Until six years ago, when I enrolled in my first Gotham class, I believed my writing career had peaked in second grade. Second grade was the year of fearless writing. I couldn’t wait for the next writing prompt supplied by my teacher, Mrs. Holiday. The stories just poured out of me onto those big sheets of greyish paper with the dotted lines to control my lower case letters. Never afraid of writing a bad story, I wrote and wrote and wrote.
Then I stopped. Not entirely, of course. Writing became a useful tool to power me through high school and college and even through years of public health nursing and raising a family. But the sheer joy of fearless writing? I had lost that.
In 2011, I took a chance on trying to rediscover that joy. I found myself—on a whim—enrolled in a Children’s Book Writing class with Gotham Writers Workshop. Then a Poetry class. Followed by another Children’s Book class and another Poetry class. Then Advanced Poetry. Then Fiction Writing. I couldn’t get enough! I had an insatiable hunger for the assignments, the critiques, the struggles with revisions, the community of fellow writers, the contests, the resource library…all of it!
And while I was wallowing like the proverbial pig in the Gotham world, an amazing thing happened. I felt like that second-grader again. The confidence that Gotham taught me was profoundly liberating. I started sending my work out. I attended multiple SCBWI conferences, I made best friends with a published author in my own town, and I got an agent. I started to think of myself as a writer.
And now, on my bedside table, are two books bearing my name: Why Did the Farmer Cross the Road? (picture book, Sleeping Bear Press. March 2017) and The Widest Eye (poetry chapbook, Antrim House, November 2016).
While I have always subscribed to the notion that being published should not be the ultimate goal, it is fun! But the most fun of all is the joy of writing that good sentence, followed by another and, on the best of days, yet another.
Thank you, Gotham Writers Workshop, for helping me to recapture that joy!
Brooke Herter James