Category: Gandy Dancer
SUNY Geneseo is can’t-turn-the-pages-fast-enough-excited to launch NaRMo: National Book Review Month – one day into February and already many have heeded the call to @getreviewing!
Lytton Smith, a faculty member in the English Department here at SUNY Geneseo, has participated in National Novel Writing Months and National Poetry Writing Months, and is thrilled to see the products of such intensive generative cycles.
But where, he asks, is the space to review all this great contemporary writing?
We’re constantly hearing, for example, about the “death” of poetry, or of experimental writing, or the short-story, or books themselves. As Chrissy Montelli, writing on the Gandy Dancer blog (the SUNY system’s literary magazine) put it: “if you have to keep declaring, over and over, that poetry is dead, it can’t actually be dead.” The reason for repeated attempts to cremate the literary arts often boils down to lack of awareness: the writers of such articles haven’t found the scintillating contemporary writing that would convince them to put down pen, shrug off misanthropy, and settle down to read some amazing writing, about which they could then write.
That amazing writing is out there, and NaRMo will provide readers with ways to find it, and reviewers with an excuse to shout it from the virtual rooftops.
NaRMo is a grass-roots organization, based at SUNY Geneseo, and dedicated to increasing the number of book reviews of writers from all styles and backgrounds during the month of February. A collaboration between SUNY Geneseo’s English Department and Milne Library, NaRMo intends to link readers through book reviews and to help initiate conversation about books from an assortment of genres including children’s books, drama, non-fiction, fiction and poetry. This is the first year NaRMo is up and running, and we encourage everyone to get reading and get reviewing! Whether it’s through the official NaRMo site, via a literary journal, or on an online store: post a review of a recent book you want the world to know about.
Please join in, whether on the NaRMo website, Twitter, Facebook, or in whatever part of the internet or the physical world makes sense to you: reviews on online retailers, notecards in people’s mailboxes, letters to friends.
It’s official — Allison Brown is Milne library’s new Digital Publishing Services Manager. Allison was the successful candidate in last summer’s nationwide search to fill the newly-created position, bringing with her a proven track record of working with authors, navigating the publishing landscape, and producing a variety of publications.
Before you scratch your head too vigorously, wondering “But hasn’t Allison been here, doing that, long before this past summer?” — yes, she had been functioning as the digital publishing coordinator here in a temporary capacity for several years, and was instrumental in helping Milne build its publishing services from the ground up. The early projects, going back to 2012, include the Genesee Valley Historical Reprints Series (33 titles); Stuart Symington’s memoir, Tagging Along; and the first Proceedings of GREAT Day.
Since then, Allison has continued to produce more from Milne’s “press,” working closely with student groups, faculty, and emeriti at Geneseo and throughout SUNY. Among the current and ongoing projects she’s involved in is Open SUNY Textbooks, for which she is project manager — working closely with authors and coordinating peer review, editing, and publishing. She also continues to assist with production of the Proceedings of GREAT Day as well as advise for and coordinate publication of Gandy Dancer, the Geneseo-based, SUNY-wide student literary magazine edited by SUNY Geneseo students. With Gandy Dancer, Allison works closely with English professor Rachel Hall’s Editing & Production Workshop classes, both in and out of the classroom.
As Digital Publishing Services Manager, Allison manages to offer both publication assistance (production, project management, software training, etc.) to authors and experiential learning to the interns with whom she regularly works. She expects both areas to grow as more authors explore alternative publishing options, including open access (OA) publications and digital projects, and more students seek help with producing and managing their publications.
Allison earned a B.A. in English from Houghton College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College in Boston. Prior to coming to Milne Library, she worked at Boston College’s library as a circulation desk assistant. Allison is an avid consumer of audio books since, she says, she seems to spend a lot of time in her car (much of it driving between her home in Rochester and work in Geneseo), and listening is a good way to use that time.
You can find Allison in her office (Milne 108) on the Library’s lower level, or contact her at [email protected] or 585-245-6020.
Thursday, December 12th
Harding Lounge (Welles 111)
Gandy Dancer is the SUNY-wide online literary journal edited by students in English 288/Editing and Production Workshop. Our new issue includes work from Binghamton, Geneseo, Old Westbury, Oneonta, New Paltz, Potsdam and Stony Brook.
Written by Rachel Hall
Starting a literary journal at Geneseo had proved difficult for a number of reasons, foremost the cost of producing an attractive and substantive print journal. Another obstacle was maintaining student interest throughout the semester. Students loved the idea of putting together a journal, but with the demands of courses competing for their time and energy, interest invariably flagged, and the many tasks of creating a literary journal were abandoned.
Timing, as they say, is everything. The English department has been, for the last three years, engaged in revising our major to reflect the changes in the discipline. We were rethinking both our notions about what an English major should know and what skills they would need entering a changing workforce. Meanwhile, publishing was undergoing change too. Several of the prestigious literary journals I’d long admired were moving online, while others were upping their online presence with websites and blogs. Some like the Kenyon Review, established by the critic John Crowe Ransom in 1939, for instance, run online editions in addition to their gorgeous print journal. As these journals proliferated, more writers sought online homes for their poems and stories and essays. And for many writers, the benefits of online publication outweighed any perceived stigma.
If I wanted to prepare Geneseo students for careers in publishing, it seemed essential to provide some hands-on experience with the technology they would need to know. Around this time I visited the Creative Writing Program at SUNY Purchase, and noted with envy their student-led journal, Italics Mine. Perfect bound, visually appealing, and full of compelling student writing and art, Italics Mine, is created by students enrolled in a semester-long editing class, an elective within the Creative Writing major. Here was a model that would work at Geneseo and particularly so with our new curriculum in English. I proposed a class, an editing and production workshop, with the intention of starting an online literary journal called Gandy Dancer.
But how was I to do this? Me, who still hand writes her first drafts, who continues to call this blog post an article? Enter, Joe Easterly, or as the founding editors of Gandy Dancer fondly called him, Library Joe. In numerous meetings in and outside of class, Joe listened to what we wanted, asked thoughtful questions about our ideas and suggested various approaches. He taught us how to use OJS and WordPress. He led us through CSS coding and worked to help the students design our journal and our website. This semester, we continue to revise and polish the look and we’ve been thrilled with the work Leah Root and Corey Ha have done to tailor OJS to better suit Gandy Dancer. Without this expertise and support, Gandy Dancer would not exist.
If I was initially dismissive of online publications, the students never shared that bias. They have enthusiastically embraced the medium and are eager to explore the possibilities it provides. One such possibility was our ability to reach readers and writers outside of Geneseo. We decided to make Gandy Dancer a SUNY-wide literary journal, accepting work from the 60+ SUNY campuses, something that OJS makes easy. We’ve received warm support and encouragement from faculty and students at other SUNY campuses and we hope to continue building these connections. Our journal’s name reflects this desire: Gandy dancer is old railroad slang for the workers who tended the tracks, lifting and leveling the railroad ties after a train passed. We like to think we, like the gandy dancers, are helping to take people to new places.
Rachel Hall is a professor of English and the director of the Creative Writing Program at SUNY Geneseo. Believe it or not, her two most recent publications—a short story and an essay–are in online journals. Read them at south85journal.com and soon at lunchticket.org.