Every week, Syracuse University professor Aileen Gallagher and Longreads highlight the best of college journalism. This week’s pick is “The Shady Lady,” by Danny Valdes, and it comes from Dartmouth College, where professor and bestselling author Jeff Sharlet worked with his class to create 40 Towns, a new literary journalism project.

Sharlet explains:

“40 Towns is a new online magazine of literary journalism about the small towns along the Connecticut River in Vermont & New Hampshire. The writers are my students at Dartmouth College. 40 Towns grew out of my realization that every term at least one student—often more—writes a story I not only admire but actually envy, in the best sense. Work that’s just too good not to be published. I think that’s because young writers don’t know the formulas, and they don’t know what stories are ‘old’ or ‘too small’; so they make them new and life-size. The regional focus helps. Dartmouth students study overseas but they too rarely explore the reality of rural and postindustrial New England. So when they venture beyond the ‘Dartmouth bubble,’ they find themselves drawn away from imitation and towards the documentation of overlooked lives. If you take that impulse seriously, if you treat your students like the writers they’re becoming, they’ll write stories like those of 40 Towns—less polished but more vital and more exciting than much of what’s found in ‘real’ magazines.”

The Shady Lady

Danny Valdes | 40 Towns | Spring 2013 | 15 minutes (3,669 words)


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