Welcome Fall 2015 Cohort: Student Bios

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


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


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


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

Kerry Keith: Bio and photo arriving soon…

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

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


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


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


Jesse WehrenbergJesse Wehrenberg has worn many hats, none of them berets. In previous lives he has professionally inspected furnished apartments, sold drugs (legally), appliances (also legally), learned to read squiggles and dots, and taught children how to build birdhouses. He spent six years working in military intelligence where he

[REDACTED] for the [REDACTED], and established a new [REDACTED] in [REDACTED.] And yes, he has seen and even spoken to [REDACTED] in real life. It was, as you might guess, as intense as it sounds. He has a pair of colorful socks for every occasion. He made a little birdhouse in his soul. He refuses to discuss religion or politics but will, if asked, happily sing a traditional sea shanty (off-key.) He still misses his grandfather.

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

By | 2017-05-18T16:48:12-07:00 September 21st, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|Comments Off on Welcome Fall 2015 Cohort: Student Bios

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