We Bring You NYC

Gotham Writers Workshop was born in New York City, is based in New York City, and the very name invokes New York City (Washington Irving, way back, gave it the nickname “Gotham”).

Truth is, we have more students living outside of NYC than inside, made possible by our Online and Zoom classes, not to mention commuting. But I like to think whenever you take a Gotham class—from anywhere in the world—we’re bringing you the grit and glamour of this fabulous town.

If you look at our logo up there on top, you’ll notice a hint of the bat signal and the Chrysler Building. Right?

Some notable bits of NYC news for us…

Our New York City classes have been on pause since March 2020, but they’ll resume in a few weeks. Welcome NYC students: we can’t wait to see you. (And it was great seeing so many of you at our Bryant Park appearances this summer.)

Also, if you’ve spent any time on the streets of New York, you’ve probably noticed the Gotham box—a free-standing box with a Gotham brochure inside. Like in the picture. After about 25 years as part of the NYC landscape, we’ve removed our boxes from the city streets. Paper and plastic aren’t so environmentally friendly, and the pandemic increased our fears of touching strange objects, so it felt like the right time. Adieu Gotham box: your spirit will haunt those streets forever.

And…the Gotham Writers Conference is happening on Zoom this year, October 14-16. If you’re dreaming of publishing a book, a good way to connect with the New York publishing world. At the very least, notice the snazzy subway design on our Conference pages.

Finally, I give you some nice quotes about NYC:

Tom Robbins’s novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues:

“In every direction, her tired eyes saw flashing lights, lights that caromed off the horizons and joined with the stars in the sky. The city seemed to be inhaling Benzedrine and exhaling light; a neon-lunged Buddha chanting and vibrating in a temple of filth.”

Colson Whitehead’s nonfiction book The Colossus of New York:

“Thousands of people pass that storefront every day, each one haunting the streets of his or her own New York, not one of them seeing the same thing.”

Fran Lebowitz, interview with People magazine:

“When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.”

E.B. White’s essay “Here is New York”:

“But the city makes up for its hazards and its deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin—the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled.”

Alex Steele,

Gotham Writers President

Get Thee Out

From The Tell at the Jane Hotel

I didn’t want to go. Although, I did a little bit. And I’d already said I’d be there.

These were my thoughts a few weeks ago as I prepared to leave for an event in the West Village, all the way over by the Hudson River.

Like many of us, I hadn’t been going out a whole lot over the past few years, especially to crowded venues. And I was a bit apprehensive about this event because no one was able to go with me and I was certain to be the oldest and squarest person at this gathering of the city’s coolest crowd.

It’s called The Tell—a once-a-month program (at a historic hotel where the survivors of the Titanic stayed) that combines people telling tales of strange encounters and noir-ish musical acts. The whole thing is put together by Gotham teacher Michael Leviton, and I’d been telling Michael I’d come for years.

I felt a bit off balance as I walked into the faded glamour of the hotel’s ballroom, where the show happens. I didn’t know anyone or quite belong and wasn’t sure how the seating worked. But after settling deep into a worn couch on the mezzanine level, I chatted to the heavily-tatted guy next to me and then spent a spellbinding two hours or so drinking in the stories and music. I walked home buzzing with the magic that Manhattan has to offer, when you’re lucky enough to find it.

It’s gotten easy to avoid going out, and by “out” I mean something more than wandering the mall or dining in a café. I mean something bolder, maybe even something you’ve got to push yourself to get to.

It’s good to get out—good for us as writers and as people attempting to live interesting lives. (Caution, vaccines, and masks are wise, of course.)

If you’re in the NYC area, you might get out and catch some Gotham Writers action. We will be offering free 90-minute classes every Thursday night in August in Bryant Park, which is perhaps the best spot in Manhattan: a rectangle of greenery surrounded by soaring buildings and the magnificent “lion” branch of the library.

You can check out the schedule here, and take note that I’ll be teaching a class on Character on the night of August 25. (If you come to that one, please say hi to me afterwards.)

In the words of the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (about whom my friend Pete is creating a TV series): To dare is to momentarily lose one’s footing. But not to dare is to lose one’s self.

Alex Steele



I thought of Gotham’s tagline—Stories. Everywhere.—while reading a magazine article about shipping containers that get lost at sea.

Many of the products that we procure come to us via containers shipped across the world’s waters to a port somewhere. Every day, about 6,000 of these ships are at sea, bringing us all those clothes and toys and housewares that we so crave. The products travel in massive containers on gargantuan ships manned by small crews. Which explains why so many of those containers often tumble off the ships.

(In 1965, a young man traveled by shipping container, as a stowaway, from Australia to England because he couldn’t afford the airfare; he didn’t go overboard but almost paid with his life, which you can read about in his memoir The Crate Escape.)

These lost items from shipping containers contribute to the pollution choking our oceans, and the problem is worsening as global warming creates higher winds and bigger storms, the cause of most container-overboard accidents.

In 1997, a rogue wave caused 62 containers to topple overboard near the western coast of England, including almost 5 million Lego pieces, which is interesting because the shipping containers very much resemble Lego pieces.

Eric Carle was aware of this whole phenomenon when he wrote and illustrated the children’s picture book 10 Little Rubber Ducks. Some may see it as a simple counting book, but, well, it’s so much more.

A box with 10 little ducks tumbles off a ship and the ducks float their separate ways. One drifts west where a dolphin jumps over it, one drifts right where a turtle glides past it, and so on. Their journeys are enhanced by Carle’s collage artwork recognized by children everywhere.

We follow the 10th duck as the vast water and sky turn inky dark. We sense the duck is scared, but these ducks are realistically inanimate, nothing more than molded plastic. And yet we feel the duck might be relieved when, the next morning, it meets a mother duck and her ducklings and begins to drift along in their company.

Night falls again and the rubber duck stays with the duck family. The mother says quack, the other ducklings answer with quack and then…the lost rubber duck gives a squeak.

Was that random chance? Or did this odyssey somehow breathe life into the duck? I can’t stop wondering.

If you’re feeling imaginative, perhaps you can conjure a story that springs from shipping containers. Go!