Introducing Our New 4.2 Editors

Posted by Kate Collis, Creative Nonfiction Reader for Issue 4.2

It’s that time again—the cut-off date for submissions to Gandy Dancer for 4.2 has come and gone and we’re happily reading away. As always, a new semester means a new set of editors who have fresh outlooks. In light of this, I’ve spoken to all four section heads to give readers a chance to get to know them and their ideas about their genre.

Shayna Nenni, Fiction Editor

ShaynaKate Collis: What constitutes a good short story?

Shayna Nenni: A good story will be grounded in a particular place, a place that readers can connect to. Along with that, well-developed characters and compelling situations that illustrate their relationships to each other, to their past, and themselves. I think it’s important to understand where our main character and secondary characters stand with themselves.

KC: What would set a story apart from the rest and make it publishable to you?

SN: I love a good plot. As simple as that sounds, there is nothing more thrilling to me than reading a good piece, skimming ahead because I’m so excited to see what comes next that I literally can’t wait to get to the next line. That, or really connecting with a character. Not necessarily the main character, but any character. To physically feel a connection from reading a piece, that is what sets one apart.

KC: Who’s your favorite living fiction writer?

SN: J.K. Rowling. Like every other person. Her ability to remove me from the constant buzz of the real world and into Harry Potter is mesmerizing. I also really enjoy reading David Sedaris. He makes me laugh, and I appreciate that.


Nicole Sheldon, Creative Nonfiction Editor

Nicole SheldonKate Collis: What constitutes a good essay?

Nicole Sheldon: A good creative nonfiction piece pulls you in immediately and immerses you in the essay. I look for a narrator who is relatable, even if his or her situation is unlike anything I have ever experienced. A well-developed, dynamic character that grows throughout the piece contributes to a stronger essay. Setting is also important and I think it’s very satisfying to be able to see where an essay is taking place. Finally, having a distinct voice is imperative in creative nonfiction pieces. It’s one thing to read an essay about an event/time in someone’s life, but it’s another thing to feel like you can hear the narrator telling it to you through his or her writing style.

KC: What would set a piece apart from the rest and make it publishable to you?

NS: If an essay has everything I mentioned above, along with a strong tone and tension driving the piece, then that definitely makes it publishable for me. I would like to publish creative nonfiction pieces that tell a unique story, something you maybe don’t hear about all the time. Originality is definitely what sets an essay apart from the rest and makes it publishable.

KC: What are some qualities that would be deal breakers to you?

NS: One deal breaker for me is when a piece has numerous spelling or grammatical errors. To me, that means the writer did not take the time to read his or her own piece and carefully edit it. Another deal breaker is when the narrator takes a long time to introduce the conflict. I think the conflict should come early on in a creative nonfiction piece, and when I’m on page four and still wondering where the story is going, then I’m likely turned off by the essay.

KC: Who’s your favorite living writer?

NS: One writer that I really like is Meera Syal. Her novel Anita and Me is a great read and I highly recommend it. I’m currently reading Leslie Pietrzyk’s This Angel on My Chest, a collection of short stories which reads like creative nonfiction. This book centers on the grief of losing a spouse, and I think Pietrzyk found a remarkable way to tell these stories. I would definitely recommend This Angel on My Chest, as well!


Caitlin O’Brien, Poetry Editor

Snapshot_20150426_12Kate Collis: What constitutes a good poem?

Caitlin O’Brien: I would say that being able to connect emotionally with a piece, even if you’ve never personally experienced the specific feelings being described, is a key tenet of a “good” piece in my mind.

KC: What would set a poem apart from the rest and make it publishable to you?

CO: In terms of poetry, creative use of language.  This can mean a great pun or play on words in a humorous poem (which the world could always use more of), or a particularly evocative image or turn of phrase.  I would also look very favorably upon pieces that surprise us in terms of content and approach. When comparing submissions to one another to see which ones would go into a magazine, I feel it’s important to represent a variety of tones, styles, and emotions, though not at the expense of style and quality.  It is important to ensure that accepted pieces have synergy with one another, as well as the power to stand on their own.

KC: What are some qualities that would be deal breakers to you?

CO: Deal breakers are a very case-by-case thing for me when it comes to poetry, particularly given that it can be such an experimental form.  I would be much less likely to accept a poem that relies very heavily on conventions or “safe” language/themes, but in general, I feel that looking over any submissions to a literary magazine is more a case of deciding which pieces stand out the most, rather than deciding which pieces are the worst and thus not fit for publication.

KC: Who’s your favorite living poet?

CO: I tend to approach poetry similarly to how I approach music, where I find individual poems by word of mouth and then call myself a fan of those individual works, rather than a fan of the artist as a whole.  In that context, my favorite poem is Deborah Digges’ “Trapeze”.  I would also count Cathy Park Hong as a favorite poet of mine, particularly for Dance Dance Revolution, a novel told in poetry.


Arden Zavitz, Art Editor

ArdenKate Collis: What constitutes a good piece?

Arden Zavitz: A good piece of art not only catches the eye but evokes questions. A piece of art (including literature) that can awaken our imagination, adds to the value of the overall work.

KC: What would set a piece apart from the rest and make it publishable to you?

AZ: A truly publishable piece would have to stand out in visual appeal and content. Different is good!

KC: Who’s your favorite living artist?

AZ: My favorite artist is my mom. I grew up watching her paint; our home is filled with her work. Watching her work was my favorite part of the art. How could someone create something so beautiful out of something so simple as colors?


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