Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor, Michael Levin! Michael is teaching a one-day course this Spring, Start Writing Now: A Road Map to Becoming—and Being—a Writer, and sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and his upcoming course.

What sparks your creativity?
Along with George Orwell, I would say it’s a sense of injustice. When you see something wrong, you want to say something about it. Also, when everybody appears to be believing the same thing–when you see “grouping”–there’s a good chance that everybody’s wrong. Those are the moments that get me thinking.

What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
People say, do you ever get writer’s block? I say, no, I’ve got writers mortgage! The serious point is that I show my students how to eliminate writer’s block within the first half-hour of class. It changes everything.

What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
Yikes! Which of my four children is my favorite child? You might as well ask me that! My favorite book that I’ve written is Making Jack Falcone, with Jack Garcia. And my favorite book of all time? Winnie the Pooh. And then “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.”

What’s your favorite quote about writing?
“The way to write is well.” — A. J. Liebling.
Followed closely by “The secret of writing is applying your behind to a chair.” — Ben DeMott, my Shakespeare professor at Amherst College.

Who do you wish you could write like (or: Whose writing discipline do you wish you had)?
I think Isaac Asimov. He wrote 11 hours a day, because his parents ran a deli, and that’s how many hours they worked. That would be amazing.

What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
The students are highly motivated, push back, and often have backgrounds in TV and film, so they already know about storytelling. They’re excited to learn that there’s more to writing novels than taking a screenplay and adding he said, she said, and trees, as the expression goes.

What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
Structure. Everybody’s creative, but what good is creativity if you don’t have a sensible, enjoyable, malleable form of structure that you can apply to pretty much any story? In our day together, my students will master story construction, act construction, and scene construction. They will understand the difference between professional writing and “writing class-level” writing. My goal is to make this one day the most important day in their entire writing careers.

Anything else?
We all have a lot of fun and the day flies by. At least it does for me! I hope it does for the students, too!

Thank you to Michael for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!


Bree is the Assistant to the Director and Social Media Coordinator. You can email her at btodish@uclaextension.edu.

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