I moved from New York City to Johannesburg, South Africa for a relationship (yes, I know) in the spring of 2015. I didn’t have a network of friends, much less of writer friends. Nor did I have a clear idea of what I wanted to do with my career (I was a lawyer admitted to the bar in New York). At the time, writing a novel was always the dream, but I had relegated that to the dusty recesses of my mind as a moonshot, something I’d love to do but didn’t have time for and found too intimidating.
Fast forward a couple years later: I had made a career switch from corporate law to international development. I enjoyed my work and also had more regular working hours (and consequently more predictable non-working hours) so I started reading more fiction and begun to feel the twitching of a once-slumbering creative itch. I missed writing. The problem was, I hadn’t really written creatively—fiction or essays—since freshman year of college. Did I even remember how?
That’s where you came in, Gotham.
Your Online classes were an opportunity for me to write from where I was and when I had time and to meet other writers from all over the world.
I enrolled in G.D. Peters’ Creative Writing 101 class in the fall of 2018. I had low expectations of myself and my output, but I wanted to see if there was such a thing as writer’s muscle memory and to test if writing was something I even enjoyed anymore. Under G.D.’s patient and encouraging tutelage, I was able to churn out 500-800 word stories following weekly prompts.
It was difficult at first. There’s nothing quite like the taunt of a blinking cursor on a blank screen or typing and deleting every sentence many dozen times. But I powered through and began to relish the feeling of accomplishment after completing an assignment. I felt electrified by a new energy from the creative side of my brain.
By the time the course ended, I was hooked. The world felt like my muse: a stranger in a coffee shop wearing sunglasses indoors, an irate woman with treadmill rage at the gym, a couple at a restaurant with pursed lips and crossed arms—everything felt like fodder for my next piece.
I needed to keep this up. So I enrolled in another class, Fiction I with Jaime Karnes. Jaime, like G.D., was a terrific instructor. She possessed an intuition about how to coach people to bring out their best work. About halfway through the course, after speaking with Jaime, I started using the weekly prompts to draft scenes from a nascent novel idea brewing in my mind. As the weeks passed, I grew more confident in my voice, my ability, and in the attainability of drafting a whole book.
Following this Gotham course, in the summer of 2019, I enrolled in an in-person writer’s conference in Southampton, New York, where I discovered a whole community of aspiring novelists. Between the confidence and motivation I’d gained from Gotham and this conference, I started in earnest to draft the half-formed novel that existed in my mind. By the end of that year, I had a first draft.
I spent the next year, 2020, polishing, cutting, rewriting, and in 2021, I found a terrific agent who believed in my writing and sold my manuscript in early 2022. Our Best Intentions will be published March 14, 2023 by Morrow/HarperCollins.
Gotham, it all started with you.
Your instructors are inspirational and kind. Your students are talented and collegial.
I can’t wait to read more stories that you help put into this world.
Your biggest fan,
You can learn more about Vibhuti and her writing at www.vibhutijain.com