In which the adorably awkward managing editors of Gandy Dancer 3.2, Erin Koehler and Amy Elizabeth Bishop, get together on a snowy day, sit down with some tea, and reveal each other’s deepest secrets in the following interview:
Erin & Amy Interview Each Other Together (Forever)
What are you most looking forward to, coming to a new issue of Gandy (issue 3.2) and a new staff?
E: I’m really excited to see the art. I know that’s really small, but I’m so hopeless at art that I really like seeing it. I really like that the art’s different every semester. Seeing the different tastes of the class and the different editors about art is exciting. Also choosing the cover art is always really exciting too!
A: I’m excited to see how the group dynamic is going to work and to see how the journal will evolve this semester. Additionally, I’m interested to see what we’re going to be able to bring to the table and how the new class is going to shape the journal.
You’re graduating in May. What are your plans post graduation?
A: A lot of crying. No, just kidding (kind of). I’ll either be going abroad for a year to Germany, with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Program, which is an exchange program funded between the American and German government, meant to foster good relations between the two countries. I would go over there to study in my field (which would hopefully be publishing) for half a year and intern for half a year. But I hopefully get an interview for that in February. Otherwise, I’ll be going to New York City to beg for a job somewhere in publishing and living in a cardboard box, so, that’ll be fun.
E: Hopefully I’ll be in my own apartment, working on stories. Hopefully I’d have a dog (I want a puppy so bad right now!) And be happy!
What are you currently reading?
A: I’m currently reading a young adult novel by Gayle Forman, titled If I Stay. It was on the NYT’s bestseller list and I’ve been trying to read more this year, over a few different genres. I’m also about to start the poetry collection Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge by Harryette Mullen.
E: I’m currently reading a children’s novel by Kate DiCamillo called The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I just finished another book by her (Flora & Ulysses) she’s one of my favorite writers for children.
What’s your current writing project (or projects)?
A: There’s a project I’m really excited to start, based off of a book I read in last semester’s Black Apocalyptic Fiction class, by Harriet Washington. It’s called Medical Apartheid and I was really interested in the voices of African Americans who suffered (and continue to suffer) under discrimination. Watching The Butler over break made me even more interested in writing a series of poems about this topic, but it’s a fine line to walk. As someone who doesn’t share their history, I don’t want to appropriate their suffering for my own creative use or turn it into a spectacle, so I’m still trying to figure out how to approach this project best.
E: I’m currently in between projects. I just tried to write a series of poems about Susan Smith, who sort of famously murdered her children and went on trial in 1995. I’m taking a break from that right now though, because it was difficult; that’s what I worked on last semester. I’m currently working on some children’s lit stuff based on a book by Oliver Jeffers called Once Upon an Alphabet.
In Which Amy Asks Erin the Hard Hitting Questions:
A: Speaking of Susan Smith: can you talk about the Susan Smith project you’ve been working on?
E: To try and make a really long story short: during a family conversation, Susan Smith came up–I was about two when the trial happened and when I was little, I used to jump in our pool and almost drown every time until I was saved by someone in my family. My mom told me the trial affected her pretty strongly because every time I jumped in the pool she would see that look of terror on my face as I realized I was drowning, and she could imagine the faces of Susan Smith’s children drowning. When she told me that I thought it was interesting, so I researched it and started writing a bunch of poems about the trial, and Susan Smith, with the speaker based off my mom; stuff like that. It’s been difficult, because it’s sad.
A: What got you interested in Gandy in the first place?
E: Well the English Department at Geneseo is very tight knit, so I knew a bunch of people who were taking it. I love poetry, so understanding the publishing world, and what exactly happens when you send your work out to a journal is interesting to me. I learned a lot. Also, Rachel Hall…
A: What is something you’d like to introduce or change to Gandy?
E: Our website is relatively new, so whatever response or feedback we get about updating that. Maybe updating the PDF’s that get downloaded because if you download the issue as a PDF to the iBooks app, the cover page doesn’t show up, which is really a small problem, but is really frustrating if you download multiple issues and you can’t tell which one you’re opening. That’s just something I noticed recently.
A: What are you most excited about this semester?
E: Continuing my Children’s Literature directed study with Dr. Lytton Smith.
A: Speaking of which: can you talk about how your love for children’s literature got started and the work you want to do with it?
E: Yeah! I’ve always wanted to write but I never really recognized that. In high school I wrote a lot of poetry, and I also wrote these short little stories that didn’t really make sense and I couldn’t place them within any genre. At the time I didn’t realize that I was writing children’s stories, because you always try to look forward to the next age group of literature: like when you graduate from children’s lit to YA, and YA to adult fiction, you never really think about going back to read those genres that you’ve kind of progressed out of. So I never considered those stories I was writing as children’s literature. And then probably a year or two ago I sort of had this realization that there are people who write this fiction, and even children’s TV shows. I realized that’s what I want to do. Especially with picture books; picture books and poetry are very similar. To me they’re really closely related–sort of like cousins. So it’s all very exciting!
A: If a fictional character could come alive & hang out with you for a day, who would you want it to be & why?
E: Maybe Sokka from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” because he’s my fictional soulmate. Either him or Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit because we’re the same person. I think we’d get along; we could talk about books and food! And plants!
A: What’s your method of settling down to write?/best work environment for that?
E: Usually I sit on my bed. Either I have to have dead silence when I write or super quiet music (usually the instrumental music from Ghibli film soundtracks). I just have to sit, and not move, and make myself do it.
A : Favorite children’s book?
E: Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.
A: Favorite flower?
A: Comfort food?
E: Dark chocolate.
A: Tea or coffee?
A: Biggest pet peeve?
E: When people chew with their mouths open, or when people just chew food loudly.
A: Favorite thing about Geneseo?
E: All of my English major friends!
A: Favorite author currently?
E: Kate DiCamillo.
A: Vacation destination?
E: I’m going to Iceland in June, and I’m really excited about that.
A: Words to live by?
E: Anything Beyoncé says is what I live by.
In Which Erin Hits Back:
E: Who are your biggest artistic influences–professional or otherwise?
A: Artistically–I’ve said a lot that if I could write like Cheryl Strayed does, I’d be really happy because she has a lot of heart and power in her work and you can just feel her empathy and her love and all of this of warmth coming from her work. I’ve also really envied Sylvia Plath’s diary entries because I’m pretty sure no one writes actual diary entries like that but they’re so beautiful and artistic, I wish I could just express myself like that everyday.
E: What’s the most influential class you’ve taken in your collegiate career?
A: I’ve had a lot of great classes. Can I pick two? One of my most influential was my INTD 105 with Dr. Beth McCoy, because it helped me write for college in a more concise and thoughtful manner. She just taught me a whole lot about how to write well, strengthen my argument, and the kind of process you need to take when you’re approaching a paper or any big assignment. And also Poetry I with Cori Winrock, who got me into poetry and made me really excited about it again, and showed me a lot of things that contemporary poets are doing.
E: If you could be magically proficient at another genre of art that isn’t writing/literary related, what would it be?
A: Does dancing count? Because I can’t dance to save my life and I feel like being able to dance (have some sense of rhythm) would make me a lot less socially awkward at social functions.
E: Do you have a favorite collection of poetry or other book that you always come back to?
A: I’ve gone back and re-read Anna Journey’s poetry collection If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting a couple times now, just because I love the voice that Journey’s speakers have and I just love the sass in her work, along with the really beautiful images and overall arc of the collection.
E: Favorite thing to do to get rid of the winter blues?
A: I usually curl up in bed with tea and either a book or crocheting. And also a lot of TV shows.
E: What would you do if you won 1 million dollars?
A: I would…pay off my student loans, get a car, and fly to Germany to see my host families and my friends for a couple weeks.
E: If you could live in any fictional universe which one would you choose, and why?
A: Oh man–well okay, I don’t know if this actually counts as a fictional universe, because it’s in our world, just like–300 years ago–but Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander world–but only if I got to hang out with Claire and Jamie. Otherwise, I’d probably want to hang out in the Avatar: The Last Airbender world, because sky bison.
E: If you could add one more hour to your day; what would you do with it?
A: Sleep. Definitely sleep.
E: Favorite color?
E: Weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
E: Favorite flower?
E: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
A: I sound like a broken record, but probably somewhere in Germany. Or London. I’ve always wanted to hang out in London.
E: Favorite TV show?
A: “How I Met Your Mother.”
E: Favorite fictional character?
A: Claire Fraser from Outlander.
E: What are you obsessively listening to?
A: Brandi Carlile and Hozier.
E: If you could have anything as a pet, what would it be?
A: An otter, for sure.
E: Finish this sentence: “Today was great because_______.”
A: I got to see Erin Koehler’s beautiful face.
Born and raised outside of Rochester, NY, Erin Koehler is currently a senior at SUNY Geneseo studying English Creative Writing with a Native American Studies minor. Her poetry can be seen in Stone Highway Review and Gandy Dancer. She’s currently a reviewer for Mixed Diversity Reads Children’s Book Reviews. Post undergrad, Erin hopes to find a career writing children’s literature.
Amy Elizabeth Bishop is a senior creative writing major at SUNY Geneseo. Her poetry has or will appear in Gandy Dancer, The Susquehanna Review, and Dialogist. She is currently a fiction reader for Wyvern Lit and the editor of The G.R.E.A.T. Day Journal. After graduating this May, she hopes to enter the wide, wide world of publishing in New York City.