Four Lessons Joining the Gandy Dancer Team Will Teach You

Posted by Jennifer Taylor Johnson, GD Fiction Reader for 6.2

Whether your passion is writing and editing or you’re just looking for a class to fit your schedule in the fall, being a member of the Gandy Dancer team is not a decision you will regret. Joining the Gandy Dancer team is more than a grade on your transcript, it dedicating hard work and time into assembling the school’s literary journal and learning important life lessons along the way. Don’t believe me? Here are four lessons you will learn by being a reader for The Gandy Dancer.

  1. There is no I in Team

Nothing is more important than teamwork, especially out in the “real world” our parents keep telling us about. As a part of the Gandy Dancer staff, you get to pick which genre you would like to read and then you’re placed with your semester-long family. At first, it might feel like you are from a completely different planet than the rest of the “readers” because your opinions are so different and you don’t see eye-to-eye on a piece you argue is the strongest. That’s okay. You gain different perspectives by listening to different members of your team voice their thoughts. Your reading of the piece might change drastically after this one line they point out to you, and then you have a new appreciation for the writing. You learn that each reader has a specific skill set to bring to the editing table that enhances the selection process, and together, you have it all.

  1. Admitting You Have a Bad Case of Owl Appreciation

The term owl criticism was coined by the American novelist, essayist, and short story writer, Charles Baxter. In short, Baxter explains that this is when a reader criticizes a piece without considering its formal properties. Its opposite challenge is owl appreciation. No, this isn’t about how cute you think owls are. Owl appreciation is having a favorite actor and they star in badly scripted movie. The movie has no deep plotline, a cliché ending, and poor camera quality—but your favorite actor is in it, therefore, you think it’s the best movie ever. You, my friend, have a bad case of owl appreciation. Just because you love this one aspect of the movie, doesn’t mean it’s any good and you definitely shouldn’t force your best friend to watch it. This is one of the first lessons you learn as a reader for the Gandy Dancer. Just because you associate with, or fancy, this one aspect of the piece doesn’t make the piece worth publishing. You have to learn to separate your preferences from your decision making skills as an editor so your literary journal doesn’t miss out on publishing a well written piece. Not everything you like is good. You can read more about Charles Baxter here:

  1. The Art of Letting Go

You may read a piece that you love, not because of owl appreciation, but because it shows the author’s mastery of language and upholds Gandy Dancer’s mission to forge connections. This piece might make it all the way up to the final selection process, but, it is up against other strong pieces that the readers on your team think are more fitting. You have to learn to let go, for the better of your journal. You might not always get your way, but it doesn’t mean your voice goes unheard or the piece isn’t worth appreciating. Sometimes pieces need more work or don’t fit with the other selections in a constructive way and that’s okay. There is always next semester.

  1. How to Leave Your Mark

Graduating is inevitable and the real world is approaching sooner than we think. Our experiences at Geneseo are meant to shape us for the future, but we all want to leave our imprint on Geneseo to show we were there. What better way to do that than by having your name in a literary journal produced by the school? Your impact is more than just having your name pop up in a google search—you have the ability to expose the students at our school to literary works that forge connections between paper and people. By working on Gandy Dancer, you offer readers an opportunity to read works of young writers through the SUNY system. You offer up this work for others to read, discuss, and fall in love with. No issue of Gandy Dancer is the same, and that is because the editors of each volume left their own unique mark by expressing their creativity and skills, and you can too.

If these four life lessons don’t completely persuade you into joining the Gandy Dancer team, pick up The Gandy Dancer 6.2 and read it for yourself. Feel you cover, flip the pages through your fingertips, indulge in the pieces from poetry to creative nonfiction, and remind yourself of the process taken in selecting each individual piece. Ask yourself what you could bring to the editing table that would make the journal better, and what the editing table can bring to you.

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