The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

La Pluma: Syzygy

Members share their works in La Pluma’s fall issue “Syzygy”
Syzygy refers to the opposition between two objects, such as the sun and moon | Sonia Verma

MVHS’s award-winning literary arts magazine, La Pluma, unveiled its fall semester issue, “Syzygy,” on March 8. “Syzygy,” an astronomical term that relates to the opposition of the moon and the sun, is the theme that guided the newest magazine. Much like how Syzygy encompasses the beautiful contradiction of nature, the magazine “explores the collision of unlike minds” and demonstrates works created by La Pluma’s 27 staff members.

The cover of “Syzygy” | Sonia Verma

William Zhang

The idea of opposing celestial bodies inspired senior William Zhang, who joined La Pluma in his sophomore year, to explore the contrast and opposition of light and dark in his short story through themes of good and evil.

“I don’t like a lot of concrete objects like the sun and moon, like, ‘Oh, there’s a sun and eventually some cloud passes and the sun has turned into the moon,’” Zhang said. “I like more psychological topics, like the inner workings of the mind.”

His piece, titled “A Divided Soul,” was done in conjunction with junior Dana Yang’s drawing “The Royal Gambit.” The piece follows a character with a split personality — one an orderly, kind man and the other a fiery, abrasive woman. Ultimately, when the woman’s personality takes a drug to suppress the man’s, she realizes she needs his presence to balance hers out. Zhang says he intentionally wrote in a way so that most readers would understand the themes without too much difficulty or analysis.

Graphic | Benjamin Zhang

“In my opinion, my piece is the most readable,” Zhang said. “It doesn’t have as much poetic appeal as other pieces, but I feel like it’s just really easy to read. I don’t make it too simple, though — the nuances are not all exposed. I still have to let the readers extrapolate a little to figure out a deeper meaning.”

To Zhang, the environment of La Pluma is the perfect outlet to explore his creativity. Unlike writing environments like literature classes, the club’s culture encourages unique inspirations, which he drew from for his piece in Syzygy.

“My main inspiration is from a webcomic called Homestuck, which is, in my opinion, one of the best works of art on the internet,” Zhang said. “I have a passion for creative writing, and having a club where we can just be creative and express our ideas is a perfect place for me. The magazine was really well-orchestrated — it’s like a concert program, where the pieces are in a certain order to maximize attention.”


Dana Yang

With a passion for art and a desire to create it, junior and art editor Dana Yang joined La Pluma as a sophomore. For Yang, the semester-long process of making a piece for the magazine gave her a platform to showcase her artistic talents. 

“The Royal Gambit” | Dana Yang

Her piece named “The Royal Gambit” — a digital art drawing of a game of chess — served as the visual for Zhang’s short story. Yang used leading lines and sizing within the drawing to create a three-dimensional feel for the chessboard. However, Yang ran into problems at the very beginning of production.

“My original idea and my first draft was not really dynamic,” Yang said. “Because of that, our editors helped me think of a different composition, which made the art a lot better. I had experience doing a collaboration with another member last time, so working with someone else wasn’t a shock or something new.”

According to Yang, the overall production of the magazine shared a similar path, being smooth sailing after only a few initial conflicts. As an art editor, it was stressful to remind artists to meet deadlines, but despite this, Yang says she is extremely proud of the way the final magazine turned out. 

Some staff were unresponsive at first, but with some reminders, they got their stuff done in the end, and it all worked out,” Yang said. “I loved seeing the issue come together as a whole and seeing everyone’s hard work in the end become an entire magazine.”


Arielle Fam

Sophomore Arielle Fam has had a penchant for creative writing for years, so from the moment a La Pluma officer and friend introduced her to the club, she knew it was the place for her.

“He was like, ‘Hey, you should join,’” Fam said. “I’ve done a bit of literary magazine stuff in the past, and I really liked that experience. So I thought, why not do it again?”

Like all the content in “Syzygy,” Fam’s piece followed a motif of two fundamentally opposed concepts. Her piece, a creative writing work titled “In the city beneath the moon, I,” explores a character living in a world that is too loud. After dreaming of being taken to the moon, where the silence is suffocating, she finally finds harmony between silence and sound.

“Syzygy is supposed to be a balance between two objects and I was trying to explore that,” Fam said. “I think maybe because I’m really involved in music in general, I wanted to do something with the concept of sound and silence.”

While writing, Fam experienced both writer’s block and sudden late-night ideas, which didn’t mesh well with the deadlines set by La Pluma’s editorial staff. Although she was able to complete her piece on time and the finished product exceeded her expectations, Fam hopes to work on her timeliness in the future. 

Graphic | Benjamin Zhang

“As much as I like how my piece turned out, it could have been even better if I had the time to put in more effort into it,” Fam said. “I’d like to be able to polish it more and organize my time better to achieve that.”

Furthermore, for future issues of La Pluma, Fam hopes to be able to convey her messages across to readers more effectively.

“For my specific piece, I want to be able to incite emotions in the readers and have people be able to relate to it to some degree, so it’s not just like words thrown together,” Fam said. “I want there to be an actual purpose behind my pieces, and I hope that they can influence people in some way.”


Sonia Verma

In her third year as a member of La Pluma, Editor-In-Chief Sonia Verma is no stranger to the process of making magazines. At the start of each new issue, the officer team’s first step is to find an unconventional word to serve as the central theme of the magazine. Syzygy was no exception. 

“At the beginning of the year, we had a little meeting where we gathered a bunch of words we found on Pinterest that people wouldn’t necessarily use in their daily lexicon,” said Verma. “We were going through and voting on them. I even had a document with the rankings on it. We were choosing between a couple and Syzygy, which scored an 8.5/10, ultimately won. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when we thought we had a 10 out of 10. So I guess the word choice and theme choice are subjective in the way that art is subjective.”

Definition of syzygy | Sonia Verma

Much like La Pluma’s past themes, such as tacenda and efflorescence, syzygy is a word that relates deeply to nature. Verma explains that nature is a very creative topic that is easy for others to find inspiration in. According to Verma, there’s an inherent vividness in natural imagery that makes words related to nature the perfect theme for a magazine.

“Our themes are all very unique words, and they’re all unique in their own way,” Verma said. “This time we chose syzygy, but we actively discouraged people from doing something about planets or stars because that’s a very obvious and literal interpretation of the theme. We want to encourage our staff members to branch out from that and really exercise their creativity. I really liked how this year we had multiple interpretations and a very wide range of ideas.”

Since her job mainly focuses on the management side of La Pluma, Verma did not create a piece inside the magazine. However, she did contribute to a major aspect, the cover — on a starry night background, the letters of syzygy were sprawled out in a fantasy gothic typography.

“I was inspired by stained glass windows since a lot of my work is very line art heavy and line art focused,” Verma said. “There’s the sun shining, the moon in front and then stars. I was really focused on the typography of the cover, which I hand-drew. I really wanted it to intertwine and have a fairytale or storybook feel to it. Typography is always very eye-catching to the reader, so I really wanted to try something new because a lot of our previous covers have been focused on the illustration itself. The mystique of the word syzygy and how it’s related to something that’s so far away from us on Earth is something that I want to convey through my artistic choices in the cover.”

Graphic | Benjamin Zhang

Verma is proud of the work her team has done and doesn’t have many critiques for the magazine. Rather, her future goals are for the club of La Pluma as a whole and the community she built for artists to express their creativity.

“One thing that I really hope comes into fruition in the next few years — even as I leave and hand off the magazine to the new officers — is that we spend more time being together instead of just working on the magazine,” Verma said. “I think that’s also a really valuable part of being in a club, and I think that really encapsulates what my goal is for the club, which is to actually have a real community of artists and writers who are comfortable to share their ideas, craft and growth.”

About the Contributors
Stella Petzova
Stella Petzova, Staff Writer
Stella is currently a sophomore and a staff writer for El Estoque. When she's not doing homework, she loves to bike around Cupertino, paint, eat sushi, listen to music and pet her cat.
Benjamin Zhang
Benjamin Zhang, Staff Writer
Benjamin is currently a sophomore and a staff writer for El Estoque. In his free time, he likes to play soccer, collect vinyls and critique bad movies.
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