Credibility of UCLA university?

  • Hi, everyone, especially those who based in the US. I am curious if anyone knows anything about the university UCLA (he University of California)?
    I am currently looking for an online course for creative writing. UCLA offers a course that uses the text book I am currently reading (Writing Fiction, A guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway), and the course description fits with what I am looking for really well. It is not a specific picture book writing course, but a writing for beginner course, which focus on the foundation and the craft of writing.

    But it is hard to trust a paragraph of course description along. So I wonder if anyone knows about the university reputation/credibility? I will also do my research of the instructor. 🙂

  • @xin-li UCLA is a legitimate school here in the U.S. I don't know much about it because I don't live in that area and never considered going there, but I have definitely heard of it.

  • @Kim-Rosenlof thanks Kim. I emailed them to see if I can take just one course without being enrolled student.

  • If you are not looking to get credits or add to a degree have you looked into creative writing on skillshare? My sister was looking into doing creative writing recently and skillshare has a lot of options for that.

  • You might like to look at Julia Donaldson's course on the BBC. If you want to write a picture book she is an expert. She has sold 27million children's books in the UK between 2010 and 2019.

    Is she popular in the USA? I've been wondering whether there is a big difference between what is popular in the UK compared to the USA.

  • @geekinm I recognize some of her books like the Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, so she is known in the U.S. I didn't know she was from the UK. Thanks for sharing the link to her class!

  • @K-Flagg thank you for the tips. I considered skillshare class as well. But after taking live classes from svs, I have a hard time seeing skillshare can provide learning experience that is to that level. I want to join a class that students are engaged with each other's work, providing feedbacks, and a sense of learning together. SKillshare and other online video-on-demand learning style does not provide that experience. Since you can watch the video anytime, you are not really in a class with anyone.

    @geekinm thank you for the tip. The BBC course is not available yet in my part of the world. I would be interested in purchasing that class when it is available globally :-). One of my critique partners in the UK side mentioned this course 🙂

    Apart from looking for children's book specific writing courses, I am looking into writing course for beginners in general. I believe I need to be a good writer first, in order to be a good children's book writer. I guess everyone's learning style is very different, I like to start from the basic and general, then I can go specific when I feel like I got a hang of the basic.

  • @xin-li The 12x12 picture book group is very supportive. Along with providing seminars and great community links, it has a critique forum where writers trade critiques with each other (you put up your story and critique at least three other stories, and everyone tries to do the same). It isn't a course, but it is a great place to get feed back and work with other people. There's an illustrators group too (which is actually where I learned about SVS :). They only open registration at the start of the new year, though. But I'd recommend looking into it!

  • @xin-li UCLA is a top university around here, its reputation comes from good programs and research in each field. UCLA Extension is affiliated with UCLA in a very small way that I cannot remember (it may be that they use the university campus for some of their classes, not sure) but is a separate institution entirely. Many UCLA students take UCLA Extension courses for various reasons, sometimes to fill in classes for a requirement, but keep in mind it allows for taking a single class up to a certificate because it is what we call 'continuing education' rather than a university offering full programs.

    UCLA Extension has a pretty good reputation around here because the writing classes they offer are by working professionals. The screenwriting classes tend to be taught by people in the film industry and obviously that is strong here.

    I have combed through their writing classes because although I am currently a member 12 X 12, I understand this problem of not wanting to learn to write for PBs specifically, just wanting to learn to write. The benefit of looking at a program like UCLA Extension is that their classes can really meet a very specific need. There are classes in writing picture books, but I think it's not suited to me because an example of what it's like is the svs course on writing children's books. It's so helpful, one of my favorites, and the teacher used to teach at UCLA Extension, but my process is different when I am illustrating while writing.

    I searched and searched (and will check out some of the suggestions in this thread) but for now I am just focused on making sure I take time to write a lot, to really focus on it. It's possible that what I'm looking for is a class that would be part of a program for creative writing, and in that case, I would need writing samples to apply to take that class just as I would need illustration samples to take some of the courses that used to only be part of illustration programs. I do think UCLA Extension can really help a person get tons of writing done, but for now I have chosen to study writing I admire and try to do the writing version of master studies instead of a class.

  • @carolinebautista thank you so much for this thoughtful notes.
    UCLA extension is what I am looking at now. I am glad to hear that the university has a good reputation. The class is taught by a poet - I consider the best writers are always poets (hehe).

    Are you in a writer's critique group by any chance? or know if any beginner writer needs critique partners? I am not specificlly looking for someone who I can share picture book dummies and bounce off ideas (I currently use my agent, mentor, and some writer friends for more in-depth dummy critique, which I think works well so far). I am more looking for writers who can read my writing excises, and provide feedbacks, much like here in svs forum that we help each other to see if a drawing have good value, is the perspective feels right, etc...

    @Cayleen thanks for the tip. I might consider 12x12 at later point.

  • @xin-li I would love to have a writer's critique group for beginning to write, and this is what I can't seem to find anywhere, not even in 12 X 12 (partly because many are not beginning like me, and it is completely focused on picture book manuscripts or dummies). The idea behind what I want to do is to build writing skills through assignments I give myself - so I would take a poem or a short film's screenplay, study its structure and then assign myself something to write based on that study. I thought that at UCLA extension, the class I might like to eventually take is writing for short films, so you can see how that would not work with PB writer's groups either. For now, I do not have the money set aside for that, so thought I should build up some reading/writing habits first. It would be exactly like this forum, but for writing. So if you would be interested in starting one with me, please let me know!

  • @carolinebautista
    I would love to starting a writer critique group with you, focus on critiquing short writing excises and help each other to hold accountability for keep going with writing. Maybe a helpful thing could be something similar to svs´s months prompt - having an assignment each week/by week/month (which ever time frame works the best for the group), and people do the same assignment with their own take. It would not be a contest, just to have the common theme to work on, so we are in the same thinking space :-).

    I love your idea of taking a poem or a short film and study it, and write something based on it.

  • I don't want to contradict other people's advice here, but 12 x 12 isn't a fit for everyone. I tried it and was "successful" in that I wrote 12 picture books in 12 months (actually, I wrote 16). As for the 12 x 12 critique groups, I joined three over the year: the longest one lasted two months before crashing. Among other issues, it's very easy to get lost in the mob. This was four years ago, and I did contact the woman who runs 12 x 12 about the issues, so it may be wonderful now. The group is more for beginning writers than published.

    I joined SVS afterwards, and the amount and quality of the content available is so mind boggling that it leaves 12 x 12 looking pretty thin (yes, I know it's apples to oranges to compare illustration to writing).

    If later you are looking for critique partners/groups, you can join SCBWI Blueboard for free without being a member ( ) A few critique partners didn't work out long term through the Blueboard, but the online group I'm in now is still going strong after three years. We also discuss craft and publishing, beyond our own writing.

    It's admirable that you're starting with foundation courses. Creative writing courses are as varied as the writers running them.

  • @RachelArmington I completely agree with you about creative writing courses are as varied as the writers running them. :-).

    My first thought was actually reaching out to authors I admire, and asking them for mentorship. I got as far as getting a zoom meeting with a poet and a creative writing professor who did an equivalent of art portfolio review for my writings. I sent him 3 stories and one complete picture book dummy. He was very kind, provided me detailed feedback and gave me pointers on what I can do to improve my writing in general. It was an enlightening experience for me. I would love to have some more sessions similar to this. That is why I was motivated to look for a creative writing course.

    I might continue emailing out to writers I admire, asking for advice.

    I will keep in mind about your 12 x12 experience when I evaluate if I want to join the course. I am not very keen on over-emphasising quantity. I believe milage is really important for beginner writers. But I also believe everyone learns differently.

    I did not know about the SCBWI blueboard at all. Thank you so much for mentioning here. I might go there to try my luck at later point. As I have decided to focus on the basic, and not jump into picture book writing right way (I do write stories for picture books whenever I have ideas, but it would not be my focus in my writing journey at this moment. I want to go back to the fundamentals for at least 6 months or so. Also I will use this time to build up habit for writing and reading)

    May I ask how big is your critique group, and how did you form the group in the beginning?

  • @xin-li After three months in 12 x 12, I started watching the critique group openings on the Blueboard. I didn't really see the perfect fit (I wanted a group covering chapter books and picture books) so a few months later I started my own post on the Blueboard asking if anyone was interested. (I was also lurking around KidLit411 which also has critique and portfolio exchanges).

    We had six people sign up initially. After two months, two members faded out, in that they didn't feel comfortable enough to share their work and eventually stop replying to emails. I totally understand that. It's difficult enough to share work in person, where people can watch your expressions and get a better understanding of you. It's harder when it's just words in front of total strangers. Sometimes people don't respond as kindheartedly as they might.

    Some critique groups want everyone to be at the same level (it's debatable how that can be judged), others go with a group with different levels of experience (which is what I hoped for).

    In the end it happened that I was the one with the most experience (traditionally and self published, editing experience, worked inside a traditional publishing house, college creative writing courses). Another member has self-published, edited, and taken courses (one of the chapter book manuscripts she recently shared is by far the best thing to come out of our group). The other two members hadn't been published. One had been writing for several years, and one was a novice who had just started the year before. I wasn't sure how the novice would work out, but because the group was small, I figured we could give her extra input if necessary.

    A few months in, I found out that the novice was being harassed by the other unpublished writer. The other unpublished writer was trying to get her to quit the group and asked me to kick the novice out (of course, we kept the novice and suggested that the other writer find another group).

    We debated trying to find more members but in the end decided to instead increase how much we share each month (originally it was one chapter or picture book a month). Now we share two to four chapters a month (still just one picture book though, because they often take more thought).

    The novice turned out to be an excellent beta reader and her writing has improved markedly. Over the years, she's paid a lot to different writing programs, but she follows through and gets as much as she conceivably can out of them. She is impatient for experience.

  • Hi @xin-li, I don't have any experience with UCLA Extension but I did take the Writing For Children course through the Children’s Book Writing Program at UCSD Extension. I specifically picked that course because it was taught by Marcie Colleen, a published author of picture and chapter books. I really enjoyed the course and we used the Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul in the class which was a great resource. I'm not sure if she still teaches that course but UCSD at least has a specific Children's Book Program. Hope this helps!

  • @RachelArmington Thank you so much for sharing your experience of setting up and running a writers critique group. I especially appreciate that you shared handling with difficult situations within a critique group. Thank you so much. The information will definitely come handy in the future for me 🙂

  • Thank you so much @Kerisa-Greene. I will definitely check out the course. I read through Ann Whitford Paul's book last summer. I did not get out as much as I would like to. I feel this type of book really need a study group or a class to go through and do all the excise in order to really digest the information in the book. It is good to know there is a course available for that :-).

  • @RachelArmington It's not so much comparing illustration to writing when 12 X 12 is an accountability group and svs is about education. Those two would be difficult to compare - with 12 X 12, the monthly webinars are set up to help people stay motivated and teach different aspects as they go through the year writing. They don't say what the webinars are, nor do they promise that the fundamentals of picture book writing will be covered, so it's too difficult to compare to what SVS offers.
    I'm not sure which issues you had, but it does sound like 12 X 12 is the same. There are a lot of people and the facebook group moves too fast for me, but I've gotten a lot more than I expected out of it. Many of the members have done 12 X 12 for a few years already, so it's meant for all levels, just to helpyou keep writing. I knew it was an accountability group and didn't hold myself to doing 12 picture books, so maybe my expectations were very low, but it has still helped me write more.

  • Hi Caroline, as I said above, 12x12 isn't a fit for everyone (no group is a fit for everyone). I'm really glad that it has helped you so much. I've suggested 12 x 12 to writers who are looking for motivation or community. I was already a published author when I joined, and my main goal was to find a solid critique group. I jumped between the forum and Facebook group, but the critique groups dissolved pretty quickly or were I moved on to the Blueboard, where it was easier (for me personally) to find groups and partners.

    I absolutely didn't mean to compare the two beyond the amount of content available. SVS offers tremendous resources and encouragement, even to people who aren't paying members.
    At least when I was a member four years ago, 12 x 12 only gave access to their webinars for a month or so. My family teased me that it was actually 12 x 11 because J.H. skipped one month (J.H. even joked that no one probably noticed). This was during summer, when there was a definite drop in administrative presence.

    Personally, I use SVS for both accountability and education. I wasn't expecting any education from 12 x 12. The only webinar where I learned anything was one by the Fan brothers, which was a tremendous catch.

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