Making Decisions: How We Choose the Pieces We Choose

Posted by Cassidy Brighton, Gandy Dancer CNF Reader for 5.2

Making decisions on what gets published each semester in Gandy Dancer is not an easy task. With so many submissions and limited room within the magazine, the selection process can get intense.

This is my second semester working to create Gandy Dancer, and my second time working to choose the creative nonfiction pieces that will be published. Each time, we have had to make tough choices and have had tough conversations about what few pieces are going to get put into this semester’s journal.

This semester, there was one piece that stood out to the creative nonfiction team. The essay “Fifteen Ways of Looking at a Privy” was one that stood out right away. This piece is a great example of the kind of “good writing” we are looking to publish.

This essay takes a look at something that people normally don’t think of as beautiful or interesting, an outhouse, and makes fifteen compelling points about it. This piece is written in a list of numbered sections that are strong individually and also flow together to make a cohesive essay. At first, I thought that the separate pieces within this essay would create a clunky or disjointed story or even have more of a Buzzfeed feel, but I was proven wrong. Usually, I rely on dialogue in creative nonfiction pieces to push the plot forward or to break up the sections of scene. In this piece, sections create this movement. Each one is short, and the sentence length varies which made the piece fly by with a lovely rhythm. Through sophisticated descriptions, informative definitions, and adept characterization, the author created a meaningful and memorable essay. The title of this piece starts it off on a strong point. People may not know what a privy is at first and will read on to find out, or will be compelled to read something about a privy because they are curious as to just how an author can make something like this interesting.

Choosing what goes into the journal is a hard job, especially because of how many well written and interesting submissions we receive. Choosing just a few essays from a batch of contenders is an intense process, but becomes easier when unanimous decisions can be made on pieces. “Fifteen Ways of Looking at a Privy” was a piece that made our job that much easier.

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