Sometimes it seems the past year-ish has made time stand still. Other times, it’s like a year happened in a day. For the Writers’ Program staff, a clear marker of time passage has always been the graduation of our UCLA work studies. Throughout the years, these hardworking, creative, and energetic student workers have been invaluable members of the WP team. As the 2021 academic year comes to a close, we (very sadly) have to say farewell to Alexis Harmon and Noemi VanSlyke, who have been with us since the Fall of 2019.
This particular pair of work studies have contributed to our WP blog (and done so much to assist with our social media channels), so we couldn’t let them go without one last contribution.
What’s your favorite memory of working in the WP (aka why you’ll miss us)?
Alexis: As a transfer student, I was nervous that I would miss out on the coveted American University Experience™. I had only two years to live out a cluster of vague college aspirations that I had collected from TVs and movies, but with no friends on campus I had no idea how to go about achieving them. With the pandemic, two years turned into six months, and suddenly my time as an undergraduate is coming to an end. I do have fond memories from my brief time at UCLA: the food, walks through Westwood, pausing to take pictures of the sunset from the top of Janss steps. But my time at the Writers’ Program will most definitely hold a special place in my heart.
To say that being a work study has been the best job I’ve ever had would be an understatement I think what I’ll miss most will be chats with the other staff. The WP staff are some of the funniest, creative and most supportive people I’ve met at my time at UCLA, and I’ll always be thankful to them for being so welcoming and kind.
Noemi: My favorite memories of working in the Writers’ Program these past two years have been playing mini-basketball in the office, watching Chae’s cat-like antics from across the desk, getting to eat out at restaurants with everyone (Bollywood Bites in Westwood, the first time I tried Indian food!) and getting to work at the Writers Studio and drop in on classes with some amazing teachers. There were so many—I couldn’t choose just one!
What’s your favorite local bookstore and/or movie theater?
A: Living in Los Angeles, there are a million things to see and do, and nowhere near enough time to do them all. But one of the places that really pulled me in and made me want to come back every week was The Last Bookstore. It’s not so much a bookstore as it is an experience, with nearly every genre you can think of, as well as an upper floor mapped out like an art exhibit. If it weren’t for parking limits, I could probably spend a full 24 hours (as well as my entire life savings) in that store.
N: My favorite local bookstore is called Stories in Echo Park. It’s pretty small and definitely lesser known than some of the larger bookstores like Skylight Books, and it also serves coffee/tea/food and has an outdoor patio area where you can try out a book to see if you actually want to buy it. They also have a $1 sale rack outside where I’ve found some really great treasures!
What’s your favorite read of the last year-ish?
A: I think of the books that I’ve read this year, my favorite has to be one that I finished this week called A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Eagan. I think it’s one of the best books I’ve had to read for a class. Each of the thirteen chapters showcases a different character in a different time and location than the last – there’s even a whole chapter written as a PowerPoint. It was such a quick and interesting read, and I loved how each story linked with one another.
N: My favorite read this year has been Trust Exercise by Susan Choi because it has a really cool meta-fiction twist halfway through the story which sets it apart from other novels. Its themes center around the #MeToo movement and I just found the quality of her prose to be really beautiful.
What’s your favorite quote on/about writing?
A: One thing that I really enjoyed about working in the Writers’ Program was curating quotes and writing prompts for our social media. Over the past two years I’ve come across hundreds of quotes about writing, life and books that have resonated with me. One of my favorites comes from Naomi Alderman: “Remind yourself, every day, that you’re doing this to try to find something out about yourself, about the world, about words and how they fit together. Writing is investigation. Just keep seeking.” To me, this quote encapsulates why we write. We live in a big, confusing, beautiful world, and one of the only ways to make sense of it is to get it out on paper.
N: My favorite quote about writing right now is one by Ira Glass. It’s kind of a long one so I’ll shorten it a bit, but the full quote can be found here: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/309485-nobody-tells-this-to-people-who-are-beginners-i-wish
Here’s my more concise version: “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”