As Judith Prager walks into a classroom, she can’t help but notice the deviation of learners from what you would expect of a typical writing student.
Doctors, lawyers and other professionals by day, these people battle Los Angeles freeways and eat dinner in their cars simply to come out for a writing class. An instructor at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program for more than 20 years, Prager said writing almost anything serves a therapeutic purpose.
“There really is something inside of us that wants to tell stories and express ourselves,” Prager said. “We want to create places to do that.”
The 13th annual Writers Faire, sponsored by the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, provides panels and workshops for the greater Los Angeles writing community. The event even explores pertinent topics, ranging from screenwriting to the blurry line between fiction and nonfiction, and focuses on specific skills, such as developing interesting characters and keeping creative momentum until the end of a novel.
“On one level, it’s a great way to promote our upcoming courses, and it’s also an exclusive opportunity to hear from professional writers on topics that are relevant to creative writers and screenwriters,” said Katy Flaherty, coordinator of the Writers Faire.
The event consists of 24 mini panels and classes, each with a duration of 40 minutes, including 10 minutes of Q&A with the presenter. Prager and Harry Youtt, who has taught at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program for more than 20 years, have presented together at the Writers Faire several times, and said they even attend panels themselves to take notes and absorb the different instructional information.
Between titles such as “Writing with a Day Job” and “The Business of Screenwriting,” panels address practical aspects of writing as well as the process of crafting a text.
This year, Prager and Youtt’s panel is titled “Forging Creativity into Fiction Craft,” and will consist of a lecture and a writing assignment, which the two instructors will give writers feedback on.
“We like to draw back to kindergarten and recover the confidence of creativity. In kindergarten, the teacher can ask you to do anything, and you’re brash enough to just create: Write a story, tell a story ““ anything is possible,” Youtt said. “We do that in the classroom. It’s about unleashing people to get into what they always were capable of.”
Between the panel instructors and attending writers, Prager said the entire event serves not only as a fountain of information but also as a networking opportunity for the publication process. Additionally, watching professors on a panel tell stories about their ideas and philosophies helps UCLA Extension students or potential students determine class enrollment decisions.
“It allows potential students to put their toe in and get to know instructors,” Prager said. “If you’re deciding on a class through a catalog, then you haven’t really seen a face or heard a voice to see how a certain instructor likes to teach.”
During the Writers Faire, the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program will also offer participants the chance to enroll in its writing courses with a 10 percent discount.
The Writers Faire will incorporate writing resources from outside the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, such as The Greater Los Angeles Writers Society. The event will also host a panel consisting of representatives from creative writing graduate programs, such as UC Riverside at Palm Desert and USC.
“Whether it’s coming from people who write movies, people who write short stories or people who have great ideas on how to make a comedy work, everyone who attends gets to pull knowledge from many places,” Prager said. “And when you get to write with other people and listen to what they do, the comparison really brightens your eyes to what you could be creating.”