I walked into Gotham Writers Workshop a few months after my first daughter was born, not sure whether I belonged. For the first time in my adult life, I was not working or in school (or sleeping very much). I had dabbled in writing from time to time since my undergraduate creative writing concentration, filling pages before work whenever ideas struck me, but never channeling that energy and effort into a fully realized story of any length.
My doubts quickly resolved as I got to know my classmates. One was in his seventies with a newly discovered passion for writing. One was a twenty-something MFA graduate looking for a post-graduate critique group. The diversity of the students led to a more insightful critique process than in my relatively homogenous undergraduate workshops and fostered an environment that was encouraging but not coddling. My peers and my teacher, the wonderful Susan Breen, challenged me to add emotional depth to my characters and fine tune descriptions that fell short while also giving me the confidence that I was, indeed, a writer.
My story “Winterim,” which began in that first Gotham workshop, was published by Young Adult Review Network and subsequently awarded the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Magazine Merit Award for Young Adult Fiction—one of the most prominent awards for YA short fiction.
I’ve had several other stories published and am now at work on a new YA novel about the 1969 moon landing—a huge challenge that I feel prepared to take on in large part because of my Gotham experience.
Writing is a solitary, sometimes tedious practice. Communing weekly, whether in person or online, with writers struggling through the same issues is inspiring. Were it not for Gotham, I’m not sure I would have developed the confidence and skills to pursue my literary dreams.
Lynn Vande Stouwe