Welcome Fall 2013 Cohort: Student Bios

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Colby BuzellColby Buzzell

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



Lincoln CastellanosLincoln Castellanos

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

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

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

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

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


Mackenzie CoxMackenzie Cox

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


Megan EcclesMegan Eccles

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


Nicole GibbsNicole Gibbs

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

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

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

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


Jeanine HaywardJeanine Hersek-Hayward

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

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

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

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

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


Liska 1Liska Jacobs

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


1-JacquelineJacqueline Luckett


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate MacMurrayKate MacMurray

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


Kathryn McGeeKathryn McGee

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



Bill RatnerBill Ratner

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


1-Lucio RodriguezLucio Rodriguez

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

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

Sometimes he writes fiction.


1-Susan RuskinSusan Ruskin

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


Shaun SandersShaun Sanders

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


Stephen SchwartzStephen Schwartz

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

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

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

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

Kevin SimpsonKevin Simpson

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

Charles G ThompsonCharles Gregory Thompson

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


Matt ThompsonMatt Thompson

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


By | 2017-05-18T16:48:20-07:00 September 19th, 2013|Categories: Program News, Student News|Comments Off on Welcome Fall 2013 Cohort: Student Bios

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