Over the summer, Gotham Writer’s Workshop gave a few free writing seminars in Bryant Park. They had established writers talk for ninety minutes or so about a writing topic. The one I chose to go to was on memoir writing, as I have become very interested in that topic.

What do we think about things given for free in an open park setting?

Let me begin by saying that Gotham did everything right. They hired a really good instructor, who clearly knew how to teach and be entertaining, as well as the whole published author thing. They had a lot of chairs and tables, and handed out notebooks and pens. The instruction part was awesome.

However. Free. New York City. Park.

These all make for let’s just say, interesting people in the audience.

The woman to my left- very chatty. While we were waiting for the class to begin, she told everyone around us how she drove in from the suburbs of Philadelphia to attend this. FYI- it was a solid presentation…but not that solid. She was also a hand raiser of the first order- OOO OOO pick me pick me…When the instructor asked simply “What is a memoir?” this woman practically leaped to the stage to answer. There’s always a very over enthusiastic person at these things who tend to try to steer the evening away and make it about them. There is nothing wrong in theory with being overly enthusiastic. However, a free class isn’t always the best place.

Of course, this being New York and all, when he picked someone to answer his second question, the person he chose to answer started out with “Why didn’t you pick me to answer the first question? I clearly had my hand up before the other person. I had a much better answer for that question than this one.” And proceeded to not answer the question.

We were given time to write based upon a prompt. When the instructor asked people to read, everyone used a fake name. The class was on memoir writing: the whole point is that it’s supposed to be one’s true memories of a time and place. One of the first things he said was “This is a memoir. You have to own your truth and put it on the page.” But yet…

He was also asked if you could use an alias for a memoir.

And then he was asked if you could make it a fictional memoir.

Of course, you can do anything you want- as long as you ask yourself why…and if it’s worth it.

We rounded out the night with another prompt and the ability to read it. The person who read proceeded to tell us how he’s homeless but just won the lottery in Georgia but needed money to get down there, but was really a millionaire, and could we just lend him $500 until his check cleared?

That being said, I did learn some good stuff from the class. I look forward to Gotham eventually getting back to in person, paid for classes, in a classroom.

I also look forward to what becomes of memoirs in the coming years.

49 thoughts on “Writing Class

  1. Whichever side of the class I am on, I fear “a handraiser of the first order”. That said, I suppose a free class in the park invites all kinds of first order people! Glad you managed to get something out of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Granted this was a memoir class, but with so many interesting interactions perhaps you have gained ideas for a piece of “true life” fiction…tell us how all these fascinating characters are part of a grand plan for a new novel!!!

    Liked by 6 people

  3. A class from Gotham Writers is a dream! They offer classes online, and I’ve wanted to do it for years, but I haven’t. One of these days I’ll have to try it. It sounds like you had quite a few characters in your audience, though:)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. How interesting. Did the instructor explain the difference between autobiography and memoir? Because we never use the former term any more, do we?

    But the audience does make for a crap shoot. Kinda like getting comments on a blog… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a fun event you attended! It sounds like fun. And BTW,
    I love hand raisers. I love questions. And I love classes. But, I’m used to being the instructor.

    Here’s the thing… ANY class you take, Or, in the case of an instructor, any class you teach, is a crap shoot. You never know what the dynamics of any given group of people will be when they are put together. And when you give class assignments why wouldn’t you want people to be able to ask and clarify questions? Otherwise, people could just read a self help book. If they don’t want the freedom or flexibility to ask questions or ask for help with guidelines, then why go to an in person class?

    This class you attended sounds like it was a lovely experience.
    it’s unrealistic to expect varying personalities NOT to clash. People are so different and many enjoy personal attention. (Some folks love to be heard more than they like to learn).
    For me, I want to gain the most from my experience, so I’ll ask questions if I have any. And I will take my assignments seriously.

    I find if the person attending the class explores some form of creative expression then students benefited and the lesson was a positive experience. Success!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The people sound entertaining at least. And it sounds like you got a lot out of the class and instructor. I went to a writer’s conference in Palm Springs more than 20 years ago that you had to pay to attend. The staff included Sue Grafton, Ray Bradbury, Harold Robbins and was put on by my friend Gerry Petievich. There was one strange guy who always grabbed a seat next to me and he’d take off his shoes and be in stocking feet. Gerry told me there is at least one odd person at every seminar.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a good display of personality types you can encounter. I mean, this is why I love people watching and eavesdropping. Better than any movie or book

        Liked by 1 person

  7. What a “trip” that class was! At least it made for a great blog post and an opportunity to exercise a little psychology. Probably not and experience worth repeating, and I feel sorry for the teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. In a free class, I’d be able to laugh – and you certainly described plenty of characters who made me grin. Sadly, it happens all too often in paid for scenarios – I’ve experienced it in group therapy as well as classes. When the instructor/facilitator isn’t as strong as yours, it can be a most frustrating experience. Hope you enjoyed your writing group!

    Liked by 1 person

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