“I always begin with an emphasis on the positive…and I have yet to find a student who didn’t have some strength.”
A light has gone out in the universe. Linda Palmer, one of UCLA Extension Writers’ Program’s most cherished instructors, has died after a heroic battle with cancer on Sunday, April 21, 2013.
When Linda applied to UCLA Extension to teach—I still have her letter of inquiry dated March 2, 1990—she had already been a published novelist; an award-winning nature photographer; the Production Vice President of Tri-Star Pictures; a network soap opera writer; and at the time she came in for her interview, a produced feature film writer. I will never forget the Writers’ Program door swinging open and seeing Linda—resplendent in a turquoise silk dress—stride across the office suite with grace and confidence. Almost immediately, I knew she had the intelligence, expertise, and communication skills that would make her a slam dunk in the classroom. What I gradually learned over the years is what an extraordinarily kind, generous, and positive person she was. A sweetheart. A gem.
Linda stepped into her first Writers’ Program classroom on September 25, 1990 and taught almost continuously (a total of 126 courses) over the next 23 years. For the first 15 years, she taught feature film writing, and in 1994, received the UCLA Extension Outstanding Instructor Award in Screenwriting. After many years in the film industry, Linda reinvented herself—this time as a successful mystery novelist, publishing eight novels in eight years. Her mentor, who became a close friend, was Claire Carmichael, whose advanced Writers’ Program novel writing workshops Linda took for many years, and after whom her first series’ heroine was named.
Without missing a single quarter, Linda moved from teaching screenwriting to teaching novel writing—and in 2010, won the UCLA Extension Outstanding Instructor Award in Creative Writing. The day after the ceremony, Linda wrote me this email:
I should have headed this note “From a grateful Linda Palmer.” Yesterday’s award luncheon was a marvelous experience for me. Beautifully done, but even more special was that the room was full of genuine emotion and appreciation.
It is a strange thing to admit, from someone who makes her living using words, but I don’t know if I can adequately express how much yesterday—and your beautiful (and too generous) introduction—meant to me. I have so much joy teaching the classes, and so much deep satisfaction watching students grow in their craft. The fact that teaching has also made me a better writer is an embarrassment of riches.
Thank you for this honor that I will always cherish. Thank you for such a very happy 20 years as an instructor in your program. I will be here for as long as you will have me.
Rest in peace, sweet Linda. Your light continues to shine through everyone whom you touched.
Director, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program