More than 400 UCLA Extension certificate graduates came to Royce Hall on June 30 for the inaugural UCLA Extension Certificate Graduation Ceremony. The flash of the cameras, proud hollers of loved ones, and grandiosity of the accompanying organ music made for a very colorful, regal event and filled Royce Hall nearly to capacity with beaming certificate-earners from all over the world. Writers’ Program’s online student Ceil Barrie graduated with a Certificate in Creative Writing, and flew from Illinois to Los Angeles for the event. The Writers’ Program had a chance to interview her about her certificate program experience.
Writers’ Program: So, why fly all the way out to Los Angeles?
Ceil Barrie: Why not? I jumped at the opportunity to come out to LA, meet my advisors, and hopefully some of my classmates. I think there is an element of reality added to receiving my certificate by being physically present for the graduation ceremony. It probably sounds silly, but I feel like it gives the work I’ve done online more shape and substance.

WP: What made you choose the WP certificate program?
CB: I began with just one introductory class to see if I would like it. I loved the class and getting acquainted with a community of like-minded writers so much that after completing that first class, I registered for the certificate program. I felt like it would give me not only a goal, but some structure for my writing practice.

WP: What was the experience like taking online courses?
CB: I loved the online format. When I started out, I could not have faced a physical classroom filled with flesh and blood students. My initial fears and lack of self confidence were far easier to overcome online with cyber-classmates. Also, as a mother of three teenagers, the online format worked perfectly as I could “go to class” at whatever hour of the day was most convenient. I am a late night person, so I enjoyed being able to check in at all hours. And it was really interesting hearing from writers posting from all over the US, as well as Austria, England, and Iraq.

WP: What classes did you particularly enjoy in the Writers’ Program?
CB: I particularly enjoyed Novel III and Novel IV with Lynn Hightower. I was able to really concentrate on my novel in these classes and get lots of valuable feedback. Most importantly, I was pushed to confront pesky issues that on my own I would have continued to push aside, such as how to end my story. I also enjoyed Meeting the Muse. It showed me that we all face the same demons and gave me hope, as well as some specific tools to use in battling my inner critic.

WP: How has the WP helped you in reaching your goals?
CB: I came to the program with the goal of learning the craft of writing. As I continued each term, I slowly was able to think of myself as a writer. My goal now is to become a published novelist. Through my online classes I have made friends with other writers and become part of a network of UCLA Extension’s Writer’s Program writers, so I have their experiences and advice to help me along. As a certificate student, I’ve also been able to sit in on short workshops addressing how to find an agent and how to write a query letter, which will hopefully come in handy soon.

WP: What are you working on now?
CB: I’m working on a novel that I started early in the Writers’ Program. I had some painful events in my life that I wanted to write about, initially just to work through them in my head. Now I’ve been able to turn pieces of that writing into fiction in the form of a novel about delusion and deception, friendship and betrayal.

WP: What would you tell other writers considering enrolling in the certificate?
CB: I highly recommend it. I wasn’t really familiar with certificate programs when I began, so I researched other continuing education options and graduate degrees. For me it seemed that a Masters Degree, while necessary if a writer plans to teach, was superfluous to my needs of honing my craft, learning to structure my writing time, and workshopping my novel.

WP: Now that you’re finished with your certificate, are you planning to stay in touch with the Writers’ Program community?
CB: Definitely. I’m already having withdrawal symptoms and I’ve just finished. But seriously, I have made many friends and connections with other writers who are still part of the Writers’ Program and I am looking forward to my one-on-one manuscript work with an instructor. And I am sure that I have not taken my last class yet. I hope to jump back in whenever I feel like I need a motivational boost, and certainly when my novel is close to being finished and I need some feedback.

Sara Bond is the Program Assistant for Creative Writing (Online) and Events.

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