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.

Flashback Monday

Kathleen Burkhalter was a member of Dear Departed Sister’s barkada at Wharton. When Kathleen passed away a few years ago, self lost more than just a friend: she lost a member of her squad. And one of the few people self stayed regularly in touch with, over the decades. With Kathleen, self never had to explain how she was feeling at a particular time of her life, she always understood.

She wrote and self-published a series of books about her life. Her daughter, Mercedes Bell, is now a singer. Here’s a link to her FB page.

And here’s a post self wrote about Kathleen, four years ago.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

How Self’s Novel Began

A few minutes ago, self went to her previous MacBook Air to transfer old story files (which she should have done years ago, but anyhoo).

There was this fragment called A Myriad Wildernesses. She didn’t recognize the title but, after opening the file, she realized that this was early Camarote de Marinero.

There was no clear historical period, and the only character named is Matias, the young priest. In fact, it’s a very mysterious short story, and reads almost like fable. It begins:

An old servant woman greeted Matias at the door and led him through a tiled foyer. At the far end was a heavy door, next to which were arranged three austere-looking chairs of soot-black wood. The woman did not seem to want to engage in any kind of interaction with him, so he simply followed her and then stared at the chairs while she disappeared somewhere. Matias deliberated before finally selecting the chair furthest away from the door.

This was first draft. How this grew a novel that’s (currently) 408 pages is amazing to self.

It’s told in a really simple, straightforward voice, too, which is in contrast to the subject: Matias is reporting to the Bishop his sighting of an angel (This scene completely disappeared from the novel in its present state. Maybe she can turn it into a standalone short story.)

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Western Humanities Review, Spring 2020

Self has a story in the latest issue of Western Humanities Review. She based it on a true story about a ferry disaster in the Philippine Sea. And it all began with the first sentence:

I didn’t like the blind woman.

Back to The Rorqual

Self has been working on her horror story for aaaaages. She leaves it for long periods. When she comes back to it, she feels as if she’s discovering everything anew.

She can’t quite remember why she named this piece The Rorqual, that’s how long it’s been. 

The Small Queen’s voice was melancholy yet defiant as she addressed the Men and Women of the Salt. We have always known about the Beast, she said. We have always known battle would be joined here, on the shore of the frozen sea.

Link of the Week: FIVE SOUTH

The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories.Ray Bradbury

Caroline Kim, Very Much on Self’s Mind

Dear blog readers, are you in for a treat.

Caroline Kim, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, and currently on the Long List for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection, has agreed to share with self her process for writing a short story.

The story we’ll be parsing is Mr. Oh, the first story in the collection. Among other things, self will be asking her why this story came first. Or, put another way, how does she decide the order in which to put her stories?

Caroline’s answers to self’s questions will be posted next week. But read her story first. Read her collection, the entire collection. If you think of any questions, you can leave comments here, and self will pass on to Caroline.

So excited! SQUEEEE!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Camarote de Marinero, p. 53

The new WordPress, and the new MAC operating system, which she installed just this morning, results in a much slower MacBook Air. Go figure.

Nevertheless, she has chosen this afternoon to go over Camarote de Marinero, which no one believes she is still working on, because wtf, doesn’t this woman ever know when to give up?

She is unable to write a synopsis because she just doesn’t know. What’s a synopsis, anyway? In the meantime, at least half a dozen works about Magellan have just been published, mostly by Filipino fiction writers. Oh yay for Philippine history!

Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt from p. 53:

The Archbishop writes to Matias: Inasmuch as there are places in these Islands of Luzon that have not been visited since the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the natives who are converted pledge allegiance to the King, Our Lord, and I am informed that the natives in the jurisdiction of Ilocos, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Pangasinan, Camarines, Marinduque, Mindoro and the provinces of the Pintados do solemnly swear.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

SPORES

This story was published by decomP Magazine. Self began writing it during a residency at Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. Weeks later, she found the ending in Dublin.

The boss was born Earthstar. He’d never look her way. His spores were meant to go else: to a Silverleaf. Or a Shag. Not K that smelled like wet rot. All scaly cap and throat gills. She belonged with other Common.

In this story of the future, there are Earthstars. Earthstars are permitted to mate with either Silverleafs or Shags. Any other pairing is out of the question.

K is a Common.

The inspiration for this story was a book about mushrooms. Morgan Cooke, who she met at TGC, made an audio recording. Must say, self got a big kick out of hearing her story read with an Irish accent. Many, many, many thanks to Morgan.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Story Self Began Ten Years Ago, Never Finished

A woman is alone in a white room.

She sits in the light from a window, looking thoughtful and composed.

She is reading a book.

She is holding it cradled in her arms.

She wears scuffed jeans and a faded black T-shirt.

DSCN0172

FIRST: SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR, by Evan Thomas

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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