50 Voices of the Future: Lori Alexander on the boom in research and medical writing


In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

Most kids don’t dream of a career as a medical writer. Instead, many fall into medical writing while following an alternate pathway. Some are scientists who prefer writing about medical research rather than conducting it while others start with a passion for writing and realize science is a topic they enjoy writing about. Lori Alexander, president of Editorial Rx, Inc., followed the latter path. “From as early as I can remember, I loved to write, and it didn’t matter what it was about. I then became fascinated with medicine when I started working in a community hospital. I had no idea there was a field out there where I could blend my two loves into one career.” Today, the field is more recognized, but still, medical communication is not a field that is well represented at school career fairs. Programs such as the one at UC San Diego Extension are helping to bring medical communication into the forefront.

 (1) Why is the work you do important?

My work—and the work of all medical communicators—is important because clear communication is essential to scientific research and to meaningful patient-physician interactions. My two primary areas of medical writing are continuing medical education for health care professionals and education for people with cancer. Continuing Medical Education is essential for improving the knowledge and skills of health care professionals and thus enhancing health outcomes for patients. The educational resources I develop help people better understand their disease and treatment options, which in turn helps them to make more informed health care decisions. Across medical writing settings, the goals are the same: to create clear medical communications that lead to better health and well being. In fact, this goal is the vision statement for the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

So many exciting things are happening right now in medical communication, and they’re related to unprecedented growth in medical research and publishing, changes in the stakeholders in the health care arena, and advances in technology. These developments are helping to create more and varied opportunities for medical communicators. The growth in medical research is reflected in the explosion in the number of clinical trials being conducted, which has increased from 25,858 in 2006 to more than 225,000 this year. Many medical writers are involved with developing the required documentation for the trials and the approvals of new drugs, as well as with writing reports on the trial results and implications. The number of scientific and medical journals is also increasing exponentially—about 2.5 million science, technology, and medicine articles are published each year. Medical writers and editors are needed to help prepare these manuscripts. Increasing discussions about the value and cost of medical products also is leading to new opportunities for medical writers in such areas as health economics and outcomes research, technology assessments and comparative effectiveness research.

Social media is also making its mark as it is changing how medical writers communicate with each other, how researchers communicate with each other, and how research is conveyed to various audiences. These developments not only increase the demand for medical writers but also call for medical writers and editors to enhance their knowledge in science and medicine as well as strengthen their writing skills. The Medical Writing Certificate Program at UC San Diego Extension is an excellent way for scientists to forge a pathway to these exciting opportunities.

(3) What’s the next big thing?

I think the next big thing is certification for medical writers because it provides a way for medical writers to legitimize what they do. American Medical Writers Association developed the first (and only) credentialing program for medical writers, and the examination is based on first-of-its-kind research into the key areas of knowledge, skills and abilities required of medical writers. Certification gives employers a way to feel confident in the credibility of medical writers who have earned this credential. Certification also raises the standard for medical writers and thus increases the need for educational programs to help scientists and others gain the core competencies needed for a career in medical writing.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

The San Diego region is home to hundreds of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and California has large health care systems and a strong commitment to medical research. Medical writers and editors can help these industries further advance their goals.

(5) Hop in to your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

Medical communication will ride into the future along with medicine and health care. Physicians predict that technology will dramatically affect how people are treated in the next 50 years and medical communicators will need to keep pace with ways to make data actionable. How do we gather and interpret massive amounts of health data and turn that into information that helps scientists and patients alike? Also, as researchers gain a better understanding of the underlying biology and molecular bases of diseases, the field of personalized medicine will continue to grow. These advances mean that medical communicators will need strong critical thinking and communication skills to translate complex concepts into easily understood content.

clinicaltrialsLori Alexander, president of Editorial Rx, Inc., teaches Introduction to Medical Writing at UC San Diego Extension, which is part of the Professional Certificate in Medical Writing.

Photo credit (Lori Alexander’s image): Cindy Cone Photography

50 Voices of the Future: Marcie Wessels on the fate of children’s books


In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

It might seem both tempting and cynical to conclude that book reading is going extinct, especially among kids, who live in an age of virtual reality and other fast-evolving forms of gadgetry. But many authors, Marcie Wessels among them, don’t buy this type of thinking. The way Wessels sees it, as long as your story is well-told, you’ll find an audience, even if that story comes in the form of words written on hundreds of pages of paper, with a spine holding all that paper together. Wessels – a children’s author whose first book, Pirate’s Lullaby, was published last year – believes the written word will always have the power to connect with people. Of course, when your target audience is the very youngest of readers, having some pictures alongside those words is always helpful, too.

(1) Why is the work you do important?

I tell stories and stories are what connect us. They are what have always connected us and what will always connect us. Books and stories are windows and mirrors. They’re a way for us to understand ourselves and our experiences. But they’re also a window into other cultures and other lives. Books in general help us become more empathic and open-minded. And with children, books can open up a whole new world. Children are naturally curious and books fulfill their desire for knowledge and can ignite their own curiosities.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

The We Need Diverse Books Movement. It was started by people in the kid-lit world who feel minorities and different points of view aren’t represented within the canon of children’s literature. The population of the United States is changing, and its cultural diversity should be better reflected in our literature. Everyone should have access to books. And everyone should have access to telling his or her own story.

(3) What’s the next big thing

New technologies like e-books are giving more people access to a platform for telling their stories. But there is also a renaissance of sorts in traditional publishing for children. Some of the most talented writers and illustrators are creating beautiful pieces of art in a form that is underappreciated – picture books. There’s an increased respect for visual story-telling. Look at the growing popularity of graphic novels or highly illustrated stories. There’s a need for that, a call for that. My son was a bit of a reluctant reader but when I gave him a graphic novel, it opened up a completely new world for him.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

I read somewhere that 20 percent of people in San Diego County are either illiterate or functionally illiterate, which is a huge problem. It can be prevented in future generations by instilling in kids a lifelong love of reading and learning. In the spring, I had the opportunity to partner with Words Alive, a local literacy organization, which goes into underserved schools and does story time with the kids. It was exciting to work with others in the community who are also interested in putting books into the hands of kids – kids that might not otherwise have access. If I go out into the community, do a story time and inspire one child to read, I feel I’ve done my job.

(5) Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?  How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

In recent years, publishers have created enhanced e-books that embed music or videos or link to content on the web. This may be just one of the ways we tell stories in the future. But books will always exist. The medium we use to tell a story may change, but stories will always be told. Stories fulfill a basic human need. Who doesn’t love a good story?

Learn more about the UC San Diego Extension specialized certificates in Children’s Book Writing and Children’s Book Illustration on our website, or view the online information session on YouTube.

(Photo by Roxyanne Young)


The making of a UC San Diego Extension certificate program (infographic)

There’s a point in every person’s career when they realize they want to changes jobs or move up the organizational ladder, but maybe they’re not quite sure how to make it happen. Should it involve going back to school full time? Will it require a degree? And how can it be done without having to spend (or go into debt for) tens of thousands of dollars?

Enter UC San Diego Extension’s certificate programs. Every program offers students an opportunity to examine a new field and demonstrate to others they have the discipline to work toward a specific goal while increasing their earning potential and marketability.

The completion of a certificate program provides:

  • Documentation of specific, formal study at a highly-regarded academic institution
  • Career-oriented, post-graduate training to complement a college or university degree
  • Well-developed job skills and knowledge for your current job, a promotion, or career change

Why a UC San Diego Extension Certificate?

A UC San Diego Extension certificate is a widely-respected academic credential certifying completion of a rigorous and specialized course of study that’s recognized and valued by employers. Designed by industry experts and academic faculty, our cutting-edge programs meet high academic standards and provide real-world skills.

Here’s how to we take an idea and develop it into a high-quality, high-value certificate program:

PNG-WI16-3036 Cert Creation Info Graphic.jpg

We offer two types of certificate programs: Professional and Specialized. Professional programs consist of a minimum of 20 units of approved continuing education credit (200 classroom instruction hours). Specialized programs consist of a minimum of 9 units of approved continuing education credit (90 classroom instruction hours).

Curious about what we have to offer? Take a look at our list of programs to see if there’s a one that’s right for you.

Four Steps to Earn Your Certificate

  1. Review the Certificate Course Matrix (i.e. class schedule) and apply for the certificate program of your choice (click the Apply Now button on the specific certificate page you are interested in). Make sure to fill it out completely!
  2. Receive your program approval via email and enroll in course(s) listed on the Certificate Course Matrix.
  3. Complete all required courses and your chosen electives with a grade of C- or better, within five years.
  4. Submit your Notice of Completion online, or by mail to the address specified above.

Have questions about our programs? Feel free to search our website or contact Student Services with your questions. We are happy to help you!

50 Voices of the Future: The new era of citizen journalism with Sylvia Mendoza

Sylvia MendozaWPFeat

In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

Journalism, as a profession, looks far different now than it did a decade ago. Newspaper circulation has plummeted as readers turn to the web and social media for their news — and newspapers employ only a fraction of the reporters they once did. At the same time, a new breed of reporter has emerged, one who needs little more than a cell phone and a Facebook, Twitter or YouTube account to tell a story using words, pictures and video.

Author Sylvia Mendoza, who teaches writing and digital journalism at UC San Diego Extension, believes the fundamentals of journalism will never change, no matter what technology emerges in the future. The best journalists, she says, will always remain committed to telling interesting stories. They will also, she says, continue to serve as watchdogs with an unbending dedication to “seek the truth and write about it.”

(1) Why is the work you do important?

I believe in the power of the written word. I believe in the purpose of journalism. I believe in being the watchdog of society. I believe that knowledge is power. That education opens doors. I find inspiration in ordinary people who do extraordinary things. I believe in the code of ethics and a value system that drives good journalists to seek the truth and write about it. We challenge stereotypes, challenge authority, challenge perceptions. I challenge the stereotypes of what Latino is. Everything’s bubbling up now, it’s all news.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

Everything is about the Internet, with everything at our fingertips. It’s just going to get easier for people to access material quicker. Journalism students now have to become “backpack journalists” or mobile journalists, and they have to be really versatile and flexible and write well and take photographs and videos and produce their own audio and be able to upload everything and make it magical and multifaceted. [They must] have enhancements to their stories, not just the written content, so that it’s really accessible to all. I know you can’t have a story for every age group and generational age group and everything, but that seems like where it’s going.

(3) What’s the next big thing?

The Internet brings a lot of power to our fingertips, but we have to be ready for it. So I think the next big thing is that we can have a lot of power as individuals wanting to go into any kind of media and promote ourselves, or our creative spirit, break any stereotypes and break all these barriers and do our own creative vision. However we want to put ourselves out there. But by the same token we’d better have that sense of social responsibility to go along with our vision, and have that sense of professionalism to go along with that vision. [We must] be educated enough to rise above the competition, because otherwise there’s no way you’re going to make it.

(4) How big of an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

Citizen journalism will grow. You also see that there’s still something that’s drawing students to journalism and that they still feel there’s a need to tell stories, and nose around for news. If it’s in you, I think it’s in you.

(5) Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?  How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

The technology will come easier, that’s the easy part. What you will have to keep close to your heart and your mind all the way through is the core values of journalism, and train yourself first and foremost in the ethics of journalism and the purpose of journalism. If you’re going into that field, you have to know what the purpose of journalism is, and stay true to that, that code of ethics that started with the Society of Professional Journalists, and that withstands the whole test of time. I studied it in school 35 years ago, it’s relevant to me today as a working journalist and professor and writer, and I think it will be relevant 50 years from now.


Learn more about Sylvia Mendoza and the courses she teaches and explore other Writing programs and courses in Copyediting, Digital Media Content Creation and Technical Communication.

Telling the Tale: An interview with kid lit author Henry Herz


Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction for children. He has five picture books published or under contract: Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes (Pelican, 2015), When You Give an Imp a Penny (Pelican, 2016), Little Red Cuttlefish (Pelican, 2016), Mabel and the Queen of Dreams (Schiffer, 2016) and Dinosaur Pirates (Sterling, 2017).

He and his sons have also indie-published four children’s books, including Nimpentoad, which reached #1 in Kindle Best Sellers large print sci-fi & fantasy, and was featured in Young Entrepreneur, Wired GeekDad, and CNN; and Beyond the Pale, with short stories by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Peter S. Beagle, Heather Brewer, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder and Jane Yolen.

Why do you write children’s books? What draws you to this literary niche?

A few years ago, I wanted to share my love of fantasy with my young sons. They were too little for watching most of the fantasy and sci-fi movie classics, and there are only so many good fantasy books available for that age range. Struck by inspiration one day, I came up with a way to share the joy of entering the magical realms of fantasy. I would write a fantasy book for them.

What I did not anticipate was that my boys would give me feedback on the story. They devised the protagonist (Nimpentoad) and a creature (Neebel) name and made plot line suggestions. And who better to help make the story appealing to kids than other kids? So, the goal of interesting my sons in fantasy transformed into also encouraging them to write.

Originally, I only shared the story of Nimpentoad with family, for their own enjoyment. My sister-in-law suggested that I consider publication because she felt the story was much better than many of the books she was seeing for her similarly aged kids. We decided to give it a try, and that launched my writing career.

What is the most fulfilling part about being a writer?

My favorite part of being a writer is seeing kids get excited by books. Books stimulate little imaginations, and lead to learning and knowledge. A child opening a book is like the acorn being planted in fertile ground. I visualize how that will help the child as they grow into a mighty oak.

What is your least favorite aspect of the “job”?

The rejection and the waiting. Even highly successful writers (and I’m not including myself in that category) have manuscripts rejected more than they’re accepted. And even if a manuscript is accepted, it can take up to two years to see it in print. Waiting is not fun, but it’s a sweet moment when your baby comes forth as a fully illustrated book.

How hard is it to break into children’s literature? What recommendations do you have for aspiring authors?

You can write whenever you’re ready. And anyone can self-publish. But it’s very challenging becoming a traditionally published author. So, you better love writing, and not be in a hurry. Hone your craft by joining Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and taking writing classes. (I took the Writing Children’s Picture Books class at UCSD Extension.)

The best advice I have is my animal-based version on my website. Here’s an excerpt:

Be A Dung Beetle: Be tenacious, even on crappy days. Becoming published isn’t easy. But it won’t happen if you stop trying. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a one step. Revise, revise, revise. But remember that perfect can be the enemy of good enough. At some point, you need to submit!

Be An Armadillo: You need to be thick-skinned and learn to roll with the punches. Understand that a publisher’s or agent’s rejection isn’t personal, but it is highly subjective. Many great works of literature were rejected repeatedly before being published, so you’re in good company.

Tell us a little about your latest book.

Pelican Publishing just released my second picture book, When You Give an Imp a Penny.

ImpFront300Small.jpgIt’s a medieval fantasy homage to Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Before you lend an imp a penny, there’s something you should know—such a simple act of generosity could set off a side-splitting chain of events! A colorful picture book full of mythology, mischief, and magic, When You Give an Imp a Penny shows what happens when an accident-prone—but well-intentioned—imp comes along asking for favors!

From tracking mud on the floor, to setting the broom on fire, this clumsy little imp causes accidents wherever he goes, but he’s determined make things right again. The only thing it will cost his host is a little patience—and maybe a bit of time cleaning up some messes! It won’t be long before this troublemaker has won over the entire family (except for the cat) with his irrepressible charm.

How do you come up with the ideas for you book?

Soak up everything around you. View, listen, sniff, taste, and feel. Watch people (in public, not with a telescope from your house), read books (especially picture books), and watch TV and movies. Take notes. Even the most mundane situations can unexpectedly feed your muse.

Combine elements into unlikely (and therefore hilarious) pairs, as in Doreen Cronin’s CLICK CLACK MOO: COWS THAT TYPE. Practice riffing on the things you soak up. I did a classroom reading where this boy had a torn-up sneaker. I thought, picture book title: The Boy With Exploding Sneakers. Let your creativity run free.

You know a book you’ve written is a success when…

Kids smile when they read it or parents tell you their child requests repeat readings.

What other projects do you have coming up?

I have a couple of hilarious manuscripts on submission that I hope will find a home – a rhyming picture book, Never Feed a Yeti Spaghetti, and Barnyard Debate, featuring a dung beetle protagonist. I have three picture books scheduled for publication. Little Red Cuttlefish (Pelican, 2016) is an aquatic version of Little Red Riding Hood starring a sassy cuttlefish. Mabel and the Queen of Dreams (Schiffer, 2016) is a bedtime picture book about a little girl who resists going to sleep (sound familiar?). Her mother lulls her to sleep with the tale of the Fae Queen in a story based on Mercutio’s soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet. Kids love dinosaurs and kids love pirates, so Dinosaur Pirates (Sterling, 2017) should give them just what they want – a T-rex with a piratey patois!

kids reading

The Writing Children’s Picture Books course that Henry Herz took is an elective in both the Children’s Book Writing and Children’s Book Illustration certificate programs. You can learn more about Henry, his books, and his reviews on his website.

50 Voices of the Future: Barry Lopez on environmentalism

Acclaimed author Barry Lopez

As part of the Helen Edison Lecture Series, author Barry Lopez discussed his ideas at a free lecture 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20 in the Price Center East Ballroom on the UC San Diego Campus.

In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

Barry Lopez is, by turns, optimistic and remarkably bleak when he talks about what the world might look like five decades from now.

The acclaimed author, who lives in Oregon, envisions a future in which the forces of anti-intellectualism gain more and more power, threatening our ability to meet the world’s biggest challenges. And yet Lopez — whose non-fiction books, novels and essays have won countless awards — has enormous faith in the power of writers and other artists to influence world events for the better, and he sees a future in which their power also increases.

As a writer known for his global travels and fascination with the natural world, Lopez is terrified about climate change and what he predicts will be an increasing scarcity of basic resources. But he also has an overwhelming confidence in human inventiveness, especially when the sustainability of human life is at stake. “That’s the doorway to human survival,” he says.



Why is the work you do important?

I don’t know that it is. We’ve become so obsessed with the importance of the individual that we’ve lost sight of the fact that it’s the group of people doing their work together that makes sense. The things that need to be done to provide us with a stable future aren’t going to be done by one person. It’s going to require the full range of the human imagination, and a full range of people who can think creatively and bring a certain determination to the task.

That said, I see myself as a practitioner in a long line of women and men who have a sense of social responsibility when it comes to storytelling. I’m very happy if a story that I write or a book that I write affects people in a positive way — provides some kind of illumination for people in sorting out what they want their lives to mean. The crux for me is pretty simple: Does this story help? Does it help someone sort out their own confusion as a human being in a complicated world?

What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

I don’t know that I am excited. Nothing that goes on in the arts makes what happened earlier in the arts irrelevant or obsolete. I don’t think there are any developments in writing that are new. I just take a step back when the discussion turns to who are the people we really should be listening to. Because writing is metaphorical. It’s the making of a pattern that has some kind of effect on the reader. People are so distracted by day-to-day needs of their lives that they’ve forgotten what they wanted their lives to mean. And that’s where the arts function. That is the necessity of the arts: they provide that bridge between the life you are living and the life that you imagine you could live if you remembered what it is you wanted to do with your life. I’m not talking about an occupation. I’m talking about the way you carry yourself in the world. What you stand for in the world. What you want people to say about your life when you are no longer with us.

What’s the next big thing?

In January, I will have been publishing work for 50 years. I know a lot of people who write for magazines, and many of us have come to feel the same way — that the world of magazines has become so commercialized, so dependent on making a profit, that magazines are more trouble to write for than you feel you can afford. So what I expect to see is a story told in a different way than the way most of us get our information. What I see coming is the reappearance of a kind of story that makes the reader understand that ancient “we” — that the storyteller is as concerned about your fate as her or she is of her own fate.




How big of an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

Writing and the arts will always play a role in shaping the future. The arts are there for an indispensable reason. They represent the only hope that people have for survival. When you read a book that profoundly affects you, you step back into the world in a different way and you behave differently. And the same thing happens with music or painting or photography or any artistic function. You come away with a resolve to live in a different way or to commit to some or other form of action. So it’s incomprehensible to me that the arts wouldn’t play a stronger role in the future. My question about the arts is: will they still play an effective role? Can they get people through this miasma of confusion that iPhones are never going to penetrate? I don’t know. But I will be doing this until I’m dead, and someone will come along after me in the same way that I came along after other people.

Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?  How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

I read about reserves of natural resources that are dwindling. I read about ocean acidification. It’s within the realm of possibility that there won’t be any pelagic fish in the ocean in 50 years. Where there were trees once growing there will be desert. Scarcity of clean water. Scarcity of gasoline and oil. And that scares and paralyzes people. There’s an impulse to punish the messenger. We have a presidential candidate declaring climate change a hoax. But you know what else you will see — invention. That’s the doorway to human survival. We’ve proven ourselves again and again and again to be inventive. And you can’t know at this point what it is that we’re going to invent to survive — but we will invent something.

Lopez discussed the intersection of environmental action and art with world-renowned percussionist Steven Schick, a UC San Diego professor of music, at a free Helen Edison Lecture Series presentation 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20 in the Price Center East Ballroom on the UC San Diego campus



Getting a children’s book published: Demystifying the process

kellysonnackGetting a children’s book published can be a tricky task. Literary agent Kelly Sonnack says she hopes to “demystify” the process for her students. Her course, Getting Published: Navigating the Children’s Book Market, is a new one for UC San Diego Extension.

Sonnack knows of what she teaches as her clients include noted children’s book authors James Burks (the Bird & Squirrel series) and Bridget Heos (Mustache Baby and Mustache Baby Meets His Match).

As part of the course, Sonnack, who works for the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, will offer a variety of practical tips on getting a book into print. She also hopes a basic message will resonate with her students: Becoming a published author takes not just talent but also drive and commitment.

“It is a lot of work to be a writer,” she says. “It can’t just be a whim.”

Advice on hiring an agent, negotiating a book contract and using social media to promote yourself, among other topics, will be part of the course. Sonnack will also give her students guidance on the sort of literary content that tends to succeed or fail. (One example: Almost without exception, the main character in a children’s book needs to be the same age as the target reader. If an animal is the main character, that animal should “reflect the emotional age of the reader,” Sonnack says.)

In addition, she will preach the importance of putting in the time and effort before the draft even gets to an agent. Aspiring authors should work to understand the market. (One tip: stay abreast of the New York Times Bestseller list.) And before shopping the book to anyone, a writer should put his or her work through a vigorous vetting process, which usually entails joining a writer’s critique group.

“As an agent, I don’t want to be the first person who has ever seen your work,” she says, noting that she generally expects her clients “to be doing 90 percent of the work before it even comes to me.”

Her course also will feature guest lecturers, including an editor and/or an art director from Simon & Schuster.

Sonnack has been working in the literary world since graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2002 with a degree in English literature. She had a sense early on in her career that children’s literature would be her specialty.

“When I was wandering around a book store, I always found myself in the teen section and the children’s section reading the new releases,” she said.

After working for the Elsevier publishing house, she joined the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, then left for Andrea Brown, which offered her an opportunity to specialize in children’s books.

Sonnack says her three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son continually provide new insights into what captures a child’s imagination. But it’s not just her kids that have inspired her. As the daughter of a kindergarten teacher and a businessman, Sonnack sees her current job as “a perfect combination of the two.”

Check the UC San Diego Extension website to find out when this course is offered. Prerequisites: Successful completion of all Children’s Book Illustration or Children’s Book Writing certificate coursework, or equivalent experience. Acceptance by instructor of writing sample or illustration portfolio is required. Please email the department at ahl@ucsd.edu or call 858-534-5760 the quarter prior to your enrollment in this course.

Turning science into sentences: The art of medical writing

It seems every day a new, life-altering scientific breakthrough makes headlines. But behind every breakthrough is the need to communicate that discovery with a wide variety of audiences from funders of scientific grants to peer-reviewed publications to regulatory agencies.

47404468_mTurning science into sentences – meaningful, factual and compelling sentences – is the art and the craft of medical writing. It is also a skill that is increasingly in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for technical writers in the health care field are projected to grow nearly 27 percent from 2012 to 2022.

“There is not a paucity of need,” said Donna Simcoe, who heads Simcoe Consultants, Inc., a medical publication writing firm, and who serves as president of the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the American Medical Writers Association (www.amwa-pacsw.org). “I’m hearing from more and more companies who need medical writers.”

That is especially true in life science-centric Southern California. San Diego alone has the world’s third largest biotech cluster that accounts for more than 100,000 jobs and receives more than $1 billion in National Institutes of Health funding.

While there’s no shortage of opportunities in the medical writing field, the barrier to entry can be high. According to a survey by the American Medical Writers Association almost 50 percent of medical writers had a degree in science or medicine and more than 70 percent had a master’s degree or higher.

But not all scientists are up to the task of translating discoveries into readable, actionable prose. To help address this skills gap, UC San Diego Extension is introducing a new medical writing certificate to help train people for these in-demand jobs. Leslie Bruce, director of healthcare leadership and community outreach for Extension, said the program is not about scientific writing for a lay audience. Instead, the class will help prepare participants in such areas as regulatory writing, peer-reviewed journals, scientific grants and medical education for practicing physicians – all of which provide lucrative salaries.

“These are six-figure jobs,” Bruce said.

A 2011 survey by the American Medical Writers Association found that medical writers’ salaries increased at more than double the rate of inflation and the average annual salary for medical writers along the West Coast was around $106,000.

Bruce said the 22-unit certificate is designed to take about 18 months. To find out more about the medical writing and the new Extension certificate, please visit extension.ucsd.edu/medicalwriting.

Meet gifted storyteller Brian Selznick at the intersection of pictures and words

Like all successful authors, Brian Selznick is a gifted storyteller. But it’s his dexterity in several different mediums that has made him a celebrity in the world of children’s literature.


His talent as a sketch artist is what launched his initial career as an illustrator for other authors’ books. Selznick, who serves on UC San Diego Extension’s advisory board for the Children’s Book Writing Certificate, also has a cinematographer’s gift for using visuals to create mood and atmosphere. He also happens to be a great writer with a fondness for spare language and a novelist’s eye for the telling detail.

His talents and background were very helpful in crafting the curriculum for Extension’s children’s book writing certificate, which is designed to provide a solid foundation for what is needed to become a published author.

Selznick’s skills also are what made him famous with his 2007 book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a New York Times bestseller that was adapted into the Oscar-winning film Hugo by Martin Scorsese.

He uses all the same techniques in his latest book The Marvels, which, like his two other most recent works, he both writes and illustrates. Selznick, who lives in both San Diego and New York City, has been getting rave reviews for The Marvels, which was published in September.

As with all the best children’s stories, from the Pixar movies to the Harry Potter books, Selznick’s stories have the power to transfix not just children but adults. Selznick’s characters are usually girls and boys thrust out into the world on their own, typically as runaways and/or orphans. They are forced to live in the shadows while embarking on sprawling searches for their family histories, their identities and their places in the world. They tend to be solitary and resourceful survivors.

Selznick has described The Invention of Hugo Cabret as “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” The same is true of his two books since Hugo Wonderstruck (published in 2011) and now The Marvels.

He uses his black-and-white pencil sketches to create the equivalent of film sequences – for instance, the slow close-up in which a sketch of a person is followed by a sketch of the same person at a closer angle, then a closer angle, until the full facial expression is revealed. The New York Times once compared his work to “a silent film on paper.”

His images can be haunting (a scurrying young girl clutching a sign that reads “Help me”) or full of grandeur and hope (a boy and girl standing together at the top of a clock tower, staring out at Paris.)

Selznick once told an interviewer that as a child he “loved magic but I was an extremely bad magician. I remember very specifically my fingers not being able to do what I wanted them to do. When it came to building models or doing very fine things with my fingers, I remember the frustration of not being able to do that.”

But he soon discovered his true gifts of drawing and writing. Lucky for him, and for us.

Brian Selznick shared his gifts in person at a book signing for The Marvels at Warwick’s in La Jolla at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. To find out more, please visit http://www.warwicks.com/event/brian-selznick-2015.

How to request a transcript: Five things you need to know

transcriptBy Kristen Gross

There are several great reasons you might need an official copy of your transcript from UC San Diego Extension. Perhaps your employer needs to see your status in good standing in order to initiate the reimbursement process. Maybe you’re about to apply to graduate school. It could even be that you’re just curious. No matter the reason you need a transcript, UC San Diego Extension Student Services is here to help you get it. Here are five things you need to know:

1. It’s all in the asking

Transcripts are not sent out automatically. In order to receive one, you must submit a transcript request to Student Services.

2. Put it in writing

Before your records can be released, we need your signature to authorize the sharing of this information. You can pick up and submit a form in person at UC San Diego Extension Student Services, 9600 N. Torrey Pines Rd., Bldg C, or download the form and mail to:

UCSD Extension, Dept 0176-H
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92093-0176

3. We take special requests

For some graduate programs, employers, or other special circumstances, additional materials may need to be sent along with your transcript. No problem! Simply attach special requests or forms that need to accompany your transcript with your request form, and we’ll take care of the rest. Please be aware that some special requests may extend processing time.

4. There is a (small) fee

For an official transcript, printed on watermarked paper and enclosed in a signed, sealed envelope, we charge a processing fee of $15 per copy. If you would like your transcript just for interest’s sake, you can request an unofficial copy for just $5. Depending on other factors (i.e. a rush, international fax, express shipping) there may be additional fees. Learn more on our website.

5. Feel free to follow up

We always love to hear from students. If you are not sure your transcript request has been received, we don’t mind checking on it. We know that these requests are often time-sensitive, and usually part of an exciting process. If you would like us to make sure it’s on track, please give us a call at (858) 534-3400.

To learn more about the transcript process and request form at UC San Diego Extension—including more details on fees and contact information—please visit extension.ucsd.edu/student. You may also contact Student Services by calling (858) 534-3400, emailing, or stopping by one of our locations.