Welcome Fall 2020 Cohort: Student Bios

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Paula Alberino-Flores Paula Alberino-Flores is a girl with the dream of making a difference in the world. She wants to make that difference with her storytelling and bringing hope to girls like herself all around the world that anything is possible no matter your age, race, ethnicity or background!
Murad Amayreh Born and raised in Los Angeles CA, Murad Aldin Amayreh has been writing stories since age 6 to entertain himself, his family and his friends. Through his youth, he wrote numerous scripts both for the stage and the screen and in 2005, he graduated from California State University of Los Angeles with a Bachelors degree in TV/Film Production. Murad  grew to become an award winning producer and director with accolades that include Best Documentary for “Last Refuge,” at the Golden Eagle Film Festival and Best Film “Jinn,” at the Sacramento Horror Film Festival. As a filmmaker, Murad has gone on to complete over 300 productions and counting, some of which have received wide online recognition and millions of views. Since 2016, Murad has almost exclusively been focused on development and writing for television, film and the web for American audiences as well as for the Middle East. He has worked on a wide array of screenplays and show bibles within various genres including comedy, drama, action and horror, most recently for the Arabic language adaptation of “The Office”.

Murad consistently pushes boundaries by introducing new concepts and ideas. He has written multiple international TV shows and films and worked with organizations, production companies and networks around the world to bring diversity and originality to his work. As an Arab American, Murad hopes to engage his audiences to share thoughts, ideas, cultures and wisdom through his unique perspective, voice and vision.

Greg Bachar Greg Bachar is the author of the books Curiosisosity, Beans, The Amusement Park Of The Mind, The Writing Machine, and The Book Of Was.  He was an Executive Producer of the 2015 documentary Elstree 1976 and served as Literary Advisor & Outreach Coordinator for the fundraising effort to bring Bohumil Hrabal’s novel Too Loud A Solitude to live action puppet film life.
Alissa Bird Alissa Bird is a writer, teacher, and lifelong seeker. Her commitment to social justice coupled with her own experience of trauma, influenced her decision to study social work, and later become a high school teacher. All along, her pursuit of writing was the through-line of her life, beginning with her compulsive journaling at the age of six. Driven by a love for humanity, a fear of death, and an impulse to remember, her writing seeks to understand what it is to be human. She has studied creative writing in various Los Angeles based writers groups and now joins the UCR MFA program in order to master the art of the personal essay and complete a memoir. When she is not writing she is dancing, organizing camping trips, cooking with her husband, and reading.
Melinda Blum Melinda Gordon Blum is a native Angeleno who grew up in West LA, spent decades living in Hollywood, and currently resides in mid-city where she shares an apartment (full-time) with two cats and (for the love of all that is holy, temporarily) with her two college-attending but pandemic-sequestered sons. She is an avid reader and writer drawn primarily to essay, memoir, poetry, and contemporary fiction. An enthusiastic student of the human condition since she was old enough to palm a crayon, Melinda’s big quarantine accomplishments thus far have been learning how to do the splits and to bake a perfectly acceptable crusty bread. Her essays have appeared in the Los Angeles TimesKveller, Lunch Ticket magazine, and The Sun magazine’s “Readers Write.”
Ashley Granillo Ashley Jean Granillo is an adjunct instructor of English at College of the Canyons. She has her BA and MA in Creative Writing from California State University Northridge. For a brief period of time, she worked as a freelance music journalist and editor for a small, LA-based publishing company, Writers Tribe Books. The experiences she garnered as a woman in the music industry led her to her first novel, LOVE FROM THE BARRICADE, published by Black Rose Writing in 2018. When she isn’t writing, Ashley Jean likes to express herself through music as a guitarist, pianist, and vocalist.
Trevor Lyons Trevor Lyons is an American actor and writer from, and currently residing in, Boulder, Colorado. Prior to the pandemic Trevor was based in NYC. Acting credits include The Wild Hunt, written and directed by Bill Pullman, Commedia D’Amore, written and directed by Daniel Gerroll, The Great Gatsby at Cardinal Stage, Body Keepers, directed by Shelly Cole, and Reality Therapy, written and directed by Robert Fritz. Trevor holds a B.A. in Psychology from Ottawa University, where he graduated cum laude and where he was also a scholarship athlete on the basketball team; Trevor quit the basketball team his senior year to devote more time to the theater department. Prior to the pandemic Trevor was working in NYC as a certified personal trainer, specializing in corrective exercise and functional mobility. Trevor also trained and competed sparingly in Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts during the last couple years in New York.
McKinnon Powell McKinnon Powell grew up in Savannah, Georgia which is where his where his passion for storytelling began.  After bouncing around between Northeastern and Georgia State University, he finally took the plunge and moved to Los Angeles in 2011.  In LA, he took two years and studied the craft of acting before he realized that he enjoys sharing  art through writing more than he enjoys baring his soul on stage.  From there, he decided to finish his degree through Arizona State University, where he got a BA in Film and Media studies, graduating summa cum laude.  After graduating, he enrolled in the UCLA extension certificate program in screenwriting and then the UCLA TFT Professional screenwriting program.  His first full length screenplay he wrote, Magical Things, placed in seven different contests and made it onto Coverfly’s Redlist for fantasy scripts.
Emily Schleiger Emily Schleiger is originally from Louisville, Kentucky. Growing up, she moved around the Midwest, read a lot, watched a ton of movies, and took copious notes on life. She has a B.A. in psychology with a women studies minor. She also has an M.A. in human resources, which she used in a career in the same field. She studied comedy writing at The Second City, and her work has appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Reductress, The Second City Network, and more. Eventually she took classes in screenwriting, and is thrilled to continue learning and writing in the field at UCR-PD. There is nothing she loves more than stories with dysfunctional families, awkward moments, and dark comedy. She believes story and empathy can mend many broken things. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, two kids, and two dogs. For more, check out www.emilyschleiger.com.
Luree Scott Luree Scott is a proud San Diego native, where she graduated from the University of San Diego with a BA in both English and Theatre Arts. She has short stories published in The Alcala Review and over ten years of performance experience on the stage. With a love for literature and theatre, she is so excited to be joining a program that will allow her to create stories for both!
Cherie Smith Cherie Smith is a published author of historical books targeted to high school students.  She is an English and social studies high school teacher and has coached several nationally recognized speech and debate teams.  She attended university on speech and debate scholarships and graduated with a BA in Communication. As a resident of Newport Beach,  enjoys beach walks with her canine companion, conversations with her adult children, and hosting discussion groups that investigate philosophical and spiritual traditions.
Emily Sullivan Emily J. Sullivan is a Los Angeles based writer, reporter and storyteller. She has contributed to The New York Times, Vice, The Hollywood Reporter, The Fix and Foodbeast covering addiction, relationships, food, style and entertainment. Emily got her start writing about toxic relationships for HealthyPlace.com and scored a Silver Digital Health Award for her blog which competed with top mental health sites and educational institutions. She has a BA in Journalism from The University of La Verne. When Emily isn’t writing, reading or scouring the internet for editor contacts, she’s chasing around her twin daughters, flirting with her fiance, gossiping with her Mother or cooking and sharing wine with her siblings.
Jeanne Van Blankenstein Jeanne Van Blankenstein is a California born gal, who grew up in the mountains of Big Bear Lake. In college she studied theatre arts, which led her to Los Angeles and taking herself way too seriously. Then she followed her heart around for a bit, landing in four other states including Georgia, where she earned an MFA in acting. Over the years she’s lent her time, skill, and patience to a multitude of different jobs including teaching, acting, painting houses, and waiting tables, before moving back to Cali and delving into the field of healing arts. The last few years she’s been a caretaker, her most challenging job to date. She is an avid fan of traveling, Shakespeare, cats, and ice hockey. She’s been writing in her head and on paper for many years and was delighted to discover this program just as her words were spilling over and needed a place to land.
Joseph Waugh Joseph Waugh was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado.  He graduated from Whittier College in 2014 and moved to Spain for two years where he taught English and worked on his writing.  He is currently living and teaching American Literature in El Salvador at a small private school.
Loy Weissman Loy Sydney Weissman (they/them/theirs) is a recent graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, having entered the school as an actor and emerged a playwright. Loy has their New York education to thank for their love of all things loud and eccentric, and their Seattle upbringing for their penchant for rainclouds and coffee. As a playwright, Loy seeks to complicate conversations surrounding gender, queerness, and the conception of the self, as well as to reinvigorate and innovate the theatrical form. They spent much of their time at NYU writing and performing in solo plays exploring these subjects and challenging the traditions and confines of live theater. A recent transplant to Berkeley, CA, when Loy isn’t writing you can often find them reading, playing guitar, or making omelettes. Seriously, they make really good omelettes.
Tyrena Williams Tyrena Williams: I was born on August 31, 1987 in Long Beach, California. My three siblings and I were raised by my mom, who often worked, so the four of us spent many evenings at my grandma’s. When I turned eight years old, my family moved to Moreno Valley, California. There, I spent much of my time with my cousins going to the community pool and the shopping mall. I attended Valley View High School, where I received my High School Diploma in 2005. Over the course of the years I worked many customer service jobs, including Hollister, Forever 21, and Sears. At the age of 22, I received certification for Medical Assistant, but later realized the medical field wasn’t my true calling. I attended Mount San Jacinto College and received an A.A. in Liberal Arts and Humanities. I was initially accepted by UC Riverside for Creative Writing, but switched my major to English. On June 12, 2020 I received a B.A. in English through the department of CHASS at UC Riverside. Today, I live in Hemet, California with my two sons, Tyrin and Teagan. I currently work as an Academic Support Instructor for Alvord Unified School District and have recently been accepted to UC Riverside’s Palm Desert Low-Residency MFA program. In my free time, I travel, go hiking, and listen to NPR.
Adam Zemel Adam Zemel received his bachelor’s degree in English from George Mason University. His work has been published in The Forward, New Voices, and elsewhere. Beyond reading and writing, Adam’s interests include cooking and eating spicy food, spending time with his nephew, working with high school students, hanging out on porches, and meandering late-night conversations with friends. Disinterests include writing about himself in the third person.
By | 2020-10-04T17:30:49-07:00 September 28th, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|Comments Off on Welcome Fall 2020 Cohort: Student Bios

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