If one of your resolutions for 2010 is to make progress on your writing—and really, isn’t that at the top of everyone’s list?—then you’ll want to know more about the Writers’ Program’s annual Writers Studio held in Westwood from February 4 – 7, 2010. The Studio is your chance to devote an intensive four days doing what you love best but can never find enough time for: writing, writing and more writing! Choose one of ten writing workshops in fiction, memoir, personal essay or feature film writing. All workshops are limited to just 18 students, all of whom are as passionate about writing as you are.

The Writers’ Program recently spoke with one of the Writers Studio instructors for 2010–Jessica Barksdale Inclan–who shared her thoughts about teaching Writing the First Novel.

Writers’ Program: So tell us about your upcoming Writers Studio workshop, Writing the First Novel.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan: Most of the folks who come into Writing the First Novel have an idea or at most, a few dozen pages. Some have not much more than a character in mind. But no matter the preparation, this class helps give you the tools for starting your story. There are some pretty crucial things about writing a novel, and three of them are structure, scene, and plot. Despite all the beautiful language in the world, we need these to tell a story and we work on these elements. We also consider character, charting the growth of the character as the story unfolds. We also really learn from great examples—I bring in a great deal of material so that we can examine how other writers successfully navigated all of this. Finally, the most important element is the audience. Others will hear what we write and give us honest, clear, useful feedback so that when we leave, the path is clear.

WP: What was your previous Writers Studio experience like?

JBI: It was fabulous. The class was composed of folks who didn’t want to waste time, and we got down to writing, reading, and discussing. I was also able to continue with a few of the students in online classes and weekend classes at UCLA Extension, and it was wonderful to watch these novels grow. In fact, one of my former students wrote to tell me that she’d just completed her draft—and she’d been working with another woman in the class since February 2007. Both of them are in the submission process with their novels, looking for agents. It’s very encouraging. I also traveled with two members of that Writers Studio class to a conference this past summer. Four days can truly build bonds.

WP: You live in Northern California. Why travel all the way to LA to teach at the Writers Studio?

JBI: Taking a class at UCLA Extension is like working in a village. We write and read all morning, going out for lunch with the class at a nearby restaurant. We work all afternoon, and then go to dinner. We are in the heart of a wonderful city, and there is so much energy there. I always stay in Westwood because I love walking to class. In fact, teaching for four days is like a vacation, and as I have been a student of writing and gone away to workshops, I feel that this is the best kind of vacation—learning and having a great time.

WP: What made you start writing?

JBI: I don’t know if something made me write. I just felt the urge. I knew I had to. When I was little, I thought that novels were the most amazing things. I wanted to be able to tell a story like that. I wanted to be able to do something so amazing. Of course, at the time, I had no idea how much work it involved, but I figured that out!

WP: What inspires you to write?

JBI: I am inspired by life, which is absolutely ridiculous and wonderful and strange. I’m inspired by people, who are all the above as well. Stories in the newspaper, a perfect sunrise, a conversation overheard. Just about anything can start the creative process, and I don’t ask why—I just go with it, taking yes for an answer.

WP: Working on anything interesting right now?

JBI: Currently, I am working on a novel of literary fiction. I specify the genre because I write around—romance, contemporary, short stories, essays, etc. This story came to me, and the story is just spilling out. I’m loving it.

WP: What would you tell someone who’s thinking about writing, but who’s afraid to make the leap?

JBI: Do it. Life is too short to not go for the things that keep pestering you. I know, for instance, that one day I will have to go back to school for another advanced degree. The notion pesters me. I knew I would have to write a novel one day because that notion would not go away. If we don’t do these things that call to us, we aren’t living enough. And we must. It’s all we have.

Get a jump on your New Year’s Resolution for 2010. Call an advisor at (310) 825-9415 for information about which Writers Studio workshop is right for you!

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

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