Just over 3 years ago, I decided to go back to school. I wanted to do something more, challenge myself beyond just acting and writing material for myself and others to perform. I have always written and have been fortunate enough to have had some of my material produced for the stage and screen, and radio, but creating work for myself is one thing, while creating work that stands alone and doesn't have me reading or performing it, is a completely different thing all together.
I enrolled in UCLA Extension Writers' Program, signing up for the 3 year certificate program with a focus in long form fiction, or novel writing. It was at a time when we didn't have the money to do so, and the idea of spending countless hours at home writing, instead of hustling at a job, didn't seem like the wisest decision and yet, I did it. And my husband did it. He worked his butt off to allow me the luxury of devoting myself to mastering this new craft, encouraging me every step of the way. I studied on-line so that I could still audition and do freelance jobs, and I wrote and worked harder than I ever have before. I met some wonderful writers, and some of my classmates became friends, I met my mentor, and I worked with professors who were not only hugely successful as authors, but gifted and generous teachers. I felt part of a community, and was proud to finally call myself a writer. Not an actor/writer...a WRITER. I finished my first novel and wrote a second. I was accepted into the advanced novel writing workshop. I was also allowed to take film classes, and personal essay writing classes, and with each one felt inspired and encouraged to keep writing.
Yesterday I graduated with distinction. It was a beautiful ceremony at Royce Hall, and Tiffany and Jeff made it feel very special. (I was also spoiled with pressies, like these gorgeous flowers!) I was moved by the nearly full house of graduates and friends and family, the organ music, the speakers, the special guests and musical performance. We applauded and congratulated one another, and the smiles on everyone's face, told me that they too were proud of their accomplishments. And their friends and family were proud of them. Our guest speaker, Marty Panzer, a musical composer and extension teacher who has worked with Barry Manilow for years and has more awards and gold albums than I can count said it best..."Often kids go to school because they have to. It's the next step, or they are expected to. But adults who go back to school, go because they want to. They want to learn. And they are going to give it their all because they are often juggling and sacrificing so much to do so."
He was right. And it was one of the best things I ever did!! And the great thing is, I am still doing it, the learning never stops.