Thursday, March 1, 2012

22 of 30: Writing - My Short Stint At UCLA

I enrolled in a writing class at UCLA. I’m not really sure what the stronger motive is… To learn how to write better – or to be able to say that I actually went to UCLA.
Either way, win-win, right?

It was a beginners creative writing class and we met once a week for three hours. I really wanted to just be able to see if I had what it takes to write – not for a living, but at least on the side. Maybe have an online column, or have a popular blog like Julie from Julie and Julia that I could eventually earn money from --- OR turn into a movie!

I needed fundamentals. Or advanced fundamentals? I was expecting to learn about format, punctuations, point of view, etc. I wanted to be better as a ‘memoir’ writer… or even just a blogger. U know? Well, after the first meeting, I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

My teacher, let’s call her – Professor Trelawney, is everyone’s English teacher in high school. She has her hair up in a messy bun, wears cat-eye spectacles which she could never find, even if they’re literally being used as her headband, uses LAYERS of scarves in 80 degree weather, has post-it notes all over her books, and speaks in an airy tone… like Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. Now, Professor Trelawney is a Novelist, and was under the impression that my classmates and I were in search of the inspiration to write our first novels. In fact, if I hadn’t said anything to her about wanting to focus on memoirs, she would have gone and taught the whole class how to be just like her. Luckily, a few other people in my class felt the same way as I did. Sooo thanks to my big mouth (this is actually one of the few instances where it came in pretty handy) the curriculum changed to suit everyone’s needs. YAY!


Unfortunately, you can’t really teach an old dog new tricks… so even if she tried, it still felt like we were being groomed to be the next Jane Austen or Dan Brown.

Nevertheless, I did have fun, and I enjoyed the class immensely. We had exercises every week that allowed us to explore what kind of style we had as writers. We were asked to read our work out loud for everyone to critique – which would normally petrify me, especially since I never really felt like writing is my strong suit (hence the writing class) – but they turned out to be really fun AND helpful. Everyone had a tendency to be really positive in their comments, and Professor Trelawny knew how to give constructive criticism without making us feel bad, which is really good. Plus, it was really interesting to hear and distinguish the differences between me and my classmates. After about the second or third class, I was already able to identify the sci-fi dudes who wrote mostly about aliens and x-file-esque plots, the tearjerker types who wrote mostly about their mothers who had cancer or some other sad disease, and the weird, dark and twisted types who wrote about pain, anguish, anger and death (seriously, there was this girl who wrote GRAPHICALLY about her grandfather’s death through her 7 year old eyes that included words like ‘gaping mouth’ and ‘stench of the dead” – freaking insane.)

Through that class, I discovered that my style is sort of like a comedic memoir. On almost all of the exercises, instead of making up a story like most of my classmates did, I wrote about experiences I’ve had that are apparently really funny (every time I read my assignment – they all laughed out loud). It was nice! I mean I suppose I did write with that intention, and I chuckle to myself while writing… But to have others actually appreciate the humor --- that was really cool. They were particularly fond of my celebrity-stalking encounters.

Our final project was to write a five page story, and we were to read it out loud in class, printing out copies for everyone so we could all follow along and make comments on the margin. We were asked to underline passages we liked, or underline words or sentences we didn’t think belonged, or make remarks and stuff… Pretty intimidating.
And as predicted, Sci Fi Guy wrote about an alien encounter of the nth kind, Tear Jerker Lady wrote about a mother daughter relationship dealing with Alzheimers, and Dark Twisted Daria wrote a 5 page version of what she has already written about her grandfather’s death through her 7 year old eyes. It was painful.

I wrote about my encounter with Gary Oldman at the Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard. My story is about 80% factual. Other minor details were modified to make the story more entertaining. ;)
(Read my final project HERE. But only if you want to. It’s not mandatory. )

Anyway, reading it out loud was a lot of fun because of all the giggles and the laughter coming from my audience. They seemed to have really enjoyed it, and they wrote the BEST comments. They said stuff like – “You’re really funny,” or “This cracked me up!” and “I love your style!”
Even Professor Trelawney cracked up a few times. I noticed her chuckling and covering her mouth with one of her scarves.

So yeah, I guess you could say I had a really good experience in that class. I mean experiencing it is one thing --- but being in UCLA… in that campus ---  is just – WOW.
It’s completely insane how beautiful that University is. I don’t know if those kids who go there know how lucky and privileged they really are to be going there. In my opinion, it’s prettier than Harvard.
I’d go back there just to eat a bagel under a tree. Seriously beautiful… 

But anyway… after this project is over, I fully intend to take another writing class there. This time, I’m picking a class that focuses more on memoir writing. :)
I can’t wait!