Have no fear, your new managing editors are here! As the spring semester murmurs to life and the windy Geneseo weather welcomes us all back it’s time for your new managing editors, Courtney and Christy (C2), to sit down with some coffee and ask each other the questions that matter:
Let’s get this party started:
How did you first get involved with Gandy Dancer?
Courtney: One of my friends recommended the class to me, actually. I was looking at courses for junior year and wanted to know more about it. My friend was in the class at the time and told me about how it was a really hands-on class where you got to put together a literary magazine full of prose, poetry, and visual art from students all across the SUNY system. The publishing industry is so multifaceted and is something that has always intrigued me as well so I decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did though because I fell in love with everything about Gandy Dancer (GD) and kept coming back to it. As an avid reader and writer, being involved in this class has exposed me to so many fascinating aspects of the literary world that I never knew about before GD.
Christy: In the middle of my junior year I was perusing the course list on KnightWeb in a sleep-deprived-registration-is-tomorrow-morning-frenzy when I happened upon this gem of a class. I, somewhat nervously mostly excitedly, decided to sign up and I’m so glad that I did because it ended up being an incredible experience. At the start of the class I knew virtually nothing about literary magazines, literary magazine culture, or how they functioned and survived. It was, not to quote Aladdin, a whole new world! Not only did it widen my horizons within the creative writing/literary universe but also getting to read through and edit submissions from other young writers really helped me to grow as a writer and as a poet. I’m so excited to be back!
It seems a Gandy Dancer tradition to ask, what are you most looking forward to this semester?
Courtney: I’m so excited to be back working on GD again! Just getting to know the new staff and sharing all of the wonderful aspects about literary magazines is something I’m looking forward to, but I also can’t wait to see the types of submissions we receive because those play a big role in how the issue comes to life. Similarly, with a new staff, a unique aesthetic is always introduced to the magazine itself so I’m looking forward to seeing how that will manifest over the course of the semester and how it will shape the magazine.
Christy: This may sound silly but, I’m actually really looking forward to seeing what cover art we decide to go with, as picking out the cover art (I feel) is not only one of the most fun decisions to make, but it also ties together the entire physical and digital, finished product of the magazine in a completely unique and thrilling way. I’m excited to see what aesthetic and thematic direction this issue goes in as determined both by the submissions that we get and also by the way we construct and organize the magazine. On that note, I’m also very interested to see where our submissions come from, I am hoping to see lots of submissions not only from Geneseo but also from other SUNY’s!
Did you read anything interesting over the break?
Courtney: The last novel I read was Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín and then I saw the gorgeous film adaptation of it while I was studying abroad in the UK. I started Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling over break, but I haven’t had time to finish it. Next on my list is Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, whom I absolutely adore–read her books!
Christy: Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to read between travelling, doing an online graduate course, and my internship at VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts (which is a really cool and important organization that I would be more than happy to talk or answer questions about if anyone is interested in it!) I started the “India” issue of Granta and I also stumbled upon a beautiful, old copy of Robin Hood (shameless plug: in an amazing bookstore in Hoosick Falls, NY called Dog Ears that you should all go to someday) that I’ve been really enjoying.
What’s your favorite literary magazine (other than Gandy which is obviously number one?)
Courtney: It’s so hard to choose just one because there are so many great ones out there, but I guess if I had to pick it would be a toss-up between The Common and Slice. I think the featured pieces and overall aesthetic of both of those journals is really impressive and innovative.
Christy: McSweeneys! I absolutely love their somewhat satirical, somewhat sarcastic sense of humor.
Courtney Takes Control:
What are your post-graduation/post-Geneseo plans?
Christy: My typical answer to this question involves some kind of denial or deflection in which I tell people that I’m either going to move to a remote mountain range and secede from society or I’m going to win the lottery. I wish that I had something concrete to tell you, but honestly my plans as of now involve taking a year to (hopefully) work within the publishing or law field while I’m figuring out: how to adult properly, and also whether or not I want to pursue further schooling, which would entail either graduate school for an MFA in poetry or law school, ideally for civil rights law (or if I’m feeling particularly ambitious (read: deranged) a dual degree program involving both.)
If you could write in only one genre for the rest of your life, which genre would it be and why?
Christy: Poetry, without a question. When I first came to Geneseo I thought that I was a fiction writer (because I had been all my life), however when I started to take creative writing classes I found myself reading more and more nonfiction, which in a large part pulled me in that direction. Nonfiction acted as a gateway genre, if you will, to poetry which, as a genre, interestingly enough doesn’t even really fit into the binary of fiction or nonfiction. Poetry has become my home; it only becomes more thrilling and interesting to me the more that I learn about and experience it, which tells me that it’s definitely the right place for me to grow and spend some time with.
I know you’re interning for VIDA right now. Tell us more about VIDA and your internship. What are you doing for them?
Christy: I’m so glad that you asked this question! I am primarily working as a Counter but I also do a few things for the Web Team. To explain what exactly a Counter is: VIDA, a research-based and completely volunteer run and supported nonprofit organization, publishes an annual “Count” which, to paraphrase the VIDA website, “complies over 1,000 data points from the top tier journals, publications, and press outlets by which the literary community defines and rewards its most valued art workers.” The idea behind this is to expose the major imbalances that exist within the literary world in terms of: female authors, authors of color, transgender authors, and so forth. To give an unfortunately not-unordinary example directly from the shocking and saddening data: The New York Review of Books covered 306 titles by men in 2010 and only 59 by women. The important work that VIDA interns, staff, and volunteers do not only helps to expose these imbalances, but it also creates transparency between publishers and readers, it bolsters the important relationship between reader and writer, and most importantly it brings about and frames many important conversations that we need to have about: how can we constructively and actively face issues of gender equality (or inequality, to be more exact?)
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given (on writing or just life in general)?
Christy: There are two things that come to mind. The first was written by an author on The Review Review whose name I can’t remember. He, giving advice to young or new writers, emphasized keeping in mind that all we ever get to read, as consumers of literary magazines, novels, poems, stories, and so forth, are finished products! In other words: we don’t get to see the process that a Langston Hughes poem went through to become what it is now, we don’t get to see what the first draft of Cheryl Strayed’s short story “The Love of My Life” was. We only get to see the edited, groomed, primped, reviewed, finished product. It may seem like a simple if not obvious insight, but it really helps me to resist renouncing my self-proclaimed title of: poet/writer when I am rereading old work and thinking to myself: “Well. This sounds nothing like Anne Sexton.” Secondly, I always remember something that E.B. White said in a letter to his editor: “A book is a sneeze.” In other words: writing is an uncontrollable and entirely necessary exertion of the human will and/or spirit, from the internal to the external. Writing, for me, often has that kind of involuntary and cathartic feeling, and it’s important for me to remind myself from time to time that I write for myself, and nobody else.
Do you have any writing projects in the works? What will you be working on during your directed study with Professor Lytton Smith?
Christy: I’m super excited to be working in more depth on my poetry with Professor Smith this semester. Although unfortunately there isn’t enough space in my schedule to work on a whole chapbook, I am hoping to lay the foundation for a potential future chapbook. In order to do this I feel that it’s necessary for me grow more as a poet: to read and write more poetry and ultimately to create a unique authorial voice and poetic identity. I’ve begun to recognize certain recurring themes or words or images in my work, which is pretty exciting because it helps me envision future chapbooks, or series, or collections, and also makes me feel as though I am on the right path to discovering, guiding, and letting out my voice.
What are some of your interests outside of the literary world?
Christy: I’m resisting the urge to say Netflix (although evidently I’m not resisting it very well.) I am very passionate about intersectional feminism, as you may have inferred already, and in particular Islamic Feminism, which I really delved into and learned about here at Geneseo. I also took two years of Japanese here and I absolutely loved it, I’m definitely very interested in languages. I love to ski and hike, although be under no illusions that I am a fast hiker, especially if it’s uphill. You know, for the most part, I’m still discovering and developing my interests as I figure out my place in the world.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning, tea at night.
Favorite episode of Parks and Recreation?
No, I can’t pick, you can’t make me. All of them.
Laptop or notebook?
I want to say notebook but honestly, laptop.
Lazulite blue (also a cool word!).
Tina Fey or Amy Poehler?
AMY. Always Amy.
80’s dance music. 😁 The truth comes out.
What do you love most about Geneseo?
Best poem you ever read?
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Somewhere snowy and full of woodland creatures that I can befriend.
If you could have dinner with three famous people who would you invite?
Thoreau, Hayao Miyazaki, and Plato.
What are your post-graduation plans?
Courtney: Everyone keeps asking me this question! Well, like you I also didn’t win the powerball, so I’ve had restructure my plan a bit drastically. After graduation I’ll be joining what’s considered the “real” world (Scary!). I hope to go into Public Relations work, but as long as I’m doing something media related I’ll be happy. However, after working on Gandy Dancer I’ve been considering the publishing industry as well. At this point, it’s too early to tell what I’ll be doing after I leave Geneseo (cue sniffling noises), but I’m sure it will be great, whatever it is 🙂 Ideally, I’d love to stay in Rochester, NY as well–I was born and raised in Rochester so I have a lot of hometown pride.
You recently spent some time studying abroad in England, what was that like, did it change you as a person/writer/reader and how?
Courtney: It was absolutely incredible! I miss it every single day. I had never really considered myself as the type of person who would study abroad, but I’m so glad that I decided to go for it. In just a short amount of time I had the opportunity to travel to new places, experience different cultures apart from my own, and met some truly wonderful people! I was able to grow and learn so much about myself not only as an individual, but also as a communicator and discovered a confidence in myself I never knew existed before. I took a creative writing course while I was there as well so I was able to obtain a different perspective on my writing based on how they structured the course. It’s hard to put into words how studying abroad changes you, but in my case it was a positive change.
What are you passionate about outside of school/work?
Courtney: I’m really passionate about feminism and gender equality, especially when it comes to issues of women’s representation in the media. I could go on a rant, but I won’t do that here. I’m also very passionate about dogs–I LOVE dogs!
I know that you were the PR Manager for Gandy Dancer a few semesters ago and you are now interning in Rochester, how did you become interested in Public Relations?
Courtney: Initially, I thought I wanted to go into broadcasting and be a news anchor or something like that, but when I started my undergraduate courses in communication my interests started to shift a bit. I took the class Theory and Practice of Public Relations with Dr. Mary Mohan who has since retired and she has been a huge influence on my life and career goals. As a class we were given clients throughout the course of the semester who each needed our assistance with developing integrated marketing strategies and PR campaigns that we worked on in teams and then pitched to them at the end of the course. The work was challenging, but enjoyable at the same time and I love the concept of how PR is multidimensional: it integrates multiple aspects of media and media platforms. Therefore, you’re never simply limiting yourself to one discipline, which keeps it interesting.
What kind of writing do you do? What is your favorite genre?
Courtney: I’d have to say my favorite genre to both read and write is fiction. I’d really like to get into writing shorter stories and personal essays though. Over the summer I read Roxane Gay’s collection Bad Feminist and was really inspired by that, but at the moment the only writing project I’m currently working on is finishing my journal from my study abroad experience.
If you had to pick one fictional character to be friends with who would you pick, and why?
Courtney: I would probably be good friends with Elizabeth Bennet. I admire her quick wit and how she’s not afraid to speak her mind. We could smash the patriarchy together.
Pen or Pencil?
It depends on what I’m writing, but I use a pen for most things.
F.r.i.e.n.d.s or HIMYM? (hint, f.r.i.e.n.d.s)
Neither! I’m a hardcore fan of the US version of The Office (Jim & Pam forever ♥). I can still rewatch episodes and laugh just as hard as I did the first time I watched them.
Matching or unmatching socks?
Favorite place in the world?
I took a trip through the Scottish highlands during my semester abroad and it was absolutely incredible! It was one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to and the landscape was so lush and gorgeous. But Bath, England will always have a special place in my heart after having been able to study and live there for as long as I did.
Favorite spot on campus?
The MacVittie College Union. I interned there a couple semesters ago and it felt like I practically lived there. It’s just a really nice gathering place to catch up with friends and cross paths with people. There is also a Starbucks, which helps fuel my coffee addiction.
Winter or Summer?
Fall is my favorite.
Current Favorite Song?
Smooth Sailin’ by Leon Bridges.
Amy Poehler or Tina Fey?
I love them both, but Amy is my homegirl!
It’s not really an embarrassing nickname, but in high school some of my friends used to call me C-Money. Some people still call me that actually–it’s become part of my personae at this point.
Words to live by?
Donna and Tom from Parks and Recreation said it best: TREAT YO SELF!
Christy Leigh Agrawal is a native of New York and hails from a Mid-Hudson Valley town called Hyde Park. She is in her last semester studying English Literature and Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo and hopes (despite looming fears of post-graduate life) to either pursue a career that relates to both poetry and civil rights law or go back in time and become a theoretical physicist who also dabbles in marine biology. She has enjoyed all of her various activities in undergrad including tutoring English for the CEC, working on Gandy Dancer, getting published in Gandy Dancer, and spending a semester working on the Thoreau-Harding Project. She is passionate about intersectional feminism and eliminating stigmas attributed to mental illness and addiction.
Courtney O’Gorman is a senior communication major and English minor at SUNY Geneseo. She previously served as the Public Relations Manager for Gandy Dancer issue 3.2 and read both fiction and creative nonfiction for issues 3.1 and 3.2. She was born and raised in Rochester, NY and hopes to pursue a career in Public Relations upon graduation this May. When not interning or obsessing over all things Gandy related, she can be found drinking coffee, rewatching seasons of The Office on Netflix, or taking way too many quizzes on BuzzFeed.