In early January, I began a low-residency MFA program at Bennington College, which kicked off with a 10-day residency on-campus. The residency happened to coincide with the pub date for my first collection of short stories, The Birthright of Sons. Surrounded by writers—who all understood what it took to push a book over the finish line—I was asked again and again not about the accomplishment but its origins.
How long did it take to complete the collection? What was my creative process like? Which story came first? I’d love to say that all these questions have definitive answers, that I can recall the first line of the first story, or that I remember how much time I invested in each draft, each sequencing, each round of copyedits and feedback. But the truth is, all of that is a blur.
What’s clearer to me is where my professional writing journey began to take shape. In Winter 2017, I took Dan Lopez’s 10-week Fiction Writing I class with Gotham Writers Workshop. Though I’d worked as a journalist since high school and cobbled together lackluster fiction in secret, I’d never considered myself a writer. It was in Dan’s class that everyone took my writing seriously, offering me helpful and compassionate advice, and discussing my work with genuine interest. As we dissected stories and learned various aspects of craft, I began to take my work seriously, too. (I followed a similar path to self-belief in Lisa Namdar Kaufman’s Screenwriting I class.)
From there, I began drafting stories, sharing them with people I trusted, and then submitting them to various literary journals and magazines. Fast forward 7 years and my collection is not only out in the world but also bears the stamp of the Iron Horse Book Prize—a symbol of several others’ belief in this body of work.
As my writing career has progressed, I’ve continued to build upon the sturdy foundation that Dan helped me build. However, more than principles of craft or exposure to the classics, he gave me permission to call myself a writer. That was the key, and it’s that self-recognition that has powered me through every blank page, unanswered query, and rejection ever since.
I came to Gotham for tangible skills and left with so much more. I’m forever grateful and inspired by all the ways GWW continues to help others like me recognize the writer within.
All the best,