Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Tim Cummings! Tim is teaching Middle Grade Novel I (Reg# 389703) this Winter. Tim is teaching in our Remote online format on Thursdays, 6-9pm PT starting January 19. He sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and his upcoming course.

What sparks your creativity?
What doesn’t? I feel like my brain and heart make stories out of everything I see. This morning, I saw a bent-over parking sign that stirred an entire pot of story stew about how it got that way. It’s relentless. I’m actually working on a new novel about the icky depths some storytellers find themselves sunk to because of their creativity, by no fault of their own — creativity is a powerful force. It’s like gravity.

What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
The story itself. The characters. If I am in the zone when I am writing and the vulnerability and rawness of it is present, the story and the characters lure me back when I can’t find my way to the writing desk. It beckons like a hungry ghost.

What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
Dozens; I read constantly. Here are some faves:
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Live Girls by Beth Nugent,
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell,
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro,
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The HIS DARK MATERIALS books by Phillip Pullman

Watership Down
Flirting with Disaster
Hilary & Jackie
The Descent
The Reader
My Octopus Teacher

What’s your favorite quote about writing?
Toni Morrison – “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Gary Paulsen – “All I have ever wanted in my life is two things: to write and to have readers. It was and still is a wonder to me how writers and readers meet in the pages of a book, how books come from a part of the writer and become part of the reader.”

Who do you wish you could write like (or: Whose writing discipline do you wish you had)?
Ishiguro: The way he amalgamates the speculative, the scientific, with the core of all it means to be human. There is a haunting quality about his work. It’s about how we treat one another.
Pullman: I love the HIS DARK MATERIALS books. I love his invention of daemons (external animalia manifestations of the human soul) and the way he subverts long-dominating dogmatic religious practices.
Donna Tartt: Take 10+ years to write a book, publish it, automatic NYT Bestseller List, make a ton of money, disappear for 10+ years. Lather. Rinse Repeat.

What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
It’s a highly regarded program that people love. Teachers love to teach there, students love to learn from those teachers. UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program is a well-oiled machine. I’m nervous and excited to dive in and meet people in the magic space of books, studying books, and of course, helping students to write them.

What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
I want them to honor their passion for books written for this age group, stories also beloved by adults.
I like that crossover. I want to understand that, rely on that magic to continue writing these kinds of books, and reading them, and teaching them to others. So I hope the see that. Passion in action.

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

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