Finding Our Aha Moment: A Look Inside Our Editors’ Minds

Posted by Courtney O’Gorman, GD reader for 3.1

After the submission deadline closed for Issue 3.1 on September 26, the Gandy Dancer staff has been hard at work, closely reading, re-reading and discussing in depth the submitted work.. At each meeting, the editorial groups for fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and art huddled, sharing notes, critiquing pieces, and inevitably making the tough decisions regarding which pieces will be published. “Vivid, challenging, insightful, and compelling.” Those descriptors provide a sense of what the Gandy Dancer 3.1 staff hopes to find in our submissions. 

Each semester, a new staff brings their own unique set of tastes and preferences to the editorial table, making each issue of Gandy Dancer fresh and original. So what are the criteria each editor is looking for in this issue’s group of submissions? I chatted with some of the editors to uncover what makes a piece, either artistic or literary, truly stand out to them.


Nonfiction Editor Jenna Courtney O’Gorman (CO): What would you say makes a nonfiction piece stand out to you the most?

 Jenna Colloza: The most important quality in a nonfiction piece is the level of self-awareness. A nonfiction writer has to be brave enough to be honest.


CO: As poetry editors and aspiring poets yourselves, what do you look for in a writer’s work that makes the piece impressive or powerful?Poetry Editor Maddie

Madeline Herrick: I love being surprised. I’m particularly impressed when images are layered and can be interpreted in multiple ways. But, a poem can’t be all over the place with abstract images. Every word, space, and line break needs to be purposeful and carry some sort of weight. If a poem can function without a particular one of those elements, then that element probably isn’t necessary in the first place.

Poetry editor SarahSarah Diaz: Something I look for in a poem is a strong but not repetitive speaker, meaning I get a sense of their character but not because they tell me “I like dogs”, “I wear purple pants”, “I..”, etc. Another thing that makes a powerful poem is purpose. I want to feel like there is a reason this poem exists and I haven’t wasted my time reading it. I mean, I want the poem to make me think, make me consider the topic more than I might have.


CO: What factors, aspects, or techniques do you deem most important when considering artwork?Art editor Laura

Laura Golden: My first consideration is the overall quality of the piece, mainly through considering the clarity, vibrancy and contrast of the work. Next, I would look at the composition and content, leaning more towards pieces that invoke a reaction in the viewer and better yet, a discourse.


Gandy Dancer 3.1 is stacking up to be a spectacular issue, featuring thought provoking and compelling work from creative minds SUNY-wide.

In the meantime, keep checking our website for more information about our launch party and the upcoming release of Gandy Dancer 3.1.

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