Graduation season is here! The UCLA Extension Certificate Graduation Ceremony will take place at Royce Hall on June 29. Last year you might remember we interviewed online student Ceil Barrie, who traveled all the way from Illinois to attend the first annual ceremony. This year, online student Michael Sturman will make the trek from Eugene, Oregon to Los Angeles to receive his Certificate in Creative Writing with an Emphasis in Fiction. The Writers’ Program recently chatted with Michael about his experience in the program.

Writers’ Program: How did you first hear about the Writers’ Program and when did you decide to take courses?

Michael Sturman: I’ve wanted to be a writer for the longest time. During my commute to my last job, my head kept spinning with things I wanted to write about, and I finally decided to give it a try. I started out by writing a short-novel about a martial arts club infested by Satanists. I put a lot of time into it, but when I tried to sell it, I got no response. A friend in the Los Angeles area told me that it is often hard for new writers to get their works read by publishers. He had met several people who had taken courses in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and been successful in finding work in the field, and suggested it might help me as well. I compared UCLA Extension to several other online and low-residency writing programs that I found on the web, and decided it would best meet my needs.

WP: What made you decide to come all the way from Oregon to Los Angeles to attend the graduation ceremony?

MS: I see the graduation as a milestone in the beginning of my career as a writer, and wouldn’t want to miss out. I also enjoy Los Angeles. I’ve been there before, and have always been fascinated by what it has to offer.

WP: What was your experience at the Writers’ Program like? What did you think of the online format?

MS: I had a great experience! I thought the instruction was top-notch, and the other students gave me many helpful suggestions. I’d never had much experience with online [courses] before, and didn’t know what to expect. Classroom instruction offers a greater opportunity for teacher-student exchange of ideas and for students to express their opinions, but it frequently gets stuck on tangents and minor points. In contrast, I’ve found UCLA Extension online instruction to be more focused. You get just the help you need, and aren’t left floating in a morass of irrelevant talk.

WP: What made you decide to go for the certificate program, instead of just taking courses “a la carte” ?

MS: I started out by taking the introductory and short-story courses, and decided I was getting a lot out of them, and wanted to complete the whole program. In addition, I think the certificate helps to show agents and publishers that you are worth their time.

WP: How has the Writers’ Program helped you reach your goals?

MS: There is a stepwise progression in instruction from the introductory through the advanced courses, and many opportunities for novice writers like myself to develop their skills to the point where they are writing actual short stories and novels. I found there is a lot more to good writing than I ever imagined before beginning the program, and the Writers’ Program has enabled me to develop my skills to a level that I could never have done on my own.

WP: What are you working on now?

MS: I’m currently in Lynn Hightower’s twenty-week-long Advanced Novel writing class. After that the next step will be to get my novel in shape to submit for publication. After that, I have two more novels in mind about youngsters with mental health needs who are not being adequately provided for by the system.

WP: Did you enjoy any courses or instructors in particular?

MS: I thought both of my novel writing instructors, Caroline Leavitt and Lynn Hightower, were excellent. Without their help, I don’t think I could have possibly gotten very far. You should give both of them gold stars!

Congratulations to Michael and all Writers’ Program students who will be completing their certificates this season.

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

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