If you’ve ever contacted the Writers’ Program office for advice about courses, you’ve no doubt talked to some of our friendly staffers, all of whom are enthusiastic about writing and most of whom are pursuing writing goals themselves. Access to knowledge is a great benefit of working for an educational institution, and critical thinking and inquisitiveness are prerequisites for working at the Writers’ Program, so it’s no surprise that many staffers end up taking courses and enrolling in certificate programs.

Kate Sipples, Program Assistant in Onsite Creative Writing, began taking classes at the Writers’ Program before she started working here, and as a result, she knows the curriculum inside and out. A certificate student in creative writing with an emphasis in fiction, Kate has workshopped her novel–set in contemporary South Africa–in Novels I, III, IV, and V. This quarter, Kate is revising her work in Novel IV with Claire Carmichael and Inside Story (Online) with Lisa Cron. “I’ve wanted to work with Claire since I learned of her amazing reputation. I was thrilled when I was accepted into her advanced course!” Kate’s goal for the quarter is to review her story structure to make it as compelling as possible, with the ultimate goal of publishing her novel.

Mae Respicio, Program Representative extraordinaire, has taken well over 30 (!) Writers’ Program courses over the years, and isn’t slowing down. “Most of my classes have been onsite including Novels I – V with Les Plesko and the Master Class in Novel Writing with Les Plesko (can you tell I’m a Plesko groupie?).” This quarter, Mae works on a new novel with Jessica Barksdale Inclan in Novel Writing I. “My writing goal at the moment is to learn how to build a writing practice—writing every day as opposed to solely when I feel inspired. It’s tough to balance writing amidst a busy schedule of work, parenting, and life in general, which is something I’m sure our students can relate to.”

Meanwhile, Program Manager Cindy Lieberman is taking her first Writers’ Program course this quarter: Novel Planning with Lynn Hightower. “I’ve read at least a thousand books in my lifetime so I thought I’d be ahead of the curve when it came to writing. Um, no. In fact, I was humbled to discover just how much I didn’t know. As for Lynn, she’s extremely generous with her time and painfully honest with her feedback.” Like Kate, Cindy’s goal is to finish her novel, though she’s not in any hurry. “Writing a novel is on my bucket list, so if all goes well, I figure I have another 30 years or so to get this puppy written.”

And what of our friendly screenwriting advisors, Chae Ko and Jeff Bonnett? Chae is taking Intermediate Feature Film I with Cindy Davis this quarter, his 12th screenwriting class. While his goal for the quarter is to revise his story outline and treatment and complete a first act, in the long term Chae would like to complete several screenplays to shop around. Next quarter he’ll take Intermediate Feature Film II, but for right now his focus is on Act I. “Cindy is such a versatile instructor and I’ve wanted to take her class for some time now. Also it doesn’t hurt that she’s co-written the English adaptations of my favorite director of all time Hayao Miyazaki!”

Chae’s sidekick, Jeff Bonnett, enrolled in Corey Mandell’s Writing Powerful Scenes for the Movies course after sitting in on Corey’s Writers Studio course. “Corey has a great perspective on the idea of ‘talent’ and how it can actually be taught.” Jeff’s short term goal is to complete dynamic, well-written scenes, and his ultimate goal is to write and finish a professional level script.

As you can see, Writers’ Program staffers are passionate about writing education. Next time you give us a ring, rest assured that your advisor not only knows the instructors, but may have taken a class with them as well!

Katy Flaherty is the Program Representative for Creative Writing (Online) and Events. Write to her at kflaherty@uclaextension.edu.

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