Posted by Erin Carlo, GD Public Relations Manager and Fiction Reader for 5.1
First and foremost, we would like to welcome our readers and contributors to the fifth anniversary edition of Gandy Dancer! We are delighted to welcome an entirely new cast of submission readers who are eager to discover what it means to produce a journal as well as gain new perspectives on literary journalism. The start of the new semester also brings a brand new dynamic duo who will take the stage as Gandy Dancer‘s managing editors.
I had the opportunity to ask our newest managing editors, Evan Goldstein and Oliver Diaz, a few questions about themselves and their new roles as managing editors, and I am pleased to share their responses with you.
When did you first hear about Gandy Dancer?
Oliver: First semester sophomore year. My sister was a senior taking the Editing and Production workshop, in which Gandy Dancer is produced, and she introduced me to the journal, told me about the process, and that it might be a good idea to submit to it.
Evan: I first heard about Gandy during my freshman year, when I was in the intro to creative writing class. I was thinking of applying to the creative writing track, and I wanted to look at Gandy to see what kind of writing I should aim for. I think I looked at issue 2.1, the one with the photo of the guy in the forest as the cover. I remember I was impressed and scared by the poetry, and I wanted so badly to be able to express myself on that level.
Why do you want to be a managing editor? How do you think the role will challenge you?
Oliver: After attending the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Los Angeles, I was intent on getting more involved with literary journals and writing in general. I had taken the Editing and Production course and figured the managing editor position would be a good fit, would challenge me. I think it will ask a lot of me, in terms of hours, effort, consistency, and level-headedness. As an editor you have to mediate, facilitate, and also keep an eye on the prize, which is a journal filled with excellent work.
Evan: I’d had some experience in managing lit journal-type projects at Geneseo, but they’ve always been sort of experimental, and based solely in this college, this town. I’ve always looked up to Gandy Dancer as a standard bearer for creative writing across New York State, and I envision it as a middle finger to the people who want to cut funding for public education. Last year I decided I was ready to take the Editing and Production workshop, and I ended up editing the poetry section for 4.1. I found the role challenging because I hadto be open to the other readers’ tastes, which sometimes were antithetical to mine, while also trying to push them to accept and reject submissions based on what I thought would be right for our section. Now that I’m in the managing editor seat, that same challenge has intensified, because I’m concerned about the issue as a whole, and about Gandy’s mission as a whole. Gandy is the only public school-system-wide journal in the country. As such, we have the responsibility to defend public liberal arts–to show that the art we students make is vital, and thereby show that art deserves a place in education and in public life. I feel that my biggest challenge as a managing editor will be to keep that responsibility central, and to push all of us to look for submissions that prove it.
When looking at a submission, what are a few things that initially turn you off to it? On the contrary, what initially attracts you to a submission?
Oliver: It differs from genre to genre, but in general, I shy away from cliché stories, or stories that lack conflict. Poor grammar or an obvious lack of proofreading will also turn me away from a piece because it shows carelessness and poor attention. If the author has not read their story over, why should I? In all genres, I am drawn to strong character and context. If a writer can ground me in conflict, character, or context in a couple lines, or the first sentence, I will keep reading.
Evan: Lack of editing or proofreading is a red flag for me, too, one that usually indicates lack of respect for the writer’s own writing and for our time. I can look past a few spelling errors, because I want to evaluate a piece for what it’s trying to say. I like submissions that play with form, but not just for the sake of experiment–it has to originate in what the piece is trying to say, in the content. No matter the genre, I look for pieces that move toward a larger purpose than just the words on the page, or the author’s own experiences or points of view. If a piece is concerned with looking at the world and the individual’s relationship with it, I’ll hold it in high regard.
What are you majoring in? What is your class year?
Oliver: English (Creative Writing) with a minor in French. This is my senior year. Woo!
Evan: English (Creative Writing), History minor, Edgar Fellows program. Class of 2017; standing at the threshold.
Do you have a favorite author? Do you find that their writing style influences your own?
Oliver: There is no one answer to this question, but I lean towards fiction, and the first author I really appreciated was J.D. Salinger. Catcher in the Rye is a must for angsty teens who think no one understands them, but more recently, his collection Nine Stories has thoroughly entertained and inspired me. I wish even a fleck of his style would find its way into my own, but I’m still busy reading Strunk and White, trying to figure out what I’m doing with the page.
Evan: I was only able to read James Joyce because I took a major authors class on him, but I’d say Joyce is my favorite author. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, and Ulysses are all fantastic and complex works, but I think reading Ulysses was one of the most difficult and rewarding things I’ve done in my life. I love the way Joyce creates a sea of language, complete with undercurrents and tides and waves, and while reading him, you swim between styles, voices, thoughts, and characters. It’s not so much his writing style that influences mine (though when I do write fiction, I’d love to be able to make it synonymous with poetry), but the way he explores reality with humane treatments of his characters, and manages to make his writing a challenge to political and social institutions while also creating beautiful works of art that explore what it means to be human.
Name another literary journal that you love and why you read it.
Oliver: I enjoy and return often to The Adirondack Review. It has consistently strong work, and while it’s only online, its website is sleek and well organized. It also includes a variety of art collections from different sources, which are worth checking out.
Evan: I try to check The Rumpus often, because it’s more like a website that focuses on contemporary life and literature than it is strictly a journal–it features essays, columns, cartoons, interviews, and they update their content pretty regularly. They have this one repeating topic called “Albums of our Lives” where writers talk about albums that left an indelible mark on them. It’s not just “content,” like a lot of blogs or other websites–it all has a literary focus, looking toward creating reviewing or showcasing art that thinks about the world.
What is your favorite genre to write?
Oliver: This is tough. When I first started writing I wrote short short stories, mostly about experiences I had my senior year of high school and how they played into a larger picture, whether it be my relationship with my parents or social struggles. I never thought much about them, and in college I started writing longer stories, fascinated with fiction as much as I was scared of poetry. Then, I gave poetry a try and found myself trending back toward short short stories, but with a poetic twist. Having explored genres, I’m currently at a stalemate between flash fiction and prose poetry, which is the subject of a directed study I’m enrolled in this semester.
Evan: I write poetry usually, but I’ve always had fiction aspirations. Poetry seems more manageable to me right now because it allows me to work on fine tuning a small intricate set of sentences and images, but eventually I’d like to apply some poetry techniques I’ve learned to writing short stories.
Who is your favorite literary hero and/or villain?
Oliver: Jekyll and Hyde. Not really a hero, not really a villain, yet both. I sympathize with Dr. Jekyll, but often marvel at the danger and violence of Hyde.
Evan: Hero: Leopold Bloom; Villain: Meursault, maybe. I don’t think good literature casts anyone as a true villain though, ya know? Or Cathy from East of Eden–she’s nasty.
Do you have any pets?
Oliver: Does my roommate count?
Evan: Spider in the shower.
How do you take your coffee?
Oliver: Black. Or with a splash of milk. Or a café au lait.
Evan: Diner. Specifically when you drink a half cup and you look over and find it’s already been refilled.
What song would you sing at a karaoke night?
Oliver: Either Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to The Moon” or T-Pain’s “Buy U A Drank.” No deviation.
Evan: “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Oliver: Although I’m mostly off the ice cream train, if I had my druthers, I would indulge in a cup of mint chocolate chip.
Evan: Cookie dough.
How far have you traveled?
Oliver: A bit less than 4000 miles to Dakar where I spent a month speaking French and eating some of the best food I’ve ever had (Thiéboudienne). Evan and I were also fortunate enough to travel to Los Angeles, about 2500 miles, to attend an AWP conference.
Evan: This summer I drove about 12,000 miles around America. It seems almost like a dream now, but I have the photos and writing to prove it.
Oliver: Let’s just say my professorial perspicacity is profound.
Evan: Id. Clutch scrabble word.