SUNY-wide magazine offers students creative online outlet

Gandy Dancer is a new online literary magazine designed for SUNY student writers and artists. The magazine accepts poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, photography and art for publication.

English professor and Department Chair Paul Schacht suggested the quirky name, which is based on 1910 slang for railroad workers who laid tracks because their lithe hammering motion was reminiscent of dancing. The magazine takes archaic train imagery and crashes it against the online world. Going digital will serve to vivify Gandy Dancer and make it something to which college students can relate.

“We like old words, old phrases,” professor of English and Gandy Dancer's faculty adviser Rachel Hall said. “We like to make people say 'What's that?'”

Hall's teaching assistant senior Emily Webb added that the name has “a fresh vitality to it.”

Hall conceptualized the magazine, and along with 12 Geneseo students as founding editors, pushed it well on its way. In Hall's ENGL: 288 Producing Online Literary Journals class, students take on the project with experience in publishing, editing and technology.

For English majors, a class that teaches technological skills is a diamond in the rough. Newspaper, books and literary magazines are becoming increasingly digitalized. Senior D'arcy Hearn, a member of the class, explained that online is “the direction literary magazines and publishing are going … some people are saying print is a dying business.”

Senior Jim Ryan said one reason Gandy Dancer is online is so that they “can publish pretty much an unlimited amount of writing, rather than being limited to hard copy space.”

Gandy Dancer's mission, to unite writers and artists across the SUNY system, separates it from other college literary magazines.

“I think we're starting it in order to connect creatively to other SUNYs,” sophomore Jennie Conway said

“It's a platform for emerging voices and I think it helps that you are selecting the best of what SUNY has to offer … other [magazines] are selective and limited but [Gandy Dancer] provides a large selection,” sophomore Christina Mortellaro added.

According to Mortellaro, Gandy Dancer has a Library of Congress number.

“You can list this on your resume and say 'I've been published,'” she said.

According to the founders, the magazine will help to legitimize SUNY's conception of creative writing.

“Unless you go to a specific arts school, nobody takes [writing] seriously,” Hearn said.

Hall said she has been trying put together a Geneseo journal for some time. Hall mentioned that having three full-time creative writing faculty members - herself, assistant professor of English Kristen Gentry and visiting assistant professor of English Cori Winrock - has allowed Gandy Dancer and the English department to take on important projects such as this one.

Hall's Online Journals class will be taught again in fall 2013. Students interested in submitting work for publication can visit the magazine's site,

“There is a lot of talent out there and this is a great way to showcase it,” Conway said.