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Profile:Adair Lara

Tracy Clark-Flory

Artistic energy oozes from her every pore and manifests itself
in her shocking ginger-colored hair, cherry red toenails and the
manner in which her body bolts upright when talking about her

Adair Lara, a writer who held her own bi-weekly column in the
San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years and has published a number of
books, including “Hold Me Close, Let Me Go,” an account of her
struggle raising her rebellious teenage daughter, is now teaching
the Advanced Creative Non-Fiction class at Mills.

Lara, who works as a reporter for the Chronicle’s features
section, was flattered to be invited to teach a course at Mills and
said, “I would [have killed] for programs like these.”

Elmaz Abinader, head of the English Department, feels that Mills
is fortunate to have someone with Lara’s experience in journalism
and literature.

“A writer who has perspectives from the many worlds of writing
gives a great contribution to our writing program,” said

Lara’s column in the Chronicle detailed everything from raising
her two children to living in the same house with her husband and

“I used the events of my own life as a spring board to talk
about what it’s like to be alive in this time and place,” said

Her children, who are now adults, often found themselves
featured in her columns and Lara said she would occasionally have
to bribe them with $20 to earn their approval to publish a
particularly embarrassing story.

While the column revealed highly personal details of her life,
Lara viewed it as a mirror that reflected her readers’ lives, as
well as her own.

As a child, Lara knew that she wanted to be a writer and would
write stories about heroic dogs saving families from floods.

“Kids think they can do anything,”

she said. “Later on, women especially, think, ‘I guess I wasn’t
given the talent.'”

Lara started teaching writing workshops 14 years ago.

“It’s brought a lot of people into my life,” she said, adding,
“a lot of my students are now teaching.”

While writing seems to come naturally to Lara, she believes that
it’s a skill that can be taught.

“You can teach people to stop talking and start writing and tell
a story,” said Lara.

“One of my students had a workshop with Adair in memoir and
raved about it,” said Abinader. “The opportunity to have her here
at Mills is special and we’re excited to have her on campus.”

Of her approach to teaching, Lara said, “I don’t think it’s at
all helpful to talk to people about what they’re doing wrong. I’ve
learned there’s writing that works and writing that doesn’t work

As far as writing goes, Lara said that writer’s block isn’t so
much an issue of running out of ideas as it is running out of “your
take on things.”

“It’s your way of seeing the world,” she said. “In a way,
writing is more vivid than life.”