Mickey Birnbaum Earns PEN Nod


Congratulations to alum & playwriting professor Mickey Birnbaum, whose acclaimed play “Backyard” was named a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award in Drama:

Shem Bitterman
Brighde Mullins
Craig Wright
Victor Lodato, Arlington
Mickey Birnbaum, Backyard
Robert Schenkkan, The Great Society

Mark Haskell Smith Gets Raves

nakedlunchIt was a big summer for Mark Haskell Smith, whose book Naked At Lunch was a hit all over the country. Here’s just a few of the notices:

Los Angeles Times:

“I went around the world smoking the best cannabis,” he says. “I really had fun writing nonfiction. I got to travel, meet people. So then I was thinking, ‘What other subculture is quasi-legal, oppressed by the police? Nudism.'” Despite his personal discomfort with “nonsexual social nudism” (as proponents of this lifestyle describe it), Smith knew he had to immerse himself in the scene, just as he had with cannabis.

LA Weekly:

Among L.A. writers, Haskell Smith has long had a reputation for being a generous colleague and a dedicated mentor. Critics enjoy his gimlet eye. For the past decade, Haskell Smith has been churning out Elmore Leonard—inflected absurdist crime sprees starring flawed people doing strange things, and he has a penchant for satirical social critique on subjects from organized religion to reality TV. The L.A. that often forms the books’ backdrop resembles, as one L.A. Times reviewer put it, “the hard-boiled Los Angeles of Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy, spun out in brighter-than-life Starburst colors.” Attempts at a film adaption of his third novel, Salty, currently is breaking crowdfunding records in the United Kingdom (nearly £2 million and counting) and has Simon West (Expendables 2) attached to direct.


People didn’t even talk about sex. Maybe bringing the subject up might, you know, bring the subject up, so it was best left unspoken. But I can’t really say, because nobody really said. Although on our last evening at the hut, Harry and I were standing outside watching the sunset when Maria-Grazia came out dragging her suitcase. She was driving back to Italy that night, but that’s not why I did a double take. She appeared to be transformed. I almost didn’t recognize her. Harry laughed and said, “You see someone naked for a week and you don’t think anything of it, and then she puts on a cute dress and some makeup and you think, ‘What an attractive girl!’”

New York Times:

Even if you’ve been staying at a nudist resort for days or weeks, “It’s still shocking to see naked 80-year-old people in the omelet line,” admits Mark Haskell Smith, author of the new book Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World.

While researching his previous book on high-end marijuana growers, Smith, a 58-year-old journalist from Los Angeles, “became interested in people who break the law or do things that are quasi-legal to explore their passions,” he said. Like the pot farmers, nudists “are true believers in what they do. It’s just a simple pleasure they’re enjoying, but they’ll risk everything to do it.”

Find out even more here!


Yennie Cheung Is One The Best…

bestsmall…or a the very least, she’s been selected as one of the writers of the short-shorts of the years, in Best Small Fictions 2015, out now. And here’s a sterling review which further elucidates the point:

There are dozens of stand-outs, but if I had to choose favorites, they would be:

#3: “A Notice from the Office of Reclamation” by J. Duncan Wiley. A public service announcement forbidding the exploration of abandoned mines becomes eerily personal: “We know this urge, know how strong and primal and erotically charged it is.”

#2: “The Lunar Deep” by David Mellerick Lynch. A man slipping into senility turns to astronomical and natural history research. The language in this one is amazing: “as his wits weighed anchor” and “the moon’s frail shirked husk.”

#1: My overall favorite is “Something Overheard” by Yennie Cheung. “You” (thanks to the second-person narration) hear your unapproachable Eastern-European neighbor weeping through the wall and realize you’re not so dissimilar after all.

Short stories are best when they freeze such moments of shared humanity. “A small fiction is a lone wolf of a lie,” as Butler writes in his introduction. “We listen to small fictions like nightsounds from afar.” Discover some haunting voices for yourself this fall.

Meryl Streep Selects Anna Hozian For Her Lab

Screenwriting alum Anna Hozian is one of 12 screenwriters selected for the inaugural year of Meryl Streep’s Writer’s Lab. Variety has the scoop:

New York Women in Film & Television and the Iris film collective have selected 12 screenwriters for the inaugural year of Meryl Streep’s Writers Lab.

The program, which is fully funded by Streep, provides script development for female writers over the age of 40. The Writers Lab, presented in collaboration with the Writers Guild of America East, received over 3,500 submissions.

Here are the participants and their scripts: Sarah Bird, “Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen”; Vanessa Carmichael, “The American”; Tracy Charlton, “Raised Up”; Kellen Hertz, “Ashburn”; Anna Hozian, “Anchor Baby”; Lyralen Kaye, “St. John the Divine in Iowa”; Jan Kimbrough, “The Glastonbury Cow Party”; Billie Mason, “The Cargo”; Peres Owino, “Basketweaver”; Gretchen Somerfeld, “Face Value”; Janet Stilson, “Jaguar Trail”; and Kim Turner, “It Goes Like This.”

The event will take place September 18 to 20 in upstate New York at the Wiawaka Center. Iris is a collective of women filmmakers founded by Kyle Ann Stokes, Elizabeth Kaiden and Nitza Wilon to champion the female voice through fictional narrative film.


Two New Books for David Ulin

sidewalkingOctober is looking like a big month for professor David Ulin. His new book, Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles comes out on October 6th, and news comes today that his next book will be out next spring, a novel co-written with  Paul Kolsby:

LA Times Book Critic and author of SIDEWALKING David Ulin and creator of THE ZERO MAN Paul Kolsby’s EAR TO THE GROUND, set in 1990s LA where news that the “Big One” is approaching, thanks to the mysterious Center for Earthquake Studies, propels a Hollywood producer to fast track an earthquake disaster flick so that it can premiere before the actual earthquake hits, while a seismologist wunderkind Charlie Richter, of the Richter Scale Richters, becomes the city’s only hope for survival, to Chris Heiser at Unnamed Press, for publication in Spring 2016, by Bonnie Nadell at Hill Nadell Literary Agency (World English).


Big Deal For JoAnn Chaney’s Debut

chaneyauthorWe’ve been sitting on this news for a little while, waiting for it to become official…but now the story can be told. Big news (and a big deal) for fiction alum JoAnn Chaney! She has inked a two-book deal with Amy Einhorn in her new role at Macmillan’s Flatiron Books. Here’s the official announcement from Publishers Marketplace:

JoAnn Chaney’s debut, WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, about how seven years after a renowned serial killer was put in jail, those in his orbit – the cop who arrested him, the lead reporter on the case, and his wife — are sucked back into a new nightmare when an eerily similar series of murders occur, and this may be their last chance for vindication or finally cause them to forfeit what’s left of their humanity, in a two-book deal, to Amy Einhorn and Christine Kopprasch at Flatiron Books, by Stephanie Cabot at The Gernert Company (World).
The book is set for release in summer 2016. JoAnn graduated from the program in spring 2014.


Welcome Fall 2015 Cohort: Student Bios

Annie ConnoleAnnie Connole was born and raised in Helena, Montana where she spent many of her formative years at the famed Grandstreet Theatre.  At 18, she moved to Los Angeles to study acting and then onto London to study at the London Academy for Music and Dramatic Art.   New York called and Annie enrolled at The New School, where she received a B.A. in Arts in Context.  During this time, she wrote a play, Highline, co-produced and art directed the Brooke Swaney film, The Indigenoid, and starred in the role of Sunny in the first university production of The Exonerated.  She worked in art and performance spaces including Location One and Acconci Studio and then transitioned into a career
as a talented political and communications consultant.  Most recently, at the urge of transformation, she put her finger on the map and moved to the beautiful, raw, desert landscape of Joshua Tree, California where she adopted three bunnies and began to write again.


Mark Forde was born in Dublin, Ireland and lives in the Los Angeles area. He graduated with a BA in Political Science/International Relations from UCR. Mark Forde
Mark has also completed the Professional Screenwriters Program at UCLA, and for many years worked in theatre in both Dublin and London. Mark worked and trained alongside the late Deirdre O’Connell at Dublin’s legendary Focus Theatre, (the training ground for Liam Neeson & Gabriel Byrne). Mark had has written several original screenplays and has had two optioned. Mark is also a classically trained Chef and worked in some of the finest restaurants in London, Dublin and Boston. Mark has traveled to China and the Philippines where he has taught classes in classic and modern French cuisine. He is a fulltime instructor of Culinary Arts and Baking, and writes short stories when not writing recipes.


Tom GWhen Tom Gianakopoulos isn’t writing about himself in the 3rd person, he is usually spending too much time on Instagram, or he’s at his favorite cafe reading the book review section of the New York Times (so many books, so little time). Whichever activity he’s engaged in, it’s a given that he’s also drinking too much coffee.  His preference for an explicit writing style may have something to do with being born in Brooklyn and raised in the cultural hornet’s nest that is New Jersey. He’s worked in the realms of documentary, advertising, higher education, and even tried his hand as an aerial tent cleaner for Cirque Du Soleil (cleaning the top of the big top). He received his undergraduate degree from Emerson College in Boston, and even spent a few months at the University of Iowa during a summer session of the Writers’ Workshop.  He currently lives and works in Los Angeles with his wife, Yukari.


Tracy GranzykAn experienced content creator for healthcare organizations and an aspiring screenwriter, Tracy Granzyk most often points the lens of her professional storytelling directly at patients and healthcare providers who have been harmed by the very system professing to protect both sides of the care giving encounter. Of focus most recently is the pervasive issue of health disparities, and crafting solutions through stories that build bridges and connection, working to acknowledge differences so all can truly appreciate the many similarities that unite us all. Generation of ideas is rarely an issue, and spit balling is considered a favorite sport! Her working screenplay, The Insurance Man, is based on a true event that took the life of her grandfather in 1967 during a robbery in a west side Chicago housing project. She is also working on a serial dramedy set in the medical field and inspired by the multiple award-winning crime drama Dexter, which she hopes will fill the gaping hole left for fans when the Showtime series ended. Most importantly, Tracy is the cool aunt to three of the coolest nieces and nephew ever. She is convinced this is the decade, if not the year, for her Chicago Cubs, and she frequently Skypes with her yellow lab, Patch, when on the road. Tracy feels fortunate to be a part of the UCR MFA writing community, and looks forward to meeting new friends and getting her butt kicked by writers with far more “real world” experience.

Kerry Keith: Bio and photo arriving soon…

Kathernine Kiefer-NewmanKatherine Kiefer-Newman, PhD, is just your average middle-aged, middle-class college professor who spends most days bopping from one to the other of the two colleges where she teaches. She loves and is generally beloved by her students, spending extra time helping them understand composition, critical thinking, philosophy, folklore & fairytales, religious concepts, and anything else she can convince her colleges to let her teach. People often comment how pleasant, affable, and kind she is and she is always pleased with these compliments. If only they realized that under that gentle smile is a person who has read far too much about serial killers, spree killers, watches more B horror than might be considered healthy, and can excitedly explain to other Gen Xers what Creepy Pasta is and why Slenderman is the millennials’ anti-hero of choice. If one makes the mistake of talking to her long enough she might casually reference Soylent Green, headhunters, why vampires should never sparkle, how Frankenstein’s monster was really just misunderstood, and other things that tend to confuse (maybe even worry) her audience. Back in her high school days, when the other 80s girls were spraying Aqua Net on their enormous hair and ironing their little, white OP shorts, when those other girls were dreaming of becoming ingenues and manic-pixie-dreamgirls, Kat longed to be the final girl, the scream queen who killed the masked murderer and saved the town from chaos and mayhem by kicking…ahem. Perhaps this is why she used to read the original Grimms’ fairytales to her daughters, and could be bribed to allow one or both of her daughters to stay up for an episode of X-Files or Buffy (who wants to watch those alone, anyway). Whatever the case, books should never be judged by their covers, as the old adage goes.

Dein SofleyDein Sofley graduated from Columbia College with a BA in Fiction Writing. She abides in Chicago and her native, California, ghostwriting a celebrity memoir that may or may not be published before said celebrity is dead. Striving for creative collaboration, she has also written and produced plays, including The TomKat Project in Chicago, New York and LA. Some days, she likes to bicycle, some days, she likes to write sappy folk ballads that begin with a shot of bourbon and end with a broken down truck.  She’s elated to rub elbows with the outstanding students and faculty of UCR.


Phil TisoPhil Tiso is a good man in a tight corner, which is a fortunate thing for him since that seems to be his native environment. Phil is an avid reader and collector of words and, unfortunately, books. There was once a petition to make him the patron saint of silverfish. Phil is a graduate of UC San Diego and is currently a Principal Editor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at UC San Francisco. He is excited to be making his third stop on the UC tour the UC Riverside Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. A long-time resident of California, Phil has lived in various parts of the state but has never once lived more than a brisk walk away from one of the Missions. He’s also a veteran of the US Coast Guard, but you’d never know it by looking at him.


When he was five years old, Arturo Urrutia got lost in the fresh trenches of Tijuana when his neighborhood was getting its first sewer system. His uncles neverArturo Urrutia
sent him to buy beer again because he lost the money. Two years later a lifeguard resuscitated him after finding him at the bottom of a swimming pool. His father spanked him for sneaking into the hotel swimming pool. His older sister once smashed his head against an Aztec statue in Mexico City, scarring his right ear for life. Many years later, Arturo married a wonderful lady named Martha; they have two wonderful kids and live an almost perfect life in San Diego, California. When National Geographic published a picture of Arturo Urrutia’s former Tijuana neighborhood in an article about the horrors of the planet, his mother asked, “Did they get us naked?” Arturo answered, “No, but they got the window of pop’s shop.” That’s about all the highlights in his life, so far.


Jesse WehrenbergJesse Wehrenberg has worn many hats, none of them berets. In previous lives he has professionally inspected furnished apartments, sold drugs (legally), appliances (also legally), learned to read squiggles and dots, and taught children how to build birdhouses. He spent six years working in military intelligence where he [REDACTED] for the [REDACTED], and established a new [REDACTED] in [REDACTED.] And yes, he has seen and even spoken to [REDACTED] in real life. It was, as you might guess, as intense as it sounds. He has a pair of colorful socks for every occasion. He made a little birdhouse in his soul. He refuses to discuss religion or politics but will, if asked, happily sing a traditional sea shanty (off-key.) He still misses his grandfather.

Tanisha WilliamsTanisha Quilter-Williams moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in screenwriting. In the beginning of her career she landed work in the entertainment business working in the trenches of some of the most prestigious Hollywood entertainment companies–as an assistant and coordinator at the William Morris Agency; Don Cornelius Productions; RKO Pictures; New Line Cinema and ICM. While pursuing her writing career, she acting in music videos, commercials and soap operas.  In 1999, she was chosen as a fellow in the Guy Hanks & Marvin Miller Screenwriting Program at USC, for my comedy screenplay, “Personal Problem,” about a man that looks for a date through the personal ads. She went on to produce a short film, “Artificial Genes,” a romantic comedy about a woman who used artificial insemination to start a family of her own. After hitting a rough patch, she decided to go  back to school and completed her degree in Broadcast Journalism and Media Studies at California State University- Los Angeles. During this time, she continued to climb the ladder and landed opportunities writing for several entertainment television shows and magazines and soon garnered staff positions at Inside Edition, E! Entertainment, US Weekly, BRE Magazine and EURWEB.com. As a senior entertainment reporter she interviewed celebrities, such as, Oprah Winfrey, Catherine Zeta Jones and Kelsey Grammar. In 2010, she landed the biggest cover for US Weekly Magazine by bringing the Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin engaged cover story to the forefront. Coverage of numerous events and red carpets definitely gave way for some interesting stories. Williams passion for screenwriting never faded and she has began to write again and is currently working on a romantic comedy.

Announcing The Guest Faculty For Our Spring Residency!

23-UCR Residency Dec 2014a

We’re only a few weeks away from our spring residency, which means it’s time to start getting excited about all of the amazing writers, editors, publishers, agents, producers, showrunners, development execs and industry professionals who’ll be joining us! If you’re interested in applying to the program, we encourage you to come out and visit for the day, see some lectures, sit in on a workshop or two, and get a chance to meet the faculty and students. For more information, please contact Agam Patel at 760-834-0926 or via email at agam.patel@ucr.edu.


Natalie Baszile. Natalie has a M.A. in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, and is a graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers where she was a Holden Minority Scholar. An early version of Queen Sugar won the Hurston Wright College Writer’s Award, was a co-runner up in the Faulkner Pirate’s Alley Novel-in-Progress competition, and excerpts were published in Cairn and ZYZZYVA. She has had residencies at the Ragdale Foundation where she was awarded the Sylvia Clare Brown fellowship, Virginia Center for the Arts, and Hedgebrook. Her non-fiction work has appeared in The Rumpus.net, Mission at Tenth, and in The Best Women’s Travel Writing Volume 9. She is a former fiction editor at The Cortland Review, and is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Natalie grew up in Southern California and lives in San Francisco with her family.

Matt Bell. Matt is the author of the novel IN THE HOUSE UPON THE DIRT BETWEEN THE LAKE AND THE WOODS, a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, a Michigan Notable Book, and an Indies Choice Adult Debut Book of the Year Honor Recipient, as well as the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. He is also the author of two previous books, HOW THEY WERE FOUND and CATACLYSM BABY, and his stories have appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Fantasy, Conjunctions, Gulf Coast, The American Reader, and many other publications. He teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.

Amber Benson. Cocreated, cowrote, and directed the animated supernatural Web series Ghosts of Albion with Christopher Golden, which they followed with a series of novels, including Witchery and Accursed, and the novella Astray. Benson and Golden also coauthored the novella The Seven Whistlers. As an actress, she has appeared in dozens of roles in feature films, TV movies, and television series, including the fan-favorite role of Tara Maclay on three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Benson wrote, produced, and directed the feature films Chance and Lovers, Liars and Lunatics.  Her latest book, The Witches of Echo Park follows the five novels in her popular Calliope Reaper-Jones series.

Cecil Castellucci. Cecil Castellucci is the author of novels for young adults. Boy Proof , The Queen of Cool and Beige all on Candlewick Press. Rose Sees Red, First Day on Earth on Scholastic Press. And The Year of the Beasts, Tin Star and Stone in the Sky on Roaring Brook Press.  Her upcoming novel, Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure, is a part of the Star Wars Journey to the Force Awakens series. Her first Graphic Novel The Plain Janes launched the DC Comics Minx imprint and she was awarded the 2007 Shuster Award for best Canadian Comic Book Writer. It was followed up by the sequel Janes in Love, which was nominated for the 2008 Shuster Award. Her first Picture Book, Grandma’s Gloves won the California Book Award Gold Medal for juvenile literature and Odd Duck was nominated for the Eisner Award, the Shuster Award and the Sakura Medal. Her short stories have appeared in various places including Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Apex Magazine, Black Clock, The Rattling Wall, YARN and the anthologies, Teeth, The Eternal Kiss, Geektastic (which she co-edited), Dear Bully, Interfictions 2 and After. Her books have been on various American Library Association’s (ALA’s) lists, as well as the NYPL Books for the Teen Age, Bank Street Books, Junior Library Guild and the Amelia Bloomer list. In addition to The Plain Janes and Janes in Love, (illustrated by Jim Rugg), The hybrid novel, The Year of the Beasts (illustrated by Nate Powell) and Odd Duck (illustrated by Sara Varon). Cecil’s other comics work includes The Wallflower (illustrated by Amy Reeder) in Ghosts #1 (Vertigo), The Lighthouse- Aquaman/Mera (illustrated by Inaki Miranda) in Young Romance #1 (DC Comics), I Will Return (illustrated by Kel MacDonald) in Womanthology Space #5 (IDW), Green Lantern: The Animated Series Issue #11(DC Comics). Upcoming she has a story in Wonder Woman: Sensation Comics and a graphic novel Pearl in the Rough with Joe Infurnari (Dark Horse). She is the recent recipient of two Macdowell Fellowships, Banff Residency and the Launchpad space science workshop.

Rae Dubow. Rae Dubow is the director of Talking Out Loud. She believes that everyone can be trained to communicate more effectively. Using techniques that she has taught for many years, she has a developed a system for public speaking that will help you create a dialogue with your audience. A former actress, Rae received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has coached and directed actors since the late 1990s and has worked with many writers on their public presentations.

Dave Elliott. Dave Elliott has more than 25 years of experience working in every aspect of the comic book industry from writer and artist to editor and publisher. Dave created Odyssey, The Weirding Willows, Sharky and Maximum Force and has worked on diverse titles such as A1, Deadline, Viz Comic, Heavy Metal magazine, Penthouse Comix, 2000 AD, Justice League of America, Transformers, GI Joe and Doctor Who. He recently worked with the band Fall Out Boy, and with NASCAR/MMI to create and brand new intellectual properties which he sites as examples of new media integration for a more immersive entertainment experience.  In 2006, Dave co-founded Radical Studios. As both the co-publisher and Editor-In-Chief, Dave was integral to the development and launch of Radical’s premiere comic book titles several of which have now begun development as film properties including Hercules (Starring Dwayne Johnson, directed by Brett Ratner and released by MGM), Freedom Formula (New Regency), Schrapnel, Caliber, Hotwire, Last Days of American Crime and Oblivion (starring Tom Cruise, directed by Joe Kosinski and released by Universal). Recently BenderSpink optioned the project Marksmen, co-created by Dave for Benaroya Productions, for development as a feature. Recently Dave relaunched his company ATOMEKA, started with his partner Garry Leach, as an imprint at Titan Books.  His first graphic novels series released under this deal are THE WEIRDING WILLOWS, ODYSSEY, as well as the rival of his two anthologies A1 and MONSTER MASSACRE. Dave currently crisscrosses the country every month between Los Angeles and his home in Sleepy Hollow, New York, developing content for companies like DeviantArt.

Katie Ford. Katie Ford is the author of Deposition and Colosseum, which was named a “Best Book of 2008″ by Publishers Weekly and the Virginia Quarterly Review. Her poetry has appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Poetry, and Poetry International. She has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Levis Reading Prize. She teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, and lives with the writer Josh Emmons and their daughter. Her latest book, Blood Lyrics, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book prize.

Dara Hyde. Dara Hyde is an agent at the Hill Nadell Literary Agency in Los Angeles and represents a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including literary and genre fiction, graphic novels, narrative non-fiction, memoir, and the occasional young adult title. Before joining Hill Nadell, Dara spent over a decade as an editor and rights and permissions manager at independent publisher Grove Atlantic in New York. A graduate of Bard College, Dara has always balanced her love of film and literature. At the agency she assists with foreign and film rights for the whole agency in addition to managing her own clients.  Dara has taught or spoken at a number of writers’ conferences and events, including 826LA, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, New Orleans Writers’ Conference, Pima Writers’ Workshop, PubWest, BinderCon, Long Beach Comic Expo, and the UC Riverside MFA program in Creative Writing. You can follow her on Twitter @dzhyde.

Douglas Kearney. Poet/performer/librettist Douglas Kearney’s third poetry collection, Patter (Red Hen Press, 2014) examines miscarriage, infertility, and parenthood. His second, The Black Automaton (Fence Books, 2009), was a National Poetry Series selection. He has received residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including Poetry, nocturnes, Pleiades, The Boston Review, The Iowa Review, Ninth Letter, Washington Square, and Callaloo. Two of his operas, Sucktion and Crescent City, have received grants from the MAPFund. Sucktion has been produced internationally. Crescent City premiered in Los Angeles in 2012. He has been commissioned to write and/or teach ekphrastic poetry for the Weisman Museum (Minneapolis), Studio Museum in Harlem, MOCA, SFMOMA, the Getty, and the Hammer. Raised in Altadena, CA, he lives with his family in California’s Santa Clarita Valley. He teaches at CalArts, where he received his MFA in Writing (04).

Shawna Kenney. Shawna Kenney wrote the award-winning memoir I Was a Teenage Dominatrix (Last Gasp), co-authored Imposters (Mark Batty Publisher), and edited the anthology Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers (Seal Press). Her nonfiction work has appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, Creative Nonfiction, The Rumpus, Bust, Juxtapoz, Veg News, Ms., Mix Mag, Transworld Skateboarding, the Baltimore Sun and the Florida Review, among others, while her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Kenney’s personal essays appear in numerous anthologies and she has shared her words with Goucher College, Sarah Lawrence, UCLA, UC Riverside, California State University Long Beach, Cal-State Fullerton, the University of Maryland, Ladyfest LA, the DIY Convention, Vallekilde School of Communications (Denmark), the Hollywood Public Library, Hustler Hollywood, NPR affiliates and the BBC. She earned a BA in Communications from American University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She teaches creative writing in private workshops and for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Kenney lives in Los Angeles, where she is finishing Live at the Safari Club: a people’s history of harDCore.

Jillian Lauren. Jillian Lauren is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and the novel, Pretty, both published by Plume/Penguin. Some Girls has been translated into seventeen different languages. Her next memoir, Everything You Ever Wanted, is coming out from Plume in spring 2015. Jillian has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Magazine and Salon.com among others and has been anthologized widely, including in The Moth Anthology, True Tales of Lust and Love and Best of Babble Blogs. She has performed at spoken word and storytelling events across the country, including being a regular on The Moth mainstage, and has been interviewed on such television programs as The View, Good Morning America and Howard Stern. She is a popular and sometimes controversial blogger at MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Jillianlauren.com, which was named a Top 100 Mom Blog of 2012 by Babble Magazine. Jillian is married to Weezer bass player Scott Shriner. They live in Los Angeles with their son.

Gallagher Lawson. Gallagher Lawson is a graduate of UC Riverside’s Palm Desert MFA. program. He has worked as a travel writer and technical writer, and plays classical piano. He lives in Los Angeles. His first novel, The Paper Man, is out now.

Brian Lipson. Lipson is a partner in the Los Angeles based literary management company Intellectual Property Group (IPG).  Brian  specializes in selling the motion picture/television rights of literary material. For 15 years he has represented such notable authors as Stephen E. Ambrose, Jared Diamond, Eric Garcia, Joe Lansdale, Brad Meltzer, Joyce Carol Oates, Rex Pickett and Mark Haskell Smith. Brian also represents the literary estates of Mark Twain and Jim Thompson. Some of the motion picture and television projects he sold include Band of Brothers, Boardwalk Empire, Ike: Countdown to D-Day, Sideways, Matchstick Men, Repo Men, Pain & Gain and The Departed. Additionally, Brian also markets non-fiction books to publishers. Some of the authors he has sold books for include Stephen Ambrose, Hugh Ambrose, the Osbournes, Alexandra Pelosi, Amber Tamblyn, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sharon Rocha (Laci Peterson’s mother), Scout Productions (the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), Aisha Tyler, Bob Newhart, Burt Bacharach and Roger Ebert. Prior to joining IPG, Brian ran the book division at Endeavor from 1999 until the merger with the William Morris Agency in 2009. Before Endeavor, Brian was an agent and assistant at the Renaissance Agency, where he trained under his current partner, Joel Gotler.

Leon Martell. An MFA from the University of Iowa, he co-founded “DUCK’S BREATH MYSTERY THEATER” and performed with them on stage and in series for NPR, PBS, and a children’s series “DR. SCIENCE” for FOX Television. He wrote the award winning “HOSS DRAWIN” as a member of Sam Shepard’s writing workshop and participated as a writer, actor, and director in the Padua Hills Festival for thirteen years. His award winning plays also include “KINDLING” , “1961 EL DORADO”, “MOONCALF”, “FEED THEM DOGS,” and “HARD HAT AREA”. His play with music, “STEEL – JOHN HENRY AND THE SHAKER” , written with composer Penka Kouneva, received seven “Ovation Award” nominations, including “Best New Musical” and “Best Musical – Small Venue.” His “BEA[U]TIFUL IN THE EXTREME,” was a finalist for the national “L. Arnold Weissberger Award for Playwriting” and the Pen West Playwriting Award. His solo work has been recorded for NPR and performed at Beyond Baroque, Library Girl and in the Los Angeles Poetry Festival. For the past nine years he has been writing “Orchestral Theater” for the Los Angeles Philharmonic at The Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Summer Sounds world music shows at the Hollywood Bowl.  He’s in his 20th year teaching writing at UCLA Extension and has taught various playwriting, screen writing and character writing courses at Loyola Marymout, Occidental and Santa Monica Colleges.


Dito Montiel. Dito Montiel is an author, screenwriter, and director. He is the author of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Eddie Crumble is the Clapper. His films include A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Fighting, The Son of No One, Empire State, and Man Down.

Ruth Nolan is a recent graduate of the UC Riverside low residency MFA program. She is Professor of English at College of the Desert, where she’s taught composition, creative writing, and literature courses since fall, 1999 and advises the campus literary magazine, Solstice. She won a national teaching award in 2004 from The National Council of Teachers of English/Teaching English in the TwoYear College affiliated organizations. Her poetry and prose writing has appeared recently/is forthcoming in Rattling Wall, New Fiction Los Angeles (Red Hen Press;) New California Writing (Heyday Books); KCET Los Angeles; and Sierra Club Desert Report. She is winner of the 2015 Mojave River Press creative nonfiction chapbook contest for California Drive, and has collaborated as a writer on several film projects, including Escape to Reality: 24 hrs at 24 fps, produced by the UCR/California Museum of Photography in 2008. Ruth is also editor of the anthology No Place for a Puritan: the literature of California’s Deserts (Heyday, 2009) and has founded and led many community-based writing and literature workshops for the Inlandia Writers Workshop; the (In)Visible Memoir Project; UCR and CSUSB Extension; and the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park. She has been a featured reader at the L.A. Times Festival of Books; Lit Crawl L.A., 2013-2014; Rattling Wall at Book Soup; Dirty Laundry Lit;  PEN USA Empire Moon; and was recently honored for her community writing workshop contributions at the Poets & Writers /West 25th Anniversary Celebration. Ruth is currently writing a memoir about her work as a wildland firefighter in the Mojave Desert and western U.S. in the 1980’s.


Patrick O’Neil.  Patrick O’Neil is the author of the memoir Hold Up, which was published in France. During punk rock’s heyday (1979–83) O’Neil worked at the legendary Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco’s premier punk venue. He then went on to become a roadie and eventually the road manager for Dead Kennedys and Flipper, as well as the Subhumans (UK) and T.S.O.L. (Los Angeles). But that was before his life got totally out of control. O’Neil was a heroin addict for eighteen years, incarcerated for two and a half years, went to two long term residential rehabs for a total of three years, worked as a substance abuse counselor for six years, and has been clean off drugs for the last thirteen. He holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles, teaches at a community college, and splits his time between Los Angeles and San Francisco. His new book, Gun Needle Spoon, is out now from Dzanc.


Eduardo Santiago. Eduardo’ first novel Tomorrow They Will Kiss was an Edmund White Debut Fiction Award finalist and a Latino Book Award finalist. Mr. Santiago’s highly anticipated follow-up is entitled, Midnight Rumba, won the New England Book Award – Best Fiction and took top honors at the Beverly Hills Book Awards 2013. His short fiction has been widely published, most notably in ZYZZYVA, Slow Trains, and The Caribbean Writer, among others, and his nonfiction has appeared in Los Angeles Times, The Advocate, and Out Traveler Magazine, among others.

Mr. Santiago earned a BFA degree from the California Institute of the Arts and a Creative Writing MFA from Antioch University. He has taught novel writing for UCLA’s extension program for the past eight years, and memoir writing at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, and is currently on faculty at Mt. San Jacinto College. He is the founder of the Idyllwild Authors Series, and a two-time PEN Center U.S.A. Fellow (2004 & 2008). His many personal appearances include” CBS News, KCRW’S All Things Considered, The New York City Book Festival, The Miami Book Fair International, The Tucson Book Festival, The Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books, and the West Hollywood Writers Fair.


Andrea Seigel. Andrea Seigel is the author of four novels, Like The Red Panda, To Feel Stuff, The Kid Table, and Everybody Knows Your Name (with Brent Bradshaw). Her first film, Laggies, directed by Lynn Shelton, was released last year.


John Hilary Shepherd is the Director of Development at Cross Creek Pictures and is a WGA Award-nominated writer for his work on the Emmy Award-winning Showtime television series NURSE JACKIE.  He comes to Cross Creek Pictures after also working in development for Spelling Films, Polygram, and as a story analyst for the William Morris Agency.  Mr. Shepherd has a BA in Broadcasting & Cinema from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and received an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute.


Dan Smetanka is the Executive Editor of Counterpoint Press and has worked in various aspects of the publishing industry for over twenty years. As an Executive Editor at Ballantine/Random House, Inc., he acquired and published award-winning debut books including The Ice Harvest by Scott Philips, The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner, Down to a Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck, and Among the Missing by Dan Chaon, a 2001 finalist for the National Book Award. Prior to this, he served as Director of Maria B. Campbell Associates, an international scouting agency that facilitated the placement of American authors into the international marketplace. Daniel also acted as a publishing consultant to both Amblin/Dreamworks and The Kennedy/Marshall Company to identify material appropriate for feature film and television adaptation. As Executive Editor for Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press, one of the largest independent presses in the country and one of the few located on the west coast, his recent projects include works by Thomas Steinbeck, Linda Gray Sexton, James Brown, Scott Phillips, Janna Malamud Smith, Craig Nova, Ilie Ruby, Neil Jordan, Dana Johnson, Isaac Adamson, Karen E. Bender, Joshua Mohr, Emma Woolf, John N. Maclean, Tara Ison, Kim Addonizio, Andrea Portes, Dinah Lenney, Frank Browning, Anna David, Liza Monroy, Thaisa Frank, Tod Goldberg, Gina Frangello, Natashia Deon and more.


Mitch Stein runs The Stein Agency, a literary agency representing screenwriters, producers and directors. Previously, he was a partner is Shapiro-Lichtman-Stein, which he left in 2000 to start his own firm.


Jamison Stoltz is a senior editor at Grove/Atlantic. He edits nonfiction—recent titles include Paradise Lust by Brook Wilensky-Lanford, Harlem  by Jonathan Gill, and Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson—and mysteries and thrillers, including Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series and the novels of Deon Meyer, Mike Lawson, and Mark Haskell Smith. Before joining Grove/Atlantic, he worked at the William Morris Agency in London and New York, and in publicity at Houghton Mifflin in New York.


Andrew Winer. Andrew Winer is the author of the novels The Marriage Artist and The Color Midnight Made. A recipient of a NEA Fellowship in Fiction, he occasionally writes about artists, composer, thinkers and other writers. He is working on a new novel about religion and politics. He is the Chair of the Creative Writing department at the University of California, Riverside


Matt Witten is the author of four novels, Breakfast at Madeline’s, winner of the Malice Domestic Award, Grand Delusion, Strange Bedfellows, and The Killing Bee. He’s served as a writer/producer on The Glades, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, Supernatural, House MD, JAG, CSI:Miami, and written episodes of Pretty Little Liars, Law & Order, Judging Amy, Homicide and many other shows. His plays include The Deal, Washington Square Moves, and The Ties That Bind. His film Drones, directed by Rick Rosenthal and starring Matt O’Leary and Eloise Mumford, premiered in October and November of 2013 at the London Film Festival; the Austin Film Festival; and the AFI Fest.


Matthew Zapruder. Matthew Zapruder is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Come On All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon 2010), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Sun Bear (Copper Canyon, 2014), as well as a book of prose, Why Poetry, forthcoming from Ecco Press in 2015. He is also co-translator from Romanian, along with historian Radu Ioanid, of Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems of Eugen Jebeleanu (Coffee House Press, 2007). His poems, essays and translations have appeared in many publications, including Tin House, Paris Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Bomb, Slate, Poetry, and The Believer. He has received a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, a William Carlos Williams Award, a May Sarton Award from the Academy of American Arts and Sciences, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship in Marfa, TX. An Assistant Professor in the St. Mary’s College of California MFA program and English Department, he is also Editor-at-Large at Wave Books and Writer-in-Residence at the UCR Loa Residency MFA. He lives in Oakland, CA.

Welcome Spring 2015 Cohort: Student Bios

Travis Burkett1

Travis Burkett was born and raised in dusty West Texas.  You can still find him there, working on a cotton farm and writing about things.  Short stories are his specialty, but he looks forward to the opportunity to branch out at UCR. Hobbies include reading, playing guitar, and watching his beloved Cowboys and Mavericks.  He is excited about working in this program, and feels weird writing about himself in third-person.


Michelle Castillo: Traveling everywhere with her musician mother, she became a child of the road playing in studios and sleeping in makeshift beds. Taking up piano, violin and voice at an early age Michelle fell in love with the world of creative expression. When it came down to choosing a profession she went into teaching to fulfill her passion for cultivating arts and diversity amongst the youth. While teaching, she did freelance writing for an alternative weekly her articles focused on the underground DIY arts and culture community blossoming in her hometown of Coachella Valley. She is now one of the facilitators for the progressive artist collective Desert Writers, Artists and Musicians, in which they have been throwing a monthly pop-up reading series at Koffi featuring poets and writers. Recently, Michelle collaborated with The Coachella Valley Art Scene to present CONNECTED. She is excited to be part of this program and hopes it will allow her to flourish as a writer. Her genre of choice is poetry, yet she is curious to tap into creative nonfiction. In her free time you may find her at a dinner party with friends, painting at a park, having lunch at Lola’s or advocating for social change.


Theresa Corigliano has spent most of her professional career as a television publicity executive and writer. At the request of the CBS Television Network, Corigliano relocated from New York to Los Angeles, where she served as vice president of communications, during which time she supervised publicity campaigns for all of the Network’s primetime series. After leaving CBS, Corigliano worked for six years as a publicity consultant, launching the Emmy-nominated CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and promoting other primetime and syndicated television shows, TV movies and indie films. She holds several honors for her campaigns by the Publicists Guild of America. Also a member of the Writers Guild of America, West, Corigliano is a produced television writer, who began her career in one-hour drama. She was a semifinalist for her episodic work at the Austin Film Festival, and she was also a quarterfinalist in the Writers Network screenwriting competition. As a sportswriter, she has covered the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings for the NHL’s GOAL Magazine and other national sports magazines, and also served for two years as the publicity manager of the Phil Esposito Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that administered career counseling and drug and alcohol rehabilitation for professional hockey players. Corigliano has been a guest instructor at UCLA School of Continuing Education in the area of television publicity, and a guest speaker at USC. Currently, she is a contributing editor at PETERGREENBERG.com and DISHMAGAZINE.com. Outside of television, she volunteers in Emergency Department of Cedars Sinai Medical Center, and in the Education Department of Aquarium of the Pacific. She lives in Los Angeles.


Catherine Darby’s work has been published in The Muse Strikes Back: A Poetic Response by Women to Men, The Temple, The Long Island Quarterly, 5 x7: A New York Anthology, and San Diego Writers Ink.  She was a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference participant, grant recipient of the Italian-American Foundation and an editor for Vox Populi Anthology of the Seattle Poetry Festival. In1995 she moved to Seattle and began hiking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail southbound, and with her artist husband, started CHAM (Capital Hill Art Militia).  Now, she and her family hike northbound from San Diego where they live; in about nine years, they will complete the trail, somewhere in the middle.


Corrie Dibble is coming to UCR from Oregon, graduating in 2012 from Portland State University. Inspired by authors like Poe and Patterson she has chosen to pursue a life in writing. Corrie is a dreamer, traveler, and will stop to listen to any stranger’s story, then write about it. Her theme song in life is “Nobody’s Gunna Break My Stride” or “Another One Bites The Dust” — depending if there is a break-up. Corrie loves to eat french fries and confesses that she will run an extra mile in order to justify an extra large order of them drizzled in truffle sauce. She is an avid animal lover, maybe more than humans, and her 9 year old mutt, Stoli, rules her world.


John Flynn-York writes fiction and criticism. He grew up in the San Francisco bay area and studied politics and philosophy at UC Santa Cruz. He’s worked as a script reader, a lifeguard, a teacher, and a butcher. When not writing, he enjoys taking rambling walks through Los Angeles and baking pies and bread.



My name is Kathy Hansler and I am looking forward to rediscovering my writer’s voice. I have spent the past thirteen years helping university students find their writer’s voice, as a professor at California State University San Bernardino, where I teach English composition, news writing, and publication layout and design. Prior to teaching, I worked as a staff reporter and columnist for twenty-three years, including four years at the Orange County Register and sixteen years at The (San Bernardino County) Sun. I earned my master of arts in English Composition at CSUSB and bachelor of arts at UC San Diego. I live in Redlands, Calif., with my husband and two dogs, and I have two grown children prospering in their own careers.



Jenny Hayes grew up in Berkeley, California, and graduated with a B.A. in Comparative Literature from U.C. Berkeley a rather long time ago. In 1996 she moved to Seattle, where she began dating the guy who worked at the record store down the street. They eventually got married, bought a house, had a daughter, and adopted a cat. Jenny makes her living writing technical content, and for many years she blogged about the bizarre world of yard sales, but fiction is her favorite thing to write. Her stories appear in various intriguing publications, including a chapbook with an illustrated story about junior high and David Bowie, and she’s read her work in locations ranging from dive bars in the mountains to mansions by the sea.



Lia Langworthy is a UC Berkeley graduate (1992), a published poet, a produced TV writer (credits include The Shield and Soul Food) and recipient of The Fox Diversity Writing Fellowship and ABC’s Daytime Writing fellowship. During her time at UCR Lia will write two TV pilots and a memoir. Lia lives with her daughter and two cats in Studio City, CA.



Nicky Loomis is a fiction writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2005 with a BA in English and Creative Writing. She additionally holds an MS from Columbia Journalism School in print journalism and an MA in specialized journalism from USC. She writes features relating to arts and culture for various publications including the Los Angeles Times. She additionally writes a longstanding human interest column for her hometown paper, the Pasadena Star News. She spent 2011-2012 in Budapest, Hungary as a Fulbright scholar in creative writing. She conducted research and interviews focusing on the political climate in Hungary from 1948 to the present in order to better understand how memory – both private and collective – is lost during times of pain, and how this loss has affected cultural identity in post-Communist Hungary and personal identity abroad. In this process, she completed a first draft of a novel. Her fiction has appeared in Driftwood Literary Journal, Inside Out Literary Magazine, and the Hawaii Review. She is a PEN Center member and has received fellowships to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Summer Literary Seminars, and a Long Scholarship from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.


Jeff Meyers is currently a New York-based filmmaker and screenwriter. He is also an award-winning film critic at Detroit’s Metro Times, and a contributing writer for Moviemaker Magazine. In the early aughts, Jeff was the Creative Director for StageDirect (Portland, OR) and the co-founder and former artistic director of Theatre Vertigo (Portland, OR). Before that he spent 10 years working as a microbiologist. In 2000, he was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards for poetry.



Pam Munter is a professional has-been, having been an actor, singer, producer, musician, bandleader, professor, political activist and shrink.  All these pursuits (and a few more) involved writing in some form.  She has had two books published and contributed to several others along with two dozen lengthy articles on (usually) dead movie stars.  Being accepted into the MFA program is likely to provide a stimulating Act Three in an already eventful life.



David Nestor

David Nestor is a 2014 Cal State Long Beach graduate where he obtained his BA in English. He not only shares his birthday with Edgar Allen Poe, but also an affinity for horror and all things disturbed. During the final semester of his undergraduate program David interned for Nortia Press, a local publisher, as an editor. He hopes to complete and publish his first novel during his time at the UCR low residency MFA.




Clarinda Ross made her film debut in Blue Sky (last film directed by Sir Tony Richardson) with Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones.  Her television credits include: The United States of Tara, Medium, The District, The Drew Carey Show, Judging Amy, E.R., The Client, NewsRadio, Days of Our Lives, In The Heat of The Night, I’ll Fly Away and several television movies most notably the Emmy Award winning Stolen Babies with Mary Tyler Moore. Ms. Ross has authored two plays, From My Grandmother’s Grandmother Unto Me and Spit Like A Big Girl for which she was named a 2014 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. She is married to the actor Googy Gress.  They have three children Clara, Frank and Gus. She served for many years on the National Council of AEA and is currently a L.A. delegate to SAG.AFTRA. She is a proud member of The Dramatist’s Guild of America. www.clarindaross.com


Deedie Runkel

Donnan Beeson Runkel (Deedie) Writing has always had to fit between the cracks of a life made busy doing what was expected of me – work, family, friends, causes, and communities. My professional career’s included everything from advocating for older people to helping Congressional spouses prevent nuclear war to being a top official for the Peace Corps, both in headquarters and overseas to, most recently, being an innkeeper in Ashland, Oregon. Central to my success in all these endeavors was my ability to express myself and my mission in the written word. Without realizing it, I was proving Garrison Keillor right — there’s hardly anything we English majors can’t do when we put our minds to it. My 2010 memoir, BOXES Lifting the Lid on An American Life, laid the groundwork for what’s to come.



Eli Ryder is a fiction writer from Lancaster, CA, a windy desert town about an hour north of Los Angeles.  Eli earned a Master’s Degree in English from CSU Northridge in 2014, teaches composition at a small private university in the Antelope Valley, and occasionally endures the torture of High School Substitute Teaching.  When hunched over his laptop, searching for a better turn-of-phrase, he is watching the Dodgers or the Packers and enjoying (or not, as the case may be) a craft beer at the local brewhouse.


Bill Ratner In Time Magazine

ratnerbookWhen Time needed an expert on parenting in the digital age, they turned to our nonfiction student Bill Ratner, whose book Parenting in the Digital Age came out this fall. 

So how do teens reform their technology habits? Author and voice actor Bill Ratner is probably the last person any parent would consult as an expert on the topic. The man made a career out of lending his voice to some of the most aggressive advertising powerhouses around. But Ratner is also a dad. And his lifetime of work in the industry make his perspective a useful one. Consider these eight guidelines based on Ratner’s recent book, Parenting for the Digital Age

Read the full story here.


Stephen Graham Jones Named A Finalist For The Bram Stoker

peoplelightsStephen Graham Jones’ latest collection, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, has been named a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award:

Horror Writers Association Reveals Final Ballot for Bram Stoker Awards®

The Horror Writers Association, the premier organization of writers and publishers of horror and dark fantasy, today announced the 2014 nominees for the iconic Bram Stoker Award®.

Named in honor of the author of the seminal horror novel Dracula, the Bram Stoker Awards® are presented annually for superior writing in eleven categories including traditional fiction of various lengths, poetry, screenplays and non-fiction. Previous winners include Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, Joyce Carol Oates and Neil Gaiman. The HWA also presents a Lifetime Achievement Award to living individuals who have made a substantial and enduring contribution to the genre. This year’s Lifetime Achievement recipients are Jack Ketchum and Tanith Lee.

“This year’s nominees have not only penned remarkable works, they have raised the bar for exceptional writing and have helped shape the continuing evolution of the genre,” said Lisa Morton, HWA president and multiple Bram Stoker Award® winner.

The presentation of the Bram Stoker Awards® will occur during the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, Georgia on the evening of Saturday, May 9, 2015. Tickets to the banquet and the convention are on sale to the public at www.whc2015.org. The awards presentation will also be live-streamed online.

Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection

Stephen Graham Jones – After the People Lights Have Gone Off (Dark House Press)
John R. Little – Little by Little (Bad Moon Books)
Helen Marshall – Gifts for the One Who Comes After (ChiZine Publications)
Lucy A. Snyder – Soft Apocalypses (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
John F.D. Taff – The End in All Beginnings (Grey Matter Press)

Luke Yankee Named One Of The Best, Ever

Congratulations are due to screenwriting student Luke Yankee, whose biography of his mother Eileen Heckart,  Just Outside The Spotlight: Growing Up With Eileen Heckart, was named one of the best celebrity biographies, ever:

yankeebookLuke is a producer/director/writer whose spunky mom, Eileen Heckart, gave a searing performance inThe Bad Seed, won an Oscar for Butterflies Are Free, and memorably played Aunt Flo on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. His remembrances of her are even spicier (and also warmer) than you’d imagine, making for a rollicking ride through artistry and honesty. This is one of the best show biz books ever written, taking you inside the heart and mind of a unique firebrand.

Tod Goldberg Up For The Hammett Prize

glandcoverProgram director Tod Goldberg’s latest novel, Gangsterland, has been named a finalist for the Hammett Prize:

 The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers is pleased to announce nominees for their annual HAMMETT PRIZE for a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a US or Canadian author. The nominees are as follows:

Wayfaring Stranger: A Novel, by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster)
Smoke River, by Krista Foss (McClelland & Stewart)
Gangsterland: A Novel, by Tod Goldberg (Counterpoint)
Mr. Mercedes: A Novel, by Stephen King (Scribner)
Goodhouse: A Novel, by Peyton Marshall (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

A reading committee of IACW/NA members selected the nominees, based on recommendations from other members and the publishing community. The committee was headed by Del Staecker and included Maria Hudgins, Heidi Noroozy, Howard Owen, and Allen Wyler.

The winner will be chosen by three distinguished outside judges: Morris Dickstein, author of Why Not Say What Happened: A Sentimental Education; Daniel Simon, Editor-in Chief of World Literature Today; and Frank Wilson, former Books Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and blogger at Booksinq.

The organization will name the HAMMETT PRIZE winner, during the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association’s (NAIBA) Fall Conference, in Somerset, New Jersey, October 2-4. The winner will receive a bronze trophy, designed by sculptor Peter Boiger.

The Winners of the Academy Awards!*

(*Well, we predict the Academy Awards, anyway.)

We culled together some of the brightest minds of our time and asked them to vote upon 8 of the major awards set to be handed out this coming Sunday during the Academy Awards. What we found is that there are a few surprises, a few locks, and, generally, very little profound disappointment. If everything goes as we predict, it will be a big night for Birdman. Here’s our bold predictions, based upon 144 ballots cast by our MFA students, our MFA alums, and members of our live Academy Awards show held in Palm Desert last Tuesday.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game by Graham Moore. (39.5%) Runner-up: Whiplash by Damien Chazelle (24.3%)

Best Original Screenplay: Birdman by Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alezander Dinelaris Jr. & Armando Bo (47.2%) Runner-up: Boyhood by Richard Linklater (22%)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Patricia Arquette, from Boyhood (42.3%) Runner-up: Emma Stone, from Birdman (20.8%)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: JK Simmons, from Whiplash (45.1%) Runner-up: Edward Norton, from Birdman (19.4%)

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Julianne Moore, from Still Alice (57.1%) Runner-up: Reese Witherspoon, from Wild (15%)

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Michael Keaton, from Birdman (38.8%) Runner-up: Eddie Redmayne, from The Theory of Everything (29.8%)

Best Director: Richard Linklater, from Boyhood (37.9%) Runner-up: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman (37.2%) — our closest competition; Linklater defeated Inarritu by a single vote.

Best Picture: Birdman (30%). Runners-up: Boyhood (21.3%), The Theory Everything (16%) The Imitation Game (13%) and American Sniper (13%)

Jill Alexander Essbaum Is A Star

hausfrau…or at least she’s getting Starred Reviews for her debut novel Hausfrau, this time from Publishers Weekly:

Over a century after the publication of Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, poet Essbaum proves in her debut novel that there is still plenty of psychic territory to cover in the story of “a good wife, mostly.” But now, more than ever, it is clear that the conflict between the protagonist’s desires and her “tightly circumscribed” world is her own doing, and not a result of social limitations. Anna Benz is an American expatriate and mother of three, married to Bruno, a Swiss banker. In her nine years of living in a tidy suburb of Zurich, Anna (whose name is a Tolstoy nod) has never gotten a driver’s license, befriended other mothers, or learned Swiss German, the form of German spoken in Switzerland. Essbaum’s story opens as Anna attempts to break through her ennui and engage with the world. She starts a course of Jungian analysis with the inimitable Doktor Messerli and finally enrolls in language classes. Still, she’s drawn into a number of extramarital affairs that skirt the line between passion and passivity. In Essbaum’s capable hands, Anna invites the reader’s empathy rather than scorn. The realism of Anna’s dilemmas and the precise construction of the novel are marvels of the form, and Essbaum chooses her words carefully. When her teacher lectures her on verb tenses, Anna wonders, “But how often is the past simple? Is the present ever perfect?” This novel is masterly as it moves toward its own inescapable ending, and Anna is likely to provoke strong feelings in readers well after the final page.


Carol Damgen Gets Selected By The Kennedy Center

kennedyCongratulations are due for alum Carol Damgen, whose play “Jackie Robinson: An American Dream” has been selected to appear at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in  St. George, Utah. The Evening of Invitational Scenes will kick off the Festival on Wednesday, February 11, 2105. 

Maggie Downs Making It Work In The Washington Post

wapoAlum Maggie Downs has a new essay in the Washington Post this week about finding your inner Tim Gunn:

One week after Everest was born, the shower on the second floor of my condo began leaking into the garage underneath. The landlady arranged for a few different companies to come by and assess the damage, and she hired the one that gave her the lowest estimate.

The weeks that followed were filled with construction, starting as early as 6 a.m. and finishing well after dark. They used sledgehammers to destroy the existing tile, and the concrete underneath was smashed away with a slow, continuous bang! – bang! – bang! They thunked and clattered and carried sacks of tile shards down the stairs. They piped a putrid, tar-like substance into the gaping sore that used to be a shower, then laid sheets of concrete.



Accolades for Mickey Birnbaum

kcrwAlum-turned-playwriting professor Mickey Birnbaum’s play “Backyard” was a big critical and audience hit in 2014…and now he has the end-year-plaudits to show for it, including a Sage Award and being named the Best of 2014 by KCRW:

The Echo also produced Mickey Birnbaum’s Backyard a play that carried the tropes of amateur wrestling to allegorical heights. Led by actor Hugo Armstrong, in one of two standout performances this year, the cast’s commitment elevated comic spectacle to a deeper examination of the narratives we all construct.



The Best Things We Read in 2014



We asked a few of our students, alums, and professors to tell us the best books they read this year, even if the book didn’t come out this year. Seems like Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, Gabriel by Edward Hirsch, and a book by one of our faculty members proved particularly popular….

Heather Partington:

Fiction: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Beside Myself by Ashley Farmer

Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones

Green Girl by Kate Zambreno

A Life in Men by Gina Frangello

How to Catch a Coyote by Christy Crutchfield

What Happened Here by Bonnie ZoBell

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg

Nonfiction:  The Object Parade by Dinah Lenney

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

The Unspeakable by Megan Daum

Art Hanlon: 

My favorites from 2014 were “The Flamethrowers” by Rachel Kushner; “Inherent Vice” by Thomas Pynchon; “Gangsterland” by Tod Goldberg and “Chance” by Kem Nunn.

Simona Supekar: 

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap   by Matt Taibbi
Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World (forthcoming in 2015) by Mark Haskell Smith
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Corona by Bushra Rehman
Pity the Animal by Chelsea Hodson


Megan Eccles Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkowski

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Valor and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

Slow Regard for Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss


Eileen Roggin Shields My favorite book always seems to be the last one I read. In this case, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast.

Tod Goldberg:

Fiction: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson.
Poetry: Gabriel by Edward Hirsch.
Nonfiction: The Good Spy by Kai Bird.
Weird Genre Book: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
Not From 2014: Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.
Re-Read: The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake.

Maggie Downs:  Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak


Kristi Daune-Edwards Rabe: Lauren Beuke’s Broken Monsters.

Penne Berry Richards: Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg


Jason Metz: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Xach Fromson: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Mr. Wicker by Maria Alexander

Miss Massacre’s Guide to Murder and Vengeance by Michael Paul Gonzalez

Cowface and Other Hilarious Stories about Death by Mere Smith

The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, edited by Laird Barron


Gail Mackenzie-Smith: The Children Act – Ian McEwan, Life After Life – Kate Atkinson, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Cynthia Romanowski:  1) Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

2) Funny Once by Antonya Nelson

3) Bark by Loorie Moore

4) When Kerosene’s Involved by Daniel Romo

5) The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison


Pamela Diane Gilbert-Snyder: Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit.

Mark Haskell Smith Fiction: The White Van by Patrick Hoffman, The Dinner by Herman Koch.

Nonfiction: Dallas 1963 by Minutiglio and Davis, Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell by Chas Smith, Farewell, Fred Voodoo by Amy Wilentz.

Leigh Raper:  The Fever by Megan Abbott, Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott, and Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.

Sami Jankins: Gabriel by Edward Hirsch, The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum

Faye Satterly:  Dear Life, Alice Munro

Dave Martinez:  I don’t know if this is only for prose, but The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson is wonderful. I’ve been reading a collection of short stories by Holiday Reinhorn I’ve been loving called Big Cats. Also,  Cartesian Sonata by William Gass. Thing Music by Anthony McCann

Lizi Gilad: Silver Red Juice, Hoa Nguyen (Wave Books) and You Who Read Me With Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends, Dorothy Iannone (Siglio Press)

Marion Ruybalid:  Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz,  Meyebela by Taslima Nasrin (older book), The Empathy Exams  by Leslie Jamison

Melissa Henderson: Tod Goldberg’s Gangsterland was pretty baller. Also Gina Frangello’s A Life In Men. And I haven’t finished yet, but Lily King’s Euphoria’s got me the throat so far.  Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings; Megan Stielstra’s Once I Was Cool; Rob Roberge’s The Cost of Living. Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins; Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore; Elizabeth E. Wein’s Code Name Verity. Kate Christensen’s The Great Man/The Epicure’s Lament

Guy Nicolucci: Just read the Alexandria Quartet. Yeah, it came out before I was born, but it was still new and amazing to me. (And for new stuff, I loved Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists)

JoAnn Chaney: BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty, DEPT OF SPECULATION by Jenny Offill, YOU REMIND ME OF ME by Dan Chaon, THE SISTERS BROTHERS by Patrick DeWitt, THE STEPFORD WIVES by Ira Levin

Liska Jacobs: Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Things I Don’t Want to Know (in writing) by Deborah Levy

Gabriel by Edward Hirsch

Sunstroke and other stories Tessa Hadley

Sudden Rain Maritta Wolff

Smile Please Jean Rhys

Swimming Home Deborah Levy

Ross Helford: The Android’s Dream – John Scalzi

At Fear’s Altar – Richard Gavin

Gangsterland – Tod Goldberg

Raw – Mark Haskell Smith

Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth – Stephen Graham Jones

 Stephen Graham Jones:


Jeff Strand’s WOLF HUNT

Errick Nunnally’s BLOOD FOR THE SUN

Matt Kindt’s MIND MGMT

Steven Pinker’s THE SENSE OF STYLE

REDSHIRTS, John Scalzi


DARE ME, Megan Abbot

DON’T KISS ME, Lindsay Hunter

SHARP OBJECTS, Gillian Flynn

WOOL, Hugh Howey

Antonio Farias:

Lucky Us, Amy Bloom

The Peripheral, William Gibson

Fire and Forget, Roy Scranton

The Martian, Andy Weir

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg

Natashia Deon:

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg, Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith

Lisa Morford: 1) Horns by Joe Hill

2) The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

3) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

4) RAW a love story by Mark Haskell Smith

5) Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Jim Jennewein: The Uncommon Reader: A novella by Alan Bennett

Stop-Time: A Memoir by Frank Conroy

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada



What Did Fall Residency Look Like?


This was Dec. 9th. It was 83 degrees.

(Applications for Spring are due February 1st.)



Rave Reviews for Tod Goldberg’s Gangsterland

nytsundayProgram director Tod Goldberg latest novel, Gangsterland, picked up rave reviews across the country this fall, including starred reviews in Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly and, to close out the year, a full page in the New York Times Book Review:

For many of us, “The Godfather,” book or movie, ushered us into a second boyhood, teaching that the incorrigible vitality of a first-rate gangster story could temporarily inoculate us against adult sanity. For readers of a like mind, Tod Goldberg’s “Gangsterland” will arrive as a gloriously original Mafia novel: 100 percent unhinged about the professionally unhinged.

Read more here.

Gina Frangello’s Year In Reading

ginalifeFiction & nonfiction professor Gina Frangello takes a look back on her year in reading in the latest edition of The Millions:

“There are two kinds of decay: mine and everyone else’s.” This line occurs near the end of Sarah Manguso’sdeceptively slim tour de force on illness, mortality, and metaphor, The Two Kinds of Decay, and speaks to the book’s high wire acts of duality and the paradox between the primal narcissism of the individual body vs. the transcendent empathy that makes life more than a solitary hall of mirrors. Manguso — like many great thinkers before her — seems to ultimately bridge the gap between the two through the small-yet-almost-impossible act of learning to pay attention.

Read more here.

David Ulin Picks The Year’s Best

latlogoNonfiction professor (and book critic for the Los Angeles Times) David Ulin selected his 10 favorite books of 2014 and also took a look back at the year that was in literature:

What was the upshot of my year in reading — the ideas, the through lines that most stirred or provoked me in 2014? The dominant thread was what we might call that of common experience, work that finds significance in incidental things.

Karl Ove Knausgaard has become the poster child for this sort of work; his six-volume autobiographical opus “My Struggle” is all about a deep dive into the mundane. “Over recent years,” he writes toward the end of the second volume, “I had increasingly lost faith in literature. … The only genres I saw value in, which still conferred meaning, were diaries and essays, the type of literature that did not deal with narrative, that were not about anything, but just consisted of a voice, the voice of your own personality, a life, a face, a gaze you could meet.”

Knausgaard’s project — Volume 3 came out in June — seems to signal something vivid about what books and art can do. His purpose is to slow down and use language to reframe the details of a life.

Read more here.


Anthony McCann’s THING MUSIC Selected As Best Of The Year

.The Philadelphia Review of Books selected poetry professor Anthony McCann’s most recent collection, Thing Music, one of 2014 best books of poetry.  There’s an excellent piece by Anthony up now at the Poetry Society, “Mouth Guitar”:

These small gruntings I make while trying to get comfortable—
they churn in the dust like more dust.
But the pillows are finally stacked correctly
so that more rupture can begin.  I read:

“This has been lubricious”

“Throat sap in the trees”

And then closing the book.
My flesh is as dark ramps to your fears and their fleetingness.
You cannot predict these sudden implosions
but touching another, you decide to begin.

Read the rest of it here.

Our Fall Visiting Faculty

coachshadowWe’re only a few weeks away from our fall residency — December 5th-14th, at the lovely Rancho Las Palmas resort — but we’re already pretty excited. We’ll announce our full schedule in just a few days, but for the meantime, take a look at who will be coming to visit as part of our visiting faculty…along with, of course, our esteemed core faculty…not a bad group of people to spend 10 days with at a spa in the desert.  If you’re a prospective student and interested in visiting for a day of residency, please contact Agam Patel at 760-834-0926 or at agam.patel@ucr.edu

Larry Biederman has directed many critically acclaimed productions throughout Los Angeles, including The Autumn Garden (Antaeus), Dark Rapture (Evidence Room), No Mercy (24th Street Theatre) and two Mickey Birnbaum plays,  Big Death and Little Death (Road Theatre) and this year’s world premiere of Backyard (Echo).  Other world premiere productions include Crumble (Moving Arts), Farewell Miss Cotton (Black Dahlia), and Wirehead (Echo), which earned seven LA Weekly Award nominations including Best Direction.  His production of La Ronde was part of the 2009 NY International Fringe Festival where, in addition to critical acclaim and oversold houses, both actors received Best Actor awards for the entire festival.Earlier this year, Biederman’s premiere production of Assisted Living moved from the Odyssey Theatre to the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey. The play was written and performed by Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman, with whom he has collaborated before, as with the TV series Huge, created by Holzman and Savannah Dooley.  Biederman came to L.A. after seven seasons at A.C.T. in San Francisco, where he directed and taught, as he has across the country, from the Williamstown Theatre Festival to the Old Globe.  He continues his private coaching and classes and serves on the Directing and Acting faculty at Cal State Northridge.

Cynthia Bond.  Writer and educator Cynthia Bond has taught writing to homeless and at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles for over fifteen years. Cynthia attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism on an academic scholarship, then moved to New York and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Cynthia acted for many years in in New York with the Negro Ensemble Company. A PEN Rosenthal Fellow, Cynthia founded the Blackbird Writing Collective in 2011. At present, Bond teaches at Paradigm Malibu Adolescent Treatment Center. Her novel RUBY was published by Hogarth Press, a division of Random House in April 2014 and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. A native of East Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her daughter.


Steph Cha is the author of Follow Her Home and Beware Beware, the popular Juniper Song mystery series. Her writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Trop Magazine. A graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, she lives in her native city of Los Angeles, California.

Bernard Cooper has written two collections of memoirs, Maps to Anywhere and Truth Serum, as well as a novel, A Year of Rhymes, and a collection of short stories, Guess Again. His work has appeared in Granta, Story, Ploughshares, Harper’s, The Paris Review, and The New York Times Magazine. His work has been included in five volumes of The Best American Essays, and in anthologies such as The Oxford Book of Literature on Aging, and the Library of America’s Writing Los Angeles. He is the author of The Bill From My Father: A Memoir (paperback 2007).  His next collection of essays is entitled My Avant-Garde Education: A Memoir (Winter / 2015). In February 2015, Miami-Dade College Museum of Art and Design will present an exhibit of Bernard Cooper’s digital montages. Bernard Cooper has won numerous awards and prizes, among them the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His work has been read on This American Life and Selected Shorts from Symphonyspace. For many years, Bernard Cooper was the art critic for Los Angeles Magazine.  He has taught at Antioch/Los Angeles, for the Masters of Professional Writing program at USC, and at the UCLA Writer’s Program. He has been a core faculty member in the MFA Writing Program at Bennington College. In 2014 he was appointed the Distinguished Visiting Writer at The University of Iowa.

Jay Paul Deratany is a writer and actor who recently obtained his MFA from the University of California Riverside for Screenwriting. He has written several plays including “Haram Iran” which has been produced in Chicago, Los Angeles, and soon London. Haram Iran was nominated for a GLAAD award for best theatrical play of 2011, and Jay Paul received a grant from the London Arts Counsel to further develop the play for London audiences. In addition Jay Paul has written “Lincolns Dilemma” a novel; multiple articles advocating for human rights and is a well known human rights lawyer in Chicago. In 2008 Permoveo Productions was incorporated to serve as Jay Paul’s production company. His first feature, Saugatuck Cures, has just hit the festival circuit, recently earning Festival Favorite at the Palm Springs Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Rob Edwards is an American television and feature film screenwriter and producer. His writing includes the Disney animated feature films Treasure Planet and The Princess and the Frog, both of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In 2009, along with Ron Clements and John Musker, Edwards was awarded the Best Screenplay award from the African-American Film Critics Association for The Princess and the Frog. After writing for the long-running ABC-TV series Full House, Edwards went on to become a writer, story editor, and consultant for several prime time series including Bill Cosby’s A Different World and the Golden Globe nominated The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Edwards was also an Emmy Award nominee for the long-running sketch comedy show In Living Color, created the NBC sitcom Out All Night and, throughout the 1990s, Edwards wrote and produced for television networks and on series including Roc, The Parent ‘Hood, and In the House. Edwards next shifted his focus to feature films and joined Walt Disney Animation Studios as a writer. His first film, Treasure Planet, was released in 2002 and starred a voice cast that included Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Martin Short, Emma Thompson, Patrick McGoohan, as well as famed voice-over actors Corey Burton and Tony Jay earning eight Annie Award nominations and an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature. Edwards returned to the screen with 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, a critical and box office success. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Animated Feature Oscar. His other work includes the adaptation of the popular graphic novel series Amulet, the upcoming holiday feature The Life and Times of Santa Claus.

Ben Ehrenreich is the author of two novels, Ether (Counterpoint, 2011) and The Suitors (City Lights, 2006). His journalism and essays have appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, the London Review of Books, and many other publications. In 2011, he was the winner of a National Magazine Award in feature writing. He is currently working on a nonfiction book based on his reporting from the West Bank.

Dara Hyde Before relocating to Los Angeles and becoming a literary agent, Dara Hyde spent over a decade in publishing, working as an editor and later the permissions and rights manager at Grove Atlantic in New York. During her time at Grove, she had the pleasure to work with award-winning and best-selling authors including Sherman Alexie, Jonathan Ames, Tina Cassidy, Sheri Holman, Frances Itani, Stephanie Kallos, Neil LaBute, Legs McNeil, Ana Menéndez,  Sabina Murray, Amanda Prantera, Michael Thomas, and Tricia Wastvedt. Dara’s tastes are eclectic and she’s interested in representing literary and genre fiction, narrative non-fiction, graphic novels, memoir and the occasional young adult novel. A graduate of Bard College, Dara has always balanced her love of film and literature. Post-graduation she took on work as a production assistant and videographer before becoming an editor and rights researcher at a stock film library.

David Hyde. David began his publicity career at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, one of the legendary independent bookstores in the United States, where he learned about the importance of building—and nurturing—a local community. In 1998, he moved to New York City with his college sweetheart, two cats and two bags for the opportunity to work at Vintage Books, the prestigious paperback imprint in the Knopf Group at Random House. At Vintage Books, David worked on publicizing acclaimed literary writers like Alexander McCall Smith (The # 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY), Jonathan Lethem (MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN), Richard Russo (The Pulitzer Prize­winning EMPIRE FALLS) and James Ellroy (THE COLD SIX THOUSAND); as well as bestselling nonfiction books including Erik Larson’s ISAAC’S STORM and Gary Kinder’s SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA. As a lifelong reader, he was blessed to have worked at one of the great and historic publishing houses, but he left after five years for the chance to work on behalf of the world’s greatest superheroes and some of the most talented writers and artists creating graphic novels and comic books today. At DC Comics, David brought unprecedented sustained mainstream attention to the art form with regular exposure in the ASSOCIATED PRESS, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, HUFFINGTON POST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, THE NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY, while also working with corporate communications, movie productions and toy launches tied into the comic­ book line.

Rachel Kann. TEDx poet Rachel Kann is a modern-day mystic: irreverently reverent and exuberantly human.She’s a Write Club Los Angeles champ and resident writer for Hevria. Her poetry has been featured as The Weather on the podcast phenomenon, Welcome to Night Vale. Her poetry and short story collection, 10 For Everything, is available from Orange Ocean Press. Her writing (poetry and fiction) also appears in journals such as Eclipse,PermafrostCoe ReviewSou’westerGW ReviewQuiddity, and Lalitamba. You can find her work in anthologies including A Poet’s HaggadahWord Warriors from Seal Press,His Rib from Penmanship Press, and Knocking at the Door from Birch Bench Press. She has two albums, Ptolemaic Complex and Word to the WHY?S, and collaborates with producers such as End.User, Tack-Fu, and conductor/composer Gee Gee Gallegos.She’s performed her poetry with artists and leaders such as daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra, Marianne Williamson, Sage Francis, Saul Williams, and Rahzel, at venues such as Disney Concert Hall, Royce Hall, The Broad Stage, The San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, and the Vans Warped Tour, as well as spiritual and sacred spaces like Jewlicious Fest X aboard The Queen Mary, Agape Spiritual Center and Sinai Temple. Her work has received accolades from the James Kirkwood Fiction Awards (short story), Writer’s Digest Short-Short Story Awards (micro-fiction), LA Weekly Awards (best supporting actress) Backstage West Garland Awards Critic’s Picks (best supporting actress) and both the audio and video award for the International Slam Idol (poetry). Rachel was commissioned by The Broad Stage to write and perform a contemporary retelling of Peter Pan from Tinker Bell’s perspective, accompanied by Maestra Rachael Worby’s 18-piece orchestra, Muse/Ique. Rachel’s music video, created with collaborator and choreographer Keith Johnson, “Lie Down Beside You,” has received screenings at the 4 The Camera Film Festival and Landlocked Film Festival. Rachel was invited to perform her poetry at TEDx UCLA and in Flight 18 (where she was the DJ and Dance Captain as well) at 3LD Technology in New York City. She teaches poetry and fiction workshops through the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.


Michelle Knudsen is a manager and producer at MXN Entertainment. After graduating from Columbia University, she got her start working for agent Sarah Self before moving with Sarah to LA. She next went to work with manager/producer Mason Novick, and has since built a client list of feature and TV writers. In 2013, Michelle was a co-producer on Jason Bateman’s BAD WORDS, as well as a co-producer on HIDDEN, directed by The Duffer Bros and produced by Roy Lee, Mason Novick and Lawrence Grey, and an associate producer on Diablo Cody’s directorial debut PARADISE. Most recently Michelle produced the music documentary, NO CAMERAS ALLOWED, along with Fake Empire. The film premiered on MTV at the end of August. The film, described as a “real life ALMOST FAMOUS,” has garnered rave reviews in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Currently in development is the independent comedy WHEN WE FIRST MET, written by John Whittington, with Adam Devine attached to star. Michelle is producing this along with Mason Novick, Footprint Pictures and McG’s Wonderland. Also in development is the low budget comedy F*CKING PEOPLE, written and to be directed by Theresa Bennett.

Brad Listi is an author and the founder of The Nervous Breakdown, an online culture magazine and literary community that now includes TNB Books, an independent press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. His debut novel, Attention. Deficit. Disorder., was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He is the executive producer of The Nervous Breakdown’s podcast series, and the host of Otherppl with Brad Listi, a twice-weekly podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading authors. His latest book, Board, co-authored with Justin Benton, was published in November 2012. Board is an experimental work of nonfiction literary collage, the contents of which are derived entirely from the comment boards at The Nervous Breakdown.

Cari Lynn is a journalist and the author/co-author of four books of narrative nonfiction.  Her historical fiction debut, Madam: A Novel of New Orleans (Penguin/Plume, 2014) is based on the true story of New Orleans’ experiment with legalized prostitution in the late 1800s. Previously, Cari wrote Kathryn Bolkovac’s memoir, The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice (Palgrave Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press, 2011), the true story of a police officer who blew the whistle on a human trafficking ring. The Whistleblower received international attention and press, including book events at the United Nations and The Hague, as well as Cornell, Columbia, Loyola Law School, Brandeis, Vanderbilt, Brown, and numerous other universities.  An excerpt of the book appeared in the weekend magazine of The Guardian, and Kathryn Bolkovac has been interviewed on numerous shows, including NPR, Fox Business News, and The Diane Rehm Show. The Whistleblower major motion picture starring Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave premiered in 2011.  ​​Cari wrote the nonfiction book Leg the Spread: A Woman’s Adventures Inside the Trillion-Dollar World of Commodities Trading (Broadway Books/Doubleday, 2004) after spending two years undercover in the vicious, open-outcry trading pits of Chicago.  The book received a starred Kirkus review and was featured in numerous publications, from The Economist to Oprah’s Magazine.  The book was named Readers’ Choice by Elle magazine. Cari was featured on CNN, PBS and NPR, and FOX 21 optioned Leg the Spread for TV/film adaptation. Other books include co-writing the story of a doctor who rescued orphans from third-world countries, and the story of a real-life Dr. Doolittle. Cari has also ghost-edited two celebrity books.  Cari has written for numerous magazines and newspapers, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Health, Good Housekeeping, The Chicago Tribune, and England’s The Guardian, and she profiles Oscar and Emmy nominees for Deadline Hollywood and Awardsline. Cari received her M.A. in Writing from The Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Maryland.  She completed a fellowship in Business Journalism at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.  A long-time Chicagoan, she now lives in Los Angeles.

Michelle Meyering  is the Executive Director of PEN Center USA and founding editor of The Rattling Wall, a literary journal. Michelle has produced over 200 literary events across Southern California and was named a 2013 “Face To Watch” by the Los Angeles Times. She currently teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program in Los Angeles.

Wendy C. Ortiz is a Los Angeles native. Her first book, Excavation: A Memoir, was published by Future Tense Books in July 2014. Her second book, Hollywood Notebook, is forthcoming from Writ Large Press in spring 2015. She wrote the year-long, monthly column “On the Trail of Mary Jane” about medical marijuana dispensary culture in Southern California for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Wendy holds an M.A. in Clinical Psychology and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. A Writer-in-Residence at Hedgebrook in 2007 and 2009, Wendy is also co-founder and curator of the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series at the Good Luck Bar in Hollywood. She has read at various venues, including Secret City in Los Angeles, RADAR Reading Series (San Francisco), LitCrawl L.A.: NoHo, the West Hollywood Book Fair (Los Angeles), The Knitting Factory (Los Angeles), World Stage (Los Angeles), the Echo Park Poetry Festival (Los Angeles) and the first Ladyfest in Olympia, Washington in 2000. Wendy has written op-eds for The Olympian and the Los Angeles Times, as well as numerous articles for Works In Progress in Olympia, Washington. Wendy is an adjunct faculty in creative writing and has also facilitated creative writing workshops with Los Angeles youth in juvenile detention facilities. While living in Olympia, Washington, she was a mudwrestler, library worker, and editor and publisher of 4th Street, a handbound literary journal. Wendy received a B.A. in Liberal Arts from The Evergreen State College in 1995 and lived in Olympia, Washington for eight years before returning to Los Angeles. Wendy is at work on a book based on her Modern Love essay published in The New York Times, as well as an essay collection. She writes, parents, and works as a marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles.

Carey Rossi is a health journalist and former award-winning editor. Her work has appeared in Dr. Oz’s The Good Life, Fitness, Fit Pregnancy, Glamour, Health, Self, Shape, as well as many other mainstream publications. Previously, she was one of the founding editors, and later the executive editor, of Muscle & Fitness Hers magazine (which won the Western Publishing Association’s Maggie Award for Best Quarterly in 2000); held the position of editor in chief at Better Nutrition magazine and atConsumerSearch.com; and was mostly recently the senior editor overseeing news forPrevention magazine and Prevention.com. Carey has built a career on revamping how publications and websites speak to their readers. She enjoys the process of finding new and exciting ways to tell the same timeless stories. She’s known to visualize a story on the page or screen before writing it; so don’t be surprised if she sketches out a layout for an idea you may brainstorm with her.

Jim Ruland is the author of the novel Forest of Fortune, the short story collection Big Lonesome and co-author with Scott Campbell, Jr. of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch of Giving the Finger.  He is the books columnist for San Diego CityBeat and a contributor to the Los Angeles Times and Razorcake, America’s only non-profit independent music zine. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The Believer, Esquire, Granta, Hobart and Oxford American Magazine. His work has received fellowships and scholarships from Bread Loaf, Canteen, Reader’s Digest and the National Endowment for the Arts. He runs the Southern California-based reading series Vermin on the Mount, now in its eleventh year.  Ruland is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and has worked as a copywriter and creative supervisor for advertising agencies, entertainment enterprises, and Indian casinos. He lives and works in Southern California.

Pilar Savone. Independent producer Pilar Savone recently completed production on RUN THE TIDE, starring Taylor Lautner, Johanna Braddy and Constance Zimmer.   Directed by Soham Mehta, RUN THE TIDE follows the kidnapping of a young boy by his older brother following their mother’s release from prison. Prior to RUN THE TIDE, Savone produced Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED, which grossed over $425 million worldwide and garnered five Academy Award nominations, with wins for best screenplay (Tarantino) and for Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz). Savone was an associate producer on Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.  Filmed in Berlin and Paris, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS grossed over three hundred million dollars worldwide, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards.   Savone was also an associate producer on DEATH PROOF, which was released domestically as part of GRINDHOUSE, a double feature that included Robert Rodriguez’s PLANET TERROR as well as a group of trailers from Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and Edgar Wright.  DEATH PROOF was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Savone’s relationship with Tarantino began when she was an assistant director on JACKIE BROWN.  She went on to work with the director as his assistant on KILL BILL.  Savone’s additional assistant directing credits include SPY GAME, COMPANY MAN, ARLINGTON ROAD, THE MINUS MAN, THE LAST TIME I COMMITTED SUICIDE, and NOWHERE. A graduate of Syracuse University, Savone resides in Los Angeles.

Marisa Silver is the author, most recently, of the novel, Mary Coin, a New York Times Bestseller and winner of the Southern California Independent Bookseller’s Award. She is also the author of two previous novels, No Direction Home, andThe God of War, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. Her first collection of short stories, Babe in Paradise was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. When her second collection, Alone With You was published, The New York Times called her “one of California’s most celebrated contemporary writers.”  Silver made her fiction debut in The New Yorker when she was featured in that magazine’s first “Debut Fiction” issue. Winner of the O. Henry Prize, her fiction has been included in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, as well as other anthologies.

Dan Smetanka is the Executive Editor of Counterpoint Press and has worked in various aspects of the publishing industry for over twenty years. As an Executive Editor at Ballantine/Random House, Inc., he acquired and published award-winning debut books including The Ice Harvest by Scott Philips, The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner, Down to a Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck, and Among the Missing by Dan Chaon, a 2001 finalist for the National Book Award. Prior to this, he served as Director of Maria B. Campbell Associates, an international scouting agency that facilitated the placement of American authors into the international marketplace. Daniel also acted as a publishing consultant to both Amblin/Dreamworks and The Kennedy/Marshall Company to identify material appropriate for feature film and television adaptation. As Executive Editor for Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press, one of the largest independent presses in the country and one of the few located on the west coast, his recent projects include works by Thomas Steinbeck, Linda Gray Sexton, James Brown, Scott Phillips, Janna Malamud Smith, Craig Nova, Ilie Ruby, Neil Jordan, Dana Johnson, Isaac Adamson, Karen E. Bender, Joshua Mohr, Emma Woolf, John N. Maclean, Tara Ison, Kim Addonizio, Andrea Portes, Dinah Lenney, Frank Browning, Anna David, Liza Monroy, Thaisa Frank, and Tod Goldberg.

Olivia Taylor Smith is an Editor and the Director of Publicity and Marketing at the Unnamed Press. A native of Los Angeles, Olivia graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with degrees in French Literature and Film and Media Studies. Previously, Olivia helped launch the Los Angeles Review of Books and acted as its Publicity Director until 2014.

Noelle Valdivia is a television writer and playwright. She is best known for her work on the Showtime drama Masters of Sex, and the NBC musical Smash. Until 2012 Valdivia worked as a journalist and playwright. After graduation from NYU she began her television career working on the NBC drama Awake, where she wrote three episodes of that series. She wrote on the season 2 of the musical drama Smash and as of 2013, she is currently working on the Showtime drama Masters of Sex where is nominated for a 2013 WGA Award. As a playwright, she wrote the stage productions Oh, William (2003), Ring of Fire (2004) and Where It Went Wrong (2006).

William Weissbaum has worked in the video game industry for the better part of a decade on such AAA titles as God of War II and God of War: Ascension, including being nominated for a WGA Award for his writing on God of War III. Currently, he has joined the team at Cloud Imperium Games writing on the upcoming title Star Citizen (https://robertsspaceindustries.com/) which is presently the Guinness World Record holder for being the most crowdfunded project in history.

Andrew Winer is the author of the novels The Marriage Artist and The Color Midnight Made. A recipient of a NEA Fellowship in Fiction, he occasionally writers about artists, composer, thinkers and other writers. He is working on a new novel about religion and politics. He is the Chair of the Creative Writing department at the University of California, Riverside

Kim Young is the author of Night Radio, winner of the 2011 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize (The University of Utah Press) and the chapbook Divided Highway (dancing girl press, 2008). Her poems have appeared in Los Angeles Review, MiPOesias, No Tell Motel, POOL and elsewhere. She holds an MA at Cal State University Northridge and an MFA at Bennington College, where she received a Jane Kenyon Scholarship in poetry. She was born in Los Angeles and lives in LA with her husband and daughter.

Welcome Fall 2014 Cohort: Student Bios

Tracey DennisTracey Dennis is a perpetual student. She’s attended UCR, Cal State San Bernardino, the University of Redlands and Moreno Valley College. New to writing, she takes inspiration from film and music. She tends to lean towards the more nerdy side of life; Lord of the Rings & Harry Potter being huge influences on her life. She works at a local high school in special education and hopes to inspire those who have inspired her.


Ajit S. Dutta was born in Jamshedpur, India, but for most of his adult life has lived outside India.  He lived in Ajit DuttaLondon where he obtained a chartered accountancy degree and worked for one of the Big 8 accounting firms; in the Sultanate of Oman on a temporary posting for two years; and, came to the US in 1979 where he now lives in the metropolitan DC area. For about 25 years Ajit owned and ran an international management consultancy firm with offices in Cairo, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Gaborone, Port au Prince and Delhi. He and his wife, Bonnie Galat, recently completed an 18 month stay in Paris: she was working for the World Bank and he was happily exploring Paris. Ajit is writing a blog about that experience http://www.imajit.com/category/blog/) although, regrettably, it is an after-the-fact blog. He is an amateur photographer and has held several exhibitions. He enjoys food, therefore, he also enjoys cooking. Ajit has a special love for music, especially Urdu ghazals and Sufi music. He published a book of poems, “A Father’s Poems,” about his two daughters, Danielle (now at USC) and Nikki (at Dickinson), and has read his works many times in the DC area, Delhi, and Paris.


Henry FinchRoy Finch is a teacher, filmmaker, and composer whose first film,the indie feature WAKE, won him the Best Director award at the Queens International Film Festival as well as receiving the prestigious Prism Commendation from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. Finch received his film training at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope where he worked on such films as “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “The Secret Garden”, and “The Godfather III” in varying production and post-production capacities. Finch has worked with the world-renowned percussionist Mickey Hart most notably as a ProTools engineer and co-composer for Tupac Sukur’s last feature film, Criminal Intent. Finch has also composed the soundtracks for feature films “Follow Me Home” and “Wake” as well as the hit television show Survivor. His recordings have been released by Windham Hill, Palace of Lights, Sentient Spirit Records, and the Chacras Filmworks labels. His latest musical endeavor, and EDM project with acclaimed jazz artist Jamie Finegan entitled “Finegan Finch,” will be released this Fall. Finch is a Professor at Chapman University teaching Advanced Post Production Audio, Visual Storytelling and Intermediate Production. Finch also serves as Course Director for the lecture courses Sound in Cinema and APPB (Advanced Post Production) at the Los Angeles Film School. He is a member of the Actors Studio Playwright and Director’s unit. Finch has taught filmmaking at a number of schools and enjoys “inspiring young filmmakers.”

Education: BA Music Composition & Filmmaking, Hampshire College.


Annemarie Hauser

Annemarie Hauser graduated from the University of Florida in 2014 with her B.A. in English and a minor in Mathematics. She completed a novel for NaNoWriMo in 2012, and is currently editing this piece while also working on her second novel. Most of her work has been described as “tragic, depressing, and emotional.” She currently lives in Oviedo, Florida where she was born and raised, and works for a Preschool/Afterschool education center called O2b Kids.


Melissa Henderson

Melissa Henderson was born in Boston, raised in the Canadian backwoods and tends to rattle around, no fixed address. She received her B.A. in Linguistics and French from UCLA and has written for The Los Angeles Times, Brand X, Soundspike and whoever else would have her. She responds well to threats, deadlines and anyone willing to pay her bar tab.


Jon Levenson has spent most of his career pretending to be unhappy people on various stages in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and beyond. Born and raised in El Toro, CA, he couldn’t wait to Jon Levensonleave suburbia for New York. Levenson was part of the Broadway cast of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart in 2011 and performed in the National Tour the following year. He also played Harold in the 40th anniversary Off-Broadway revival of The Boys in the Band. Jon has taught theatre with The Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop and at his alma mater, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he received his MFA in International Theatre and Acting. After 17 years of gypsy life, Levenson returned home to grow roots in California and do some hard-core Uncle-ing for his 6 year old nephews. It was during this time that he fell in love with writing and he is honored to be able to pursue his new passion at UCR.


Monica MainMonica S. Main is starting her first year at UCR in the Palm Desert Creative Writing MFA Program.  She is planning to graduate in December 2016 with an MFA in Creative Writing. Monica started writing her first screenplays in her freshman year of high school.  Within only a couple of years, she had 11 completed feature screenplays.  Unfortunately, when one is young, there isn’t enough life experience to adequately inject into a story to make it complete.  This would be the time when Monica decided to press the pause button on screenwriting to focus on becoming an entrepreneur whereas she’s built several multi-million-dollar businesses starting from scratch.  Now, at the young age of 40 and with plenty of valuable life experience under her belt, she is now ready to fully embrace pursuing a career in writing starting with earning her MFA degree at UCR Palm Desert. Monica is divorced, has a 6-year-old daughter, and lives in Santa Clarita, California where she runs 2 highly successful mail order businesses.


Currently residing in Chattanooga, TN with her husband and kids, Rebecca Marsh spends her days writing, nourishing relationships, mentoring younger women at her church, going on hikes Rebecca Marshand bike rides with her family, perusing farmer’s markets, cooking, reading, Netflix binging, walking her dog, studying up on nutrition, avoiding anything that feels more like “exercise” instead of “fun,” and daydreaming stories that she hopes will one day appear on the Big Screen. You can check out her blog of random ramblings at http://beccasdailylagniappe.tumblr.com.



David MartinezDavid Martinez has a hard time staying in one place. Since his mother is Brazilian, he has dual citizenship between the United States and Brazil. As a teenager he lived in Bayamón and Dorado in Puerto Rico. He has also lived in São Paulo and Fortaleza in Brazil, and between Idaho, Florida, Arizona and Utah in the United States. He currently lives in downtown Salt Lake City. David earned his BA in English Creative Writing, with a minor in History, from Arizona State University. He writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and hopes to get into screenwriting. While at ASU, David unofficially interned for Hayden’s Ferry Review, where he wrote for their blog. Some of his fiction and non-fiction pieces have placed in a few local and national competitions. He takes inspiration from all types of art. As a teenager he would skip class to thumb through Dali or Klimt art books at the library. He grew up reading everything he could find and he loves all kinds of music from Talking Heads to Tom Waits to Bach to Raul Seixas.


David Rozzell

David Rozzell is a writer and filmmaker.  He began writing articles for his school paper at age 7.  From there, he began performing spoken word while studying at Morehouse College.  He parleyed his love for the spoken word into filmmaking and has produced, written, and directed 8 short fiction films to date.  David’s film review column, Reel Love, is locally circulated in Atlanta, where he resides.


Marion RuybalidMarion Ruybalid graduated from Whitman College with a BA in French Literature. After being adopted from Bangladesh, and living in few different countries, she currently lives in Port Townsend, WA with her husband and six children. Marion’s interests in writing vary as one of her favorite authors is Victor Hugo who wrote in multiple genres. With him as her example, Marion wants to explore many genres of writing, but she knows that one of her favorite forms of expression is through creative nonfiction.



Senta Scarborogh — bio coming soon…Senta Scarborough




Katie Thomason

Katie Thomason wants to get her byline back. During her first career as a journalist in the coal mining/Bluegrass regions of southwest Virginia, she won awards for writing about small town politics. Now she wants to pen her own journey from reporting about one side of the country to teaching writing and literature to inner city Los Angeles youth. Having completed her BA in Journalism from Virginia Tech and her MA in English literature from Arizona State University, Katie is looking forward to pursuing her MFA in creative writing from UCR Palm Desert. She enters the program with her partner of nearly 20 years, Senta Scarborough. They chose it because it looks like a vacation even if it isn’t one.


Christina Tillitz graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a B.A. in History in 2013. PriorChristina Tillitz Egtvedt to this, she earned an A.A. in Fashion Design from Brooks College in Long Beach, California, graduating in 1989. She spent the years in-between working on and off as a seamstress and bridal wear designer, but focused primarily on being mom to her four children. She writes screenplays and creative non-fiction and has aspirations of polishing, and publishing, the mountain of stories and snippets she has packed inside her brain, file cabinet, and various data storage devices. Christina resides in Broomfield, Colorado and is thrilled at the opportunity to return to California and to study with UCR Palm Desert.


Jesse WehrenbergJesse Wehrenberg
has worn many hats, none of them berets. In previous lives he has professionally inspected furnished apartments, sold drugs (legally), appliances (also legally), learned to read squiggles and dots, and taught children how to build birdhouses. He spent six years working in military intelligence where he [REDACTED] for the [REDACTED], and established a new [REDACTED] in [REDACTED.] And yes, he has seen and even spoken to [REDACTED] in real life. It was, as you might guess, as intense as it sounds. He has a pair of colorful socks for every occasion. He made a little birdhouse in his soul. He refuses to discuss religion or politics but will, if asked, happily sing a traditional sea shanty (off-key.) He still misses his grandfather



Nancy Wilder-Trippel is a poet, dancer and a storyteller.  She earned her BA from UCLA in Dance and will soon begin her first year in the UCR MFA Low Residency program in Creative Writing and Writing for the PerformingNancy Wilder-Trippel Arts, in Poetry.  After dancing professionally, she taught and choreographed, “A Special Dance Interlude” in The Jazz Series: Hoagy Carmichael and Fats Waller at the Art School in Carrboro, North Carolina where “Poetry Through Movement” nurtures and partners the dance artist as described in the biographical description for receiving Honorable Mention in the poem, “Library Notes A Studier’s Snore” in Our World’s Favorite Poems: Who’s Who in Poetry National Library of Poetry, 1993. Nancy is currently working on ”Poetry Treasures: Where The Desert Shadows Hide.”A storyteller of words and movement, Nancy’s earliest passion for  poetry began in her childhood backyard.  Outside of poetry and dance, she enjoys playing tennis with her family in Mercer Island, Washington.


Luke Yankee.jpgLuke Yankee is a critically acclaimed playwright, author, screenwriter and TV writer.  His memoir, Just Outside The Spotlight: Growing up with Eileen Heckart is published by Random Hous
e, with a foreword by Mary Tyler Moore. His award-winning play, The Jesus Hickey premiered in Los Angeles starring Harry Hamlin.  His first play, A Place at Forest Lawn has been performed by Betty White, Marion Ross, Frances Sternhagen, Marcia Cross, Marian Seldes and Millicent Martin and is published by Dramatists Play Service.  His screenplay, The Last Lifeboat, was one of ten scripts chosen internationally for the 2012 DreamAgo Screenwriting Workshop in The Swiss Alps.  The play version (also published by Dramatists Play Service) will receive its world premiere in California this fall. As a director and producer, he has run two regional theaters, assistant directed six Broadway shows and directed Off Broadway and at theaters around the country. He has toured internationally with his one-man show, Diva Dish! and has taught all over the U.S. and abroad.



Student News: Suzy Fincham-Gray Begins Her “Reign”…at Random House

suzyfinchamgraySecond year nonfiction student Suzy Fincham-Gray has already had a pretty successful career, to say the least. She graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London in 2000, followed by a residency at the University of Pennsylvania, before settling in her veterinary practice in San Diego in 2005, publishing articles and essays along the way. But nothing quite like this week, when she sold her memoir The Reign of Cats And Dogs to Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, in a major deal. Here’s the details:

Suzy Fincham-Gray’s THE REIGN OF CATS AND DOGS: My Life as a Veterinarian, examining the author’s experiences with both animal patients and personal pets with an eye toward the history of veterinary science, as well as her own evolution from an animal-crazy schoolgirl in the U.K. to her current West Coast animal medical practice, to Julie Grau at Spiegel & Grau, by Mary Evans at Mary Evans.

Suzy has worked with Emily Rapp and David Ulin in the program (and we’re proud to say that Mary Evans has been part of our guest faculty, too).

The Mid-Career Writer & The MFA: An Interview with Stephen Jay Schwartz

Most people who apply to an MFA program do so for a very simple reason: they want to become a professional writer. Which makes Stephen Jay Schwartz, a second year fiction student, somewhat unusual — he’s the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of Boulevard and Beata screenwriter, and a former film executive, too. And the fact is, Stephen’s not alone — over 50% of our students are previously published or produced, often many times over — so what was Stephen looking for when he decided, in the middle of a successful writing career, to come back to school to get an MFA? We sat down and asked him the hard questions…including about the spa…

sjsblogYou worked in Hollywood for several years and you’ve published two well-received novels, so in essence you’re in the middle of the career most MFA candidates are striving toward…so what made you decide to go back to school now?

Seems a little crazy, doesn’t it?  In many ways I’m the MFA student’s worst nightmare.  I mean, really, shouldn’t I be relaxing in some island paradise, cranking out one popular novel after another, chumming it up with the other successful novelists of our time?  I think my presence in the UCR program provides a great life-lesson for the young author-to-be; that is, we write because we have to write.  We do it because we love it.  We don’t write to make us famous and we don’t write to support our families.

I spent a number of years in the film business as a development executive for a major film director.  It was the kind of career that would have led me to become a film producer or senior studio executive.  I left because it didn’t give me enough time to write.

I found a joyless day job as a salesman at a residential lighting company.   It kept the creditors at bay while I wrote my first novel.  It took three and a half years to write that novel, hammering out pages every night, weekend, vacation, holiday and sick day available to me.  That novel sold to a major publisher and got me a contract for another.  The two book sales did not provide me with enough income to quit the day job.  I wrote the second novel in a year and it nearly killed me doing it.  I actually had to fake a psychiatric meltdown to get the two-week “mental health” vacation that permitted me to finish the novel by my publisher’s deadline.  I managed to write twenty hours a day for fourteen days, then drove right back to the day job, “fully refreshed.”  After the release of my second novel I got the opportunity to take a screenwriting assignment for a low budget film being produced by a company with a deal at Sony Studios.  It wasn’t much pay, but I figured it was enough to justify quitting the day job and writing full time.  Between the writing assignment, the small cash I received from my book deals, and cashing out my 401K, I managed to squeak out a year and a half of full-time writing.  But, still, I’m the breadwinner for a family of four, and I simply couldn’t pay the mortgage on writing alone.  I looked around desperately for work, applied to Trader Joe’s and all the restaurants I frequented when I was a film biz exec.  I even spent two weeks driving a taxi, which was both illuminating and humiliating at the same time.  I ended up finding work in the lighting business again and continuing the struggle of balancing a 40-50 hour per-week day job with writing the novel and raising the family.

So, what motivated me to get my MFA?  I decided I was tired of compromising my dream.  I decided that I wanted to live STORY twenty-four-seven.  I wanted to wake up from story dreams to days of story-thoughts that bled into nights of story-debauchery and, ultimately, story-dreams.  I realized that someone who teaches literature and creative writing carries a license to live this kind of full-time story life.  And that license is an MFA.

But with UCR I get more than just a degree.  I get the finest set of instructors assembled under one roof.  It’s an amazing program—the instructors are all published authors, authors whose work I admire.  I find myself devouring their work, marveling at the nuances of their craft, taking everything I can from the experiences they’ve had and the lessons they’ve learned and share. Because you never stop learning how to write.  It’s a life-long process and, if you pay close attention, you find that every day you get a little bit better.

So now I balance my day job with the MFA program, my family, and the novel I’ve been writing since the release of my second novel.  And I dream of the day I can teach and write full-time, and live and dream story until the stories I have to tell have been told.

schwartzclassWhat is it like being back in the classroom?  Was there an adjustment period?

It was exciting.  I always wanted to get my masters, and I always wanted to attend a UC school.  I couldn’t wait to talk to the instructors, many of whom I know personally from sharing time on panels at different writing conferences and festivals.  I accepted the whole process as yet another opportunity to learn something new about life.  Everything we do, every job we have, every adventure we take gives us something to write.  I’m known for being a bit eccentric in the research I do for my screenplays and books—I’ll do just about anything to get a real sense of the world I’m writing.  Going back to school is just another adventure, and a great opportunity to explore the adventures of others.  I think a lot of the younger students aren’t quite aware of the fact that the coolest people they’ll ever know are the writers they’ll meet in this program and at the writers conferences they attend.  I spent so much of my life feeling like an outsider, and after I was published I was introduced to a thousand other awkward outsiders who called themselves, coincidentally, writers.  These are the people with whom I feel most comfortable.  I think many unpublished authors are in such a rush to get published, to get that validation, that they miss the opportunity to truly enjoy the presence of other people who see the world in a similar way.  At our core we are lovers of language and story and, for most, the MFA program represents the first step in a long journey that teaches us to trust our inner voice and the stories we are meant to tell.  So, was there an adjustment period for me upon returning to school?  Only as there’s an adjustment period one encounters upon taking the first step in any adventure.  I experienced nervous anticipation and a desire to learn everything I can before the adventure comes to a close.

Your classmates must come to you for advice—what do you tell them about being a professional writer?

I don’t get a lot of people coming to me for advice—at least not in school.  There are too many other wonderful authors–our teachers–who have as much or more experience as me.  It’s odd how I hang in the balance between student and professional, and I think it generates a little confusion among my peers.  And by my peers, I mean the other students in our program.  I mean, here’s a bizarre anecdote – UCR screenwriting professors Bill Rabkin brings in his agent, Mitch Stein, for an interview and meet-and-greet with the students.  Well, Mitch was my first film agent over twenty years ago.  Because of UCR we’ve been reunited and now Mitch is taking my books out to television producers.  I almost feel like I’m taking opportunities away from other students in the MFA program who haven’t had the benefit of spending years as a professional writer.  But what these guys will have that I never had is an MFA, and with an MFA they can find a way to combine their creative lives with creative jobs that support their interests as a whole.  With my MFA I intend to leave the sales jobs behind and focus entirely on teaching and writing.  When students do ask me about being a professional writer I tell them it’s a journey, and it’s never the same experience for any one of us.  You can’t follow someone else’s path.  Write, listen to constructive criticism, don’t compromise, but make concessions when necessary.  And don’t give up—that’s the only thing that can sink you.

Have you seen a change in your writing since coming to the program?  Are you looking at your work differently?

The program is definitely influencing my writing style.  My genre is fiction, and I started with Mary Otis as my teacher.  Mary is a brilliant short story writer and I would compare her to Amy Hempel, who is one of my favorite authors.  Working with Mary gave me a new perspective on my writing.  She gave me permission to explore the boundaries of the craft—validating my belief that a good crime novel can have as much complexity and depth of character as any great work of fiction.  I also took non-fiction as a cross-genre, studying with Deanne Stillman.  Deanne is yet another wonderful writer, and I respect her work tremendously.  I had the opportunity to begin writing a memoir while in her class—something I was holding off doing until I’d had enough “life experience” to justify it.  After a bit of self-examination I realized I had more than enough going on in this troubled little head to warrant such an endeavor.  Deanne has been a great influence on my writing for this process.  For my third quarter I switched it up a bit.  I changed my cross-genre to poetry and studied with Anthony McCann.  I’ve always loved poetry and I’ve written a pound or two of poems in my time.  But I didn’t have the confidence to see things through.  Anthony assured me that my poems had a leg to stand on, and his guidance gave me the confidence to submit a selection of my poems to a major publisher of poetry collections.  I’m waiting on the results, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.  One of my goals in joining the UCR program was to work with as many of the talented author/teachers as possible during the short time I’m enrolled.  With that in mind, I switched to Rob Roberge for my main genre.  Rob’s writing is truly exceptional – I’ve read everything he’s published.  And as a teacher, I’ve never met anyone with as much insight as Rob.  One conversation with Rob Roberge is worth the price of admission.  I will value his advice, guidance and friendship long after I leave the grand institution of UCR.

So, really, residency is at a spa.  What’s that like?

It’s kind of like UC Santa Cruz deciding to make their mascot a banana slug.  Who cares what anyone else thinks?  We’re writers!  Do you think any one of us is ever going to get the opportunity to spend ten consecutive days in a resort in Palm Desert again?  I love the renegade spirit, and I love the community that’s been built.  The resort is key to the message.  We can do anything we want in this world.  We can reach for the sky and, like Icarus, we will succeed.  Um…maybe I need to take that cross-genre class in Mythology again…

Is your first book or screenplay…or third…ready for the world? Applications for our fall class are due August 1st.

Our Students & Alums Publish & Produce…Like Crazy

Hottest MFA modified_other pages

It’s been quite a burst of publishing and production news from our students and alums this week…but the thing is, it’s not an unusual week for the students and alums of the Hottest MFA. It’s part of what we advocate: getting your work out there, selling it, producing it, making a career out of your writing.

Anna Hozian topped the Blacklist this week, for her script “Someday, Ohio.” 

Gail Mackenzie-Smith is a quarter finalist for the Page International Screenwriting Award for her script “VIDOCQ: The First Detective.”

Liska Jacobs, on Jean Rhys and this life we live, in the current issue of The Hairpin:

I have a work friend who goes to see her mother a lot. This mother lives somewhere in Illinois and refuses to get on a plane. She is only 55, but already she doesn’t like to go outside. My friend saves her vacation time to fly home. Her mother is scared of everything: she is afraid of the bus driver and will not ride public transit, she fears the mailman, her second ex-husband, her first husband’s ghost, the dentist, and especially the mall. My friend took two weeks off last Christmas to help her mother move into an apartment. She came back thinner and nervous about everything. Her mother had sold her car and refused to drive. When my friend asked how she planned to get to the grocery store, to work, to the doctors. Her mother replied, hesitant: “I don’t know.”

David Zimmerle joins our own Writer-in-Residence Matthew Zapruder in 99 Poems for the 99 Percent, a new collection of poetry, out now:

American poetry has a rich tradition of taking on important political and social events. The 99 poems in this diverse and dynamic new collection edited by Dean Rader demonstrate how engagement with what Wallace Stevens called “the actual world” does not diminish poetry’s punch—rather it makes it hit harder. These are poems of anger, love, protest, humor, contemplation, hope, frustration, and beauty. These are poems of and for the real America. 

Lizi Gilad Silver writes a letter to the poet Hoa Nguyen, in The Volta:

Dear Hoa Nguyen,

Life is strange. A few years ago I did not know your name, and then I knew your name but had not read your work, and then I purchased a book of your poems but it troubled me and I struggled with it. And then something happened, what happened, not only did I know your name but your name I called teacher, and your work I called teacher, and I returned again and again to spend time inside your poems. Your poems which continue to trouble me and struggle me, but which also light up my mind and language and sound in ways I’ve come to need.

Kimbel Westerson went on an amazing journey…and was surprised by how the news of it was greeted, in the latest Role Reboot:

During the months of preparation, as I announced my plans to friends, I was surprised by the responses, mostly from women my own 40-ish age. These were women for whom the heavy lifting had already been done: Bras burned. The Pill readily available, covered by most health insurance plans, and condoms on the shelves of Target and Walmart. Roe v. Wade decided. The closet door on sexuality creaking open. The board room door opened, too—even though the glass ceiling was under construction. These women grew up with Title 9, a rainbow of multi-colored ribbons representative of hitherto neglected groups. Nine to Five gave way to Working Girl. Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde.

Yet for every Erin Brockovich there was still a Pretty Woman, I suppose. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when I heard the responses.

Sami Jankins examines what happens when life becomes unstable, for you and your parents, in HemAware:

There is a little voice inside each of us that repeats: “Are you really sure you want to do this?” And there is a feeling deep inside our guts that provides a familiar sensation when something is off. Sometimes we listen to these signals and intuitive feelings, and sometimes we shut them down. I stopped listening to my little voice for a long time. Any red flag I saw I stuffed firmly back where it came from until I couldn’t do it anymore.

When I heard the garage door opening mid-day, mid-week, in early December, I knew something wasn’t right. My dad never got home from work early. My dad didn’t even come home from work remotely “on time.” As a child, I remember crying because I hardly saw my dad. When I went to school, my dad was still asleep, and by the time he got home, I was already in bed. He worked six days a week during my childhood years. We sometimes joked that when he finally had time for me, I would’ve already followed his workaholic footsteps, so I would be too busy. That’s why I knew when my dad was home during the day, things were not good.

Eileen Shields walks in Hemingway’s steps…and in the echo of his shotgun, in the Rumpus:

The most famous celebrity in Ketchum is a dead man. His grizzled mug gazes out at you from signposts and store windows all over town. The elementary school is named for him, as are a half-dozen other small businesses and parks. He is buried in the local cemetery. Still, it was ten years before I realized Ernest Hemingway and I were neighbors.

Cynthia Romanowski takes a look at linked short story collections in LitCentral: OC:

The best story cycles are those that create a sense of overall development that rivals the feeling of closure that we’d typically associate with the end of a novel. Usually this sense of development grows out of the author’s ability to create meaningful links that create a feeling of unity within a collection. There are several different elements that authors can use to unify a collection and I like to think of them as falling into two separate categories.

First are the more major unifying factors, the story elements that do the heavy lifting as far as linking stories within a collection. These include: place/setting, reoccurring characters, structure, POV, and reoccurring plot points or events.

Then there are other, more minor unifying elements. These are the types of things that you can find in just about every short story collection, whether it’s heavily linked or not. These include mood, theme, tone, symbols, imagery, and topic.

Carol Damgen stars in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Other Desert Cities:

Family members with very different political views and a long-held secret are the focus of the play “Other Desert Cities,” opening at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday as part of Redlands Theatre Festival’s repertory season. Ron Adams of Highland directs the play. A Hollywood star’s Palm Springs estate is glowing with Christmas cheer in Jon Robin Baitz’s award-winning play. But home for the holidays is daughter Brooke, a novelist whose tell-all memoir is about to rip apart an already politically and personally divided family. A finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for drama, “Other Desert Cities” balances comedy and drama with wit and insight, focusing not only on family relationships but the relationships one has with society at large.

Mickey Birnbaum’s BACKYARD concludes an acclaimed run at the Echo Theater…here’s a great review:

Mickey Birnbaum, one of LA’s most gifted playwrights, returns with the stunningly brilliant and hilarious tale of teenage backyard wrestling in the wasteland of San Diego’s border suburbs. Birnbaum’s gift for dialogue and unsentimental character portrayal is on full display here, as he dissects with great humor and insight the lives of a family of lost souls.  Adolescent Chuck, played by the rising young stage star Ian Bamberg, who recently shone in the highly-acclaimed Fireman at the Echo, has dedicated his life to creating a Hollywood-esque epic in his backyard, focused around mortal combat. Along with his pal Ray, in an outstanding performance by newcomer Adan Rocha, Chuck plans to stage the epic battle with the help of his mother Carrie, in yet another fine appearance by Jacqueline Wright.

Lisa Morford finds her best self doing yoga in the latest Recovering Yogi:

Yoga has taught me how to savor the moments, how to get into my body and be unabashedly myself. Because for me, the practice is about learning how to live most fully. To love myself without condition, whether I “do yoga” or not. If I run or not. If am skinny or not. And I am learning to take those lessons beyond the scope of the yoga mat. Because it’s there, in the daily moments, the moments that matter, the moments I am there for, the moments I am alive and a part of the world and connected to the people in it, that the real yoga happens.

This Is Your Life: Emily Rapp On Writing & Reading Nonfiction

Everyone believes they have a story to tell…but does everyone have a memoir in them? We ask nonfiction professor Emily Rapp, the author of two bestselling memoirs, Poster Child and The Still Point of the Turning Worldthe hard questions. (And then one about cheese, as we believe it’s important for everyone to be educated on tasty cheeses.)

rappcnfEveryone thinks their life is interesting, so what makes the difference between an interesting life and a compelling memoir? 

I actually believe that everyone’s life IS interesting. Human beings are fascinating – without us, there would be no stories, no drama. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t have fascinating qualities, even if they didn’t, from their own perspective, feel remotely interesting. What does that even mean, in the end? In a sense, people are only made interesting via story, because before you can know someone, they have to tell you who they are, and then the tale weaving begins. In terms of having an interesting story, you don’t have to survive a plane crash to write a good memoir. May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude is hardly a Die Hard-action-esque book in which exciting stuff happens. There’s no addiction, no trauma, no drama. It’s about being alone, about how to do that, how to be alone as a human being, and it’s riveting. What she does with language, landscape, and, most of all, the way she invites the reader into her spinning mind – all of that is of great interest. It’s actually one of my favorite memoirs, in part because of its hyper focus that, far from being an exercise in naval-gazing, is an earnest attempt to be more open and engaged with the world, with humanity and thought and place. What makes an interesting memoir, then, is not that you’ve had an interesting experience, but that you’re able to write about it in a compelling and universally appealing way. How is the story being told, in what way? Is it beautiful to read? Does it make a gesture toward inclusion? Is it generous? These are questions that memoir needs to ask itself. A memoir should read more like a novel than anything else. It needs to track a narrator’s journey and change and transformation. It needs to have a structure, it needs to exclude as much as it includes. You don’t get any credit for having an interesting life. You only get credit, as an artist at least, for making it interesting to other people. End of rant!

You’ve written two memoirs, but have also published fiction, poetry and journalism as well, so when you sit down to write do you always know what form you’re going to explore? Or is there one that’s the default for you?
Well, since Tod Goldberg once told me that I’m like the soft serve yogurt machine of essays, I suppose that personal essay is my default. Just kidding. I do feel comfortable in the personal essay form, if only because it is so generous and flexible. And there are certain things I want to say or explicate in that form in particular, and in the past three years that’s been the form that seemed the best container for the issues I was obsessed with exploring and understanding. I also have assignments from editors, and in that sense the form is set for me. What I love about my recent return to fiction is a) nobody cares if I ever finish this novel; and b) I am not a character in the story. What a relief. I never thought I’d write ONE memoir, let alone two. But those stories needed to be in that form, because they were true, and because nonfiction provided the unique and necessary platform. I’m relieved, finally, to have returned to fiction. To made up people in a (partially) made up world.

When a student comes to you with their nonfiction idea, are there a few books you immediately tell them to read? For instance, should everyone read Joan Didion before they even attempt nonfiction? Or are there a few recent books that have captivated you?
I tell them to read Sarton’s book; A Grief Observed, by CS Lewis; Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy; Confessions, by St. Augustine; and finally, if they’re still speaking to me at this point, Appetites by Caroline Knapp. A recent book that blew off the top of my head was The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit. All of these books are beautiful, ask a lot of questions of the reader and of the world, have an intellectual bent, and are distinguished by amazing sentence writing and lyrical moments. Also, the Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison. That book is an absolute wonder.

Have you noticed any particular trends in nonfiction?
Memoir, of course, has been trendy, so to speak, since Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. What’s great about nonfiction is that because the form is so weird and funky and unwieldy to begin with, it’s almost impossible to track trends. That said, recent books like those by Solnit and Jamison are not only deeply intellectual and emotionally complex, but spend a lot of time talking about OTHER PEOPLE. I find this a happy and refreshing trend, especially in a genre that is often accused of being nothing more than advanced naval gazing.

Now, a hard hitting question about your own life: What’s your favorite cheese?

I like Gruyere in fondue and baked Brie or raw Brie or Brie on a cracker or an apple slice. I’m also a fan of super stinky cheese. The kind that’s meant to make you step back a bit when you open the refrigerator door. I dig that.

Are you ready to write the story of your life? Applications for our fall 2014 class are due August 1st

Faculty News: Rob Roberge Signs Major Deal For LIAR

Congratulations to professor Rob Roberge, who has sold his memoir Liar to Crown in a major deal. Rob is the author of four previous books, all fiction — the novels Drive, More Than They Could Chew, and The Cost of Living and the story collection Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life. Liar is Rob’s first book of nonfiction. Here’s Rob reading a segment of the book at The Rumpus’ “On Hands and Knees” event at Lit Quake in 2012:

The Way We Value Art: An Education in Poetry

One of the most frequent questions we’re asked concerns the value of an MFA in poetry. We asked Anthony McCann, one of our poetry professors, and the author of the forthcoming collection Thing Music (Wave Books), as well as three previous collections, to investigate…and what he finds is both tangible and philosophical.  

mccannbookWhat is the value of an MFA in poetry? As MFA programs proliferate and the world of the MFA becomes more and more naturalized, poets have increasingly come to see the degree as a necessity. At the same time, the more naturalized the need for an MFA becomes the more it is shadowed by questions regarding its true value. I think that in order to really get at the worth and meaning of an MFA education in poetry we need to disentangle some of the different values that get smeared together and sometimes forgotten in the casual use of the word. What do we mean when we say “value?”

These days when some folks talk about the value of an education they speak exclusively or almost exclusively in terms economic value, post-degree earning power, etc. And it’s true that the exigencies of debt and of finding a place in the ever more precarious, ever shifting edifice of our economy can make this kind of value seem like the only real value there is. The need to make a living is a need as shrill as hunger and, like hunger, it can make everything else, all other forms of value included, seem subordinate to it. There are many shrill voices out there right now ventriloquizing hunger and telling us that a dollar return is the only “real” way to measure the value of anything, an education included. These same voices entreat us to re-envision the warm and sustaining world of our personal relationships as nothing more than the job-seeker’s most essential instrument, the social network. I’d say that, while we all know that often the best jobs we find in our lives we find with the help of our friends, most of us (since we aren’t sociopaths) don’t view our friends as mere potential job-providing contacts, nodes in our matrix. I’d add that we do not look to education, especially education in an art like poetry, as exclusively or even primarily something we enter into in order to get a leg up on the competition. The way we value our friends and the way we value art and education point to understandings of value that are not readily convertible into dollars.

That said, I take it as obvious that the need to make a living is not something we can wish away. It has certainly been my experience that an MFA can have a great deal of short-term and long-term economic value. The degree can really open up doors in the world of work in life-transforming ways. All of the fulfilling work I have found post-MFA would have been impossible to get without the degree, and I’m not speaking only of teaching creative writing at the university level. In my case my MFA allowed me to teach English as a Foreign Language abroad at the university level in South Korea and Nicaragua, and to work for many years in the world of adult ESL in community based programs in New York City.  I can’t imagine I would have been able to write my first two books without the intense experience of language and culture that those jobs gave me. The jobs also allowed me to live relatively comfortably in some fascinating cities. Still, I think we can all agree that it is plainly absurd to measure the value of an MFA in poetry exclusively or primarily in terms of a short term boost in earning power. While this might make sense for the graduate of an MBA program, or even a graduate of a law school, clearly there is also another kind of value we seek in an MFA education.  I think this other kind of value is also what we look for in literature itself, in the writing of it and in the reading of it.

What is the value of reading? What do we get from the poems, novels, and works of non-fiction that we read? What do we get from them that makes us want to enter into their world again and again–not just as readers but as poets, as creators of literature?  If we are poets we know with certainty that we are not drawn to the shared imaginary world of literature for all the cash we are going to make there. So what draws us there? I think it’s that literature in general and poems in particular, when they are successful, conjure the world in imagination with such palpable resonance that we feel, as the poet Robert Creeley put it once, that the world has finally come true. I think in reading and writing we experience the world coming true with a clarity and intensity that is not possible in so-called real life. Furthermore, I’d argue that the intensity of this sensation that Creeley described as the world coming true is inseparable from the peculiar sociality of literary experience. When we truly enter into a poem, whether it is one we are writing or one we are reading, we have entered into an imaginary social space—something we tend to overlook due to the often solitary nature of the practices of reading and writing. The ‘shared-ness’ of literary space and its paradoxical ‘solitary sociality’, I hold as key to understanding the value of poetry and the value of MFA level study in poetry.

I see the value manifest in literature as being something like what the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy has called “absolute value.” This absolute value can be seen as the value we find in the sharing of existence, in the sharing of being and in the making of a world with others. This sharing, Nancy insists, is what we mean when we say meaning. It seems to me that the practice of literature is precisely the playful and urgent creation of meaning and world, of meaningful world as imaginary literary space, in language. The space that literature creates is, I believe, especially valuable because of the peculiar mix of intimacy and distance it involves, because of its solitary sociality or sociable solitude. The impersonal intimacy of reading and writing allows us to leave behind our everyday selves and our immediate fears, desires, and pettier hungers, and enter into another dimension, the space-time of literature. There we may find a greater capacity for deep communication and for sharing our problematic existences with an openness that is rarely available in face to face socializing, due to the intrusions of those same fears, needs, and desires. This capacity for impersonal intimacy gives the imaginary space of literature a value that can simply not be measured in the differently impersonal terms of economic value; it cannot be made equivalent to any other experience through the leveling, transubstantiating magic of money. Literature has a value—a special form of the simple, absolute value of being together—that is outside economic value.

Our economic system is constantly touching at and trying to absorb this other sphere of value but it simply cannot. A great illustration of this is the ever morphing slogan of the long-running series of master-card ads. The structure of the slogan goes: ‘Blah Blah Blah, priceless, for X there is Mastercard.’ In these ads the Blah Blah Blah is always an image of some kind of social being, of being together and sharing existence joyously–taking your kids to the ball game etc. This is priceless, but Mastercard is there for the parking and the hot dogs, and the tickets and big foam “We’re Number One”  finger. Of course the ad is trying to insinuate, precisely by saying the opposite, that its product, credit, is what makes this sharing of being possible. In its images it also attempts to sell us a pre-packaged version of social joy, but in the end it cannot absorb, cannot monetize pure social experience, it can only encroach upon it. Facebook is another attempt to encroach, even further, on the absolute value of social existence, but I would maintain that even Facebook cannot hand you the joy of sharing the strangeness, the pleasure and terror of being alive in the world with others.

In the MFA program we dedicate ourselves intensely to the social practice of literature, to the creation of this other kind of value I have been describing. These imaginary spaces of “absolute value”  we enter as readers and writers are mirrored by the on-line and “real world” classroom spaces we make as students and teachers in an MFA program. In an MFA program we meet again and again, in imaginary and physical rooms given over to the work of making the world come true. What seems especially valuable about that experience is what I want to call, despite the negative associations the word sometimes calls up, its impersonality. In the MFA classroom we are gathered together as writers, not as family members, not as friends. Certainly MFA programs breed true life-long supportive friendships amongst their students and faculty, but while we are in the program together we are gathered solely by our desire to seriously write and read with others. It seems very important to me that the teachers and colleagues you will work with in an MFA program are people from outside the circle of your friends and family. While friends and family might be very supportive of our writing (though truthfully often they are simply bewildered by it) they are primarily interested, bless them, in us. It is we, thankfully, that they, for whatever reason, find lovable. They are inclined to find our work lovable as an emanation of ourselves. The problem here is obvious. As writers we need people in our lives who are primarily interested in our writing, who find us interesting because of what we have written, not the other way around. The MFA program allows us to share existence through texts we read and write, to meet in a way that is simultaneously more distanced and impersonal than everyday life, and deeper and more intense than what is possible in much of our daily lives. When we describe, in a class or in an on-line post, our reaction to another classmate’s poem, we are sharing our embodied experience of the world in a focused, distilled, concentrated way that is simply not possible without the distancing, the impersonality, created by the mediating presence of the poem. When I talk to you about your poem I am not talking about you. It is due to this distancing, this impersonality, that I can learn so much more about how you experience the world around you in your reaction to a phrase in a poem than I can in a casual polite conversation. It is this level of sharing, this kind of access to different experiences of existence that we as poets seek in poems. The writing workshop is like an antechamber that opens onto that imaginary literary space. In short an MFA program, at its best, produces in its spaces and in social and pedagogical relationships a variant of the imaginary social space we produce when we read and write, in a way that bridges the gap that can otherwise be felt between one’s social life and one’s life in literature. To me this of immeasurable, incommensurable value.

As a faculty member at UCR’s Palm Desert Low Residency MFA I have found the combination of our intensive residencies (where students and faculty live and work in close, if very comfortable, quarters for 20 days  a year) with our year-long work on-line especially effective in generating the kind of sharing of experience I have been describing. Our on-line work requires us to write regularly about our reading and writing;  this distancing demands a careful and thoughtful communication of our reading and writing experiences that is sometimes missing from MFA programs where all student and student-faculty interaction goes on face-to-face. At the same time our intensive residencies ensure that we really do connect with each other, working together with a real communal zeal the likes of which I have not encountered elsewhere.

Are you looking to bridge the creative and social? Applications for our fall class are due August 1st. 

Wanted: The Greatest Criminal Minds Of Our Time

In most MFA programs, the idea of writing a crime novel would be considered…well…just not dignified enough. Which is one of many reasons we’re not your average MFA program — we have a firm belief that genre fiction isn’t just what people like to read, it’s what people like to write, too, and we’re all about helping people write what they want to write. We sat down with fiction professor (and program director) Tod Goldberg to talk about the art of crime fiction and how to teach the greatest criminal minds…

headgangsterYou’ve written both crime fiction and literary fiction — do you distinguish between the two?

In my own work, not really. A story comes to me and I write it. Now, of course, if the main character is a hit man (like in my new book) and there are dead bodies everywhere, well, I know it’s not going to be shelved in literary fiction, but that doesn’t mean I’m trying to be any less introspective or am less concerned with the machinations of humanity and such, only that maybe I’m also thinking about a strong sense of plot and character and action and that at some point in the book, a mystery of some kind will be solved. So maybe less epiphanies and more solutions, but even that’s not a tried and true thing. Mostly, I’m just trying to get whatever is in my head onto the page and hopefully the result is entertaining.

But when I’m reading, yes, of course, I’m aware of the key differences. If the main character in a book is a detective, I suspect I have different expectations than if the main character is a plumber. But when I think of some of my favorite books, be it The Great Gatsby or The Quiet American or Empire Falls, to name three, at the heart of all three of those books are pretty significant crimes. I think it’s an element of literature and in a perfect world, everything would just be shelved in alphabetical order, but people do like to have an idea of what they’re getting into.

When you have a student writing crime fiction, what are some touchstone books you have them read? Or are there a few authors you have them investigate closely?

This year, I found myself recommending Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin quite a bit, which is one of the best crime novels I’ve read in the last few years, as it focuses on both the cop, the (presumed) criminal, and also conveys an incredibly rich sense of place, integrates flashback exceptionally well and is an absolute page-turner. And Franklin comes from a pretty literary tradition, so it might also just be a thing of taste on my part. Also, I’m constantly recommending Daniel Woodrell (who might be my favorite living author), Elmore Leonard, Sara Gran, Dennis Lehane, and Megan Abbott to folks — these are all contemporary writers, obviously, apart from Leonard who passed away recently — and this last residency we had Attica Locke out to talk about her books, specifically The Cutting Season, which blew me away, and before that we had T. Jefferson Parker out, who I’ve been a fan of since, well, since we were both younger men, and they’re both writers who could be writing anything and it would be good. So I’ll give a student The Cutting Season or California Girl by Parker and say, okay, look at how these writers convey place, how they make the location of the book integral to its mysteries, how they deal with the tradition of that place, the history, and how invariably the people in the book are products of that environment, how rich that makes the story.

mhsrawcovI guess it also makes a difference if they’re writing a PI novel, a cop novel, or noir, or a novel about people doing criminal things vs. a crime being solved. So if someone’s writing noir, for instance, I might have them read Scott Phillips, who is cut right from the Jim Thompson cloth (and sometimes I have them read Thompson, too) and maybe someone like Vicki Hendricks (her novel Miami Purity was a on a bunch of reading lists this year).  If they’re writing comic crime, we have one of the best in the business on our faculty in Mark Haskell Smith, and then there’s also writers like Seth Greenland, whose book The Bones I end up telling someone to read at least once a quarter.  The genre is filled with wonderful writers, both contemporary and historical, and so there’s a lot to look at.

Is there some part of crime writing that is different now than when it began? Or some pitfall new writers run into?

I think the tough part is that now you can’t just sit down and start writing a crime novel and make up things about the investigation, if you’re writing a PI or cop book. Readers are so savvy and they know (or at least they think they know) so much about police procedure from TV that if you get some detail wrong, the whole enterprise can crumble.

I think most people would be surprised to know that the crime fiction of the 1920s and 30s was just as violent and gritty as today’s. You read a book like Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, which was published in 1929, and it’s exceptionally dark and violent. But the general premise is still the same — there’s someone doing something bad and that someone must be stopped, though of course the conception of who is bad and who is good is really up to the reader. I was raised on books where the bad guy is the good guy — you grow up reading Donald Westlake, you end up having skewed ideas about these things, I suppose — and that’s where it makes the books so interesting. Normal power structures don’t always exist in crime fiction.

The easiest pitfall is one of being too reliant on the canonical works and their attendant cliches and not establishing your own voice. This is particularly true with writers doing PI books. In the last few years, when students have embarked down that path I’ve had them give a good look at Paul Tremblay, who took the hallmarks of the genre, adhered to them, and then completely flipped cliche on its head with his narcoleptic detective. Or recently, I’ve been talking a lot about Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman and its sequel, Countdown City, both of which really play with the conventional detective novel and add to it a doomsday asteroid hurtling towards the planet. I’m not saying every new PI novel has to have something like that — an affliction or something from space — merely that both writers carved a spot for themselves inside a well-worn genre by exploiting the tropes, showing that they knew what was expected, and then making it all wholly original. In the end of a PI novel, the PI solves the crime. The reader knows that. So the thing the reader wants is for the journey to take them somewhere fresh and new. I think that’s an emotional thing, making a character that readers really connect with on an empathetic level.

What is it about genre fiction — not just mystery or crime, but also sci-fi & fantasy or horror — that gets people in academia up in arms? 

 Well, I think there’s a perception that it isn’t important. And if it’s not important, why would you teach it? And if it’s popular, it can’t be good. When people say these things — and if you go to an academic conference, for instance, there’s always a panel about why genre fiction is important and then, invariably, someone raises their hand and says there hasn’t been a decent work of mystery fiction since Poe died, that no one will ever be a better detective than Sherlock Holmes and that JK Rowling has ruined the world, and other like-minded nonsense — my first thought is that they are deeply disconnected from what people actually read. And so I think in some ways that’s the challenge creative writing programs have — making it safe for people to write the most serious literary fiction and, if they want, the best story of a vampire hit man from space who solves crimes from the back of his dragon. People can write whatever they want to write and in this program, we’re going to help them write it really well. That’s not specifically true for a great many creative writing programs and in that way I think it’s just an institutional bias based out of fear — they don’t know how to teach fantasy fiction, they’re not going to admit a student who writes it.  It’s silly to me.  You don’t know how to teach it? Hire someone who does.

Is there one crime novel that you love that not a lot of people have read?  

Hard to pick just one. A book that I re-opened just the other day, though, when talking to a student was The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale, who is better known for his horror writing. It’s a great one. It won the Edgar Award when it came out. I always like to remind people of the writer Barbara Seranella, who was a dear friend of mine, and who passed away a few years ago. She had a series of novels featuring a character named Munch Mancini that I think would have been even more popular if they had come out today instead of 15 years ago.  I miss her so much and reminding people about her work is not just a way of keeping her alive, but also reminding people of some great writing. There are so many more, though. I’d say the best crime novel I’ve read in 2014, though, was Chance by Kem Nunn. He’s a writer who can do no wrong in my book.

Do you have a piece of advice for someone thinking of applying to the program with an eye towards writing a mystery novel? 

I think we’re always looking to be surprised. If you’re writing a mystery, in those first 25 pages that you submit as your creative sample, the same rules apply as if you were submitting to an agent: you really need to hook us, show us you have an original take, show us your best writing. I know that’s all pretty nebulous, so I guess the biggest thing is that we just want to see a writer who is ready to make a big step, or who looks like they could use the help we can provide, or who maybe has one great sentence that shows us what might open up in its wake. Also, it surely helps if something really cool happens right away. And by that I mean: Who knows! You’ll know it when you write it.

Are you one of the greatest criminal minds of our time? Applications are due February 1st for our Spring class.  

Student News: Colby Buzzell In The New York Times


Fiction student Colby Buzzell has an amazing essay, “Thank You For Being Expendable,” in today’s New York Times. 

YEARS after I first returned from Iraq and started having thoughts and visions of killing myself, I’d call the Department of Veterans Affairs. They always put me on hold.

First, an automated message would greet me to let me know there was an unusually long wait because of the large number of incoming calls. Then a recorded message played on a constant loop: “Welcome to the Department of Veterans Affairs … The V.A. is here to serve you … If this is a mental health emergency or you are thinking about committing suicide, please hang up and call 911 … If you are having thoughts of hurting others or want to talk to a mental health professional hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line … ”

Read the full essay here. 

Faculty News: Charles Evered’s New Play To Premier in London

Congratulations to playwriting professor Charles Evered, whose latest play, “Knock Knock,” launches next week in London. Here’s a recent article from UCR Today all about the play and the man…

Charles Evered directs a scene

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Imagine that a comment on social media critical of the president elicits a visit from the Secret Service.

Imagine that aggressive questioning escalates into tragedy.

University of California, Riverside theater professor Charles Evered imagines such a scenario in a new play, “Knock Knock,” that will premiere June 3 in the Theatre503 ObamAmerica festival in Battersea, London. The theater festival focuses on the effect President Barack Obama has had on the United States and the world.

“Knock Knock” is one of 14 plays selected from among more than 250 submissions from American playwrights. Seven 15-minute plays will be performed for a week with the remaining seven plays presented the following week. “Knock Knock,” directed by Theatre503 associate artistic director Lisa Cagnacci, will be performed during the first week of the festival, June 3-8.

Lydia Parker, a producer of the festival, said of Evered’s play: “ ‘Knock Knock’ was Lisa’s first choice of play to direct. It was a standout as it deals with uncomfortable subjects, the disappointment in Obama some of the liberal left feel, the lengths that the NSA may go in spying on American citizens in their own country, the heavy-handedness of forces that are supposed to protect Americans and yet may be suppressing people’s rights. It packs in a lot for such a short play, with great skill. We were also so pleased that Charles wrote ‘Knock Knock’ specifically for the festival. We heard from many voices in America and Charles Evered’s is a very intelligent and passionate one.”

“Knock Knock” was inspired by a true story, Evered said.

“I read a story where a man in middle America said something mildly critical of the president on line, two Secret Service agents showed up, asked him if he owned guns, and began questioning him aggressively. That real life event didn’t escalate into tragedy, but it became clear to me that it could have. And that’s where my imagination kicked in. To me, the situation was a clear metaphor for how aspects of our society could easily combust if we don’t listen to one another, if we don’t truly communicate.”

In the play, the character being questioned challenges the Secret Service agents about why a comment expressing frustration with the president warrants a visit, and complains about the impact of their visit on his life.

“You don’t think people will talk? You don’t think just your being here, just your knocking on my door, paying this little visit, you don’t think that will have repercussions for me — my reputation, my ability to earn a living?” he asks.

Evered said “Knock Knock” might at first glance seem more overtly political than his previous work, but he still feels obligated to focus more on the drama then the polemical.

“I don’t write message plays, I write plays about people in tough situations and how they handle them,” he said. “If people want to read into that, that is really out of my control. The last thing I want to do is preach to the converted or write in an echo chamber. I don’t see the point. I feel every character I create has to be legitimately represented, have more than two dimensions and not simply be a mouthpiece for my own personal views.”

Evered, a professor of playwriting at UCR and the theater department’s artistic director, has written for major studios and for the hit USA Network series “Monk,” starring Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub. The first feature film he directed, “Adopt a Sailor” — based on a play he wrote  — was an official selection at more than 20 national and international film festivals and premiered on Showtime.

His second feature as a director, “A Thousand Cuts,” starred Academy Award nominee Michael O’Keefe and was nominated for a Saturn Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Evered is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, having studied under the director George Roy Hill. He is also a former officer in the United States Navy Reserve, attaining the rank of lieutenant. In 2010 he formed a production company called Ordinance 14.

Theatre503, which The Guardian newspaper recently described as “arguably the most important theatre in Great Britain today,” produces work the company describes as “game-changing, relevant, surprising, mischievous, visually thrilling and theatrical.”

Alumni News: New Fiction From Michael Morshed


Michael Morshed has a typically dark, weird tale in the latest issue of of Bartleby Snopes.  Here’s a taste:

All night I sat in the kitchen, eyeing the chemicals under the sink. Marty always asks me how I could have so many cleaning supplies and such a dirty apartment. I like to ask him why he cheats on me and why he’s such a dick.

I’m walking into The Diner now, where he says he met her, where he said she works.

They seat me in a booth across from a couple, next to the bathroom. There are photos on the wall, they’re nothing, fluff that’s supposed to make you not look at them.

Read more here. 

Student News: Eileen Shields In The Latest Fiction Attic


Fiction student Eileen Shields has a new creative nonfiction piece — see, this is why we’re multi-disciplinary here — in the latest issue of Fiction Attic. Here’s a snippet of “The Barbershop Quartet”:

The barbershop quartet had been my idea.

My mother-in-law lives in an elder care home located on a quiet, tree-lined street in a Northern California suburb. Her constant complaint is that she is bored. I feel sorry for her because she is a widow with three sons and no daughters. Whether through love or guilt or decades of female submission, daughters generally make more reliable caretakers than sons. For example, a daughter probably would not, as Jean’s sons do, point out that the reason she is bored is that she is disagreeable and grouchy and therefore has no friends. Granted, the boy’s opinion is hard to debate—even her own grandchildren refer to Grandma Jean as Grandma Mean.

The boys’ solution for Jean’s boredom was to hire a paid companion, a middle-aged redheaded woman who takes her on outings and then dutifully sends us photos of these excursions—to the museum, to the aquarium, and once, shockingly, on a helicopter ride with a helmeted and goggled Jean posing at the controls. When my husband asks Jean about her adventures, she does not remember them. The fact is, these days Jean does not remember much, but she does remember she has three sons, and wants nothing more than to spend time with them, because she is bored.

Read the rest here. 

Alumni News: Heather Partington Reviews The World

…or at least quite a few books. This week, she reviews two new books in the Rumpus, Fridays at Enrico’s by Don Carpenter and Inside Madeline by Paula Bomer. 

Don’t write about writing. That gets said a lot. But like any absolute about what not to do, it’s only true until someone does it well. Such is the case with Don Carpenter’s Fridays at Enrico’s, his final novel, finished by Jonathan Lethem after Carpenter’s death. The novel follows a small group of novelists up and down the west coast as they pursue publication from the late 1950s to the 1970s. The story of Fridays at Enrico’s publication is compelling, itself; Carpenter’s work, especially Hard Rain Falling, garnered him praise and a devout following. His final novel–though a finished manuscript–went unpublished. Lethem, champion of Carpenter’s work, readied the manuscript for publication.

She also appeared on the latest episode of Literary Disco, talking about teaching The Stranger to high school kids…and a few adults, it turns out, too. 

Alumni News: Gallagher Lawson Inks Deal For First Novel


Gallagher LawsonCongratulations to Gallagher Lawson, a fall 2013 graduate, who has sold his first novel, The Papermade Man.  Here’s what they had to say in Publishers Marketplace:

UCR-Palm Desert MFA
Gallagher Lawson’s THE PAPERMADE MAN, an allegorical tale of a naive young man made of papier-mache who struggles to survive in an oceanside city on the verge of revolution, to Olivia Taylor-Smith at Unnamed Press, for publication in February 2015, by Dara Hyde at the Frederick Hill Nadell Agency (NA).

Gallagher joins fellow alum Cate Dicharry at Unnamed Press, whose debut will be published in 2015 as well.

Spring Guest Residency Faculty


We’re pleased to announce the great writers, agents, editors, and industry professionals who’ll be joining us this June for our Spring Residency:

Kate Anger’s work has appeared at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, the Stella Adler Theatre, and Ensemble Studio Theatre. Her most recent play, Sumi’s House, kicked off the season at the season at UCR with a successful 12 night run. Ms. Anger has also published both fiction and nonfiction and is an accomplished actress, appearing in numerous stage production, and teaches playwriting at UCR.

Molly Bendall is the author of four collections of poetry, After Estrangement, Dark Summer, Ariadne’s Island, and most recently Under the Quick (Parlor Press). Her poems, reviews, and translations of the French surrealist poet Joyce Mansour have appeared in Paris Review, Poetry, Lana Turner, New American Writing, Volt, Denver Quarterly, Pool, and many other journals. She has received the Eunice Tietjens Prize from Poetry Magazine, the Lynda Hull Award from Denver Quarterly and two Pushcart Prizes.  Her poems have appeared In anthologies: American Hybrid: The Norton Anthology of the New Poem, American Poetry: The Next Generation, The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative Poetry, and Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House. She has also co-authored with Gail Wronsky Bling & Fringe from What Books.  She teaches at the University of Southern California.

Francesca Lia Block (www.francescaliablock.com) is the author of more than twenty-five books of fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. She received the Spectrum Award, the Phoenix Award, the ALA Rainbow Award and the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as other citations from the American Library Association and from the New York Times Book ReviewSchool Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. Her work has been translated into Italian, French, German Japanese, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Portuguese. Francesca has also published stories, poems, essays and interviews in The Los Angeles TimesThe L.A. Review of BooksSpinNylonBlack Clock and Rattle among others. In addition to writing, she teaches fiction workshops at UCLA ExtensionAntioch University, and privately in Los Angeles where she was born, raised and currently still lives.

Lucas Carter: Before joining Intrigue in October 2010, Lucas was the Vice President of Production and Development for the Weinstein Company where he worked directly under co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. During his tenure at TWC, Lucas was a credited studio executive on ALEX RIDER: OPERATION STORMBREAKER, based on the best-selling novels, starring Alex Pettyfer, and I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, based on the novel by Allison Pearson. Lucas worked as an executive for The Weinstein Company on NINE directed by Rob Marshall, SHANGHAI directed by Mikael Hafstrom (1408), and THE GREAT DEBATORS starring and directed by Denzel Washington, and produced by Oprah Winfrey. For Weinstein Television, Lucas was an executive on MOB WIVES, which he helped set up at VH1 with Ben Silverman. Additionally, with Harvey Weinstein, he developed and set up a MARCO POLO series pilot at Starz, with John Fusco (YOUNG GUNS) writing.


Jennie Dunham (AAR and SCBWI member) represents literary fiction and nonfiction for adults and children’s books for all ages. She prefers literary, character-driven writing rather than mass-market, commercial styles. Jennie Dunham does not represent poetry, horror, romance, or individual short stories and articles. Her clients include Tod Goldberg, Reeve Lindbergh, Fred Chappell, Robert Sabuda, Nick Bruel, Margaret McMullan, and Leslie Connor. Please see www.dunhamlit.com for more information.


Tony DuShane is the author of “Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk” (Soft Skull Press) and writes for The San Francisco Chronicle, Penthouse, Mother Jones, The Rumpus and other publications. He hosts the radio show Drinks with Tony interviewing authors, filmmakers, bands and more since 2002. He adapted his first novel to a screenplay and the film is currently in post production.

Rachel Fershleiser heads author and publisher outreach at Tumblr. Previously she was the Community Manager at Bookish and the Director of Public Programs at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, where she now serves on the board of directors. She is also the co-creator of Six-Word Memoirs and co-editor of the New York Times Bestseller Not Quite What I Was Planning and three other books.

Janet Fitch is the author of the Los Angeles novels Paint It Black and White Oleander. Her short stories essays have appeared in such anthologies and journals as Black Clock, Room of One’s Own, Los Angeles Noir, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue and Los Angeles Review of Books.. She has taught and lectured on aspects of fiction writing in programs including  the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, UCLA Writers Program, Antioch University Los Angeles, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She is currently finishing an novel set during the Russian Revolution. She  maintains a blog where she posts writing tips, rants, meditations and short-shorts at www.janetfitchwrites.wordpress.com.


Wendy Hammond’s plays have been produced by New York City theatres (Soho Rep, Second Stage, Home for Contemporary Theatre and Art), by regional theatres (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Long Wharf, S.L.A.C., Charlotte Rep, Purple Rose), and in London, Tel Aviv, Milan and Rome.  Her works include Julie Johnson (published by Dramatists Play Service and in an anthology by Smith & Kraus), Family Life: 3 Brutal Comedies (published by Broadway Play Publishing), Jersey City, and The Hole at the Purple Rose Theatre, which was nominated by the American Theatre Critics Association for best new American play, and Road Rage: A Love Story which was commissioned by the Purple Rose developed at the O’Neill Center, and in a workshop process at Steppenwolf Theatre starring Jeff Perry and Amy Morton. Ms. Hammond wrote the screenplay for Julie Johnson, produced by Shooting Gallery Films, co-written by director Bob Gosse, starring Lili Taylor, Courtney Love and Spalding Gray.  The film premiered in the Sundance Film Festival and played in film festivals all over the world winning many awards including Best Feature in the Barcelona Film Festival and an Audience Award in Berlin. She wrote the screenplay for A Beautiful Life produced by Calla productions, starring Jesse Garcia, Angela Sarafyan, Bai Ling, and Dana Delany.  Ms. Hammond wrote and directed the short film, Lehi’s Wife, through AFI’s Directors Workshop for Women, now in post-production. James Greene and Kathryn Joosten star in the film. Ms. Hammond is a recipient of an NEA grant, an NYFA grant, a McNight Fellowship and a Drama League Award.  She has been invited twice to the Sundance Play Unit, twice to the O’Neill Center, five times to New River Dramatists and is New Dramatists alumnus.  She holds an MFA from New York University’s Dramatic Writing Program, an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and worked in the Chesterfield Writers Project. She has taught playwriting and screenwriting courses in several universities including Brown University, Connecticut College.  She has also taught in the Sewannee Writers Conference, the Writers at Work Conference, and in the prison ward of Bellevue Hospital.  For five years she served on the faculty of the University of Michigan.  Currently she is working on a play, Ecstacy: The Enigma of Joseph Smith, an historical fantasy of the wild life of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church.


Tara Ison is the author of the novels Rockaway, The List, and A Child out of Alcatraz, and the forthcoming short story collection Ball. Her short fiction, essays, poetry and book reviews have appeared in Tin House, The Kenyon Review, The Rumpus, Nerve.com, Black Clock, TriQuarterly, PMS: poemmemoirstory, Publisher’s Weekly, The Week magazine, The Mississippi Review, LA Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, the San Jose Mercury News, and numerous anthologies.  She is also the co-writer of the cult movie Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead. She is the recipient of a 2008 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship and a 2008 COLA Individual Artist Grant, as well as multiple Yaddo fellowships, a Rotary Foundation Scholarship for International Study, a Brandeis National Women’s Committee Award, a Thurber House Fiction Writer-in-Residence Fellowship, the Simon Blattner Fellowship from Northwestern University, and a California Arts Council Artists’ Fellowship Award.  Ison received her MFA in Fiction & Literature from Bennington College.  She has taught creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Goddard College, Antioch University Los Angeles, and UC Riverside Palm Desert’s MFA in Creative Writing program.  She is currently Assistant Professor of Fiction at Arizona State University.

Jim JenneweinNow in his 23rd year as a working Hollywood screenwriter, Jim Jennewein has co-written and sold 21 feature screenplays to all the major film studios. He has survived hundreds of Hollywood pitch meetings and worked on assignment for such companies as Touchstone, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century-Fox, Fox 2000, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Interscope, Columbia Pictures, Regency, Morgan Creek, Largo Entertainment, NBC, among others. His produced film credits include THE FLINTSTONES, RICHIE RICH, MAJOR LEAGUE II, GETTING EVEN WITH DAD and STAY TUNED.  Jim adapted the Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea as an animated feature film for Disney and also sold an original TV sitcom pilot to NBC. His TV pilot script, “Lawless,” won first prize in the One Hour TV Pilot category in the Table Read My Screenplay script contest in 2013. Jim is currently Chair of the Screenwriting Department on the Burbank campus of the New York Film Academy, and has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in screenwriting at California State University, Northridge, and at the Malibu campus of Pepperdine University. He is a published author as well, having co-authored the RuneWarriors trilogy, a comedy-fantasy series of young adult novels published by HarperCollins. Jim holds a BFA from the University Of Notre Dame, and an MFA from the Graduate Program in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts at University Of California, Riverside.  He has been a member of the Writers Guild of America since 1990.

Dinah Lenney grew up on the East Coast, outside Boston and New York City, and graduated from a small public high school just north of Manhattan. She earned her Bachelor’s at Yale and a Certificate of Acting from the Neighborhood Playhouse School, eventually moving to Los Angeles where, among other roles, she landed the long-recurring part of Nurse Shirley on NBC’s critically acclaimed series, ER. Dinah’s continued to work on stage, in film, and on television, playing a wide range of roles in theatre and musical theatre, and guest-starring on series too many to mention, among them Law and Order, Without a Trace, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Sons of Anarchy. She’s taught in acting programs at Universities all over the country, and is the co-author, with Mary Lou Belli, of Acting for Young Actors (Random House). Dinah’s memoir, Bigger than Life, was published in the American Lives Series at the University of Nebraska Press, and excerpted for the “Lives” column in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. A full time Assistant Professor in the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, Dinah also serves as core faculty for the Bennington Writing Seminars (where she took an MFA in Creative Nonfiction in 2003), and for the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She’s written essays and reviews for literary journals, anthologies, and newspapers, print and online, and was especially mentioned in the Pushcart Anthology XXXIV. She regularly blogs about reading and writing at http://dornsife.usc.edu/thegamut/.  Dinah lives, with her husband and children, in Echo Park, close enough to Dodger Stadium to hear the roar of the crowd. Her latest book, The Object Parade has just been released.

Brian Lipson is a partner in the Los Angeles based literary management company Intellectual Property Group (IPG).  Brian  specializes in selling the motion picture/television rights of literary material. For 15 years he has represented such notable authors as Stephen E. Ambrose, Jared Diamond, Eric Garcia, Joe Lansdale, Brad Meltzer, Joyce Carol Oates, Rex Pickett and Mark Haskell Smith. Brian also represents the literary estates of Mark Twain and Jim Thompson. Some of the motion picture and television projects he sold include Band of Brothers, Boardwalk Empire, Ike: Countdown to D-Day, Sideways, Matchstick Men, Repo Men, Pain & Gain and The Departed. Additionally, Brian also markets non-fiction books to publishers. Some of the authors he has sold books for include Stephen Ambrose, Hugh Ambrose, the Osbournes, Alexandra Pelosi, Amber Tamblyn, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sharon Rocha (Laci Peterson’s mother), Scout Productions (the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), Aisha Tyler, Bob Newhart, Burt Bacharach and Roger Ebert. Prior to joining IPG, Brian ran the book division at Endeavor from 1999 until the merger with the William Morris Agency in 2009. Before Endeavor, Brian was an agent and assistant at the Renaissance Agency, where he trained under his current partner, Joel Gotler.

Attica Locke is the 2013 winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her second novel, The Cutting Season, published by Dennis Lehane books. A national bestseller, The Cutting Season was also named an Honor Book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and long-listed for the Chautauqua Prize. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the prestigious Orange Prize in the UK (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction). A graduate of Northwestern University, Locke was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab. She spent many years as a screenwriter, writing scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, and Dreamworks. She is a member of the academy for the Folio Prize in the UK and is also on the board of directors for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. A native of Houston, Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

D. P. Lyle, MD is the Macavity Award winning and Edgar® Award nominated author of the non-fiction books, MURDER & MAYHEM, FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES, FORENSICS & FICTION, and HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS as well as theSAMANTHA CODY and DUB WALKER thriller series and the ROYAL PAINS media tie-in novels. His essay on Jules Verne’s THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND appears in THRILLERS: 100 MUST READS and his short story “Even Steven” in ITW’s anthology THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER.He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars. He was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama where his childhood interests revolved around football, baseball, and building rockets in his backyard. The latter pursuit was common in Huntsville during the 1950’s and 60’s due to the nearby NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. After leaving Huntsville, he attended college, medical school, and served an internship at the University of Alabama; followed by a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas at Houston; then a Fellowship in Cardiology at The Texas Heart Institute, also in Houston. For the past 35 years, he has practiced Cardiology in Orange County, California. He is the co-host, along with Jan Burke, of CRIME AND SCIENCE RADIO, a twice-monthly program on SUSPENSE RADIO.

James Meetze is the author of I Have Designed This for You and Dayglo, which was selected by Terrance Hayes as winner of the 2010 Sawtooth Poetry Prize and published by Ahsahta Press. He is editor, with Simon Pettet, of Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems by James Schuyler. Winner of the 2001 Poet Laureate Award from the University of California, Meetze’s poems have recently appeared inWitnessNew Orleans ReviewFree Verse, South Dakota Review, and The Rattling Wall among others. James is assistant professor of English at Ashford University and lives in San Diego. He currently serves as a mentor in the PEN Center USA’s Emerging Voices Fellowship program and is Poetry Editor of Manor House, a magazine of art and literature. A new chapbook, Dark Art I-XII, was published in December and his book Phantom Hour is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press in January, 2016.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden is the manager of the science fiction and fantasy line at Tor Books. Authors he has edited at Tor include Poul Anderson, Emma Bull, Arthur C. Clarke, Glen Cook, Robert Holdstock, Damon Knight, Jonathan Lethem, Ken MacLeod, George R. R. Martin, Harry Turtledove, David Weber, Terri Windling, and Jack Womack, among many others; in addition, he has been responsible for publishing many notable first novels, including those of Maureen F. McHugh, Susan Palwick, Cory Doctorow, Jo Walton, and John Scalzi. He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies; the most recent of those is Twenty-First Century Science Fiction (Tor, 2013), co-edited with David G. Hartwell. In 1997, the first volume of his Starlight original anthology series won a World Fantasy Award, and in the past decade he has been the recipient of three Hugo Awards for his work as a book editor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and editorial collaborator Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Eric Obenauf co-founded and is editorial director of Two Dollar Radio, a family-run boutique publisher and film producer based in Columbus, Ohio. Their publications have been honored by the National Book Foundation, finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Editors’ Choice selections at the New York Times Book Review. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Millions, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, and others. In 2008, at the age of 26, Eric was included in Publishers Weekly’s ’50 Under 40′ list, which spotlighted 50 individuals under age 40 working in publishing worth watching.

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, and has been widely anthologized. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, The New School and Wesleyan University, and she is co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. She is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure. She lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Her new book, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, was published on October 1.

Mitchel Steinruns The Stein Agency, a literary agency representing screenwriters, producers and directors. Previously, he was a partner is Shapiro-Lichtman-Stein, which he left in 2000 to start his own firm.

Jamison Stoltz is a senior editor at Grove/Atlantic. He edits nonfiction—recent titles include Paradise Lust by Brook Wilensky-Lanford, Harlem  by Jonathan Gill, and Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson—and mysteries and thrillers, including Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series and the novels of Deon Meyer, Mike Lawson, and Mark Haskell Smith. Before joining Grove/Atlantic, he worked at the William Morris Agency in London and New York, and in publicity at Houghton Mifflin in New York.

Andrew Wineris the author of the novels The Marriage Artist and The Color Midnight Made. A recipient of a NEA Fellowship in Fiction, he occasionally writers about artists, composer, thinkers and other writers. He is working on a new novel about religion and politics. He is the Chair of the Creative Writing department at the University of California, Riverside.

Matt Witten is the author of four novels, Breakfast at Madeline’s, winner of the Malice Domestic Award, Grand Delusion, Strange Bedfellows, and The Killing Bee. He’s served as a writer/producer on The Glades, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, Supernatural, House MD, JAG, CSI:Miami, and written episodes of Pretty Little Liars, Law & Order, Judging Amy, Homicide and many other shows. His plays include The Deal, Washington Square Moves, and The Ties That Bind. His film Drones, directed by Rick Rosenthal and starring Matt O’Leary and Eloise Mumford, premiered in October and November of 2013 at the London Film Festival; the Austin Film Festival; and the AFI Fest. The movie is scheduled for general release in 2014.

Matthew Zapruder is Writer-in-Residence.  He is the author of four collections of poetry: “American Linden,” “The Pajamaist,” and “Come On All You Ghosts”, and “Sun Bear” as well as co-translator from Romanian, along with historian Radu Ioanid, of “Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems of Eugen Jebeleanu.” He has received a William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, a May Sarton Award from the Academy of American Arts and Sciences, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship. His poems, essays and translations have appeared in many publications, including Open City, Bomb, Harvard Review, Paris Review, The New Republic, The Boston Review, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Believer and The Los Angeles Times. His work has appeared in many anthologies, including “Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll,” “Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century,” “Best American Poetry 2009,” and “Seriously Funny: Poems about Love, Death, Religion, Art, Politics, Sex, and Everything.” An editor for Wave Books and previously a member of the core faculty in the low residency M.F.A. program at UC Riverside Palm Desert, Matthew lives in Oakland, CA where he is now a professor at St. Mary’s.

Alumni News: Debbie Graber in Harper’s


Congratulations to Debbie Graber, who has a hysterical new story, “New Directions,”” in the latest Harper’s:


There is a matter of some importance that the executives would like to share with you. As leaders of a company that was voted one of the 500 most transparent companies in the San Fernando Valley (Westways Magazine, September 2009), we pride ourselves on addressing any type of situation.

As most of you know, the software department has been busy prepping for the first-quarter release of MPM 3.0, the newest iteration of Production Solutions’ continuing quest for better payroll-processing software. MPM 3.0 will be a game-changer, providing our clients with sleeker ways to process payroll than ever before.

But when Vice President of Products Mary Margaret Spencer went down to the second floor last Friday for her regular meeting with our programmers, she found the department empty. She checked the kitchen and the patio, then asked Martin from Facilities to check the restrooms on each floor. No software personnel were on the premises. Vice President Spencer says that she didn’t find this altogether strange, given that the developers sometimes keep odd hours. She was, however, “weirded out” by the silence, so she sent what she describes as a “forceful” email to Product Manager Jim Smalley.

We’re #1

We’ve always thought we were #1. Now, Time agrees with us:

Last year, the Obama Administration announced a plan to assess schools on how well they serve their students, based on metrics like graduation rate, tuition, and the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, the federally funded scholarships for low-income families. For a system that has yet to be put in place, the White House’s college ratings have created a great deal of panic.

To see how those ratings might play out, TIME gathered data for 2,500 college and universities and ranked them according to the proposed metrics.

Alumni News: Cynthia Romanowski On “The System of Things”

An excellent new story from Cynthia Romanowski in The Nervous Breakdown: 

We were both eighteen but Rebecca was hopelessly naïve. She talked about her crush, Brother Matthew, with an unbridled enthusiasm I hadn’t seen since middle school. The first time he flirted with her, she told me the story like her life was never going to be the same.

When he was “babysitting” Rebecca and her brother one night, Matthew opted to join her on the couch instead of sitting alone on the love seat. The babysitting thing was pretty ridiculous considering that Rebecca was old enough to menstruate, drive and even vote, though as a Jehovah’s Witness, she never would.

Rebecca positioned herself so that Matthew would have to prop her feet in his lap in order to sit down but he was the one to initiate further contact.

“Major contact,” Rebecca said.

I tried to look excited about her story.

“And then, this is kind of weird but he kissed my foot.” She reenacted the kiss on my foot. It seemed like something that could have been brotherly, parental even but I didn’t tell her that.

Faculty News: Stephen Graham Jones On Finding The Right Title

Stephen Graham Jones knows a thing or two about titles…he’s published something like 1000 books. In this essay about his novel The Least of My Scars, he breaks down just how he ended up with this particular title:

All my The Least of My Scars drafts and notes have, until a few months ago, been in a directory called “doors.” All the early drafts are that: “doors,” “doors2,” “doors21,” “doors21b,” and on and on, a whole stack of versions and tries and misfires. My original idea was to build every chapter on a knock-knock joke somehow. And calling the novel “Doors” was supposed to play into that. We’re talking eight weeks in 2008, I think it was. I’d just written a draft of The Gospel of Z, which failed and failed hard, and was pretty sure I’d just been fooling myself I was a writer.

Some of the other titles that tried to happen:

  • This House of Rest
  • The Wrong End of the Night (is this a Springsteen lyric?)
  • The Girl with the Unbreakable Heart
  • Dashboard Mary (I thought this was a song. Is it?)
  • Hell is Full of People
  • These Cheshire Arms
  • Here Come the Jesters (flying my BadCo flag)
  • Every Little Crack
  • Pale Young Four Toes

Alumni News: Heather Partington In Los Angeles Review of Books

A great new review from literary critic (and esteemed alum) Heather Partington in the Los Angeles Review of Books, this time on More Than Conquerors by Megan Hustad and City of God by Sara Miles:

ONE HAS ONLY to turn on the news to see that there are those determined to fit American faith into a neat arc — conflict, resolution, redemption  so that they may repurpose and repackage the forefathers as biblical superheroes. As long as man has been saying, this is what I believe,he’s been going out into the world to practice, bless, convert, and judge, but even true believers would have to admit: there is more to life than good versus bad. We are a nation that has been influenced by faith, yet needs to acknowledge the difficult truths of American history, the plurality of the American experience, the fact that we, as a nation and as people, quite often fall short of our own ideals. Our faith story is abstruse.

Anthony McCann Reads From I Heart Your Fate

A little something from the wayback machine, as poetry professor Anthony McCann reads from his collection I <Heart> Your Fate:

Student News: Colby Buzzell On The Unknown Known

An amazing essay from Colby Buzzell in the Guardian on the Donald Rumsfeld documentary The Unknown Known:

I remember realizing: these people in Washington really don’t give a fuck if soldiers live or die. They really don’t. To them, we are numbers. That’s it. But that’s also what I signed up for.

It wasn’t till years later, after I studied a bit of military history, that I kind of understood more clearly what Donald Rumsfeld was trying to say. American soldiers have always gone to war with the Army they had. Doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be – and, yes, it sucks – but I guess that’s just the way it’s always been. I wonder if any of the soldiers who crossed the Delaware River went up to Mr Washington and said, “Excuse me, sir. It’s freezing cold and we have no shoes. Some of us are tying old rags around our feet. I was just wondering if there was anything being done to correct this?” War, like always, is hell. That’ll never change.

Something else that won’t change: the more I try and forget about Iraq, the more I’m reminded of it.

Faculty News: Tod Goldberg On Coyotes, Fear, And The Living Desert

A new essay on the perils of desert living from program director Tod Goldberg in The Rumpus:


The coyotes are out. Three nights in a row they’ve come. You can hear them approaching. From a distance, they sound like a pack of screaming, laughing, crying children, but the closer they get, the more you realize that, no, children don’t sound like that. Children don’t sound like they’re screaming and laughing and crying while, at the same time, they’re ripping living creatures apart into tiny little pieces. That’s what the coyotes are doing. At night, they move from the open desert on the other side of the golf course I live on to prowl the manicured fairways, to feast on the rabbits and desert mice that cluster in the creosote bushes surrounding the course.

They’re probably nothing to worry about. I remind myself that they are likely more scared of me than I am of them, or at least have reason to be. But every now and then, the local news here in Palm Springs will report on a senior citizen who (inexplicably) was out gardening at three in the morning and was bitten by a coyote, or my HOA will gently remind everyone, via a little bullet pointed note in the newsletter, to make sure our animals are inside at night. Then, a few days later, we’ll overhear a conversation (at the pool, or the gym, or at the mailbox, or maybe my mother-in-law, who lives across the street, will relay the information) that someone’s cat was eaten the week previous, and how something needs to be done about the coyotes and I always think the same thing: They were here first.

Alumni News: World Premier Set For Mickey Birnbaum’s Latest Play

Mickey Birnbaum’s latest play, Backyard, is set to premier this spring:

The Echo Theater Company has found a permanent space for 2014, taking up residency at Atwater Village Theatre for a year-long season of three world premieres and the revival of an acclaimed holiday show.

“After 16 years of moving around L.A. – we’ve produced 48 plays, including 35 world premieres, of which 20 were commissioned ­- the Echo has finally found a home,” says artistic director Chris Fields. “The ideal theater in a wonderful neighborhood where we can carry on our work.”

Echo kick-starts the series on Feb. 8 with the world premiere of Firemen, a different kind of love story written by Tommy Smith and directed by Fields.

Following Firemen, Larry Biederman will direct the world premiere of Mickey Birnbaum’s Backyard, set against the subculture of backyard wrestling in a low-income San Diego neighborhood.

Student News: Chad Parsons Wins Top Screenwriting Prize


Congratulations to Chad Parsons, who picked up the top prize for his script Ohio Finch at the Sunset International Film Festival.

Alumni News: New Flash Fiction From Julia Watson

A great new bit of weirdness from our esteemed alum Julia Watson in the latest issue of Fantasy Scroll:

My foot touches the platform and it hits me, a plunging sensation in my gut—I feel light and the lightness is wrong.

Merciless, the impatient momentum of the crowd pulls me the wrong way. All wrong. I check my pockets: Gum. Keys. Ticket-stub.

Something is missing. Something else.

Read it all here.


Student News: Bill Ratner In Performance

If you, like the rest of us, secretly still spend a lot of time imagining you’re Flint from GI Joe, then you must catch our own Bill Ratner, the voice Flint, in a one-of-a-kind live performance:

jobarbieHollywood Fringe Festival Favorite, Master Storyteller, and Voiceover Artist, Bill Ratner, the cartoon voice of G.I. Joe’s “Flint,” returns in 2014 with The True Life Adventures of Barbie and G.I. Joe. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 9:15 p.m. The show runs June 18th through June 28th at The Complex Theaters, Ruby Room (6476 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, 90038). Tickets are $10 and available at: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1688

The True Life Adventures of Barbie and G.I. Joe features the world’s toughest super-soldiers and America’s iconic blonde bimbo in a steamy true story of media terrorism and the fleecing of families worldwide. Hang out in the recording booth with the TV Cartoon voice of G.I. Joe’s “Flint,” and follow media terrorists into the toy store for the wildly funny, true story of the most effective mega-merchandising campaigns (and the sneakiest voice transformations) in the history of toydom.

Faculty News: Gina Frangello at LATFOB

A great new interview with Gina Frangello, conducted at the LA Times Festival of Books:

“Frangello writes with epic ferocity,” Beth Kephart wrote in the Chicago Tribune review of “A Life  in Men.” “She inhabits many countries brilliantly, many characters seamlessly, and a carousel of points of view. The scenes are often crass, harsh. The primary characters do not beg for our devotion. There are no soft transitions, no lyrical reposes. These are lives cranked to full volume, and readers must beware…”

Faculty News: Jill Alexander Essbaum Is The Toast Of London

Congratulations to poetry professor Jill Alexander Essbaum, whose novel Hausfrau just sold to Random House…and then every publisher in every foreign land:

RH is now selling foreign rights to the book at the fair and, in an email to publishers about the novel, which PW obtained, Ebershoff touted the fact that the work is only the second debut novel he has acquired in recent years. Ebershoff, who edits David Mitchell and had two authors in 2013 that won Pulitzers (Adam Johnson and Fredrik Logevall), saidHausfrau was a book he “couldn’t put down.”

Summarizing the novel, Ebershoff said: “The book is about marriage, sex, fidelity, morality, and most especially it’s about self. How we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves.”

Read all about it here.

Our New Spring Class



We’re pretty excited about our new class of students…here’s what they look like (in most cases), so if you see them on the street you can ask for their autographs.

Kendall Brunson






Kendall Brunson graduated with her B.A. in English in 2009 and put it to good use by becoming a private music teacher. She writes and lives in Jacksonville, FL with her husband and 85-pound lap puppy, Sophie. Her first book, Legendary Locals of Jacksonville, is set to be released in December 2014 through Arcadia Publishers. Kendall hopes to hang up her teaching hat and write movies for a living.

Rebecca Chamaa is a professional poet.

Jack Chang






Jack Chang lives in a two-bedroom apartment overlooking jacaranda trees in Mexico City. He works as an editor at The Associated Press where he reads stories sent from all over Latin America. Sometimes, he receives pieces from Rio de Janeiro and remembers the three years he lived there. He sees the rock formations and ocean he once gazed at from his office window in Rio, and recalls the afternoon sun spilling over the city from behind Corcovado mountain. After work, he walks home past the sidewalk diners and fountains and then after dinner and some reading tries to go to bed early so he can work on his book before returning to work. Those early mornings, in fact, when the building is still quiet and the sun has yet to rise and he’s lost in his writing, they’re his favorite time of the day. He wishes every moment of every day was like that.


Nicole Damon

Nicole Damon graduated from UC Davis. She spends her days editing research proposals and technical reports and her evenings writing fiction.



Joey Dorin worked as a paralegal in an entertainment law firm and in corporate America.  She was an entrepreneur from 1998 until 2010 when she retired.  In the Fall of 2011, she began attendance at the low residency program at Goddard College, Vermont, and graduated with a BFA-CW in 2013.  In spite of her corporate career, Joey says that writing creatively is her true self and that she aspires to bring to her readers stories which reveal the rich and hidden histories of the Caribbean where she lived until adulthood.


Art Hanlon

Art Hanlon was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, taking a bachelor’s degree in American history and English, and a master’s degree in journalism. He’s been a newspaper reporter, a country blues musician, a theater set carpenter, a technical writer, and a book editor. Currently, he is an associate poetry editor for Narrative Magazine, an online literary magazine based in San Francisco.

Sami Jankins

Sami Jankins, 26, is a 2008 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of Arts with a BA in Theatre. She is the founder of an arts non-profit, C.H.O.I.R. Stars, that provides arts programs for chronically ill youth. She has served on the Board of Directors for the National Hemophilia Foundation and is the co-chair of the National Hemophilia Foundation’s National Youth Leadership Institute. Samantha is the former Miss Wisconsin for the ANTSO program and has held an internship with Senator Herb Kohl.  She currently writes a blog called Chronicles of a Cheerful Clotter for HemAware Magazine where she details her life with a chronic health condition. In addition, she has had articles published in I.G. Living Magazine and Elephant Journal. Her interests include podcasting, ukuleles and sloths.

Katherine MacDonald1

Katherine MacDonald earned her bachelor of arts in film from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a minor in Italian. In her nine years in Los Angeles, she has worked in domestic market research for New Line Cinema, Lionsgate and MGM Studios as well as international theatrical research for Nielsen. She is currently Vice President of Worldwide Research at Paramount Pictures. Katherine completed the summer workshop in UCLA’s Professional Screenwriting Program in 2012 and has since participated in numerous workshops in screenwriting. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her two rescue dogs, Elvis and Moses.
Jennifer Manley1

Jenny Manley is a vegan chef with a writing problem. She hails from the nutmeg state, Connecticut, also the partial name of her culinary business, The Nutmeg Cookery. When she isn’t elbow deep in cashew cheese, Jenny works on her manuscript, a YA Fantasy with faeries—spelled that way, not the other. She hopes, with the help of UCR Palm Desert, to hang up her apron one day and become a published author.

John Mattson is a professional screenwriter.

Daniel McKeithan2

Daniel McKeithan lives in Forest City, North Carolina with his wife of six years, four year old daughter, and one year old son.  As you can imagine his spare time is hard to come by.  He graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA in Psychology and completed the Professional Screenwriters Program at UCLA, while moonlighting as a security guard for Warner Bros. Studios.  Currently he writes fiction, when he is not helping with the kids or off to work in the Nursing Home.  Now he is excited and ready to buckle down getting the experience to have his novels published.


Jacqueline McKinley

Jacqueline McKinley is a working television writer having written for seven different sitcoms including the Emmy award winning “The Bernie Mac Show.”  She is currently a writer/producer on the show “Are We There Yet?” and for the show “First Family.”  She also served as co-producer on Will and Jada Smith show “All of Us.” Following graduation from the University of Florida, Jackie moved to New York City where she enrolled in New York University’s continuing education filmmaking course. She worked as an assistant on various shows taped around the city and received her first break as a script coordinator on CBS’s “Cosby”.  On “Cosby” she received her first writing assignment.  Subsequently, she teamed up with a writing partner and headed to Los Angeles where they immediately got a staff writer position on Disney’s “Smart Guy.” In addition to her television work, she with her writing partner began writing short films and screenplays.  Their short film “Move” played in over thirty film festivals and won eight festivals.  “Move” has also aired on the Showtime Network.  Their next short film, “Oxtails” has aired on the BET Network.   Currently, they have written and directed the popular webseries “Finding My Obama.”
Jason Metz2

Jason Metz is a short story writer with a specific focus on people who may or may not do things. His work has been published by Pantheon Magazine and in Exigencies, an anthology of neo-noir to be released in 2015 by Dark House Press. When he’s not writing, he can be found playing bass in abandoned warehouses on the outskirts of Providence, RI, or drawing late into the night with the hopes of landing a piece in the Museum of Bad Art. He lives in Somerville, MA with his bulldog, Karl.

Sydney Morse

Sydney Morse is a Michigan native, who just recently graduated from New Mexico State University. When she isn’t riding horses, or hanging out with her cats, Sydney is watching and writing movies. While her strength is comedy, Sydney plans on exploring other genres of film and television writing, during her time here at UCR.

Precious Muhammad

Precious Rasheeda Muhammad is an independent scholar of Islam in America, known for her ability to educate audiences of diverse racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds about America’s unique Islamic heritage, and for her ability to inspire the building of community – across seemingly intractable racial, religious and cultural divides – through a deeper understanding of this history. She is widely recognized for her original research contributions to the study of Islam’s history in America, including her discovery of the 224-page autobiography of an African of Muslim heritage who served in the American Civil War, her Presidential Engagement with Muslim Communities exhibit for the U.S. Department of State, and her Muslims and the Making of America special report published by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Precious’ writing and reflections have been featured on CNN.com, National Public Radio, at the Smithsonian, and in classrooms around the country, to name a few. Publishers Weekly describes Precious’ chapter, “To Be Young, Gifted, Black, American, Muslim, and Woman,” in the book Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak, as one of the “best” and “most absorbing essays” in an anthology that “opens the door for other writers to explore the important and understudied topic of Muslim American women.” Dedicated to “building community through history,” and striving for peace among the religions, Precious works with people from around the world, including her significant role in planning, and on the ground implementation of, the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Melbourne, Australia.


Alexandra Neumeister

Alexandra Neumeister is a native of Southern California. She has a love of nature and travel developed while living in a small town overlooking the ocean. Alexandra wanted to be a zoologist when she grew up, but maintained a fascination with books and storytelling, particularly the genre of speculative fiction. She discovered writing was a more fulfilling career path, and made that the focus of her life. After earning her AA degree in Math and Science from distance learning courses at Coastline Community College, she transferred to the University of California, Riverside, where she graduated with a BA degree in Creative Writing in 2013. She intends to use her writing to promote literacy and reading as something other than an assignment, and encourage learning outside of the classroom.

Keri Picolla

Born in Berkeley and raised in Moraga, California, Keri Picolla  considers herself a born-again Angeleno, having lived in Los Angeles for thirteen years. Make-up artistry originally brought Keri to Southern California where she received her journeyman certification from Make-Up Designory in Burbank for Special Make-up Effects and Creature Design in 2001. Working professionally for years as a make-up artist in film, television, music videos and commercials lead her to writing and directing her own work. In 2006, she co-wrote and co-directed the short film The Lifestyle, which garnered several awards along the film festival circuit. Her next film That Which is Within, an adaptation of Paulo Coehlo’s novel “The Witch of Portobello”, was a finalist in the international film competition hosted by the author. Inspired to continue her film studies, Keri ended up back in the university setting at the age of thirty. She graduated last year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Cinema and Television Studies with an emphasis in screenwriting from California State University in Northridge. The pursuit of a Master’s Degree was always one of those bucket-list, achieve that someday dreams. Keri is thrilled that someday is today and looks forward to growing and evolving as a writer. In her free-time, Keri loves to dance and can be seen any given evening at her hula/tahitian studio in the valley or at the Sweat Spot in Silverlake. She also loves cold-pressed juices, hiking, live music, road trips, photography and her dog Milo.

Penne Richards

As a certified medical staff recruiter, Penne Richards enjoys making new acquaintances, believes a good interview is an art form, and strives to enhance her skills with each new opportunity. She is passionate about giving voice to those stories that need to be told and seeks motivating accounts that inspire and remind us of our limitless potential for strength and achievement.  Her previous work has been published in Ten Spurs the literary journal of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference at the University of North Texas. When not working or writing she enjoys running, cycling, and traveling.  A graduate of Texas Tech University and a mother of three children, Penne lives in Lubbock, Texas with her husband and family.

James Ross

James Ross: I had just read a western tale in the storage loft of the pharmacy where my mom worked. All nine years of me burst with its excitement and I scampered from my perch to find her and tell her about it. “Why don’t you write one?” she said when I buttonholed her. I’m sure she just wanted to keep me busy, but the idea rippled in tingly currents through my body and before long I found myself back in the loft, outlining box canyons from which there is no escape, gnarly clouds to make my cowboy hero shape and reflect on his plans, and black-hatted bad guys to thwart his every move. Rollicking stuff. I even got the three cents for a stamp to lay it on some unsuspecting reader. No surprises; the story was rejected. But that first kind note from the mystical land beyond the postal carrier, to keep trying, fired up my pen again and again. Win, lose, or draw–and now I’ve got some of each to my credit–I understand my personal need to tell tales, and to keep a watchful eye on the world for the details to populate them.

Joelyn Suarez1

Joelyn Suarez was born and raised in San Diego, CA. She holds a BA in Literature and Writing from UC San Diego. She sells sunglasses for a living, but lives to write stories. During her time earning an MFA at UC Riverside she hopes to strengthen her craft. Her genre of choice is Nonfiction, though she is eager to try her hand at screenwriting as well.

Alexis Wigodsky

Alexis Wigodsky is formally known as a self-proclaimed unsolicited social commentator and professional student. Which is fancy for “unemployed and on Twitter.” Despite her addiction to television, she graduated from DePaul University with a BA in Creative Writing. She hopes to pursue writing in the fiction, non-fiction and screenwriting realms. She resides in Los Angeles, California.

David Zimmerle

David Zimmerle (Zimmer – lee) grew up behind the “Orange Curtain” of South Orange County. After graduating from the University of San Francisco in 2004, he worked as a journalist and sports editor for several California newspapers before honing his chops as an in-house copywriter for different marketing agencies in San Diego. Right now he’s a Content Producer for Sharecare (a Hearst company), crafting words and spearheading marketing campaigns for all things related to health and fitness. In his free time, he works on his debut novel, and will have a selection of his poetry featured in the99 Poems for the 99 Percent Anthology due out later this year by 99: The Press. On top of his literary ambitions, he enjoys playing guitar and harmonica, writing and recording his own original tunes and booking gigs throughout Southern California. And, when those serpent swells are on the rise, you can find him surfing his favorite breaks in and around North County San Diego.

Faculty News: New Fiction From Mark Haskell Smith & Mary Otis



Read new fiction from Mark Haskell Smith & Mary Otis in the debut edition of the LA Review of Books inaugural fiction issue.

Alumni News: Amy Yergen Reads A New Story


Amy Yergen reads a new story — “Nell” — part of her new mini-collection,  Saltwater, on SoundCloud. 

Student News: Interview With Stephen Jay Schwartz

One of the unique aspects of the UCR Palm Desert Low Residency MFA is the number of professional writers who we count among our ranks…as students. Like crime writer Stephen Jay Schwartz, for instance, who is featured in this great new interview:

Alumni News: Athena Lark Booksigning This Weekend



If you’re in the greater Houston area, grab all of your friends, family, and neighbors and head out to the Cullen Auditorium at the University of Houston-Downtown on February 11th to see esteemed alum Athena Lark read from her debut novel, Avenue of Palms. Read all about it.

Faculty News: New Essay From Mary Yukari Waters



Mary Yukari Waters has a beautiful new essay in the latest edition of the Rumpus:

Once, I worked for a large international accounting firm.  I had a good resume filled with the right internships, the right client assignments.  Contrary to popular perception, the job was stimulating and interesting; I got to work with a lot of smart people.   But over time, a certain unease took hold.  The best way I can describe it is that some essential part of me was fading away from lack of use – that my busy, career-focused lifestyle was leading me astray from some central core.  Of what this core consisted, I wasn’t quite sure.  Over the years, my unease slowly grew.

Ultimately it pushed me into writing.  I wanted to find this core before it disappeared for good.  Occasional hints floated past:  a flash of beauty, a long-forgotten ache, an oddly resonating memory.  I grabbed at each one, trying to weave it all into something cohesive which I could view in its entirety and save for the future like a photograph album.

What gradually emerged in my writing was a sensibility strongly drawn to the intersection of beauty and sorrow.  Maybe I was wired that way from birth – so many of my strongest childhood memories seem to have that afterglow.  Or maybe things were colored by the fact that both of my parents had recently died – I was in my twenties at the time – which heightened my sensitivity to the nuances of loss.  In any case, my emotional focus had an intensity that permeated everything I wrote.

Faculty News: Stephen Graham Jones in Buzzfeed



Buzzfeed names Stephen Graham Jones’ upcoming novel Not For Nothing one of their 15 most anticipated books for 2014:

There isn’t a genre that Stephen Graham Jones can’t handle — horror, crime, fantasy, science fiction, literary, Westerns — you name it. Not for Nothing is set in Stanton, Texas, and features a disgraced homicide detective down on his luck. If it’s half as good as All the Beautiful Sinners, an innovative take on serial killers, then this will be a fascinating read. Jones has a lyrical, hypnotic voice that never disappoints.

Faculty News: Raves For Gina Frangello’s A Life in Men


Gina Frangello’s new novel A Life in Men has only been out few two days and it’s already picking up rave reviews, like this one from Kirkus:

Frangello’s ambitious second novel travels the world—to Kenya, London and beyond—searching for the kind of experiences that will validate two short lives.In the late 1980s, college sophomores Nix and Mary leave Ohio to summer in Greece. Mary has just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and though it’s unusual to be diagnosed so late (the disease kills most people in childhood), her prognosis is grim—she won’t live to 25…A stunning novel—Frangello’s broken characters live in a world of terror and redemption, of magnificent sadness and beauty.


Deadline Day


If there’s one thing writers should love,  it’s a deadline. It means they’re working. And getting paid, no less.  After all, Billy Wilder needed to write the iconic scene depicted above  from The Seven Year Itch (and memorialized in downtown Palm Springs) before it could come to life on the screen.  Which brings us to today, the application deadline for our spring class. If you’re applying for our spring class, today, February 1st, is your last day to get your application in.  Depending upon where you live in the world, it may already be February 2nd by the time you read this (we don’t typically get a lot of applications from Kathmandu, but, if you’re reading this in Kathmandou specifically, keep reading), but don’t despair: as long as it is February 1st in the Pacific Time Zone, you still have time.

And if you’re curious about what happens during our residency periods, spend a bit of time perusing the schedule from our December residency, which included visits from pretty much every writer in America.  And to apply, just go here.

If you have last minute questions, please feel free to email the program at palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu. Someone will help you. Yes. Even on a Saturday. Because we’re on deadline, too.

Dirty Laundry Lit At AWP Seattle


If you’re in Seattle for AWP this February, you’re in for a treat as alum Mag Gabbert and program director Tod Goldberg take the stage for Dirty Laundry  Lit, the popular reading series created by alum Natashia Deon.  RSVP here. 

Alumni News: Ty Johnson in On Spec


Congratulations to Tyrell Johnson, whose short story “Feather for Tray” is in the latest issue of On Spec, Canada’s premier magazine of the fantastic.

Alumni News: Heather Partington Reviews Aimee Bender


Fiction alum Heather Partington is making quite a name for herself as a book critic…including this recent review of Aimee Bender’s latest collection of stories, The Color Master:

Aimee Bender’s The Color Master is rife with these satisfying and unexpected details, the joyfully weird take for which she’s become known. As in her other collections, Bender creates worlds that stretch human traits beyond their humanness, and in so doing, she shines light on our obsessions, our fears, and our desire to discover meaning in our own existence. Here is the parable of a woman whose hair shines like wheat; the story of a surgeon, deft hands mending tigers split open by a mysterious force in the jungle; the somber tale of a “Fake Nazi” who inspires a secretary’s personal journey to find truth; the family’s attempt to understand why their house fills mysteriously with objects they do not buy. While Bender writes of otherworldly beings and ogre wives, she weaves together threads of humanity. Her use of the magical allows her closer proximity to the emotional.

Alumni News: Andee Marzell Reilly Sells First Novel

andeeCongratulations to Andee Marzell Reilly who has sold her first novel, Satisfaction. Her hometown newspaper, the Ventura County Star, caught up with her to get the lowdown

“The idea came to me when I was buying tickets to a concert years ago to see the Rolling Stones. … I thought: What if I just clicked the purchase button for every single venue across the United States?” Reilly said. “Then I started to think about what sort of person would be willing to leave her whole life behind and follow the Rolling Stones on tour … and I came up with a woman who was seeking satisfaction on her own terms.”

Reilly began “Satisfaction” in 2008 while working on her Master of Fine Arts at UC Riverside. She spent more than two years writing the novel and the next two or so years revising and working with her literary agent.

The process took longer than she expected.

“I had moments of pain and moments of rejection, but there was never a time when I wanted to give up,” she said. “This story had to come out. After a while, I felt like I would be abandoning these characters if I didn’t tell their story.”


Alumni News: Cate Dicharry Sells Novel


Congratulations to Cate Dicharry, who has sold her first novel to Unnamed Press for publication in 2015.  Here, Cate talks openly and honestly about the unexpected changes she experienced as a new mother:


My son is now 10-months old. The difficulty of motherhood, it turns out, lies not in the logistics—manageable, or at least endurable, are the sleepless nights, breast infections, teething tantrums, untreatable infant congestion, naptime blitzkrieg—neither in feminist posturing which, in the heat of maternity, strikes me as impersonal and irrelevant. No, it is Motherlove that, as my husband says, pummels me. Nothing I read or heard prepared me for what it feels like to live with love at this high a decibel. Nobody explained what it would do to me.



Faculty News: Gina Frangello’s Latest Packs An Emotional Punch…


…so says Publisher’s Weekly in this great pre-release review of her novel A Life In Men, due in bookstores February 4th:

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 17, Mary Grace wants to understand why her lifelong friendship with Nix went awry during an ill-fated Greek vacation before their junior year of college. She can’t ask Nix, who has passed away, so she moves to London, where Nix lived in the months prior to her death. For a short time, Mary assumes Nix’s name and adventurous personality and begins to experiment with a wild, seedy lifestyle, describing everything in a diary addressed to her dead friend while trying to hide or ignore her own resurfacing illness. Mary’s determination to compress an entire lifetime of experiences into a few years results in some spectacularly poor decisions, but because her illness remains mild for a decade, her travels and the men she loves have a doomed, romantic quality, until the book’s conclusion. The aftermath of the Greek vacation unfolds inexorably, as Mary’s current storyline masterfully plays out to its conclusion. Frangello’s (Slut Lullabies) novel packs an emotional punch throughout, particularly in its final third.


Alumni News: Simona Supekar in the Atlantic


Alum Simona Supekar has an excellent new essay in The Atlantic about dealing with a rare disease…and finding treatment in an unusual place:

Nobody wants to hear about how sick you are. I am so thankful for friends and family who have called to check on me or offer a drive to the doctor when my husband couldn’t. But ultimately, it’s a real downer for the healthy to be reminded of their mortality, to feel helpless when a loved one is in pain. And people are, well, just busy. It was mostly for these reasons that I initially looked online for ways to get through this disease.

Read all of Simona’s essay here.


Student News: Publications & Productions


Fiction student Colby Buzzell has a great new piece in the pages of the latest issue of Prairie Schooner.

Poetry student Lizi Gilad’s amazing new essay in the Rumpus.

Screenwriting student Carol Damgen’s new play Jackie Robinson: American Dream debuts.

The latest issue of Dum Dum Zine, edited by fiction student Liska Jacobs, is coming out on Feb. 8th and there’s a party…you should go.

The BBC talks to screenwriting student George Morgan about his acclaimed book Rocket Girl.



Faculty News: Mark Haskell Smith Gets Raw

Mark Haskell Smith

Mark Haskell Smith talks about his latest novel, Raw, and dishes on the literary scene in a recent issue of Los Angeles Magazine

What makes book culture more pretentious than film culture?
It’s not all of book culture. It’s just the way some people are about it. For me, the novel is the height of human creativity. You’re putting your ideas into a format that when someone experiences it by reading it, it’s a really intimate act. It’s an amazing art form but the way people treat it becomes precious. I wanted to take a poke at these people who are book fans. They’re not unintelligent people but they start a literary blog and all of the sudden they’re “experts” and they’re holding other writers to ridiculously high standards. It’s all about their ego and not about the book. I saw a lot of that in the early days of the literary blog explosion. It was an irresistible target for me.

The verdict? The Los Angeles Times says you should go out and buy it this very instant. (We’re paraphrasing.)


Faculty Spotlight: Rob Roberge


Our faculty tend exemplify our multi-disciplinary approach: they’re pretty good at more than one thing. In Rob Roberge’s case, he’s had a successful career in fiction, nonfiction and music. In this interview in the Los Angeles Times (with our own David Ulin), Rob Roberge talks about the process of creating The Cost of Living, his acclaimed novel, and talks about how literature and music intersect:

“Fans like to think bandmates are all friends,” Roberge writes. “You start as friends — most bands do. But you live in a cage on wheels every day between two hundred and three hundred days a year. People start to hate the sound of other people’s voices, the way they eat, you name it. Tension grows in exponential ways.”

As for the connection between music and writing, Roberge goes back and forth. On the one hand, he says, “Music is music and novels are novels. They are what they are.” At the same time, he continues, “I think music’s effect on prose is more prominent than the other way around.”

Partly, perhaps, that’s because music is more accessible: “My first love was music,” he recalls. “I wasn’t from a house with books. There was no frame of reference until I got to college — whereas every kid in a garage band thinks being a rock star is an option.”



The Hottest Students: Emile Barrios On Starting Over…As A Writer

There is no average student in our MFA program. Some come to us with stacks of published books, some with IMDB pages a mile long, some who just got out of college, some who are in the middle of a successful first career now looking to do what they’ve always loved, and some who have spent an entire life trying to figure out what they’re supposed to be doing. Emile Barrios had a little bit of all that…he’d published a book previously, he’d worked in public relations and television news, and, by all outward accounts, probably had a career anyone would be happy to have. But Emile wanted to be a novelist and sometimes, well, that takes some figuring out. Here, Emile talks about how he came to choose the Low Residency MFA at the University of California, Riverside.

 In 2006 I gave in to a lifelong urge and made a serious commitment to writing fiction. Having spent thirty-five years in the media and PR business, I felt well-grounded in the writing process and in what made a compelling story. Whenever I could find the time, I set about putting on paper the ideas that had rattled around in my head for decades.

I was astounded at how good I was. Before long I produced twenty-four short stories and was a hundred pages into my first novel. The anonymous rejection letters I collected were a badge of honor – a mark of my progress.

Soon I lost interest in my day job. In 2010 I left the business world to write full-time. I knew I needed to improve, so I showed my work to a well-established local writer I’d met. In my naiveté (developed over years of writing in a vacuum), I was sure she would tell me my work was excellent and to keep going.

She was not astounded. She told me (in excruciating detail) how I was making the same mistakes most novice writers make: flat characters, cliché plots, purple prose and too many adverbs. She suggested a summer writer’s workshop, and I mopped up what remained of my ego and went. It was there I learned about low-residency MFA programs.

The low-res model was a great fit for my goals. Intense, but flexible enough to fit my life. A commitment of time and effort without the classroom. While a lot of the MFA programs I looked at came across as traditional and spoke in almost reverent tones, UCR struck me as exciting and fun. These people loved what they did. I spent a day at residency observing, but it took me less than an hour (before breakfast was over) to decide. The day Tod Goldberg called me to say I was accepted was one of the happiest I can remember.

It didn’t take long to recognize that I was a long way from where I wanted to be as a writer. But I was among professors who would help me get there. I threw myself into the curriculum and found that UCR was exactly as advertised: intense, fun and exciting.

At my first residency I was amazed at the atmosphere: a hundred people together for ten days, talking about writing like it mattered. The feeling of being at residency, the sense of common experience and camaraderie, is hard to describe. Even setting aside what I learned, my life is immeasurably richer for being there. I had found my tribe.

It won’t be long now before I graduate, and the progress I’ve made is evident on the page. I expected I would learn a lot about technique and craft and process. I expected I would learn how to read critically, to recognize and apply to my own work the things other writers do. I expected I would write more pages than I’d ever written. All those expectations were met.

What I didn’t expect was how fundamentally my writing would change. How much practical instruction I’d get, and how quickly my work would evolve. I didn’t expect to be given so much help in launching my career as a writer. I expected the professors and visiting faculty to be first-rate, but I didn’t expect them to be so open and friendly and supportive. I didn’t expect to laugh so much.

Most of all, I didn’t expect to find myself a part of a community – students, faculty and alumni – that will stay with me in the years to come. Writing is a solitary experience, but among the people I’ve met at UCR I know I’ll never feel alone.

I tell people that next to proposing to my wife, applying to the UCR Low Residency MFA program is the best idea I ever had. No way was I ever going to make this much progress sitting at my desk navel-gazing. Embarking on a new career at this point in my life is thrilling and more than a little scary – and I still have a lot to learn. But I know it’s exactly where I need to be.

You can join Emile and the rest of our students beginning this spring. Applications for our next cohort are due February 1st. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu or call 760-834-0926.


Building Better Screenwriters: Alum Jim Jennewein On Finding & Sustaining Your Career


Jim Jennewein had already carved out a successful career in the film industry and as a YA novelist when he came to our program to earn his MFA. Now the chair of screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, Jim writes about some of the successful habits of those who make their living writing the words other people say…including his own:

An assistant instantly gave her an iced tea and left, and there I was, alone with Liz Taylor, staring into her famous blue-violet eyes. I was mesmerized.  I said, “Ms. Taylor, what would you like me to do?” And batting her eyelashes, she said, “Please call me Liz.” As it turned out, in all of a minute, I was done fixing her lines and realized my audience was over. It was time to go. But I didn’t want to go. I was sitting with one of the greatest movie actresses ever and wanted the moment to last. I wanted to make some kind of personal connection.

So I said, “Ms. Taylor—I mean, Liz—you’ve lived such an amazing life and had one of the longest acting careers ever. I just have to ask you. What’s your secret? What do you attribute your success to?”

She put down her iced tea and closed her eyes, pausing to think. Then her eyes flew open and she reached out and put her hand on mine—our skin actually touched!    She squeezed my hand and said, “Truth.”

Read the rest here. And if you’d like to be an alum like Jim one day, applications for spring are due February 1st.

Hottest Alumni: The Most Interesting Man In Congress

Our graduates are a pretty accomplished bunch, but only of them is, well, the most famous congressman on the Internet.

Omne trium perfectum

Or, as Mother Jones noted,  one of the few members of Congress who  is funny on purpose:

Takano, a Harvard grad and former public school teacher who began representing California’s 41st congressional district last January, is Congress’ first openly gay person of color. He is Japanese American, and during World War II, his grandparents and parents were removed from their homes and shipped off to internment camps. He is a fan of classic British literature and, evidently, the hit AMC series Breaking Bad.

Mark Takano Breaking Bad

“The congressman is a huge fan of the show,” Brett Morrow, Takano’s communications director, says. “I came up with this idea, and it just sort of clicked.” Morrow manages what he calls the “three-headed monster” of Takano’s official social-media operation; the other two heads are chief of staff Richard McPike and legislative director Yuri Beckelman. Together, the three thirtysomethings regularly brainstorm attention-grabbing social-media items to pitch to Takano. The congressman then makes his tweaks and will sometimes pitch his own ideas.

We can’t assure you that your MFA will lead you to a congressional seat…but we can assure you that you’ll know why Breaking Bad works so well. Applications for Spring are due Feb. 1st. For more information, please email us at palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu or call 760-834-0926

The Hottest Faculty: Screenwriter John Schimmel On How & Why He Teaches


John Schimmel is in the middle of an extraordinarily diverse career as a writer/producer. He’s been the President of Furthur Films and Ascendant Pictures, an executive at Douglas-Reuther Productions, Belair Entertainment, and Warner Bros, penned the Tony-nominated musical Pump Boys And Dinettes, published fiction and nonfiction, serves as a consultant to Cloud Imperium Games/Chris Roberts Entertainment, and, this week, published his first book, Screenwriting Behind Enemy Lines:  Lessons from Inside the Studio Gates.  For the last two  years, John has been part of our core screenwriting faculty, providing not just an insight into how to write screenplays, but how to write screenplays that sell. 

Not too long ago I took a break from work to get my MFA in creative writing. I’d been a Hollywood studio executive and producer for twenty years and needed a change from everything related to scripts. I needed to remember how much I loved words and the magic that can be done with them. So I chose a low residency program and spent two years of residencies attending readings and master classes and lectures and workshops, and wrote a novel and some creative non-fiction. The first faculty reading I attended was by poet and memoirist Michael Klein and it changed my life. His reading from his book The End of Being Known was breathtaking in the courage it showed to strip so naked, to go straight to the heart of what he had to say even though to expose that must have been terrifying. My first night in an MFA program and I had an entirely new notion of what it means to be a writer – and of what had driven me to seek a break from reading too many mediocre scripts, “mediocre” being defined as scripts written by writers who had not even understood that courage was necessary, who had not even known that they needed to search for and then realize the expression of the heart of their stories.

The MFA program required that I complete a teaching practicum in order to graduate. I got myself hired to teach a screenplay rewrite class at UCLA Extension. And discovered that I loved it. One of the things I found – and continue to find – so gratifying was that teaching allowed me to help students counter the trend that had temporarily driven me from the business. I got to help them uncover their own intent so that they could write to what they really wanted to say. It is easy to come at screenwriting as pure craft – hit the crucial pivot points in the right order and on the right pages and you will have a perfect script. Perfectly empty, I would add, without the magic ingredient called art. Writing is both an art and a craft, and one without the other leads on the one hand to confusion and on the other to blandness and mediocrity. So I teach and write about screenwriting from the perspective of a high level studio executive, trying to give some insight into the kind of scrutiny a student’s work will undergo once it is submitted into the system, but I do so knowing that what makes a great screenplay work is not just that it hits all its craft marks or that it starts from an obviously commercial premise but also that it knows what it is about.

The UC Riverside Low Residency MFA Program in which I teach now is different from the one in which I studied in its strong emphasis on becoming a working writer. The guest speaker slots at the residencies are filled with writers but also with agents and managers and editors, publishers and publicists and producers. Students are encouraged to meet one-on-one with these guests, in part to try to understand the business of becoming a writer. But the manuscripts and scripts that the students bring with them to these meetings are the products of the school’s core curriculum in which having something to say is valued as much as saying something well, and in which a work is not considered finished until its heart has been fully exposed. The journey is not always easy but is, more often than not, wildly gratifying to student and teacher alike.

If you’d like to join John, applications for Spring are due February 1st. If you have any questions, please contact us at palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu or 760-834-0926

These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Things


We asked some of our students, faculty and alumni to tell us what moved them the most this year in the world of books and films. Looking for a noticeable theme? You should probably read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and it wouldn’t hurt if you picked up Tiffany Hawk’s Love Me Anyway. And, then, all of these books, movies, and TV shows, too:

*Athena Strouble Lark: Book: Mama Day by Gloria Naylor. Film – The Butler.

*Cynthia Romanowski: Films – Fruitvale Station, Frances Ha. Book: I Want To Show You More by Jamie Quatro

*Pia Chatterjee: I loved Tiffany Hawk’s Love Me Anyway. Also, Cutting for Stone, Life After life, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Favorite film: American Hustle.

*Matthew Zapruder: It came out in 2012 but Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell was the best movie I saw by far in a long time.

*Mark Haskell Smith: The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti was my favorite book this year. I’m in the middle of Jim Harrison’s Brown Dog which is excellent. I also liked the film Frances Ha.

*Kristi Daune-Edwards Rabe: Wrecked by Charlotte Roche

*Shannon Purchase: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

*David Ulin: Brown Dog by Jim Harrison, Darling by Richard Rodriguez, The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, The Great War by Joe Sacco, Harvest by Jim Crace, Never Built  Los Angeles  by  Greg Goldin  &  Sam Lubell,  A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki,  Tenth of December by George Saunders, White Girls by Hilton Als.

*Deanne Stillman: Death of the Black-Haired Girl by Robert Stone is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Tara Ison’s Rockaway is excellent and so is Love Me Anyway by Tiffany Hawk. For film, a cavalcade of riches: All Is Lost, Dallas Buyers Club, Mud (another McConaughey film, but from last year and better than DBC), Nebraska, Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr. Banks (not without problems but good – and rare – portrayal of a writer’s journey from book to movie)…

*Julia Watson MOVIES:Favorites seen: Frozen, The Heat, (Hmm. Seem to be missing something here? OH. Right.) Honorable Mention… The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (for getting right so much of what its predecessor got wrong) TV: So so good: Orange is the New Black, Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Masters of Sex. So so fun: American Horror Story: Coven, Sleepy Hollow, Chopped. So so guilty pleasure-y: Scandal BOOKS: Favorite books read in 2013 not actually published in 2013: The (utterly amazeballs) Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness.

*Gail Mackenzie-Smith My favorite movies have been TV shows this year. (A new category, perhaps?) Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, Sherlock, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Derek…Gail Mackenzie-Smith: The Last Policeman and the second book in that trilogy, Countdown City, by Ben Winters.

*Ross Helford If there hadn’t been a Tolkien adaptation in theaters this year, “Inside Llewyn Davis” would have been my fave. Book? GOD IS DEAD by Ron Currie, Jr. and Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

*Eileen Austen Best Film – Dallas Buyers Club; Best Foreign – WADJDA; Best Doc – Dirty Wars. Best Book always tough but loved Hawk’s Love Me Anyway and recommend the little known but should be known Kirkus Star winner The Water Thief by Nicholas Lamar Soutter.

*Xach Fromson: Laird Barron’s The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All was one of my favorite reads this year, published in April.

*Yennie Cheung: My favorite book of 2013 was The Cost of Living by Rob Roberge, which was not only a great book but a wonderful example of how to apply just about every writing lesson Rob has ever taught me. In order to sound less like an ass kisser, my favorite book not published in 2013 was A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which is pretty much the book I never realized I’ve always wanted to write.

*Pamela Diane Gilbert-Snyder: The only book I seem to have read this year that was actually published this year is Rob Roberge’s The Cost of Living, but even if it weren’t, it qualifies.

*Tiffany Hawk: Beautiful Ruins and Is This Tomorrow. (Raw and The Cost of Living are on my list for this and next week, so they’ll probably end up in 2014 based on what I’ve heard so far.)

*Stephen Graham Jones: The best novel I read this year was Jesse Bullington’s THE FOLLY OF THE WORLD, but it came out in Dec 12, actually. So I’ll say either Gaiman’s THE OCEAN AT END OF THE LANE or (his) (“His?) issue one of SANDMAN: OVERTURE, which is doing things with the comic book page I have never seen, and am so excited about. For movies: YOU’RE NEXT and MUD, and I could never pick between them. For TV: no clue. I pretty much watch MAGNUM and COLUMBO and ROCKFORD, I mean, and THREE’S COMPANY when I can dial it up. though, that second-season opener for SHERLOCK, whenever that was, that’s easily tied with X-FILES’ “Jose Chung’s Abducted” for best TV episode ever, counting everything (except DEADWOOD, which always beats all). And season eight of DEXTER gets no points. Though I’m of course way loving THE LEGEND OF KORRA; it’s probably my one must-see thing on the small screen, these days.

*Lizi Gilad Silver: published in 2012 but– As Long As Trees Last by Hoa Nguyen

*Emile Barrios: Life After Life, Kate Atkinson.

*Antonio Farias: fiction: Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, by Benjamin Alire Saenz; At Night We Walk in Circles, by Daniel Alarcon; Pacific, by Tom Drury; The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers; non fiction:Thoughts Without Cigarettes, by Oscar Hijuelos; Surviving Survival, by Laurence Gonzales;

*Lindsey Smithson: I actually loved The Cuckoo’s Calling by JK Rowling and I just finished Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright; it made for great 3am reading while feeding the baby.

*Heather Scott Partington: Hector Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries, Justin Torres’ We The Animals, Kate Milliken’s If I’d Known You Were Coming, Aimee Bender’s The Color Master, Kelly Luce’s Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, Michael Paterniti’s The Telling Room

*Maggie Downs: Favorite films of 2013: Blackfish, Her, Warm Bodies. Favorite books of 2013: Love Me Anyway by Tiffany Hawk; Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple; Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala; You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt

*Tod Goldberg My favorite books of this year were Mary Coin by Marisa Silver, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (which didn’t come out this year), My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (which also didn’t come out this year) and Whitey Bulger by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy. Favorite films: Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street

*Laurel Dean We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

*Natalia Cortes Chaffin: The People Who Watched Her Pass By by Scott Bradfield. Also not published in 2013, but a great novel to discover.

*Kari Hawkey: Books: The Color Master by Aimee Bender; A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin; The Joker by Andrew Hudgins; Growing Up Dead in Texas by Stephen Graham Jones; Guilty Pleasure: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Poetry Books: Calamity Joe by Brendan Constantine; Rough Day by Ed Skoog; Mayakovsky’s Revolver by Matthew Dickman; Love, An Index by Rebecca Lindenberg; The New Clean by Jon Sands. Film: Before Midnight, Blue Jasmine, The Butler, The Spectacular Now. TV: Orange is the New Black, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Hell on Wheels, The Walking Dead, Masters of Sex, Eastbound & Down, New Girl, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, American Horror Story, Scandal.

*Anne Silva: Books: Rocket Girl, Some Girls, Gone Girl. Film: Saving Mr. Banks

*Eileen Roggin Shields: Though heavy-handed, Dave Eggers’ ‘The Circle’ is the novel of 2013 that has stayed with me the longest. Perhaps it most perfectly plays into my paranoia.

*Elizabeth Crane: We Need New Names (book)

*Mary Otis: Stories We Tell & Frances Ha (films)

*Gina Frangello: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

*Leigh Raper: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

*Bryan Burch: The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

*Aaron Hauser: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

*Patina Rogers: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

*Guy Nicolucci: Alfred and Guinevere by James Schuyler. Funny, sad and short

*Sara Morris Marchant: The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp

*Jim Jennewein: Prater Violet by Christopher Ishwerwood




Don’t You Wish Your Guest Faculty Was Hot Like Ours


To celebrate the five year anniversary of the Hottest MFA, we’ve collected a fantastic slate of guest faculty members, including six of our own esteemed graduates, to lead workshops and seminars during our upcoming December residency, held from December 6-15th at the Rancho Las Palmas resort in Rancho Mirage:

Trevor Albert has been producing films for over 20 years. He started his journey as a journalism and film major at the University of California at San Diego. Trevor worked his way through college as a journalist for the San Diego Reader. Upon graduation, he moved up the California coast to pursue a film career in Los Angeles. After working as a film researcher at Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers, he accepted a position with producers Jon Peters and Barbra Streisand. He was assigned to work with Harold Ramis on Ramis’ directorial debut, Caddyshack. From that point on Trevor’s passion for movies led him quickly up the Hollywood ladder, starting with the classic American comedy Groundhog Day, the script for which he found and developed. As president of Ramis’ company Ocean Pictures, Trevor went on to produce Groundhog Day and a series of other very popular American movies including Multiplicity, starring Michael Keaton, and Bedazzled, starring Brendan Fraser. When Ramis moved back to his hometown of Chicago, Albert created his own company and went on to produce The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, starring Sean Connery, The First Twenty Million is the Hardest, starring Rosario Dawson, and the children’s film Because of Winn-Dixie,starring Cicely Tyson, Jeff Daniels, Eve Marie Saint, Dave Matthews and Annasophia Robb. Winn-Dixie was directed by Wayne Wang and released by Twentieth Century Fox. The film was made for only 14 million dollars and has earned almost 70 million dollars.Gratified to be able to make intelligent and inspiring entertainment, Trevor is a distinguished of member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Producers Guild of America.  His most recent film, Waiting for Forever, is in post-production. Co-produced and directed by James Keach, it stars Tom Sturridge, Rachel Bilson, Richard Jenkins, Blythe Danner, and Nikki Blonsky.

Julie Buxbaum is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Opposite of Love and After Youand her writing has appeared in The New York Times and other publications.  Her work has been translated into twenty five languages, and The Opposite of Love has been optioned for film by Twentieth Century Fox, with Anne Hathaway attached to star.  Before quitting the law to become a novelist, Ms. Buxbaum was a litigator at a large law firm in both New York and Los Angeles.  A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband (a former lawyer) and their two children.  She is currently hard at work on her third novel.  For more information about Ms. Buxbaum and her novels, please visit her website: www.juliebuxbaum.com

Trai Cartwright is a  20-year entertainment industry veteran who grew up in Colorado. She attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts film school, then headed for LA. Like most there, she had “parallel careers:” while toiling as a screenwriter (she was optioned four times and repped by CAA), she also produced three independent movies (Dinner Rush, Trap, and Offshore) and worked as a content creator in various capacities. Mentored by producer Peter Saphier (Deerhunter; Scarface), she was promoted to Development Executive for Prelude Pictures (Lost in Space; Black Dog), and went on be the Director of Leonardo DiCaprio’s online entertainment endeavors. As a Story Editor, she has read tens of thousands of screenplays for HBO, Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema, and Universal Studios. Her last corporate gig was as the Manager of 20th Century Fox’s Mobile Studios.After returning to Colorado, she pursued an MFA in Fiction and Screenwriting at the University of California, Riverside, and has taught screenwriting, creative writing, and film studies across the Front Range for universities (UNC, FRCC, LCCC, Osher at CSU), writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one.

Terra Chalberg. After graduating from UCLA and working in film development, Terra Chalberg began her publishing career in 2002 at Scribner. Later, at Simon & Schuster and Simon Spotlight Entertainment (now Gallery), she edited and acquired a diverse list of projects. As an agent, first with The Susan Golomb Literary Agency and now with Chalberg & Sussman, she represents Glenn Taylor, 2008 NBCC Award Finalist in Fiction and B&N Discover selection for The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart and author of The Marrowbone Marble Company; Andrew Porter, Flannery O’Connor Award-winner for The Theory of Light and Matter and author of the Barnes & Noble Discover selection and Indie Next List pick In Between Days; Margaux Fragoso, author of the New York Times and international bestseller Tiger, Tiger; Eugene Cross, recipient of the 2009 Dzanc Prize and author of Fires of Our Choosing; Jennie Ketcham, author of I Am Jennie; Jon Pineda, author of the Barnes & Noble Discover selection Sleep in Me and recipient of the 2013 Milkweed National Fiction Prize for Apology; Diana Wagman, author of Barnes & Noble Discover selection The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets; Natalie Brown, author of The Lovebird; and Allison Amend, finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and author of A Nearly Perfect Copy. Also among her clients are Yosemite Park Ranger Shelton Johnson, author of Gloryland; Elise Blackwell, acclaimed author of Hunger and three other novels; Kira Henehan, recipient of the 2010 Milkweed National Fiction prize, finalist for the 2010 Believer Book Award, and shortlisted for the 2011 Independent Booksellers Choice Award; and Lori Ostlund, recipient of a 2009 Rona Jaffe Award, Flannery O’Connor Award, Edmund White Award, California Book Award, and 2011 O. Henry Prize.

Craig Clevenger is the author of two novels, “The Contortionist’s Handbook” and “Dermaphoria.” His work has appeared in “Black Clock,” “San Francisco Noir 2: The Classics” and elsewhere. He lives near Joshua Tree, California and has recently completed his third novel.

Ron Currie Jr.  is the author of Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles (Viking 2013). His ‪first book, God is Dead, was published to critical acclaim in 2007, earning Currie comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Carver‪. God is Dead received the Young Lions Fiction Award from the New York Public Library, as well as the Metcalf award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Currie published his first full-length novel, Everything Matters!, in 2009. The winner of an Alex Award from the American Library Association, ‪Everything Matters! made several best-of lists for 2009, including the Los Angeles Times,National Public Radio, and Amazon.com. Writing in the New York Times, Janet Maslin called Currie a “startlingly talented writer” who “survives the inevitable, apt comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and writes in a tenderly mordant voice of his own.” Currie was raised and still resides in Waterville, Maine

Meghan Daum has been an opinion columnist at The Los Angeles Times since 2005. She is the author of the essay collection My Misspent Youth, the novel The Quality of Life Report, and the memoir Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House. She has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine and Vogue. Learn more about her at www.meghandaum.com.

Natashia Deon is a Los Angeles attorney, creator of the reading series Dirty Laundry Lit, and has an MFA from UC Riverside, Palm Desert. Named as one of 2013’s Most Fascinating People by L.A. Weekly, Deón is Pushcart Prize nominee, a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, a Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference scholarship recipient, and VCCA Fellow. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, The Rattling Wall, Asian-American Lit Review, B O D YThe Feminist WireYou. An Anthology of Second Person Essays, and other places. Deón has taught creative writing for Gettysburg College, PEN Center USA, and 826LA.

Mark Doten is senior editor at Soho Press, where his titles include Alex Shakar’s LUMINARIUM, Matt Bell’s IN THE HOUSE UPON THE DIRT BETWEEN THE LAKE AND THE WOODS, and Juliann Garey’s TOO BRIGHT TO HEAR TOO LOUD TO SEE. Doten’s ’s first novel, THE INFERNAL, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press.

Rae Dubow is the director of Talking Out Loud. She believes that everyone can be trained to communicate more effectively. Using techniques that she has taught for many years, she has a developed a system for public speaking that will help you create a dialogue with your audience. A former actress, Rae received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has coached and directed actors since the late 1990s and has worked with many writers on their public presentations. She has taught in private schools, and at universities including Woodbury University and the University of California, Riverside.

Lorna Garano is a long-time book publicist with nearly fifteen years of experience working with a diverse array of authors. She has secured placements in Today, CNN International,  The New York Times, The View, 20/20, Time, Salon.comiVillage.comCNN.com, NPR, Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, and many other venues. Lorna is also the co-author of three books, most recently An Intimate Life, the memoir of Cheryl Cohen Greene, whom Helen Hunt portrayed in the award-winning film The Sessions. In addition, she continues to plug away at her short stories, while hatching plans for a novel.

Kate Garrick earned her M.A. in English and American Literature from NYU in 2000 and has been an agent with DeFiore and Company since 2002. She’s most interested in well-crafted and compelling fiction that features a strong narrative voice as well as narrative nonfiction and some memoir. She’s especially looking to build lasting relationships with emerging writers and to be surprised.

Panio Gianopoulos is the author of the novella A Familiar Beast, a #1 indie bestseller and Amazon Best Book of the Month. His fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in Tin House, Northwest Review, Salon, Details, Nerve, The Hartford Courant, The Brooklyn Rail, FiveChapters, The Rattling Wall, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. A recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for nonfiction literature, he has been included in the anthologies The Bastard on the Couch, Cooking and Stealing: The Tin House Nonfiction Reader, and The Encyclopedia of Exes. He received his B.A. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an M.B.A. from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. A former book editor, he has worked at Crown Publishers, Talk Miramax Books, Bloomsbury USA, and most recently, as the Publisher of Backlit Fiction and the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Palindrome Media. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.

Sara Gran is the author of the the Claire DeWitt series and the stand-alone novels Dope, Come Closer, and Saturn’s Return to New York. Her work has been published in over a dozen countries and as many languages. She also writes for TV and film, including two pilots for HBO and two years on TNT’s SOUTHLAND.

Jeff Girod is Senior Columnist at Inland Empire Weekly and was named National Humor Columnist of the Year for best humor columnist in the United States by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists in 2010. Previously, he spent eight years as a columnist for the Press-Enterprise and several years as a commentator and correspondent for KPCC. He is a 2010 graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts at UCR.

Peter Handel has been an independent book publicist since 1993. He has developed successful author tours for everyone from celebrity authors to first-time publishers with fledgling small presses. He has worked in the full spectrum of non-fiction categories, including politics, travel, history, current events, science, and on both literary and genre fiction. Placements include The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, The PBS NewsHour, NPR, Salon.com, AlterNet.orgTruthOut.org, and many other national and local outlets. Handel also wrote a regular book review column in The San Francisco Chronicle from 1992 to 1998, and was the “mystery columnist” for Pages Magazine for several years.

Jim Jennewein. Now in his 23rd year as a working Hollywood screenwriter, Jim Jennewein has co-written and sold 21 feature screenplays to all the major film studios. He has survived hundreds of Hollywood pitch meetings and worked on assignment for such companies as Touchstone, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century-Fox, Fox 2000, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Interscope, Columbia Pictures, Regency, Morgan Creek, Largo Entertainment, NBC, among others. His produced film credits include THE FLINTSTONES, RICHIE RICH, MAJOR LEAGUE II, GETTING EVEN WITH DAD and STAY TUNED.  Jim adapted the Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea as an animated feature film for Disney and also sold an original TV sitcom pilot to NBC. His TV pilot script, “Lawless,” won first prize in the One Hour TV Pilot category in the Table Read My Screenplay script contest in 2013. Jim is currently Chair of the Screenwriting Department on the Burbank campus of the New York Film Academy, and has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in screenwriting at California State University, Northridge, and at the Malibu campus of Pepperdine University. He is a published author as well, having co-authored the RuneWarriors trilogy, a comedy-fantasy series of young adult novels published by HarperCollins. Jim holds a BFA from the University Of Notre Dame, and an MFA from the Graduate Program in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts at University Of California, Riverside.  He has been a member of the Writers Guild of America since 1990.

Shawna Kenney authored the Firecracker Award–winning memoir I Was a Teenage Dominatrix (Last Gasp), which enjoys international translation and a television development deal with the FX Network. She is also coauthor of Imposters (Mark Batty Publishers) and editor of forthcoming anthology, Book Lovers (Seal Press). She has written about punk rock, porn stars, gangster rappers, sword swallowers, graffiti artists, groupies, wrestlers, skateboarders and more for numerous outlets, including Creative Nonfiction, The Rumpus, Bust Magazine, Ms., Playboy, Juxtapoz, Alternative Press and The Florida Review. Her essays appear in various anthologies, most recently Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks: Professionals & Their Clients Writing about Each Other (Counterpoint) as well as Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop (Soft Skull Press)She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and teaches memoir and personal essay classes in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. For more info see www.shawnakenney.com.

Dorothea Lasky is the author of three full-length collections of poetry: Thunderbird (Wave Books, 2012), Black Life (Wave Books, 2010), and AWE (Wave Books, 2007). She is also the author of six chapbooks: Matter: A Picturebook (Argos Books, 2012), The Blue Teratorn (Yes Yes Books, 2012), Poetry is Not a Project (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010), Tourmaline (Transmission Press, 2008), The Hatmaker’s Wife (2006), Art (H_NGM_N Press, 2005), and Alphabets and Portraits (Anchorite Press, 2004). Born in St. Louis in 1978, her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, The Laurel Review, MAKE magazine, Phoebe, Poets & Writers Magazine, The New Yorker, Tin House, The Paris Review, and 6×6, among other places. She is the co-editor of Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry (McSweeney’s, 2013) and is a 2013 Bagley Wright Lecturer on Poetry. She holds a doctorate in creativity and education from the University of Pennsylvania, is a graduate of the MFA program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and has been educated at Harvard University and Washington University. She has taught poetry at New York University, Wesleyan University, and Bennington College. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and lives in New York City.

Jillian Lauren is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and the novel, Pretty, both published by Plume/Penguin. Some Girls has been translated into seventeen different languages. Her next memoir, Everything You Ever Wanted, is coming out from Plume in 2014. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. Her writing has appeared in The Paris ReviewThe New York Times, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Magazine and Salon.com among others and has been anthologized widely, including in The Moth Anthology, True Tales of Lust and Love and Best of Babble Blogs. Jillian has performed at spoken word and storytelling events across the country, including being a regular on The Moth mainstage. She blogs at MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Jillianlauren.com. She is married to musician Scott Shriner. They live in Los Angeles with their son.

Monty Mickelson is a 2010 graduate of the UCR-Palm Desert MFA program. He won a Tamarack Literary Award from Minnesota Monthly magazine, and a Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship in Fiction Writing. His novel, Purgatory, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1994, and he has written two young adult feature films for cable television. Last fall Mickelson was a writer in residence in the Los Angeles Unified School District as part of the PEN in the Classroom program.

Robert Mitas is the Executive Vice President of Furthur Films, the production company of Academy-Award winning actor and producer Michael Douglas.  Robert is responsible for the day-to-day operations, acquiring and developing material, packaging projects and securing financing.  Pictures produced by Furthur include The SentinelSwimfanThe In-LawsDon’t Say a Word and One Night at McCool’s and many more. His next film The Reach, is shooting now.

Joshua Mohr is the author of four novels, including “Damascus,” which The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.”  He’s also written “Some Things that Meant the World to Me,” one of O Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009 and a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller, as well as “Termite Parade,” an Editors’ Choice on The New York Times Best Seller List.  He lives in San Francisco and teaches in the MFA program at USF. His latest novel is “Fight Song.”

Jessica Piazza is the author of two poetry collections: Interrobang (Red Hen Press, 2013) and the chapbook This is not a sky (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, she received her Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and moved to Los Angeles to complete a Ph.D. in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. She is a co-founder of Bat City Review and Gold Line Press, and a contributing editor at The Offending Adam. Learn more at www.jessicapiazza.com.

Jennifer Pooley spent twelve years with HarperCollins Publishers, most recently as a Senior Editor acquiring for imprints William Morrow and Harper Perennial, before moving to Los Angeles in 2010. Books that she acquired and published include: Willy Vlautin’s The Motel Life, Northline, and Lean On Pete (winner of the 2011 Oregon Book Award for fiction); Marjorie Hart’s Summer at Tiffany; Daniel James Brown’s The Indifferent Stars Above and Under a Flaming Sky; Michael Zadoorian’s The Leisure Seeker; Catherine Hanrahan’s Lost Girls and Love Hotels; and Jennifer Sey’s Chalked Up. Now an independent book editor, Jennifer does literary development work on behalf of individual authors, publishers, and literary agents. Some of her freelance projects have included: Mark Salzman’s The Man in the Empty Boat; Hannah Weyer’s On the Come Up; and Janie Chang’s Three Souls. She is exceptionally passionate about book-to-film adaptation and spent much of 2013 assisting in the Story department of Universal Pictures. You can find her at www.jenniferpooley.com and tweeting about #books at @jenniferpooley.

Michael Saltzman is a graduate of Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, Yale University, and Columbia University’s Graduate School Of Journalism. His first job was at CBS News’ “48 Hours” as a production assistant and concurrently free-lanced for “Premiere” magazine. He returned to Los Angeles to write for television and was given his start by childhood idol, Carol Burnett. He began his TV writing career as Story Editor on ABC’s “Anything But Love,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis. He moved to NBC’s “Wings” for two years, working under the multi-Emmy winning team of David Lee, Peter Casey, and David Angell. He served as Co-Producer and created the character of Antonio Scarpacci, played by Tony Shalhoub. His next position was on CBS’ “Murphy Brown,” where he received an Emmy nomination as Producer and, over the course of his 4 years on the show, worked his way to Executive Producer. Saltzman then worked at NBC Studios under an overall deal, during which time he took over as Executive Producer on NBC’s “The Naked Truth,” starring Tea Leoni in its third and final season. As Writer and Executive Producer, he overhauled the show, adding Tom Verica, Amy Hill, Jim Rash, and Chris Elliott to the cast, and returned the show to its tabloid roots. Saltzman served as Co-Executive Producer on the NBC show “DAG” prior to being hired to create and executive produce “Baby Bob” for Viacom and CBS. The show starred Adam Arkin, Joely Fisher, Elliott Gould, and Holland Taylor. Saltzman was Executive Producer on “Baby Bob” for both of its two seasons. Saltzman co-created the series “Misconceptions” starring Jane Leeves and French Stewart, through Imagine Television/Fox Television for The WB network. Unfortunately, this is the first time in history where the network was canceled before the show ever had a chance to air. Saltzman was the original writer on the first “The Pink Panther” movie starring Steve Martin and directed by Shawn Levy. He received a Co-Story by credit on the film. Saltzman served as a Writer/Consulting Producer on the multi-Emmy-winning AMC drama, “Mad Men” for its most recent two seasons. He is currently developing a comedy pilot for CBS Productions and the Fox network. Saltzman is an Adjunct Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he occasionally teaches a course in writing for television. Saltzman serves on the board of The Jester and Pharley Phund, an organization dedicated to bringing hope and comfort to ill and special needs children, and promoting literacy and charity to all children. The Jester and Pharley Phund originated as an offshoot from “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” – the bestselling children’s book published by Saltzman and his family, and written and illustrated by his brother, David Saltzman. David Saltzman died of Hodgkin’s Disease, 9 days shy of his 23rd birthday in 1990. Saltzman is married to Jennifer Saltzman, and has two daughters – Samantha and Sarah.

Allison Seay is the recipient of fellowships from the Ruth Lilly Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her collection of poems, To See the Queen, won the Lexi Rudnitsky first book prize from Persea Books. She has published poems in CrazyhorseMississippi ReviewPoetry, and other journals. She teaches at The Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia.

Andrea Seigel is the author of Like The Red Panda, one of Amazon.com‘s Top 10 Debuts of 2004, and To Feel Stuff (Harcourt), as well as the young adult novel The Kid Table, published by Bloomsbury in September 2010.  She has taught both creative writing and screenwriting for UCLA Extension, Loyola Marymount University, Chapman University, the UC Riverside MFA Program, and the L.A. Writers Lab. Her shorter work has been published by Vulture, Crushable, the NY Times Magazine, Etsy editorial, and BlackBook Magazine. In 2013 Lynn Shelton directed Seigel’s feature script Laggies, starring Keira Knightley, Chloe Moretz, and Sam Rockwell, to be released in 2014. Seigel and Shelton are also collaborating on the HBO pilot, Terrible Infants, currently in development. In early 2015, Viking will release Seigel’s YA collaboration with her boyfriend, Brent Bradshaw, entitled Everybody Knows Your Name.

Claire Bidwell Smith lives in Los Angeles. She is a psychotherapist specializing in grief, and the author of the  memoir The Rules of Inheritance (Penguin 2012), soon to be a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence. Claire received a BA in creative writing from The New School and a MA in clinical psychology from Antioch University. She has written for many publications including The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Slate, BlackBook Magazine and Chicago Public Radio. Her background includes travel and food writing, working for nonprofits like Dave Eggers’ literacy center 826LA, and bereavement counseling for hospice.

Mitchel Stein runs The Stein Agency, a literary agency representing screenwriters, producers and directors. Previously, he was a partner is Shapiro-Lichtman-Stein, which he left in 2000 to start his own firm.

Susan Straight was born in Riverside and still lives there with her family. (She can actually see the hospital from her kitchen window, which her daughters find kind of pathetic; most days, she walks the dog past the classroom where she wrote her first short story at 16, at Riverside City College, which they find even more sad.) She has published seven novels and one middle-grade readerHighwire Moon was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001; A Million Nightingales was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2006. Her short stories have appeared in ZoetropeThe Ontario ReviewThe Oxford AmericanThe SunBlack Clock, and other magazines. “The Golden Gopher,” from Los Angelas Noir, won the Edgar Award in 2007; “El Ojo de Agua,” from Zoetrope, won an O. Henry Award in 2007. Her essays have appeared in the New York TimesReader’s DigestFamily CircleSalonThe Los Angeles TimesHarpersThe Nation, and other magazines. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on Highwire Moon, and a Lannan Prize was an immense help when working on Take One Candle Light a Room. Her most recent novel, Between Heaven & Here, was released in 2012.

Andrew Tonkovich edits the West Coast literary magazine Santa Monica Review.  He is a graduate of the MFA Fiction Writing Program at UC Irvine, where he teaches Composition.  He hosts the weekly literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California and blogs about books at the OC Weekly’s “OC Bookly.”  Fiction and nonfiction have appeared in EcotoneFaultline and the Los Angeles Review of Books.  A recent short story is included in the current Best American Nonrequired Reading.

Andrew Weiner is the author of the novels The Marriage Artist and The Color Midnight Made. A recipient of a NEA Fellowship in Fiction, he occasionally writers about artists, composer, thinkers and other writers. He is working on a new novel about religion and politics. He is the Chair of the Creative Writing department at the University of California, Riverside

Amy Yergen is a new Science Fiction and Fantasy author. In August of 2010, she completed her MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside. She lives with her family and her marmalade cats;  Mr. Darcy & Mr. Knightly. Her new book of fairy tales At Times I Almost Dream is out now.

If you’re interested in visiting residency prior to applying for the Spring term — the deadline is February 1st — please feel free to contact Agam Patel at agam.patel@ucr.edu or 760-834-0926 for information.

Faculty News: Welcome to Gina Frangello, Kevin Jones & Anthony McCann

We’re pleased to announce the appointments of three new faculty members in prose, screenwriting and poetry, respectively — Gina Frangello, Kevin Jones and Anthony McCann.

gfrangelloGina Frangello is the author of three books — A Life In Men (to be released in 2014 from Algonquin), Slut Lullabies (a ForeWard Magazine Best Book of 2010), and My Sister’s Continent (named one of the Best Books of the Year by Las Vegas Weekly) — and edited the acclaimed anthology Falling Backward: Stories of Fathers and Daughters. In addition, Ms. Frangello has published dozens of stories, essays, and works of literary criticism – her work has appeared in such venues as the Chicago Tribune, Best of the Midwest, Prairie Schooner and others — which have resulted in her receiving several notable awards, including the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award in 2005 and the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose in 2002. Ms. Frangello is also an esteemed editorial voice, notably as one of the founding editors and publishers of Other Voices Books, an award-winning literary press based out of Chicago, and, as well, serving as the Sunday editor of The Rumpus and as the literary editor of The Nervous Breakdown. Gina has been a regular faculty member in the MFA programs at both Northwestern and Columbia and has been a regular part of our guest residency faculty for many years.

kevinjKevin Jones is currently a professor at the American Film Institute, where he serves as the Head of the Creative Mentors, and also is an active independent producer and screenwriter. Previously, Kevin served as Vice President of Paramount Pictures, where he supervised all aspects of film development (including, most notably, his role in bringing “Forrest Gump” to the big screen), Senior Vice President of Columbia Pictures, the President of XL Pictures, President of Concrete Entertainment and as an independent producer of several feature projects. Kevin holds an undergraduate degree in Drama & English from Dartmouth and, we are pleased to report, holds an MFA in Screenwriting from the Low Residency program at the  University of California, Riverside.

mccannAnthony McCann is the author of the poetry collections I Heart Your Fate, Moongarden and Father of Noise. In addition to these collections he is the author, along with Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer, of Gentle Reader!, a collection of erasures of the English Romantics. His work has been translated into Slovene, French, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Spanish. McCann is also a translator of poetry. He lives in Los Angeles where he works with Machine Project, an art and performance space and collaborative team of artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians. Anthony holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and currently teaches poetry and literature at the California Institute of the Arts as well..

Welcome Fall 2013 Cohort: Student Bios

Colby BuzellColby Buzzell

Colby Buzzell served as an Army infantryman in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. Assigned to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Buzzell blogged from the front lines of Iraq as a replacement for his habitual journaling back in the states. He is a graduate of West Virginia University with a B.A. in History.



Lincoln CastellanosLincoln Castellanos

Lincoln is a resident of Hollywood, Ca, and was born and raised in Indio, CA (The Coachella Valley). In 2006 he moved to LA after high school to study Theater at UCLA. After graduating with a B.A. from their prestigious school of Theater, Film, & Television in 2010, he moved out from Westwood to be closer to Hollywood and the many job opportunities for film and tv. After signing with Abrams Artists Agency, he’s continued to pursue his acting goals, which include booking a guest spot on a tv show (CBS’s “The Mentalist”), joining a theatre company in LA (Theatre 68, in North Hollywood), and working on short films (“Squared Circle Love Triangle”, USC) and a web series project (“Trailer Trash Apocalypse”, in development).

Writing is another passion Lincoln has embraced, finding more and more inspiration to create original work after living in LA for 7 years. He garnered experience with directing and editing through his TV studio job at UCLA, but the writing aspect of the work stuck with him more.

This resulted in writing short films at college, and more recently, writing scenes to workshop in his theatre company, including a one-act for submission into the company’s annual play festival.

Lincoln is thrilled to finally put his writing skills to the ultimate test, and looks forward to the 2 year journey with UCR’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts.  He owes a great deal of thanks and gratitude to his loving parents and brothers, all of whom have continued to encourage him in reaching for the best that life has to offer, and to never give up on dreaming big.

Thanks, Mom & Dad, Ricky, Milton, & Jordan!


Mackenzie CoxMackenzie Cox

I am thrilled to be a part of the UCR MFA low residency program! I am originally from Ventura County, CA and moved upstate in 2006 to attend Humboldt State University. I have received awards in playwriting and screen writing from my alma mater, but chose to enter this program as a fiction major with the hopes of becoming a published author and professor. Currently I am planning my wedding and teaching preschool! I am so excited to be a part of this fabulous program and cannot wait for the first day of class!


Megan EcclesMegan Eccles

Megan Eccles lives in the foothills of San Diego with her husband and toddler. She graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelors in Music Composition and a minor in English and only uses one of those.  She writes fiction and fantasy without happy endings.  In between toddler wrangling neglecting her laundry, she likes to novel longhand and read electronically, and can occasionally be found milking goats.


Nicole GibbsNicole Gibbs

Nicole is a mother of four who lives in Fallbrook, CA, a semi-small town in the north-eastern part of San Diego County. Nicole originally went back to school in 2010 with the intention of earning a vocational certificate and increasing her employability. She discovered that she actually loved school though and decided to stick it out to become the first person in her family to graduate from college. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, however after coming all that way she found that she had been going about it from the completely wrong perspective. Instead of following her passions, she was doing what society dictated to be reasonable and practical. Further insight revealed to her that society itself is neither logical nor reasonable, and therefore should not be dictating her career choices.

With that epiphany Nicole began to examine who she was and what she wanted out of life. She realized that throughout everything, no matter what else has changed, she has always been a writer. Her dream was to spend her time creating beautiful pieces of written work that others will enjoy reading just as much as she enjoys writing them. So casting aside all of the imposed caution and practicality, as well as her own doubts and insecurities, she decided to pursue her dream of being a writer.

Nicole is also working on a second Associates degree in journalism. She writes for her community college newspaper and received a first place award for feature writing from the Journalism Association of Community Colleges. Nicole loves writing in a variety of forms, but fiction is her first true love. She is a news junkie, and she has a sick obsession with NPR and KPBS. She also enjoys photography, she has a passion for animals, food and learning and she loves to read as much as she loves to write. Nicole is a bit of a feminist and a bit of an activist. While she does not participate in bombing animal laboratories or illegal surveillance of politicians, she has been known to attend a protest or help gather signatures for petitions she believes in.

Nicole is easygoing and fun, she is an optimist at heart and she believes that we are all responsible for bringing about social change. She hopes to use her writing to bring awareness to and advocate for issues that are important to her. Nicole gets along with nearly everyone, but certain things really tick her off: ignorance, intolerance, discrimination, mean people, the Westboro Baptist Church, and angry drivers. Nicole is super excited about beginning her creative writing program here at UC Riverside and looks forward to a great experience.


Jeanine HaywardJeanine Hersek-Hayward

Born in Los Angeles in the summer of ‘65, poet, author and screenwriter Jeanine Hayward is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach. She also studied Advanced Poetry and Screenwriting at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.

Published in the Rip Rap poetry series, Ms. Hayward is the author of several poetry books: Where Wills Collide; More than Home; The Asking; Asters in the Fall. Jeanine, (formerly Jeanine Jarrell) was included in the historic event, “The Big Picture” sponsored by Beyond Baroque of Venice Beach, California and featured in the Los Angeles Times recognizing California’s distinguished poets. She has been mentioned in The Orange County Register; OC Weekly; The Chicago Tribune; The Daily Pilot; Rip Rap; Poetix; Next Magazine; and was honored to be Moontide Press’s Poet of the Month, May 2011; as well as the final headlining poet at Southern California’s venue for Beat poetry, Fahrenheit 451 in Laguna Beach, CA.

She served as a film critic/essayist for the film Apocalypse Now Redux featured in the Film Festival at the Los Angeles Director’s Guild. She recently completed an original screenplay entitled Defining Grace, as well as comedic TV episodes The Art of Distraction & No Free Lunch. She is currently working on two original feature films, Le Cadeau and Something Blue; a TV pilot, Revolving Door; a novel, The Bridal Chamber; a stage play, Through the Seam; and a series of children’s books, One Magnificent Kite, the Adventures of Sophie & Lollie.

Jeanine serves as Educational Advisor to The AiLing Hua Foundation, an orphanage in China. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and is the author of HouseofJenesaisquoi.com blog. Ms. Hayward has been featured in many poetry venues; she hosts a monthly salon series, “Starlight Evening for the Arts” in her home; and has dedicated her time to the Arts by teaching gratis poetry workshops to children and adults for years.

Jeanine is the mother of four children and resides in Southern California.


Liska 1Liska Jacobs

Liska Jacobs received her BA from UCLA in English and Creative Writing. She is editor and co-publisher of DUM DUM Zine, an experimental lit and art collective based in Los Angeles. In 2012 she launched FREEWRITESHOP, which has collaborated with 826LA and various independent bookshops in hosting free workshops around the city. In 2010 and 2011 she was nominated for the Kirkwood Literary Prize in Fiction.She is currently working on a novella and a collection of short stories.


1-JacquelineJacqueline Luckett


In 1999 Jacqueline Luckett left the corporate world to kickstart her writing career with classes she took on a dare—from herself.

People Magazine (February 2012) described Luckett’s sophomore novel, Passing Love as “beautifully written and filled with vibrant scenes of Paris in its Jazz Age and today.”

Essence Magazine selected Searching for Tina Turner as the January 2010 book-of-the-month selection. The novel follows a divorced woman’s journey to self by way of France. What comes through for the main character is the inspiration of Tina Turner’s personal story: everything we need to move forward in our lives is already within us.

Reinvention, self-awareness, and self-fulfillment are themes throughout Luckett’s novels. She strives to write compelling and interesting stories while addressing fear and what can be done to conquer it. “We can all afford to be fearful, but we can’t let fear keep us from doing what we want or need to do.”

Luckett refuses to be boxed into categories that limit her drawing power. “My novels have universal appeal—both in story and character,” Luckett says. “Personally, I’ll follow a story that makes me look at the world with a perspective different from my own. In both Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner the main character could be you, your best friend, a co-worker, or the mother of your child’s classmate. I write about women, of a “certain age,” who’ve had failures and successes in their lives and are looking to move forward regardless of age. ”

Luckett encourages her readers to avoid deferring their dreams: “The length of time it takes to get to the dream is not as important as fulfilling the dream.”

Jacqueline, a native Californian, lives and writes in Oakland, but takes time out to indulge her love of traveling and to nurture her passion for photography and exotic foods.

Kate MacMurrayKate MacMurray

Growing up in an acting family, Kate showed an early interest in film production and a love for storytelling by cinema. Kate’s parents took her to location shoots in the U.S. and Europe, which confirmed her love of film and encouraged her to pursue her education in the field. Kate earned an MA from USC in Cinema-Television, and she has performed in films as well as assisting in their production. With additional experience in story development, Kate is a passionate student of filmmaking and has written several scripts. Kate lives in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California, where she is part of Sonoma’s thriving wine community, working as a representative for MacMurray Ranch wines.


Kathryn McGeeKathryn McGee

Kathryn McGee lives in Los Angeles and works as an architectural historian for a consulting firm specializing in preservation of historic properties.  This involves researching and writing building histories and working on development teams to ensure projects retain historic building fabric.  Kathryn loves reading and writing fiction, especially horror, fantasy, and science fiction, and is excited about developing her writing skills in the program.



Bill RatnerBill Ratner

Bill Ratner is an eight-time winner of The Moth Story Slams in Los Angeles and a Best of Hollywood Fringe Festival Extension 2012 & 2013 Honoree for Solo Performance. His spoken word pieces are featured on KCRW’s Strangers, National Public Radio’s Good Food, and The Business. He is the voice of “Flint” on the Hasbro TV cartoon G.I. Joe, reprising the role on Family Guy and Robot Chicken. He narrates movie trailers, documentaries, and video games. Bill Ratner’s personal essays and short fiction are published in The Baltimore Review, The Missouri Review (audio essay,) Blue Lake Review, The Amor Fati, Pleiades, Southern Anthology, Spork, NiteBlade.com, National Cheng Kung Literary, Coast Magazine, Papier Maché Press, TV Marquee, Metastasis (WolfSinger Publications.) More info at http://www.billratner.com


1-Lucio RodriguezLucio Rodriguez

Lucio Rodriguez is a dashing, long-haired, karate-fist wielding lunatic flying above the world in his Glow-in-the-dark dirigible. An amazing and humble husband and father of two, he spends the negative spare time he has plotting new ways to ruin his daughters’ lives and confound his wife.

He is educated as a Biologist, works as an Entomologist, and hates Phlebotomists. And Vegetarians. Hobbies include dancing, singing, and lying about his hobbies. Rumor has it that he has a small board game collection.

Sometimes he writes fiction.


1-Susan RuskinSusan Ruskin

Susan Ruskin is a producer and executive who began her film career in development for George Lucas’ LucasFilm. She was head of development for Robert Stigwood at RSO before she went on to associate produce WOMAN IN RED for Orion and Gene Wilder. She then became President of Production for Pal-Mel Productions. She also produced HAUNTED HONEYMOON with Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder and Jonathan Pryce. As head of production, Susan worked on the Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder movie SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, and ANOTHER YOU among others.  Ruskin went on to become President of Production for Middle Fork making ANACONDA for Columbia Pictures starring Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson and Jon Voight. VACUUMS — a movie directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas ( the creators of the hit show STOMP) — starring Kip Pardue, Lee Evans and Rose McGowan. Ruskin also oversaw the production for the documentary, GOOD ROCKIN’ TONIGHT with Middle Fork Productions and The Shooting Gallery for American Masters among others.  Susan Ruskin was associated with a group of writers and directors at Western Sandblast where she is producing several projects in various stages of development. Ruskin sold a script she adapted to Enigma Productions, A GRACIOUS PLENTY, based on the book by Sheri Reynolds, and she is developing a screenplay with the director Andy Fickman (SHE’S THE MAN, ANOTHER YOU, PARENTAL GUIDANCE). She has also been on the board of the Fountainhead Theatre company where she directed two one-act plays, and served on the nominating committee for the 43rd NAACP foreign film award. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from New York University/Gallatin.


Shaun SandersShaun Sanders

Born in New Zealand in 1960, Shaun spent the first twenty years of his life there. Raised in a theatre family, he had ideas of being a performer and, to some extent, he realized those ideas as a musician, couch surfing around the globe. After working, as he describes it, “a million crappy jobs because that’s what happens when you’re a self taught musician,” he returned to school, attending Los Angeles Valley College in 2005 before transferring to UCSB. He completed an undergrad English degree at UCSB, and then a Master’s in Education at the same place, with an emphasis in teaching Literacy and Composition. Finding a love of language equivalent to his love of music, Shaun currently teaches basic writing at Santa Barbara City College as an adjunct. He still gigs around Santa Barbara occasionally and, to maintain musical development,  studies Flamenco guitar in his spare time. Shaun is also a keen sailor, taking his 22ft sailboat out on Santa Barbara bay whenever possible.


Stephen SchwartzStephen Schwartz

Los Angeles Times Bestselling Author Stephen Jay Schwartz spent a number of years as the Director of Development for Wolfgang Petersen where he worked with writers, producers and studio executives to develop screenplays for production.  Among the film projects he helped developed are Air Force One, Outbreak and Bicentennial Man.

His two novels, Boulevard and Beat, follow the dysfunctional journey of LAPD Robbery-Homicide detective Hayden Glass as he fights crime while struggling with his own sex-addiction.  The series was optioned by Ben Silverman (producer of The Office, Ugly Betty, and The Tudors) for development as a television series.

Stephen recently finished writing Grinder, a 3D action-thriller for HyperEmotive Films and Venture3D at Sony Studios.  He was also recently a judge in the Best Novel category for the 2012 Edgar Awards and the head judge in the short story category of the ITW Awards.

Stephen is currently writing a third book in the Hayden Glass series and lives in Southern California with his wife and two children and can be found at his website, www.stephenjayschwartz.com

Kevin SimpsonKevin Simpson

Hello everybody, my name is Kevin Simpson, I am 23 years old, and I am a graduate of the University of California Riverside. I was born and raised in the Bay Area, specifically Union City, which is just south of Oakland. I attended Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, CA where I played baseball and basketball all four years. While studying at UCR, I dabbled in computer science and history before settling on creative writing. There was something about writing that caught my attention. There are few things that I don’t find interesting in this world and writing seems to be the one thing that can encompass all of my interests. I have a long list of hobbies, but to just name a few: I enjoy reading, which is a no brainer, as well as playing basketball, baseball, video games, and watching movies. My future plans at this moment are unknown, but I have aspirations that I hope to fulfill by the end of this program. There is still plenty I have to learn and I can’t wait to do so.

Charles G ThompsonCharles Gregory Thompson

C.Gregory Thompson lives in Los Angeles, California where he writes fiction, non-fiction, and memoir.  He has a BFA in Film & Television from New York University.  His fiction has been published on Every Writer’s Resource, and his non-fiction and memoir have been published on 2paragraphs, 100 Miles, One for the Table, and Honest Cooking.


Matt ThompsonMatt Thompson

Matt has been working
in the professional theatre world for over twenty years. Formerly the Artistic
Director of Compass Theatre he now heads The San Diego Playwright’s Collective.
He has directed for The La Jolla Playhouse, North Coast Repertory Theatre and
San Diego Rep.  He is a published playwright with over twenty titles in print from Brooklyn, Dramatic,  Eldridge, Heuer and Norman Maine
Publishing respectively.  From 2008-2012 he held the dual titles of Education
Director and Artistic Associate of North Coast Repertory Theatre where he was commissioned to write five new plays. Most recently he worked in the Entertainment Department for SeaWorld San Diego writing the Sea Lion & Otter Show among other projects.  As an actor he was worked in various
theatres across the United States and you may have seen his face on C.S.I,
Veronica Mars
, Days of Our Lives, or even Baywatch. He holds an M.A. in Theatre from San Diego State University and currently teaches at both MiraCosta and Southwestern Colleges in the San Diego area.


The Hottest Faculty: Mary Otis On How She Teaches

Mary Otis photo

Sometimes, we forget that becoming a writer is as much a choice as not becoming a writer. Here, core faculty member Mary Otis, the author of the acclaimed story collection Yes, Yes, Cherries, talks about the path she can guide you through in your time in the Hottest MFA…the Low Residency MFA at UCR Palm Desert:

A writing teacher is a word mechanic, an intuitionist, an inciter of change.  For me, teaching is a kind of alchemical process that harnesses passion and empathy to craft, not unlike the process of writing itself, or as Borges once wrote:  Art is fire plus algebra.

In the first writing class I ever taught, I had a student, an astute reader of literature and intelligent critic, say to me, “Writers come from the island of writers,” as if nothing in his own experience, perception, or imagination could possibly be the source of a story—as if he never received the secret invitation, and if you didn’t get that, you were out of luck.  There was this idea that real writers are over there, and I’m over here.  So, how does a writer become real?

One way is to study in an MFA program.  Our program is a thriving, dynamic, and unique community of writers.  I value the wide range of talented students we attract, the premium we place on the individual writer, and that we tailor each student’s course of study to the specific needs of their creative writing, including personalized reading lists.  It’s a thrill to put a particular book into a student’s hands and witness new narrative possibilities appear in their fiction.  It’s even better to see someone get something about their work and know that things will never be the same in terms of how they approach their writing.  Students sometimes arrive in the program with limited ideas of what a story can be, or the form it must take, and I enjoy banishing those notions.

I have been a fiction professor in the program since its inception, and some of my most remarkable teaching experiences have involved working with students who appeared to be writing one story, beneath which a kind of shadow story lurked.  And this is where claiming your talent, your life, and your imagination comes in.  The word claim comes from the French clamer, meaning to cry out, and sometimes the story that actually wants to be told appears to be silenced.  But it only seems that way, and a writing teacher can be very useful in helping a student bring it forth.

I love this quote from the wonderful writer, George Saunders:

 We all try to skip around the heart of the story.  It is a form of avoidance that all of us do.  I don’t know quite why, but I see it all the time – in my work and in the work of my students.  It’s very odd, and very universal.  Maybe it’s scary to really confront the heart of the story, because some part of us knows that if we blow that, we’ve blown the whole deal.  It’s like having a huge crush on someone and never telling them because you’re afraid you’ll be rejected.  Something like that.

Writing is a high stakes business.  It demands risk and faith, and when we seem most lost, we might actually be the closest we’ve ever come to writing what is real and matters, the heart of the story.

If you’d like to have a part in this high stakes business, applications for fall are due August 1st. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 760-834-0926 or via email at palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu.


Alumni News: Max Gee Takes Over The World

Max Gee (Screenwriting) has been a very busy writer. She was a quarterfinalist for the 2013 BlueCat Screenplay competition for her script The Beaumonts. She had a short story entitled “The Crash” published in One & Other magazine, a York based cultural magazine and One & Other also recently interviewed her about her screenwriting and anime:

She’s also currently abridging and adapting The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, for an immersive performance in a heritage building, also in York. The audience are transported fully into the world of the play and will be served an afternoon tea as part of the performance.

She also wrote this rather amazing ad for Smoko:

…and, as if that’s not all enough, she’ll be starting in the PhD program at the University of York on a full scholarship. No word on when she actually sleeps or eats.

Student News: Jenn-Anne Gledhill’s New Column

Jenn-Anne Gledhill (Screenwriting) has a new regular column on Chicago Now all about, well, the title probably tells it all: Old Single Mom.

After the relationship was over, but long before it was finished, a low, calm, voice would occasionally whisper to me:

“What if your authentic life is not in this relationship?”

It would happen anywhere, and without warning: in the self-service line at Dominicks. At a stop light. The moment just before slumber took me into the black hollow. It had no trace of judgement or rebuke.

“What if your authentic life is not in this relationship?”

It was haunting.

After we crumbled, I began aggressively seeking out the Authentic Life that Whisperey Guy had been talking about.

The first order of business was a search and rescue mission: a scramble to find those big chunks of myself I had “shaved off” to “fit” into that partnership.


Read more here. 

This Is What We Talk About When We Talk About Applying: 10 Helpful Hints & Tips


We know what you’re going through. You’re looking at the tab on the application that says “Statement of Purpose” and that one that says “Statement of Personal History” and you’re trying to figure out what you’re supposed to write. You’re looking at the tab for the creative sample and you’re trying to figure out if you need to turn in exactly 25 pages or if you’ll be marked down for sending in 24 pages or 26 pages. You’re wondering what the people writing your letters of recommendation will say and you’re wondering if there’s anything anyone can tell you that will make this process easier. And you’re probably wondering what you need to avoid doing, saying, writing. See: We know what you’re going through. The simple answer is that if this were an emotionally easy process, we wouldn’t be writers, would we? We obsess over words, it’s what we do. So we’ve compiled 10 easy tips to get you through the application process, along with some pitfalls to avoid.

1. Don’t be afraid to write creatively in your two entrance essays. Your statement of purpose should give us a clear idea as to why you feel you need an MFA in creative writing. Your statement of personal history should give us a clear idea of who you are as a human being. Neither needs to sound like the Lifetime movie of your life. We don’t mind reading about the happy things that have happened to you in addition to the tragic things. We want to know what it might be like to spend two years with you, the person, in addition to you, the creative writer. If you’re funny, for instance, don’t be afraid to show us your sense of humor. Above all, these essays should reveal what you are most passionate about and why, but also should reveal to us another side of your writing ability that perhaps your creative sample doesn’t.

2. Don’t wait until the last minute. This is probably true for most things in life, but as it relates to filling out the paperwork required for an application to graduate school, give yourself some time. Waiting until 11:59pm on the deadline day to submit your online application is a recipe for problems. Trust us. Every year, people miss the deadline because they try to apply at 11:59. Our watches are not synchronized. Apply early.

3. Send your best creative work. We know what you’re asking: What constitutes our best? It’s hard to say — but what we can tell you is what we’re looking for: a series of words that make us sit up in our seat and say, “Oh, this person is talented.” Those words might just be a single sentence, some insight that challenges us as readers. It can be a conversation. A couplet. An image. It might be a new angle to an old topic, or it might be a personal experience that we can’t stop thinking about. This is a good time to get a little ego: take a look at your work, think about what piece you like the best, think about why you like it, have someone else read it and see what they think. And then don’t think too much…just attach it to your application and hit send.

rappcover4. Okay, you’ve sent your best work, will we like it? Maybe. Remember that your work is being read by other writers and we each have our own peculiar tastes. It is a highly subjective process and what we might like, another MFA program might not, and vice-versa. Don’t send work just because you think one of us will like it because it reminds us of ourselves — as in, if you’re writing nonfiction, don’t feel like you need to write like Emily Rapp or David Ulin or Deanne Stillman. Rather, send the work that you think best represents your own creative aims, even if you’ve not yet hit them. And if your best work happens to have a zombie or a vampire in it, don’t be afraid to send it. If you’re writing genre and that’s what you want to write, we’ll never stop you from doing so. In fact, we’ll try to help you write the best genre fiction possible. We believe writers should write whatever they want to write. It’s our job to help you make it publishable or production-ready.

5. Your phone might ring. We like to talk to the applicants we’re interested in. This means we might call you.

6. Ask to talk to current students. We are defined by the success of our students and we are proud of all they have accomplished. You want to know what life is like in the program? They’ll tell you.

7. Understand the philosophy of the program and make sure it lines up with your own ambitions. This is true of all graduate programs, really. Our philosophy can be boiled down to this: We are looking for writers who want to publish and produce. If you’re interested in writing work that sits in your drawer, we’re not the right program for you. If you’re interested in a professional immersion in publishing and Hollywood, we are the right program for you.

8. Be ready for a life-altering experience. You can expect that if you’re accepted into the program, your day-to-day life is going to change. You’re going to be doing a tremendous amount of reading and writing. You’re going to meet interesting rlpfirepitspeople. You’re going to spend 10 days, twice a year, at a really lovely resort. You’re going to learn that this whole “hottest MFA” thing has a practical component during the summer residencies. Most of all, we’re going to help you achieve your goals. You’re going to receive a top flight education from the University of California, Riverside and you’re also going to learn what the real world of writing has in store for you.

9. Yes, you really get to go to school at a resort. That wasn’t a typo above.

10. Don’t worry. (Yes, you can turn in 26 pages if you need to. Yes, you can turn in 24 pages if you need to. And if you have a question, call or email us: 760-834-0926 or palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu.) To apply: http://palmdesertmfa.ucr.edu/

The Hottest Students: Ross Helford On Why He Chose UCR

ucrpdnewlogo2This time of year, we frequently are asked by applicants whether or not they’ll fit into the program. It’s a good question, of course. We all want to fit in somewhere. But what they’re really asking is: Is there anyone there like me? The answer is: Probably. Our students are men and women. They come from all over the country and all over the world. They’ve published and produced and they’ve also done absolutely nothing…if absolutely nothing includes hoping to be a professional writer while also busily living a life, holding down a job, and writing during every spare moment. Sometimes, though, our students are like Ross Helford, a writer who has had a successful career in one field — in Ross’ case, screenwriting — and now wants to tackle a different field — in Ross’ case, novel writing — and come to the MFA to learn an entirely new craft. With a quarter left, we’re happy to report Ross is well on his way to becoming a successful novelist. Here’s his story…and if you apply by August 1st, you could be next:

It had been my intention, pretty much since my senior year in college, to earn an MFA in 9138124109_9d6844a6c4_bcreative writing. The main reason I didn’t pursue one upon graduation was, first of all, I was totally sick of school, and secondly, I harbored this sinking suspicion that I wasn’t yet a good enough, or disciplined enough, writer to get into a program.

Instead, I moved to LA, paid a bunch of dues working as an assistant in TV and movies, and ultimately got an opportunity to make a living as a screenwriter for the next several years. And then I got to an interesting point in my life in which: 1) I was struggling to make a living, 2) I felt that I needed to become a better writer, while I was 3) feeling creatively frustrated and stuck. Considering that I, 4) needed to have a reason to write every day with the same (or, dare I say, more) focus and diligence as I had when I was cranking out movies, this at last seemed the right time to 5) pursue an MFA, where I could 6) expand my scope and horizons as a writer by studying fiction.

As I researched MFA programs, one thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to be in a traditional program with day-to-day classroom learnin’. It was basically a fluke that I even applied to UC Riverside’s Palm Desert low-residency MFA program. A happy, inspiring, life-changing, artistically fulfilling fluke, as it would turn out. But the fact of the matter is, I’m a grown-up, and would have had to change pretty much every aspect of my life in order to fit it into a traditional program. What’s more, as a disciplined writer, I do not need the daily classroom grind to ensure I am staying on task with my work.

UCR’s Palm Desert MFA program is designed for grown-ups, people who come from all over the country and whose ages range from post-college to post-retirement. The majority of the students, in fact, do their coursework while maintaining some semblance of full-time jobs.Each quarter is set up as a work/reading intensive 3-month period, with classes meeting in a digital learning environment. The 10-day Residencies that conclude the Fall and Spring quarters are filled with lectures, workshops, meetings with industry professionals, readings, and co-mingling with an inspiring like-minded community of artists. It’s a time to reflect on all the good work you’ve done, and plan for the hard work to come.

As wonderful, nurturing, and inspiring as the creative elements of this program have been for me, of equal importance—especially having spent the majority of my adult life earning a living as a writer—is its focus on the professional aspects of a writing career. This certainly includes harnessing one’s degree as a means to earn money in academia. But also, it’s no small detail that the entire faculty is not only published/produced, they are all presently, and consistently, publishing/producing. As a result, you are getting a hands-on education from an extraordinarily talented group of individuals who not only know how to sell and publish, but also happen to be doing so every day.

Something strange and unexpected happened to me some time toward the end of my first year in the program. I started seeing Facebook updates from my screen and TV-writing friends whose careers were going better than my own: a sold script, an executive producer credit, a staff writer job, a directorial debut. Whereas in the past, I would take these moments to descend to that dark place of envy and frustration as I point-by-point measured my own value as a writer against theirs, all of a sudden I actually felt happy for my friends—a feeling I had previously believed I was incapable of experiencing. And what I realized was that, as a writer, the best anyone can ask for is direction and purpose, both of which I have gotten as a result of my hard work in this program.

Writing is lonely, and its inherent frustrations are as endless as the distractions that conspire to keep us from our craft. Its rewards can be nebulous at best, non-existent at worst. For these reasons, writing is not a profession for anyone except those who do it because they must. Writers need community, mentorship, and realistic hope. In UCR’s Palm Desert MFA program, I have found all three. And in the process, I continue to produce the best creative work of my life, while being pushed and challenged on a daily basis to grow and improve.

If you’d like to join Ross in UCR’s Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts, applications are due August 1st. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 760-834-0926 or via email at palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu

The Hottest Alumni: Rick Marlatt On Why He Chose UCR Palm Desert’s Low Residency MFA

ucrpdnewlogo2Choosing a graduate school is never an easy task…not when there are literally hundreds from which to choose. When Rick Marlatt was admitted into the Low Residency MFA at UCR, it didn’t exist yet. It was the summer of 2008 and the Low Residency program had just been launched. We had no students. We had no alumni. We had six professors and an idea for what the program would become. (We now have, in order: ~100 students, a huge network of alumni, 16 core faculty members, and 50 guest residency faculty members each year.) And Rick Marlatt, who could have attended any MFA program in the country, because they all would have accepted him, became our first student. Since then, he’s gone on to publish three books of poetry, pen the documentary Palm Springs: Hollywood’s Playground, work as the post-production supervisor on The Age of Reason, crank out his own original scripts and, in his spare time, work on his PhD, too. We asked Rick to tell us briefly about his time in the program…and why you should make sure to apply by August 1st.

The uncanny combination of freedom and accountability is what drew me to the program.marlatt2 Students have tremendous choice in terms of their degree pursuit including explorations of multiple genres and disciplines, and yet they are at all times surrounded by talented peers and directed by nationally-recognized professors greatly concerned with leadership and education. My time in the program was enormously informative and prepared me greatly for the professional worlds of publishing and creating. The program has what every writer wants: creative space to develop one’s craft, a rigorous and fulfilling curriculum, and an award-winning faculty defined by their commitment to student success, as well as their industry expertise. The UCR Palm Desert Low Residency MFA is UC’s best kept secret, but the secret is getting out. Now is the time to start your writing career. Get your feet into the fire with the Hottest MFA.

If you have questions about the program, want to talk to a current or former student, or faculty member, feel free to contact Agam Patel at agam.patel@ucr.edu or 760-834-0926. 


Deadline For Fall Admission Is August 1st

The deadline to start with our next cohort is coming up fast! Applications are due August 1st for students who wish to be part of our 2013 fall class, so if you’ve been waiting…the waiting time is just about up. Online instruction begins October 1st and is followed by residency December 6-15th at the beautiful Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa.

To apply, you’ll need:

*25 pages of creative work in your proposed major (fiction, nonfiction, poetry or screenplayscreenwriting).

*Three letters of recommendation.

*Two essays — a statement of purpose and a statement of personal history.

*Transcripts from your previous degree work.

All application materials, aside from your transcripts, are uploaded online. To be
considered for admission, your creative sample and entrance essays must be uploaded with your application by 11:59pm on August 1st, however your transcripts and letters of recommendation may be received after that date (a digital request for letters of recommendation is sent out upon your application). To apply, visit here.

To get an idea of just what a residency looks like, take a look at the line up from our June residency here. And if you have any questions about the program, feel free to contact our office at 760-834-0926 or via email at palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu.

Stacy Bierlein Named Executive Editor of The Coachella Review

stacy-bierlein-photoWe are pleased to announce that Stacy Bierlein has been brought on as the first Executive Editor of The Coachella Review. Stacy is a founding editor of Other Voices Books, the co-creator of the Morgan Street International Novel Series, for over a decade served as editor of Other Voices magazine, edited two award winning anthologies, A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross Cultural Collision and Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience...in addition to being the author of her own acclaimed short story collection, A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends.

Founded in 2008, the Coachella Review is the student edited literary magazine of UCR’s Low Residency MFA program in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts. Published three times a year, the Coachella Review accepts fiction, nonfiction and poetry and has featured the works of Steve Almond, Andrea Seigel, Jillian Lauren, Dinah Lenney, Matthew Dickman, Reb Livingston and many, many more.

Alumni News: Dan Rosen Named Consulting Producer of First Family

firstfamilyDan Rosen (Screenwriting, 2012) has been named Consulting Producer for the hit syndicated comedy First Family after previously serving as a staff writer on the show since its inception in 2012.

Faculty News: Charles Evered’s “Looking” In Best Ten-Minute Plays

chuckplayOur own Charles Evered has had a big year — a Saturn Award nomination for his film A Thousand Cuts, being named the Artistic Director of the UCR Theatre department, a rave review in the NY Times — and now he’s also featured in the Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2012, for his play “Looking”.

Student News: Carol Damgen Wins Three Awards


Congratulations to Carol Damgen (Screenwriting, 2014) who was nominated for a stunning 7 awards and took home 3 from the Inland Theatre League, including awards for writing and directing The Twists and Turns of Edgar Allen Poe. 

Students News: George Morgan’s ROCKET GIRL Selected Best Of July By Amazon

rocketgirlGeorge Morgan’s (Screenwriting, 2014) first book, Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist, has been selected by Amazon has one of the Best Books of July. This follows rave reviews in a number of publications, including, most recently, Scientific America and Library Journalwhich raved:

Morgan (playwright in residence, Cal Tech) is the son of
rocket scientist Mary Sherman Morgan (1921–2004). Here he recounts the role she played in enabling the rocket launch that carried America’s first satellite into space in 1958. She is credited with inventing Hydyne, the liquid fuel used to lift Explorer 1 into orbit. The strength of this biography rests in how the author contextualizes his mother’s story within the better-known one of Wernher von Braun during NASA’s early days. This is an accessible and enjoyable read, covering Mary Sherman Morgan’s young life in North Dakota through her career working as a chemist for North American Aviation. Morgan initially told his mother’s story in a play of the same title; his playwriting skills are evident here.



Faculty News: Tod Goldberg Selected For Best American Essays

todgoldbergheadProgram director Tod Goldberg’s essay “When They Let Them Bleed” from Hobart 13  was selected for inclusion in Best American Essays 2013, due out in October:

An essay by Tod Goldberg, administrative director of the Low Residency M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts in Palm Desert, has been selected for inclusion in “The Best American Essays” series.


“When They Let Them Bleed” was published in Hobart magazine in March 2012. It recalls Goldberg’s childhood experience of watching boxer Duk Koo Kim die in the ring and the emotional impact of that on the scholar’s life.

“The Best American Essays” is part of the long-running Best American Series and recognizes the best essays published in American magazines and journals in the previous year. Goldberg’s essay was selected by series editor Robert Atwan and a guest editor, best-selling author Cheryl Strayed. The series is published by Houghton Mifflin Books.

Alumni News: Tiffany Hawk on How She Sold Her Book Love Me Anyway

hawkcoverAlum Tiffany Hawk (Fiction, 2010) in Writer’s Digest on her path to publication:

After getting some distance, I realized that the book was far from ready. I was serious about becoming a writer, though, so I went back to grad school for an MFA where I learned just how weak that draft really was. After saving maybe three pages of material, I did more than bury the rest under a stone. I deleted it.

Faculty News: Stephen Graham Jones on Zombies…

jonesdeadtexNot every MFA program has its very own zombie expert…but UCR’s Low Residency MFA does. Stephen Graham Jones in the latest US News & World Report on the how World War Z stacks up within the canon of zombie films:

When not chasing humans, the zombies of “World War Z” slow down a bit, turning into shuffling, barely-moving, upright corpses in a hibernation of sorts, until a stimuli – a noise, the sight of a healthy human – snaps them into action.

“That’s one of the age old questions that the zombie aficionados have: In the absence of food, what happens to the zombie?” Jones says. “[World War Z] suggest an answer by saying they go dormant, which is to say these creatures aren’t supernatural. They’re beholden to biology.”


Faculty News: Rob Roberge on The Cost Of Living

A great interview with Rob Roberge from the Los Angeles Review of Books on his latest book, The Cost of Living:

Student News: Chad Parsons Gathers A Handful of Awards

Congratulations to Chad Parsons (2014, Screenwriting) whose screenplay “Ohio Finch” has collected a slew of awards recently, including:

*First Prize, Drama, from Story Pros.

*A finalist for the Beverly Hills International Film Festival Screenwriting Prize.

*Second Prize in the Indie Gathering International Film Festival competition.

*Finalist for the Hoboken International Film Festival.



Alumni News: Jim Jennewein Named Chair of Screenwriting at NYFA

jennweinCongratulations to Jim Jennwein (Fiction 2013), who was just named Chair of the Screenwriting Department at the New York Film Academy!

Student News: New Work From Heather Partington In Under The Gum Tree

Fiction student Heather Partington has a new essay in the current issue of Under The Gum Tree. Here, Heather talks about her writing process:

Q: When and why did you start writing?
 I can’t remember not writing, so I can’t say there’s a specific time I started. I’ve always loved to write essays, which is weird, I realize now. I had way too much to say all the time. My emails were too long. My greeting cards were too long. I’d been making gifts out of things I wrote since I was a kid. In my thirties, I stopped dancing and I was badly missing the creative time I got from improvisation and performance. I needed an outlet and writing seemed cheap. Dance taught me to love the discipline of dedication to a craft: working at something daily and then sharing it with the people I love. Developing my writing life met all of those needs and tapped into something I’d already been doing.


Faculty News: Mary Otis Interviewed by the Los Angeles Review of Books

There’s a great new interview with our own Mary Otis in the latest issue of the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Student News: Maggie Downs in the Los Angeles Times






A great new essay from Maggie Downs in the Los Angeles Times:

Just four months into marriage, my husband and I were having trouble connecting.

Like, actually connecting. The Internet in South Africa was terrible.

“I can hear you. Can you hear me?” I shouted from my end, the common room of a Cape Town hostel.

Read the rest here.

Alumni News: Cate Dicharry In RoleReboot

An excellent new essay from Cate Dicharry (Fiction 2012) in the latest issue of RoleReboot:

I am thoroughbred for Motherlove. My father and mother are each one of eight children, in the case of my maternal grandmother, eight children amid 12 pregnancies. In the case of her sister, my maternal great aunt, one biological child followed by seven miscarriages, several at full-term, and, eventually, two adoptions. I have three brothers and 51 first cousins. There are twins in every generation, on both sides of my family. The women in my bloodline carry, bear, and love their children with greed and verve. They are unapologetic and full in motherhood.

I am no different. I have always known I would want children. Four, five, six children. All the noise and enmeshment of immediate family. When I became pregnant I thought I had an idea of what Motherlove would do to me, what it would feel like to adore my baby. I’d been on the receiving end for 31 years, after all.


Read the rest here.

Student News: Cherisse Nadal Wins A Flores Prize

Congratulations to Cherisse Nadal, a second year fiction student, who was named a 2013 Manuel G. Flores Prize VONA/Voices Fellow!

Cherisse was born and raised in the pocket of Southern California known as the San Gabriel Valley. She earned her baccalaureate degrees in English and music from the University of California at Riverside and her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Composition from the California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. She returns to the University of California at Riverside to complete her MFA. She has written as a freelance contributor for publications distributed by DC Asian Pacific American Film, Inc. She currently is the Assistant Editor at Kaya Press. She can often be found singing behind her steering wheel on any number of L.A. freeways.

Alumni News: Natalia Cortes Chaffin Takes Home A Nevada Arts Council Fellowship

Congratulations to Natalia Cortes-Chaffin (Fiction 2012), winner of a 2014 Nevada Arts Council Fellowship, the premier award given to writers living in Nevada. And here’s a bit from Natalia’s excellent story “Losing One’s Head”:

Her mother says “niña” like she’s singing an opera. Notes burst through the Garcia family’s two-bedroom bungalow to serenade all of Havana. Camilia glances at the clock. It’s a quarter past six on a cloudless day. She trudges down the narrow hall to the kitchen table. There’s no bacalao sending whiffs of sautéed codfish out to every house on the block. No ropa vieja with its shredded meat spiced to pique the tongue. No fried steak dressed in layers of white onion. No yucca baptized in oil. No beans: red, white, or black. Her little sister, Estrella, is tracing the tablecloth’s blue gingham stripes with her index finger. Her father is spooning unadorned rice into his mouth, the rice white like his teeth. Camilia tucks a lock of chocolate hair behind the ear that’s missing the earring she lost and pulls out a chair. Wooden legs scrape against the tile floor. She slumps down, stares at the chipped bowl of rice in front of her, daydreams of leaving Cuba and finding some faraway land where chunks of rib eye grow on trees.

“Eat,” her mother says. Onto Camilia’s rice she drops a sunny side up egg and two fried plantains.

“I heard Abuelo Julio stole a pig,” Camilia says.

Read the rest here.




Faculty News: Deanne Stillman Wins Spur Award

Congratulations to our very own Deanne Stillman, winner of the Spur Award for her excellent book Desert Reckoning:

Author Deanne Stillman, a member of the core faculty at the UC Riverside-Palm Desert Low Residency M.F.A. Creative Writing Program, has won the 2013 Spur Award for best Western contemporary nonfiction for her book “Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History.”

The Western Writers of America will present the award June 29 at the literary organization’s 60th annual convention in Las Vegas. Spurs are awarded for the best Western novel (short novel), best novel of the West (long novel), best original paperback novel, best short story, best short nonfiction, best contemporary nonfiction, best biography, best history, best juvenile fiction and nonfiction, best TV or motion picture drama, best TV or motion picture documentary, and best first novel. Previous winners include Larry McMurtry for “Lonesome Dove,” Michael Blake for “Dances With Wolves,” Glendon Swarthout for “The Shootist,” and Tony Hillerman forSkinwalker.”

“Deanne is one of the foremost chroniclers of the desert Southwest and this award, one of the grandest in the literary world, further confirms her place in the canon and ‘Desert Reckoning’ is perhaps her finest work,” said Tod Goldberg, administrative director of UCR’s Low Residency M.F.A. in Creative Writing and for the Performing Arts. “It’s a visceral examination of a life lived on the fringe of society and the remarkable manhunt that finally brought justice to a horrific murder. There’s not a better writer of narrative nonfiction working than Deanne Stillman and we’re proud to have her as part of our core faculty.”

“Desert Reckoning” is based on a 2005 article Stillman wrote for Rolling Stone about the 2003 murder of Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Steve Sorensen by desert hermit Don Kueck in the Antelope Valley and the ensuing manhunt.

“The desert is a main character in all of my work, and my books — narrative nonfiction — are stories of war and peace in the modern West,” Stillman said. As she wrote in her book “Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West,” “In the desert, I get quiet and I hear things. The beating of wings. The scratching of lizards. The whisper of stories that want to be told.”

Much of Stillman’s work concerns the Mojave Desert and the Inland Empire. Part of “Desert Reckoning” takes place in Riverside. “Twentynine Palms, A True Story of Murder, Marines and the Mojave” tells the story of two girls killed in Twentynine Palms by a Marine after the Gulf War. The book was recently published in its fourth edition and is taught in college literature classes around the country.

Award-winning author Gayle Brandeis, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books about “Desert Reckoning,” said, “One of the greatest gifts of this book is how Deanne Stillman is able to open our hearts to people we might otherwise judge or dismiss. She never denies that Don Kueck committed a heinous act of murder, but she paints him as deeply human, capable of kindness and intelligence and an almost mystical connection to the landscape despite the demons that plagued him. Sorensen is clearly the ‘good guy’ of the standoff, but he, too, is shown in a very human light; Stillman lets us see his jealous rages, his inability to take a joke, as well as his abiding desire to help people. She lets us marvel at the contradictions within each of these men, and the points of intersection between them — especially their shared love of animals and the Mojave, including their shared view of the Three Sisters Buttes … .

“… (O)ne can’t help but be filled with gratitude and awe toward Deanne Stillman — her clear eye, the depth of her research, her brave and compassionate imagination. She takes us on a journey as full of desolation and grandeur as the desert itself.”

Stillman’s book “Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West” was named a “best book” in 2008 by the Los Angeles Times and won the California book Award silver medal for nonfiction.  It is under option for a film starring Wendie Malick. “Twentynine Palms” was a Times “best book” for 2001.

Stillman’s reporting, essays and commentary have appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Slate, Salon, Orion, Tin House and The Rumpus. She also writes the “Letter From the West” column for Truthdig, and has written for television and film. Her plays “Pray for Surf,” “Star Maps” and “Inside the White House” have won prizes in major theater festivals around the country, and her work is widely anthologized.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

Here comes some great ideas…

on your mark, get set, go!



by Kari Hawkey

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you are a child again. Try to remember the perspective you had on the world, the concept of time, and your naïve superstitions or spirituality.  List as many memories or ideas you can recall from this time in your life.  Use your notes to write a poem.



by Redd Williams

You and your sister are having an argument over who gets the last hostess cupcake, neither of you wants to split it. Why should you have the cupcake? What are your excuses? How do you convince your sister to give you the cupcake?



by Lizi Gilad

We allowed ourselves to get lost, reassured by the landscape of fruits and vegetables, the sharp sniff of coffee, the dust of sugar from the sweets on display, milled chickpeas, baskets of speckled beans, lacquered olives in stone vats.

 –Patricia Hampl, Blue Arabesque

Are there places left in the world where we can get lost? Following Hampl’s lead, let yourself get lost this weekend. You don’t have to travel to a foreign country to experience the unfamiliar; lose yourself in the little side street that calls your name, the grocery with unfamiliar comestibles and signs written in a language you don’t speak, the dark corner bar you’ve long wondered about. Get lost, soak up the experience, and return home to write about it.



by Ross Helford

Genre Bending Exercise

One way I like to generate ideas is by taking an existing movie, stripping it down to its essence, and re-imagining it in a different genre or context.  Let’s take, for example, Lawrence of Arabia, which when stripped down to its essence is the story of a great leader that inspired disparate tribes to band together and win a war.

How would this story work if it were set in outer space?  Or some Narnia/Middle Earth/Neverland?  What if it was set in high school?  Or the workplace?  What if it was a Pixar movie?

Now it’s your turn: take a movie, strip it to its essence and re-imagine it in a different genre or context and see what happens.


Every author in some way portrays himself

in his works even if it be against his will.

~ Goethe




Blast from the Past

Poetry: A Religion?

Written By: Lori – Originally Posted OCT• 17•11

For the past four years, I’ve taught sophomore English at a Jesuit college prep high school.  An odd destination for me, since I’ve been firmly planted on the religious sidelines for most of my life.  I was hired and about to sign my contract; I knew I still had a tough confession to make to the principal: that I was…..um……a time-tested, dyed-in-the-wool, non-believer.  He went silent, but I kept talking.  I told him (only half facetiously), that poetry was the closest thing to a religion I’ve ever had. I told him my faith arises from my five senses, images, words, text, subtext, metaphor, and mystery.  I wanted this job, no doubt, so I quickly positioned myself as the school’s “token non-believer.” Fortunately, he saw it the same way.  (He graciously went on to tell me he would like “one of everything, eventually.”)  Today, I understand the daily tensions and discernments valued in the Jesuit philosophy lead to growth (they call it getting closer to God’s glory). My family and friends tell me I sound like I’ve been “sipping on the Kool-Aid.”  To that, I say: Forgive me / it was delicious / so sweet / and so cold.

So, is it possible to reasonably combine a poetry practice with a spiritual practice?  There is a helpful book out on this topic, Poetry as Spiritual Practice: Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions, by Poet Robert McDowellI got in touch with him to ask what prompted his poetic career and his spiritual life to intersect in such a deep way.  He said there was a series of undeniable events that made him question his life and the way he was living it.  Up until that point, he’d been affiliated with the Catholic church, but their meager responses to the scandals and devotion to the notion of celibacy eventually soured him. Religious limbo took him to Tibet and resulted in years of studying Buddhism.  We spoke about the affect this has had on his work.  He said he enters poems these days from a more compassionate place—his best self stepping forward—instead of writing from a cynical, default place.  He feels the edginess is not there anymore in his work, (“for better or worse”).

If I use this common definition of religion—a cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion—then poetry easily fits into the category. I am happy to discover there is an emerging field of study called theopoetics.  It is a hybridization of poetry and theology, with a splash of postmodern philosophy thrown in for further complication.  In other words, it seems to be an inspired way of working with language and worldviews that ideally leaves more than a little wiggle room for exploration of the Divine. At least that is my understanding of it.

Here are my tenets of a poetry religion:

God/s: There are too many poetry deities to name, but let’s just say I will gladly place oranges on the poetry altars of  Szymborska, Dunn, Strand, Stevens, Simic, McHugh, Plath, C.D. Wright, Whitman, et al.

Rituals: Wake early. Sit quietly at a desk.  Find the right pen.  Get up from desk.  Wash dishes.  Fold laundry.  Pay bills.  Make calls.  Feed the dogs.  Pick-up the kids.  Brew tea.  Nap.  (Repeat)

Church Offerings: 99.9999% of your poetry income will be voluntarily tithed to “Da Poetry Church.”

Daily Prayers: “God, please let me have at least one more decent poem in me.”  “Dear Lord, let me get through this MFA program.”  “Please help me decide once and for all: should it be “a kiss” or “the kiss”?”

Judgment Day: When an esteemed guest judge decrees the fates of all poetry contest entrants according to the style and worth of their earthly verse.

Life after Death?: No one knows for sure. Jean Cocteau called poetry “a religion without hope.”  Yeah, that sounds about right.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

It’s that time again…


on your mark, get set, go!



by Kari Hawkey

I think we have all wondered about what happens when you die.  If you are an atheist, imagine that you have died and discovered there is a god… and she is mad at you and Bill Maher.  Or, if you are a spiritual person, imagine that when you die there is nothing.  Nothing.  Now that you are totally depressed, write a poem employing this new found perspective.



by Redd Williams 

Two people are having dinner; one receives disturbing news about a family member and wants comfort and advice from the other.  What is the relationship between the two characters?  What is the big news?  Does the other character give comfort and advice?  If so, how?  If not, why?



by Lizi Gilad

Last week, you were prompted to get lost. This weekend the goal is to remain close to home and attempt, as Proust implores us, to see with new eyes. A snippet list is the key to more active, conscious noticing because the method allows you to scrawl notes as they arrive, freed from the constraints of left-brain logic.

No detail is too small. Consider, for example, Edward Abbey’s description of a breaking tree limb in Desert Solitaire: “somewhere a desiccated limb on an ancient dying cottonwood tree splits off from the trunk, and the rending fibers make a sound like the shriek of a woman”, or his description of a rainstorm: “not softly not gently, with no quality of mercy but like heavy water in buckets, raindrops like pellets splattering on the rock, knocking the berries off the junipers, plastering my shirt to my back…” 

Maintain your awareness pricked like an antenna for moments and details that snag your attention. Establish a number before you begin—say, thirty noteworthy details–and don’t let yourself settle back into hazy familiarity until you’ve reached your noticing goal. Then use your snippets to write a page about your day or your place.



by Kari Hawkey 

Think about a movie you enjoyed but where you hated one specific aspect (for example, you hated the protagonist, the setting, or the ending).  Brainstorm your ideas for a change.  Now, write a treatment using these changes and see if this can inspire a new project.


Writing is a struggle

against silence.

~ Carlos Fuentes



Blast from the Past

The Olympics of Film

Written By: John Rosenberg – Originally Published JUL• 02•12

Making movies is like running an Olympic marathon. There are many hurdles to cross until the finish line, and one of the final ones is mastering the color. Today I’m at the post house color correcting (or color grading, as some call it) a feature I’d edited. As with everything else in the film industry…and the world in general… the digital revolution has greatly altered this stage of the process. It is further influenced by the fact that this is a documentary rather than narrative fiction. Consequently, the film is comprised of multiple formats, from 8mm to 35mm motion picture film to HDCAM and Pro Res 422 high def footage to still photographs, both digital and film.

In the case of narrative fiction the film is usually shot on one format – though in these days of highly available high definition cameras cinematographers sometimes mix Red camera footage with Canon 5D with Sony Cine Alta cameras and so on. Currently, when color correcting it is essential that all the picture elements are of the same format. But how can this be achieved. All the shots must be media managed which means recreating them to form new media, usually in the Pro Res 422 (HQ) format. Where in other times, those old school olden days, one would appear at an online session with a box of tapes, today much of the process can be handled from home or wherever the editing room resides. In previous years the operator would load the tapes, one at a time, into a deck and the machine would slowly re-compile the sequence by selecting the necessary shots from each tape. After the whole movie was relaid it was then color corrected, transferring the images onto a fresh tape.

Today the images reside on hard drives, so they’re instantly available, but they often need to go through the media managing process. Rather than taking the film to a post house and paying the expensive hourly rates, the editor can perform this function him- or herself. That’s what’s been keeping me up late and away from writing this past week. In this way the process involves more give and take on the part of the post house and the filmmakers. The film’s editor compiles the movie through media managing the footage, as well asbaking in various shots that can’t be media managed such as certain effects like reverse action. The baking-in sounds tasty but it really only means that the editor must select out individual shots for special treatment, process them and cut them back in with the rest of the material. This can be a really time consuming process but it’s worth it.

This morning the colorist arrived with his stash of black, caffeine rich tea and his vitamin D pills – “too much time in the dark,” he explains. He’s used to working for long hours in completely dark rooms in front of multiple computer and TV monitors. Shots which might originally appear milky or too dark suddenly sparkle in the hands of this skilled colorist. Flesh tones come to life. And colors seem to glow. All this technology is designed to help reinforce the most important thing, creating character and tone. The quality of light and color has an impressive effect on how an audience feels about the movie they’re seeing. Imagine a bland sunset in a romance or a brightly lit alley in a horror film. “Should I leave this a little blue?” asks the colorist as he observes a crowd scene where everyone is dressed in heavy coats with steam escaping from their lips. Yes, it’s not just a technical job but one that, like most professions in the film business, connects to the story that is told. Onward toward the finish line.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

All right already…

on your mark, get set, go! 



by Kari Hawkey

Sucks to your assmar.  Write a poem about your favorite book, artwork, or even your favorite movie.  Let’s get ekphrastic fantastic.  Use your imagination and use the work as inspiration for your poem.



by Redd Williams

Write about a conversation between a mother and a daughter. The mother is trying to give some womanly advice to her daughter and the daughter is trying to encourage her mother to get back into the dating game. Determine the ages of the mother and the daughter, decide what advice the mother is giving and come up with an ulterior motive behind the daughter’s encouragement in establishing a new love life for her mother.



by Lizi Gilad

“Summertime, oh, summertime, pattern of life indelible, the fadeproof lake, the woods unshatterable, the pasture with the sweet fern and the juniper forever and ever, summer without end.”- E.B. White, from Once More to the Lake

Which season is your season? Set yourself free to roam in the season you love most.  Write a list of the scents, sounds, sights, and sensations that make the season what it is to you.



by Kari Hawkey

Looking for a fight.  Recall the last argument you had (with a friend or loved one, or even someone you don’t particularly care for) and write down the words you wish you had said.  Write a scene incorporating both real dialogue and what you wish had been your reply.  Not only can this help your writing… but also it’s cheaper than therapy. 


We do not need to proselytize either by our speech

or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives.

Let our lives be open books for all to study.

~ Mahatma Gandhi




Behind the Story- “Gun”

Written By: Ashley Reynolds

Tomlinson picTim Tomlinson’s story “Gun” appeared the last issue of The Coachella Review magazine. “Gun” is about a twelve year old boy named Cliff who gets into trouble when decides to open fire on light company workers. When his brother Wally rats him out to his parents, Cliff must deal with the wrath of his ex-militant father before he can exact revenge.

Tomlinson is a co-founder of New York Writers Workshop, and co-author of its popular text, The Portable MFA in Creative Writing. He is the fiction editor of the webzine Ducts. Recent fiction and poetry appear or are forthcoming Asia Writes, Caribbean Vistas, Extracts, Floorboard Review, The New Poet, Saxifrage Press, The Tule Review, Unshod Quills, and in the anthology Long Island Noir (Akashic Books).

Where did you get the idea for the story “Gun.”

When I was roughly the same age as Cliff and Devon in the story, I fired a rifle at a group of men on a coffee break from laying cable.  No casualties, I promise, but the men were not amused.  Some of the imagery around that incident always stuck with me.  I tried working with it many times.  I had a hard time getting past Cliff’s breathless return home.  Then other stories started to grow around the gunfire/chase fragment, and slowly the final two thirds of “Gun” emerged.

When was the first time you realized you were a writer?

In third grade, writing got me out of trouble.  In tenth grade, it got me into trouble.  That’s when I started thinking, hmm, maybe there’s something to this racket.  But it wasn’t until I was eighteen and reading Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer for the first time that I thought:  this is what I have to do.

What do you do in your free time that contributes the most to your writing?

I don’t know if I have anything like free time.  But three things that contribute greatly to my writing are:  reading, traveling, diving.

What person inspires you the most? Why?

I’ve been giving classes on the work of Bob Dylan.  He’s a huge inspiration.  Aside from washing a dish or two, he never had a job.  That’s impressive.  And the longevity speaks for itself.

 What was the best advice you were ever given?

Always come up slower than your bubbles.

Blast from the Past

Written By: John Rosenberg  Originally Published OCT•03•2011

Receiving notes and critique from others is an essential but often painful part of the writing process. This week I finished correcting the galleys to my first novel, Tincture of Time, a tale about an American medical student in Brazil. (I became familiar with South America while working as an editor on a feature in Rio de Janeiro.) Revising these galleys was a different the book it will become, including a mocked up book cover based on an idea I had and that the publisher graciously executed. On the inside pages, the editor had written notes in ink throughout the book and, fortunately, they were smart and helpful. These days I welcome notes because I’ve seen how listening to another person’s response to material can make a huge difference in the final outcome.

It wasn’t always this way. Years ago I’d written a novel, Book of Matches, which immediately found a New York agent and the agent found a publisher, Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Everything went smoothly until they asked me to re-write part of the book. Are you kidding? I thought. Perhaps because everything had come so easily or, more likely, because I truly believed the book was finished and didn’t need further work, I made only the most cursory changes and sent it back. Based on not fulfilling the requested re-writes, the book wasn’t published. At the time I felt I’d protected the integrity of the book – which might’ve been the case – but it’s possible to be overprotective.

Only through work as a film editor did I come to embrace the collaborative process and actually look forward to other people’s notes. In film editing you make copious and constant changes. You get notes from directors, producers, studio execs. You even get notes from people who haven’t a clue about filmmaking — recruited audiences in small towns outside of L.A. They watch the film and fill out questionnaires asking them what they thought of the ending or a character, etc. But they’re an audience and that’s who you are making films for. So you listen. You discover that some notes are important and worthwhile, and others should be ignored.

The main lesson you learn is not to take it personally and to appreciate that the people who give you notes are helping make you a better filmmaker, writer, editor, and so on. You actively seek out responses from others. Sometimes the mere anticipation that someone is going to read your writing or watch your film, alters your perception of the work and guides you toward improvement. So I’m packing up the galleys to Tincture of Time, and sending them back to the publisher, along with a revised Word file, confident that it’s a better book today than it was yesterday.

Poetry Block

Written By: Mag Gabbert

In my experience I’ve found that “poetry block,” as I’ll call it, is an entirely different beast than other varieties of writer’s block. When I sat down to write this post, for example, I didn’t know what I was going to write about…but it was a different kind of sensation than not knowing where or how to begin writing a poem. In prose, sometimes, we have to take time to plot out a sequence of events, or the internal conflict of a character, or the development of a relationship. And sometimes it’s hard to just get into the groove; we know what we want to write, but each sentence has to be coaxed out slowly and nothing feels natural.

In contrast, when I sit down to write a poem, I often don’t know what the poem is going to be about. I may have a general subject, or a line, or an image that I want to begin with, but that is usually no indication of where the poem is going to go. Part of what makes poetry its own genre—and what makes it so magical—is that poems have to find their own way. They’re associative and intuitive. A poem may start with a line about a solar eclipse and then end up being about grandma. It is, in a sense, exactly the opposite of the process of writing prose. In order to write poems like this, the poet has to be completely mentally available. They can’t have too many preconceived ideas about what they’re going to say or spend all their time plotting things out; instead they have to allow their thoughts to move freely and associatively, kind of tapping themselves in to the way all human minds work, a broader human consciousness.

The process of “tapping in,” wherein you identify a thought and begin to consciously follow it, is what’s most difficult for me as a poet. I have all kinds of little rituals and superstitions—as many writers do—to help me ease in to that mindset, and although it may sound a little hokey, I think it can be helpful for any poet to try out some of their own pre-writing strategies. Here a few of the practices I’ve found particularly helpful:

  1. I begin by reading the newspaper. Sometimes it just helps me to separate myself from    my own personal, nagging cares, but other times an article can serve as great     inspiration for the beginning of a poem.
  2.  I make sure to have a tasty drink on hand. For me it’s usually iced tea, but any drink will do. The point is to be comfortable, so that you don’t have to get up in the middle of writing and lose a thread of inspiration.
  3. I often begin the process of writing as soon as I wake up. Lots of writers have a particular time of day that works for them—it doesn’t have to be the morning. I like the morning because it’s the time when my thoughts are most clear and uncluttered; others prefer late at night when they’ve already accomplished their tasks for the day. Try out some different times and find one that works for you, then stick to it and make sure you’re available to write—even for just a few minutes—during that time everyday.
  4. Lastly, when I’m about to begin writing poetry, I like to read one or two of my all-time favorite poems. Reading those poems inspires me; it reminds me how much I love poetry, and also what it is I want to accomplish with my own poems. Some writers prefer not to read others’ work just before writing, as the mind might subconsciously try to imitate that work, but since I read the same poem or two each time it’s easy for me to recognize and squash that urge. In general I find it extremely helpful.

If you’re ever having trouble finding your way into a poem, give a few of these techniques a whirl and see if you find them helpful. Most of all, I recommend trying out some pre-writing activities of your own until you find the ones that work best for you. Happy writing!

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

No excuses.  Write…

on your mark, get set, go! 



by Kari Hawkey

What is your favorite number?  

Go to Wikipedia.  Click on the random article button on the left hand side to the count of your favorite number. (Example, 7 times)  Now, write about the subject matter in that article.

*If you aren’t happy with the topic, click it one more time or click on the links within the text you are viewing.



by Cynthia Romanowski 

Write for 10 minutes about the worst thing your protagonist has ever done. Write for 10 minutes about the most pathetic feelings your antagonist has ever had.  Or… do this with yourself as the main character and burn the evidence if it doesn’t lead to a story. 


If there’s a book you really want to read,

but it hasn’t been written yet,

then you must write it.

~Toni Morrison






Spring Residency Guests Announced

Our spring residency is just a few weeks away — June 7-16th — and if you’re interested in attending a day prior to applying, we’d be happy to have you. Please contact Agam Patel at 760-834-0926 or agam.patel@ucr.edu to arrange your visit. We’re excited to announce that our visiting residency faculty (in addition to our  award-winning core faculty) this spring will be:

Robin Benway is the acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! and The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June, both ALA Best Books for Young Adults, and Also Known As, which was just released in February. Benway’s books have been published in 16 languages, won awards abroad, and been bestsellers in several countries. Formerly a bookseller and book publicist, she lives in Los Angeles.

Julia Dahl started her writing career in New York City as part of Young Blood at the Ensemble Studio Theater under the direction or Curt Dempster. Her plays Licking Grandma’s Fingers and Filling Empty were produced at EST and Playwrights Horizons, and her play, Frances and The President, won the L.A. Drama-Logue Award for Best Play in the mid 90s. That same play, newly entitled Wonderland, ran at The American Place Theater, Off-Broadway, under the direction of Wynn Handman, and was called “a sophisticated and civilized new play,” by John Simon, the infamous New York Magazine critic. Dahl’s TV credits include writing on staff for FOX’s Party of Five and NBC’s The West Wing, and several TV pilot deals and MOWs for CBS, ABC, NBC, Lifetime and SONY. Feature credits include original work and rewrites for Fine Line, New Line, New Regency, Tribeca Films, Greenestreet Films, MGM, and most recently Lionsgate for the third installment of the franchise Dirty Dancing with producer Laurence Mark. Uptown Girls (Brittany Murphy and Boaz Yakin), First Daughter (Katie Holmes and Forest Whitaker) and Lifetime’s Flirting with 40 (Heather Locklear) are also Dahl’s. She holds a masters in journalism from Columbia University, and attended The Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, Tufts, and The New School for her undergraduate studies. She is also the mother of an awesome five-year-old girl named Isabel: her best work to date.

Tyler Dilts dreamed of following in the footsteps of his policeman father. Though his career goals changed over time, he never lost interest in the daily work of homicide detectives. Today he teaches at California State University in Long Beach, and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesThe Chronicle of Higher EducationThe Best American Mystery Stories, and numerous other publications. He is the author of A King of Infinite Space and the bestselling The Pain Scale.

Adam Deutsch is the Publisher and Editor of Cooper Dillon Books. He was born on Long Island, New York and has his M.A. from Hofstra University (2005) and M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2008). He has been on the editorial staff of a number of presses and journals, including Ninth Letter and Barn Owl Review. Adam has been interviewed and has written about publishing at Fringe Magazine,Quarterly Conversation, & diode.

Gina Frangello is the author of three books of fiction: A LIFE IN MEN (forthcoming from Algonquin in February 2014), SLUT LULLABIES, which was a ForeWord magazine book of the year finalist for 2010, and MY SISTER’S CONTINENT.  She is the co-founder and executive editor of Other Voices Books, the Sunday editor of The Rumpus, and the fiction editor of The Nervous Breakdown.  Her essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in numerous forums, including the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader, and her short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Fence, ACM and Prairie Schooner, as well as numerous anthologies.  She’s been the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Individual Fellowship for Prose, several Illinois Arts Council Awards for short fiction, and was the winner of the 2011 Summer Literary Seminars Contest in fiction.  Gina has also edited and guest-edited more than 10 books of fiction, many of which have garnered such honors such as the International Book Award, the IPPY gold and bronze medals, and been finalists for the Lambda and SCIBA awards.  She often teaches classes creative writing, publishing and literature at Columbia College Chicago and Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies.

Jim Gavin worked as a sportswriter, plumbing salesman and a Jeopardy production assistant. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Gavin received his MFA from Boston University in 2011. His fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Zyzzyva, Zoetrope, Esquire and others. His first collection of stories, Middle Men, was released this year from Simon & Schuster.

Tiffany Hawk  has an MFA from UC Riverside, Palm Desert and is the author of Love Me Anyway, a novel that bestselling author Caroline Leavitt calls “irresistible…an unexpectedly haunting look at loneliness, and the struggle for love, belonging and independence.” Tiffany is also a freelance writer, former magazine editor and a writing instructor with a special focus in travel. She has been quoted as a travel expert by a variety of publications from NBC News to Al Jazeera to Maxim magazine and has written about travel for publications that include The New York Times, the Los Angeles TimesSunset, GQ.com, CNN, and National Geographic Traveler. Her short fiction and personal essays have appeared in such places as The Potomac ReviewStoryQuarterly, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

David Hernandez is the recipient of a 2011 NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry. His recent collection, Hoodwinked, won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and is now available from Sarabande Books. His other collections include Always Danger (SIU Press, 2006), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, and A House Waiting for Music (Tupelo Press, 2003). His poems have appeared inFIELD, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, The Missouri Review, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, and Poetry Daily. He is also the author of two YA novels,No More Us for You and Suckerpunch, both published by HarperCollins. David teaches at the University of California, Irvine and poetry workshops at California State University, Long Beach, and is currently the Writer-in-Residence at California State University, Fullerton.

Tom Hertz is the creator and executive producer of Rules of Engagement, and previously served as executive producer of The King of Queens, Freddie, Married to the Kellys (which he also created), Less Than Perfect, and Spin City. His credits also include The Larry Sanders Show, The Dennis Miller Show, The Stephanie Miller Show, The John Stewart Show.

Matthew Horowitz got his start at literary management company Sleeping Giant Entertainment in 2006.  At Sleeping Giant, Matt began working closely with award-winning writers and directors such as James Manos Jr. (Creator of DEXTER), Jon Amiel (ENTRAPMENT, THE CORE, THE SINGING DETECTIVE) and Victor Salva (JEEPERS CREEPERS I & II, POWDER), while serving as the executive assistant to President Dave Brown.  Concurrently, Matt assisted the CEO of Night & Day Pictures (WAITRESS), allowing him to participate in both the representation and physical production side of filmmaking. Upon moving to Artist International in 2010, Matt was promoted to manager and started building his client roster, which includes LaToya Morgan (SHAMELESS, PARENTHOOD), Billy Riback (HOME IMPROVEMENT, MURPHY BROWN), John Hyams (UNIVERSAL SOLDIER III, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER IV), Guy Moshe (BUNRAKU, HOLLY), David Regal (ZEKE AND LUTHER, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND), Mike Teverbaugh (BETTER OFF TED), as well as the Zenescope Entertainment comic book company. Matt has played a part in packaging many projects for both film and television. Including WONDERLAND for LionsGate TV based on the Zenescope property written by Stephen Susco, FUCK FACEBOOK for MTV by Zeke Farrow, LAUNCHING PAD for Sony and Fanfare by Jen Klein, and the new breakout hit for ABCF, TWISTED. In addition he has clients staffed on shows such as: SONS OF ANARCHY, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, PARENTHOOD, HOUSE OF LIES, JUSTIFIED, COMMUNITY, LAST MAN STANDING, SULLIVAN & SON, THE DAILY SHOW, as well as many others.

Tara Ison is the author of the novels Rockaway, The List, and A Child out of Alcatraz, and the forthcoming short story collection Ball. Her short fiction, essays, poetry and book reviews have appeared in Tin House, The Kenyon Review, The Rumpus, Nerve.com, Black Clock, TriQuarterly, PMS: poemmemoirstory, Publisher’s Weekly, The Week magazine, The Mississippi Review, LA Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, the San Jose Mercury News, and numerous anthologies.  She is also the co-writer of the cult movie Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead. She is the recipient of a 2008 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship and a 2008 COLA Individual Artist Grant, as well as multiple Yaddo fellowships, a Rotary Foundation Scholarship for International Study, a Brandeis National Women’s Committee Award, a Thurber House Fiction Writer-in-Residence Fellowship, the Simon Blattner Fellowship from Northwestern University, and a California Arts Council Artists’ Fellowship Award.  Ison received her MFA in Fiction & Literature from Bennington College.  She has taught creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Goddard College, Antioch University Los Angeles, and UC Riverside Palm Desert’s MFA in Creative Writing program.  She is currently Assistant Professor of Fiction at Arizona State University.

Laila Lalami  was born and raised in Morocco. She attended Université Mohammed-V in Rabat, University College in London, and the University of Southern California, where she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and the novel Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington PostThe Nation, the Guardian, the New York Times, and in numerous anthologies. Her work has been translated into ten languages. She is the recipient of a British Council Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship and is currently an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Her new novel, The Moor’s Account, will be released by Pantheon in 2014.

Brian Lipson is a partner in the Los Angeles based literary management company Intellectual Property Group (IPG).  Brian  specializes in selling the motion picture/television rights of literary material. For 15 years he has represented such notable authors as Stephen E. Ambrose, Jared Diamond, Eric Garcia, Joe Lansdale, Brad Meltzer, Joyce Carol Oates, Rex Pickett and Mark Haskell Smith. Brian also represents the literary estates of Mark Twain and Jim Thompson. Some of the motion picture and television projects he sold include Band of Brothers, Boardwalk Empire, Ike: Countdown to D-Day, Sideways, Matchstick Men, Repo Men, Pain & Gain and The Departed. Additionally, Brian also markets non-fiction books to publishers. Some of the authors he has sold books for include Stephen Ambrose, Hugh Ambrose, the Osbournes, Alexandra Pelosi, Amber Tamblyn, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sharon Rocha (Laci Peterson’s mother), Scout Productions (the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), Aisha Tyler, Bob Newhart, Burt Bacharach and Roger Ebert. Prior to joining IPG, Brian ran the book division at Endeavor from 1999 until the merger with the William Morris Agency in 2009. Before Endeavor, Brian was an agent and assistant at the Renaissance Agency, where he trained under his current partner, Joel Gotler.

Scott Martelle is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer & a freelance journalist and the author of three books of nonfiction, as well as a co-founder of The Journalism Shop, a co-op for mostly former LA Times staffers, and an active blogger at his own website, www.scottmartelle.com. As a book critic, Martelle’s reviews and articles appear in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Publishers Weekly and other outlets. His freelance journalism has appeared in Sierra magazine, Los Angeles magazine, and elsewhere. He also teaches journalism at Chapman University, As a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times from 1997-2008, Martelle was primarily a general assignment reporter but also covered portions of three presidential campaigns, wrote about authors and books in the Calendar section, and was a mainstay of the main news sections with hundreds of local, regional and national articles (as well as reporting from Mongolia and post-war Kosovo). Martelle’s books have focused on disparate aspects of American history. His most recent book, Detroit: A Biography (April 2012, Chicago Review Press), explores the forces that led to the rise and fall of one of America’s great cities. His previous book, The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial (Rutgers University Press, 2011) is a narrative retelling of the Cold War-era trial that led to the imprisonment of 11 men for their political beliefs. Martelle’s first book, the critically acclaimed Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West (Rutgers, 2007), similarly spotlights the 1913-14 Colorado coal strike in which at least 75 people were killed in open guerrilla warfare between striking coal miners and the Colorado National Guard. And he is at work on Jones’s Bones: The Search for an American Hero (Chicago Review Press, 2014) about the 1905 recovery of the body of Revolutionary war hero John Paul Jones more than a century after his death and quickly forgotten burial in Paris.

Anthony McCann is the author of the poetry collections I Heart Your Fate, Moongarden and Father of Noise. In addition to these collections he is the author, along with Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer, of Gentle Reader!, a collection of erasures of the English Romantics. His work has been translated into Slovene, French, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Spanish. McCann is also a translator of poetry. He lives in Los Angeles where he works with Machine Project, an art and performance space and collaborative team of artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians. He teaches poetry and literature at the California Institute of the Arts.

T. Jefferson Parker’s writing career began in 1978, as a cub reporter on the weekly newspaper, The Newport Ensign. After covering police, city hall and cultural stories for the Ensign, Parker moved on to the Daily Pilot newspaper, where he won three Orange County Press Club awards for his articles. All the while he was tucking away stories and information that he would use in his first book.  Parker’s first novel, LAGUNA HEAT, written on evenings and weekends while he worked as a journalist, was published to rave reviews and made into an HBO movie starring Harry Hamlin, Jason Robards and Rip Torn. The paperback made The New York Times Bestseller list in 1986. Parker’s following novels—all dealing with crime, life and death in sunny Southern California—were published to rave reviews and appeared on many bestseller lists. His writing has been called “potent and irresistible” (L.A. Times) and “resonant, literate and powerful” (Kirkus). The New York Times wrote that “T. Jefferson Parker is a powerhouse writer.” Writing in the Washington Post, reviewer Carolyn See called  THE TRIGGERMAN’S DANCE “a masterpiece.” WHERE SERPENTS LIE and THE BLUE HOUR appeared for five weeks on the L.A. Times bestseller list. RED LIGHT and SILENT JOE made number one on that list in May of 2000 and 2001, respectively and SILENT JOE went on to win the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for Best Novel and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller. COLD PURSUIT was named Novel of the Year by the Southern California Booksellers Association. CALIFORNIA GIRL won Jeff his second Best Novel Edgar. In 2008 Parker won his third Edgar Award for his short story “Skinhead Central.” Parker’s recent novels, L.A. OUTLAWS, THE RENEGADES, IRON RIVER, THE BORDER LORDS and THE JAGUAR and THE FAMOUS AND THE DEAD feature protagonist Charlie Hood, a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputy “on loan” to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms task force working the illegal gun trade along the U.S. Mexico border.

Hector Tobar has written for the Los Angeles Times for over 20 years, including several years as the Bureau Chief in Mexico, a columnist and now as a book critic. In 1992, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the LA Riots. He is also the author of three books, the novel The Tattooed Soldier, which was a finalist for the PEN USA Award for Fiction, the book of nonfiction Translation Nation: Defining A New American Identity in Spanish Speaking America, and, most recently the novel The Barbarian Nurseries, which was named a New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle best book of the year and which won the California Book Award Gold Medal for Fiction. His current project is on the trapped Chilean miners.

Peter Samuelson has been described as a “serial pro-social entrepreneur”. In 1983, inspired by a little boy battling an inoperable brain tumor, Peter conceived of the Starlight Children’s Foundation—an international charity dedicated to granting wishes for seriously ill children www.starlight.org. Starlight has grown to offer eight core psycho-social programs, each restoring some of the laughter, happiness and self-esteem that serious illness takes away from kids and those who love them. As parents and healthcare providers confirmed the positive psychological and often medical impact of Starlight programming, in 1990 Peter brought together leaders including Steven Spielberg and General Norman Schwarzkopf to create Starbright World www.starbrightworld.org an online social network to educate, encourage and empower children to cope with the medical, emotional and social challenges of their illness. In 2005, Starlight and Starbright World completed a formal merger and became the Starlight Children’s Foundation, with offices throughout Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Japan and across the United States. Starlight now has a combined operating budget of $50 million and serves over 5 million children annually. Since inception, Starlight has raised and deployed internationally over $1 billion and served 60 million seriously ill children. In 1999, Peter co-founded with Sherry Quirk, First Star www.firststar.org, a separate national 501(c)(3) charity headquartered in Washington, D.C. that works to improve the public health, safety, and family life of America’s abused and neglected children. With Peter as President, First Star provides “top-down” systemic leadership to provide quality and compassionate care for children within the child welfare system, basic civil and legal rights for every child and safe, stable and permanent homes for all children. First Star’s program to create permanent residential high schools for Foster Children on university campuses nation-wide began at UCLA in 2011, and has thus far replicated to the University of Rhode Island and George Washington University in the District of Columbia. Negotiations are underway to expand to campuses in Northern California, Illinois and Connecticut. In 2008, Peter founded EDAR, “Everyone Deserves A Roof” www.EDAR.org to develop and widely distribute through established service agencies a mobile single-user homeless shelter on wheels. EDARs cost $500 each and so far 300 homeless clients use them nightly. Peter is a graduate of Cambridge University with a Masters in English Literature and the fourth of five family generations employed in the film industry. After serving as production manager on films such as The Return of the Pink Panther, he emigrated from England to Los Angeles and produced Revenge of the Nerds, Tom & Viv, Wilde, Arlington Road and 20 other films. Peter served on the founding Board of Participant Media Inc., Jeff Skoll’s pro-social media company. In 2012 and 2013, Peter Samuelson was the first Managing Director of the Media Institute for Social Change at the University of Southern California.

Dan Smetanka has worked in various aspects of the publishing industry for over twenty years. As an Executive Editor at Ballantine/Random House, Inc., he acquired and published award-winning debut books including The Ice Harvest by Scott Philips, The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner, Down to a Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck, and Among the Missing by Dan Chaon, a 2001 finalist for the National Book Award. Prior to this, he served as Director of Maria B. Campbell Associates, an international scouting agency that facilitated the placement of American authors into the international marketplace. Daniel also acted as a publishing consultant to both Amblin/Dreamworks and The Kennedy/Marshall Company to identify material appropriate for feature film and television adaptation.He currently serves as Editor-at-Large for Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press, one of the largest independent presses in the country and one of the few located on the west coast. His projects include works by Thomas Steinbeck, Linda Gray Sexton, James Brown, Scott Phillips, Janna Malamud Smith, Craig Nova, Ilie Ruby, Neil Jordan, Dana Johnson, Isaac Adamson, Karen E. Bender, Joshua Mohr, Emma Woolf, John N. Maclean, Tara Ison, Kim Addonizio, Andrea Portes, Frank Browning, Anna David, Liza Monroy, and Thaisa Frank. He is based in Los Angeles.

Matthew Specktor is the author of the novels American Dream Machine and That Summertime Sound, as well as a nonfiction book of film criticism. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, Tin House, Black Clock, The Believer, and many other publications and anthologies. He is a founding editor of The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Jamison Stoltz is a senior editor at Grove/Atlantic. He edits nonfiction—recent titles include Paradise Lust by Brook Wilensky-Lanford, Harlem  by Jonathan Gill, and Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson—and mysteries and thrillers, including Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series and the novels of Deon Meyer, Mike Lawson, and Mark Haskell Smith. Before joining Grove/Atlantic, he worked at the William Morris Agency in London and New York, and in publicity at Houghton Mifflin in New York.

Andrew Winer is the author of the novels The Marriage Artist and The Color Midnight Made. A recipient of a NEA Fellowship in Fiction, he occasionally writers about artists, composer, thinkers and other writers. He is working on a new novel about religion and politics. He is the Chair of the Creative Writing department at the University of California, Riverside.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Time for some writing…

on your mark, get set, go!



by Kari Hawkey

Make a list of at least 10 wishes you have for another person.  My favorite ‘wish’ poem is by the late, great Lucille Clifton, “wishes for sons”. (You can find the poem at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15601.  It is hilarious.)  Hopefully Lucille has provided some great inspiration.  Now, write a poem about your wishes.



by Redd Williams

You are at a used bookstore, browsing. Describe the shelves, are they tidy, messy, over stacked? What section draws your attention? What goodies do you find there? Describe the books, are they yellowed and dog-eared? Or are the spines barely cracked and still have white pages? Also, describe the shopkeeper and mention two quirky things about the place. For example, there is a place in San Diego that has a cat that lives in the store.



by Lizi Gilad

“I grew up in a house where the only regular guests were my relations.  On a certain day, enormous families of relatives would visit us, and there would be so many people that the noise and bodies would spill out to the backyard and onto the front porch.  Then for weeks no one would come.”  –Richard Rodriguez, from Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood

Do you invite guests to your home?  Do you enjoy hosting?  Do you enjoy being a guest in another home?  Do you prefer to be alone?  Write a page describing your most recent experience of having guests over or of being a guest.



by Kari Hawkey

If you are currently working on a project, take your protagonist and put him or her in bed with their foil (both in personality and in physical appearance).  Write a scene in which both characters are either very satisfied with the outcomes – or it is a complete disaster.  Have fun… and the dirtier the better!


Writing is easy: 

All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper

until drops of blood form on your forehead.  

~ Gene Fowler 


The Place Beyond the Pines-Review

Written By: Jenn-Anne Gledhill

Pines1Before watching “The Place Beyond the Pines,” I saw the trailer for the Ron Howard film, “Rush.” And in it, I was shown all the major plot points all the way up to the fourth act. It baffles me when trailers do that. When I know what’s coming, I’m all antsy-bored until I get past “been there, seen that.”

I say this because, as it turns out, the trailer for “The Place Beyond the Pines,” gave away almost nothing about this story. In fact, I could even make a case that the trailer kind of misled me. But it was a delicious feeling to be brought around turn after unexpected turn in this film.

So how do I review something without giving away any of the same secrets that were held from me? With a list, of course!

  1. Top ten things you need to know from me about “The Land Beyond the Pines.”The title comes from the meaning of the word “Schenectady,” the name of the town. This might not the best title for this film. Because of that title, for two full seconds I erroneously thought things might turn supernatural.
  2. Ryan Gosling was made to be a movie star.
  3. The entire film is shot to look a little like those “flashback” sequences in crime dramas.
  4. Get ready for a lot of extreme close ups. No, I mean it. A LOT.
  5. This story is ambitious.
  6. This story might be ambitious to a fault. Leaving the theater, I Googled to see if maybe it was an adaptation of a book. It felt like it was trying to capture pages of prose with camera work and long, heavy pauses in the dialogue.
  7. There are three story lines in this film, and Luke’s story line is the most engaging. The rest of the characters never catch up with Luke’s heart. I felt most invested in his story, and understood completely his soul’s trajectory from the inside out.
  8. I forget what 8 was for. (Sorry. I promise I will never do that again…)
  9. I didn’t sense any Cat Saving or screenwriting structure software behind this. It was too big.  I’m sure someone could prove me wrong, but it just felt more like a novel than a standard, three act screenplay.
  10. I am not sure I learned anything about myself in this film, no more than I would after an episode of CSI. It ran a little long for my tastes, but was a satisfying experience. Oh, and there’s this: after being in an MFA program for a year and a half, for the first time ever, I can now pull a quote from a book to describe the essence of this film. It is from “Hippies,” by Denis Johnson: “Thirty years go by, and the moved we made just keep bringing this old stuff rolling over us.”


Blast from the Past

Written By: John RosenbergOriginally Published FEB• 13•12

The other day some friends and I were comparing favorite movie lists, something that can range up to a hundred, considering all the excellent films that have been made over the decades of this still young art form. The Writer’s Guild has its list of 101 best screenplays and the AFI has its list of the hundred best films. But for brevity, I’ll limit my list to ten. And next week it might change.

For now, here it is:

Lawrence of Arabia
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Bicycle Thief
The Graduate
East of Eden
Dr. Strangelove
Midnight Cowboy
8 ½
The Matrix

I noticed there’s not Brando or Spielberg film on the list. For those I would add One Eyed Jacks (Brando) and Schindler’s List (Spielberg).

Now, I’d like to hear yours.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

Prompt your writing… 

on your mark, get set, go!



by Kari Hawkey

Liar, liar, pants on fire, hanging on a telephone wire! Write a poem about yourself in which absolutely nothing is the truth.



by Redd Williams

Write about a family picnic. Where is it? Who is there? Get creative and don’t be afraid to allow the family to be ‘dysfunctional’.



by Lizi Gilad

“To be born has many meanings.  How many times we leave a life, enter a new one.”     –Lidia Yuknavitch

Think about all the different incarnations of your life; perhaps you’ve moved to a different country, perhaps your home has gone into foreclosure, perhaps you’re learning how to live without a beloved, or perhaps you’ve started a business.  Write a page describing the life you’ve most recently entered and a page describing your old life.  If you have not entered a new life within the last five years, write a page envisioning the life you’d like to enter next.



by Kari Hawkey 

Time to eavesdrop.  You assignment this week is to grab something to write with (a notebook, your iPhone, or even your laptop), head to a public location, and listen in on and record other people’s conversations.  Write down what is being said word for word.  Soon you will notice patterns, colloquialisms, and other factors that could make your screenplay seem more relatable or interesting.  This can also make for some strange inspiration for your scenes.  Best places to eavesdrop:  a bar, restaurant, nail or hair salon, waiting rooms, Disneyland lines, the food court at the mall, front office of a school, grocery store.  I find that if you use your cell phone you can pretend you are text messaging or emailing someone and it seems less like you are some crazy stalker.  Have fun listening in…


The difference between the almost right word

and the right word is really a large matter –

it’s the difference between

the lightning bug and the lightning. 

~ Mark Twain





Blast from the Past

Triage in the Editing Room
Written By: John RosenbergOriginally Published MAR• 19•12

The other day I was asked to speak at the Los Angeles Post Production Group, an organization of dedicated production and post-production professionals run by two Wendy and Woody Woodhall. The topic was “Triage in the Editing Room.” I had a list of basic emergency procedures that can be employed to diagnose and treat an ailing movie. I expected to go down the list illuminating each topic and giving examples. But the discussion took a turn of its own and developed organically in other directions as well.

To begin the presentation I asked the audience what they felt were the most important aspects that one needed to deal with when putting a film together. Most agreed that supporting the story was the most important part, with character, structure and tone close behind. Now generally I agree with the story answer since storytelling is what we’re all about, but unexpectedly another response shot into my mind. “What about pace and rhythm?”

It struck me that editors have propriety over that one realm that no one else can touch. I’ve discussed this in my book The Healthy Edit, but it occurred to me that most films that I was involved in re-cutting already had the story pretty well worked out. They did start with a script, after all, and even if the script had flaws it was basically not going to change too much – though there have been exceptions! In many cases it may have been necessary to re-structure things a bit, move a few shots and scenes around, but time and again what it often came down to was fixing the film’s pacing. Some movies are cut too fast that the emotion is lost or they become confusing. Others are too plodding and drawn out.

What the editor can do, which no one else can (I’m including the director with the editor at this stage, since they’re often working together to re-shape things) is alter the pace and rhythm. But what is pace and rhythm? Certainly a concept which I found elusive for many years, not only elusive but secondary. I generally found myself concentrating on the story. But pace and rhythm are directly affected by the Editing Triangle, selection – length – juxtaposition. Pace is influenced by the length of shots and the action within those shots while rhythm (or pattern) comes from the juxtaposition of shots. Paying attention to these aspects becomes highly beneficial to the film’s outcome.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

It’s that time again…

on your mark, get set, go! 



by Kari Hawkey

Write a poem about your shadow.  Webster’s defines it as “partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body.” How does your shadow change and what does it look like in different situations, against different textures, or at different times during the day?  Do you imagine what it would be like without a shadow?

If you need inspiration, go to:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171951 and read the poem “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson.



by Redd Williams

Describe your fifth birthday party.  Use your five senses.  Did you get what you wanted?  Did your parents hire a creepy clown?  (I remember I got a set of roller skates that snapped on over my shoes)  If you don’t remember, make it up.



by Lizi Gilad

One of the real tests of writers is how well they write about smells. If they can’t describe the scent of sanctity in a church, can you trust them to describe the suburbs of the heart?     – Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

On the left side of your paper make a list of ten nouns; for example: “winter”, “summer”, “childhood home”, “lover’s neck”, “top of daughter’s head”, etc. On the right side following each noun, challenge yourself to write specific scent descriptions for each one (Ackerman compares the scent of violets to sugar cubes dipped in lemon and velvet). Do your scent descriptions earn you a satisfactory grade on Ackerman’s ultimate test for writers?



by Ross Helford 

Breathing Life Into Your Characters

Because of the structural rigors of a screenplay, we often lose sight of our characters, and they run the risk of becoming walking talking robots whose only purpose is to further the plot.  One of my first writing assignments was an original movie for the network formerly known as Sci-fi.  As I was finishing up the second act and preparing for an action-packed Act III gore-splosion, I realized all my characters sucked; they were one-dimensional automatons alternately running down corridors, firing guns and screaming in agony. Compounding matters, there wasn’t a single line of dialogue that did anything more than explain what was happening in the story. 

At this point I dug out an exercise I had first been given in a 200-level fiction class in college: “What Do You Know About Your Characters?”  Doing this exercise 2/3 of the way through my sci-fi script deepened my characters and improved the overall narrative, and it has proven a useful tool in subsequent projects over the years.

So, now it’s your turn: try using the “What Do You Know?” character exercise at different stages of your script.  The exercise I used was from a book called What If?  Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.  But you can pretty much find exercises just like it by doing a Google search, or hell, you’re all good writers, why not create your own?  Just fill in 30-40 details about your character (name, age, occupation, flaws, fears, superstitions, favorite food, taste in music, etc.).  This exercise can be helpful during the treatment stage, or during a point in the writing when you get stuck in the story, or even once you’ve finished an early draft.


Every author in some way portrays himself

in his works even if it be against his will.

~ Goethe 


Behind the Story-Wendy C. Ortiz

Written By: Ashley Reynolds

555454_10151221189756190_1098442972_n (2)Wendy C. Ortiz was recently published in The Coachella Review for her story “Listen.” “Listen” is a non-fiction piece about how music influenced her life as a young girl. Wendy is a marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles. Her other publications include The New York Times’ Modern Love column, Specter: A Brooklyn-based Art Journal, and PANK. Wendy also co-founded and curates the Rhapsodomancy Reading Series (www.rhapsodomancy.org).

What inspired you to write “Listen?”

My consciousness is often completely invaded by song lyrics. Most of the time I actually prefer silence so the songs in my head can play themselves out and reveal things to me. My favorite place to listen to music, though, is in the car, and I use my radio occasionally as a kind of oracle for questions I have. The answers are often in whatever song comes on the radio at the particular time I ask a question. Song lyrics still leave their mark on me, sometimes in a way I don’t like, that make the song difficult to hear again over time because they bring up so much emotion in the space of two minutes as they play. So: this story comes from an amalgamation of memories I’ve had where song lyrics imprinted themselves on me in a particular way I wanted to explore in an essay form.

When was the first time that you realized you were a writer?

I realized I was a writer during all my childhood visits to the Panorama City branch library in the San Fernando Valley–my destination every Saturday with my father. I brought home stacks of books, read them, then wrote my own stories. My mother photocopied my first zine when I was in second grade, and I tried selling the zines at school for a quarter each. Then there are the moments when other people realize you’re a writer and that somehow cements the secret feeling you’d had–I credit teachers from first grade (the place I wrote my first ghost story) through sixth grade (where I won a ribbon for a poem) and junior high who helped reinforce my realization that I was and am a writer. I felt like I really came out as a writer with the help of a community college fiction instructor who urged me to enter a story I wrote into an English department contest. When I won, I thought, This is it. I’m a writer. Now I can see it was one of many arrivals into that realization.

What do you do in your free time that contributes the most to your writing?

Read. Read read read. And read. And think. In solitude, when I have it. But mostly: read.

What person inspires you the most? Why?

My friend, mentor, and the first Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Eloise Klein Healy. Since I met her 13 years ago, I’ve watched, studied, and admired her way of being in the world. Eloise elicits the best in other people, is generous with her teaching and mentoring, and basically operates personally and professionally with an extraordinary amount of integrity.

What was the best advice that you received?

Tara Ison, friend and author, has offered me the advice I call upon the most: “A thoroughbred runs her own race.” She got it from an old television show with Marlo Thomas. It’s simple, succinct, and reminds me to quiet all the other voices in my head and get to work. Tara also offered me a similar maxim: “Tend your own garden.” This is for when it’s time to stop looking at all the other gardens with a mixture of wonder and envy. Get in the dirt in front of you and work it.

Blast from the Past

The State of the Short Story: A Quick Chat with Josh Rolnick
Written By: Cynthia Romanowski – Originally Published JAN• 18•12

I have mixed feeling about going to readings. Every month it seems like there are at least 2-3 readings around Los Angeles that I hear about. Though I dutifully mark my calendar and most times fully intend to attend them, more often than not when the day finally rolls around I’m either tired (I live in OC so it’s kind of a trek) or I go into social anxiety mode and get nervous just thinking about being around people and having to be friendly and attempt to “mingle,” so usually I choose to stay in the dark cave that is my apartment. Dani Shapiro actually has an excellent blog post that gets into this…

But at the same time, if a reading is good–if the writing captures and whisks me away for a while (mitigating said social awkwardness)– I feel like there is nothing is more invigorating. As a writer, a great reading is like a B-12 vitamin for motivation, especially if I’m in a slump. And it often reminds me why I write, why I spend all this time struggling to create these stories, it’s about that connection. That shared emotional experience and understanding that comes from a well-crafted piece of prose.

Back in September, I attended a reading that had just that effect, it was at Skylight Books in Los Feliz and Edan Lepucki was reading with Josh Rolnick who was reading from his new short story collection “Pulp and Paper.” After the reading they interviewed each other briefly (they both went to Iowa for their MFA’s) and what stood out to me was what Josh had to say about his experience as a short story writer in today’s market.

So just in case you missed the reading for geographical reasons or if you decided to stay in the cave like I so often do, I went ahead and sent Josh some questions to try and re-invent the evening a bit (for full effect you’ll have to pick up his book and Edan’s novella).

Here’s what he had to say:

1)    Your new book “Pulp and Paper” is a debut collection of short stories that all take place in Brooklyn, first off how long have you been working on this collection? Are any of these stories ones that you worked on at Iowa?

Well, a slight correction. I currently live in Brooklyn. The stories are in fact divided equally between New Jersey and New York state. But they range all across the two states. They are set in the suburbs and in the city; at the Shore and in the mountains. My hope is that the settings give a sense of the rich geographic diversity of the neighboring states.

There is one story set in Brooklyn: “The Carousel.” This story is about an aging carousel operator who sees the modern world kind of passing him by. But it’s the only one set in New York City.

I started writing the stories in this collection 13 years ago. That’s when I enrolled in the part-time fiction writing program at Johns Hopkins and wrote the first few lines of “Mainlanders.” It might seem like a simple, relatively straightforward coming-of-age story, but “Mainlanders” actually took me 13 years to complete – I finished it in early 2011, as I was preparing my manuscript for publication.

I would say that I have been working more intensely on the book for the past 6 or 7 years – since I enrolled in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Most of the stories took at least 2 years to write; usually, much longer. My writing process has never been a quick one; my stories, to paraphrase John Steinbeck, tend to crawl onto the page. It’s a process of writing, revising, showing the work to readers, and then repeating the process, and it usually takes me several months before I even know what the story is really about.

I started half of the stories in the collection (“Innkeeping,” “Mainlanders,” “Big Lake,” “Carousel”) at Johns Hopkins, before I got to Iowa. Four (“Funnyboy,” “Big River,” “Pulp and Paper,” “The Herald”) were started at Iowa. I actually find that it’s easier sometimes to write about a place once you leave it – and it works its way into your imagination – so who knows, maybe the next thing I write will be set in Iowa City.

2)   That was going to be my next question!  …Since you’ve moved around the country a lot and lived in many different places, do you think it’s easier to write about a place while you’re living there or once you’ve gotten away from it for a while?

Ah – see above. Robert Olen Butler, a writer I admire greatly, talked about the importance of “forgetting” for fiction writers. He tells a great story. After he got out of the Vietnam War, he wrote a book set in Vietnam that was, as he tells it, not very good. Years later, after he “forgot” the details of life in Vietnam to some extent – and his imagination and subconscious mind took over – he wrote another book about Vietnam. That book is the short story collection “Good Scent From a Strange Mountain” – which won the Pulitzer Prize.

I do think there’s something to this. When we live in a place, it sometimes fails to inspire us or become grist for our imagination. It’s just “home” – the place we pay bills and take out the trash and ride to work in traffic. Once we leave, though, it’s as if the dimensions of the place expand. It’s not constrained anymore by familiarity. We are able to “see” things we never saw when we lived there – the falling down barn on the side of the field that we passed umpteen times on the way to work but never really looked at; that mysterious guy with the scraggily hair who was always circling classifieds in the coffee shop; the sound of the train horn after midnight on the tracks you’d almost forgotten were in the woods behind your home. It’s as if imagination is freer to take over – and you can therefore better appreciate the limitlessness of a place — once you’ve moved on.

There are I’m sure a million exceptions to this rule. Many, many people do write about where they live. In my case, I’ve always been more drawn to places I’ve left.

3)    Can you talk a little bit about your experience as a short story writer in today’s publishing market, which seems to be primarily interested in novels/novelists? I know you have a great anecdote about a novel you once conjured on the spot to an interested agent…

That’s true. When I was in Iowa, agents used to come to meet with students. I really appreciated those visits – it was a great chance to learn more about how the industry worked. The thing was, most of the agents were not ultimately interested in representing me, because I was working on a book of stories – not a novel. Inevitably, in our conversations, we’d get to a point where they’d say: “I really like your stories … are you working on a novel?” Which can get frustrating over time.

In one of my meetings, when an agent got around to asking me if I was working on a novel, I decided – what have I got to lose? I told her that in fact, yes, I was working on a novel. She wanted details. So I started making them up on the spot. I told her I was working on a book set on the Jersey Shore in the time before the Coast Guard. I knew from research I’d done for a short story that they used to have these things called “Saving Stations” – shacks along the beach manned by locals who would keep watch during a storm; if they spotted a foundering ship, they’d row out to try to rescue people. I told her my novel was about a shipwreck in a terrible storm, a love story about a young saving station tough and the girl he saves in the surf. The problem was – I hadn’t written a single word.

She looked at me across a big wooden table. I was all-but-certain I’d ruined my career as a writer before it’d even started. That’s when she smiled and said: “I love it!” She was ready to represent me on the spot.

This story aside, I really have had a lot of good fortune in my career as a story writer. Six of the eight short stories that appear in “Pulp and Paper” were first published in literary journals – from The Harvard Review to Arts & Letters – and two of those won national fiction awards. I find writing and submitting short stories for publication a great way for young writers to get their work in front of editors and, if they’re lucky, even a few readers.

I should say – now that my collection of short stories has been published, I’ve seen a very different side of the industry. I was very fortunate that my collection won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award – which comes with publication by the University of Iowa Press. Since my book came out in October, I have travelled the country on a book tour, reading mostly at independent bookstores, and have found people incredibly receptive to the short story form. All told, more than 600 people came out to my readings – nearly 20 events. It may be true that short story collections don’t sell as well as novels – but it’s also true that there are still a lot of people interested in reading short stories and exposing themselves to the form.

4)    What is it about short fiction that appeals to you as a writer as opposed to a longer narrative structure?

In the introduction to the 1997 edition of The Best American Short Stories, Annie Proulx writes that stories have “a trimmed, useful tautness implying a function for the reader beyond entertainment.” She continues: “We accept the idea that there is some nugget of embedded truth in a short story.” This is exactly why I love short stories. It’s emotion achieved through compression. It’s almost as if the author is saying to the reader: See these five pages? This is all there is. This is all you need to know about this particular person’s life, in order to “get” what I’m trying to convey. Nail down the furniture. A cyclone’s coming through.

One of my all-time-favorite short stories is “The Wig” by Brady Udall. It’s five paragraphs long – less than a page. It’s about an 8-year-old boy who finds a wig in a dumpster and puts it on. His dad tells him to take it off, but the boy ignores him, munching his breakfast cereal. The dad suddenly remembers a moment “real or imagined” from “before the accident”: his wife, her hair slightly darker than the wig, sitting in that same chair where his son sits, reading the paper to see how the Blackhawks did. He walks over, picks up his son, holds him against his chest, puts his nose to the wig. His son hugs him, “and for maybe a few seconds we were together again, the three of us.” It’s a devastating moment, suffused with loss and yearning. That dad might be 40-something-years old – but we don’t need 40 years of his life; we don’t need to know the wrong or right turns he took in his life, who his ancestors were or what ship they came over in; the only thing we need to know to understand him in that moment can be conveyed in one short scene, just a few hundred words. It’s like a swift, hard punch to the gut. Any longer, and it would lose some of its beauty and power.

This is what I love about short stories. This payoff. The way the best stories can show us, to paraphrase Anne Lamott, the ways in which we take care of one another. And also let us feel it.

5)    Can you talk about how you approach fiction vs. your work as a journalist, do these different areas inform one another in any way?

Sure – they are totally different. When I write nonfiction, say a magazine piece, I’ve got my materials around me – interview questions, quotes, facts, background – and a vague sense of how it might all come together in a way that makes sense for a reader.

When I sit down to write fiction, I have absolutely no idea where I’m going or what I’m going to be writing about. I may start with an image, or a scent, or a line of dialogue. I have no outline. I have not done any research. My aim is to tap into my imagination — the dream-space, as Robert Olen Butler calls it – to learn what it is that I’m supposed to be saying. I’m trying to find characters that seem real to me, and learn who they are, what they want, and why. The minute I start to try to “steer” my characters with my conscious mind, the stories go off the rails. If my characters can surprise me, that tells me I’m on to something.

A big part of my education as a writer was simply learning that many writers approach their work this way. Michael Ondaatje talks about how when he wrote the “English Patient,” he didn’t have “any sure sense of what’s happening or even what’s going to happen.” Similarly, E.L. Doctorow says that writing a novel is like driving across country at night – you can only see as far as the front of your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. I take the same approach – writing fiction is for me an act of discovery in a way that journalism never was.

6)    What are you currently working on?

Ah – that’s the 60 million dollar question these days. My book came out in October, and I have been on a book tour ever since. After a decade or so writing it, I felt I needed to work full-time on getting “Pulp and Paper” out there – into the hands of readers, since that is in the end the whole point. Now that my tour is winding down, I will be going to work on a novel.

It’s too early to say what it’s going to be about yet. I’m just getting into the car and flipping the headlights on. Come back to me in six months or so, and I’ll let you know where I’ve been.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

Well, write already…

on your mark, get set, go!



by Kari Hawkey

Generate a list of 7 random nouns and then write at least two words that rhyme with them (or slant rhyme) – the more random and unrelated the better.  Use these words to create couplets and make sense of them in a poem.



by Redd Williams

Write about discovering a stray animal: dog, cat, horse, dragon, platypus, etc.  Would your character keep the animal, find a home for it, take it to a shelter, or get sucked in on an adventure?  If your character keeps the animal, give it a name and an odd ability: laser eyes, ESP, speech, the Midas touch, etc.  Be creative!



by Lizi Gilad

In Charles Simic’s memoir, A Fly in the Soup, the poet and essayist claims “one could compose an autobiography mentioning every memorable meal in one’s life, and it would probably make better reading than what one ordinarily gets”.  He continues this claim with a question: “Honestly, what would you rather have, the description of a first kiss or a stuffed cabbage done to perfection?”  Write one page describing your first kiss and one page describing your most memorable meal.  Utilize all your senses to bring each memory to life and when you’ve finished, decide which page makes for better reading.



by Ross Helford



Blast from the Past

Redd’s Writing Kit
Written By: Redd Williams – Originally published JAN• 05•12

Nameless Characters

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 2.2). If you are stuck on naming a character in your short story, or novel, try this: Don’t Name Them. In fact, throwout all names that are unnecessary. Names tend to clutter up prose sometimes, and omitting them may offer a way to detangle the sentences so that other areas of craft can be focused on; like rhythm, dialogue, and imagery. (There are of course other craft elements you can focus on too). Let’s look at an example. I’m going to talk about A Wild Sheep Chase . None of the characters in the novel, by Haruki Murakami, have proper names.

The Nameless

The characters are nameless. Well, we must assume that they do have proper names, but the narrator chooses to use other identifiers to refer to people, like” my girlfriend”, “ my wife”, “my business partner”… and so on. This lack of identification in the normal sense names, like Sally and Roderick, is a direct representation of the inner identity crises the narrator is dealing with: Who is he now that his wife is no longer his wife?

The Narrator is a thirty-something that co-owns an advertisement business with his friend. His friend is an alcoholic, who had been described once as a ‘regular guy’. “Even so, I knew full well that after sunset he became not quite regular, and he himself knew it too”(54). This is a rather unique identifier for his friend who is not-so-regular, though the friend’s irregularity is not mentioned. The narrator has a girlfriend, simply called “my girlfriend” and all the reader knows about her is that she is an ear model, a call girl and a proofreader. She has different notions of her identity: “Iam my ears, my ears are me” (31). In truth, she had excellent ears and often she would be able to sense things with them. He had a wife, who was referred to as “my wife”… even after the divorce, the narrator still calls this woman his “wife”.

The Named

A few characters are called something other than “my girlfriend”, “the boss” and so on. When I say there aren’t any names, I was referring to proper names, as in Sally Hannister or Tony Collins. That sort. There are a few characters in the novel that have nicknames. One of the friends of the narrator goes by the name of The Rat. The reason for this name is unknown and the reader doesn’t actually get to meet this character in a real life. We, the readers, meet The Rat in letters and as a ghost near the end of the book… he never truly exists as a living breathing entity… he’s an idea and a driving force for the novel. The next character with a name is J, short for something unknown, who owns a bar and is a link to the narrator’s adolescence in his home town and also to The Rat. There are two more human—well humanoid, characters with nicknames: There is the Sheep Professor and the Sheep Man.

The Sheep Professor holds some keys to the search for the sheep, as having been a host for the strange phenomena in the past. “‘And what did it feel like to have this sheep in your body?’ ‘Nothing special, really. It just felt like there was this sheep inside me. I felt it in the morning. I woke up and there was this sheep inside me. A perfectly natural feeling’” (221). The sheep left the Sheep Professor with emptiness much like the emptiness the narrator felt when his wife left him. In this case, however, the marriage was of spirits.

The Sheep Man was a character that had escaped the draft by donning a sheep costume and running into the hills. He became a sheep in a sense and has no issues with his identity. He was a man and a sheep.
The only creature in the novel to actually receive a proper name was the narrator’s cat, “Kipper”. The narrator hadn’t given him a name before and allowed the chauffer to name him. “I had no idea whether not having a name reduced or contributed to the cat’s tragedy” (178).

Names Have Power

The absence of names, as a craft aspect, is rather convenient. Now it is easy to keep track of the characters. Murakami makes the reader aware of a character only as they become relevant to the story. There aren’t any cluttered or crowded drawing rooms full of people to keep track of. I rather like the absence of names in that it clears everything up and moves the narration along quite gracefully. I know the chauffeur is the chauffeur, I am not confused on whether his name is Bob or Robert or anything else that can confuse me with another character. He wears a hat, a suit and drives the limo, which is all he needs to do. However, there is a problem with the absence of names. A narrator specifically avoids using them, which can be seen as a sense of dehumanizing his relationships. The fact that the oddest characters are given nicknames is a reflection of their animalistic tendencies. The Rat, the Sheep Professor, the Sheep Man and Kipper all exist with names and their associations to being devoid of human character traits. They are elevated above the humans of the narrator’s world because they are given some sort of name, be that it might not be what they wish to call themselves. Why would Murakami take away the humanity of the narrator and give them to people and things that hardly have any real emotional relationship to him? Perhaps the narrator has an issue with his humanity and his world in general, though the issue of it is never addressed. It is left to speculation.

Humanity: What’s It Worth?

I was clued in to the issue of the narrator’s fight with humanity with the following quote: “One of these days they’ll be making a film where the whole human race gets wiped out in a nuclear war, but everything works out in the end. I switched off the television, climbed into bed and was asleep in ten seconds” (113). This book was published after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is set in the late 1970’s. I think the narrator is commenting on how Japanese society has accepted that the United States disintegrated two cities and their denizens, and in fact, carries on a beautiful relationship with the United States in general. Everything works out in the end, especially for the Americans and the Japanese government. I believe that the narrator is ticked off with everyone, with the world, and hopes that there won’t be any survivors of a nuclear war, which would make the planet a nuclear wasteland that would eradicate the evidence that sentient life had ever existed. Everything works out in the end, for him. He’d be dead. So would everyone else.

Existing is Hard Enough

At the end of the novel, the narrator finds the sheep, finds The Rat, completes his mission, loses his girlfriend and decides to not return home. He instead, reinvents himself as a co-owner of J’s bar and returns to who he was before he became lost in the chaos of adult life and marriage. “I walked along the river to its mouth. I sat down on the last fifty yards of beach, and I cried…. The day had all but ended. I could hear the sound of waves as I started to walk” (353).

Writer’s Kit:

I want to conclude this blog with a  tool that helps me with developing characters.  You, of course, don’t have to go nameless. This article is about one way to go about constructing prose.  When I get stuck on a character’s name, or if I want to change a name, I think hard about what letter I want the name to start with, then I checkout baby name websites under that letter I had designated  . Some of my favorite websites are: http://www.babynames.com/, http://www.thinkbabynames.com/

and http://www.parents.com/baby-names/.  It also helps to have a baby-name book in your library, just in case your internet fails while you are busy writing (this usually happens to me).


Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

Time to get a move on…

on your mark, get set, go! 



by Kari Hawkey 

Write a poem about your favorite or least favorite childhood memory.  Be honest. 



by Cynthia Romanowski

Make a list of 50 possible ways to kill off your protagonist (and/or antagonist). Pick your favorite one and spend 20 minutes writing that scene.  (Extra points if it’s gruesome and fucked-up and somehow reveals something about the character you were not yet aware of.) 


Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. 

-William Wordsworth



Written By: Jenn-Anne Gledhill

Admission (1)So in “Admission,” Tina Fey plays a boring admission counselor recruiting for boring Princeton University, and she’s been in a long term relationship with a boring guy who tells the neighbor lady that she should know better than to ask Tina to babysit because Tina hates kids which seems pretty obvious because they are standing by the door screaming for no reason other than to show us she has no “skillz with the kidz,” and so we begin to think that this is going to be about her learning to love kids in time to  start a family, but then while her boss is announcing that he is retiring, and the race to inherit his job is on between her and a woman who looks oddly similar to  SNL alumni Maya Rudolph,  Tina gets a phone call from a guy (Paul Rudd) who went to Dartmouth when she did, and he is calling to say that this new “developmental high school” wants her to visit, and when she does, all the students think she’s snooty, all except for one kid who is odd and bizarre and is perhaps on the brilliant side of the spectrum (I’m giving that character a LOT of credit with these words, as I honestly don’t know what the deal was with him as he was painted with a super wide “bizarre genius” paintbrush) and then Tina Fey’s character kisses the Paul Rudd character which seems to come out of nowhere since Tina is using her standard asexual Liz Lemon acting kit, (I suspect unintentionally, but apparently without a glamorous stylist her haircut is rather butch)  but then her boyfriend leaves her at a dinner party and we get more bad acting and mad-weak physical humor from Tina in a pantry when the shelves come a’tumbling down,  but then it gets all psychodrama when we learn that her Mom is this uber-feminist whose cheap “new tits” joke confuses things even more, so we start thinking,  “Oh, this must be about making peace with her Mom, Lily Tomlin, and wait a minute, I thought this movie was starting to suck but Lily Tomlin is in it, too, so I’m going to look at it through new eyes: give it another chance,” but then Paul Rudd says that Tina is the biological mother of the badly drawn Rainman boy, and then Paul smashes a beloved ceramic elephant statue on the floor to show his adopted son from Uganda that he loves the boy even  more than he loves  the statue, but Tina Fey can’t really get a proper perspective on all this because she keeps running into her ex all over the campus, and his reactions to her are as out of place as the students falling through trap doors and doing backbends on her desk,  but Tina Lemon doesn’t really have time to sort all that out because she has to convince Princeton to accept her son who does a painful Descartes ventriloquist act, and in desperation (guilt? Redemption? Closure?) Tina finally takes matters into her own hands and  busts into the records offices at Princteon after cutting her Bonsai tree bald in a symbolic gesture as unsubtle as the title’s double meaning and then…well I don’t want to give away the ending.

You know what? Just skip this one all together.

But you all knew that, right?  Well, a deadline’s a deadline, and my sister visiting from Florida didn’t want to see “The Croods.”  Family first! See you in two weeks…


Summer Writing Workshops

Written By: Kari Hawkey, Poetry Editor for “The Coachella Review”

If you are currently enrolled in an MFA program, you may have enough writing assignments to process and keep you busy. But what happens when you graduate? Will you continue on your own with your writing regimen and stay productive? What happens when you don’t have a professor lighting that creative flame under your ass? If you need some direction or seem to have lost your way that is when participating in a writer’s workshop may be the solution.

This summer there are plenty of workshops to choose from in various genres located across the states as well as overseas. (I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain my third scholarship to attend the “Poetry Camp” at Idyllwild Arts Summer Academy with Ed Skoog and David St. John this summer. Last year, I was granted a scholarship to attend the “Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference. I highly recommend them both!)

You can never get enough feedback on your work, so here are a few workshops you may want to consider:

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

Idyllwild Arts Summer Academy
July 16-20

GENRES: Fiction, Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, Poetry Camp

Idyllwild ARTS
52500 Temecula Rd
Idyllwild, California 92549-0038
(951) 659-2171 x2365
Tuition: ~ $680


~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

Santa Barbara Writers Conference
June 8-13

GENRES: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Screenwriting

Santa Barbara Writers Conference
27 West Anapamu Street, Suite 305
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Tuition: ~ $550


~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

The University of Iowa – Iowa Summer Writing Festival
June through July

GENRES: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Playwriting, Screenwriting, Writing for Children, Genre-Benders, and Fantasy/Science Fiction

Iowa Summer Writing Festival
The University of Iowa
C215 Seashore Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242
(319) 335-4160
Tuition: from $350 – $1210


~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

Squaw Valley Community of Writers
June 22 – 29, 2013 – July 8 – 15, 2013 – July 8 – 15, 2013

GENRES: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, Screenwriting

PO Box 1416
Nevada City, California 95959
(530) 470-8440
Tuition: ~ $840


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Sarah Lawrence Summer Writers Seminar for Adults
June 23–28, 2013

GENRES: Fiction, Nonfiction, Graphic Novel, YA Novel, Poetry

1 Mead Way, Bronxville, NY 10708
(914) 337-0700
Tuition: ~ $800


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Sarah Lawrence College and the International Film Institute of New York Summer Film Intensive
June 30 – August 3, 2013

1 Mead Way, Bronxville, NY 10708
(914) 337-0700
Tuition: ~ $3,750


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Tin House Summer Writers Workshop
July 14-21

GENRES: Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction/Memoir

Reed College
Portland, Oregon
Tuition: ~ $1100


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Stony Brook Southampton Arts Creative Writing Workshops
July 10-14, July 17- 28

GENRES: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Children’s Literature, Playwriting, and Screenwriting

239 Montauk Highway
Southampton, NY 11968
Tuition, Room and Board:
$1655 to $2595


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Napa Valley Writer’s Conference
July 28-August 2

GENRES: Poetry and Fiction

1088 College Ave.
St. Helena, CA 95474
(707) 967-2900 x 1611
Tuition: ~ $900


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Northwestern Summer Writers’ Conference
August 1-3

GENRES: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Memoir, Children’s Literature, Playwriting and Screenwriting

Northwestern University
339 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(847) 491-3458
Tuition: from $250 to $675


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Mendocino Coast Writers Conference
July 25 – 27

GENRES: Memoir, Creative Nonfiction, Novel, Poetry and Short Story

College of the Redwoods
1211 Del Mar Drive
Fort Bragg, California
(707) 937-9983
Tuition: ~ $525


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Writing the Rockies
Gunnison Creative Writers Workshop – Western State College of Colorado
July 26-29

GENRES: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Screenwriting

Western State College
Gunnison, CO 81231
(970) 943-2885
Tuition: ~ $295


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West Chester University Poetry Conference
June 5-8, 2013

GENRE: Poetry

WCU Poetry Center
Poetry House
West Chester, PA 19383
(610) 436-3235
Tuition: ~ $1000


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Paris Writing Workshop
July 1-28, 2013

GENRES: Fiction, Poetry, Travel Writing, Memoir, Personal Essay, Journal Writing, Presentation and Performance

The Paris American Academy
275 Rue Saint-Jacques 75005 Paris
01 44 41 99 20
Tuition: ~ $3700


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If you want more information… check out:

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

Why not try one of these on for size… on your mark, get set, go!



by Kari Hawkey

Write a poem about the last meal you ate.

Who were you with?  Did you meet a friend?  Were you alone?  Did the food give you indigestion?  What did you wish you ate instead?  Did you have a drink?  Was your meal sad and microwaved?  Was it fast food?  Or, was it ethnic, healthy, organic, Vegan, etc.?  Did you go to a chain restaurant?  Was the waiter/waitress rude?  Describe more than just the food.



by Cynthia Romanowski

Make a list of names for every person you have ever dated/tried to date/slept with and write a two-line description of who they are, what they look like, and where it all went wrong. Example: Bobby Barker, high school wrestling team captain with cauliflower ears and constant gym shorts smell wafting off him, I’m pretty sure he was into dudes. (Extra points if you don’t feel depressed after this exercise.)


You must stay drunk on writing

so reality cannot destroy you.

~Ray Bradbury


Oz the Great and Powerful–Review

Written By: Jenn-Anne Gledhill

OZQuestion: What does Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz, James Franco, Disney, and a talking monkey have in common?

Answer: Apparently, not much.

“OZ. the Great and Powerful.”  Is Disney’s treatment of Frank Baum’s “Not The Wizard of Oz.”  The IMDB plot description keeps it simple: “A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.” Good enough.  We already know the dealio about Oz, right?


Let’s just start with something simple: don’t go see this unless you see it in 3-D. Long windows of time crawl by as giant, brightly  colored flowers open up slowly to introduce to us  this crayyyyzy new land of Oz.  Without the  3D enhancement, it feels like all of a sudden, and without warning,  Disney has pacing issues .

(From my perspective, Disney did “suddenly” have an unusual struggle. The Mouse in my opinion, is “The King of the World-building!” . I fell in  love with Walt Disney, hard core, at the age of ten for this this magical ability to sell us new, fully functional worlds. He is one of the reasons I write. But, as this slightly predictable landscape of Oz unfolded, all I could think was that the Judy Garland/MGM/non-CGI Wizard of Oz was more creative than what I was seeing on this colossal movie screen. For any other studio, I would give them a pass. But I won’t give Disney a pass on failing to transform the space in front of my eyes into something altogether new,  and believable, and visually delicious…)

Now, about the script.  

I left the theater befuddled, trying to pinpoint exactly “what “and how much of that “what” failed  in this film.  I was left with more questions than answers:

  • Who was the intended audience? No self-respecting adult can buy into that talking monkey, no matter how PETA-sympathetic they try to make his face. There was also no character created  just for the kids. The China Doll was young, but was a side kick to a side kick, and will never ever sit at the Happy Meal table in the cafeteria of cute movie characters. Teens might go. Might.  It’s rated PG, so they can go by themselves to  the Cineplex at the mall on Friday nights. (That’s what kids still do on Friday nights, right?)
  • What tone were we reaching for, here?  Was it whimsy? A fairy tale? A morality tale? I couldn’t tell. The script reached into too many pockets. I’m sure the “tongue in cheek-iness,” the  bad jokes, and  the 4th wall asides were all probably placed in the script to hide the seams between “kid movie” and “adult movie,” But, instead, they  strike you between the eyes like an unwelcome branch you didn’t see coming on a trail.   It whacks us, and we have to take a minute to wipe our eyes and find our bearings again and again.
  • Were they intentionally trying to keep Oz’s character a little sympathetic? (I suspect Franco’s extremely limited range might have been part of the problem, but I’m doing my best to stay in the screenplay end of this shallow pool)  I was a little surprised to hear his character fear that he might not pass the “good heart” test of flying  through a bubble (A bubble that looked just like the  Dawn dish soap variety I buy for my son at the dollar store…)  Up to that point I just saw him as a cheapskate prankster with a line for every lady.  He wasn’t necessarily bad, and he seemed minutes from redemption from the very start.
  • I never felt Oz was in real trouble. Stakes, stakes, stakes.

Final thoughts:  

  • James Franco can’t act.
  • The over-employed Mila Kunis  didn’t have the depth and weight in her soul to carry a believable transformation from an innocent sister to a rageful nemesis worthy of the legendary Oz.
  • My biggest wish was that they had picked a direction on the movie making compass, be it Magic, Toungue in Cheek, Scary, Morality Tale…and  then nailed  it to the wall..
  • The ingredients of this movie don’t add up to the cake it was baked to be.  I think there was ultimately too much vanilla in this mix. 

Blast from the Past

A Glimpse into a Two-Poet Household
Written By: Lori
(Originally Published January 22, 2012)

When I accepted the poems “It Takes More Than a Robin to Make Winter Cold” by Chris Pexa and“Postscript” and “Dear Richard Hugo,” by Melissa Cundieff for the winter issue of The Coachella Review, I had no way of knowing they were a married couple; it wasn’t until their bios came in and Melissa Cundieff turned into Melissa Cundieff-Pexa that I realized there might be a connection. I asked her if she happened to be married to “a guy named Chris.” Indeed, she wrote back, they were married. 

It is easy to imagine when two poets marry there would be extraordinary love letters and wild, sexy linguistics, but I could just as easily imagine them channeling parts of Plath and Hughes at some point.  So I was eager to take this opportunity and quiz them on what it’s like being in a two-poet household. 

I asked them to each answer the questions separately…

Ok, who has more books on their nightstand?  How do the stacks differ in content? 

CHRIS:  If we had nightstands, I imagine them staggered by the weight of trashy detective novels and gardening/seed catalogs (my side), and by Us Weeklies and Dylan Thomas’s Collected (her side). On these figurative nightstands would also be Bolaño and Murakami novels, a Grimm’s Fairy Tales with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, and tons of overdue kids’ books from the library, including three copies ofThe Giving Tree.

Do you edit each other’s work?

CHRIS:  No. We read each other’s poems, but avoid anything like an editorial response. For both of us, the temptation to rewrite one another in our own voices is too strong, and too dangerous. 

MELISSA:   Not really. I certainly don’t edit Chris’s work, and we’ve gotten into some pretty heated debates over edits he’s made to mine. It seems best if we only read each other’s poem and offer a firm pat on the back.

Is there any healthy (or unhealthy?) competition between the two of you?

CHRIS:  We write such different poems, there’s not much basis for comparison or competition. I generally find much more to admire in Melissa’s poems than in my own, though. She has this almost genetic feeling for the grotesque, something that comes from her training in art, I think, which I’m totally jealous of, and which is only ever ornamental, not essential, to my own writing. Melissa’s poems are the lovechild of Leonard Baskin and Edward Gorey, who got together on our bookshelf one night, got very drunk on gin, and agreed there should be a literary version of their drawings in the world.

MELISSA:  Not at all. We’re very, very happy for each other when something good happens and disappointed when one of us is rejected. The latter is more common, of course. Either way, we take it all in stride.

How much poetry talk in general is there in your household?

MELISSA:  Quite a lot. Chris is very resourceful at the library. He comes home with lots of obscure treats. I’m bad about rereading my obsessions, so it’s really nice to live with someone who consistently reads new things. Our poetry conversations happen at night after our daughter is asleep, and more often than not while we’re watching an 80’s horror movie on Netflix. I like to dumb it down more than anyone I know. Chris finds this endearing.

CHRIS:  I think Melissa will tell you we prefer talking about really terrible movies more than we do about poetry. But that’s a lie. We love to gossip about the lives of poets we know. Who doesn’t? Is that talking about poetry? I think it is. Middle-school locker-style.

How did you meet? 

MELISSA:  Oh my. A long story. I was his student when he was getting his MFA at Arizona State University. In fact, he was my very first poetry teacher. It wasn’t until two years later that we got together. Five weeks after that we eloped…on Halloween. At a shrine in Tucson for sinners. Then we got drunk and our friends, the three that were invited to the wedding, disappeared into our hotel room, ate our cake, and passed out in our bed. It’s like we were always meant to be parents.

CHRIS:  In scandal. Or maybe, we ended up in scandal, eloping at the only shrine (that I know of) dedicated to a sinner—El Tiradito, “the castaway”—who fell into a tragic love triangle. Anyway, we met when I was an MFA student. Melissa was taking her first poetry workshop. I hardly noticed her, only saw that she wore long denim skirts and flip flops a lot of the time. Honestly, I thought she was Mormon. So when I met her again a couple of years later, dating my best friend, I wondered if he had converted to the Church of Latter Day Saints.

MELISSA:  I might add, I never wore long denim skirts. Chris had a thing for virginal, marching band types, and he must have been unconsciously projecting some hopefulness onto me, his future wife. When we met, I was quite literally employed at Hooter’s. Take from that what you will. Oh, and I thought 27 year old Chris looked like Eddie Vedder. I still do, and that is why we are married today. 

Describe each other’s poetic style.

CHRIS:  Melissa is, just now, loss-obsessed. I would say that she, like so many poets right now, finds the elegy to be the genre that suits a shared sense of certain worlds, certain possibilities, closing down. Even as others, other democratic vistas, maybe, exuberantly open up. And even though she keeps personal griefs close to the chest, she’s able to transport some of their strange, heavy energy into these persona poems that are really moving. I think of Brenda Hillman’s Death Tractates existing in tandem with Bright Existence, the huge emotional gesture made between these two volumes. And I think Melissa’s poems now are working toward a similar, and similarly ambitious, sweep—recklessly gorgeous poems about lost brothers, suicides, and carnival sideshow animals. It’s all creepy and amazing.

MELISSA:  Chris is much more feral, sometimes vulgar, and comes up with crazy musical lines. He’s like a philosopher pit bull, if you will. We kind of collect stray dogs, so it’s no wonder. He also writes a lot of academic criticism, being a PhD candidate and all. Even his papers are like poetry, and for this I am jealous. I must admit. 

There is a long colorful history of poet-couples.  What are the challenging and enjoyable parts of being married to another writer/poet? 

MELISSA:  We say ridiculous things that maybe only the other can appreciate or even understand. We have something of a private language. Our daughter has learned it, enhanced it.  She’s a very strange a magical person, and I like to give myself and Chris some credit for that.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey 

Sometimes all it takes is a few words or ideas on the page to get you started.  Quit giving yourself anxiety.  Tell your self-critic to shut up… and use a writing prompt.  Copy it down so you are no longer staring at a vacuous space on your computer screen or sheet of paper.

If you need more than just a kick in the pants to get going, take out your kitchen timer. Set it to 30 minutes and write as much as you can…

on your mark, get set, go!



by Kari Hawkey

Keep a dream log for a week.  As soon as you wake up, write down everything you remember.  Write every image and emotion you can recall.  Once you have a list, turn these ideas into a surrealist poem.

(For more information, read Andre Breton’s Le Manifeste du Surréalisme – “Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association heretofore neglected, in the omnipotence of the dream, and in the disinterested play of thought. It leads to the permanent destruction of all other psychic mechanisms and to its substitution for them in the solution of the principal problems of life.”  You may also want to visit the website, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/surr/hd_surr.htm)



by Cynthia Romanowski

Write a journal entry for your main character (or character you’re developing) dated January 1st.  (You pick the year.)  Was their New Year’s amazing or depressing?  What did they do?  Who did they hang out with?  Who do they wish did?  Do they have any resolutions or aspirations for the New Year?  Is there a certain person or activity they should stay away from in the year?  Make it a voice-y first person confession for a gold star.


“There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers

whose standards are low enough.”

~ William Stafford


Dirty Laundry Lit: Love Sucks

Written By: Annette Scanlon

Dirty Laundry Lit tickets picThis year was the first Valentine’s Day in at least six (possibly nine) years that I was single for. I’m a committed kind of gal.

Going into LA on the weekends is my new thing. When you’re single, in your twenties, and know that you would otherwise be sitting at home watching episodes of Charmed and cuddling with your cat, it’s nice to have some place to be on a Saturday night. The Saturday night after a sort-of-sad-and-lonely Valentine’s Day featured one of my good friends doing his first public reading. Of course I wanted to be there for that.

There was a taco truck outside The Virgil, welcoming me in from over an hour of stop-and-go traffic. When I entered the doors, there was a gorgeous woman in high heels walking around the bar with a tray of books, asking if we’d like to peruse her wares. My classmates from UCR Palm Desert’s MFA Program ushered me in, gave me hugs, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to make use of the kissing booth—often. I spotted one of the readers for the night—Xach Fromson, who entered our graduate program the same quarter I did.

I knew a good number of people in the crowd from the program, but by the time the reading actually started there was such a good turnout, and so many people I’d never seen before, that it was hard to navigate the floor. For only a dollar I could get a kiss on the cheek from one of the readers. They all took turns manning the kissing booth, and I donated twice. We signed our names in lipstick on a big mirror to show that we’d participated.

Natashia Deon, founder of Dirty Laundry Lit and alumna extraordinaire of our grad program, took the stage to get us started. She introduced Jeff Eyres, also an alumni of the program, and host of Dirty Laundry Lit. He comes by it honestly—Jeff has written for Saturday Night Live, and is all-around the kind of guy that you love knowing and love listening to. Jeff talked about things that, for an avid reader and writer, pulled heartstrings. The ways that loving literature made us freaks when we were young, how we’re still weird but able to bond over it now. That first book that made you realize that thisthis is the most important thing, this is what makes us feel, makes us think, makes us love.

When it came down to it, the readings made me laugh, made me cry, made me shake my head in amazement or nod along in agreement. I felt involved, an active listener, as only good readers can make you feel. The theme of the night was LOVE SUCKS, fitting and a little humorous after my lonely Valentine’s Day. But there are many types of love, and the readers touched on a good deal of them.

Jeff started us off with a tale of bromance from his early years that ended in tragedy. Stephanie Janis read a piece about loving thy neighbor (or failing to do so, as it were), and she emphasized the expletives and imitated her neighbor’s voice just right. Xach read a story about an eight year-old raising his dog from the dead so that he could have a chance to say good-bye. Lee Cohn stunned us with a passionate narrative about a lover that just couldn’t stay faithful. Zoe Ruiz, wearing the red Orphan Annie dress featured in her essay, read about an encounter with her favorite porn star. Monica Carter shared a story of a prostitute searching for God’s love, and Chiwan Choi made the room go teary-eyed with his poems about loss. Romus Simpson wrapped up the night with a spoken word poem about young love, and then, too soon, we were all sad that it was over.

The line-up was perfect, the order perfect for amping up the audience’s emotions so that there were equal parts laughter and tears, joy and sorrow. It wasn’t a draining experience, either, the way that creativity can sometimes be. The readings made you feel charged with creative potential, thankful of the complexities and ranges of human emotion. We were all plugged in more so than we ever could be by checking Facebook or sharing things on Tumblr.

It was a powerful night, full of talent and love and passion. It’s always a powerful thing to connect with people over that one thing that grabs you—the joys of literature—but when an event is orchestrated as beautifully as this one, it makes you glad to be alive, glad to have gotten to witness something that enriches our lives and the world.

Like I told Natashia—it was my first Dirty Laundry Lit experience, but now I can’t stop. I’ll be at all the ones to come, and love every minute of them.

Alumni News: Rick Marlatt Wins Open Poetry Chapbook Prize…And Also Comes in Second…

marlattnewRick Marlatt, who’s first collection of poetry How We Fall Apart won the 2010 Seven Circle Press contest, has just published his second book of poetry, Desired Altitudes. Oddly, he had to beat out an excellent poet named Rick Marlatt for the prize:

“Our blinded judges narrowed to five entries in the semifinals stage before naming Carla Thompson and Rick Marlatt the finalists as they moved into the championship round. Ultimately, Rick Marlatt emerged as this year’s chapbook competition winner,” the center said in a statement. Marlatt actually had two of the five entries in the finals, as both of his submitted manuscripts made it through the first round of judging.




Student News: Publications, Productions, Awards & Other Good Stuff

Jay Deratany was a semi-finalist for the Los Angeles Screenplay Competition.

Xach Fromson was featured at the most recent edition of Dirty Laundry Lit…this time the aptly named Valentine’s edition Love Sucks.

Karen Howes was one of six winners of National Women’s Playwright Festival and will have a new play produced in April in Colorado Springs.

Maggie Downs won the 2013 Eaton Science Fiction Short Story Award, to be awarded this April.

Ashley Gabbert has new work in The Nervous Breakdown.

Ruth Nolan continues with her series of excellent pieces at KCET.


Two New Books From Alums…and One Coming Soon















February was a good month to be an alum of UCR Palm Desert, at least if you happen to like books, reading, wild success, all of that sort of thing. Amy Yergen’s debut collection At Times I Almost Dream was released on February 10th followed later this month by Kate Abbott’s Disneylanders. And in May, it will be Tiffany Hawk’s turn with Love Me Anyway. You could be next…fall applications are due August 1st…

Blast from the Past

The New Novel-In-Stories: What “Goon Squad” Taught Me About Linked Collections
Written By: Cynthia Romanowski
(originally published August 14, 2011

If you (like me) are an aspiring author unfortunate enough to write mostly short fiction then you’re probably aware of two things: 1) That publishers aren’t exactly jazzed about the idea of publishing short fiction collections from unknown authors and 2) A “novel in stories” is in some ways an attractive alternative to writing an actual novel.

Even if you aren’t a short story writer but rather an equally unknown budding novelist there is another appeal that the “novel in stories” offers to your camp specifically, and that is the idea of having not just one clunky manuscript to send all over town but an entire fist full of stand-alone chapters to pester countless lit mags and journals with. Which means more chances to have your writing snatched up and published before you’ve even started sending the entire thing out.

So the idea of writing a novel through a series of shorts like Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From The Goon Squad” is not a bad idea to ponder, in fact based on my mini-obsession with this book there are actually a lot of advantages to writing a linked collection that seem pretty enticing for students of writing like myself who are still developing and honing their voice and style, and still grappling with what sort of subject matter to focus on. Here are a few of the things I’ve found that this format offers that the traditional novel sometimes cannot.

—But first! Here’s a brief video where Egan herself speaks about her goals of writing in this format and how she views the finished product.

Multiple Points of View

So if you watched the video, one of Egan’s three rules for the book was that each chapter had to be different from the others in terms of tone, mood and overall feel. Basically, she gave herself permission to go all over the place, there are stories in 1stperson, a variety of different close 3rd’s, the now notorious story told in Power Point and many other random variations throughout the book.

That is not to say that you couldn’t pull off something like this in a novel– anything is possible– but the linked collection or novel in stories definitely lends itself well to the idea of switching things up each chapter and experimenting with aspects of narrative that might not be tolerable for the entire length of a novel, like say 2nd person. This aspect of the format is extremely appealing to me as a new writer because while I do want to pull off a larger scale narrative and weave together and pull all those thematic and character threads, I also want to explore different characters, different narrative forms and this seems to be–if executed well–the best opportunity for both.

Effortless Geographical Leaps

A linked collection also opens up the opportunity for the author to take wild leaps into dramatically different settings. “A Visit From The Goon Squad” for example takes place in NYC, Africa, Naples, LA, San Francisco and the Middle East. Depending on the subject matter and character, most novels don’t allow this type of freedom or even if they do range in setting it can sometimes be jarring or gimmicky (think “Eat, Prey, Love”). But once again this spastic format of all out narrative anarchy that comes with the linked collection allows for and is even strengthened by such manic switch-ups.

Time Travel

The same goes for time. Egan leaps effortlessly through the past and present and in the very last story even gives us a glimpse into the near future. The ability to easily manipulate and compress time is another plus of the format. Which is interesting as it makes writing a multi-generational novel much easier and digestible since you don’t have to carry a reader through 400 pages of time (think Franzen) to get to the heart of a family of characters. Zooming in, and out again, and forward and back is almost expected.

More Characters

Here is a hi-tech character map of the 18 reoccurring characters of “Goon Squad”

Pretty involved for a 270-page book right? Again if you watched the video posted above you heard Egan talk about “Goon Squad’s” accidental inception, how she would write a short story, introduce a peripheral character and then wonder about them so much that she’d write their story which would introduce another seemingly minor character and then feel compelled to also tell their story and on and on.

That is one of the most exciting things that happens as a sort of side effect while reading a linked collection, you never really know who’s important or who might show up again later on, so there is this great anticipation and tendency to really focus in on every character no matter how small just to be in on the connection down the line. In fact this whole little phenomenon is so satisfying that it’s almost like the author is establishing callbacks or inside jokes with the reader drawing them in and trusting them to connect the dots and be an active participant in the whole experience.

Skip Over Over-charted Areas

In Steve Almonds little book of essays “This Won’t Take But A Minute Honey,” he talks about the idea of “slowing down where it hurts” pointing out how new writers tend to gloss over the most interesting and uncomfortable moments for their characters. Sort of along the same lines with that, with all the jumping through time and space that the linked collection does, I would say this format offers writers the opportunity to “speed up where it’s been done.” Meaning that authors of this format have the option of skipping easily over certain scenes that seem to come up again and again in fiction, clichéd scenes that we’ve all seen too many of like: “the nervous first date,” “depressed guy gets fired,” “the perfect wedding,” “guy gets diagnosed with something horrible,” you get the idea.

An example of this idea at work in “Goon Squad” would be Egan’s decision to omit any specific scenes relating to the suicide of one of her young characters. While we don’t actually see this played out, we see the effect of the tragedy on the surrounding characters, so it doesn’t feel like a cop out. Depending on the linear nature of a more traditional novel, in some cases this would be a cop out, it would be the author failing to slow down where it hurts, but again in the case of a more loosely connected novel in stories you can get away with leaving out certain scenes that may seem major, even central to the plot. At least that’s what it seems like, then again I could be totally wrong on this (still trying to figure it out actually).

Less Commitment

In conclusion I guess all of these things combined come out offering one thing and that is less commitment and in some ways less risk. Instead of having to commit to a small set of characters, one point of view, one major setting the linked collection format really allows you to be the opposite of monogamous. In fact you can be the Warren Jeff’s of fiction picking out all kinds of different plot lines, settings, characters and structures no matter how illegal that would be in a more traditional novel.

The linked collection is a way of going buck wild and exploring different ways of story telling and trying out new concepts of unity to tie everything together. So go ahead, sleep around, write a chapter in 1st person plural, then another in “To Do Lists”, and another in the POV of the family dog.  You’re just starting out and like dating you won’t know what you like or what you’re good at till you fool around a little bit, so you might as well make the foolery count, and a novel in stories is the best way I can think of to do just that.

P.S. Here is a list of novels in stories/linked collections from a handout I got from a panel on the topic at AWP, this list is by no means comprehensive (and some people wouldn’t even categorize some of these as truly “linked”) but a good start nonetheless if you’re interested.

List of Linked Collections
Julia Alvarez, How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Jabari Asim, A Taste of Honey
Sherwood Anderson, Winesberg, Ohio
Dean Bakopoulous, Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon
Melissa Bank, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing
Russell Banks, Trailerpark and The Sweet Hereafter
Djuana Barnes, Nightwood
Andrea Barrett, Ship Fever
Rebecca Barry, Later, at the Bar
Matt Bell, Wolf Parts
Wendell Berry, Fidelity
Belle Boggs, Mattaponi Queen
Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man
Robert Olen Butler, Tabloid Dreams and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
Dan Chaon, Among The Missing
Sandra Cisneros, The House On Mango Street
Evan S. Connell, Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge
Justin Cronin, Mary and O’Neil
Ron Currie, Jr., God is Dead
Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker
Cathy Day, The Circus in Winter
Junot Diaz, Drown and The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao
Harriet Doerr, Stones for Ibarra
Lesley Dormen, The Best Place to Be
Stuart Dybek, The Coast of Chicago and I Sailed with Magellan
Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad
Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine
Andrew Ervin, Extraordinary Renditions
William Faulkner, The Unvanquished and Go Down, Moses
Mavis Gallant, Varieties of Exile
Cristina Garcia, The Lady Matador’s Hotel
Clifford Garstang, In an Uncharted Country
Ellen Gilchrist, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams
Julia Glass, I See You Everywhere
Jean Harfenist, A Brief History of The Flood
Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time
Aleksandar Hemon, Love and Obstacles
Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men
Beverly Jensen, The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay
Barb Johnson, More of this World or Maybe Another
Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son
Edward P. Jones, Lost in the City and All Aunt Hagar’s Children
James Joyce, Dubliners
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Jamaica Kinkaid, Annie John
Marshall Klimasewiski, Tyrants (the three JunHee and Tanner stories)
Jhumpa Lahiri, “Once in a Lifetime,” “Year’s End” and “Going Ashore” (the Hema and Kaushik stories in Unaccustomed Earth)
Laila Lalami, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits
Dylan Landis, Normal People Don’t Live Like This
John McNally, The Book of Ralph
Susan Minot, Monkeys
Lorrie Moore, Anagrams
David Phillip Mullins, Greetings from Below
Alice Munro, “Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence” (three Juliet stories inRunaway) and The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
Sabrina Murray, The Caprices
Gloria Naylor, The Women of Brewster Street
Darlin’ Neal, Rattlesnakes and the Moon
Tim O’brien, The Things They Carried
Whitney Otto, How To Make An American Quilt
Donald Ray Pollock, Knockemstiff
Katherine Ann Porter, “Old Mortality” and “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” (from Pale Horse, Pale Rider)
Annie Proulx, Close Range, Bad Dirt, and Fine Just The Way It Is
Imad Rahman, I Dream of Microwaves
Ethel Rohan, Hard To Say
Anne Sanow, Triple Time
Elissa Schappell, Use Me
David Schickler, Kissing in Manhattan
Heather Sellers, Georgia Under Water
Joan Silber, Ideas of Heaven
Margot Singer, The Pale Settlement
John Steinbeck, Pastures of Heaven, Tortilla Flat, and The Red Pony
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge
Mary Swan, The Boys in the Trees
Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
Jean Toomer, Cane
Susan Vreeland, Girl in Hyacinth Blue
Kate Walbert, Our Kind and A Short History of Women
Josh Weil, The New Valley
Eudora Welty, The Golden Apples
Thorton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway’s Party
Richard Wright, Uncle Tom’s Children
Paul Yoon, Once the Shore


We’d like to thank the Academy

So long Super Bowl, hello glitz, gowns and little gold men!


While Hollywood is busy getting gilt to the hilt this weekend, our screenwriting professors have been busy making their Oscar-winning predictions.

So grab some snacks, settle into the couch and play along with them as you watch the 85th Academy Awards this Sunday evening.


John Schimmel • Producer, writer, professor 


Flight or Zero Dark Thirty. I’m thinking ZDT but only by a hair – I could see it going either way.


Lincoln. I think this will be a travesty if it happens but my suspicion is that it will.


Life of Pi. I actually think they might  give it to Argo but either way I suspect they’ll secretly love snubbing Steven. And I’m thinking Pi deserves it for the sheer impossibility of turning that book into a film.


Ang Lee – Sort of the same reasoning.


joshua_malkinJoshua Malkin • Producer, writer, director, professor


Will Win:  Zero Dark Thirty

Should Win:  Django Unchained


Will Win:  Argo… or Lincoln… or Argo?  Probably Lincoln.  (Or Argo.)

Should Win:  Silver Linings Playbook


Will Win:  Steven Spielberg

Should Win: Michael Haneke


Will Win:  Argo

Should Win: Life of Pi


todTod Goldberg • Writer, critic, professor, avid movie-goer


I think Argo will probably win, but the movie I enjoyed the most of the nominees was Silver Linings Playbook, so that’s where I’m placing my rooting interest.


I suspect it will be Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, but, again, my vote would go to David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook


Zero Dark Thirty by Mark Boal would be my pick, though I think there’s a chance it will go to Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino. Both are somewhat controversial picks, but I can’t see the award going to Flight, Moonrise Kingdom or Amour.


This is going to sound repetitive … but I think Argo will win (and probably should), but I thought Silver Linings Playbook was a wonderful adaptation.

Start the Weekend…Write!

Written By: Kari Hawkey

Suffer from writer’s block?  That’s no excuse.

Here’s my advice:  sometimes all it takes is a few words on the page to get you started.  Every weekend, I will post writing prompts to help you get those creative juices flowing.  If you need more than just a kick in the pants to get going, take out your kitchen timer.  Set it to 30 minutes and write as much as you can…

on your mark, get set, go!



by Kari Hawkey

Chose 3 of your favorite inanimate objects, food, or animals.  Now, write a love letter to each of them.  Feel free to get creepy.



by Cynthia Romanowski

Write a personal ad for your main character or a character you are trying to develop.  Who are they?  Who or what are they seeking?  If you get stuck read Elizabeth Crane’s story “Ad ” for inspiration.  (Actually, you should probably read it either way cause it’s freakin’ great).


A word is not the same with one writer as with another.

One tears it from his guts.

The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.

~Charles Peguy







Blast from the Past

Q&A with Rick Bursky
Written By: Lori Davis
(originally published September 17, 2011)

After reading and falling in love with the poem “The Woman Not Wearing A Hat,” by Rick Bursky in the American Poetry Review (2004), I tracked him down and invited him to read in the poetry series I was hosting at the time.  That night after his reading, he wrote down on a cocktail napkin every poetry book I must read immediately—a list that covered both sides of the napkin!  Seven years later, he is still a great personal resource, not to mention a generous supporter of poetry and a talented practitioner.   His first book, The Soup of Something Missing,was published by Bear Star Press, 2004. His second book, Death Obscurawas recently published by Sarabande Books. His poems have appeared damn near everywhere: including American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Southern Review, Field, Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, Black Warrior Review, Shenandoah, andNew Letters. He works in advertising and teaches poetry at UCLA Extension.rickbursky.com

Which literary journals do you subscribe to?

Wow, I read many journals on a regular basis.   It’s a great way to discover new poets, at least poets who are new to me. The journals I always subscribe to are Field, American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Georgia Review, New Ohio Review. andHotel Amerika. Those are the ones whose subscriptions I would never let expire.  Then there are other journals I rotate through.  At any given time I subscribe to at least five from this group: Poetry, Conduit, Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, Nimrod, Iowa Review, Crazyhorse. Alaska Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Antioch Review, The Pinch, New Orleans Review, Washington Square, Mid-West Quarterly, Mid-America Review, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Verse, TriQuarterly, Bat City Review, Kenyon Review, Paris Review, Faultline, Tampa Review, Laurel Review, New England Review, Poetry Southeast, ACM, Agni and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.

What online journals are you following and submitting your work to?

There’s so much great poetry online, now.  The Pedestal Magazine.com really has some nice stuff.  Then there’s Diagram, Agni Online, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review.  There are other great ones; I apologize to them for being forgetful.

Your first book was published by Bear Star Press. Your second book, Death Obscura, was recently released by Saraband Books.  Now you’ve experienced working with both large and small presses.  Pros and cons of each?

Yes, Bear Star Press published my first book, The Soup of Something Missing, and they were just great, they are just great.  I once offered to kick in some money for ads and they turned me down. Beth Spencer said, “… it’s our job to sell the book, it’s your job to write the poems.”  Whatever Beth and her team lack in resources they more than make up for with a love for poetry and a real desire to get the books out into the world.  I had a chapbook published by Hollyridge Press, another small but committed press who was wonderful to work with.  And then there’s Sarabande. I can’t tell you how lucky I am to that they published my book.  They are everything a writer wants in a publisher and epitomize professionalism and dedication. But I don’t think I answered your question. It is too simple to say bigger is better.  To a certain extent, the prestige of a publisher rubs off on you.  So prestigious is better. If you’re looking for a publisher the best approach is to find one whose books you admire.

Where, when and how do you think you do your best writing?

I write constantly, so it’s hard to say when or where I write best. I always write in a bound notebook.  I can’t write on a computer; I type on a computer.  I like to write slowly, one line at a time.  Sometimes I write the same line over and over, just watching the ink dry.  I enjoy writing, I mean scribbling line after line, it’s fun and interesting. I try to do it as often as possible. I generally start a poem, at least it seems I do, on the weekend.  Begin scribbling something in my notebook on Saturday.  I rewrite it about four or five times.  Late Sunday afternoon, I type it out on the computer and carry that draft around for a week or so, constantly revising it.  By the end of the week I’m not afraid to show it to friends, other poets.  Often I take my notebook to lunch with me and scribble while I eat.  At night I occasionally write at bars, quiet bars, of course.  On Saturday and Sunday, I go to Starbucks before heading to the gym. I’ll either read a couple of poems or scribble some lines while I’m there.

How does a poem start for you?

Always with an image, often a surreal or strange image.  After the first line it seems I’m just along for the ride. Other times I just have a phrase.  For instance, for days I’ve been trying to do something with “the purpose of being dead.”  So far it’s a no-go, but one day it’ll be part of a poem.

How do you know when a poem is done?

Writing for me is more about the process rather than the finished product; though it’s inevitable you’ll have finished poems somewhere along the line.  I like working through a poem more than I like having the poem finished. Also, I wonder is a poem ever really done?  I think if I’m not embarrassed by it after seven or eight revisions it’s probably done.  Though recently I’ve gone back and revised some poems I wrote 18 or so years ago.

Have you written in any other genres?

Not really, though I’ve written a play that was performed in an off-Broadway theater a few years back; and one short story.  I write advertising for a living, does that count?

Yes, that counts, since you were the copywriter for one of the top rated Super Bowl commercials of all time!   Here is a link:     “That Killed Him”

Name a couple books you admire at the moment and why.

1)  How Like Foreign Objects by Alexis Orgera, is a great book. Her language is alive and constantly changing. Her poems never quite let you get your footing. Just when you think you know what’s coming next she takes you by surprise.  The book is filled with unique imagery, no, make that amazing imagery and poignant love poems that make me wish I was a better poet.

2)  Space, In Chains by Laura Kasischke, a wonderful book.  Her poems are artifacts that belong in the museum of emotions. The poems in this book drag her past, and the world, through a magical filter and they come out the other side. She creates surreal images in what seems to be believable personal narratives.  Kasischke’s poems are metaphors for the deeper feelings of our lives. Read one and you’ll believe it’s your life she’s talking about; the beauty and pain are universal.

Some favorite poets?

Always a tough question: Nin Andrews, Charles Simic, David Young, Lola Haskins, Mark Irwin, Jeffrey Skinner, Richard Garcia, Claire Bateman, Kasischke and Orgera, oh, Mark Strand. Merwin, St. John.  Darn, I forgot to talk about Jane Hirshfield’s new book, Come Thief, it’s great. David Keplinger, Tony Barnstone, Okay, I’ll go with those as favorites.  No, no, let me add one more, Dean Young, you should readFalling Higher.

What?  No mention of Greek poet Yannis Ritsos on that list?  I know you are beyond obsessed with him.  Please explain what draws you to his work.

Ritsos speaks to my soul in a way I can’t describe. On a craft level what I admire in his poetry is the surreal nature of his reality. Some of the poems are surreal by default, only because we don’t have another way to describe. The poems are spoken with such a straight face you have to take them literally. On an emotional level, the poetry is quiet. No fanfare, tricks, etc, but there is emotional power.  The Ritsos poems I love best are the poems he builds around little events.  These poems remind me that the subject of poetry is poetry.  After years of reading and admiring his work I’m obsessed with writing poems in which nothing happens.  One day I want to write a poem about a man standing on a street corner and nothing happens.  Even though I read his poems through a translator’s voice his sound comes through.  With the help of some Greek-speaking relatives I’ve translated a couple of his poems. The exercise gave me added respect for translators.

Five books (any genre) you would rather not live without…

I won’t answer unless you change the question to 116 books I couldn’t live without.  Five is a like asking a parent which of your two children you like better. So, do you want the top 173?

How many books do you currently own?  What program are you using to organize and catalogue all of them?

I use a program called Readerware to catalogue my books.  Unfortunately, Readerware doesn’t work on an iPad, if they don’t fix that soon I’ll switch to another program. I have 2,871 books in the program right now, and about another hundred or so waiting to be entered.  I also have an iPad/Kindie with a couple of hundred more. All the books on the iPad are also on my bookshelves.

What has been your rarest book find to date?

That’s a tough question; I really haven’t priced them. I have a rare limited edition Tom Lux book. I’m blanking on the name right now but only 26 were printed one for each letter of the alphabet. I found it in a used bookstore, paid $3 for it. I showed it to Tom who was really surprised.  It’s worth much, much more.  I just looked on Readerware and I have a Steve Orlen book worth $327. Then there’s the hardback of David St. John’s Hush. Hey, I was with you when I bought it. You found it and were going to buy it but I poked you in the eye with a fountain pen. While you were rolling on the ground screaming in pain I ran to the register and bought the book. It’s worth more than the $75 I paid for it. I hope you’re still not mad about that. By the way, your eye looks great now. I’d love to have an original of Mark Strand’s Sleeping With One Eye Open, but just can’t afford it.

Speaking of fountain pens… I know you are a collector.  How many do you own and do you actually write with them?

I have 92 fountain pens, but hope to have 93 in a couple of weeks.  I’ve been looking for a Sheaffer PFM IV in green, blue or red for a while now and Fred Krinke at the Fountain Pen Store has a lead on one for me.  My favorite, at least right now, is a 1938 oversized Parker Vacumatic with the original stub nib. Do I write with them?  Ionly write with fountain pens. By the way, Phil Levine and Jeffrey Skinner also collect them. And I suspect a few other poets do, too.

You are teaching poetry at UCLA Extension.  What do you enjoy about teaching and what is your favorite writing exercise? (… just in case I never get to take your class.)

I love teaching this class.  I’m always impressed with the level of commitment and talent among the students. I’m sure they inspire me a lot more than I them.  And, the exercise: Take a walk around your neighborhood.  Find something out of place and write how it might have gotten there.  For instance, my poem “The Mandolin,” started after I saw a guitar in a garbage can.  I made up a story of how it got there. Yes, then thought it would be more interesting if I made the instrument less common.

What originally compelled you to get your MFA in poetry?  Where did you go?  What do you think you got out of the program?

I got to a point where I had taken all the poetry workshops around town worth taking. I was sort of happy with what I was writing, but only sort of.  I hate this phrase, but, I wanted to take it to the next level so I figured an MFA would be a good experience. And I was wrong, it was a great experience.  I choose Warren Wilson because I had heard so many writers that I respected say that it was the best low residency program out there. I believe it took ten years off the learning curve for me. One of the wonderful things the program did was teach me how to be a better reader. My supervisors were Ellen Byant Voit, Dean Young, Matthea Harvey and Roger Fanning.  Learned tons from each of them.  I have no idea how I managed to get through the program. It was a lot of work and my regular job is pretty demanding. My thesis won a book publishing contest a few months after graduating.  Another great thing about the program are the other students. I made many great writer friends who continue to support and inspire me to this day.  I’m thinking of going back for a second MFA. I plan to apply under another name.  Some of the faculty will say you look like a student we had years ago. I’ll say “Oh, Rick Bursky, I get that a lot though I’ve never met him.”

You are a regular at AWP.  Do you think beginning writers should attend?  What do you get out of going to the conference every year?

I love going to AWP. I feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store once I get into the book fair.  And there’s a lot to be said for being in a room with thousands of other people who share the same passion for good writing.  There are always inspiring panels. I wish they would consult me before making the final schedule so the three I really want to go to are not at the exact same time.  Of course, AWP is great for seeing friends who I seldom get to see.  Can’t wait for the next one.  Am I beginning to sound like a nerd?

Does poetry matter?

I am trying hard to come up with a funny response, but can’t or I guess, won’t. It’s too easy to say that poetry doesn’t matter, and even easier to say that it does. Yeah, poetry seems to be marginalized, but that doesn’t diminish its importance. In times of need people often turn to poetry for inspiration. After 9/11 there was a television show as a tribute or remembrance. Lots of musicians and whatnot.  But there were also actors who spoke for a minute or so.  I recognized some of what was said as lines from poems. Poetry has a mythical place in our society, think of the expression “poetry in motion.” Did you ever hear anyone say “prose in motion”?  Poetry is where language becomes art. Anyone who expresses themselves powerfully and beautifully is dallying with poetry.  I wish more people would read poetry, and there’s that complaint that the only people who read poetry are people who write it, which I believe is neither fair nor true.  Go to a major league baseball game and poll the audience, ask everyone there if they have ever played a game or two of baseball. I bet almost 90% would say they have. But you never hear anyone complain that the only people who watch baseball are people who have played it.


Behind the Story

Written By: Ashley Reynolds

Taylor Brown picRecently, I had the privilege of interviewing Taylor Brown.  His story, “The Tattooist’s Daughter,” was chosen for the Fall 2012 Issue of The Coachella Review. The story is about a young woman who literally wears her heart on her sleeve, but still struggles to connect with her mother. Taylor Brown’s short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in CutBank, Thuglit, Plots with Guns, storySouth, Porchlight, The Bacon Review, Pindeldyboz, The Dead Mule, The Liars’ League, and The Press 53 Open Awards and Press 53 Spotlight anthologies. Taylor also received the 2009 Montana Prize in Fiction for his story “Rider.”

Where did you get the idea for the story, “The Tattooist’s Daughter?”

There were really two experiences that led me to this story.

In college, I trained for a (very short) while at this MMA/BJJ garage gym.  There was this girl there who was a pretty well-known tattoo artist in Athens.  She was probably 110 lb dripping wet, and she just beat my ass on a daily basis.  There was something about her; she just had this mystique.  She was a super-heroine.  Annie is largely based on her.

Now the second part…ha ha, I hope I don’t get in trouble for admitting this, because it involved the mother of an ex-girlfriend who was from New Orleans.  She came out to visit San Francisco, where we were living, and during her visit she noticed my girlfriend’s tattoo for the first time.  We were at dinner.  She was reaching for the salt and her mother saw it – the tattoo – and I mean she snatched up her daughter’s hand in the blink of an eye and ripped off the bracelet that was hiding it.  She was…not happy, to say the least.  Maybe I’d been in SF for too long, but I’d forgotten the level of conservatism that still exists about such things in certain social sets.

So anyways, I was interested in this character that could be so strong and sure of herself in the life she’d built, and yet have this vulnerability when it comes to her mother.  This chink in her armor.  And I was thinking of the small wars that go on between mothers and daughters.

When was the first time that you realized you were a writer?

Well, it’s a family joke that, as a kid, I would follow my mother around telling her these epic stories I’d made up – so much so that she admits having to lock herself in the bathroom sometimes just to get away for a few minutes.  Of course I’d stand there in the hallway, telling her my stories through the door.  I had to explain why my GI Joes were so much smaller than their environment, and why my Triceratops had a missile launcher on its back, and so on.  Important things like that.

Then, in first grade, I had this teacher Mrs. Pruett.  She had us write a story every single day.  She would pass out these wide newsprint sheets with lines on the bottom half for writing your story, and an unlined top half for illustrations.  I loved it.  I wrote this story about a spider who steals a remote-control car, and it won some award at our elementary school, and I was probably hooked after that.

What do you do in your free time that contributes the most to your writing?

That’s a good question.  I wish I could say I did something cool, like backcountry flying or spearfishing giant tuna or something.  The reality is pretty pedestrian.  I own and manage an internet marketing business, so I don’t have a lot of extra free time.  I think I’m just always on the hunt for story ideas.  People, magazines, books, TV.  I find a nugget of something, and then I just start digging, following it.

What person inspires you the most?  Why?

My parents.  They have so much integrity, and they’ve always been so supportive of their kids.  I’ve taken a somewhat high-risk path through life at times – moving to Buenos Aires after college, quitting a really solid job, starting my own business (I wanted more flexibility to write) – and they have never questioned or tried to dissuade me, even though I think it scared them at times.  I think, when it comes to writing, we do so much of it on faith.  Faith that we will get better, faith that we will get published.  Faith that the next story will come.  And having someone who believes you, and in what you’re trying to do, is huge.

What was the best advice that you were given?

I’ve got a bit of a secret weapon here.  There is an online repository of interviews that Don Swaim conducted for his long-running CBS radio show, Book Beat.  Here’s the link: http://www.wiredforbooks.org/swaim/.  I’ve listened to nearly every one of these – some of them three, four, five times or more.  I mean, he interviewed everybody.  I used to listen to them in the background instead of music while I worked.  Just soaking in the wisdom if I could.

Most recently, Kevin Watson of Press 53 gave me some great advice as far as concentrating on what I enjoy.  For the last couple of years, I’d been laboring away over a couple of novel manuscripts that had gotten some traction with a big agent.  Just revising, reworking, revising, reworking – to the point that I was starting to hate both manuscripts.  I was wrapped up in the business side of things, burning out, and I’d lost some of the joy in writing.  Kevin gave me the advice to stay patient, stay persistent, and keep writing powerful stories that I really care about – and the opportunities will come.  That really kind of filled my well again at the perfect time.

Django Unchained — Review

Written By: Jenn-Anne Gledhill

djangoOn Valentine’s Day, I saw the greatest love story on screen I’ve seen all year, and quite possibly, all decade: Quentin Tarantino’s “Django, Unchained.” This Valentine Massacre included all the schmaltzy greeting card symbols necessary for a proper February 14th:  exaggerated amounts of the color red (in the form of blood covering the walls like some gory Haunted House wall paper), hearts exploding (literally and figuratively), and a romantic love capable of reaching across the impossible, unwilling to take “never” for an answer, and able to break the shackles of body, mind, and soul.

The plot: A slave (Django) is freed by a bounty hunter for his ability to identify three men on a Wanted poster, the very three men responsible for beating his wife with a bullwhip. Once freed, Django and the bounty hunter go looking for his bride and the rest….Oh m’ goodness…

I will pull back the gush to an appropriate amount for this literary concern, and move the conversation back upstairs. Back into the brain, a brain that yearns to date Tarantino’s brain. (Even a one night stand with his brain would be fine with this writer’s brain.)

It is difficult, however, to stick to the script when discussing one of Quentin’s films. So much of his brand comes from a hodge-podge of elements so specific to the Tarantino experience. Listen left: an almost irreverently anachronistic soundtrack.  Look right: highly stylized special effects of bullets ripping through chests with just the right balance of splatter and sticky tendons spurting out from the point blank shot to the face. Look left: screamingly funny tangles of unpredictable dialogue spilling out from behind the white hoods of racist cowards. Look right: funkadelic costumes that twist and pop with bits of surprise.

Not a second of this film is boring. Not a frame is wasted. My “Let’s get real about how much free time people have in modern society and keep your film to ninety minutes, please” preference  is made to be broken by  (only) movies of this caliber.

There are staggering shifts in power and status all across the film’s sprawling collection of disgusting, unlikeable,  despicable, laughable, pathetic, despondent, vile, despicable, valiant, powerful, empathetic, negligible, and, for the most part, doomed cast of players. (A spoiler alert in a movie by a director of any other name) There are scenes so painful I wanted to run out of the movie theater. I wanted to scream through the overlit lobby and start knocking over popcorn vats and candy cases in protest against the monumentally disappointing behavior of mankind through the ages.  But the bow of this story demands that the arrow of hideousness be pulled just so.  Back….back…..back….so that when it is finally released, that sharpened arrow has the power sail into, and then through the bullseye of redemption. Django style Redemption. By film’s end, Django is an unapologetic hero, and we, his minions, are unapologetic in cheering him on, loudly and rudely, with slobbery “Hell yeah’s!!” being slung and spit at the screen during those final minutes when Django …

Just carve out a three hour window and go see it, friend.

Faculty Spotlight: John Schimmel

Each day through February 1st, the close of our application deadline, we’re taking a look at our esteemed faculty. Today, it’s screenwriting professor John Schimmel. And since we spend a lot of time in this program talking about writing across genres, here’s an excellent essay from John on his relationship with his father:

Flashbacks stalk me into my parents’ bedroom where I’m propped against the door jam, my wife the only living person with me. Murmuring from the living room barely registers. It’s my wife who notices that my father is lying flat on his back in his bed, released finally from the pain that has kept him curled for so long. I’m touched she noticed and ashamed I’m too consumed by what isn’t present to notice what is. Then the men from the Neptune Society invade the room with their gurney, big guys, like movers in scrubs. They never knew my dad but they are intimate with death and her ability to hollow out the living. I am unspeakably touched by how gentle they are as they prepare him. They show no hurry even as they zip the body bag shut, they could not be more respectful, but I would have collapsed from the finality of that zipper had my wife not caught me. I am, all these years later, still destroyed at each replay. Time shuffles like cards in a poker game.


And if you’d like to prepare for the Broadway revival of his play Pump Boys & Dinettes, a visit to Samuel French might be in order.


Faculty Spotlight: Charles Evered

We’re taking a look at the faculty of UCR’s Low Residency MFA every day through February 1st, our upcoming application deadline…and today it’s playwright and screenwriter professor Charles Evered. Here, in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Charles talks about the state of violence in modern American cinema:

Which scene is harder to write? A bullet-through-an-eyeball scene or a scene in which nothing appears to be happening, but the audience—holding its breath in anticipation—knows that everything is happening, because a skilled and thoughtful writer or filmmaker knew how to make the audience’s imagination a partner in the entertainment, rather than just a passive repository of it?


And in this interview with the New York Tiimes, he talks about some of his mentors, too.

Faculty Spotlight: Stephen Graham Jones

We’re taking a look at the faculty of the UCR Low Residency MFA each day through February 1st, our upcoming application deadline, and today it’s fiction professor Stephen Graham Jones. Here, in an interview with Mourning Goats, Stephen talks a bit about his writing process:

 One of my favorite quotes of yours is, “write yourself into a corner, and give it all away with each line,” would you mind going into more detail, or giving an example in your own writing?

Was just listening to the Farrelly Brothers installment of that screenwriter interview series The Dialogue, with Mike DeLuca — know it? Anyway, they say that too, or one of them does. Was so happy to hear somebody besides me preaching it. But, yeah, if you only write into places you know how to get out of, then you’re never going to have to push yourself. Example: Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, a kind of oddly compelling book. There’s this line about halfway through, something that ends a chapter like “And then the most surprising thing happened.” Or “unexpected,” something like that. Anyway, man, always do that to yourself, always kill the character you’re most attached to, always, if you’re Card, burn the Mother Tree, make us think the story’s over, that it can’t possibly go even one step farther. And then take it all the way around the town. What you’re doing is leading your reader into a truly imaginative space, one being created, guessed at, on the fly, one you discover together. It’s what real storytelling can be, when it’s honest, when it’s sincere.

And here’s a bit of Stephen’s actual writing…the short story “The Ones Who Got Away” from our friends at FiveChapters.


Faculty Spotlight: Mary Otis

Each day through February 1st — our upcoming application deadline — we’ll be spotlighting our faculty…today, it’s fiction professor Mary Otis. Here, a sentence from her story “Where We Missed Was Everywhere” is animated by Electric Literature:


And here’s an interview with Mary where she talks about her writing process:

I witness a remarkable number of strange, comic, beautiful, and sad incidents in Los Angeles on a daily basis.  And it does affect my writing.  I walk a lot and drive even more and am constantly struck by what I see and hear, or what I’m left to imagine.  Last week, while walking my dog one afternoon, I came upon a nude pregnant woman being photographed in the street, I saw a man dressed as Spider Man coming out of a bar, and I overhead a woman patiently saying to a child, “All the fish have died.”  For a sprawling, “open” city, there is so much about it that is hidden or a mystery to me, and it endlessly compels me.  That said, I think many of my stories primarily depend upon a kind of emotional geography.  In a number of the stories, the characters are looking for a place where they belong, whether it be in a relationship, a family or a job.  Many are dealing with some kind of loss amidst the fantastical circus of life, which cranks on, regardless.  I think this kind of thing is possible anywhere, and especially possibly in Los Angeles.

Faculty Spotlight: Tod Goldberg

Each day through February 1st — our upcoming application deadline — we’ll be taking a look at the members of our the program’s faculty…including program director and fiction professor Tod Goldberg. In this interview, Tod talks about his thoughts on low residency MFA programs with Caleb Ross in advance of the annual AWP conference:

Caleb J Ross: You said something at last year’s AWP which stuck with me. Paraphrased, of course, you said that you teach your MFA classes like an instructor of any trade program might, with the end goal of providing financial opportunities for the students. This seems like a radically different approach than most MFAs which may instead focus on non-definable, creative signposts to gauge student success. First, am I expressing your idea correctly? Second, how is this goal compromised by a low-residency program, if it even is?

Tod Goldberg: Pretty close. Essentially my philosophy is that if you’re in an MFA program, your goal isn’t to become the most well-read person on earth with a handful of literary quotes at your disposal at all times, it’s to be published. It’s to be produced. Graduate programs in creative writing are some of the few that seem entirely esoteric because they don’t seem to be training you for anything tangible, apart from maybe being a particularly enlightened barista, because, well, that’s frequently the case. But I think that has to change. Being a professional writer is a job. And if you want to write books, or write screenplays, or write poetry, simply for personal edification, you certainly don’t need an MFA program to do that. But if you want to become a professional writer, I think an MFA program can and should be a clear stepping stone in that direction. Most aren’t. Most entirely eschew the idea of life after the MFA — in fact, most programs tend to herald your acceptance into the program as the “making it” part of your writing career, which is silly. It’s school. It’s what you do afterward that makes a difference. So in that light we talk about publishing and production a great deal in the program I run at UCR, about the difference between being workshop-good and publication or production good. We have agents and editors and film producers and studio heads that come in an read our students work and give them a real world idea of where they stand. And our professors are doing it, too (no one works in the program as a professor who isn’t still publishing or producing).


And here’s Tod story “The Salt” from his collection Other Resort Cities courtesy of our friends at The Nervous Breakdown.

Faculty Spotlight: Mary Yukari Waters

Each day through February 1st, our upcoming application deadline, we’re taking a look at the faculty of UCR Low Residency MFA…today, it’s fiction professor Mary Yukari Waters. If you’ve not read Mary’s work, her O. Henry Prize winning short story “Egg Face” is a great place to start.

Keiko Nakajima was thirty years old, and she had never been on a date. In addition, she had never held a job. The latter might have been acceptable; even in these modern times, many middle-class women in the Kin-nanji district did not work outside the home. But such women were usually married.
     “Anything new with that Nakajima girl, the middle one?” some housewife might say while shelling peas with her children on the veranda, or gossiping with neighbors in one of the narrow alleyways leading to the open-air market. There never was. Keiko was spotted strolling in the dusk or running the occasional errand at the market; in the mornings, children on their way to school saw her feeding the caged canary on the upstairs balcony. Like some retired person, neighbors said. Like Buddha in a lotus garden.
Read the full story in Zoetrope.

Faculty Spotlight: Mark Haskell Smith

Each day through February 1st, our upcoming application deadline, we’re taking a look at the faculty of UCR Low Residency MFA…today, it’s fiction professor Mark Haskell Smith. Here, however, Mark does a bit of investigative journalism of the Chili Pepper variety as he searches for a rather important bridge:

What bridge is Kiedis singing about? In a 1992 Rolling Stone interview with David Fricke, the singer refuses to divulge the location. “It’s downtown … but it’s unimportant. I don’t want people looking for it,” he said, perhaps uneager to have a new pop-music landmark emerge from one of his life’s lowest moments. When contacted recently, the band’s management refused to comment about the possible location of the bridge. We decided to look for it regardless.


And here, Mark talks about his book Heart of Dankness:

Faculty Spotlight: Rob Roberge

Each day through February 1st, our upcoming application deadline, we’re looking at the members of our faculty…and today it’s fiction professor Rob Roberge. Here, in a short story from his book Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life, you’ll see the particularly skewed world that Rob’s fiction frequents:

At this moment, Tommy Cronin, whose mental capacity has been professionally measured at equal to that of a three year old is being pelted with raw eggs by me and his father who everyone except Tommy calls Pops.  Tommy’s one of those carnival ducks at a shooting gallery; every time he’s hit, he turns and marches the other way.  The misses, the eggs and garbage, they smack and drip on the wall behind him.

Me and Pops hit him one after the other and he turns all jerky back and forth.  This would be Keystone Cops, this would be Fatty Arbuckle, if it weren’t in color and it weren’t real.

And this is Pops’ punishment.  Not Pops’ punishment to Tommy, but to me.  This is my penance.

Read the rest of the story here…and then learn about how Rob wrote the story here.

Faculty Spotlight: Jill Alexander Essbaum

We’re taking a look at two members of our faculty each day through our upcoming application deadline — February 1st — and today, it’s poetry professor Jill Alexander Essbaum. First, a revealing interview...where Jill answers questions posed in teen magazines:

Secret Talent: I can recite the entire (all three) Jive scenes from Airplane!, not just the Barbara Billingsly bit that everyone knows.

What is the best thing about your job? I work with more amazing and hilarious people than you can imagine.

What was your most embarrassing audition moment? In a dream, I sang “Suspicious Minds” for Simon Cowell and I failed.

And, audio of Jill reading her poem “Stays”.


Faculty Spotlight: William Rabkin

Each day as we head toward our February 1st deadline for spring admission we’ll be taking a look at a member of our faculty…today, it’s screenwriting professor William Rabkin. Here, in an interview with Script, he talks about writing television pilots:

Faculty Spotlight: Elizabeth Crane

As we work our way towards our February 1st deadline for spring admission, we’re taking a look at our faculty each day…today, it’s fiction professor Elizabeth Crane, in a candid interview with Nancy Pearl from Book Lust:

Faculty Spotlight: Matthew Zapruder

Each day through February 1st, our spring deadline for admission, we’ll be taking a look at the faculty members of UCR Palm Desert — you’ll see them talking, you’ll read their work, you may even see them play a musical instrument or two. Today, sit down and read four poems from poetry professor Matthew Zapruder, including “Schwinn”, from our friends at the Poetry Foundation:

I hate the phrase “inner life.” My attic hurts,
and I’d like to quit the committee
for naming tornadoes. Do you remember
how easy and sad it was to be young
and defined by our bicycles? My first
was yellow, and though it was no Black
Phantom or Sting-Ray but merely a Varsity
I loved the afternoon it was suddenly gone,
chasing its apian flash through the neighborhoods
with my father in vain. Like being a nuclear
family in a television show totally unaffected
by a distant war. Then we returned
to the green living room to watch the No Names
hold our Over the Hill Gang under
the monotinted chromatic defeated Super
Bowl waters. 1973, year of the Black Fly
caught in my Jell-O. Year of the Suffrage Building
on K Street NW where a few minor law firms
mingle proudly with the Union of Butchers
and Meat Cutters. A black hand
already visits my father in sleep, moving
up his spine to touch his amygdala. I will
never know a single thing anyone feels,
just how they say it, which is why I am standing
here exactly, covered in shame and lightning,
doing what I’m supposed to do.
Read them all here.


Faculty Spotlight: Deanne Stillman

Each day through February 1st, our spring deadline for admission, we’ll be taking a look at the faculty members of UCR Palm Desert — you’ll see them talking, you’ll read their work, you may even see them play a musical instrument or two. Today, take a trip with nonfiction professor Deanne Stillman as she goes on a manhunt, which she started first in her Rolling Stone her essay “The Great Mojave Manhunt” (and which was later anthologized in The Best American Crime Writing) and then continued in her acclaimed book Desert Reckoning…

Alone in his small trailer, Donald Charles Kueck had been singing a song. It wasn’t a pretty song, nor was it a song that the casual passerby would hear on the off chance that he or she was in the vicinity of the remote little abode. No, the weird and discordant tune emanating from the trailer, always calling, calling, calling for someone to come and put him out of his misery, was broadcast on a frequency few could monitor, its sound waves fading in and out of the radio dead zones that pockmarked the vast desert expanse.


Read the rest of this excerpt here.


Faculty Spotlight: David Ulin

Each day through February 1st, our spring deadline for admission, we’ll be taking a look at the faculty members of UCR Palm Desert — you’ll see them talking, you’ll read their work, you may even see them play a musical instrument or two. In this video, nonfiction professor David Ulin sits down at a recent residency with Columbine author Dave Cullen to discuss the structure of Cullen’s award-winning book.

Faculty Spotlight: Emily Rapp

With just a few days until our Spring deadline, we thought you might like to know a bit about the people who you’ll be spending the next two years with, so every day until February 1st we’ll be updating this space with videos, stories, essays, film clips and more from our esteemed. First up, a spirited reading by nonfiction professor Emily Rapp from a recent event with our friends at The Rumpus…


Learn From The Best…Of 2012

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We’ve got an accomplished bunch of professors at UCR Palm Desert, perhaps because they aren’t just teachers, they’re first and foremost professional writers. And like most years, 2012 was a pretty good one for our faculty. Here are some of the accolades our faculty received last year…and if you’d like to learn from them starting in Spring 2013, you have until February 1st to apply for our next cohort.

Elizabeth Crane’s “revelatory” novel We Only Know Much earns huge praise in the Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus and more

Jill Alexander Essbaum earned the only NEA for poetry in the entire UC system…and the second of her career. 

Charles Evered’s “Looking Again” was named one of the Best Ten Minute Plays of 2012 by Smith & Kraus, while his film A Thousand Cuts was released to wide-acclaim.

Tod Goldberg had new work in Hobart, the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, as well as starting the popular podcast Literary Disco…and a few other things, too.

Stephen Graham Jones found his books on a slew of best-of lists, including: Spinetingler, LitReactor and Bloody Disgusting and was named one of the best books of the summer by the LA Times.

Mary Otis’ story “Where We Missed Was Everywhere”…or at least a sentence of it…is animated in this great short film from Electric Literature

William Rabkin’s episode of The Glades, “Old Times”, was one of the top rated of the year and his book Writing The Pilot has spent the last year as one of the bestselling screenwriting books.

Emily Rapp was named a “Face to Watch” by the Los Angeles Times for her upcoming memoir The Still Point of the Turning World, her essay “Transformation and Transcendence” was named one of the Best Articles of 2012 by the Huffington Post and TIME named her blog one of the 25 Best of the Year.

Rob Roberge’s serialized memoir “Your Life In Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll” was featured on The Rumpus…and you can see him read a bit of it here:

John Schimmel’s Tony-nominated musical Pump Boys & Dinettes gets primed for a return to Broadway, while John’s screenwriting book will be released in 2013.

Mark Haskell Smith’s Heart of Dankness ended up on several best of the year lists, including the San Francisco Chronicle and Lonely Planet, and here he is talking about it:

Deanne Stillman’s Desert Reckong was named one of the Best Books of the Year and a  Rolling Stone “Must Read” of the Summer and received glowing notices in the LA Review of Books, Denver Post, and many more.

David Ulin’s latest book, Labyrinth, was just released…and his weekly writing on books in the Los Angeles Times, where he’s Book Critic, included some of the most talked about book discussions of the year, including this recent piece on Jack Kerouac.

Mary Yukari Waters was the Jean Drahmann Writer-in-Residence at St. Louis University and was recently the subject of a rather exhaustive examination in Asian American Literature.

Matthew Zapruder had new work in the innovative Pink Thunder, as well as poems in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Academy of American Poets, and PEN, among many others, including on PBS:

Faculty News: John Schimmel Back On Broadway

The Broadway revival of Pump Boys And Dinettes, John Schimmel’s iconic Tony-nominated musical, is set to launch with preview shows this March at the Circle in the Square Theater...with some exciting new talent involved…and a giant ad in NY papers:



These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Things

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We asked some of our students, faculty and alumni to pick their favorite books and movies from 2012…even if they didn’t come out in 2012…and there seemed to be a resounding groundswell of love for Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman, We The Animals by Justin Torres and the film Silver Linings Playbook…as well as about 500 other things, too.

Stephen Graham Jones Book: The Shadowed Sun, NK Jemisin. Movie: Cabin in the Woods.

Julia Watson Books: The Crimson Crown, by Cinda Williams Chima. Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor.

Movies: Cabin in the Woods and Moonrise Kingdom

Gail Mackenzie-Smith Book: Alif the Unseen. Movie: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Deanne Stillman Books: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, Canada by Richard Ford. Movies: Lincoln, Argo.

Anna Weinstein Book: A Stranger Like You by Elizabeth Brundage. Movie: Pitch Perfect.

Leigh Raper Book: Suddenly, A Knock on the Door by Etgar Karet

Movie: Argo

Mary Otis: We, the Animals by Justin Torres for blazing language and emotional depth. Pina, the documentary about the life and choreography of Pina Bausch, directed by Wim Wenders, is inspiring, provocative, and beautiful to watch.

Sandi Reinardy Book: A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano; Movie: Lincoln

Elizabeth Crane: We the Animals by Justin Torres, tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed, The Scientists by Marco Roth, Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman. The Temple Grandin HBO movie.

Heather Scott Partington: Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, (and these new-to-me books: Columbine by Dave Cullen, Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola, and East of Eden by Steinbeck)

Stephanie Green Smalley Book: Building Stories by Chris Ware. Movie: Moonrise Kingdom, Sleepwalk With Me

Matthew Zapruder: Movie: Moonrise Kingdom. Book: What Light Can Do, essays on poetry by Robert Hass

Eileen V Austen: In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes, Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins and Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Loved the movie Quartet directed by Dustin Hoffman and indie doc film The Invisible War.

Jim Jennewein: Books: Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The GOon Squad, Elizabeth Crane’s We Only KNow So Much; The Alligator by Lisa Moore; Movie: Silver Linings Playbook

Matthew Greco: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, Canada by Richard Ford, Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson.

Yennie Cheung: I’ve fallen way behind on both my reading and my movie watching this year, but here are my favorites: Book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Movie: Moonrise Kingdom

Jennifer McCartin: Book: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, Zadie Smith’s NW. Movie: Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master

Kaitlin Elisabeth Hulsy: Movie: Cabin in the Woods. Book not from 2012: Ender’s Game. Book from 2012: Cinder.     

Chema Guijarro: Read Sherman Alexie for the first time this year, so Reservation Blues or Tonto and Lone Ranger Fistfight in Heaven for the book. Movies: “Why Stop Now” & “The Avengers.”

Ross Helford Books: BLUEPRINTS OF THE AFTERLIFE – Ryan Boudinot, WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH – Elizabeth Crane; Movies: “Cloud Atlas”, “The Hobbit”

Mickey Birnbaum: For the bumpteenth time, I have to offer up The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt; for movie, Rust and Bone.

David Ulin: My favorite was probably The Address Book by Sophie Calle.

Richard Cooper: Book: This is how you lose her, by Junot Díaz. Movie: Silver Linings Playbook. Guilty pleasure movies: Savages; and, To Rome with Love.

Pamela Diane Gilbert-Snyder: Movies– “Bernie,” “Monsieur Lazhar,” and “A Dangerous Method” (the latter might be a 2011 movie) Books: Non fiction: “We Learn Nothing” by Tim Kreider Fiction: “The Newlyweds” by Nell Freudenberger, and lots of other good books that are not from 2012, like “The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine” by Alina Bronsky (thanks MHS) and “The Favorites” by Mary Yukari Waters

John Schimmel: Why Does The World Exist? – An Existential Detective Story by Jim Holt.

Maggie Downs: Movie: “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” It’s stunning — a magical, modern fairy tale. That said, I watched it on a 9-hour flight; a bag of peanuts would have kept me entertained. Books: Treasure Island!!!  by Sara Levine, Columbine by Dave Cullen, Damascus by Joshua Mohr, The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, Undress me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

Lindsey Smithson: Books: Insurgent by Veronica Roth and Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President by Ron Suskind (it was published last year, whatever). Movies: Goon, For a Good Time, Call…, and Argo.

Cherisse Yanit Nadal: Books: Lament in The Night by Shoson Nagahara (1925 by way of 2012), This Is A Bust by Ed Lin (2008), Waylaid by Ed Lin (2002), Where You Lived by Tod Goldberg, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (2012). Movies: I Am A Ghost (HP Mendoza), Shanghai Calling (Daniel Hsia), Hunger Games (Gary Ross) [Don’t judge me omg]

Ruth Nolan: 2012 titles: Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru….Mojave Desert Manhunt by our own Deanne Stillman….as for my other reading, all kinds of random things (National Enquirer, books about suicide and depression, and obscure California desert/Native American stuff I’ll spare you from unless anyone really wants to know)….as for films, things I find on Netflix and Amazon instant movie rental, in no particular order, preference or taste. But I did like the Beasts of the Southern Wild film. Refreshing. For some reason it reminded me of Pan’s Labyrinth.

Kate Pastoor Abbott: Fiction: Wonder by R.J. Palacio and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; nonfiction: Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon.

Nick Harmon: Movie: The Comedy

Athena Strouble Lark: Dare I say I didn’t finish a whole book this year, and my writing has suffered. Started Mercy by Toni Morrison, and Wenches by Delores Valdez, but could not get through them because I’ve been reading textbooks for class and to teach. I could tell you the best textbooks  Norton’s Anthology of English Literature, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing by X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. The best movie is hands down, Django Unchained. Scenes of slavery like you’ve never seen before. I would call it a satire on slavery but that might be too harsh and in correct. Yet, seeing a free slave wreck havoc was delightful.

Mark Haskell Smith: Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson was my favorite this year, although I also thought The Address Book was super cool.

Tod Goldberg: Books: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine, The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters, We The Animals by Justin Torres, Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman, Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins and about 100 more. Movies: Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, and I absolutely loved the PBS documentary on Johnny Carson, King of Late Night.

Antonio Farias: Favorite Book: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu. Favorite Movie: Bless Me, Ultima directed by Carl Franklin.

Stacy Furrer: Recent favorites–Films: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Things We Lost in the Fire, Cloud Atlas. Books: End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe, The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson, and Clean Language, by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees. (Clean language refers to keeping your metaphors to yourself when you’re trying to understand what another is saying–useful for interviewing and helping trauma victims.) Stunning book.

Faculty News: Mark Haskell Smith’s Heart of Dankness Named A Best Book Of The Year

When Mark Haskell Smith decided to try is hand at nonfiction, he went to the ends of the earth to get his source material…or at least to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, the woods of Northern California, and down the block from his house as he went on a hero’s quest to find the true meaning of “dank”…and ended up with The Heart of Dankness, picked by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of their best books of 2012:


Faculty News: Deanne Stillman’s Desert Reckoning Named Top Book Of The Year

We love Deanne Stillman’s books, clearly, so it’s nice when other people agree with us. In this case, it’s the Pima County Public Library who named Deanne’s book Desert Reckoning one of the best books of the year:

Nearly a decade ago a week-long manhunt by hundreds of police personnel in the Mojave Desert led to the death of desert-rat, loner and civilization-hater Donald Kueck. He had murdered a local sheriff’s deputy and then gone on the run and into hiding. Stillman’s research and presentation are simply superb. She presents a broad point of view and allows all the major players in the drama to speak for themselves. When we finish reading we may think either “tragedy” or “just-desserts”, but we won’t doubt that we understand who, why, when, where and how. [W. David Laird]In this expansion of her award-winning Rolling Stone article, veteran crime-writer Stillman examines the 2003 murder of a sheriff’s deputy by a recluse in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. Through skillful use of sparse sources and a deep understanding of the history and culture of Southern California, Stillman paints a vivid picture of lives drifting out of control and the desert’s mesmerizing attraction for loners and misfits. Written in luminous prose, this spellbinding book provides a compelling and terrifying look into the violent margins of modern society. [Bruce Dinges]

Faculty News: Emily Rapp Named “Face To Watch In 2013″ By The LA Times

We’ve been watching Emily Rapp’s face for a long time — we see her enough that it would be odd if we didn’t look at her directly — but it’s always nice when other people notice her, too, like the Los Angeles Times, who named her a “Face To Watch” in 2013 for her upcoming memoir The Still Point Of The Turning World.


Remember that furor over tiger mothers — the idea that a mom who was ambitious and strict could create superachieving children? Rapp responded with an impassioned essay for being a different kind of parent; it sparked a memoir, “The Still Point of the Turning World.”

In the book, which will be published in March, Rapp explains that she learned to stop imagining her son’s future and instead live with him in the moment. This was a hard lesson: When Ronan was 9 months old, he was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare genetic disorder. Children with Tay-Sachs lose sight, mobility and brain function, and they rarely live to age 4. The premature loss of a child seems unbearable, but of course, some people must bear it. Rapp learns from the parents who have done so before her, and finds them, above all, fierce: in the way they honor their children’s short lives, how they manage awful tasks, in their ability to live on.

Rapp has an emotional accessibility reminiscent of “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed; her unique experiences have a touch of the universal. She comes across as open, midthought. In her book, she wrestles with the ideas of luck and sentimentality and life and love and often circles back, unresolved. Despite being a former divinity student, she bypasses religion for literature, seeking meaning in poetry, myth and, especially, “Frankenstein” and its author, Mary Shelley.

Rapp was born with a birth defect that led to the amputation of her left foot (her memoir “Poster Child” tells of being part of the March of Dimes campaign), and after examining pity from every angle, she’s having none of it. Not for her, not for her son. Her kind of parent? The dragon mother: powerful, sometimes terrifying, full of fire and magic.

Faculty News: Jill Alexander Essbaum Wins Second NEA Fellowship

Jill Alexander Essbaum, an acclaimed poet and writing professor at the University of California, Riverside, has won her second National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship.

Essbaum, one of 40 fellowship winners announced today, is the only 2012 recipient from the University of California. She also was named a writing fellow in 2003. She is an adjunct assistant professor in the UC Riverside Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts program in Palm Desert.

“To be honored with one National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in a career is a remarkable honor, but to be honored twice in a single decade is one of the highest accomplishments a writer could hope to achieve,” said Tod Goldberg, administrative director of the Low Residency program.

“Jill Alexander Essbaum has been one of the nation’s most revered poets since her debut collection was released in 2000 and she has continued to inspire and delight readers ever since,” Goldberg added. “Her work pushes the margin between religion and sexuality, trauma and the unshakable faith — and often gallows humor— one must possess in the face of tumult, while continuing to ask the big questions about faith, devotion and loss that all of us struggle to answer.”

She also is a demanding and vigorous professor, he said, “the kind who makes her students better both by example and by her unwavering desire to help each writer meet their potential, and is a colleague who deeply cares about the cause of literature. A member of our core faculty since 2009, Jill has been instrumental in the development of our Low Residency program, helping to turn our upstart endeavor into one of the largest and finest programs in the country.”

Essbaum said she is “insanely, madly, stupendously grateful” for the fellowship, a $25,000 grant that means “I can sigh that blessed sigh of relief that every artist dreams to sigh.”

Currently finishing a collection of poetry, her next work will focus on writing and writing about puns. “Alittle on the history of jokes … and the jokes I love and why, and how it all has to do with poems,” she said. “Unfortunately — or, is it all too fortunately? — it’s all low-brow, cornpone and 12-year-old boy humor. The best of all kinds.”

Jill Alexander Essbaum was born in Bay City, Texas, and was educated at the University of Houston, the University of Texas, and the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest.

Her first collection of poems, “Heaven” (2000), won the 1999 Bakeless Prize. Other collections include “Harlot” (2007), “Necropolis” (2008), and “The Devastation” (2008). Her work also has appeared in the anthology “Best American Erotic Poems” (2008, edited by David Lehman), and the 2010 and 2011 editions of “The Best American Poetry.” She has served as contributing editor for both The National Poetry Review and the online journal ANTI-.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities.


Poems by Jill Alexander Essbaum


is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room,

and everyone
I’ve ever loved

lives happily
just past

my able reach.
And each time

Jesus rises
I’m reminded

of this marble

they are not
coming back.


A clementine
Of inclement climate
Grows tart.

A crocus
Too stoic to open,

Like an oyster
That cloisters a spoil of pearls,

The heart that’s had
Stays shut.

Faculty News: David Ulin Answers The Age Old Question…

can writing be taught?