WSP Staff Bloggers 2015-2016
Layhannara Tep is the full-time Project Director of Writing Success Program (WSP) here at UCLA. She is a Christmas baby born and raised in Long Beach, California to two refugee parents from Cambodia. Her parents are survivors of the Cambodian genocide, a heavy fact that anchors her in reality. She tries to remember to live a purposeful life because it is a life she almost didn’t have. Her serious side is deeply rooted in her Capricorn being but she’s also a dreamer by nature.
She loves Mindy Kaling, Amy Poelher, Maxine Hong Kingston, Khalid Hosseini, and J.K. Rowling. But Jane Austen reigns supreme. Sunday brunch is her favorite meal. She lives at coffee shops and nap ocean-side. Throughout the last few years, she has worked actively on issues of access, retention, diversity, and curricular reform.
As an undergraduate, she double majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Asian American Studies. She loves stories in all forms: songs, poetry, television shows, film, theater, and books. When a story resonates with her, she feels a connection to the world. As an aspiring writer, she hopes to one day re-create this experience for others.
JoAnna Schindler is the Assistant Director of the Writing Success Program at UCLA, as well as a fiction writer, coffee enthusiast, violinist, and visual artist. Despite being a reluctant reader in her youth, JoAnna discovered her passion for creative writing when she was in middle school, during which she wrote a YA romance novel inspired in part by her infatuation with a popular rock band. She refuses to show this muddle of clichés and spelling errors to another living soul (including herself). However, she looks back at this novel fondly as the beginning of a lifelong love for storytelling and the written word.
In addition to realizing her dreams of being a published writer, she seeks to someday build a career as an arts administrator and educator, contributing to spaces in Los Angeles that promote literacy and writing development among underserved populations. She zealously believes in the power of writing to inspire confidence, self-discovery, and change!
Gabriela Cuevas (or Gaby) is the Communications Coordinator for the Writing Success Program at UCLA. She enjoys reading, writing, learning new languages, and talking about her favorite television shows which include Jane the Virgin, Orphan Black, Avatar the Last Airbender, America’s Next Top Model, and Fresh off the Boat just to name a few. Gaby is currently reading Alena Graedon’s The Word Exchange, a book she has a lot of opinions on, and is always on the lookout for new imaginative stories to read. One of her favorite short stories, “Do you hear what I’m saying” by Kori Waring, can be found online at Carve Magazine. In Gaby’s own words, Waring’s story is “the perfect blend of magical realism and experimental fiction.”
Besides hoping to be an educator and showing others how fun reading and writing can be, Gaby hopes to one day be a published author in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, though publishing literary fiction is also one of her goals. You can find Gaby splurging on food at the nearest grocery store or mouthing the words to her favorite song on her way to class.
James Han is the Writing & Creativity Counseling Coordinator for WSP. In addition to being a creative writer (or pretending he is one), he is an avid reader of creative nonfiction, an ardent fan of Charlie Kaufman movies, a tea aficionado, and an origami enthusiast. When he is not working or doing homework, he is involved in DKA, the cinema fraternity he is in, or taking long, unnecessary naps. He hopes one day to be the showrunner of a comedy television show, a published novelist, and an editor for a literary magazine—not necessarily in that order. He also hopes to have a Vitamix and one of those elephantine vintage sewing machines.
James first fell in love with writing by reading—and trying to reproduce—the fantasy worlds of Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix. As a bored child in the lonely suburbs of Plymouth, Michigan, James spent most of his time watching the retired residents of his neighborhood powerwalk laps around the block. He dreamed of having magic powers, and tried to make those dreams come to life in digital ink. While he no longer believes in that kind of magic, he still tries his best to make things come to life on the page. Sometimes—sometimes—he succeeds.
Haesoo Kim is a tennis-playing, succulent-collecting tea enthusiast from the Sacramento area and a Writing and Creativity Counselor at WSP. She has a light obsession with food, coconut water, and learning languages. In addition, she loves learning about the mind and discussing philosophy and social issues. Haesoo first became interested in psychology after reading Flowers For Algernon. Her all-time favorite is the late fantasy comedy author Terry Pratchett, although Tamora Pierce’s Beka Cooper will always remain close to her heart
Her appetite for stories began at a young age when her parents read books on Korean folklore to her or shared stories from their own pasts. She fell in love with reading and writing and started crafting her own stories as soon as she could write a sentence. She quickly grew as a writer, adding metaphors and sensory images here, a plot twist and irony there. Unfortunately, she drifted away from the literature scene during middle school and part of high school due to a busy schedule. She is now reconnecting with writing and other arts that she enjoyed when she was younger, such as painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, and music. Fun fact: she had moved eleven times by the sixth grade.
Monica Mendoza is a writing and creativity counselor with WSP. She’s a proud daughter of immigrant parents. Her heart grew in Oakland but her feet stay grounded in Guerrero, Mexico. She writes poems, or at least she tries, about identity, home, and love because she believes that those are the most important things that make a person’s character. Sometimes Monica considers herself a spoken word artist but sometimes she doesn’t because she thinks she’s too shy to be one. Her favorite writer is Junot Diaz and if she could marry him she would, even if it was just to get feedback on her own writing. She’s in love with his book This is How You Lose Her and believes it has inspired much of her writing. She says “hella” a lot and quotes memes and vines but she also enjoys fashion, makeup, traveling and Buzzfeed. Her dream travel destination is Brazil but she’s dying to go to just about everywhere else.
WSP Staff Bloggers 2014-2015
Hi Everyone! My name is Layhannara Tep , and I am the full-time Project Director of Writing Success Program (WSP) here at UCLA. I am a Christmas baby. I was born and raised in Long Beach, California to two refugee parents from Cambodia. My parents are survivors of the Cambodian genocide. This is a heavy fact but it anchors me in reality. I try to remember to live a purposeful life because it is a life I almost didn’t have. My serious side is deeply rooted in my Capricorn being but I’m also a dreamer by nature.
I love Mindy Kaling, Amy Poelher, Maxine Hong Kingston, Khalid Hosseini, and J.K. Rowling. But Jane Austen reigns supreme. Sunday brunch is my favorite meal. I live at coffee shops and nap ocean-side. Throughout the last few years, I have worked actively on issues of access, retention, diversity, and curricular reform.
As an undergraduate, I double majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Asian American Studies. I love stories in all forms: songs, poetry, television shows, film, theater, and books. When a story resonates with me, I feel a connection to the world. As an aspiring writer, I hope to one day re-create this experience for others.
Hello! My name is JoAnna Schindler, and I am a Co-Assistant Director and returning Writing & Creativity Peer Counselor at the WSP. I’m also an English major, journal addict, coffee enthusiast, violinist, and visual artist.
Despite being a reluctant reader in my youth, I discovered my passion for writing when I was in seventh grade. At age 12, I wrote my first novel—300 pages that bleed middle school hormones and angst. While I refuse to show it to another living soul, I look back at the novel proudly and fondly as the beginning of a beautiful and lifelong love for writing as a form of expression.
I strongly believe that the key to effective communication is confidence—that is to say, believing that your thoughts are worth sharing. That said, my two main goals as a counselor are to, one, help you, my peers, develop confidence in your thoughts, ideas, and stories, and two, help you develop a writing voice that is not only clear and refined, but uniquely yours!
I look forward to meeting and working with you all!
Hello dear readers! I am Kanyin Ajayi, the Co-Assistant Director and English Language Learners (ELL) Writing & Creativity Counselor here at WSP; New York born, Lagos raised, now loving the great city of Los Angeles. Pity I’m all cooped up in Westwood. Fun fact: I can switch from a pretty decent American accent to a Nigerian one in one second.
When I’m not taking 3-hr naps, I like to watch movies and TV shows; I’ll watch anything – but French and Indian movies take the cake. Also enjoy discovering new music and then replaying the records to see how long it’ll take to drive me crazy. I’m most in my element when dancing on BruinWalk and generally embarrassing my friends or taking long evening walks (my knees hate me for this). If we were to share a meal, I’d most likely bombard you with stories of my boarding school adventures – and you wouldn’t get bored. I could definitely survive on Reese’s Puffs and Muller Greek yoghurt.
That’s about it! Oh yeah – I spend a lot of my time reading and writing fiction. Reading and writing, in general. I believe that the most important thing in writing is honesty. Especially, honesty with oneself. Once you have that down, clarity just comes to you. And if it doesn’t, that’s what WSP is here for. Come on in! And let’s talk.
Look forward to meeting you!
Hi everyone! My name is Gabriela Cuevas (you can call me Gaby) and I’m one of the Writing & Creativity Peer Counselors at WSP. I’m a third year geography major, minoring in English (hopefully). I am really excited to join the WSP team this year and cannot wait to meet with students.
I am originally from South Gate, California but I moved to Bakersfield, California when I turned twelve. Besides the heat, I love the calmness of Bakersfield and I especially love a little ice cream shop called Dewar’s (best ice cream ever).
One tidbit about myself is that when I’m not working or going to class you can usually find me in my apartment watching episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Gotham, and/or Supernatural (yes…I am a total fangirl).
As for my writing, I have been writing for myself since I was in middle school. This mainly started as journaling and a bit of poetry here and there but in high school I became more involved with my writing. I started fleshing out the beginning of various different short stories and I started reading a lot more.
Currently I am still pursuing my passion for writing and I even call myself a “writer” (whatever that means) and I hope to publish my work someday. I am especially interested in publishing science fiction stories. If you ever want to stop by and talk about how amazing airbending is and/or about your own writing, please feel free to stop by and talk. Can’t wait to see you all!
Hello everyone! My name is Sharila Stewart. I’m a second year Comparative Literature major here at UCLA; I also study Arabic and Spanish. I was raised in Bakersfield, CA (Central Valley!). Growing up, my punishment for not following directions was not being able to read for 24 hours because I liked books that much. I love all types of literature, but I especially enjoy autobiographies and detective novels. My favorite book of all time would have to be The Autobiography of Malcolm X, because he exemplifies someone who possesses the courage to change.
I love being in Los Angeles because it is a conglomeration of so many different cultures, faiths, and languages. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, trying new cuisines, and binge-watching my favorite shows on Netflix. I live by Jackie Robinson’s belief that “a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives”. Hence, I am extremely excited to be a WSP Writing & Creativity Counselor this year. I hope to see you soon!
Hey fellow Bruins! (And assorted random readers.) My name is James Han and I’m a third-year English major here at UCLA. I’m honored and thrilled to join the Writing Success Program this year as a Writing & Creativity Peer Counselor.
When I look back on my growth over the years and see the braided patterns that make up my narrative, the one that stands out is my preference for writing as a mode of expression. At first I wrote for fun, to let my imagination dance; then I wrote more because I found that I could command words in a way that I couldn’t with anything else; only later would I come to understand that it was something that suited me temperamentally—I felt free and independent since I could write at any time, in any place: on a laptop, on a notepad, in my head. (And, for Baby James, in crayon on walls.) In retrospect I’m pretty sure that I’ve written so much in order to make sense of whatever’s on my mind. In the words of Joan Didion, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”
So if you’re struggling with a story, a paper, an idea, or if you just want to grow as a writer, coming to the Writing Success Program is a powerful first step in the right direction. My job, as a Writing & Creativity Peer Counselor, is to be there for you (and with you) every step of the way. I hope to meet you all!
I have a passion for writing and film and the arts in general with a particular emphasis on fiction – both science and otherwise. This passion arises from a recent realization of what art is and what it isn’t. First, it is not truth or The Truth. It is a lie. Let me explain. All art, whether it be dance, music, film, or the written word (that list is by no means exhaustive) is a fabrication or staging in some way – it is pure artifice. Every time someone creates a new work of art, that artist has made choices, both unconscious and conscious, to include certain elements and to exclude certain others. Musical notes can inform a variety of sounds and tones but only a few chosen carefully and placed at just the correct moments produce what one may call music, for example. The same can be said of photography: the fact that the photographer frames a certain shot means that certain elements are excluded from the frame while others are included. And so on, and so on, and so on. But the magical thing about art is that through these fabrications – these lies – we tell truths about the human condition. One can weave a tale spun from whole cloth but if it is art then it can tell us something about ourselves. That is what good art does. It is like a polished mirror, holding within itself the mere image of the reality that is standing before it but, nevertheless, showing details that have been overlooked, ignored, or otherwise forgotten.
Woah! What was all that about?!? I told you I was passionate but – sheesh – I surprise myself sometimes. Anyways, I’m really looking forward to meeting you and to helping you in any way that I am able on your path to finding writing success.
Hello! I’m Cheechee Lin, the one and only WSP intern for the 2014-2015 school year! Cali born, San Jose/ Taipei raised, and now I’ve come full circle to Los Angeles.
WSP Staff Bloggers 2013-2014
Hi everyone, my name is Denise Pacheco and I am the full-time Director of the Writing Success Program (WSP). I graduated from UCLA in Spring 2011, with a Ph.D. in Education. I have so many passions, which include natural healing, yoga, and the obvious: literature and creative writing! As WSP Director, I am inspired by the vision of legendary WSP Founding Director, Janet Brown. Similar to her and the second Director, Sahra Nyugen, I am committed to helping everyone to find their inner artist through all forms of creative expression. If money wasn’t an object and failure wasn’t an option, I’d travel the world, study the practice of natural healers, take beautiful pictures to document my journeys, and SHARE the knowledge and love with the world. Thank you for reading and please come see us. We look forward to meeting you!
Hello everyone! I’m Miqi Cos. I am the Assistant Director at WSP, and a returning Writing & Creativity Counselor for Fall 2013. I was born in Oakland, CA but I’ve never lived or stepped foot in Oakland (except for that one time I couldn’t resist chicken and waffles–but I like to say that didn’t count). I grew up in the Philippines, and I didn’t own a book until I was eleven. I’m particularly fond of children’s books because I was (unfortunately) deprived of them as a child. I didn’t even know of Dr. Seuss’ existence until I was well into my rebellious teenage years. My very fist book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and it will forever be my favorite piece of writing.
I have a mild obsession with milk tea boba, Korean tofu soup, Sprinkles cupcakes, and anything and everything that Los Angeles offers. In my spare time, I like to catch up on my favorite sitcoms, find new places to go in LA, watch Barney with my adorable 1 year old, Zipo, and soak in sunshine. I wholeheartedly believe that inspiration is something to seek for, not something to wait around for. I’m a WSP counselor because I believe my biggest sources of everyday inspiration comes from peers like you! Can’t wait to meet all of you!
My name is Jacob Goldberg. I’m a fourth-year at UCLA studying International Development and Geography. This year, I am honored and excited to join the WSP team as a Writing Counselor.
At various points in my life I’ve been an editor, a critic, a mediator, a provocateur, a world-traveler, and an intellectual explorer. One constant has been my obsession with facts. As a young person, I gravitated toward non-fiction books, hoping to come away from them with a brain full of facts that would sharpen my understanding of the world I inhabit. Because nothing is simple and no fact has gone undisputed, my love for information soon developed into an enthusiasm for learning through discourse and debate. I suppose that this is the reason that my areas of interest have always been those that people disagree about most passionately, namely, how to make our society better. Writing became my way of contributing to the pool of ideas about how to mend the cracks that divide communities and separate people from the things they need to live free, healthy lives.
Throughout my writing experience, I quickly learned that more important than knowing facts is the ability to know one’s audience, know oneself, and write truthfully. At WSP, I hope to share with you some of the practices I picked up along the way. I am eager to get to know you, discuss your questions and my own, and explore ways to ensure that your words hit the page confidently, truthfully, and unwaveringly your own.
Greetings, Friends! My name is Michelle Lee. I am a fourth year English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration and an unhealthy addiction to green tea ice cream and Thai tea. This is my first year working as a Peer Counselor at WSP.
As a child, I dreamed of becoming an author and illustrator. Since before I can remember, I have always loved reading fiction. These stories are more than just exciting and entertaining narratives; while inspirational heroes and fantastical adventures are what most commonly come to mind when we think of great stories, true greatness is often found in the little things—in everyday experiences that often go unnoticed. While I still read voraciously and write with continued fervor, I now plan to be a high school teacher. Having been blessed with great teachers and mentors, I have experienced first-hand the positive influence gifted and dedicated teachers can have on their students. Because of the ways I have benefited invaluably from their tutelage, I hope to be able to have the same impact on others. I want to become a teacher who will make a lifelong impact on her students.
I am passionate about helping all of you, my peers, in becoming empowered writers by not only assisting you in strengthening your writing skills, but also by building confidence to share your thoughts and ideas with the world through the compelling medium of writing. I look forward to meeting you!
I feel like a bit of an anomaly in this group of lovely counselors because writing was something I used to brush aside and take for granted. However, I’ve come to realize over the more recent years that words truly do have power behind them and there is so much more that can be taken away from the way one chooses to express themselves on paper.
It is my belief that writing is a way to claim one’s soul and by doing so, you find your inner strength and learn to communicate with conviction. There is also just something beautiful about having the ability to string together letters, to make words, to make sentences, to make complete thoughts and innovative ideas. I truly do think that everyone is a writer and artist as well, we sometimes just need a little coaxing to bring it out into the light, so don’t fight me when I urge you to believe it too.
I am here to learn and grow like everyone else, so come peek your head into the office so I can meet you!
ps. Something you should know about me: I have awful eye vision so if you ever see me walking around, feel free to say hi but make sure you call out my name as well. If you simply wave, I promise I’m not ignoring you; I just can’t see! Sorry in advance for the blank stares anyone receives this year.
Hi there! My name is Samantha Wang and I worked with Miqi and Denise to help manage the Writing Success Program (WSP) in Fall 2013. I am currently interested in counseling, social work, and teaching. My dream is to buy a large plot of land in a beautiful, remote area–I want to have an sanctuary for animals that have too many behavioral or health problems be placed into regular homes. I would also love to have horses to ride and develop therapeutic horseback riding programs for people with disabilities or mental/physical health issues.
Back in high school, I took a very difficult English class and I remember waking up hours before school started, just lying in bed dreading that class. But ever since then, my writing has constantly improved as a result of the mindset and tools I was almost forced into developing to survive that class. My goal is to help every student develop the skills and confidence they need to become the writer they want to be. I personally know how daunting and painful writing can be, but I also know that these challenges can be overcome, and much more easily than you might think.
I have a background in counseling because I absolutely love to listen to and support people. I am open, honest, and friendly, and I love having real conversations with people. Please feel free to drop by and chat with me if I’m available. I look forwarding to seeing you!
WSP Staff Bloggers 2012-2013
Hi friends! My name is Ashton Rosin, and I am the English Language Learners (ELL) Writing and Creativity Counselor for the Writing SuccessProgram! I am internationally born, middle nameless, a peanut butter fanatic, and a third-year International Development Studies student with a minor in Disability studies at UCLA. I aspire to live in another country, take up photography, fine tune my often underappreciated sarcasm, and strike up spontaneous dance parties whenever appropriate (or inappropriate). Most of all I seek to surround myself with interesting people.
I am a question asker. Many of the questions I ask of others are based on a foundation of genuine curiosity for the individual I have the privilege of connecting with. This innate sense of questioning and authentic desire to see, meet, and explore the world and people I am surrounded by manifests itself in my writing. The ability to use writing to channel my often intertwined, jumbled, hard to swallow thoughts is unmatched by any other medium of communication. I am appreciative to have discovered writing as a safe haven for my most vulnerable opinions, big picture questions, and work in progress thoughts. I believe that the confidence I am working to build in myself comes from discovering my sense of self through these questions. I encourage each and every one of you to ask a big question, whether it’s of yourself, of another, or in your writing. I look forward to answering your questions! Stop in and say hello!
Why, hello there! I go by Courtney Lee, in the English language and by something else in another. I’m one of the Writing and Creativity Counselors this year and I’m here to listen to your ideas and support you with the writing process. Outside of WSP, I spend my time studying the arts of mathematics and urban studies, along with other topics. If I’m not writing, I read. If I’m not reading, I’m more than likely writing. Writing is one of those arts I find as a form of empowerment not only for the self but for others as well. As much as I find the art and practice of writing utterly brilliant, I actually spend most of my life reading. I remember being taught how to read in English, and from then on, I did not stop. I can be found reading everywhere: on public transportation, inside buildings, at the park, or even when I’m slowly walking around. No matter where I am, I never forget the power of the written word to inspire and motivate me to seek great heights.
Hola! My name’s Christina Trieu. I’m in love with life, nature, dogs, paper, and people. I’m a (transfer) fourth year student at UCLA. I am currently studying Afro-American studies and American Literature & Culture. I’m also a Writing & Creativity Counselor at WSP! From my beautiful co-workers to the ambitious students I meet, I find work here amazing and look forward to the growth and potential of myself and those I will be forming new relationships with. So, you are invited to come by, say hi!
Outside of school and work, I like to listen to anyone and everyone’s stories, read ol’ literature, write poems, draw portraits and doodles, sing with my soul, push my body to new limits (kickbox, dance, climb, run, hike), and entertain you when you need it the most.
People always ask me, “Why’d you choose Afro-American studies?”
In which, I always respond, “I didn’t choose it; it chose me.”
As a child I would create my own children’s books and would give them to family members as gifts. As I grew older I tried keeping journals but lost interest in them after a few months. In 2006, however, after being given a Strawberry Shortcake Calendar by my sister, I began writing the highlights of my day, pasted concert/movie tickets and wrote down quotations/memorable moments I wanted to look back at and laugh about. Many of my friends have started to write things down in their own calendars and I would encourage any one who finds this interesting to give it a try!
English and writing have not come easy for me but I do admit that I enjoy it a lot better than math and science. I know there is plenty of room for improvement and hope that through WSP my writing improves so that I can express myself in ways I have always dreamed of. I understand that it can be very intimidating to write, especially a college paper, but I encourage that you all continue to practice and don’t avoid writing! Especially when you have great writing counselors on this very campus that want to see you grow and become confident in your own writing abilities! Although I may not be a counselor this year, I am very friendly and enthusiastic and would absolutely love to meet you, so come on by and say hello! 🙂
Hello to all our wonderful viewers! My name is Lauren Park, and I am a 4th year Biology major. I am the Assistant Director of the amazing Writing Success Program! (woooot!) Working with this team is great, and I have the pleasure of learning to love writing by working with this program. I feel like quite an anomaly in this group of fantabulous people because of the fact that writing has not been something I’ve relished doing in the past. Gaining confidence in writing is part of my current journey of self-discovery.
Even though I haven’t been confident in my writing, I have always been an avid reader. Fun tidbit: I actually had to get glasses in third grade because I stayed up late reading by hiding under a blanket with a flashlight. As you can imagine, reading under a dim tiny light definitely was not the greatest idea for a growing child. :]
I like to think of myself as a very cheerful person who loves meeting new people. I tend to always find myself laughing or jumping around in excitement. Laughter is such a beautiful thing; it brings so much positive energy to the soul and the people around you. I am also quite a fanatic when it comes to Korean dramas, shows, and music. If you ever stop by the WSP office and hear Korean music, I’m probably there, so feel free to drop by and say hi!!!
Hey everyone! My name is Casey O’Neill and this is my third year working for WSP. The Writing Success Program has played a vital role in my personal development, so I am very thankful for Janet Brown’s legacy. Writing is a deep passion of mine. I love to write for pleasure and even for academic purposes (call me nerdy, I know). Writing is an outlet for me, something that everyone needs. A few other passions of mine include dancing, browsing the Internet, watching movies, looking at YouTube videos, and playing board games. However, my biggest passion is my son. He is currently 6 months old and growing every day. I breathe to see his smiles and even his tears. He is my utter joy. Please come see us at the office (SAC 105) and happy reading!