Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Brittany Ackerman! Brittany is teaching a section of Personal Essay I (Reg# 383987) in person on the UCLA campus, Wednesdays at 7pm PT this Winter. She sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and her upcoming course.

What sparks your creativity?
My creativity is being sparked all the time, honestly, but it’s more about whether or not I am paying attention. I get a lot of ideas while driving, which isn’t ideal from behind the wheel, but I’m fond of using my voice-to-text app to convert my grandiose ideas into text that I can read and decipher later. I find that moving my body can increase my awareness for ideas, for example when I’m on a hike outdoors and can let my thoughts generate and travel freely.

What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
A lot of writing is about discipline and choice. It can be difficult to consistently make the “right” choices, the ones that lead to me sitting down and getting to work, but the more and more that I practice, the easier it gets, the more it begins to feel more natural. I’m also very big on rewarding myself for a job well done such as afternoon coffee pick-me-ups or indulging in a sweet treat at the end of a good writing day.

What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
My absolute favorite book that I’ve ever read is Jo Ann Beard’s In Zanesville. The book follows a year in the life of a fourteen-year-old girl in the 70’s who is a late bloomer, a bookworm, and is hilarious. She gets by with the help of her best friend who is equally, if not more, self-conscious, and the two experience the ups and downs of girlhood in one of my favorite, formative books. It’s a book that has become a comfort novel for me, the world of which I want to live inside of and inhabit forever. Those are the books that I hope to write, too, books that feel nostalgic and speak as a voice of their own time.

What’s your favorite quote about writing?
“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” – David Lynch from Catching the Big Fish

Who do you wish you could write like (or: Whose writing discipline do you wish you had)?
There are so many writers that I admire and whose style I often try to emulate in my writing practice.  I love how Sheila Heti writes with depth and honesty, how Melissa Broder writes at the poignant intersection of humor and pain, how Sarah Gerard writes through trauma and grief and isn’t afraid to bear witness terrible things on the page. And in terms of writing discipline, over the past year I have adapted Jami Attenberg’s practice of writing 1,000 words a day and it has been a realistic and fruitful way to achieve my writing goals.

What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
I have a special connection with UCLA as I took my first ever Creative Writing class during a summer program when I was fifteen. I have always envisioned returning in some way and giving back to the place where I gained so much love and respect for art. I’m excited to teach at the Writers’ Program in order that I might help inspire students to love and respect the craft of writing as much as I have grown to, and I hope to impart some of my knowledge and experience to writers at any stage.

What do you hope your students get from your course?
I hope that students gain confidence in themselves and their words and that they can utilize my guidance as a soundboard and a safe place to explore ideas—from ordinary to outlandish—in hopes of creating a prosperous community of writers.

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

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