Hundreds of certificate graduates descended upon UCLA’s Royce Hall on June 29 for the 2012 UCLA Extension Certificate Graduation Ceremony. The audience was packed with graduates, their loved ones and their friends who came to cheer the graduates on. Attendees were treated to a keynote speech by Judge Elizabeth Allen White, as well as several songs sung by a group of 6 acapella singers. (Check out live video footage of the event here!)
The Writers’ Program recently spoke with two of this year’s creative writing certificate graduates, Eldon Tucker and Ishrat Austin, both graduates of the Writers’ Program certificate in Creative Writing with an Emphasis in Fiction, to find out more about their experience in the program.
Writers’ Program: So tell us, what was it like?
Eldon Tucker: I was exposed to all the technical aspects of fiction writing and had a chance to practice them, making me ready to focus simply on my writing.
Ishrat Austin: My learning experiences at the Writers’ Program were above anything I had expected. Not only did I learn innumerable techniques in writing, I was also introduced to a wide variety of literature which is an essential part of any writer’s training. The program exposed me to professionals from a variety of backgrounds with whom I shared a common love of writing. Critiques from the teachers as well as the students were helpful throughout the two years.
Wp’: Are there any particular courses and/or teachers in your experience that stand out?
ET: Lisa Cron helped me get to the heart of good storytelling, showing me what makes a good story as opposed to a lot of “so what” writing.” In Novel Writing V and in the Novel Mentorship Program, Lynn Hightower helped me bring clarity and completeness to my novel, turning rough materials into polished writing that engaged the reader. I’d recommend that writing students take at least one class from each of them. I also enjoyed the experience of attending two of the Writers Studios, each with a four-day workshop setting and the shared enthusiasm of a dozen other writers.
IA: I enjoyed each and every class. From short story to novel writing classes, dialogue, memoir, the classes are too numerous to count. I cannot say enough about the Writers Studio which I attended 3 years in a row.
Since all of the teachers had so much to add to my knowledge I hate to leave anyone out. The names which stand out for me are Les Plesko, Mark Sarvas, Stephen Sohmer, Daniel Jaffe, Maria Amparo Escandon, and most recently Michael Buckley at the Writer’s Studio. My only regret is that my program ended. I am now a certificate holder headed for an MFA, and I won’t have time for more classes at UCLA Extension.
Wp’: What are you working on now?
ET: I’ve written four short stories, and am in the fifth and final draft of a science fiction/fantasy novel that I’m about two-thirds through revising. I’m hoping to have it ready to send out in a few months.
IA: I am on the second draft of my novel, The End of Silence, which I started with the program.
Wp’: Do you have any advice for new writers?
ET: New writers should read widely in the genre they love, and they should sample a diversity of other styles of writing as well. This grounds them in what they’re aiming for and gives them perspective of how it fits in within the big picture of writing. They should spread out their classes so that they can take the time to fully enjoy and benefit from each one, not rushing through them to quickly accumulate credits. The learning and experience is what needs to be maximized. And they should get a peer group of friends or fellow writers to support them in the writing process. Peer pressure and positive feedback help greatly with maintaining one’s motivation to keep writing.
IA: My advice to new writers is: believe in yourself and don’t feel discouraged with the critiques offered in class. You are with other writers to learn. Take advantage of people who are reading your work with interest. You know you are a writer, but like everything worth having, writing is also a discipline .Attending formal classes in writing gives structure to your work and is likely to enhance every aspect of your writing without stifling your voice.
Because of the Writers’ Program, I am in the final stages of my novel and I have also been accepted to a prestigious MFA program. I encourage all new writers to look at the program as a greatly beneficial step in taking them toward their writing goals.
Congratulations to Eldon and Ishrat, and to all the 2012 UCLA Extension certificate graduates!
Sara Bond is the Program Assistant for Creative Writing.