Tag Archives: UC Berkeley Extension

Try, Try Again

Whatever works for you, I tell my students.  There’s no one way to write, no hard-and-fast rule that guarantees success, as much as we want one.  And yet, certain koan-like statements have made it onto my bulletin board or refrigerator.  My current favorite, from Samuel Beckett quoted by Colum McCann a year or so ago in the New York Times:  “Try. Fail.  Try again.  Fail better.” In my writing classes at UC Berkeley Extension, I emphasize process, the messy trajectory of moving a piece from first draft to polished prose.  So, last July, when Jane Anne Staw mentioned “process” as … Continue reading

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It’s About Time

This post continues discussion of the five components to a writing practice, as proposed by Jane Anne Staw in her excellent talk at UC Berkeley Extension’s Summer Fiction Intensive. How many of us say that we’ll write our novel, story, memoir, exposé, whatever, as soon as we have the time?  I wish I had a bag of peanuts for every time I’ve sat on a plane next to someone who, after asking the inevitable “What do you do?”, said to me, “Oh, I’d write, too, if I had the time.” As if all it takes is time.  Clear the schedule, … Continue reading

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Voices in Our Heads

This week’s post follows up on last week’s discussion of Jane Anne Staw’s talk on the five components of a writing practice, given at the Fiction Writing Intensive this past July at UC Berkeley Extension.  Last week, I wrote about her tips on creating a safe place – both external and internal – for writing.  Today, we’ll look at the next component:  No Uninvited Guests. Some years ago, in grad school, as a T.A. preparing to teach my first class, I went a little nuts.  I spent months reading every book I could find on craft, scouring anthologies for the … Continue reading

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A Safe Place

A few  weeks ago, at the Fiction Writing Intensive offered by UC Berkeley Extension, writer Jane Anne Staw spoke of the five components of a writing practice. The first thing you need, she said, is a place.  A real, physical location where you feel the most relaxed, the least anxious.  She asked the students where they wrote. A home office. A chair in the kitchen, as the morning light moves across the table. At night, after dinner, when the house is quiet. A parked car. “Good.”  Jane Anne nodded.  “Whatever works for you.  It’s important not to judge.” I thought … Continue reading

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Two weeks ago, I heard Daniel Coshnear talk on “The Balanced Life.”  It was the final day of UC Berkeley Extension’s Fiction Writing Intensive, and we’d gathered four panelists to talk about Where to Go From Here:  Sustaining the Momentum.  The idea was to give the students – with varying degrees of writing experience – some practical and inspirational ideas for moving their work forward. Mimi Albert, a writer and longtime UC Extension insructor, talked about online classes.   Heather Cameron gave an overview on publishing.  Deborah Lichtman covered the pros and cons of MFA programs.  And Dan talked about making … Continue reading

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