Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Michael Luongo! Michael is teaching an online section of Personal Essay I (Reg# 366423) this Spring, and sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and his upcoming course.

What sparks your creativity?
I think creativity can come from anywhere – but it definitely comes from being away from distractions like cell phones, etc. I like to watch people, listen to conversations, see things around me. Look for color patterns others aren’t noticing. Also, just getting out and not being in the apartment or house – and off of screens. Let something capture your imagination and then from that, see where it can lead you if you let it sit in your head and go where it needs to go.

What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
I think it is important to get away from distractions – I find darkness, just me and my computer and maybe a candle or a very low watt table lamp helps block out distractions – it almost sounds romantic in a way, me and my computer and candle light, but it is about blocking things out. I also sometimes try to turn off the phone or find a time when my mind is not racing.  Anything that is what I call mind calming is what helps me to write. This is harder and harder to do the more tech is in our lives.

What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
Among my favorite authors is Richard Kapuscinski – a Polish journalist whom I have only read in translation – via Klara Glowczewska, who formerly was editor in chief of Conde Nast Traveler – whether her writing or his, or some combination, in English, his descriptions of historical events with so much detail are simply amazing. He also brings out a world in his books that is in many ways largely unknown to those of us who grew up during the Cold War – often he describes places once off limits to many of us, adding to the sense of intrigue in his work.
My favorite movie, speaking of the Cold War and being a person who came of age in the 1980s is Pretty in Pink – I can watch it again and again, and often do. There is something about John Hughes films, but then, I am Generation X and Molly Ringwald is our goddess.

What’s your favorite quote about writing?
It’s more about teaching and education, but it’s “if you can read this, thank a teacher.”

What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
One of the things that excites me most about teaching for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program is that very long ago, in the late 1980s, I took classes through the Extension – in person, live, in Los Angeles, long before there would have been the idea of taking classes online in the way we do now. So for me, teaching here is like coming home, coming full circle – and I just find that so exciting.

What do you hope your students get from your course?
I want my students to find a joy in writing, and in particular about writing about their own lives. It’s my goal to help students find their inner voice, and freedom to write about themselves, in clear, coherent ways, and I hope they find writing to be cathartic, freeing, and a way to sort out their emotions. I want them also to find the courage to begin writing, as often, that is a fear many writers have. They need to find the courage to simply start to write and ignore all the barking dogs and distractions and excuses and to simply begin. That is what I hope my students get from my course.

Anything else?
Writing should be a joy and learning to write, to be better at one’s craft is time consuming. Writers must know that very often, taking the time to write is more than just having good ideas and thoughts, but the courage and the discipline to keep at it, to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboards and build through their stories.

Thank you to Michael for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!

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