I took an extension class on writing and getting published at Berkeley last week. Great to be back on my college campus. As you can see from the pictures I’ve posted, I went camera crazy before class, during breaks, and after class. The class was really informative and helpful. In the afternoon, we had a panel of Bay Area writers speak about their experiences and tips on getting published.
There were about twenty people in the class–only three men. I’d say the median age was 45. After the morning lecture, the first exercise was to brainstorm terrific first lines. We worked for about five minutes, then went around the room and shared.
Now, I know that I went to a crazy school, but I figured this extension class (open to anyone) would be tame and boring. I was wrong. I guess the more you lax the standards, the more likely you are to get weirdos.
A prim and proper-looking lady in her mid-forties raised her hand, cleared her throat, then spoke softly. The instructor asked her to speak up.
“Oh, sorry. Yes. So my opener is, ‘Why is it that when Republicans are in power, women suffer?’ “
I swear to God I almost laughed out loud. Everyone looked at her a little surprised. The instructor, furrowed her eyebrows, then responded, “Well, ok. That’s definitely a political opinion, but ok. Who else would like to share?” I’ve got to hand it to her. The instructor must be skilled in managing these sticky situations.
I thought that was entertaining enough, but there’s more. Our second exercise was to continue with our first lines and drum up a catchy first paragraph. We scribbled away for about ten minutes, then went around the room and shared.
A young Asian girl who was sitting directly in front of me raised her hand. She mentioned she was trying to get into law school and needed to write a convincing essay on why she wanted to be a lawyer. Like the Republican-hater, she too was very quiet. I couldn’t hear a single word she said and I was sitting closest to her! After she mumbled a few sentences from her first paragraph, she started bawling. I mean, really bawling. I swear to God I almost peed in my pants. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a really sensitive person. I cry at the smallest things. But we were in class in a room full of complete strangers.
Everyone was looking at her and when they were looking at her, they were looking at me too since I was right there. I tried to hold my smirks in, but I was seriously on the verge of laughter. It was so off-the-wall. Then, the women in the room gathered around her, put their arms around her, and tried to comfort her. I felt like I was on the show ‘Punk’d.’ Turns out, the girl was imprisoned as a child in Vietnam because her parents were activists who spoke out against the government. She’s actually the poster-child for political activism.
Not what I was expecting for a day-long writing class. Well worth the $150.