I’ve worked at Gotham Writers for 20 years (miraculous, since I’m a wee lass of 29) and this is by far the easiest question to answer.
We don’t have one.
Now I know it sounds a bit like I’m selling snake oil when I say that. But absolute truth: our teachers are the best you’re going to find. Anywhere.
They go through a very serious vetting process because we know that we’re only as good as what happens in the classroom, and because we’re deeply invested in every student having a wonderful Gotham experience. And we’re internally small enough to check in on them regularly, addressing any concerns that come up, nipping even the tiniest problem in the bud.
So, what do we look for?
A unique, alchemic combination of teaching experience and writing success. Because there are tremendous writers who can’t teach worth a whit, and stellar instructors who can’t write to save their hides.
I mean, when you sign up for a writing class, you want someone at front of the room who’s faced the blank screen or page, experienced what you’ll experience, asked the questions you’ll ask, torn their hair out over word choice or character motivation, just like you will, and come out the other side published, produced, acknowledged.
But you also want someone who understands that teaching is an art all its own.
Being a fine teacher means being able to deliver inspiring lectures and come up with muscle-stretching exercises. It means managing time and keeping things moving, It means helping newer writers articulate exactly what they mean to say to a fellow writer about their work when they might not quite have the craft-vocabulary to do that. And, perhaps more than anything else, it’s about conveying passion, for story and character, for the written word and the writer’s life.
It’s not easy to find unicorns such as these. But we have about 120 of them on our faculty at any given time. And we couldn’t be prouder of that.
So who’s our best teacher? The teacher teaching the class you’ll get to most often over the six or 10 weeks of class.
Dana Miller is Gotham’s Dean of Students and Director of One-on-One services.