After 40 years as a science writer, I signed up for Gotham Writers Workshop in memoir writing to learn how to write in the first person.
The story I felt compelled to tell was about my upbringing in Lavanburg Homes, the first and most successful Utopian cooperative housing project, which opened on New York’s Lower East Side in 1927, and about how we participated in The Great Depression, World War II, and the rise of American art, music, and dance.
I loved the way Gotham class was organized. It was so stimulating without being intimidating.
Our very first assignment was to write about how we got our names. My submission caused a sensation. It involved rape, murder, and revolution. It became the first chapter of my recently published book The Button Thief of East 14th Street: Scenes from a Life on the Lower East Side 1927-1957.
My teacher for the workshop, Tyler Gore, was the best I have ever had in any subject. He never said “no.” He always found a way to help the writer accomplish what he or she was trying for. Here is what I wrote in his copy of my book:
To Tyler Gore, dazzlingly brilliant writer and master of regional and social American dialects and upcoming trends, who freed me to find my own way by showing me open and hidden autobiographies of all kinds—Earnest Hemingway, Edna O'Brien, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens—and who made me save "Dropped Wallet" when I thought it was too short and "Frozen Feet" when I thought it was too long.
I could never have managed to write this book without Gotham Writers Workshop and recommend them to any aspiring writer.
Fay Webern (aka Fay Chaiken)