Savannah Harris, a junior creative writing major at the University of Indianapolis, had her short story “Ataraxy” published in the Penultimate Peanut Magazine. The Virginia-based magazine published her story in their December 2019 issue.
“Ataraxy” is a story about an unnamed female character who falls asleep in her yoga class. She wakes up in an empty room, realizing that no one had woken her up when class was over. Harris said her own narcolepsy, a condition that causes a person to easily fall asleep during relaxing situations, served as an inspiration for the plot.
“I wrote [“Ataraxy”] during my fiction writing workshop class and so there was also that helpful deadline of, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get something in,’” Harris said. “My professor’s been super helpful about … keeping me on track. ”
The class, English 371, is designed to advance the craft of fiction writing and is focused on reading and taking apart stories, according to Assistant Professor of English Dan Vice. The class is formatted as a workshop, where everyone in the class reads a student’s story and discusses it with the class. When Harris’ story was being discussed, the class spent a half an hour talking about it, Vice said.
Harris said she chose the Penultimate Peanut Magazine to publish her story because it was a smaller publication and because she has family ties to Virginia. She said she also enjoys the personal touch smaller publications give.
“The editor herself reached out to me and was like, ‘Hey, we really want to publish this rather than just some big conglomerate company email,” Harris said. “I felt like they really read my story and understood it and accepted it as it was, even though it might not have been perfect.”
Vice said he was happy when he heard Harris’ story was published. He said believes it was good encouragement and recognition for her.
“She sent me an email saying that it had been accepted… and I thought it was great,” Vice said. “She was somebody who always had a lot of promise, but also seemed to need a nudge of encouragement from somewhere else. It’s a big decision to decide that what you’re going to do with your life is write stories because we live in a culture where people don’t necessarily read stories.”
Originally, Harris said the name for her story was “God Doesn’t Care for Yoga Mats,” which she then changed it to “The Yoga Mat Story.” However, she changed the final title to “Ataraxy” after seeing the word on her friend’s word of the day email.
“[She] and I were talking one morning and she opened up in her email the dictionary word of the day and it happened to be ataraxy, which is a sort of sense of serene, zen, peaceful calmness,” Harris said. “I was like, ‘That’s my story title. That’s it.’”
According to Harris, the original rough draft of “Ataraxy” was rushed due to its deadline having passed. She said that after the story was critiqued by people in the workshop, she revised it during NaNoWriMo, a month-long writing challenge that happened last semester. Harris said that she was happy with the final product and that she decided not to tell anyone about her submission and expected it to be rejected. According to her, rejection is an important part of learning. However, when she received her acceptance letter, she said she was happily surprised.