Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Eileen Cronin! Eileen is teaching Memoir I on the UCLA campus (Reg# 371301) this Winter, and sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and her upcoming course.
What sparks your creativity?
Indie folk music with exceptional lyrics. My favorite contemporary musicians are Jason Isbell, Aimee Mann, Lord Huron, and The Lumineers and my favorite older songwriters are Graham Parsons, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, and Paul Simon. I love voices that emulate everyday people in circumstances we’ve either already navigated ourselves or will one day.
Visual art also stimulates my creativity. I learned so much as a fellow at Vermont Studio Center from the visual artists.
I am always picking up ideas while I’m swimming or working out, too. The best ideas come me when I’m listening to music while working out in a pool.
What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
I have read almost every book by Kazuo Ishiguro and Louise Erdrich. They embody all that makes literature scintillating: compelling characters, distinguished voices, rich settings and plots, dialogue that is realistic, and gorgeous imagery.
My favorite memoirs are Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett about her friendship with Lucy Grealy and Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face.
What excites you most about teaching this course for the Writers’ Program?
Memoir is a great entry point for anyone in creative writing because all writers are exploring their own hearts and minds, regardless of their genre. If you are engaged in a creative enterprise, you need to be build a stimulating atmosphere around you. Aside from writing, I’m a clinical psychologist, so I am naturally inclined to be a nurturer. I think that may be why I love Louise Erdrich. She has a nurturing voice. To read her work is like sitting with her over a cup of tea and listening to her stories in the morning sunlight of her kitchen. I’m drawn to writers who manage to pull off a thoroughly compelling story while simultaneously nurturing the reader.
How does one nurture a reader? They reach inside to pull out some of their most treasured experiences. Then they turn them into art. My favorite writing instructors were phenomenal storytellers in person.
What do you hope your students get from the course?
Memoir l will focus on excellent and diverse examples of published literature by examining the craft concepts of character, dialogue, voice, patterns of imagery, point of view, plot, structure, and setting. We will be workshopping in every class and we will interpret the work through the lenses of various craft concepts.
I hope that students get what they came for and also walk away with a lot of goodies that they hadn’t realized they needed. In other words, students often want to publish a book, become a better writer, or meet interesting and thoughtful people. In a great class, you come away with those things or a good start on those things plus a different way of seeing the world.
More than anything, it’s critical that we laugh along the way.
Thank you to Eileen for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!