Ashley Grill

Ashley Grill

In the summer of 2010, I’d just moved from Bow, NH to Brooklyn, NY, and signed up for my very first Gotham class. Shahnaz Habib asked me to write about something that had made me feel something recently. I opened up a notebook and the words began to flow.

They kept flowing through Romance, Fiction, and Memoir classes. Sometimes I took two classes, short Intensives like Blog Basics and longer courses like Business Writing.

I loved listening to my classmates talk about their own lives. Classes taught me about people in my community, gave me new connections, and better informed my perspective. The sharing exchange at Gotham contributed to my insight and helped me on the journey to become a better writer.

In the fall of 2015, She Writes Press published my book All in Her Head. I wrote it as fiction using the pen name, Sunny Mera, because I believed I’d face stigma and discrimination for writing a mental health advocacy story. After the book was out in the world, I realized that the people I know don’t mind that I’ve experienced something different. In some ways, they’ve said I’m better for the experience. Learning that changed the way I share about my story, and I’ve started to move past it.

Early in sharing, I thought that people would be better able to accept a story if it was told at its best. So I crafted the best book I could, spent ten years writing and polishing it. Eventually, I learned the hard way—it isn’t about me, or how my story bends. It’s about the reader. Your audience is only able to accept your story if their life’s journey prepared them for it.

I am thankful that Gotham classes were respectful spaces. Classmates listened. At Gotham, everyone’s voice on the page mattered, and teachers did their best to facilitate our diverse world views. Thank you to all those who’ve encouraged the writing and sharing process, and thank you to Gotham classes for strengthening my writing voice.

Finding Gotham was an essential part of my process. If you are thinking about signing up, I promise you won’t regret it. I’m on my tenth class and counting.


Ashley Grill