When it came time to write the acknowledgements for The Great Transition, my debut novel, I had a problem: my thank-you list was too long. The layout designers at Atria Books, my publisher, requested that I limit my acknowledgements to a maximum of two pages, as any more would require altering the format of the entire book.
Popular culture sometimes portrays writing as purely solitary art (see: Carrie Bradshaw at her laptop) but we writers know that every major step is a collective lift, whether emotionally (is this any good?), mechanically (does this ending work?), or logistically (I wrote a story…now what?). So, two measly pages for a lifetime of writing help, advice, and support? Of all the cuts required for my novel, these were going to be some of the most painful.
But there was one shout-out that I knew I was going to keep at all costs: You.
Gotham Writers Workshop provided both the spark and foundation to my writing career. It all started eleven years ago this fall, after I’d finished dismissing my fourth-grade students from our school in the Upper East Side, prepped for the next day, and then hopped on the train downtown to begin what would become the most important writing class of my life. The course was Short Fiction II, and oh my god did I luck out.
The instructor, Hasanthika Sirisena, remains one of the most talented authors and writing teachers from whom I’ve ever learned. I still pass along her words of wisdom to other emerging writers, and every time we get in touch, she seems to leave me with new advice. When we first met, in Short Fiction II, she introduced me to the workshop model common to MFA programs, as well as the existence of MFA programs (a university will pay me to write for two years?!?). Her ten-week course was rigorous yet nurturing, perfect for an eager new writer like me, with my confidence paper thin.
My classmates from Short Fiction II were just as amazing. Supportive and sharp, they took class seriously, and they had fun. Of our original group, three graduated from MFA writing programs, and others went on to attend prestigious writing conferences, from Tin House to Bread Loaf, as well as publish fiction in literary magazines like The Indiana Review and The Boston Review.
Last spring, I visited New York and toured the offices of Simon & Schuster (my publisher, Atria Books, is an imprint of S&S). I met the editors, publishers, marketers, and sales teams working so hard on my novel. The entire process is beyond anything I could’ve dreamed up eleven years ago when I decided to learn a little bit more about how to write fiction. I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people and organizations for all the support along the path to becoming the writer I am today. And I really owe you. Thanks to all the wonderful instructors, students, and staff that make up the jewel that is Gotham Writers’ Workshop.
Nick Fuller Googins