Welcome Fall 2017 Cohort: Student Bios

Home/Uncategorized/Welcome Fall 2017 Cohort: Student Bios

We’re proud to announce our new class of writers! Interested in joining them? Applications for Spring 2018 are due February 1st. For more information contact us at palmdesertmfa@ucr.edu


Suzanne Bailey is old enough to feel uncomfortable putting her personal information on the World Wide Web, but is okay with letting you know that she holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Linfield College, is married with a teenaged daughter, and is still a little upset that Firefly was canceled. Using rudimentary math skills, she recently realized that if she is to finish her novel before she dies, she needs to pick up the pace. She is, therefore, very pleased to be a part of the U.C.R. Palm Desert Low-Residency MFA program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. She is the one making a beeline for the cookies.


Francesca Block is the Lifetime Achievement Award winning author of over thirty books of fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. She has also written a screenplay for Fox Searchlight and contributed essays, interviews and reviews to many publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Nylon and Spin. Francesca teaches at Antioch University, Los Angeles and UCLA Extension and is currently editing her memoir/writing guide The Thorn Necklace coming in 2018 from Seal Press.


Jennifer Croslow is a writer of creative non-fiction and screenplays. Her first diary was given to her at the tender age of six wherein most of the entries involve gripping prose of what was for dinner, grade-school crushes and her geode collection. She faithfully documented most of her life in journals and realized some time into her twenties, devastated, that she must be a writer. With a background in theatre she went on to work as a script reader and story editor in development at Paramount Pictures and as a writer’s assistant to Paul Haggis. She has written freelance for various magazines and served as the Managing Editor of Marketing for Angeleno Magazine. As a founding member of Women of the 405 – a group of actor/writers who read their work aloud – she has gathered somewhat of a following over the past five years for her candor and humor. Notably, she once gave her script-in-progress directly to Kristen Wiig as a “vehicle” for her and it is surely being put to good use holding up the short end of Miss Wiig’s couch.

Eric Herbst is originally from St. Louis but calls Los Angeles home, where he lives with his wife, Kelly. He holds a B.A. in Political Economy and is currently working on his first novel.



In 1973, Blair Jockers won a school-wide essay contest in high school and decided to become a writer. A career in information technology seemed much more practical, and over the following three decades he wrote when he had time – seriously, but not a lot. Then the Great Recession intervened, along with early retirement, and Blair was given a second chance to explore his first love. In 2015, he completed a Certificate in Novel Writing at UCLA Extension where he was short listed for the Allegra Johnson Prize, the top award for fiction and poetry in the program there. He has completed two novels and several short stories – his practice work – and looks forward to having a completed novel he will proudly submit for publication by the end of the MFA program at UCR. He aspires to write compelling stories that help us make sense of the tumultuous change that defines our modern era.


Felicity Landa is a native of Southern California, and an alumnus of the Creative Writing and Literature program at Cal State Long Beach. Her first novel earned the Isabelle McCaffrey Horn Scholarship for a chapter of a novel in progress. She reads and writes mainly historical fiction, but enjoys any kind of literature she can get her hands on. Felicity is represented by Kerry D’Agostino of Curtis Brown Ltd. She currently resides on the California central coast with her husband and baby daughter.



Michael Long graduated from the College of William & Mary with a BA in Philosophy.  He was raised and lived just outside Washington D.C. before moving to California. Hobbyhorses include railing against hometown NBA team and over referencing Malcolm Gladwell.



Shawn Mansouri is a California native, a former biologist, and fan of the darker side of fiction. He’s sold overpriced shoes, cut scrap metal in a steel factory, made sellable products from blood and plasma, and reared mosquitoes, bedbugs, and laboratory mice. When he’s not twitching from too much caffeine, or arguing with the post office about smashed books and magazines in his mailbox, he reads slush for Grimdark Magazine and blogs, occasionally, at Carved in Sand: Fiction from the Ether, where he rants about writing victories and defeats. He lives in a southern California treehouse bungalow with the love of his life Cymphonee, and their dire-wolf Atreyu.


In the era of oversharing and unfiltered thoughts, Erich Meager’s attempts to stay private can be seen as refreshing or annoying, but he shares some info for this brief bio. He was born, as so many people are, in Babylon, a small town on the south shore of Long Island.  He studied art and architecture in college and worked in lighting design for most of his career. When an opportunity arose to leave the East Coast for the West he grabbed it and landed in Northern California in the fall of 1999. Fast forward several years to sitting on a beach in Laguna where he and his partner realized they were over the cold and fog of San Francisco.  They put the house on the market, packed up their pooches and moved to the warmer climate of Southern California. After years of reading, researching and in all honesty, procrastinating, he started working on his novel, Warm Brothers.  He recently completed the Online Certificate Program in Novel Writing through Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program and is excited with the prospect of completing his novel while in the MFA program. Erich currently resides in sunny Palm Springs, with his husband and their two dogs, Mack and Millie.


Billy Minshall is a Chicago-based actor and writer. Originally from Wichita, Kansas, he first moved to Chicago way back in 1993. He attended Roosevelt University and Columbia College Chicago where he studied acting and Fiction writing, but left school before earning his degree. After several years performing in musical theatre, Billy stopped acting and became an advocate for people living with chronic illnesses. He served as a health educator at the Cook County Jail for two years, an experience that he chronicled in the essay “Chrysalis” which appeared in Positively Aware Magazine. Billy was the Medical Benefits Manager for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and helped hundreds of uninsured Chicagoans gain access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. During this time, he returned to school and earned his Bachelor of Science in English-Writing from Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies.  Billy started acting again two years ago, and has since appeared on TV shows like Chicago PD and CNBC’s American Greed. Recent stage credits include Vanya in Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and Father Mark in the long-running, critically-acclaimed production Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. He is looking forward to developing his Fiction writing skills at UCR-Palm Desert, as well as learning a thing or two about script writing.


Aimee Carrillo Rowe is a memoirist, theorist, and culture critic. She is a professor of Communication Studies at California State University, Northridge and the author of Power Lines: On the Subject of Feminist Alliances (Duke University Press, 2008) and Answer the Call: Virtual Migration in Indian Call Centers (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). She is working on a memoir about motherhood entitled After Birth: Queer + Single + Mom and completing a study of healing, sovereignty, and indigeneity in performance communities, entitled Queer Xicana: Performance, Affect, and the Sacred.


Sandy Smith has been an editor for more than 25 years, specializing in young-adult fiction. She’s had the pleasure of working with phenomenally talented authors, including YALSA favorites, Caldecott medalists, and National Book Award winners. Born in Brooklyn and raised in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley, Sandy is a recent transplant to the Southwest. She lives with her extremely supportive husband, overindulged middle-aged cat, and the wimpiest pit bull in Las Vegas. If she’s not at her desk writing, reading, or editing, she’s probably at the gym because she’s also a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. (Unless it’s Sunday, in which case you can find her at church or enjoying pizza-and-beer night with her family.) In the past five years, Sandy has published several pieces of short fiction; competed at the national level as a figure competitor; and worked as an executive pastry chef. She has never seen The Princess Bride, run an 8-minute mile, or read A Catcher in the Rye.


This is Scott Stevenson’s first year at UCR.  He’s working on a memoir about his time as a dog-walker in Los Angeles to pay off his credit cards while working the night shift at the FOX Network.  His cats Sansa and Rhaegar are his own private Song of Fire and Ice.  He does not own a dog which adds to the complexity of his narrative.   Scott is an alumni of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and spent way too much money on UCLA Extension courses.  Joan Didion and Ian Frazier count among his favorite writers, and last year he discovered an excellent memoir from David Payne.  George R. R. Martin is simply a guilty pleasure.  Those Westeros characters make great pet names.


Adam Sullivan’s essays have appeared in Monster Children, The Binnacle, Pregnancy, Tampa Review, and a few other places. He won the 2010 Los Angeles Comedy Festival’s Screenplay Competition, and the 2011 Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition. He is currently enrolled in UCR Palm Desert’s Creative Writing M.F.A. program.



Greg Tower has had a lot of crap jobs, including political canvasser, ad copywriter, radio announcer, library assistant, locker room attendant, security guard, ticket office sales and sneaker pimp. He doesn’t find any of it interesting, but would still like to write a novel. Preferably about somebody else. He studied fiction writing with Jim Krusoe and wrote a dozen short stories, which gives him some hope. For the last six years he’s bought used books from people at The Last Bookstore. He promised his mother, on her deathbed, that he would never rob a bank.


Rachel Zarrow graduated from Stanford University in 2013 where she studied Sociology and Italian. She lives in San Francisco with her dog, Georgie, and a menagerie of houseplants. When she’s not reading or writing, Rachel can be found hiking, cooking, exploring new places, or planning her next adventure. She is currently working on her first novel.


By | 2017-10-02T15:47:20-07:00 October 2nd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Comments Off on Welcome Fall 2017 Cohort: Student Bios

About the Author: