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Was it worth it to drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning to head over to Los Angeles for the annual UCLA Writer’s Faire? Absolutely!

The Writer’s Faire is a program hosted by the UCLA Extension Writing Program and it’s held annually every August. I first attended this event many years ago as a spy . . . . sssshhhhhhh…….. I say that because I wasn’t writing back then, only dreaming of it, talking about it, pretending to myself that I was serious when it was so much easier to avoid doing anything. I’d yet to make the COMMITMENT to making writing an active part of my life. I’d yet to say “Yes” to allowing my writer-self out of the closet so she could finally breathe after years of being suffocated. And truth be told, when I last attended, I felt a little guilty, a little out-of-place. I wasn’t writing after all, not a word, and so could not in truth call myself “a writer.”

But I also remember being absolutely impressed and moved by what I heard that day and the people who came and gave of themselves and their time so that other people — like me — might have the courage to pick up the pen and do what their hearts had been calling them to do.

Fast forward to today and I AM writing — have been in earnest for a year now — and have made the commitment I was lacking before to be the disciplined writer I knew I could be. Thus, today’s experience was even better than the previous one. I came away energized, inspired, and motivated to recommit myself to my project and to continue to choose to embrace the hard work of writing. The writers I listened to today are regular people, just like you and I, who don’t take themselves too seriously and who truly see themselves as writing mentors. They seem approachable and they encouraged those in attendance to consider becoming a part of a caring and supportive community of people who genuinely want to help others succeed at living a literary life. Many, if not all, of the writers who spoke on today’s panels juggle full-time (non-writing) jobs, families, and lives outside of writing. All of them write and all of them teach in the extension program, in addition to the burden of their daily responsibilities. And all of them at some point or another were students in the Extension Program. They came across, therefore, as very approachable, as having lived through the trenches not once, but on a continual basis, and as being open and willing to share their experiences with others.

This all left me feeling even more strongly the need to give back, to make a gift of my writing life and to build on the sense of community I was gifted with today by sharing what I learned in a series of four short posts over the next week or so. If you’ve been hem-hawing around, worried about getting started, doubting yourself and listening too much to the nagging voice that whispers (or shouts) “What are you thinking?! Who do you think you are? You can’t WRITE!” then I encourage you to stop by for a share in the healthy dose of inspiration and encouragement I received today. Do it for you and do it for the story that is inside you. Cheers!