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Coming-of-Age First Line Contest — 2022

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Sooner or later (usually sooner) most writers tell their coming-of-age story. Many of these are quite wonderful: David Copperfield, Almost Famous, Sixteen Candles, The Hate U Give, The Wonder Years, Moonlight, Fun Home, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Namesake. And so on…

A coming-of-age story tells of a protagonist’s early years, which could be childhood or early adulthood, showing how the events of this time affected their life. There’s a fancy literary term for this: bildungsroman.

You’ve probably got many tales from your youth, whether true or fictionalized, and for now we’d like to hear a first line to a coming-of-age story that you might write. Just the first sentence. But we want that first sentence to be so captivating that we can’t wait another day to read or see the rest of the story. (If you want to envision this as a script, it’s fine to give us the first line of dialogue.)

Whoever writes the first line that we deem best will receive a free Gotham class of their choosing (with the exception of a few premium classes). Keep it to no more than 65 words.

As inspiration, we present some great first lines from coming-of-age stories:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
                     —J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye
Our hero was not one of those Dominican cats everybody’s always going on about—he wasn't no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy with a million hots on his jock.
                     —Juno Diaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, “The Devil led us to the wrong crib”.
                     —Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish and me and Sugar were the only ones just right, this lady moved on our block with nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup.
                     —Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “The Lesson”
The play—for which Briony had designed the posters, programmes and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper—was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.
                     —Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement 

Deadline: November 30, 2022, 11:59 pm Eastern Time

The contest is currently closed.

The Details:

  • Entry must consist of no more than 65 words. Longer entries will be disregarded. 
  • Entries must be submitted online by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, November 30, 2022.
  • Only online entries will be accepted. 
  • Entry is free. Limit one entry per person.
  • Entry must be original and unpublished.
  • Entries will be judged on originality, quality, spelling, and grammar.
  • Gotham will post the winning entry at
  • The winner will be notified by December 17, 2022.