Essential Beginnings in Nonfiction, UCLA Extension Writers Program

I have been teaching this course a long time, almost 20 years. It was, and still is, my favorite course to teach. And, because of a lot of pandemic chaotic stuff and fixing my 1939 cottage, I am only teaching it ONCE in 2021. (Promise I’ll be back early 2022)

What happens during the course? YOU happen.

Don’t ask me to explain why I am a better teacher of nonfiction than I am a teacher of fiction. I know, I’m a fiction writer. Maybe I’m too close to the process, I’m not as good as explaining how it happens for me. Nonfiction, though, is a whole other story.

Trust me. I have kept this course as streamlined as possible to allow plenty of time for discussion and interaction with each student.

My hope is to get everyone to the happy place where they see writing as a verdant field of dreams.

There is one text, a classic.

There are my “lectures,” which are much less classic but okay, they’re useful.

There are THE WRITING EXERCISES EACH WEEK which will fill you with so much tension and joy, you can’t even explain it. Because that’s how writing, the act of sitting down and writing, actually feels (If standing on your head writing works for you, hey . . . )

Registration is open NOW. Class begins May 5 and ends June 15.

Since this class is ON-LINE, you can take it from anywhere in the world. I usually have, in one class, students from at least three continents: North America, South America, Asia, and the UK and Europe.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

UCLA Extension Writers Program: Essential Beginnings in Nonfiction

Class begins Wednesday, but students will be able to access the course materials tomorrow.

Self has always loved teaching this particular class.

It’s short: only five weeks. And it’s on-line. Something about the on-line format makes this class feel very safe. She will not be sharing material from this class (or any class), but she just wants to say: if the thought of being in workshop with 14 other people who will possibly hate your work makes you tremble with anxiety, you can take this on-line class and you will still tremble in anxiety (Her deadlines are firm; your grades will suffer. Yes, she grades) but at least no one can actually see you tremble or break out in a sweat, because you’re on-line! So you can clutch your blankie or whatever as you read your classmates’ comments on your work. You can even have a breakdown. It will all feel so intimate. But the on-line format gives you an extra layer of security. No one will hear your voice squeak when you get emotional, no one will see your changing facial expressions, and no one can tell if you’re posting in your pajamas.

But the students pull something out of her. And she can pull something new out of them. Every single time.

Some (if not all) have day jobs. Some take the class from New York City, others from Beijing and Tokyo. She’s had students take the class from South Korea and from a US Army base in Berlin, even from a tent in Guatemala. It is pretty interesting to read the introductory bios:  I’m a swimmer. I’m a journalist. I write screenplays. I’m a retired Army General. I’m a stay-at-home Mom. I’m a lawyer.

She took a year off from teaching, so this is her first time to be with students since . . . well, since last year. She has really missed teaching this.

Stay tuned.

A Student Submits a Piece (Assignment # 2: Create a List)

I.

A woman is hungry. She searches her house and all she discovers is a piece of stale white toast. She takes a bite and discovers it is soaking wet.

II.

A woman’s dryer is full of water. Her first thought is to read the dryer instructions on removing water. She squats down but cannot see/read the instructions around the control button. Suddenly, a stranger is standing right behind her. The woman realizes all she has on are “mini tiny shorts.” She feels naked.

III.

A woman is in “a poorly lit place” having a manicure. She realizes she left her purse in the car. She retrieves her purse, but she finds that the way to the manicure place is now uphill, and she is wearing high platform shoes. The manicurist tells the woman she owes $400.

IV.

A woman is with her son by a pool. It is time for some scheduled pool activity to begin but the boy stays outside the pool, playing and teasing his mother, “for what seems like hours.” The woman begins crying hard.


Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More Friends: An Ever-Shifting Panoply

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is FRIENDS.

Which is a very fun theme!

  • Nutschell Ann Windsor, Program Administrator, UCLA Extension Writers Program (She writes, too!)
  • Keith Tuma, Director of Miami University Press, which published self’s Mayor of the Roses, the first in their fiction series
  • Amy Toland at last year’s AWP Book Fair in Los Angeles
  • Irene Lacson, niece and travel buddy

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Admiration 4: A List (Far From Complete)

OH NO! SELF ACCIDENTALLY DELETED HER OWN POST.

It happened while she was trying to expand on her reasons for assembling this particular mosaic of images to represent the week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: ADMIRATION.

And she couldn’t find a previous saved version. Gaaaah! And in re-selecting images, she decided to stop at six instead of the eight she originally had. And she also substituted some images. Sorry for the confusion!

  1. Lady in Red: Ger, chef of Cork’s pre-eminent restaurant, Café Paradiso. Such a great chef, and also very direct and witty! Self loves Ger.
  2. Katniss Everdeen: Self-explanatory, really.
  3. Allison Joseph, co-editor with Jon Tribble of Crab Orchard Review. Fabulousness.
  4. The mother-daughter team who cook and manage Chez Mamie, 22 Hanway Street, London. They make London feel like home.
  5. SeaCity Museum, Southampton, England: Thank you to Joan McGavin, who took her here last year. What a great exhibit on the Titanic. While other cities lay claim to having the best exhibits on the tragedy, Southampton’s is so poignant because it focuses on the crew, most of whom were from this city. And therefore, the focus of the displays is on working-class people. Which makes this a much more layered story. In one gallery, there’s a map on the floor with red dots representing the houses of each of the victims. The dots are clustered around the poorer sections of the city.
  6. Last but not least: Nutschell Ann Windsor, Program Administrator for UCLA Extension’s on-line Writers Program. She is the best. She not only handles all requests with Zen calmness, she is a writer herself. And an editor. She’s holding an anthology she edited.

And now self will post before she accidentally deletes something again.

Stay tuned.

Admiration: Daily Post Photo Challenge, 29 April 2016

  • Show us someone or something you admire (and tell us about them, too!)

— Krista, The Daily Post

Here’s one:  David Bowie, who died of cancer early this year. Self cannot get the lyrics of his songs out of her mind. Here, the chorus of “Changes”:

Ch-ch-ch-ch changes
Turn and face the strange

DSCN9762

Listening to David Bowie on YouTube: “Changes”

Here’s another: Keith Tuma, Miami University Press. This man has steered the Press to indie greatness. Seriously.

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Keith Tuma of Miami University Press, at the 2016 AWP Book Fair in Los Angeles

Finally, shout-out to Nutschell Ann Windsor and Phoebe Lim of UCLA Extension’s Writers Program: Grace Under Pressure, Personified. Here they are at the UCLA Extension Writers Program booth at the 2016 AWP Book Fair in Los Angeles (Fabulous book fair, BTW).

UCLA always has the best swag. They gave out, among other goodies, a UBS stick, a leather-bound blank journal, and really good pens.

DSCN9589

Three Cheers for UCLA Extension’s Writers Program! Love the people. Here they are, doing Spin the Wheel at the 2016 AWP Book Fair in Los Angeles.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Hunger Games Fan Fiction Reading of the Day

The internet is crap today.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

Do you know how hard it is to teach an on-line class when each page takes about 5 minutes to refresh, and it takes at least 10 seconds for auto-fill ? At this rate, she’ll still be in front of her computer, still in her pajamas, until midnight. Tomorrow, too.

Time for a break. So wonderful that all she needs to do is switch windows and she lands on her fan fiction reading of the day.

Katniss is a lone Victor of her games. One day, while out foraging in the woods, she encounters a starving and beaten Peeta, and invites him to come home with her to be “her baker.”

There is no Prim. No Mrs. Everdeen. Only a Mellark family so cruel they could be lifted directly from the Brothers Grimm.

In the meantime, Katniss wanders to Town to get Peeta some new clothes. The ones he’s wearing are completely ripped and torn, as if he’s been set upon by wild animals. While Katniss is in town, she bumps into Madge Undersee. At which point:

“It’s good to see you,” Madge continues.

Is it? Katniss doesn’t answer, just adjusts the strap of her bag and gives her a fake smile. The kind she’s perfected for her Capitol audience, who want her to be happy but don’t care, really, if she is or not.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

NaNoWriMo 2014 Almost Upon Us, Looking Back at NaNoWriMo 2013

Self has never signed up for NaNoWriMo (Also, she has never applied to UCross. Self’s just saying. Nothing against Wyoming. You know what? Right this very second, she’s going to apply for a residency to UCross!)

The New York Times Book Review she is reading is the one from Nov. 17, 2013 (Her pile of back-reading is HUMONGOUS! Simply HUMONGOUS!)

A little over a month ago, when self was cooling her heels in southern California, she looked over Fall course offerings for UCLA Extension and saw that there was a class offered on “Achieving Your NaNoWriMo Goal.” And she quickly contacted the Program Administrator to indicate that she wished to enroll. She was informed that the class was “on-site.” And ya know, that’s 10 weeks of weekly on-site meetings, and self can’t commit to being in one place for 10 weeks. Seriously! So she regretfully had to pass up taking the class.

Here’s an excerpt from the article on NaNoWriMo 2013 which was in the Nov. 17, 2013 NYTBR:

We’re now past the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month — or, as it’s inelegantly shortened online, NaNoWriMo — when aspiring authors aim to produce 50,000 words during November. More than 277,000 writers signed up for the sprint this year. Erin Morgenstern, whose best-selling novel The Night Circus originated as part of the exercise, once advised: “Don’t delete anything. Just keep writing. And if you don’t want to look at it, change the font to white.”

Excellent advise! How does one register for NaNoWriMo 2014?

Stay tuned.

 

 

Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge: Escape 4

Today was a mad, mad day.  First of all, it was Date Due of Assignment 1 for her on-line UCLA Extension class, and the students were so thrillingly engaged.  Self spent hours perusing the students’ responses and also reading the first batch of writings.

It’s also been hot.  Self and The Man arrived mid-afternoon yesterday, to find the garden absolutely parched.  Since yesterday evening, self has been dragging around buckets of water and alternating hand-watering with running the sprinklers.

In addition, self has been madly perusing the hundreds of photographs submitted by fellow WordPress bloggers on the theme of “Escape.”  There’s everything from picturesque sailboats and beach shots, to forested glades, stacks of books (Good one, this!) and even a pair of abandoned white shoes that left self feeling strangely disturbed.

So far, self has posted three photographs on the “Escape” theme:  the first was a picture of mochi and miso soup, from the time she took Son and Jennie to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, early last year.  The second was a landscape shot taken August 2007, when self was doing a residency at VCCA.  The third was a shot she took at the Claremont Graduation Ceremony, this past Saturday:  a close-up of a graduate’s mint-green shoes!  Here’s a fourth:

Venice, from the vaporetto en route to Burano

Venice, from the vaporetto en route to Burano, April 2013

Who knew that the subject “Escape” would prove to be such a potent one?

Stay tuned.

By Nandini Dhar, a Former Student at UCLA Extension’s Writers Program

A surprise package came in the mail today.

When self opened it, there were two journals nested inside: Pear Noir! No. Eight and Room, Issue 36.1

They were sent by Nandini Dhar, who was in self’s on-line Essential Beginnings class, several years ago.

Self is so touched by Nandini’s thoughtfulness! She couldn’t wait to read the pieces.

She wasn’t wrong when she told Nandini, You are a very talented writer.

Here’s one of her poems. It’s from Pear Noir!

In My Mother’s Kitchen

In my mother’s kitchen, something was always bleeding —
soot-tainted walls, stains of mustard oil on the skillets,
beetroots, carrots, fish, chicken.

If nothing else, her own flesh.

My mother taught me to be afraid of everything in her kitchen —
the knives, the fire, the capacity
of metal pots to scald the skin.

Most of all, she taught me to mistrust
the fragrance of boiling rice.

So powerful!

Thank you, Nandini, for letting self know about your poetry (Self had no idea; on second thought, she should have known from the sound of Nandini’s prose :  only a poet could write those images!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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