Our faculty is comprised of award-winning writers who are also excellent professors — they both teach and do.

Mickey Birnbaum


Mickey Birnbaum’s play Big Death & Little Death inaugurated Woolly Mammoth’s new Washington D.C. theatre in 2005. It has been produced subsequently at Perishable Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island; Crowded Fire in San Francisco; the Road Theatre in Los Angeles; and the Catastrophic Theater in Houston. The play was nominated for a 2006 Helen Hayes/Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, and was a 2006 PEN USA Literary Awards Finalist. His play Bleed Rail premiered at the Theatre@Boston Court in Los Angeles in 2007, and won a 2008 Garland Award for Playwriting. Mickey spent two months living in playwright William Inge’s boyhood home in Independence, Kansas as the recipient of a 2006 Inge Fellowship. He has written numerous children’s plays for L.A.’s celebrated non-profit organization, Virginia Avenue Project. He is a founding member of Dog Ear, a Los Angeles collective of nationally-renowned playwrights (visit www.dogear.org), as well as The Playwrights’ Union, and was a member of the 2008-2009 Center Theatre Group Writer’s Workshop. Over a thirty year career, Mickey has written screenplays for Universal, Paramount, Columbia/Sony, Interscope, Warner Brothers, and Leonardo di Caprio’s Appian Way Productions. He collaborated with director Steven Shainberg (Secretary, Fur) on the screenplay for The Big Shoe, which they are hoping will shoot in 2015, and is adapting the John Irving novel The Fourth Hand in collaboration with Shainberg. He wrote The Tie that Binds (1995), starring Keith Carradine and Darryl Hannah, for Interscope/Hollywood Pictures. Mickey received his MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of Riverside, Palm Desert in 2013. He teaches screenwriting at Santa Monica College as well. Mickey plays bass accordion for the Accordionaires, an accordion orchestra.

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Elizabeth Crane is the author of three collections of short stories, “When the Messenger is Hot,” “All this Heavenly Glory,” “You Must Be This Happy to Enter,” and the novels “We Only Know So Much” and “The History of Great Things.”  Her work has also been featured in numerous publications including Other Voices, Nerve, Ecotone, Coachella Review, Mississippi Review, Florida Review, Bat City Review, fivechapters, salon, Rookie, The Collagist, the Chicago Reader and The Believer, Swink, Fairy Tale Review, Chicago Magazine and anthologies including Altared, The Show I’ll Never Forget, The Best Underground Fiction, Who Can Save Us Now?, Brute Neighbors, and Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2008 and 2010. Her stories have been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts. She is a recipient of the Chicago Public Library 21st Century Award, and her work has been adapted for the stage by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater company, and also been adapted for film.

Jill Alexander Essbaum


Jill Alexander Essbaum is the author of four full-length collections of poetry including “Heaven,” which won the 1999 Bakeless Prize in poetry, “Harlot,” “Necropolis,” and “The Devastation” as well as the New York Times Bestselling novel Hausfrau.  A two time  NEA literature fellow, she’s published in many journals both secular and religious, print and online, well-known and ridiculously obscure including Poetry, The Christian Century, Image, No Tell Motel, Gulf Coast, Christianity and Literature, and others. Her poems “On Reading Poorly Transcribed Erotica” is included in the anthology The Best American Erotic Poems: 1800-Present, and her poem “Apologia” was reprinted in The Best American Poetry 2010 and her poem “Stays” appeared in Best American Poetry 2011.

She is an associate editor for the online journal ANTI- as well as the print magazine The National Poetry Review. She blogs occasionally at The Best American Poetry Blog where you will find her rolling collection of puns and Tom Swifties. In addition to poetry and puns, her interests extend to Old Time Radio, 1970’s African-American television, and musician and songwriter Nick Cave. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Gina Frangello21


Gina Frangello is the author of three books — A Life In Men, 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. Her next book, Every Kind of Wanting, will be released this fall from Counterpoint Press.



Tod Goldberg is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books, including The House of Secrets (Grand Central), Gangsterland (Counterpoint), a finalist for the Hammett Prize, Living Dead Girl (Soho Press), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the popular Burn Notice (Penguin) series, three times a finalist for the Scribe Award, and two collections of short stories, most recently Other Resort Cities (Other Voices Books).  His short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Black Clock, The Normal School, Post Road and Las Vegas Noir,  where his story “Mitzvah” was subsequently named a Distinguished Story of the Year in the 2009 Best American Mystery Stories. His essays, journalism, and criticism appear regularly in many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books and Las Vegas Weekly and have earned five Nevada Press Association Awards for excellence, while his essay “When They Let Them Bleed,” which first appeared in Hobart, was recently featured in Best American Essays 2013. In addition, he is the co-host, along with Julia Pistell & Rider Strong, of Literary Disco, one of the greatest podcasts on the planet. Tod Goldberg holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Literature from Bennington College and directs the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside.  His next book, a sequel to Gangsterland, will be released in 2017.

Stephen Graham Jones


Stephen Graham Jones is the author of twenty-two-and-a-half books, including, most recently, Mongrels (William Morrow). His story collections are After the People Lights Have Gone Off, States of Grace,  Bleed Into MeThe Ones That Got Away,Three Miles Past , and Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth. His novels are The Fast Red RoadAll the Beautiful SinnersThe Bird is GoneDemon TheoryThe Long Trial of Nolan DugattiLedfeatherIt Came from Del Rio), Seven Spanish AngelsZombie Bake-OffGrowing Up Dead in TexasThe Last Final GirlFlushboy, The Least of My ScarsThe Gospel of Z, Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly (with Paul Tremblay—this is the ‘half’), Not for Nothing. There’s also The Faster Redder Road: the Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones, edited by Theo Van Alst. Next up (2016) is the werewolf novel Mongrels, from William Morrow. Stephen’s work has been a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award, and he’s been an NEA fellow, has won the Texas Institute of Letters award for fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and the This is Horror Award. Stephen got his PhD from Florida State University, and lives in Boulder, Colorado. He’s mostly into horror and science fiction and fantasy and thrillers and westerns and mysteries and screenplays and literary fiction and innovative fiction and bestsellers and movies and comic books and hackysack and basketball and old trucks and fast cars, and Bob Seger.

Joshua Malkin


Joshua Malkin has written projects for AltaVista

[producers of Amores Perros], Giant Door Productions [Chapter 27], Fox Searchlight (through State Street Entertainment) [Barbershop, Men of Honor] and had another optioned by Nabushea Pictures [Sling Blade, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind]. He has also written and produced three documentaries; two about the art of puppetry, and the other about underground comics. In 2008, his screenplay Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever completed production for Lionsgate and his fantasy adventure adaptation Kane was picked up. Since then, he completed an adaptation of the (admittedly quite cheesy) 80s cult franchise Beastmaster as well as a rewrites on a slew of genre films. He recently completed a horror project for Australian company See Films and a “re-boot” of the franchise Buck Rogers In the 25th Century.  He is currently developing superhero properties for a production company in the Middle East, and another with Jeremy Renner’s production company, The Combine.  Joshua received his master degree in Directing from the American Film Institute. His short film Dustsuccessfully made rounds on the festival circuit and, among its many honors, won a Student Emmy Award as well as Best Dramatic Short at the New York Independent Film Festival.  He also has a bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude) in visual arts with an emphasis on sculpture and videography from UC San Diego.  He is part of the core faculty at UCR Palm Desert’s Low Residency M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts.


Anthony McCann


Anthony McCann is the author of the acclaimed poetry collections Thing Music, I ♥ Your Fate, Moongarden and Father of Noise. In addition to these books he is one of the authors (along with Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman)of Gentle Reader!, a collection of erasures of the English Romantics. His work has been translated into Spanish, French, Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Romanian. Since 2004, he has acted as Poet Laureate of Machine Project, a Los Angeles art and performance space. With Machine he has curated poetry events in major art museums, private living rooms, secret public closets, the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean (in a boat).

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Mary Otis  is the award-winning author of the short story collection Yes, Yes, Cherries. Her stories and essays have been published in Best New American Voices (Harcourt), Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Electric Literature, McSweeney’s, Zyzzyva, the Los Angeles Review of Books Fiction Issue, The New American Canon, and in numerous other venues. Her writing has been performed by WordTheatre and recorded for Electric Literature. The New York Times has said of her work, “Sadness and humor sidle up to each other, evocative of the delicate balance of melancholy and wit found in Lorrie Moore’s stories.” Her writing is anthologized in Woof: Fiction Writers on Dogs (Viking), Do Me: Tales of Love and Sex (Tin House), and My First Novel (Writer’s Tribe Books).  Her story “Pilgrim Girl” received an honorable mention for the Pushcart Prize, and her story “Unstruck” was a Distinguished Story of the Year in Best American Short Stories. Mary attended Bennington College and previously taught creative writing in the UCLA Writers’ Program and served as a mentor in the Mark Program for PEN.  She also teaches at the Noepe Writing Center in Martha’s Vineyard.  Mary is part of the core faculty of the UC Riverside Palm Desert M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts program..

William Rabkin


William Rabkin has written and/or produced hundreds of hours of dramatic television. He served as show runner on the long-running Dick Van Dyke mystery series “Diagnosis Murder” and on the action-adventure spectacle “Martial Law.” His many writing and producing credits include “The Glades,” “Monk,” “Psych, “Nero Wolfe,” “Missing,” “Spenser: For Hire,” “seaQuest 2032,” “Hunter” and “The Cosby Mysteries”. He has also written a dozen network TV pilots. His work has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Television Episode from the Mystery Writers of America. He has written two books on writing for television, “Writing the Pilot” (2011) and, with Lee Goldberg, “Successful Television Writing” (2003). Bill is also the author of the novels “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read,” “Mind Over Magic,” “The Call of the Mild,” “A Fatal Frame of Mind,” and “Mind-Altering Murder.” He is the co-creator and co-editor of “The Dead Man,” a monthly series of supernatural action thrillers, and has written three installments. A regularly lectures around the world on the art of screenwriting and production, including most recently in  Brazil, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. Rabkin is part of the core faculty of UCR-Palm Desert’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts..

Emily Rapp


Emily Rapp Black is a former Fulbright scholar and graduate of Harvard University and is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir, in addition to many essays and stories in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Slate, Salon, Huffington Post, The Bark, Bellevue Literary Review, The Sun, Body + Soul, StoryQuarterly, Good Housekeeping, The Texas Observer, and other publications. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award, a James A. Michener Fellowship at the University of Texas-Austin (Michener Center for Writers), and the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence fellowship at Bucknell University. She has received awards and grants for her work from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Jentel Arts Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, and the Fundacion Valparaiso. Her latest book, The Still Point of the Turning World, was released in 2013 and was a national bestseller. She is at work on a novel.

Rob Roberge


Rob Roberge’s most recent book, the memoir Liar (Crown, 2016) was named a Spring 2016 Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” pick. It was singled out in The New Yorker, who wrote, “…both the smallest and the biggest pieces of his memoir fascinate,” and was chosen as one of the best non-fiction books of 2016 by both Powell’s Bookstore and Entropy Magazine. Roberge is the author of four books of fiction, most recently the novel The Cost of Living (OV Books, 2013), about which Cheryl Strayed wrote “is both drop dead gorgeous and mind-bendingly smart.” He is core faculty at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert MFA in Writing Program, his short fiction and essays have been widely published and anthologized, and several of his plays have been produced in Los Angeles. As a musician, he has released two solo albums, and has played with the LA-based roots rock bands The Violet Rays and The Danbury Shakes, and he plays guitar and sings with LA’s art-punk band The Urinals. He is at work on a new novel.

John Schimmel


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, co-penned the Tony-nominated musical “Pump Boys And Dinettes,” published fiction and nonfiction, including his first book, Screenwriting Behind Enemy Lines: Lessons from Inside the Studio Gates. He currently works as head of linear content and as performance capture producer for Cloud Imperium Games which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crowd funding effort in history. John is also part of the core screenwriting faculty at the University of California at Riverside’s Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts, providing not just an insight into how to write screenplays, but how to write screenplays that sell.

Mark Haskell Smith


Mark Haskell Smith  is the author of five novels: Moist, Delicious, Salty (which was a Book Sense Notable Book in 2007 and voted “Top 100 Beach Reads” by NPR), Baked, and, most recently, Raw: A Love Story, all published by Grove/Atlantic. He has also written the nonfiction book Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers and the Race for the Cannabis Cup which was named a “Top Travel Literature 2012″ by Lonely Planet and Naked At Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World. In addition he has worked extensively in film and television; his credits include the feature films “Playing God” (Touchstone Pictures, 1997) and the Brazilian film “A Partilha” (Columbia/TriStar/Globo Films, 2002) which won the Audience Award for Best Picture and the Crystal Lens Award for Best Screenplay at the Miami Brazilian Film Festival; as well as original pilots for ABC and CBS television. He is part of the core faculty of the UC Riverside Palm Desert M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts program. He is a graduate of The Evergreen State College and has an M.F.A. degree from the American Film Institute.

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Deanne Stillman’s latest book is Desert Reckoning, based on her Rolling Stone article, “Mojave Manhunt.” Praised in Newsweek as the “best of the recent wave of nonfiction books about the desert,” it won the 2013 Spur Award and LA Press Club Award for best general nonfiction, and received raves in many publications. She also wrote Mustang, an LA Times “best book 08,” winner of the California Book Award silver medal for nonfiction, and forthcoming in an audio edition with Anjelica Huston, Frances Fisher, Wendie Malick, John Densmore (the drummer in the Doors), and others. In addition, she’s the author of the cult classic Twentynine Palms, an LA Times “best book 01″ and re-issued as an ebook in 2013. Hunter Thompson called it “A strange and brilliant story by an important American writer,” and it’s included in college nonfiction courses around the country. Deanne’s work appears in many anthologies and her plays have won prizes in various festivals. She has also written for the NY Times, LA Times, Slate, Salon, Orion, Tin House, the LA Review of Books (“Letter from the West” column), huffingtonpost, the rumpus, and other publications, as well as for film and television. She is one of 24 winners of the first Amtrak Writers Residency, and currently, she is writing Blood Brothers for Simon and Schuster. She’s a member of the core faculty at the UC Riverside-Palm Desert Low Residency MFA Creative Writing Program.

David L. Ulin


David L. Ulin is the author, most recently, of Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles which was published in October by the University of California Press and named a finalist for the PEN Award for the Arts of the Essay, and the novel Ear to the Ground.  His other books include “The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time,” the novella “Labyrinth,” and the Library of America’s “Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology,” which won a California Book Award. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, Bookforum, Black Clock, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, Columbia Journalism Review, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, he is also the former book critic and book editor of the Los Angeles Times. David is a core member of UCR-Palm Desert low residency M.F.A. Creative Writing faculty.

Mary Yukari Water


Mary Yukari Waters’ fiction has appeared three times in “The Best American Short Stories.” She has also appeared in other anthologies including The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and Zoetrope 2. She is the recipient of an NEA grant, and her work has aired on the BBC and NPR. She has published two books, both with Scribner: the short story collection The Laws of Evening (a Barnes & Noble Discover Award for New Writers selection, Booksense 76 selection, and Kiriyama Prize Notable Book), and a novel, The Favorites. Waters received her M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine. She is a core member of the UC Riverside Palm Desert low residency M.F.A. Creative Writing faculty.

Matthew Zapruder


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.