Oh, it’s going to be a time! If you’re a prospective applicant and you’re interested in sitting in for the day, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your visit. Here’s our schedule for December…which may change slightly in the next few days…but this will give you a great view of what’s to come!
Fall Residency Schedule
Breakfast & Lunch are served in Salon 4
All Graduate Lectures are in Salon 5
All Evening programs are in Salon 6
Lectures are held in Salons 5, 6, or 8, as noted.
Friday, December 6
4:00 – Check in
4:00 – Faculty & Staff meeting in Salon 6
5:00 – New Student Orientation in Salon 5
*Required for all new students
6:00 – Opening celebration on the Sunrise Terrace.
Saturday December 7
9:00: All Student Orientation in Salon 5
*Required for ALL students
10:30: Faculty Lecture: Anthony McCann (P)
Writing the Catastrophe
The crisis humanity faces is total. It’s planetary. It’s a crisis in space and also in time. Our understandings of both are collapsing, alongside our understandings of nationhood and democracy. We don’t really know where we are, or even when we are. (How close are we to the end? Is the land we stand on going to be inhabitable in 200 years, 100 years, 60, 40? Will it even be land?) Such a crisis requires nothing less than new understandings of time and of place. It also asks for different kinds of writing, and challenges our understandings of genre, of what poems and narrative prose are and can do. Let’s talk about it. (8)
10:30: Faculty Lecture: Rob Roberge (F)
Reading as a Writer: A Close Read of Denis Johnson’s “Dundun.”
We hear that we should “read like a writer” often, but what exactly does it mean? In this close read of Denis Johnson’s short story “Dundun,” we’ll go through line-by-line and see how every choice made in the piece adds to the effect of the narrative as a whole. Every single sentence matters/has a job in every work of prose. If it doesn’t, it should be cut. We’ll look at language, character(s) (minor and major), scenes, action, POV, dialog, and the creation and intensity of the conflict, risk, tension, and unease that permeates the narrative. And we’ll look at how to take the techniques Johnson uses and apply them to our own work.
Read the story prior to the lecture, and please bring a printed copy so that you can mark up the text. (6)
Link to the story here: https://onceinthebackyard.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/dundun-by-denis-johnson/
10:30: Faculty Lecture: Faculty Lecture: David Ulin (All)
The Writer as Literary Citizen
In this seminar, we will discuss the nature of literary citizenship and will also discuss how reading, writing, teaching and more fit together in a cohesive approach to literature as practice and art, as well as the challenges and pleasures of working in an era when everything is changing, and we can no longer take old pieties for granted. Such a process is, of course, different for everyone. And yet, what we all share is an understanding that literature is about empathy; when it is working, it allows us to inhabit (and understand) other perspectives and worldviews. Students should come prepared to share and discuss their own reading and ideas. What journals, magazines, and/or websites do you regularly look at? What are the discussions in which you are engaged, and with whom? It is absolutely necessary for the literary citizen to keep up on and participate in the ongoing conversations about aesthetics and culture. Such dynamics are the building blocks of your literary sensibility, from which citizenship necessarily grows. (5)
Matthew Zapruder, Poem for Harm: https://harpers.org/blog/2019/09/poem-for-harm/
Alexander Chee, How to Unlearn Everything: https://www.vulture.com/2019/10/author-alexander-chee-on-his-advice-to-writers.html
1:15 Main Genre Workshops
Rapp Black: Lantana
4:30: Graduate Lecture: David Holloway (F)
Satirical Comedy in Long Form Fiction
Many works of long form fiction are satirical in nature. Many are funny. And some of them are both. In this lecture we’ll examine the interplay between these two things. Through a treatment of three key works we’ll explore how and why the authors have employed comedy and humor to support their satirical purpose.
5:15: Graduate Lecture: Erich Meager (F)
The Color of Conflict
Crater marked fields, impassable roadways, twisted train tracks, leafless trees and bird-less skies are hallmarks of a world at war. In this lecture we’ll examine if there is a discernible pattern in the use of color that reflects the real world consequences of war. We will also investigate how color’s importance transforms in novels that feature war as a central conflict, exploring Sarah’s Key, All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale and others. Join me as I argue with myself, keep squirrels at bay and stimulate the mind with colorful charts and data.
7:30pm: *Special Evening Event! Andy Weir in conversation with Tod Goldberg
This event is mandatory. Plus, you want to come. It’s gonna be cool.
Sunday December 8
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Steph Cha (F)
The Revelatory Nature of Crime
Crime is universal and constant, the result of people in societies making decisions to harm each other. Steph Cha will talk about the revelatory nature of crime, the way it is informed by ills and grievances both social and personal, and therefore lays them all bare. She’ll discuss what this means for storytellers, the narrative possibilities that go both with and beyond the question of whodunnit. (5)
9:00-10:30: Faculty Lecture: John Schimmel (S)
Writing Video Games
Why attend a lecture about video games at a creative writing residency? Well, there is the simple reality that games are huge and growing huger and therefore present huge and fascinating opportunities for writer. Of equal importance: Understanding the esoteric challenges of game writing can stretch us as storytellers and help us further unpack the tools of screenwriting craft. (6)
9:00-10:30: Faculty Lecture: Mickey Birnbaum (PL)
Visual Storytelling for Playwrights Common wisdom has it that dialogue drives plays. People talking to each other. To themselves. To the audience. Consequently, playwrights often neglect to tell their stories visually as well, preferring to outsource their visual creativity to directors and designers. Bad idea. In this lecture, we’ll learn how playwrights can drive their stories using sets, props, and visual storytelling. We’ll examine how theater often meets the challenge of representing non-realistic worlds and characters better than the most expensive CGI-driven movies. And we’ll look at examples of plays that combine dialogue-driven narrative with innovative, playwright-generated visuals. You will never again be satisfied with kitchen-sink realism. (8)
10:30-12:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Liska Jacobs (F)
What Do Your Characters Want?
The want of your central character gives dynamic to your story, kicking the elements of the plot into motion. Whether it manifests as need, wish, or hope—it’s got to be there. In this lecture, we’ll examine want in our own stories as well as novels by Vladimir Nabokov, Jane Austin, Ernest Hemingway, among others. (5)
10:30-12:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Matt Horwitz with Joshua Malkin (S)
What is HAPPENING?
How screenwriters are – and need to – adapt to a rapidly evolving landscape… oh: and what the heck’s going on with the WGA and why? (6)
10:30-12:00 Faculty Lecture:
1:15-4:15 Cross-Genre Workshops
Rapp Black: Plumeria
4:30: Graduate Lecture: Felicity Landa (F)
Stay In Your Lane, and Other Contemporary Threats: Navigating Representation and Diversity in Young Adult Literature
The YA marketplace is a tumultuous place. Books are pulled from publication, authors are slammed on social media, and criticism is shifting focus from literary to personal, all in the name of diversity. The once popular idea of write what you know has been taken to its extreme, write only what you know. But why? Who decided this? Who continues to decide this? And how do we sift through misguided criticism to find the actual problem? In this lecture, we’ll look at both the meaning of representation, and why it’s necessary in contemporary literature. We’ll consider books that have been highly praised for their inclusivity and sensitivity to all forms of diversity, as well as books that have been at the center of controversy and backlash for falling short of the mark. We’ll analyze these texts from character development to a plot’s emotional arc, in order to deepen our understanding of the fundamental differences between success and failure in the marketplace, and how we can utilize those tools to improve our own writing.
5:15: Graduate Lecture: Rachel Zarrow (F)
The Artist in Contemporary Fiction
Though all readers of fiction are familiar with the traditional coming-of-age novel, many readers are less familiar with the sub-genre of the artist’s journey. Writing engaging fiction about visual art and artists is a challenging task because words are, at best, an approximation, and paintings and photographs are meant to be seen. In this lecture, we’ll examine a number of contemporary novels about visual artists. We’ll explore the mechanics of creating a believable character who is an artist and discuss which details best serve the narrative. We’ll examine the relationship between the author’s prose and the fictional artist’s work, and consider the additional challenges of fictionalizing real artists.
8:00: Evening Program: Liska Jacobs in conversation with Mark Haskell Smith
Monday December 9
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Michael Craft (All)
Let’s Nail It: The Philosophy and Practice of Punctuating Dialogue in Fiction
Weak writing (as it might be judged in manuscripts rejected by editors and agents) is quickly signaled by lack of punctuation skills, and because fictional dialogue contains such a thicket of punctuation issues, this is where deficiencies are instantly exposed. Therefore, aspiring fiction writers can conquer one of the many hurdles to publication by hunkering down and nailing the punctuation of dialogue. During our time together, we’ll cover nuts-and-bolts guidelines that will help you master these issues in conformity with the standards of contemporary American publishing. What’s more, you’ll leave with a one-page cheat sheet that will allow you to focus more on the art and less on the craft. Best of all, we’ll have some fun with this. (5)
9:00-10:30: Faculty Lecture: Bill Rabkin (S)
Idea to Story: Your next project can start anywhere – an image, a phrase, a sound. But how do you take that source of inspiration and transform it into a story that can sustain a movie, a book, or a series? In this lecture I will trace the inspirations, influences, connections and leaps of faith that allowed me to take a single image and build it into a fully developed TV series. (6)
9:00-10:30 Faculty Lecture: Jill Alexander Essbaum (P)
Do you read aloud your sentences? Your stanzas? Your paragraphs? Let’s say you do. Let’s say you hear a glitch. You can’t quite pin down what it is, but something’s clunking around in the engine. A phrase goes thwap when it should go whoosh. Your baby has the hiccups. What, then? I contend that our ears are our most underused editors (auditors?). This talk will link poetic devices to sound’s practical application. I’ll show you how sound alone can manipulate meaning, mood, tone. I’ll give you a few go-to suggestions for when you know something isn’t hitting right, but you can’t quite figure out what. We will also consider ways that a deeper intimacy with the physical fact of a word (its feel in your mouth, the breath behind it, where the tongue might land on the teeth between syllables) can absolutely introduce unexpected depth into your work. (8)
10:30-12:00 Faculty Lecture: Emily Rapp Black (NF)
Close Reading: Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
We will do a close reading of the memoir, WILD GAME: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me, and talk about how particular craft choices make it one of the best memoirs of the decade. (5)
10:30-12:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Jennifer Grimaldi (F)
The Genre Fiction Marketplace
We’ll discuss what’s happening in the marketplace of netherworlds and niches and such with agent Jennifer Grimaldi. (6)
1:15-4:15: Main Genre Workshops
4:30: Graduate Lecture: Scott Stevenson (NF)
Using Animals to Craft a Persona in Non-Fiction
A persona is an extension of the narrator, and what better device for an author to shape their narrator than an animal? According to the Urban Institute, 85 million Americans own a pet and close to half of them don’t have children. In this lecture, your mind will be blown by the variety of creatures an author can employ to deepen our emotional connection to their stories. Dogs, cats, horses, hawks and yes, even honeybees, are employed in non-fiction to connect us to the complex emotional landscape of grief, family politics and mental illness.
5:15: Graduate Lecture: Aimee Carrillo Rowe (NF)
Queer Family in Contemporary Memoir
This lecture analyzes how traditional notions of family are “queered” in contemporary memoir. I explore how heterosexual coupling becomes unnatural, undermining its equation with reproduction – and even the predictable forward march of family time becomes circular, haunted by alternate kinship models, akin to kin.
8:00: Evening Program: Student Reading in R Bar
Tuesday December 10
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Ivy Pochoda (F)
Where Sports and Writing Meet: Or the Importance of Doing Several Things Well
Genre, style—writers are often known for these. But too often emerging (and established) authors find themselves pigeonholed by labels. This talk will examine why it’s important to have a large toolkit at your disposal when you sit down to write, why you should trample on categorization and conventions, and how everything else you might excel in is both a basis and correlation for your writing. (5)
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Miguel Murphy (P)
Radical Contact: Syntax as Fetish
Restraint is the poet’s chiefest preoccupation. As we work to harness the inwardness of expression in the context of a sentence, we face the questions of punctuation and phrasing. How might constriction in the sentence release the jet of poetry? How do we manage the lyric impulse with the restraints of syntax? This confrontation is what we call a poet’s style. Considering the merits of poems that refuse or fetishize grammar, we’ll think about how an author’s syntactical choices result in a unique voice. We’ll consider our own poems as an opportunity for impulse, error, and progression. (6)
10:30-12:00: Faculty Lecture: Heather Partington (All)
Secrets of the Book Critic
You sold your book, so now what? What can you do when you write the book to ensure it will get a positive review? What do critics want to see in a book? How does your book get into a critic’s hands? If you know a book critic personally, is it okay to ask him or her to review something you wrote? Do self-published books get reviewed? How should you act if you get a negative review? And how do publications choose books for review, anyway? In this session, we’ll look at both the business side of literary criticism and how book reviews get written. We’ll examine several examples of recent reviews, and you’ll leave with lots of practical tips for getting or writing a successful review. (8)
10:30-12:00: The Coachella Review Lecture Series with Sandy Smith & Pallavi Yetur
The Art of Copyediting
A former and current lead copyeditor for TCR will discuss the ins and outs of copyediting, from resources like the Chicago Manual of Style to artistic decisions like when to copyedit “voice” or dialogue. TCR welcomes questions from audience members as Sandy and Pallavi take you through copyediting across different genres. This interactive talk will be helpful for both learning to better edit your own work and for students who may want a future career editing books or magazines. (6)
1:15-4:15 Cross-Genre Workshops
4:30: Graduate Lecture: Jen Croslow (S)
The Autobiographical Screenplay
Fellini said, “All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” Screenwriters such as Noah Baumbach, Nora Ephron, and Carrie Fisher have successfully turned significant elements of their own lives into emotionally moving and/or hilarious narratives. Using interviews and essays, we’ll attempt to determine the writer’s intent – then, delving closely into their scripts and films we’ll see how they did it.
5:15 Graduate Lecture: Suzanne Bailey (F)
Cigarettes, Rum, and Celery: The Importance of Everyday Props in Fiction
In real life, our personal props are rarely iconic, or even memorable. Most of us aren’t carrying around magical items such as the One Ring or Excalibur, and we’re not pursuing a MacGuffin such as the Maltese falcon or the Holy Grail. In fact, we all tend to schlep around versions of the same things: a phone, keys, wallet, and coffee. So how does a writer use everyday portable objects to do more than keep a protagonist’s hands busy while she talks? In this lecture, we’ll explore how can we employ mundane props to create realism, develop character, channel emotion, help exposition, and further plot.
8:00: Evening Program: Writing Outside Your Genre: Four Writers Talk About Writing Outside Their Comfort Zone – Jill Essbaum (poetry-into-fiction), David Ulin (nonfiction-into-poetry), Joshua Malkin (screenwriting-into-graphic novels), Anthony McCann (poetry-into-nonfiction)
Wednesday December 11
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Robert Mitas & Elizabeth Crane (S)
The Art of Adaptation
How do you turn a famous book or story into a great film? A great TV show? We’ll get a lesson in the art of transformation from one of the top producers in the business. (5)
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Shawna Kenney (NF)
The Art of Pitching for Publication
Putting your story into the world can be intimidating; add sales and self-promotion to the mix and things can get weird. Learn the art of approaching editors and how to place essays and reported stories in both literary and commercial outlets. We’ll study successful queries and pitches; analyze real-life calls for submissions and writers’ guidelines; and review resources for finding the right home for your writing. Come full of dream publications and big ideas! (6)
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Mallory O’Meara (All)
Effective Research Methods
You’ve got a great big idea. You know just a little bit about it. How do you go about getting all the research done? How do you do it without being overwhelmed? (8)
10:30-12:00: Guest Faculty Lecture: Bill Mechanic in conversation with John Schimmel
A Life in Pictures (5)
This is a mandatory event! Plus, why would you want to miss it!
1:15-4:15: Main Genre Workshops
4:30: The Coachella Review Meeting: Come learn how you can work on The Coachella Review next academic year. Jobs are open now! (6)
4:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Dara Hyde (All)
Writing The Agent Query Letter
Prose, poetry, screenwriting…all of you will need to find an agent. How do you write that letter without going crazy? Agent Dara Hyde is going to reveal the secrets. (5)
Thursday December 12
9:00-9:30 Graduate Lecture: Billy Minshall (F)
Connecting the Dots: Overlapping Story Lines in Works of Fiction
When seemingly separate narratives intersect in a work of fiction, consider it a polyphonic novel. In this lecture, we’ll look at The Hours, Stillwater Saints, A Visit from the Goon Squad and several others to determine how each author effectively synchronizes multiple story lines.
9:45-10:15 Graduate Lecture: Francesca Lia Block (F)
Gothic Conflict: The Dark House, The Demon Lover and The Secret
Haunted or apparently haunted settings, brooding lovers with troubled pasts, and taboo topics such as incest or violence are all common elements of Gothic fiction. This lecture will give a brief description of the Gothic in literature, using examples from the Bronte sisters to Toni Morrison. We’ll also examine how Gothic elements of character, plot, setting, voice and theme all reveal clues to one literary mystery that can deepen, strengthen and improve your work in any genre.
10:30-11:00 Graduate Lecture: Adam Sullivan (F)
Writing Effective Satire
Imagine a deflated balloon. Nothing special about it, just a small tube of latex. Seems normal enough, right? Now imagine that same balloon, only inflated. Now you can see the air leaking out, because it’s actually filled with tiny holes. That’s satire—sometimes you have to make things much larger in order to see how they are broken. Adam Sullivan will talk through what satire is, what it isn’t, the role it plays in society, and how to create it effectively.
11:00-12:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Yennie Cheung (F & NF)
Break Hearts in Five Minutes Flat: Writing Flash Fiction and Nonfiction
How do you write an entire story in a thousand words or one hundred… or six? We’ll break down common elements of flash prose to decipher how writers of every genre—yes, even you world-building novelists—can make a quick but lasting impact. (8)
11:00-12:00 The Tomas Rivera Lecture Series: Alex Espinoza (All)
Art, Activism, and Literary Diversity
James Baldwin was once quoted as saying, “If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” This lecture will examine the way in which writing can bring to light those experiences that oftentimes go untold and undocumented. What responsibility (if any) does a writer have to be socially and critically engaged with the world in order to tell the kinds of stories that matter? Is it important to have a political agenda or aim? What position does this place the writer of color and difference as we wade though one of the most politically volatile periods in our nation’s history? Be prepared for a frank discussion as we confront some harsh truths so that we may come to a greater understanding of the power of writing to shape not just how we see the world, but how we respond to lived realities different from our own. (6)
1:00-2:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: John Mattson (S)
Screenplay as Short Story
Here’s a secret nobody will tell you: A screenplay is a short story. In studying and learning to write short fiction, you are learning many of the skills you need to write a screenplay. Yes, the forms look different, and, yes, they serve different ends. But many of the same rules and skills apply. The forms are more similar than not. It took me three decades to figure this out. You can learn it in the span of one workshop. We will discuss:
The surprising, shared history of the rise of the short story and the advent of the screenplay.
The screenplay as the short story’s low-class but high-paid cousin.
How the form of the short story echoes the form of the screenplay.
How a screenplay is not a novel.
How the skills of the fiction writer translate to screenwriting.
How to decide what form your idea should take—short story, novel, screenplay, play, poem, listicle…
We will also dive, briefly, into the tradition of prose writers working in Hollywood, (Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, William Faulkner, Gillian Flynn, Dorothy Parker) and Hollywood’s long love affair with the short story: Mary Gaitskill (“Secretary”), Joyce Carol Oates (“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” a.k.a. Smooth Talk), Alice Munro (“The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” a.k.a. Away From Her), Annie Proulx (“Brokeback Mountain”), Stephen King (“Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption”), F. Scott Fitzgerald (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), and Raymond Carver (“So Much Water, So Close to Home,” a.k.a. Jindabyne, “Why Don’t You Dance?” a.k.a. Everything Must Go). (5)
1:00-2:30 Guest Faculty Lecture: Dorothy Rice (NF)
Mining Memory for Truth in Memoir and Personal Essay
Definitions of memoir and personal essay often include words like factual, historical account, memory and reminiscence. Drawing on insights and examples from the work of beloved memoirists, as well as pundits on the art and craft of personal writing, Dorothy Rice will explore the shifting nexus between the seemingly solid world of facts and historical accounts (fake news, anyone?) and how our minds retain and retrieve memories and the stories of our lives. By interrogating long-held memories as if they were suspects on trial, writing a memoir becomes a journey of exploration, discovery and new insight. (6)
1:00-2:30: Faculty Lecture: Mark Haskell Smith (F,NF)
Neuroscience, Narrative, and You
In this interactive workshop we’ll look at how our brain is built to look for change—anything that might be a danger, a threat, or something new—and how we can use this neural alert system to create curiosity by introducing change into our work. Specifically we’ll workshop your opening paragraphs to see if they create curiosity and hook the reader. As simple as Jeannette Walls memoir The Glass Castle, “I was sitting in the taxi wondering if I’d overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster.” Or as enigmatic as Albert Camus “Mother died today. Or yesterday. I don’t know.” Submit your opening paragraph by email before the workshop or bring one in. (email@example.com) (8)
2:30-3:00 Graduate Lecture: Stephanie Kotin (F)
We Don’t Want Your Stinkin’ Ideas…Or Do We? How to tell a story that addresses societal issues without coming across like a preacher or losing your audience. In this lecture, we’ll look at the work of several authors for whom social or political issues are of central concern. We’ll examine how these works employ various elements of craft to create stories that at once engage the reader and social or political material.
3:15-3:45 Graduate Lecture: Blair Jockers (F)
Write What You Know How the definition of what we “know” infuses our writing, based on an analysis of the works of Ethan Canin, author of “A Doubter’s Almanac.”
4:00-4:30 Graduate Lecture: Sandy Smith (F)
Sadists, Saints, and Speech Bubbles: What Makes Fiction “Transgressive”?
Transgressive fiction gets a lot of attention for its splashy no-holds-barred sex and splatterpunk violence, but those things do not define this often-misunderstood genre. Deploying serial killers and smack addicts as unlikely protagonists, transgressive fiction can serve as an efficient mechanism to assess the political, social, and spiritual health of a society; to catalyze redeeming change; and to champion free speech. We’ll mudlark the suspiciously warm waters of books like Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, Irvine Welsh’s Filth, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich to unearth and examine the thing that elevates this genre above, say, fetish porn: a central theme of pushing back against, or transgressing, confining boundaries set by a dominant external force. We’ll also look at subgenres, explain why satire isn’t really transgressive, and reveal the genre’s one unforgivable sin.
4:45-5:15: Shawn Mansouri (F)
Bridging the Intimacy Gap: In this short lecture we’ll look at the decline of the omniscient perspective in narrative storytelling, the elements that make it difficult for the writer to achieve intimacy with character, and how to overcome those difficulties and make it a viable point of view in the modern age.
8:00 Evening Program: Sara Birmingham & Seth Fishman in conversation on the book marketplace.
Friday December 13
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Grace Jasmine (PL)
Writing for the Musical Theatre. Curtain up! Grab your coffee and come learn how to write your own musical. Unlike most forms of creative writing, writing a musical is a highly collaborative art. Write the perfect “book” and see it come to life in front of an audience that applauds your words. Work with teams of writers and actors and tech people who become your big weird family who love your art as much as you do. Create something people see in real-time! We’ll talk about the musical play form, how to work as a book writer and/or lyricist, and how to find and work with composers. How a straight play varies from a musical play. Scansion, prosody, song spotting, and more. The basics of pitching of a musical idea, writing the 1st outline, and working with collaborators to move a first-draft book to a show with musical numbers. Resources for musical theater writers, how to get started, and where to find support and training. So, if you saw Fun Home and marveled about how those emotionally powerful thoughts became lyrics that entwined effortlessly with the music; if you scored Hamilton seats and felt riveted; if your Rent CD is worn out from 525,600 listens and you fight with people about Sondheim’s greatest work—you are in the right place. We’ll hear and talk about songs from contemporary musicals, some old classics, and even some original works while we discuss how to make musicals! (5)
9:00-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: Tyler Dilts (F)
What’s Your Damage? Writing Trauma in Fiction
We’ll be examining the manner in which the depiction of trauma in fiction is essential to establishing everything from tone to character to the authenticity of the world in which your story takes place. Want to know why Lord Peter Wimsey is more noir than Phillip Marlowe? Why Katniss Everdeen is more badass than Jack Reacher? Why Godzilla would never stand a chance going up against Bambi? Then this is the lecture for for you. (6)
9:00-10:30 Guest Faculty Lecture: Sara Borjas (P)
How she’d knead the buttons / on the telephone, order me food /from Pizza Hut. I assure you, /
gentle reader, this was done / with the spirit of Mesoamérica / ablaze in her fingertips.
-Paul Martinez Pompa, from ‘The Abuelita Poem”
What happens when, as Jose Esteban Muñoz describes, “we embrace stereotypes such as ‘Latino as excess’ and redirect it in the service of Liberationist politics?” A playful and transgressive creative process, like Pompa’s exaggeration of identity, can reclaim aesthetic abjection in defiance of the exclusionary politics of contemporary poetry. In the vein of Carmen Gimenez Smith’s, “Let’s Make America Mongrel Again,” this lecture will map and model how artists and writers have taken learnings that were once forms of defense(code-switching, respectability politics, etc.) and refined them into weapons of offense, and, arguably, avant-garde poetry. (8)
10:30-12:00 Guest Faculty: Chelsea Benson and Joshua Malkin (S)
What’s hot, what’s not, and why. (5)
10:30-12:00 Guest Faculty Lecture: Maret Orliss (All)
Being An Author vs. Being a Writer: Your Job Beyond Words on the Page
As an author, it’s your job to create and establish an identity and personality that makes you accessible, to some degree, to the book buying public as well as to event professionals, media, and more. Outside of writing your book you need to know how to network, know what’s important to venues and festivals, be able to pitch yourself, and how to build an audience that wants to both buy your book AND promote it to their own channels. From creating a website, to your presence on social media, to which events you should pitch yourself for, and how often to follow up, this presentation will provide clarity as to the importance of having a public facing brand and the various ways you can do it that feel natural to you. (6)
1:15-4:15 Main Genre Workshops
4:30 Graduate Lecture: Bhagavan Jalli (S)
Making sense of Bollywood through the six faculties of writing it employs
Nearly every Bollywood film is an example of violating Neil Landau’s 21 question-paradigm (introduced to me by Professor Schimmel). Bollywood films work (make money) without a viable story nearly every single time because, Bollywood films are not entirely based on stories. They are pre-meditated collection of six aspects of performing arts, designed to impart sensations and emotions, as opposed to complete thoughts in the audiences. Sometimes, they do have very profound stories. That is why, I do not agree to some (short-tempered) critics who went to the extent of calling Bollywood movies a kind of porn. Such labeling shuns the phenomenon instead of explaining it. I choose to explain it by presenting the psychological, cultural, social, political, and economic reasons for why Bollywood is what it is. In this paper, I explore where it is going (by the way, a great future for all screenwriters from all walks of life and physical origins) — through a critical examination of the six faculties of writing Bollywood employs.
5:15 Graduate Lecture: Greg Tower (F)
Realism vs. Minimalism in the Stories of Lydia Davis
Two staples of modern American fiction combine for extraordinary effect in the stories of Lydia Davis. We’ll examine some of her stories, including flash fiction, to see how she creates what she describes as “skyscrapers” in the sense that they are surrounded by an imposing blank expanse. Find out why Samuel Johnson is indignant. Learn what a vache is.
8:00: Evening Program: Staged Readings/Screenings
Saturday December 14
8:45-9:30: *Spring Graduates Meeting: IF YOU’RE GRADUATING IN SPRING, YOU NEED TO COME TO THIS MEETING HENCE THE BOLD ALL-CAPS
9:30-10:30: Guest Faculty Lecture: David Martinez (All)
Teaching Creative Writing in the Community College System
Teaching creative writing at the community college level poses a unique set of challenges and rewards—the same can be said for transitioning from an MFA student to a creative writing professor. As an instructor, it can be challenging to address individual needs while following a schedule and maintaining classroom content that will be beneficial for the class as a whole. In this lecture, David Martinez will discuss his journey of going from student to teacher at the community college where everything started for him. He will share insights related to teaching the same class he took years ago which inspired him to pursue creative writing and teaching, and talk about what it’s like working alongside some of his former professors. David will also discuss how he maintains a balance between developing as a professor and continuing to pursue his writing goals. David is a former UCR Low Res student and will also share insights related to how the program has provided him many of the tools he needed to begin his professional path. (5)
9:30-10:30: Faculty Lecture: Elizabeth Crane (F)
Revision and Editing: What Happens After This?
So you sell your brilliant novel that you worked on here for three years. Congrats! Guess what? You’re not done yet! This talk will focus on editing and revision of novels, specifically my novel We Only Know So Much, because it seems like an excellent practical example of the process, and there are a lot of parallels between the work we do with our editors as writers, and the work we ask of you here. Basically, we don’t ask you to do anything we haven’t done ourselves! Like, a lot! See what I did there? (6)
10:00-11:30 Faculty Lecture: Jackie McKinley (S)
Real Life Inside The Writers Room
You’ve landed that first staff job. It’s going to be just like being on 30 Rock, right? Well…in this talk, we’ll dig deep into the life of a writer in the room, lessons for success, plus how not fail…which are two entirely different things. (8)
11:30 Private Graduate Lunch
1:15-4:15 Cross-Genre Workshops
8:00: Graduation & Farewell Party in Grand Ballroom
Presentation of Graduates
Desserts, drinks, and dancing!
Sunday, December 15
9:00am-12:00: Main Genre Workshops & Final Meetings
12:00: Lunch….and then why don’t you come back in June. We’ll all be a little older…and hotter.
Guest MFA Faculty
Chelsea Marelle Benson came to Echo Lake after earning her Master’s Degree in Producing from AFI in Los Angeles. She holds a BA degree in Film Production (with a minor in Literature) and a BFA degree in Dance from the University of Arizona. As a performer, she brings a unique perspective on entertainment as it relates to film and television and provides a fresh approach to the management team at Echo Lake.
Sara Birmingham is an editor at Ecco Press, an imprint of Harper Collins.
Sara Borjas is a Chicanx pocha and a Fresno poet. Her debut collection of poetry, Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff, was published by Noemi Press in March 2019 as part of the Akrilica series. Sara earned a B.A. in English Literature from Fresno State and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for Performative Arts from University of California, Riverside. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Creative Writing at UC Riverside. Her poetry can be found in The Rumpus, The Academy of American Poets Poem a Day Series, TinderBox, The Offing, Entropy, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Cultural Weekly, The Acentos Review, and Luna Luna, amongst others. She co-hosts and produces The Lovesick Poetry Podcast — a west coast poetry podcast launching in 2019, alongside IRL cousin and award-winning poet, Joseph Rios. She is a 2017 CantoMundo Fellow, a 2016 Postgraduate Writers Conference Fellow at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a 2013 Community of Writers Workshop at Squaw Valley Fellow. She is the recipient of the 2014 Blue Mesa Poetry Prize. She lives in Los Angeles but stays rooted in Fresno. She digs oldiez, astrophysics, aromatics, and tiny prints is about decentering whiteness.
Steph Cha is the author of Your House Will Pay and the Juniper Song crime trilogy. She’s an editor and critic whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. A native of the San Fernando Valley, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two basset hounds. Your House Will Pay has already been named a BARNES & NOBLE Discover Great New Writers pick and a MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2019 by BUZZFEED, L.A. TIMES, NYLON, KIRKUS, BOSTON GLOBE, USA TODAY, CRIMEREADS, BOOKBUB, LITHUB, THE MILLIONS, PACIFIC STANDARD, THE RUMPUS, LITREACTOR, BOOKPAGE, BUSTLE and several others.
Yennie Cheung is the co-author of DTLA/37: Downtown Los Angeles in Thirty-seven Stories. As a journalist, she served as an editor for HITS Magazine, and has written for The Los Angeles Times and Blender. She was also the co-founder and co-editor of the now-defunct Hipster Book Club book review site. Yennie holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside-Palm Desert. Her fiction and creative nonfiction has been published in such places as Word Riot, Angels Flight • literary west, decomP magazinE, The Best Small Fictions 2015, and The Rattling Wall anthology Only Light Can Do That. She lives in Los Angeles.
Michael Craft is the author of sixteen novels, including the acclaimed Mark Manning gay-mystery series, from which three installments were honored as finalists for Lambda Literary Awards: Name Games (2000), Boy Toy (2001), and Hot Spot (2002). In addition, he is the author of two produced plays, and his prize-winning short fiction has appeared in British as well as American literary journals. Craft grew up in Illinois and spent his middle years in Wisconsin, which inspired the fictitious setting of his current books. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and now lives in Rancho Mirage, California. In 2017, Michael Craft’s professional papers were acquired by the Special Collections Department of the Rivera Library at the University of California, Riverside. Visit his website at www.michaelcraft.com.
Tyler Dilts received his MA in English Literature and MFA in Fiction Writing from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Best American Mystery Stories, and he is the author of the Long Beach Homicide series of detective novels: A King of Infinite Space, The Pain Scale, A Cold and Broken Hallelujah (An Amazon #1 Bestseller), the Edgar Award-nominated Come Twilight, and most recently the standalone novel, Mercy Dogs. He lives with his wife in Long Beach, California and teaches creative writing at CSULB.
Alex Espinoza was born in Tijuana, Mexico to parents from the state of Michoacán and raised in suburban Los Angeles. In high school and afterwards, he worked a series of retail jobs, selling everything from eggs and milk to used appliances, custom furniture, rock T-shirts, and body jewelry. After graduating from the University of California-Riverside, he went on to earn an MFA from UC-Irvine’s Program in Writing. His first novel, Still Water Saints, was published by Random House in 2007 and was named a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection. The book was released simultaneously in Spanish, under the title Los santos de Agua Mansa, California, translated by Lilliana Valenzuela. His second novel, The Five Acts of Diego León, was also published by Random House in March 2013. Alex’s fiction has appeared in several anthologies and journals, including Inlandia: A Literary Journey Through California’s Inland Empire, The Southern California Review, Flaunt, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. His essays have been published at Salon.com, in the New York Times Magazine, in The Other Latin@: Writing Against a Singular Identity, in The Los Angeles Review of Books, and as part of the historic Chicano Chapbook Series. He has also reviewed books for the LA Times, the American Book Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and NPR. His awards include a 2009 Margaret Bridgeman Fellowship in Fiction to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a 2014 Fellowship in Prose from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a 2014 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for The Five Acts of Diego León. His newest book is Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime, which was published by The Unnamed Press in June, 2019.
An active participant in Sandra Cisneros’ Macondo Workshop and the Community of Writers, Alex serves on the board of California Humanities, a statewide non-profit whose aim is “to connect Californians to ideas and one another in order to understand our shared heritage and diverse cultures, inspire civic participation, and shape our future.” Alex is also deeply involved with the Puente Project, a program designed to help first-generation community college students make a successful transition to a university. A Puente student himself, he has since served as a Puente mentor and often visits Puente classes to talk with students and teachers about writing, literature, and the opportunities he gained through education. Alex is the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside.
Seth Fishman joined The Gernert Company in 2010 after beginning his career as an agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. Born in Midland, Texas, he graduated from Princeton University and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. His interests are wide-ranging, but in particular he’s looking for the new voice, the original idea, the entirely breathtaking creative angle in both fiction and nonfiction. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son, and is the author of two books of YA fiction and three forthcoming picture books.
Jennifer Grimaldi Raised on a steady diet of Holly Black & Philip Pullman, Jennifer Grimaldi has always gravitated toward otherworldly, fantastical novels that reflect our own world’s past and present. At St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne, she edited and acquired S. Jae-Jones’ New York Times bestseller WINTERSONG—a Labyrinth-inspired gothic YA—and worked with numerous bestselling and award-winning authors such as Kate Forsyth. Jennifer’s broad exposure to the domestic and foreign publishing markets as a scout with Barbara Tolley & Associates further shaped her taste for the eclectic. Now an agent with Chalberg & Sussman, where she first started her publishing career in 2012, Jennifer is building a list of historicals, romance, horror, and YA & adult sci-fi and fantasy. Although the titles on her shelves have changed over the years, the content has not: they are still stuffed with magic and spaceships, fairytales and faraway lands. Across all genres, Jennifer loves strong, voice-driven novels, dark and romantic themes, and books that make her think—and learn. She is particularly excited by books that explore gender and sexuality, especially those with diverse, LGBTA+ leads, and own-voice writers. Aspects sure to delight her include: cities and urban-planning, anecdotal histories, that trope where there were supposed to be two rooms at the hotel but they’re all booked up so the leads have to share, spies, thieves, mythological retellings, witches just trying to get by, weird obsessions, and puns.
Matt Horwitz Originally from the Washington, DC area, Matt knew from a young age that he wanted to work with creative people in the entertainment industry. After graduating from Indiana University in 2006, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream and began work at the management company Sleeping Giant Entertainment. In 2011, he was promoted to manager and in 2013 he joined the Echo Lake team.
Dara Hyde’s a senior 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 young adult. 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, BinderCon, New Orleans Writers’ Conference, Pima Writers’ Workshop, PubWest, Long Beach Comic Expo, IWOSC, Antioch University LA MFA, Chapman University MFA, UC Riverside MFA and UCR Palm Desert MFA. You can follow her on Twitter @dzhyde.
Liska Jacobs is the acclaimed author of Catalina, an Entertainment Weekly and Elle best of fall pick, and The Worst Kind of Want, named a best book of fall by Esquire, Cosmopolitan, and Publishers Weekly, among many others. An LA native, Liska Jacobs’s essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Literary Hub, Chicago Review of Books, The Millions, and The Hairpin, among other publications. She holds an MFA from UC Riverside.
Grace Jasmine writes in a variety of genres. With 47 nonfiction books in print, she decided to return to her first love, writing for theater. Shows include: Rainbows, Tim Doran, composer (Jasmine wrote, directed, and starred in this show, which was produced first in Los Angeles and then off-off Broadway); The Lover—A Tale of Obsessive Love, Ron Barnett, composer (Lonny Chapman Theatre premier). Jasmine had two original musicals premiere Summer 2017, at the Hollywood Fringe Festival: Sybil’s Closet and F**ked Up Fairy Tales. Her creative nonfiction piece, “My Mother’s Stroke,” was published by New Thought Vortex. Her dramedy piece “The Chemo Show” appeared in Memoir Magazine. Jasmine’s piece on death and grieving, “Your Order Is Up,” recently appeared in The Helix. She is currently working on two musicals: Skin Deep and The Suicide of Sparkle Jones, and two straight plays: The Rage of Ordinary People and The Masher—the latter appearing this summer at the Hollywood Fringe at Theatre Asylum’s Studio C. Jasmine was recently selected by the Phoenix Art Museum in cooperation with Now and Then Creative Company to create a short original play based on a three-dimensional modern sculpture. At the same festival, Jasmine was tapped to direct “The Drawing Lesson, by Andrea Markowitz, which received an award of merit at the event. Jasmine holds an MFA in Screenwriting and Playwriting from the University of California at Riverside, is a native Californian living in Arizona with her family and is an avid dog lover. Grace Jasmine is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
Shawna Kenney is the author of the award-winning memoir I Was a Teenage Dominatrix (Last Gasp), editor of the anthology Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers (Seal Press), co-author of Imposters (Mark Batty Publisher), and co-author of the new oral history Live at the Safari Club: A History of HarDCore Punk in the Nation’s Capital 1988-1998 (Rare Bird Books). Kenney is a Contributing Editor with Narratively and her nonfiction work has appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, Creative Nonfiction, Vice, The Rumpus, Bust, Salon and more. Kenney’s personal essays appear in numerous anthologies and she has shared her words on college campuses and airwaves around the world. She earned a BA in Communications from American University in Washington, DC and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She teaches creative writing for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and as a Pen in the Community Writer in Residence via PEN USA.
David Martinez is a writer and teacher currently based in Arizona—though he was raised between the US, Brazil, and Puerto Rico and has dual citizenship between the US and Brazil. After graduating from the University of California Riverside’s Low-Residency MFA program, he began teaching English and Creative Writing at Glendale Community College, where he was formerly a student. While teaching as an adjunct at GCC, he was given an Outstanding Adjunct Award. Prior to teaching at the community college, David worked as a substitute teacher at a Title 1 elementary and middle school where he took over for a seventh-grade Language Arts course one year and was the building substitute the next. David’s essays and fiction have been published by Charge Magazine, Automata Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Writer’s Resist, and Broken Pencil. His essay, “Just a Flesh Wound,” was nominated for a 2019 Best of the Net.
John Mattson wrote “Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home” and “Free Willy 3: The Rescue”, two-thirds of one of the most successful live action family franchises in Warner Brothers’ history. (Siskel & Ebert called “Free Willy 3” “the best of the Free Willy pictures.”) His screenplay “Milk Money” sold to Paramount Pictures for a no-option outright purchase of $1.1 million, a record for romantic comedy specs. His screenplay, “Me”, was named one of the ten best unproduced scripts by the Los Angeles Times. His pitch, “Food”, sold to Fox Animation and Jan de Bont, setting a new benchmark for animated pitches. He has sold numerous original scripts and pitches, in both features and television. In 2017, he earned an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from UC Riverside. His short story “Figure and Ground” won the 2018 R. N. Kinder Prize for Realistic Fiction and was published in Pleiades Magazine. In 2019, he won the Los Angeles Review Literary Award for Flash Fiction for his story “Eric Clapton’s Girlfriend,” which will be published in LAR’s “best-of” annual later this year. As a screenwriter, he has worked for Steven Spielberg, Kathy Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Walter and Laurie Parkes, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Richard Donner, Lauren Schuler Donner, Lynda Obst, Madonna, Joe Dante, Michael Finnell, Jan de Bont, Lucas Foster, John Goldwyn, Sherry Lansing, David Mickey Evans, and Richard Benjamin, among many others. Prior to screenwriting, he worked as a development executive and Story Editor at HBO, contributing to the films “And the Band Played On”, “The Josephine Baker Story”, and others — and developing projects with Robert Bolt (“Lawrence of Arabia”), Julius Epstein (“Casablanca”), David Newman (“Bonnie and Clyde”, “Superman”), Alan Sharp (“Night Moves”), Frank Pierson (“Cool Hand Luke”, “Dog Day Afternoon”) and Christopher Reeve. After graduating from UCLA film school (B.A., Motion Picture and Television Production, with honors), he worked as a story analyst for Universal, Tri-Star, Disney, The David Geffen Company, Columbia Pictures, Amblin’, Imagine Entertainment, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Dawn Steel Productions, Cher, Dino de Laurentiis, and United Artists, and as a transcriptionist and copyeditor for performer/monologist/novelist Spalding Gray. He is currently a lecturer at Chapman College’s Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
Jacqueline McKinley is our Screenwriter-in-Residence and is a working television writer who has written for 8 different sitcoms and two dramas. She has over 40 produced episodes of television. Jackie has just finished season two on Disney’s “Raven’s Home”. In the past, she worked on the BET show “The Quad” and TVOne’s “Media”. Formerly, she was a writer for the Emmy award-winning “The Bernie Mac Show” and was the Co-Executive /Co-creator of the TVOne comedy “Here We Go Again”. She also served as writer/Producer of “Are We There Yet?” “First Family” and “All of Us.” In addition to her television work, she began writing short films, web series and screenplays. The short film “Move” played in over thirty film festivals and won eight of them. “Move” has also aired on the Showtime Network. The next short film, “Oxtails” has aired on the BET Network. She has also written and directed the popular web series “Finding My Obama.” Jackie has been accepted in many prestigious programs such as the Writer’s Guild Showrunners Program, the WGA’s Writers Access Project and The Guy Hank and Marvin Millers Screenwriters Program. She is a University of Florida undergraduate and has an MFA in Screenwriting from the University of California, Riverside.
Bill Mechanic is the Chairman and CEO of Pandemonium Films & CEO of Cosmos Pictures. Through his company, Pandemonium Films, respected industry veteran and independent producer Bill Mechanic has most recently produced Oscar-winning HACKSAW RIDGE, BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated CORALINE, THE NEW WORLD, and DARK WATER. He also produced the multi-Emmy nominated 82nd Academy Awards. Mechanic served twice as a Governor for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and has been on the Board of Governors for the USC School of Cinematic Arts for 20 years. As Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment for seven years, he oversaw worldwide feature film production and created Fox Searchlight, Fox Animation, and Fox 2000. Under his reign, Fox won Best Picture for TITANIC and BRAVEHEART and garnered 82 Academy Award nominations, as well as creating the X MEN and ICE AGE franchises. Mechanic has recently started a new company, Cosmos Pictures, a $300MM fund based in Australia that is backed by one of China’s largest internet companies. THE DIVIDE, the story of the building of the Transcontinental railroad, and NESS, the true story of Eliot Ness and one of America’s first serial killers, are the first films being produced by Cosmos.
Robert Mitas is the former executive vice president of Furthur Films, where he worked from 2005 onward, working for Academy Award winning actor & producer Michael Douglas. He is the executive producer of “Ratchet,” a new series coming to Netflix in 2020, and was previously the executive producer or producer of a number of films, including We Have Always Lived In the Castle, Flatliners, and Beyond the Reach, and the upcoming remake of Starman, and has developed and sold projects to every major studio and network.
Miguel Murphy is the author of Detainee, and A Book Called Rats, winner of the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. His poems and reviews appear most recently in Ocean State Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Laurel Review, On the Seawall and at The Academy of American Poets, among others. As professor, he teaches literature and writing at Santa Monica College and creative writing at the UCLA Writers Extension. His third collection of poetry, Shoreditch, is forthcoming from Barrow Street Press. He lives in Southern California.
Mallory O’ Meara Mallory is an award winning and best-selling author and screenwriter. Whether it’s for the screen or the page, Mallory seeks creative projects filled with horror and monsters. She lives in Los Angeles. Mallory hosts the literary podcast Reading Glasses alongside filmmaker and actress Brea Grant. The weekly show is hosted by Maximum Fun and focuses on book culture and reader life. Her first book, The Lady From The Black Lagoon, the chronicle of Mallory’s search for and a biography of Milicent Patrick, is out from Hanover Square Press. Her second book, Girly Drinks, the history of women making and drinking alcohol all over the world, is also forthcoming from Hanover Square Press.
Maret Orliss is the Associate Director of Events, Programming at the Los Angeles Times. She oversees the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest literary festival in this or any other universe, plus The Taste, Envelope Screening Series, Indie Focus Screening Series, Ideas Exchange series and much more.
Heather Scott Partington is our Critic-in-Residence and is a writer, teacher, and book critic. She lives in Elk Grove, California with her husband and two kids. Her criticism and interviews have appeared in major newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times , USA Today, Newsday, the Star Tribune, Paste Magazine, and the Journal of Alta California, as well as top literary publications such as The Believer, The National Book Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ploughshares, The Rumpus, The Millions, On the Seawall, The Nervous Breakdown, Entropy, Kirkus, and Literary Hub. In 2017, Heather was awarded one of seven inaugural emerging critic fellowships from the National Book Critics Circle. Her nonfiction, journalism, and features have appeared in Under the Gum Tree, Las Vegas Weekly, Sacramento News & Review, Electric Literature, and Goodreads, among others. Heather’s interview of author Yann Martel was included in the paperback edition of his novel, The High Mountains of Portugal. Heather is the former book reviews editor of The Coachella Review and has appeared as a guest on Literary Disco and KCOD’s Open Book. A classically trained dancer, Heather’s pre-writing life included decades of ballet and contemporary dance. She performed as an apprentice to Sacramento Ballet, and was a company member in CORE Contemporary Dance. Heather earned her Associate professional certificate in Cecchetti Classical Ballet from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. Since 2002, Heather has been teaching at her alma mater, Elk Grove High School, where she has served at various points as a dance teacher, English teacher, AVID teacher, Performing Arts Department Chair, and AVID Program Coordinator. Heather holds a BA in English Literature from the University of California, Davis and an MFA in Fiction from the University of California, Riverside.
Ivy Pochoda is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Wonder Valley and Visitation Street. Wonder Valley won The Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best Novel and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Southern California Independent Booksellers Award, as well as the Grand Prix de Litterature Americaine in France. Visitation Street received the Page America Prize in France and was chosen as an Amazon Best Book of 2013 and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Ivy’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Vogue. Her first novel The Art of Disappearing, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2009. For many years she was a world ranked squash player. She teaches creative writing at the Lamp Arts Studio in Skid Row. Ivy grew up in Brooklyn, NY and currently lives in West Adams, Los Angeles.
Dorothy Rice is the author of Gray Is The New Black: A Memoir of Self Acceptance (Otis Books, June 2019) and The Reluctant Artist, a memoir/art book (Shanti Arts, 2015) about her artist father Joe Rice (1918 – 2011). Rice, a San Francisco native and survivor of the sixties, now lives in Sacramento with her husband, an ornery tuxedo cat and two rambunctious guinea pig brothers. At 60, following a career in environmental protection and raising five children, Dorothy earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Riverside.
Dan Smetanka is the Editor-in-Chief of Counterpoint Press, the leading publisher in the west. His authors have won or been a finalist for virtually every top literary prize in the nation, including the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner, the National Book Critics Association Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, The Hammett Award, The Edgar Award, NAACP Image Prize, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, and countless others. His personal list include Joan Silber, Wally Lamb, Natashia Deon, Karen Bender, Elizabeth Crane, Tod Goldberg, Joshua Mohr, Maggie Downs, Gina Frangello, Abby Geni, Jared Yates Sexton, Maria Hummel, Elizabeth Rosner, plus Counterpoint authors Terese Mailhot, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Eve Babitz, Mary Robison, and many, many more.
Andy Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of The Martian, which was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott in 2015. He also worked as a computer programmer for much of his life. He received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2016. His second novel, Artemis, was an instant New York Times bestseller as well. Weir began writing science fiction in his twenties and published work on his website for years. He also authored a humour web comic called Casey and Andy featuring fictionalized “mad scientist” versions of himself and his friends (such as writer Jennifer Brozek) from 2001 to 2008; he also briefly worked on another comic called Cheshire Crossing bridging Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz. The attention these gained him has been attributed as later helping launch his writing career, following the failure to publish his first novel attempt called Theft of Pride. His first work to gain significant attention was The Egg, a short story that has been adapted into a number of YouTube videos, a one-act play, and is the overarching concept of Everybody, the third album by American rapper Logic. Weir is best known for his first published novel, The Martian. He wrote the book to be as scientifically accurate as possible, and his writing included extensive research into orbital mechanics, conditions on the planet Mars, the history of manned spaceflight, and botany. Originally published as a free serial on his website, some readers requested he make it available on Amazon Kindle. First sold for 99 cents, the novel made it to the Kindle bestsellers list. Weir was then approached by a literary agent and sold the rights of the book to Crown Publishing Group. The print version (slightly edited from the original) of the novel debuted at #12 on The New York Times bestseller list. The Wall Street Journal called the novel, “the best pure sci-fi novel in years”. It was made into a film starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, which was released October 2, 2015. It was recently announced that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had been hired to develop and direct a science fiction film Artemis based on the novel.
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 and recently adapted 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. Hs most recent play, Backyard, was a finalist for the 2015 PEN Center USA Award for Drama.
Elizabeth Crane is the author of four collections of short stories, When the Messenger is Hot, All this Heavenly Glory, You Must Be This Happy to Enter, and Turf, and the novels The History of Great Things and We Only Know So Much. Her work has been translated into several languages and has been featured in numerous publications including Other Voices, Ecotone, Guernica, Catapult, Electric Literature, Coachella Review, Mississippi Review, Florida Review, Bat City Review, Hobart, Rookie, Fairy Tale Review, The Huffington Post, Eating Well, Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Reader and The Believer, 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. 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. A feature film adaptation of her debut novel, We Only Know So Much, won Best Feature at the Big Apple Film Festival in 2018.
Jill Alexander Essbaum is the author of several collections of poetry including Heaven (winner of the Katherine Bakeless Nason prize), Necropolis, Harlot, and most recently the single poem chapbook The Devastation. Her first novel, Hausfrau, was a New York Times Bestseller and has been translated into 26 languages. Her work has appeared in dozens of journals including Poetry, The Christian Century, Image, and The Rumpus, and has been included in textbooks and anthologies including The Best American Erotic Poems and two editions of the annual Best American Poetry anthology. A two-time NEA fellow, Jill’s next book of poetry, Would-Land, will be out soon, followed by her second novel.
Gina Frangello is the author of four books of fiction, most recently A LIFE IN MEN, which is now under development as a series on Netflix, and EVERY KIND OF WANTING, included by both Chicago Magazine and The Chicago Review of Books as one of the “Best Books of 2016.” Gina served as the Executive Editor of the literary magazine Other Voices and went on to found and run the all-fiction book imprint, Other Voices Books until 2014, also running the writing retreat Other Voices Queretaro in the Central Highlands of Mexico. She has also served as the Fiction Editor of the popular online literary community The Nervous Breakdown, the faculty editor for TriQuarterly Online, and the Sunday Editor of The Rumpus, and is currently the faculty advisor and executive editor for The Coachella Review. Her debut memoir, BLOW YOUR HOUSE DOWN, will be published in 2021 by Counterpoint. Gina’s fiction and nonfiction have also appeared in venues such as Ploughshares, Fence, Salon, Psychology Today, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Dame and the Chicago Reader.
Tod Goldberg is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Gangster Nation (Counterpoint), 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 Best American Mystery Stories. His essays, journalism, and criticism appear regularly in many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Review of Books and have earned five Nevada Press Association Awards for excellence, while his essay “When They Let Them Bleed,” which first appeared in Hobart, was most recently featured in Best American Essays. In addition, he is also the co-host, along with Julia Pistell & Rider Strong, of Literary Disco, named one of the best literary podcasts by the Washington Post, the Guardian, Good Housekeeping, and Bustle, among countless others, and, along with Maggie Downs, Open Book, which airs on KCOD in Palm Springs. Tod Goldberg holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Literature from Bennington College and is a Professor of Creative Writing at UC Riverside, where he founded and directs the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. His next book, Gang Related, will be out next year, followed by Death of a Gangster, shortly thereafter.
Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen novels, six story collections, a couple of standalone novellas, and, so far, one comic book. Most recent are Mongrels and Mapping the Interior. Up soon are a couple of horror novels from Saga and another horror novella from Tor. Stephen’s been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, a Bram Stoker Award, four This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. He’s also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado. His next book The Only Good Indians, will be released this coming spring.
Joshua Malkin has written feature projects for Sony, Warner Brothers, Cross Creek Entertainment, Universal Pictures as well as for more than a dozen production companies, both big and small. These include: an adaptation of the 80s cult franchise Beastmaster, a supernatural thriller for Australian company See Films and a “re-boot” of the franchise Buck Rogers In the 25th Century. He also wrote 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. He is currently developing an animated family film for Intrigue Entertainment, a horror movie for Traveling Picture Show, and a TV series for Canadian-based Rezolution Pictures/showrunner Jonathan Glassner (Outer Limits, Stargate SG-1.) Joshua is a professor of screenwriting at the University of California Riverside, an occasional story architect for the video game industry, and the proud father of twins.
Anthony McCann was born and raised in the Hudson Valley. He’s the author of four collections of poetry, including Thing Music and I Heart Your Fate. His new prose non-fiction book, Shadowlands, on the 2016 takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed right-wing protestors, was released this summer by Bloomsbury Publishing to rave reviews. Anthony lives in the Mojave Desert with his family. Anthony holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and currently teaches poetry and literature at the California Institute of the Arts as well.
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.
Agam Patel is the Associate Director of both the MFA program and of the UCR Palm Desert campus and is on the board of directors of Lotus Outreach International, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the education, health and safety of vulnerable women and children in the developing world. He holds an MBA in Strategic Management from Alliant International University and lives in Rancho Mirage, CA with his wife and two children.
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” and is currently creating series in China and Brazil. 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 three books on writing for television, “Writing the Pilot” (2011), “Writing the Pilot: Creating the Series” (2017), and, with Lee Goldberg, “Successful Television Writing” (2003) and seven novels. He is the co-creator and co-editor of “The Dead Man,” a 28-book series of supernatural action thrillers published by Amazon’s 47 North imprint. Rabkin is part of the core faculty of UCR-Palm Desert’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts, as well as serving as an associate professor in television writing and producing for Long Island University’s TV Writers’ Studio MFA program. His latest show debuts on HBOChina soon!
Emily Rapp Black is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir (Bloomsbury USA) and The Still Point of the Turning World (Penguin Press), which was a New York Times Bestseller, an Editor’s Pick, and a finalist for the PEN Center Literary Award in Nonfiction. A former Fulbright scholar, she was educated at Harvard University, Trinity College-Dublin, Saint Olaf College, and the University of Texas-Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow in Fiction and Poetry. She is an active advocate for parents of terminally ill children through the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association, where she helps facilitate conversations between doctors and parents/caregivers about alternative approaches to pediatric palliative care, and she also works as a hospice care volunteer in the Inland Empire. Black has received awards and recognition for her work from The Atlantic Monthly; StoryQuarterly; the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation; the Rona Jaffe Foundation (Emerging Writer Award); the Jentel Arts Foundation; the Corporation of Yaddo; the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she was a Winter Writing Fellow; Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain; and Bucknell University, where she was the Philip Roth Fiction Writer-in-Residence. IN 2017, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her blog, a live medical narrative, http:// ourlittleseal.wordpress.com, was named by TIME as one of the top 25 blogs of 2012, and that same year the Huffington Post described her work as “Required Reading for Women.” Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in VOGUE, LENNY LETTER, the New York Times, Salon, Slate, Huffington Post, the Sun, TIME, Brain.Child, the Rumpus, Role/Reboot, O the Oprah Magazine, the Nervous Breakdown, The Establishment, Bodega, Good Housekeeping, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications and anthologies, including The Modern Loss Anthology (Harper/Wave) and O’ s Little Guide to Starting Over (Flatiron Books). Since 2012, she has been a literary correspondent for the Boston Globe. She also writes home and design, fashion, fitness, and lifestyle features for various publications, including Palm Springs Life, Fitness, and Redbook. Her essays about medical ethics, genetics, disability issues, medical narratives, 19th century philosophy, and the ethics of end-of-life care have appeared in many academic journals and anthologies. She has two books forthcoming in 2020: Sanctuary: A Memoir (Random House), and Cartography for Cripples: Mapping Disability and Desire in the Life and Work of Frida Kahlo (New York Review of Books). She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at UC-Riverside, and also teaches in the UCR School of Medicine.
Rob Roberge 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 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 Senior Producer (narrative content) and Head of Global Video Production for Cloud Imperium Games which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crowd funding effort in history. He recently executive produced the film Foster Boy with Matthew Modine and Lou Gossett Jr., written and produced by his student Jay Paul Deratany and also executive produced by Shaqueal O’Neil. 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 is the author of six novels with one word titles including Moist, Baked, and Blown; and the nonfiction books Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World and Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup. He has written extensively for film and television. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Independent, Vulture and others.
Deanne Stillman has written several books of literary nonfiction and her plays have been produced in festivals around the country. Her latest book is Blood Brothers (Simon Schuster), which received a starred review in Kirkus, won the 2018 Ohioana Book Award for nonfiction, and appears on several “best of the year” lists, including two at the Millions. Her other books include Desert Reckoning, based on a Rolling Stone piece, winner of the Spur and LA Press Club awards, an Amazon editors pick, recipient of rave reviews in Newsweek and elsewhere, currently under option for film; Twentynine Palms, an LA Times bestseller and “best book of the year” praised by Hunter Thompson, and Mustang, an LA Times “best book of the year,” recipient of rave reviews from the Atlantic to the Economist, now available in audio with Anjelica Huston, Frances Fisher and John Densmore. Her essays have appeared in the NY Times, LA Times, Tin House, the rumpus, Angels Flight – Literary West, Salon, Slate, Orion, High Country News, the LA Review of Books (where she is a columnist), Literary Hub, and elsewhere, and her work is widely anthologized. She has also written for film and television, including the groundbreaking series “Square Pegs” and “A Different World.” Her play, “Reflections in a D’Back’s Eye,” is a finalist in the 2019 Garry Marshall Theatre New Works Festival and a semi-finalist for the 2019 Blues Ink Playwriting Award from American Blues Theater. “Star Maps” received its West Coast premiere in the Ink Fest series at the Hudson Theatre (LA) in 2016. Additionally, she was a winner of the first announced Amtrak writers residency. She’s a member of the core faculty at the UCR-Palm Desert MFA Low Residency Creative Writing Program. For more, see www.deannestillman.com.
David L. Ulin is the author or editor of ten books, including Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay; The Lost Art of Reading: Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time; and Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a California Book Award. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Tom and Mary Gallagher Fellowship from Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship. The former book editor and book critic of the Los Angeles Times, he has written for AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Black Clock, Columbia Journalism Review, Harper’s, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Zyzzyva, and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. He is editing the Library of America’s collected works of Joan Didion, the first volume of which is out now.
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.