Welcome Spring 2016 Cohort: Student Bios

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Lisa BalderstonLisa Balderston graduated with her B.A. in English from San Diego State University.  She owned/operated an event photography business for over a decade and continues to enjoy photography as a hobby.  She has been published in local and national publications, including Working Mother, Complete Woman, San Diego Family Magazine and Mira Mesa Living.  She actively volunteers with various groups, such as a writing instructor at a local community center, assisting with a Teen Writing Club in her area, as a Mira Mesa Town Council board member and editor of their monthly newsletter. As someone who enjoys the theatre, Lisa serves as performan
ce judge for a  community theatre. She volunteers during fundraising events to gain funds for the Playwrights Project – nonprofit organization for aspiring young writers.By pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts degree she hopes to significantly improve her creative (young adult) writing skills, ideally to produce work that has a positive impact on pre-teens and teenagers. Lisa currently lives in San Diego, CA with her husband of 21 years and two teenage sons.  She is thrilled about starting the creative writing program at UC Riverside and looks forward to a great experience.

Amie Charney1Amie Charney is a fiction writer, poet , and world traveler hailing from Seattle, WA.  She bends young minds at Chaparral High School, in Temecula, California, where she teaches Literature and Writing, and Creative Writing. She is a proud Marine Corps wife, a mom of two teenagers, and requests prayer circles on a regular basis.  Amie has served on the Board of Directors of several arts organizations, and produced and directed the Temecula Live! Country Music Review, and the Temecula Gospel Festival. Her poetry and short stories have been published in several wonderful literary magazines of little note, but lots of heart.


Cara DeVito1Cara DeVito is the author of the Young Adult novel Where I Want To Be; her short story “Our Last Best Chance” was selected for inclusion in West/Word IV and won the James Kirkwood Literary Prize. She is an attorney, certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Certification as a specialist in Appellate Law. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband.



Grace Jasmine1My name is Grace Jasmine.  After beginning my career as an actor, I wrote and produced a (very) off-off Broadway musical in New York while still in my 20s. After a stint in the corporate sector as a recruiter, I began to write, first for business publications, and then spending the majority of my writing career as a nonfiction book author. I am a published nonfiction author with 47 books in print on a variety of subjects, most in the educational resource, parenting, how-to, and retail trade markets. A couple of years ago I decided that writing nonfiction wasn’t feeding my soul. I knew I needed to tell stories I knew rather than describe the pieces of an application or software. A major catalyst in this change was the unexpected death of my brother while bodysurfing with his son in Balboa, California. His death was a wakeup call for me. I realized I needed to create what my heart and soul needed. I started to write fiction. Since then I have written an unpublished novel and two plays. One of which, The Lover—A Tale of Obsessive Love, was premiered at the Lonnie Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood in June, 2014. I have also completed the book for a new musical loosely based on the Frankenstein story called Skin Deep with Ron Barnett, composer. For the theatrical portion of my writing career I have studied at ANMT and New Musicals, Inc., in Los Angeles, CA. I have recently written and pitched a screenplay, Rescue Me, which is an adaptation of my unpublished novel by the same name. I am eager to work toward an MFA to bring the discipline and education to my career that I believe will propel me forward as a screenwriter, playwright, and novelist. I hold a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Redlands. I live in the Phoenix metro area.

Kerry Keith2Kerry Keith
earned her BS from The University of Arizona and has been a real estate broker and owner for over 20 years. She was born and raised in Los Angeles and lived in the Aspen, Colorado area for over 10 years. She still spends summers and holidays in there with her husband, three children, two dogs, and a cat. In her free time she loves to write and create. When not in Colorado she and her family reside on a lake in Canyon Lake, CA.


Catrina LimCatrina Lim is a born and raised Southern Californian, living most of her life telling time by the sound of the fireworks from the Happiest Place on Earth. Her life-long interest in Japan sent her to Tokyo for a year and she graduated from California State University Long Beach with a degree and teaching credential in Japanese. For the past six years, she has been teaching high school students how to be big geeks in a foreign language and how to not die in health class at Esperanza High School in Anaheim. Catrina enjoys writing funny books about not-so-normal people and the everyday magic in their lives. In her spare time, she is fond of long walks to Target, short walks to the refrigerator and poorly knitting presents for her loved ones. She lives with her arrogant cat, adorably befuddled dog, surfer husband and four-year-old daughter who is somehow more sarcastic than she is.

Tom NittoliTom Nittoli graduated from California State University of Northridge with a B.A. in film studies. He completed his MBA at Woodbury University. He worked in reality television as a production manager on Hell’s Kitchen, American Ninja Warriors and various other show. He wrote, directed, and produced several short films and was nominated for best dramatic short at the Burbank Film Festival in 2014. He has written screenplay, books, and short stories. He’s married with one child, an English Bulldog named Daisy.


Sarah Sheppeck1Sarah Sheppeck was born and raised in upstate New York. Despite having temporarily deferred to the West Coast, she still pledges her undying allegiance to the Northeast. She has spent the last three years in Las Vegas teaching English and Drama at a Title I high school, but out of respect to the remnants of her sanity she has decided to trash her Master’s in Secondary Education and pursue her dream of writing books that are definitely works of fiction about teaching in a Title I high school.


Tarra Stevenson2Tarra Stevenson
teaches English at an all-girls independent school during the day and at an inner-city college at night. She received her BA in English literature with an emphasis on Creative Writing – Poetry from UC Davis and her MA in English Literature from Loyola Marymount University. She writes short stories and poetry, and is (like most English teachers) also working feverishly on a novel (and by feverishly she means during the summer and in between classes and lunch). She is a firm believer in the humble pun and the awesome metaphor. She is a camper, traveler, and explorer, and is raising her young son on rhymes and sunshine.


Christian Toumayan1Christian Toumayan was born in Tijuana, Mexico and raised in Perris, California. He graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. High School and received his B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside. He has received a Masters of Arts in Learning and Teaching from the University of Redlands and has worked in the San Bernardino Unified School District for close to two years. He believes that storytelling is integral to how an individual shapes their life and that such a change can come from any medium or genre. He currently resides in his childhood home with his family and several dogs.


LillianaWinkworthLilliana Winkworth
received her Bachelors in Theater from Emerson College (2013). Her play, Conversing with Others, was produced at The Road Theater (Los Angeles) as part of the 6th annual Summer Playwrights Festival (2015). Lilliana, along with writing partner Jeremy Sender, is currently in development for their original web series, Playing Dead, with WITtv. She has performed both sketch and improvisation with the House Co program at The Second City (Chicago), the Harold team Scout at iO Theater (Chicago), and the House team Macy Ledbetter at CIC Theater (Chicago). She spends her free time drawing U.S. presidents as robots and is tragically lactose intolerant.

By | 2017-05-18T16:48:11-07:00 March 16th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|Comments Off on Welcome Spring 2016 Cohort: Student Bios

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