Author Archives: Erin Duffy

Gandy Dancer 4.2 Preview!!

Posted by Emily Peterson, Poetry reader for issue 4.2

Here's a sneak peek at our cover for issue 4.2! Artwork by Lei Pen Gan

Here’s a sneak peek at our cover for issue 4.2!
Artwork by Lei Pen Gan

As the cruel month of April comes to a close and the beginning of May is within sight, Gandy Dancer issue 4.2 is nearly ready for launch. With contributions from students across ten different SUNY schools, issue 4.2 delivers a wide range of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and art that encapsulates SUNY’s literary skill. The Gandy Dancer staff has worked all semester long to curate a magazine that celebrates diverse voices and unique creative expression.

We are proud to publish six different works of fiction in this issue of Gandy Dancer including Sarah Hopkins’ haunting piece, “Frontierland,” which is a story set on a bleak and dusty oil well that captivates the reader with its strong sense of place. We are also pleased to publish Abigail Allen’s “Love is Lemons,” a quiet story that highlights the subtleties and frustrations of young love. Issue 4.2’s poetry selection offers poems from eighteen different authors. These poems range dramatically in theme, tone, and structure. Michal Zweig’s “Happy//Over” commands the reader’s attention with its shifting typeface, strikethroughs, and a spliced in quote from a US Supreme Court justice. Jay’s two poems, “Winning the Lottery, 1969” and “Cannon Fodder” employ an economy of language which is concise yet powerful. Christine Davis’ deeply personal essay “Onliness” explores the complexity of family dynamics and the role of only children. “What Are You Laughing At?” by Brendan Mahoney is a humorous work of nonfiction that delivers poignant commentary on modern day comedic discourse. The Gandy Dancer staff is proud to publish original artwork in a variety of mediums—peppering photography, painting, collage, and even sculpture throughout the magazine. Issue 4.2’s Featured Artist is Lei Peng Gan whose three paintings “Untitled No. 17,” “Muar: Jalan Meriam No.2,” and “Intersection No. 5” feature rich colors and distinct lines.

We hope you join us for the official release of Gandy Dancer issue 4.2 at the launch party on Wednesday, May 11 at 9:00 AM in the College Union Hunt Room.

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What Makes a Good Writer?

Posted by Megan Tomaszewski, CNF reader for issue 4.2

myemotions_troyWho is a writer? According to, a writer is “a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories etc., especially as an occupation or profession.” Merriam Webster Dictionary notes that a writer is “someone who has written something.” But are there any definitions out there for what makes a writer a good writer?

Working at Gandy Dancer this semester as a creative nonfiction reader has prompted me to reflect on the answer to this question a lot, especially when reading through submissions to accept or reject. While discussing submissions with my peers, I was captivated by the way our group would sometimes unanimously “no” a piece, whereas, other times, we would debate pros and cons back and forth. Sometimes, we’d all like or dislike a piece for similar reasons, sometimes for completely different ones.

It was a fascinating, engaging, and messy process unlike anything else that I’ve been a part of—a group of individuals with their own subjective tastes and backgrounds collectively deeming literary pieces as worthy of publishing is no easy feat.

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A Staff Member’s Perspective on their Experience in Creating SUNY Geneseo’s Original Literary Magazine, Gandy Dancer

Posted by Connor Hillman, Fiction Reader for issue 4.2

library_infiniteAs an English major, I’ve been wondering when I would get to make practical use of the skills I’ve been learning. Sure enough, along came ENGL426: The Editing and Production workshop, the class in which we create the college’s biannual literary journal, Gandy Dancer. Our title comes from the slang term used for railroad workers of the 18th century. Like those workers, the journal reflects the diligence of the artists, poets, and writers who refine their work to create something that allows others passage.

I was excited to learn that we would be reading and selecting the work we wanted to include in Gandy Dancer. Finally, I can read through literature for the sole purpose of discovering and discussing what makes it appealing or not. There are no lengthy research papers, though that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work hard. In fact, it’s a different kind of work altogether. In Gandy Dancer we work as a cohesive and interdependent staff. Not doing your “homework” here means letting everyone down. No one wants to be the one who shows up unable to provide any input about the submissions. I’m normally pretty quiet in class, but here I am required to vocalize my opinions frequently, which is a good thing. After submissions have been selected, we begin copyediting and then digitally constructing the layout of the journal in InDesign. Having worked with InDesign for my High School’s yearbook, I felt confident in this stage of development. The interdependence of our staff is now more prevalent as each of us work on individual pages of the journal that will eventually come together. To students contemplating taking this class, I urge you to do so. Working on Gandy Dancer gives an experience that is closer to actual job. You have to work and communicate effectively with others, maintain a goal oriented schedule with deadlines, and in the end your name is on the masthead. All in all, I’m grateful to be a part of this staff and to be able to participate in a project oriented class. It’s rewarding to dedicate yourself to something that is legitimate, published, and has your name on it.

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Hip Hop Symposium 2016 and a Multimedia Glace at Hip Hop as Performance

Posted by Sean Delles, CNF reader for issue 4.2

“The revolution will not be televised… The revolution will be live”

-Gil Scott Heron

I don’t know about you all out there, but the art of performance has always struck me as being connected in some strange way to the literature we read. I think this correlation exists in my mind not because of something cut and dry that both the forms share (e.g. convention, narrative structure, whatever), but because of the eventual impact these forms have on one’s perception. I often find myself at the end of a great performance getting that same exact inward glow of profundity that one receives finishing a great book. Like suddenly the thin layer of snow plastered onto the side of your car window you couldn’t scrape off from earlier has flung off in-passage, and driving now you can see the glory of what’s in front of you in its entirety.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to compare the afterglow of a performance to driving visibility, but I can’t be the only one who has felt this feeling and marveled at it at some point or another. Here… try this if you think I’m exaggerating: Think to the last time you went to a performance- whether it was a play or a concert or music event- and recall that exact moment you stepped out of the venue. That’s when I’ve noticed the sensation is at its strongest. Feel the cool air of the evening brush against you (your lungs sigh in relief at the prospect of breathing in air that hasn’t already been breathed out by dozens of others); notice the muffled chatter of strangers around you (talking about what transpired inside no doubt); and scan the just-beginning-to-fill street in front of you. You’ll realize then that nothing really even looks like how it once did. That’s the feeling. However long you were in that building witnessing that particular performance, you became separated from yourself. Nothing (if the performance did what it was supposed to do) existed beyond the present moment of spectatorship, and in coming back down to reality your brain got tripped up in transition. Surroundings are new and profound and filled-to-the-brim with meaning, and what you soaked up indoors superimposes itself outdoors onto the very fabric of your personal being. I see this exact moment in time as the true power of performance, because without doing anything but buying a ticket, you alter your consciousness in significant ways.

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The Joy and Trials of Sonja Livingston’s Queen of the Fall

Posted by Carrie Seche, CNF reader for issue 4.2

Sonja Livingston, author of Queen of the Fall

Sonja Livingston, author of Queen of the Fall

SUNY Geneseo had the pleasure of receiving Sonja Livingston on Monday, March 7, for a reading from her book of essays, Queen of the Fall. Livingston read “Mock Orange,” an essay she had never read to an audience before. While on campus, she also conducted a workshop and spoke with students in regards to their own writing. Livingston splits her time between Rochester and Tennessee as an assistant professor in the University of Memphis’ MFA program. Queen of the Fall is her second book.

Livingston’s book is so intriguing because she wrote each essay about a woman in her life that has personally inspired her, or has played a large role in her life, from Susan B. Anthony, to her writing professor Judith Kitchen, to the Land O’ Lakes butter woman. The essay she read, “Mock Orange,” targets the issue of fertility, focusing on her young niece’s teenage pregnancy and her own personal infertility. Livingston’s essay is brave, forcing the reader to reconsider our judgements, and biases specifically regarding teenage pregnancy.


Livingston’s Queen of the Fall, published by Nebraska Press

By discussing her young niece’s pregnancy, and discussing the power that poverty had on her family history, she made a powerful point in her essay. It was even more interesting how Livingston then used her niece’s pregnancy as a point to branch off and discuss her own disappointments regarding her inability to have children. This was particularly interesting because she discussed how she helped raise her niece with her sister, so while her niece’s failure to rise above poverty was not surprising, it was still a jarring disappointment.

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Interview with 4.1 Featured Artist Thomas John Magnus

Posted by Hunter McClimmans, CNF Reader for issue 4.2

"Untitled" by Thomas John Magnus, issue 4.1

“Untitled” by Thomas John Magnus, issue 4.1

After perusing Gandy Dancer 4.1, I was captivated by the work of the featured artist. These photos were thought provoking and, especially for “Untitled” featuring the GE sign, nostalgic. They made me want to get to know the photographer, Thomas John Magnus, a bit more. So I looked to his biography: a Geneseo junior, double major in biology and geography. However, the part reading “He got into photography at the end of this summer,” caught my eye. This summer. These are the first photos from a brand new photographer?! I was surprised and impressed all at once, and I needed to know more. So I asked, and this is what I received:

1. Gandy Dancer: How did you get started with photography?

    Thomas John Magnus: I guess I got started when I took an art history course as a sophomore here at Geneseo. After that, I investigated a bit into modern art history on my own and then did some reading about color theory, the rule of thirds, and watched a bunch of interviews with photographers whose work I really liked. The first time I really wanted to photograph something was when I looked down a slide at Highland Park.

2. GD: What about the slide caught your eye?

    TJM: At the time, I had no idea why it caught my eye. Looking back, I have three reasons. First, it is an interesting frame: although a slide obviously has dimension, these dimensions are entirely flattened within the photo and I probably found this effect strange back then. Second, the image is very reminiscent of the Pepsi logo, which probably had some nostalgic or sentimental value to me. For me, the person taking the photo, to have nostalgic feelings for an image of a children’s slide for reasons other than it being the usual object of children is also quite peculiar. Third, I really didn’t have any idea what could make a good picture back then aside from a cheap, slick visual trick and making my viewer confused for a second, and I knew the slide would accomplish those.

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What We’re Reading: Deliberative Use of White Space and Form in Poetry

Posted by Caitlin O’Brien, Poetry Editor for issue 4.2

As the frenzied period of submissions review winds to a close, I find myself growing a little tired of white space. White space is almost invariably inescapable when putting together a literary magazine, and perhaps even more so when dealing with poetry, yet I’ve noticed a recurring aesthetic trend of white space in many of the submissions we read. From both a literary and an aesthetic standpoint, I can’t help but find this trend in poetry to oftentimes border on excessive. This is not coming from a staunch poetry elitist who refuses to read anything written after the 1800s—I love seeing poetry as a written art form interface with the visual, as well as with the spoken, and other modes of communication.

What gives me                           pause when I encounter a poem that makes ample use of white space is the intentionality behind its form. In the case of some submissions, the poets submitting to Gandy have made wonderful use of white space—we’ve received calligrams in clever shapes, as well as poems that can be read in multiple ways due to the way the words and stanzas are arranged. In the case of other submissions, though, the poetry team has often used the deliberative construction of the poem’s form as a strong measure of the poem’s overall purpose. Reading a poem aloud, the white space does not always inform the flow, so much as it makes the poem seem as though the poet was possessed of a hyperactive space bar. The most common aural effect of a form that relies on white space is a pause, yet these pauses do not create a rhythm that comes across as calculated. As one reader in the poetry section said, “if we have to guess whether or not the poet meant to do something, it’s not effective.” Similarly, the primary visual effect of non-traditional spacing is to set apart important words or allow the reader to focus in on a particular image or concept, rather than jamming the space bar an arbitrary number of times in order to make a poem look modern and minimalist.

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The Importance of Literary Citizenship

Posted by Klarisa Loft, Fiction Reader for issue 4.2


As a student who is currently taking a senior seminar in creative writing as well as the editing and production workshop in which we create Gandy Dancer, I’ve been hearing a lot of discussion on what it means to be a literary citizen. I feel like this is an important topic to tackle outside the classroom as well. The literary community is a small one, especially in a modern world where the study of humanities is confusing to many since it doesn’t lead to a particular job.

In other words, we need all the support we can get.

This is where that literary citizenship comes into play. Writers have our love of reading and writing in common, so how about we fuel each other with that positivity? Don’t lurk in the literary shadows. Come out. Attend readings near you; help promote your friends’ literary accomplishments through social media. Subscribe to a literary journal you enjoy. Buy books! And when you read something you truly like, let that writer know. Every writer deals with a fair amount of rejection; it comes with the territory. But, as accustomed to it as someone might be, it never hurts to know that there are people out there who genuinely like and believe in our work. This is what spurs us to keep going. In her book Making A Literary Life, Carolyn See suggests writing charming notes to the writers whose work you enjoy and appreciate. She says that a notecard is all you really need for this; it takes a few seconds and has to power to drastically improve someone’s writing confidence.

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The Leslie Pietrzyk Experience

Posted by Shayna Nenni, Fiction Editor for Issue 4.2


Leslie Pietrzyk, author of This Angel On My Chest. Photo courtesy of John Hopkins University.

Geneseo was incredibly privileged to have writer Leslie Pietrzyk visit our campus, Thursday, February 29th, to give a reading from her book, This Angel on My Chest. Channeling the intimate, personal experience of losing her first husband at the age thirty-seven, Pietrzyk greeted us with humor, sadness, hope, and creativity, reading one of her sixteen short stories. Not only were we lucky enough to hear her read from her marvelous collection, she conducted a workshop (which I was lucky to participate in), and attended classes on campus. I envy students participating in the Converse low residency MFA program where she’s a member of the core fiction faculty, and John Hopkins University’s MA Program in Writing where she teaches because of their chance to learn from and work with her so closely.

Listening to Leslie Pietrzyk’s reading of “A Quiz” from her collection of stories, This Angel on My Chest, was inspiring. She captivated the audience while reading a story about a young widow. The quiz format of her short story is innovative and strangely funny as it reveals how her narrator handled certain social situations after her husband’s death. The repetition of the cause of the husband’s death and his age also convey the obsessive nature of grief. Continue reading

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Why Reading a Book Can Be Better Than a Movie

Posted by Jeanna Foti, Fiction Reader for issue 4.2

My roommate once told me, “I’d rather watch a movie than read a book.” And immediately I thought, really?! A book has so much more to offer than a movie does. But I know mine isn’t the popular opinion. Everyone these days seems to have a cell phone and it’s hard to find a college student who doesn’t own a laptop. In a world where every college student seems to have a Netflix account, literature has been pushed to the side and forgotten.

While Netflix has made it easier to binge watch a TV series, there is still something about literature that, in my opinion, can be even greater than a TV show. When reading a book, you create a little universe inside your mind using just the words on the page. It’s an experience unique to you. You’re using your imagination to picture the story you are reading and taking an active role in creating it. This aspect is one of the things I love about reading; it allows you as the reader to have a say in how you see the story.

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