Author Archives: Gandy Dancer Staff

A Foot in Each Camp: What It’s Like to Work on Two Literary Journals at Once

Posted by Lara Mangino, CNF reader for 8.2
Along with being a creative nonfiction reader for Gandy Dancer, I also serve as the editor-in-chief for MiNT Magazine, another Geneseo literary journal, and getting to work on both simultaneously has given me a unique viewpoint. Coming to Gandy Dancer with a background in editing has allowed me to offer my perspective on a number of issues; for example, I recall a discussion in class on themed issues. Because MiNT utilizes themes—Roots, Ashes, and Tides have been our most recent—I prefer them and was able to elaborate on their advantages and disadvantages. I bought up how we often feel pressured to choose submissions that fit the theme, although we never require contributors to adhere to it. However, having themed issues also allows us to tell a kind of story with our magazine. In Ashes, we organized the pieces according to tone and told a story of life, death, and rebirth. Thus, my background in MiNT informed how I approached Gandy.

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Reads Like Fanfiction – My Least Favorite Criticism

Posted by Laura Gikas, Fiction Reader for 8.2

We’ve all heard it before; some of us have even been at the receiving end (I certainly have). It’s a devastating blow—the getting-socked-by-a-300-pound-body-builder equivalent of literary criticism, and frankly, its usage needs to stop. I’m not even saying this because of its major assault to my self-confidence. I’m saying this because it’s just not good criticism.

First, I’ll admit that I occasionally read fanfiction and just as occasionally will write it myself, and with my limited experience in the genre, I can confidently say that fanfiction is as diverse as the types of gummies in the world—some of them are pure art, some of them are just crap, and most of them are somewhere in between. Of course, we already know when the good ol’ “like fanfiction” destroyer comes out, it’s never meant to imply anything good. It’s safe to assume if anyone says your writing reads like fanfiction they aren’t calling it the Haribo Fizzy Colas of literature or pure art. Nah, maybe the generic Sugarless Gummy Bears of literature (although you’d better hope it’s not that bad).

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Our Land? The Cultural Appropriation of “American Dirt”

Posted by Troy Seefried, Fiction Editor for 8.2

If you’ve heard about American Dirt, then you’ve heard about the controversy surrounding the story. Jeanine Cummins is a white-identified author who tells the story of a Mexican woman who escapes Mexico and attempts to immigrate to the United States for the safety of her family. While an emotionally compelling book, many are arguing that she doesn’t have the cultural license to tell this story.

The conversation taking place in today’s literary world is based around the question: Can we write outside of ourselves? Considering the story itself, a first-person narrative of a Mexican woman fleeing her home country, some, including myself (a member of the Mexican-American community), will say that this is a story reserved for the LatinX or Mexican literary community. Not to say it can only be told for them, but it should be written by them. In my opinion, this is absolutely a story that should be shared with the masses. It’s especially important to learn about the lives of undocumented immigrants at this time . It’s important that we learn about them, hear from them, and then as a society strive to better the system and find a solution. But is Jeanine Cummins, a white-identified author allowed to tell this story?

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Inspiration from SUNY Geneseo Alumna, Erin Kae

Posted by Lyndsay Tudman, Poetry Editor for 8.2

In early March of 2020, SUNY Geneseo alumna Erin Kae visited to hold the school’s first literary forum of the semester. There, she read Grasp This Salt, her chapbook that explores the story of Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two young sons in 1995. During the literary forum, Kae discussed her inspiration for the chapbook. The event happened when Kae was only a few years old, which has allowed her to take an unbiased approach as she learned more about Susan Smith, the horrific event, and the incessant news coverage which followed.

As a current Geneseo student, I found it really interesting to hear Kae speak not only about her experience in writing a chapbook, but also about her life as a Geneseo student. When Kae had visited my poetry workshop the morning before the literary forum, she talked to us students about how some of her published poems started in classes like ours. As a creative writing major at SUNY Geneseo, it was really inspiring to see a published author talk about the same classes we were in and the professors we study under who helped her get to where she is now.

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Writing Outside Your Genre

Posted by Jamie Henshaw, CNF Reader for 8.2

Fiction is my jam. There’s usually a story, character, or idea occupying the synapses of my brain like the roots of a blossoming flower. Or a sturdy tree. …and sometimes an errant weed, to be honest. While this might make it sound like I have ideas just pouring out of me – and that’s often true – a lot of it is rubbish.

To add another metaphor to this discussion, I’ve learned that you have to be good at gold panning to be a good writer. You have to sift through a lot of rock to find the little nuggets of gold. You have to remember that gold is just a valuable kind of rock. You have to understand that good writing takes time and effort; the best writing requires exponential levels of time and effort. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian author and journalist, says in Outliers: The Story of Success that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be an expert. Let’s see… that’s 416 days of really, really trying.

That’s not something I’ve achieved, personally.

Not even close.

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Good Can Come From Bad: A Review and Comparison of “The Goldfinch” Book and Film

Posted by Hemingway Lovullo, Fiction Reader for 8.2

After polarizing box office reviews, with critics and regular moviegoers alike ranking the movie everything from one to five stars, The Goldfinch film seems to require a certain kind of taste to enjoy it. And indeed, the book it was based on is not for the faint of heart either.As an avid reader and moviegoer, my expectations for this story were very high. So imagine my surprise when I found myself, for once, liking the movie better than the book! It’s true, I devoured the book, in love with the writing and the characters–from bitter, pessimistic Theodore Decker to his alcoholic Russian friend (and lover?) Boris Pavlikovsky. However, I was unfortunately blindsided by an ending that seemed to betray everything I had felt for the characters in the novel.

(Spoilers ahead!)

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Saving and Losing Work in the Digital Age

Posted by David Beyea, Fiction Reader for 8.2


Your hard drive is fried, your work is gone.

You’re unsure what happened. You had Netflix open while intermittently slapping away at your keyboard, slowly plugging away at your most recent assignment; suddenly, you’re met with that terrifying blue screen of death with a HTTP status code that is reminiscent of the black speech uttered by Sauron’s minions:

ERROR CODE 0xce00%00225

You panic. When was the last time you backed up your hard drive? When was the last time you even considered that that was an issue? Your life is busy enough as is; it isn’t fair. What gives your computer the right to just fail like this on you?

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The Art of the Experience: Considering Daniel Fleischman’s “Metropolis”

 

Posted by David Beyea, CNF Reader for 8.1

It seems odd to refer to a piece as being a clear love letter to the art of literary form. Isn’t that just a pompous way of saying that it is well-written? Perhaps not. In this issue of Gandy Dancer, Daniel Fleischman’s nonfiction short story “Metropolis” details the experiences of the author as he grew to accept life in New York City.

Certainly others have written of the city before, but there is a magnetism and finesse to Fleischman’s craft that elevates it from mere travelogue erotica. His pen is cast across the page with an unabashed exuberance; he frequently dips into descriptive prose and ruminates on not just the situations he finds himself in, but on the nature of civilization’s anthills. What does a city mean? It’s not really a question I ever considered, nor one that Fleischman explicitly answers. Unlike many authors describing a location, he does not attempt to solve the city, to have each element of it associated with some strong conclusion on the nature of life. Instead, he paints it. Continue reading

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Overwhelmed? Try Taking it “Bird by Bird”

Posted by Emma Raupp, Poetry Reader for 8.1

Writing only seems simple. Each day we casually compose texts, tweets, posts, and reviews but as soon as we’re expected to break out our professional writer’s voice for an assignment, the pressure is on. Despite my experience writing papers for high school and college, I still find myself staring at a blank Word document, struck by the need to write something brilliant, but terribly unsure of where to begin. I can see a fuzzy mental image of all the brilliant points I want to make; however, I’m so overwhelmed by my ambitions that I’m having trouble materializing it. The confidence I’ve carefully curated over the years evaporates, leaving lackluster doubt where my words should be. Sound familiar? Well, read on.

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Finding Inspiration Through Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

Posted by Aliyha Gill, Poetry Reader for 8.1

As a poet, I’m always looking for inspiration from other writers. I search for words, images, and techniques that I can borrow and make my own. So when I recently found myself in a writing rut, I dove into the poetry section of Barnes & Noble. Once I discovered Sylvia Plath’s poetry, I quickly noticed how it was riddled with enticing lines. Pen in hand, I jotted down every word or phrase that caught my eye. By the time I was finished, I’d read her poetry collections “Ariel” and “The Colossus” in their entirety. As a whole, her poems have melancholy tones, including “Morning Star,” which was written for her daughter, Frieda. Her stanzas are relatively short and her poems rarely exceed three pages. Plath tended to personify nature in her writing. She writes, “whoever heard a sunset yowl like that,” “let the stars Plummet to their dark address” (“Magi”), “the moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary,” (“Purdah”), and  “by day, only the topsoil heaves” (“The Colossus”) are all great examples of this technique. 

I also noticed that she used the following words/phrases in more than one poem:

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