even before science, but that’s for another day).”

Q: What advice would you give to students submitting their writing or artwork to the club, or students who are interested in creative endeavors in general?

Jasmine: “If you have something to share – absolutely share it! Don’t hesitate just because you believe it’s not perfect. We welcome almost anything and everything when it comes to the magazine. I think students interested in creative endeavors should aspire to complete and share at least one work, no matter what they’re doing. Find some way to do what you love, whether it’s professionally, academically, or just as a pastime. There’s a huge support system here at Devil’s Quill, and so many writing and art circles beyond Ridge as well. Interacting with other artists and writers tends to improve your own work, so don’t be shy to reach out to others with similar interests.”

Rachel: “Pursue them. Whether it’s just an idea that pops in your head once, or you have the slightest inclination to create, do it. Nothing happens if you don’t take action—a stressful concept, and one I had to learn the hard way. I mourn the loss of so many ideas I’ve had and not put into words or form, thinking I didn’t have the talent to bring them justice. It all comes down to trying first, and practicing later. Also, submit anything and everything! We love to see works from students of all grade levels on our site.”

Sarah: “You probably need less advice than you think! The purpose of “creative endeavors” is, in a word, freedom. Exploring your own mind with no apprehensions, no inhibitions. Although I would say one thing: people often underestimate the importance of emotions. Rational thought changes, opinions and reasonings constantly adapt to external stimuli, but the way we feel things can mostly be trusted to stay the same.

Our instincts often tell us to suppress extreme feelings—anger, pain, sadness, or even excitement sometimes. But these are the wells where we draw buckets of creativity, imagination and expression. You can’t create if you don’t first allow yourself to feel.

There’s a tendency to think that overthinking is a bad thing, but that’s only the case if you’re “overanalyzing” the wrong things. Sometimes, when you allow yourself to thoroughly “overthink” your feelings, you get to the bottom of your thoughts, desires and motivations. That’s where art thrives and flowers the most colorfully.”

Q: How did you first become interested in creative pursuits?

Jasmine: “I’ve been interested in writing since I first picked up a fantasy book, which was probably around first or second grade. I learned everything I know about writing through reading, and those works really inspired me to create stories that could perhaps intrigue and move others in the same way those works moved me. It’s not been a smooth journey at all – for about a year, with the SAT and college applications, I almost completely dropped writing if but for some incomplete freewriting. But writing is something you can pick back up at any time, in any place. Trying to write something everyday, whether it’s a paragraph or even just a page, is a great way to get back into it.”

Rachel: “Reading, reading, reading. I was the kid who liked to get lost in the world of books, as cheesy as it may sound. Then one day, I realized that I wanted to create stories that could be enjoyed by others, too. And while I may be a long ways away from having a published book, I won’t stop writing.”

Sarah: “Personally, I’ve been writing for longer than anything else I can remember doing (except breathing, maybe).

And then I started playing piano, and later cello, and I’ve played around with art and photography and design. The more I explore, the more I’m astounded by the sheer infinitude of expression. There’s just no limit to how people morph ideas into reality, or to how much people feel and share and express.

Once you discover art for yourself, you discover a layer of the universe that just isn’t available otherwise. It opens your eyes to color, your ears to music, your mind to emotion. The tree by your bedroom window that blooms in the spring isn’t just pretty, it’s a pillow of pink and green that balances beautifully against the blue sky. The song that starts your foot tapping from its very first note isn’t just catchy, it captures your mood perfectly and reminds you of this memory, or that one. Food isn’t just fulfilling, it’s family. Paintings aren’t just canvas, they’re windows. The world is new and alive.”

Q: What are some of your favorite works of art (literature, photography, paintings, performances, etc)?

Jasmine: “Literature-wise, I absolutely love Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories, including those in his anthology Welcome to the Monkey House (which is a required reading for sophomores, I believe), the short story “I Have No Mouth,” and “I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison- an absolute masterpiece of horror writing), and the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor, which is arguably my favorite fantasy series ever. I do enjoy a lot of manga and anime as well, some of my favorites being Kakegurui and Maid-Sama!. My favorite contemporary performer is Marina Abramovic, whose performances I highly recommend. She’s commonly regarded as the mother of contemporary performing. She pushes the limits of the human body and mind through almost experimental performances, and the underlying messages of her art reflect on the deeply intimate and dark nature of humanity.”

Rachel: “I’m a big fan of the works that RHS students create and submit– we’re lucky to be in a school with so many opportunities for creative expression. I find myself stopping and appreciating the talents of our fellow students quite often. The next time you’re in the hallway, look into the display cases, or up at the TV screens. Maybe visit our website, https://devilsquill.storyboardi.ng/. You might find something really special.”

Sarah: “I’m a city person, and my perfect city scene is rainy night and bustling crowds. So the fact that Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks speaks to me as much as it does seems pretty contradictory, but that’s just an example of art reaching territory that reason simply cannot.

My book recommendation list is just a bit too long (if there is such a thing). But these are definitely at the top: Lord of the Rings (obviously); North and South (everything Pride and Prejudice wishes it was); And Then There Were None (one hour of reading, one hour of shivering); Jean Christophe (a steady read; I like to keep it running in the background as other books take the spotlight). For some more modern works: the day I stop recommending Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the day I disappear from society.

But don’t ask me what my favorite work of music is. Unless you’ve got five hours :).”

Thank you to Jasmine, Rachel, and Sarah for taking the time to share their insight with us! As the school year draws to a close, remember to keep an eye out for Devil’s Quill’s new online magazine to read, engage, and enjoy new student work!