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MAY 2015

Letter from Kelly
Teen Classes
#storieseverywhere
Writing Wisdom
William Zinsser
Ask the Writer
Upcoming Classes
Writers on the Radio
 

Letter from Kelly Tips for Crafting “Micro” Stories Lately, Gotham’s office gets crackly with anticipation as we near the end of the month, when we get to choose the winner of our Twitter #StoriesEverywhere contest. 
 
Day by day, the entries roll in, a trickle turns into a flood — and the stories, they’re good. Picking one involves a spirited debate, every time.
 
But I’m noticing another trend, too. Many micro stories start out strong, and then, they stall. Some writers begin one too big to finish. Others try to squeeze three stories into one tweet.
 
Still others create a beautiful image, and instead of following up with an action or revelation, they describe the image some more, like so:
 
“The air had grown mellow, the shadows were long upon the smooth, dense turf … and the shadows on the perfect lawn were straight and angular.”
 
That’s Henry James, who could mosey through his descriptions, because he wrote long, languid novels in the late 19th century. Writers of micro stories, and flash fiction and nonfiction have no such luxury.
 
Neither, though, should we tell stories in only the barest of outlines. Rather, we need to think of them in a new way.
 
A few things to keep in mind:
1) Don’t lop off your toes to cram your foot into the shoe. Build a new foot. 
The temptation is to take a story and trim first the edges, then the middle, and then get creative with adverbs and ampersands, til it will squish into place. When you’re salting your prose with “&&&,” you’re cramming. Step back. What do you love about this story? What’s tugging at your shirt cuffs? Find that shiny kernel of truth, and shape your story around it.  
 
2) Something has to happen.
Even in 140 characters, you need a beginning, middle, and an ending that resonates. What happens doesn’t have to be seismic, or profound. It needs to be progress, even if it’s subtle.
 
Take this finalist from April’s #StoriesEverywhere, by Nicole Chilton: 
“My bags are wet, my baby cries. I fumble to unlock the car. ‘Let me help,’ she says, child on hip, both drenched. We laugh.”

A struggle, a helping hand, then relief. Nicole’s story begins with frustrated tears and ends in laughter. It moves.
 
3) Punctuation is your friend.
I’m not talking ampersands here. Periods, commas, dashes and, yes, semi-colons. They’re the gas and the brakes, revving your story, coasting it, or bringing it up short. They can steer readers toward your meaning, if you let them.
 
Writing a good story in a tight space isn’t just for Twitter contests. It’s one of the ways we read now. No matter your genre, you’ll meet readers where tiny bites of prose reveal big truths.

Cheers,

Kelly Caldwell
Dean of Faculty, Gotham Writers Workshop

Writing Wisdom Where Do Stories Come From? By Brandi Reissenweber, Gotham Teacher

There’s no one source, no wellspring of inspiration that the writer simply needs to find. Perhaps Andrea Barrett captures this best in her essay “The Sea of Information” when she writes, “Writing is mysterious; and it’s supposed to be.…any path that gets you there is a good path in the end. But one true thing among all these paths is the need to tap a deep vein of connection between our own uncontrollable interior preoccupations and what we’re most concerned about in the world around us.”


Upcoming Classes(Spring/Summer 2015)
Spring/Summer classes now available for both NYC and online. 
Classes starting now through September 2015.

Did You Know We Offer?
Business Writing
Character
Creative Nonfiction 101
Creative Writing 101
Dramatic Writing 101
Mystery Writing
Video Game Writing
One-day Intensives
Teen Classes

Write-In
We host the Write-In on Friday nights in Manhattan.

Teen Classes Many teenagers look forward to breaking free from the rigors of school. But we like to think of our teen classes as the “anti-school”—they’re not about grades or exams. They're designed to foster creativity and self-expression in a supportive environment. We've got a bunch of classes starting soon, both in NYC or online, including: Unbound: Creative Writing and True Story: Creative Nonfiction.
William Zinsser 5 Tips for Becoming a Better WriterWilliam Zinsser, author of the famed book of writing advice On Writing Well died on May 12. Amazingly, for the entire time his book was a global bestseller, Zinsser kept his phone number listed, available to any writer who had the urge to call him. To celebrate his wealth of knowledge, we thought we'd share Zinsser's "5 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer" from the Poynter Institute.
 
Writers on the Radio With Barbara DeMarco-Barrett Gotham instructor and journalist Barbara DeMarco-Barrett hosts the weekly radio show Writers on Writing where she interviews writers, editors, agents, and publishers.

This month, she talks to Seth Greenland, author of the novel I Regret Everything: A Love Story and former writer for the HBO series Big Love. Barbara and Seth tackle writing from the point of view of someone radically different from yourself: “We’re living in very politically correct times,” Seth says,  “where to presume to know how anybody else thinks is nicht-nicht. I reject that entirely. You’re always guessing, because the only person whose psychology you really know is your own. So writing at all is a presumption. It’s really just a question of degree.”
 
#storieseverywhere Twitter Writing Contest Stories are, truly, everywhere—every place you look, everyone you meet, everything you experience.

Each month we invite you to post a story on Twitter using #storieseverywhere for a chance to win a free class. Your stories (which can be true or made up) will be inspired by what you see, know, or do, and they should relate in some way to our monthly "themes": 

May: A dangerous turn
June: Water
July: Torrid affair
Ask the Writer Answers to your writing questions Gotham’s Brandi Reissenweber answers questions submitted by readers of The Writer magazine. Here are some of the questions that she's recently answered:
Q: What’s the difference between literary fiction and commercial fiction? Answer
Q: I’ve entered many short story contests and I’ve placed in a few, but haven’t won yet. I feel like I’m missing something. What are judges looking for?  Answer
Find more Ask The Writer Q&A here.
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