Sharisse Smith

Sharisse Smith

Dear Gotham,

In May of 2009, a temp job I was working ended. I was not offered the full-time position. I told myself if I did not get that position I would write my life story, not realizing there was something called a “memoir.” I found Gotham by searching the Internet and trusting Forbes magazine. As a military spouse and mom of four, I wasn’t able to take the courses in NYC, but being an out-of-work college counsellor didn’t help ease the fears I had of attending writing classes online. I needed to speak to a “live” person first. Dana Miller answered my call, and she talked me through it.

I enrolled in Memoir I, a perfect way to adjust to classes online and learn what writing is all about. When my course was completed, I wanted to retake it, but Dana encouraged me to try Memoir II. I didn’t think I was ready for Memoir II, but more than that, I was convinced that this new person, this man, Kyle Minor, could never understand my background—my story. As a woman with a traumatic past, I believed only another woman could do the job.

Kyle’s Memoir II classes were something I had never experienced before and haven’t experienced since. The Blackboard discussions were lively, challenging, and informative. He recommended authors and books from all genres. Kyle gave the most detailed critiques of our work, so much so that the first few times I needed what I called “a Kyle translator.” Never in my life had a teacher inspired me to write the way that Kyle Minor did. Not only did he understand my story, he instructed me on how to improve it with scene-driven narrative. Kyle also helped me fine-tune my voice.

For two years, there was a group of us that repeated his class every ten weeks, faithfully. We formed a bond stronger than one I’ve yet to find in my current MFA Program…and all online.

In addition to pushing me to apply (and eventually being accepted) to an MFA Nonfiction program, Kyle is also somewhat responsible for my first publication. “It Took Three Hours To Do My Daughter’s Hair” was an assignment first written in Kyle’s class back in 2009. He was the one who encouraged me to try for publication. It took two years, but it was finally accepted.

There are not too many days that go by where I don’t mention Kyle or Gotham. I recommend Gotham to people every chance I get, even people in my current MFA program. I can’t say enough positive things about Gotham and the time I spent here. I have lifelong friends from my experience at Gotham, a love of writing, and, thanks to Kyle, the will to always keep going!

Gratefully yours,

Sharisse T. Smith