Find the Light

It’s Halloween today, but the world will still be scary tomorrow.

Sorry, but it’s hard to ignore the darkness surrounding us these days.

One way to cope, to survive, to thrive is to find the light where you can. And to cherish that light.

If you find light in writing or being around others who like to write, maybe Gotham can help.

When the pandemic struck, we started offering free Friday Write-Ins on Zoom, and they’re still going. Please join us if you like. You are all invited.

And we have new classes starting up all the time.

Plus, contests and conferences and scholarships and resources.

And here you’ll find some inspiring letters from Gotham students who have reached their writing dreams in some way.

All of us here at Gotham will feel good if we can offer something that makes you feel good.

Alex Steele

Gotham President

Fall Up

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
                   — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

You already know that Gotham offers excellent writing classes, as we’ve been doing since 1993, and that we have lots of classes starting up this fall.

A few other things you should know about…

Blog & Newsletter Writing
We have a new course that focuses on writing blogs and newsletters. It replaces our Blog Writing and Blog Basics courses, with totally up-to-date info on both blogs and newsletters (the latter being a hot thing in the writing world). With blogs and newsletters, you get to create your very own publication, how you want, when you want. The maiden voyage of this course begins Online on October 10.

Video Game Writing
Where can you find a course on writing for Video Games? Gotham is one of the only places. We have Video Game Writing, Part 1 starting Online October 17. Part 2 is coming soon. And—psssst—we allow teens to take this course.

The Razor
Gotham’s online literary magazine just released its October edition. Each month we present two flash stories—one fiction, one nonfiction, each with original artwork and a polished audio recording. We want you to be reading The Razor as well as submitting stories to it. If you get picked, we’ll even pay you. (And stay tuned for our new course in flash fiction and nonfiction.)

Gotham Literary/Commercial Fiction Conference
Coming up on Saturday November 18 and Sunday November 19, on Zoom, this is the place to be if you’re interested  in publishing a literary or commercial novel. Day 1 will feature panels and presentations, including my interview with Ann Napolitano, author of Hello Beautiful (the latest pick for Oprah’s Book Club). Day 2 will be the pitching roundtables, where you get to pitch and discuss your book project at a table with two top literary agents and a handful of fellow writers. You can attend Day 1 or Day 2, or both.

Creative Writing Scholarship for Writers of Color
Every quarter we offer a new scholarship for writers of color. The current scholarship focuses on creative writing, in all its brilliantly-colored forms. You have until November 15 to apply.

Frightening First Line Contest
With a nod to Halloween, our Fall contest invites you to create a frightening first line for a story. You can use more than one sentence, as long as you don’t go over 31 words. Winner gets a free class.

I know, I know, it’s almost too much excitement. But on Sunday November 5, most of us change our clocks and we get an extra hour of sleep.

Alex Steele,


Sensory Soup

Yeah, so I found myself in Lake Charles, Louisiana about two weeks ago. Long story why, won’t go into that here. It’s not the most exciting town around, but they do have some good gumbo, like the bowl I ate (shown in pic) from KD’s Diner.

You don’t fall asleep while you’re eating gumbo. It’s alive with an intricate blend of taste sensations that’s a bit different wherever you go. There’s a kick, yes, but also a darkness (from the roux) that seems like it’s coming from somewhere deep underground.

We should make the most of our senses because it makes our lives spicier, and this goes double for the writers in the room, who are responsible for stirring the world around us into a soup of words. 

Here’s Fred Plotkin, author of books on opera and Italian cuisine:

Most humans have been given the remarkable gift of five senses, but few use them to their fullest potential. I try to activate all of them all the time and, in so doing, make myself open to sensations and memories most people miss. I listen rather than hear. I savor rather than eat or smell. I look rather than see. I feel rather than touch.

You can translate sensory experience in a simple manner, like this line from Rick Rojas’s NY Times article about the recent heat in Louisiana:

Cool air swirled through the devil-red metal box of a building.

Or you can get fancier with it, like this night-sky description from James Joyce’s novel Ulysses:

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.

Sight is key, but cook with the other four senses as well, even blending them. My colleague Kelly Caldwell wrote about the sense of touch here.

Check out this from Elizabeth McCracken’s short story “It’s Not You”:

The Bloody Mary had some spice in it that sent a tickle through my palate into my nose. A prickle, a yearning, an itch: a gathering sneezish sensation.

Aren’t you feeling that?

And check out this from Tommy Orange’s novel There There:

I watch my shadow grow long then flatten on the highway as a car flies by without slowing or seeming to notice me. Not that I want slowing or notice. I kick a rock and hear it ding against a can or some hollow thing in the grass. I pick up my pace and as I do a hot gust of air and the smell of gas blow by with the passing of a big truck.

When you read this, you’re standing on that highway right beside this character. What did you experience, sensorially, today or yesterday? Write it up.

Alex Steele,

Gotham President