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How to Do the Twist
The Landscape of Destiny
Pillars of the Community
Story Time

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Winter 1997
Story Time

Renée Vogel, Guest Fiction Editor
Illustrations by Carol Fabricatore, Amy Butler, Christian Clayton

Los Angeles is a city of storytellers. It's been a mecca for writers at least since the days when the fledgling movie industry began to take off and the Westwood campus was in its infancy. Over the years, L.A. has inspired its share of influential literary figures: the noir Raymond Chandler, the boozy Charles Bukowski, the laconic Joan Didion, the apocalyptic Thomas Pynchon. And more than a few fine storytellers have done time here at UCLA -- Alison Lurie, John Espey and the university's current literary luminary, Carolyn See, among them.

Still, you don't hear a whole lot about UCLA authors (for purposes of this discussion we're not counting Shane Black and other wildly successful graduates of the School of Theater, Film and Television's screenwriting program). When it comes to novel and short story writers, UCLA, which offers no degree in creative writing per se, but has an undergraduate English major with a creative writing emphasis, doesn't have the same reputation for fostering literary talent as, say, UC Irvine. But that doesn't mean the campus isn't teeming with gifted fiction writers, as we discovered when our recent request for stories was answered with a deluge of manuscripts.

We asked members of the UCLA community to submit their best unpublished short stories for this magazine's first-ever fiction package. And from the stacks of stories we received, we chose three, one each by a student, a faculty member and an alum. Our faculty story is by Greg Sarris, professor of American and Native American literature. Sarris, who happens also to be a UCLA alum, is one of the campus writers you do hear about; Read his beguiling story "Monopoly," narrated by a scrappy Indian girl who's determined to win, and you'll understand why. Jamie Callan, who earned an M.F.A. from the School of Theater, Film and Television, wrote "How to Do the Twist," an amusing glimpse of life with a lunatic mother. Current English major Paul F. Irving is the author of "Defiance," an atmospheric sea saga of a fishing trip gone tragically wrong.

These stories are not about UCLA in a literal sense. There are no scenes of steamy trysts in Kerckhoff Hall, no horrifying tales of students gone missing while searching for a parking spot on campus. Rather than looking for plots relating directly to the university experience, we sought interesting sensibilities, distinctive voices. UCLA inevitably informs each of these stories, behind the writing. L.A. literary icon Aldous Huxley once said: "Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with his experience." Here's what three exceptional UCLA writers have done with theirs.

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