The word is pretty much out about online writing workshops—they’re no longer “the wave of the future” but instead are the norm. Real work happens in online workshops by writers who go on to publish and produce.

You already know that our online teachers come from all over— from Austin to Hoboken, Vancouver to LA— but do you know that many of our students themselves come from far-flung locales? Singapore, Turkey, India, Japan, Wisconsin, to name a few.

Last week a man in Buenos Aires emailed us about our workshops. Not long before that, we heard from a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras and a filmmaker in Russia.

Meet two of our international students. Jarrod Thalheimer lives in British Columbia. Tea Kay lives in Paris. Both have completed the Certificate in Creative Writing. How did they connect with the community when living so far from Southern California? And how did the Program push them on in their projects?

How did you first hear about the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program?

TEA KAY: I had known of UCLA Extension from taking classes with them twenty years ago. However, the online program was new to me. I learned about it and the Writers’ Program from the catalogue.

JARROD: I went looking for it. I wanted to be a part of UCLA—I had heard good things about their programs, and bottom-line: Los Angeles is home to a tremendous amount of people who make a daily living from the written word.

What courses did you take and how was the experience?

TEA KAY: I have completed the Creative Writing Certificate Program, exceeding the number of class credits necessary by about twenty. I took beginning classes in Novel, Poetry, Fiction, Playwriting, and as many special classes on different aspects of writing, from the creative process to writing and Zen. I have taken most classes online, but whenever I am in Los Angeles, I go to a class or two on campus, for one or two days, a weekend, and at one time, I went to a six-week playwriting class. They have been such wonderful experiences, all of them, with fantastic teachers.

JARROD: I took a huge variety of courses over three years that culminated in my achieving a Certificate of Creative Writing in Short and Long Fiction. I was a fixture on the virtual campus for a long-time and enjoyed it immensely. The quality of instruction, the interaction with the teachers, the class sizes, the exposure to so many different styles and methods. It was wonderful.

Some students say that intimacy and a sense of community may be lost in an online workshop. Did you find that to be the case?

TEA KAY: I found the online classes to be extraordinary in that they bring people together from all over the world to share writing in a very intimate manner – by writing online in a closed class structure. The fact that all communication is written is really an advantage for writers. I found that I was better able to express myself to other students when critiquing their work through writing online rather than in a classroom setting. I had the time to think about their work and to write something meaningful. I received excellent critiques from my fellow classmates that I do not think I would have received if spoken. I could reread and print these critiques, to study later. I still keep in touch with some of the students that I met in class and one is a reader for the novel that I am completing. She’s in Northern California, I’m in France, but sending her my writing or talking on the phone, given the nine-hour time difference, poses no problems.

JARROD: After three years of directly experiencing the online community alongside a few local, on-site classes, I can now reject the very notion that online is somehow stunted out-of-hand entirely. Writing, probably above all other disciplines, is almost perfectly suited to the online environment. The connections I made with people, the non-threatening intimacy that the online world allowed, the ease of access, the my-time schedule—all of it—were better than I ever could have expected. I truly felt like a full part of my class at all times even though I was a thousand miles away (give or take…).

How have online workshops helped you connect you to the world and your writing goals?

TEA KAY: I do not think that I would have been able to learn as much, as fast, from such wonderful instructors, if the online program did not exist. I still find it unbelievable that I could obtain a Certificate in Creative Writing from UCLA Extension while living in France.

JARROD: The classes gave me real tools, forced me to practice, and introduced me to worlds I simply did not know. They expanded my writing horizons exponentially and made me realize that I actually could accomplish what (up to that point) I had only imagined. In a step by step way, unattainable goals suddenly became possible. Online meant that I could bring my writing classes right into my personal world at home, making the merging of my writing life with my general day to day easier than ever. It also made me far more productive as a result, which is saying something when you have a houseful of kids to entertain as well.

What are you working on now?

TEA KAY: I am finishing a novel that I began three years ago when I first started taking UCLA Extension classes online. I am now taking advantage of the opportunity provided to Creative Writing Certificate recipients to have an instructor, Caroline Leavitt, read the manuscript of my novel. I really do feel that I am a part of the online family at UCLA Extension.

JARROD: I continue to write a weekly syndicated column on advertising at adfool.com. I have had a couple of short stories published along with a short fiction that was serialized across several issues of a local magazine. Currently, I freelance for many US websites and Canadian magazines and newspapers. I am also putting together a book of columns and working on my first novel. My professional writing life may not have started at UCLA but it sure got the jump-start it needed within its virtual walls. Writers write, and the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program makes it happen.

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Corey Campbell is the Program Representative for Creative Writing (Online) and Events.

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