Monthly Archives: November 2015

So, Why Choose a Small Press?

Posted by Erin Duffy, Nonfiction Editor for Issue 4.1

I’ve wanted to go into publishing for years. I imagined myself in a bustling metropolitan setting, attending corporate meetings, with piles and piles of manuscripts as far as the eye can see. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year or so, it’s that that image makes up only a small fraction of the publishing industry: however big and powerful the major publishing houses may be, there are just as many rewarding opportunities –for writers and aspiring editors alikein smaller corners.

My first experience with small press was actuallyDuffy_Kevin_6252_COVER_Ebook-1338x2000-e1426778780768 quite indirect. Last year, my father published a novel entitled The Crew. It was his first venture into the literary world in any capacity: my father is an engineer with a military background, but nonetheless, he spent the last ten years or so writing a novel about life in the US Merchant Marine Academy in his spare time. The finished product was a whopping seven hundred-page book with nowhere to go. So, after at least two rewrites (and plenty of pestering from me), he began to seriously look into getting it published.

The first roadblock presented itself immediately. “Basically, I learned that if you wanted to go to a big publishing house, you had to have an agent,” my father told me recently. “And I wasn’t sure how to go about getting one. It’s almost like being an actor, where you need an agent to get auditions for you. But it’s still a matter of whether or not [the agent] would be willing to take you on as a client.”

My father’s analogy wasn’t too far off the mark. Many publishing houses don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, and they almost always want to speak to a literary agent first rather than to the authors themselves, especially if the author is unpublished. Finding an agent was essentially an extra audition process that my dad didn’t want to bother with.

So instead, he turned to a little company by the name of Page Publishing. Continue reading

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Interview with Author, Teacher and Geneseo English Alum, Tracy Strauss

Posted by Erin Carlo, Creative Nonfiction Reader for Issue 4.1

High school and college students are plagued with thoughts and concerns about the future. Speaking with someone who has experience in a field of interest can help alleviate the stress we experience as we face the unknown.  

Thinking of my future invoked anxious feelings that began to tug at my normally lighthearted, happy presence. I started to feel uneasy, easily distracted, and irritated because I didn’t know what my “next step” would be.

I found myself on the Geneseo English department webpage, looking at requirements for my major, when I stumbled upon the profile of Tracy Strauss, a graduate of SUNY Geneseo and former English major.  She sounded so nice, so happy, so successful!  I wanted to know more about her, and how she got to this point. I reached out to Ms. Strauss and asked her if she would be willing to speak with me.

Tracy Strauss has been successful since graduating from Geneseo in 1996.  She has been published in The Huffington PostSalonThe RumpusxoJanePoets & Writers MagazineWriter’s Digest Magazine, WBUR’s CognoscentiThe Feminist WireThe DodoThe Southampton ReviewSolstice Literary MagazineBeyond the Margins, and more.  Ms. Strauss is currently a liberal arts and writing instructor at the New England Conservatory of Music Writing Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Continue reading

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Finding Your Mental and Physical Writing Space

Posted by Gabriella Basile, Poetry Reader and Art Curator for Issue 4.1

One day a few months ago, the inspiration to write hit me, and I went tearing around my room in search of my special gel pens. Once I had found one I got water, closed the door, opened the window, popped a piece of mint gum in my mouth, and curled up with a blanket and some paper. But instead of focusing on the poem I had been about to write, I began thinking about something else: our mental and physical writing spaces.

In 2015, Poets and Writers Magazine made a call for submissions: writers were to send in pictures and descriptions of their “writing spaces.”Some writers seem to favor doing work at their desks, while others sent pictures of their beds or porches. Novelist Sally Charette sent in a picture of a diner, a notably more public setting than in the other photographs. In her description, Charette describes what appeals to her about this particular writing space:

“A diner is a great place to eavesdrop and keep in touch with the natural cadences of conversation—and to pick up story ideas.”

But would a poet want to be in the same environment? What about a creative non-fiction writer?

Curious about what kind of physical and mental setting writers craved, I decided to ask other students here at Geneseo. Each individual has a different major (History/English/Communication), but each writes a lot both academically and for pleasure.

GB: In what setting do you typically prefer to write creative pieces?

Casey: “At my current place in life, wherever I can, like a study lounge or the campus library. Ideally a place that’s light, airy, and cozy.chair-270980_640 When I’m at home, then in my bedroom, to be alone. I shut the door depending on if people are making noise. But having an open door is especially nice if you’re home alone—then you have a connection to the rest of the house. But I mean, if I remembered to shut the door, I would.”

Chris: “I like to write outside a lot. If it’s raining, then in a coffee shop. Drinking coffee. I drink coffee 24/7.”

Leah: “The environment doesn’t matter so much to me… I’m good at working with noise. I work in the College Union all the time. Being in the right mental state is what’s most important to me. Like when all of my ideas start to come together, and then I just feel ready to write.” Continue reading

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The Common: A Lit Journal for a Modern Audience

Posted by Demetria Monachino, Fiction Reader and Art Curator for Issue 4.1

Before working on the Gandy Dancer, I didn’t know what a literary journal was. I didn’t know that there were publications out there dedicated to collecting individual works by writers and artists. I just sort of thought that one wrote a book–a novel, a collection of short stories or poems, a memoir–sent it to publishing houses, and got lucky. I knew that some people wrote short stories, essays, and poems, but I didn’t know where those works went, where they belonged, if not in a book.

It turns out that these pieces of literature find their homes in literary journals all over the world, one of which is The Common. Based in Amherst, Massachusetts, The Common has a rather uncommon goal: to achieve “a modern sense of place.” Unique to the world of literary journals, The Common is all about location, location, location.

common-9Upon first look, The Common has a striking appearance. Its readers know that when the receive their issues they can expect a minimalist, modern, and clean-looking journal that features a bold color and a “common” object on the cover, along with The Common’s signature square logo. What readers can’t predict is what exactly that eye-catching color and everyday object will be. I find that The Common’s consistent yet unpredictable approach to the appearance of their journal mimics what can be found in the pages of the journal. Yes, readers can expect to read and view pieces with a strong sense of place, but they can never know what those places will be. Just as there are endless objects in the world to choose from, there are endless places to write about. These places could be geographical, like Issue 9’s portfolio of works centered on Bombay/Mumbai, or local, like Issue 7’s “Your Parent’s House” by Zeina Hashem Beck. Or place might provide the conflict by separating two people as it does in Masha Hamilton’s “God’s Fingernail,” in Issue 9. It could even be about searching for a place to belong or something to hold on to. This is the case with Issue “In Search of Bazena Nmcova” by Kelsy Parker, which I read in Issue 7. Continue reading

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Clique Lit: Writing Communities Online & In Person

Posted by Sarah Hopkins, Fiction Editor for Issue 4.1

The romantic idea of writing is that of a solitary writer, perhaps in a cabin, plunking away at the keyboard in peace.  Perhaps the writer might also be sitting in a coffee shop, but even then they are sitting alone.

In truth, however, there is no reason for anyone to write alone. After all, a piece of creative writing is part of a conversation. It’s a message from the author to the reader. Finding a community of writers can be extremely beneficial to both your craft and your mental wellbeing.

Literary journals like Gandy Dancer, The Common, and december magazine provide one such community, connecting writers and readers. Here at Gandy, we strive to create a community among writers from the SUNY system specifically.

hopkins_gandypic2With the help of the internet, you don’t even need to go outside or physically interact to find a writing community. Writing forums are all over the place. Websites like Wattpad, Figment, and Scribophile allow users to post their own writing and leave constructive critiques for other members.  Other sites, such as and Archive Of Our Own, provide a community forum for writers and readers of fanfiction specifically.  Online writing communities can be very helpful, especially to young writers who are just excited to get their work out there.

Now that it’s November, NaNoWriMo (or “National Novel Writing Month”) has rolled around again, and its community of writers is busy churning out 50,000-word novels in thirty days. The NaNo website is full of forums where novel-writers can support each other, offer critiques, and give advice for pumping up that word count. The most notable thing about the community of NaNoWriMo, however, is the real-world, physical presence of writing communities called Local Regions. The Local Regions function like clubs, and are run by dedicated members, referred to as Municipal Liaisons. Many Local Regions run year-round, featuring write-ins, workshops, and readings.

It’s hard to beat a local, real-life writing community. Even the smallerhopkins_gandypic1 online communities can sometimes feel like a big, echoless pit.  You can toss your work down it and barely hear the splash it makes at the bottom. I found my own community at the Creative Writing Club at Geneseo, fondly referred to as “C-Dubz.” Knowing other people who write, and who care about writing, had an enormous impact on my development as a writer. I no longer thought of writing as a special, elusive form of magic, but as a legitimate skill that I could hone. Through workshopping my own pieces and the pieces of others, I became as practiced in revision as I was in producing terrible first drafts.

Finding a community of writers that you appreciate and respect is like finding a good pair of running shoes. They offer much-needed support, even when you’re all sweaty and you feel like your pacing could be better. Whether you find your own community in a club, a class, or an online forum, having a group of other writers can make the lonely process of writing a little less lonely.

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Wendy Corsi Staub and Lucia Marco Spark Creativity at SUNY Geneseo

Posted by Erin Carlo, Nonfiction Reader for Issue 4.1

Wendy Corsi Staub, the wildly successful and prolific author of over eighty novels, visited Geneseo on Thursday, October 22nd.  As an avid reader of Ms. Staub’s many works, I was delighted to have the opportunity to hear her speak about her writing life, her inspirations and motivations, as well as the adversity she has overcome along the way.

Accompanying Wendy was her editor and friend, Lucia Marco, the Vice President and Executive Editor at Harper-Collins Willian Morrow Books.  Attendees were able to ask questions about writing, editing, and publishing. Wendy and Lucia were exceptionally knowledgeable, and remarkably approachable.

A few of Wendy’s accomplishments include:

  • Named New York Times Bestseller
  • Has appeared on USA Today, Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and Bookscan bestseller lists
  • Won the Westchester Library Association Washington Irving Prize for Fiction for Nightwatcher in September, 2012
  • Finalist for Simon and Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award for Sleepwalker in October 2012
  • Won the 2008 RT Award for Career Achievement in Suspense
  • Won the 2007 RWA-NYC Golden Apple Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • Translated into over a dozen languages worldwide

Corsi Staub WWhen asked how she was possibly able to produce over eighty novels before the age of 50, Ms. Staub responded, “I walk fast, I talk fast, I write fast.  Once I’m in the groove, the stories just come.”  Furthermore, when asked how to write successful fiction, fiction that will attract readers and keep them coming back for more, Wendy chuckled, gazed at the ceiling thoughtfully and said: “Give yourself permission to have bad days. Sometimes, you’re going to write crap.  What’s important is to keep writing anyways.  Sit down at your computer, do your pages, and then the next day, go over what you wrote and see what you can do with it.”

As an aspiring writer, I felt empowered by this advice. Wendy Corsi Staub and Lucia Macro are tremendous role models for the creative minds in college classrooms everywhere.

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