We’re pretty excited about our new class of students…here’s what they look like (in most cases), so if you see them on the street you can ask for their autographs.
Kendall Brunson graduated with her B.A. in English in 2009 and put it to good use by becoming a private music teacher. She writes and lives in Jacksonville, FL with her husband and 85-pound lap puppy, Sophie. Her first book, Legendary Locals of Jacksonville, is set to be released in December 2014 through Arcadia Publishers. Kendall hopes to hang up her teaching hat and write movies for a living.
Rebecca Chamaa is a professional poet.
Jack Chang lives in a two-bedroom apartment overlooking jacaranda trees in Mexico City. He works as an editor at The Associated Press where he reads stories sent from all over Latin America. Sometimes, he receives pieces from Rio de Janeiro and remembers the three years he lived there. He sees the rock formations and ocean he once gazed at from his office window in Rio, and recalls the afternoon sun spilling over the city from behind Corcovado mountain. After work, he walks home past the sidewalk diners and fountains and then after dinner and some reading tries to go to bed early so he can work on his book before returning to work. Those early mornings, in fact, when the building is still quiet and the sun has yet to rise and he’s lost in his writing, they’re his favorite time of the day. He wishes every moment of every day was like that.
Nicole Damon graduated from UC Davis. She spends her days editing research proposals and technical reports and her evenings writing fiction.
Joey Dorin worked as a paralegal in an entertainment law firm and in corporate America. She was an entrepreneur from 1998 until 2010 when she retired. In the Fall of 2011, she began attendance at the low residency program at Goddard College, Vermont, and graduated with a BFA-CW in 2013. In spite of her corporate career, Joey says that writing creatively is her true self and that she aspires to bring to her readers stories which reveal the rich and hidden histories of the Caribbean where she lived until adulthood.
Art Hanlon was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, taking a bachelor’s degree in American history and English, and a master’s degree in journalism. He’s been a newspaper reporter, a country blues musician, a theater set carpenter, a technical writer, and a book editor. Currently, he is an associate poetry editor for Narrative Magazine, an online literary magazine based in San Francisco.
Sami Jankins, 26, is a 2008 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of Arts with a BA in Theatre. She is the founder of an arts non-profit, C.H.O.I.R. Stars, that provides arts programs for chronically ill youth. She has served on the Board of Directors for the National Hemophilia Foundation and is the co-chair of the National Hemophilia Foundation’s National Youth Leadership Institute. Samantha is the former Miss Wisconsin for the ANTSO program and has held an internship with Senator Herb Kohl. She currently writes a blog called Chronicles of a Cheerful Clotter for HemAware Magazine where she details her life with a chronic health condition. In addition, she has had articles published in I.G. Living Magazine and Elephant Journal. Her interests include podcasting, ukuleles and sloths.
Katherine MacDonald earned her bachelor of arts in film from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a minor in Italian. In her nine years in Los Angeles, she has worked in domestic market research for New Line Cinema, Lionsgate and MGM Studios as well as international theatrical research for Nielsen. She is currently Vice President of Worldwide Research at Paramount Pictures. Katherine completed the summer workshop in UCLA’s Professional Screenwriting Program in 2012 and has since participated in numerous workshops in screenwriting. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her two rescue dogs, Elvis and Moses.
Jenny Manley is a vegan chef with a writing problem. She hails from the nutmeg state, Connecticut, also the partial name of her culinary business, The Nutmeg Cookery. When she isn’t elbow deep in cashew cheese, Jenny works on her manuscript, a YA Fantasy with faeries—spelled that way, not the other. She hopes, with the help of UCR Palm Desert, to hang up her apron one day and become a published author.
John Mattson is a professional screenwriter.
Daniel McKeithan lives in Forest City, North Carolina with his wife of six years, four year old daughter, and one year old son. As you can imagine his spare time is hard to come by. He graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA in Psychology and completed the Professional Screenwriters Program at UCLA, while moonlighting as a security guard for Warner Bros. Studios. Currently he writes fiction, when he is not helping with the kids or off to work in the Nursing Home. Now he is excited and ready to buckle down getting the experience to have his novels published.
Jacqueline McKinley is a working television writer having written for seven different sitcoms including the Emmy award winning “The Bernie Mac Show.” She is currently a writer/producer on the show “Are We There Yet?” and for the show “First Family.” She also served as co-producer on Will and Jada Smith show “All of Us.” Following graduation from the University of Florida, Jackie moved to New York City where she enrolled in New York University’s continuing education filmmaking course. She worked as an assistant on various shows taped around the city and received her first break as a script coordinator on CBS’s “Cosby”. On “Cosby” she received her first writing assignment. Subsequently, she teamed up with a writing partner and headed to Los Angeles where they immediately got a staff writer position on Disney’s “Smart Guy.” In addition to her television work, she with her writing partner began writing short films and screenplays. Their short film “Move” played in over thirty film festivals and won eight festivals. “Move” has also aired on the Showtime Network. Their next short film, “Oxtails” has aired on the BET Network. Currently, they have written and directed the popular webseries “Finding My Obama.”
Jason Metz is a short story writer with a specific focus on people who may or may not do things. His work has been published by Pantheon Magazine and in Exigencies, an anthology of neo-noir to be released in 2015 by Dark House Press. When he’s not writing, he can be found playing bass in abandoned warehouses on the outskirts of Providence, RI, or drawing late into the night with the hopes of landing a piece in the Museum of Bad Art. He lives in Somerville, MA with his bulldog, Karl.
Sydney Morse is a Michigan native, who just recently graduated from New Mexico State University. When she isn’t riding horses, or hanging out with her cats, Sydney is watching and writing movies. While her strength is comedy, Sydney plans on exploring other genres of film and television writing, during her time here at UCR.
Precious Rasheeda Muhammad is an independent scholar of Islam in America, known for her ability to educate audiences of diverse racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds about America’s unique Islamic heritage, and for her ability to inspire the building of community – across seemingly intractable racial, religious and cultural divides – through a deeper understanding of this history. She is widely recognized for her original research contributions to the study of Islam’s history in America, including her discovery of the 224-page autobiography of an African of Muslim heritage who served in the American Civil War, her Presidential Engagement with Muslim Communities exhibit for the U.S. Department of State, and her Muslims and the Making of America special report published by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Precious’ writing and reflections have been featured on CNN.com, National Public Radio, at the Smithsonian, and in classrooms around the country, to name a few. Publishers Weekly describes Precious’ chapter, “To Be Young, Gifted, Black, American, Muslim, and Woman,” in the book Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak, as one of the “best” and “most absorbing essays” in an anthology that “opens the door for other writers to explore the important and understudied topic of Muslim American women.” Dedicated to “building community through history,” and striving for peace among the religions, Precious works with people from around the world, including her significant role in planning, and on the ground implementation of, the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Melbourne, Australia.
Alexandra Neumeister is a native of Southern California. She has a love of nature and travel developed while living in a small town overlooking the ocean. Alexandra wanted to be a zoologist when she grew up, but maintained a fascination with books and storytelling, particularly the genre of speculative fiction. She discovered writing was a more fulfilling career path, and made that the focus of her life. After earning her AA degree in Math and Science from distance learning courses at Coastline Community College, she transferred to the University of California, Riverside, where she graduated with a BA degree in Creative Writing in 2013. She intends to use her writing to promote literacy and reading as something other than an assignment, and encourage learning outside of the classroom.
Born in Berkeley and raised in Moraga, California, Keri Picolla considers herself a born-again Angeleno, having lived in Los Angeles for thirteen years. Make-up artistry originally brought Keri to Southern California where she received her journeyman certification from Make-Up Designory in Burbank for Special Make-up Effects and Creature Design in 2001. Working professionally for years as a make-up artist in film, television, music videos and commercials lead her to writing and directing her own work. In 2006, she co-wrote and co-directed the short film The Lifestyle, which garnered several awards along the film festival circuit. Her next film That Which is Within, an adaptation of Paulo Coehlo’s novel “The Witch of Portobello”, was a finalist in the international film competition hosted by the author. Inspired to continue her film studies, Keri ended up back in the university setting at the age of thirty. She graduated last year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Cinema and Television Studies with an emphasis in screenwriting from California State University in Northridge. The pursuit of a Master’s Degree was always one of those bucket-list, achieve that someday dreams. Keri is thrilled that someday is today and looks forward to growing and evolving as a writer. In her free-time, Keri loves to dance and can be seen any given evening at her hula/tahitian studio in the valley or at the Sweat Spot in Silverlake. She also loves cold-pressed juices, hiking, live music, road trips, photography and her dog Milo.
As a certified medical staff recruiter, Penne Richards enjoys making new acquaintances, believes a good interview is an art form, and strives to enhance her skills with each new opportunity. She is passionate about giving voice to those stories that need to be told and seeks motivating accounts that inspire and remind us of our limitless potential for strength and achievement. Her previous work has been published in Ten Spurs the literary journal of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference at the University of North Texas. When not working or writing she enjoys running, cycling, and traveling. A graduate of Texas Tech University and a mother of three children, Penne lives in Lubbock, Texas with her husband and family.
James Ross: I had just read a western tale in the storage loft of the pharmacy where my mom worked. All nine years of me burst with its excitement and I scampered from my perch to find her and tell her about it. “Why don’t you write one?” she said when I buttonholed her. I’m sure she just wanted to keep me busy, but the idea rippled in tingly currents through my body and before long I found myself back in the loft, outlining box canyons from which there is no escape, gnarly clouds to make my cowboy hero shape and reflect on his plans, and black-hatted bad guys to thwart his every move. Rollicking stuff. I even got the three cents for a stamp to lay it on some unsuspecting reader. No surprises; the story was rejected. But that first kind note from the mystical land beyond the postal carrier, to keep trying, fired up my pen again and again. Win, lose, or draw–and now I’ve got some of each to my credit–I understand my personal need to tell tales, and to keep a watchful eye on the world for the details to populate them.
Joelyn Suarez was born and raised in San Diego, CA. She holds a BA in Literature and Writing from UC San Diego. She sells sunglasses for a living, but lives to write stories. During her time earning an MFA at UC Riverside she hopes to strengthen her craft. Her genre of choice is Nonfiction, though she is eager to try her hand at screenwriting as well.
Alexis Wigodsky is formally known as a self-proclaimed unsolicited social commentator and professional student. Which is fancy for “unemployed and on Twitter.” Despite her addiction to television, she graduated from DePaul University with a BA in Creative Writing. She hopes to pursue writing in the fiction, non-fiction and screenwriting realms. She resides in Los Angeles, California.
David Zimmerle (Zimmer – lee) grew up behind the “Orange Curtain” of South Orange County. After graduating from the University of San Francisco in 2004, he worked as a journalist and sports editor for several California newspapers before honing his chops as an in-house copywriter for different marketing agencies in San Diego. Right now he’s a Content Producer for Sharecare (a Hearst company), crafting words and spearheading marketing campaigns for all things related to health and fitness. In his free time, he works on his debut novel, and will have a selection of his poetry featured in the99 Poems for the 99 Percent Anthology due out later this year by 99: The Press. On top of his literary ambitions, he enjoys playing guitar and harmonica, writing and recording his own original tunes and booking gigs throughout Southern California. And, when those serpent swells are on the rise, you can find him surfing his favorite breaks in and around North County San Diego.