Welcome Spring 2019 Cohort: Student Bios

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Ioannis Argiris is a first generation Greek American who lives in Oakland, CA. Throughout his career, he’s tinkered with storytelling as a producer in advertising, creating stories on film, on print, and online for some of the most well known brands in the world. One of his most notable moments was creating content for both the Nasdaq and Reuters digital billboards in New York. He was granted access to the catwalk between the signage and building, providing a mesmerizing and unique view of Times Square. Several years ago, he purchased a vintage 1979 Kawasaki motorcycle, had it rebuilt, and rode it to Yosemite on a life altering trip. He was able to visit the beautiful park for the first time in his life. Ioannis writes mixed genre with themes emphasizing the dynamics of socioeconomic classes, immigrant stories, politics, alternate realities, multiple identities, and the duality of technological advancements. He plans to write novels, comics, and screenplays. He also intends to educate underrepresented youth who’ve had a bilingual upbringing. Upon his completion of the program, it’s his goal to debut his first novel.
After graduating from the Vidal Sassoon Academy, Trey Burnette, attended the University of Southern California to earn a BA in Psychology. After college, Trey joined the Screen Actors Guild to began commercial acting. He studied comedic acting and writing with The Groundlings and The Second City in Los Angeles. He is the author of Rim of the World, a one-man play he performed to sold-out audiences at the What’s the Story Festival, he later turned the play into a book. Trey was granted a US Patent for inventing BANGO, an at-home haircutting tool. Trey has been a regular guest on QVC, along with various talk shows and reality make-over shows. His work as a hairstylist has been featured on film and television and in fashion magazines. Trey enjoys cycling, hiking, swimming and other outdoor sports. He is an avid film watcher and museum goer; he also loves to eat and travel.
Jackie DesForges is a writer based in Los Angeles. She spent eight years working in the travel industry in many different roles — travel consultant, hostel intern, tour guide, freelance writer, social media manager — and she has lived in Chicago, New York, and Paris. While working in marketing for a travel company, she wrote essays and fiction in her spare time, and her work has been published in The New York Times, Matador Network, National Geographic Traveler, The Culturist, The Financial Diet, and Expo Review (2nd Place Winner of Flash Fiction Contest). She is the co-founder of the TalesOnRail Artist-in-Residence program. She has been involved in the literary communities of both New York and Paris as a volunteer at HousingWorks Bookstore in Soho and as a volunteer at the American Library in Paris. Her fiction focuses on crime stories that are inspired by true events, particularly crimes committed by or against women in contemporary society.
Matthew R. Ellis is a retired Army officer currently serving as a senior  security attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. Until recently, he also moonlighted as a story development consultant at Pacific Rim Media where he wrote two true story screenplays about the Korean War and Vietnam.  A classical musician prior to his government service, Matthew wants to pursue an MFA in creative fiction in hopes of devoting the next chapter of his life to the arts.  Matthew and his wife Karla are the proud parents of two wonderful children, but are looking forward to life as empty nesters starting in 2020.
Andréa Ferrell Gannon comes from a long line of runaway women. She has recently stopped long enough to pick up pen and paper and is now ready to make a home in the literary world. She is looking forward to completing her memoir and fine-tuning her poetry alongside other Palm Desert MFAers. When not writing, Andréa is teaching French at a public high school in the LA suburbs, however, always going on in the back of her mind is the contemplation of creative ways to unplug her two teenage sons from their video game consoles.
Joe Garrity is a writer, director and editor whose projects span live-action, documentary, animation, and music video. He has worked with Pixar Animation Studios, the Telluride Film Festival, and NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Joe studies improvisation in the Academy Program at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and holds a B.S. in Genetics from the University of California, Berkeley.
Mick Guinn was born and raised in the great Red State of Texas back in the days when you’d never call it that as it would sound like something Mao came up with for fine China. He was fortunate enough to escape his home on the range at age 16 when he moved to Santa Barbara to join the other half of his broken family. Upon arrival, Mick was startled to learn that California was a completely different country where people didn’t signal as they drove and “Let’s have lunch tomorrow,” was simply how everyone said “Buh-bye.” Being a poor white kid living in the slums of Isla Vista had its advantages as he was given full grants and scholarships through the Equal Opportunity Program (ethnically sorted as an “Other”) to study Acting at UC Irvine. After a year of that, he was asked to quit school and front a rock band by a bunch of long-haired musicians he looked up to (because they were taller, ten years older, and the lead guitar player looked like Greg Allman, and his brother, one of the ZZ Top guys). The plan was to hit the road and become rock stars. Unsurprisingly to most who heard about Mick’s practical plan, that did not happen. Turns out the band’s true passion was not simply performing the Clapton tune, “Cocaine.”  After a year of gigging in smoky bars, four nights a week, he left the band to return to the UC system where he completed his BA in Acting, Film and Political Science at UCSB.

Encouraged by professors to attend some random prestigious grad school, Mick instead decided join the Merchant Marines and see the world. Unfortunately, they no longer existed. Instead, he followed his girlfriend with the funny accent to England.  After a year of discovering the only thing he had in common with British culture was vaguely familiar verbs, he resolved to move to Tokyo where no one spoke any version of English whatsoever. He’d heard you could use your BA to teach it and people were getting upwards of fifteen dollars an hour to do so.  Skeptical at first, he took the plunge only to be handsomely rewarded with fifteen dollars an hour. This, of course, in a city where a cup of coffee cost twenty. Luckily enough, he had his demo tape from seven years of session singing work in Santa Barbara and landed his first studio gig in Japan a few months after arrival. It turned out to be for a major Sony Walkman commercial which led to getting signed by CBS/Sony for his first record contract (catchily titled, Mr. CM Man). This led to frequent session work in recording studios which paid more than $15/hour. So, Mick immediately quit his day job of pretending to teach English. Realizing Japanese people seemed to trust whatever you put on a business card, Mick created one that indicated he was not only a singer/songwriter, but also a narrator/DJ/character voice actor/writer/tantra coach. Surprisingly enough, this busy business card led to a significant amount of voiceover work on radio, television and some of the first video games to arrive on home consoles. Twenty years later he would learn that some of these (Silent Hill, Castlevania, and Ridge Racer) had become classics in the gaming community, a community he was wholly unaware existed.

Sadly, no tantra gigs presented themselves.

Ten years of Tokyo and Mick was homesick.  He returned to Santa Barbara where he decided to change horses and write the great American novel. It remains greatly unfinished to this day. That was, in part, because he met a woman who would become his wife and they both oddly concluded that sleep was overrated. A baby would remedy that. That baby boy is now 15 years old and a successful and prolific natural gas producer with a deadly carbon imprint.  To finance this young commodities trader, Mick birthed an Apple Technology support company (unassumingly called, “Mick’s Macs”) that paid the bills until a couple years ago when he sold it to return to writing. From writing passionate partisan, political op-ed pieces in UC Santa Barbara’s Daily Nexus in the mid 80s, to three decades of lyrics and poetry, to lifetime of long, melodramatic, angst ridden (and written) letters to lost loves, to technology blogging, a monthly attempt at a humor column, forming and leading writer support groups, and an excessive use of FaceBook for political diatribe, Mick is hoping this time around to publish more than this padded bio. He’s currently working on a memoir about his youth in Texas and is thrilled to be in an MFA program with creative colleagues where he hopes to learn more about the craft and how to actually complete a project.

Monique Hart is originally from Buffalo, New York but moved here from Manhattan, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Writing from Hunter College. Monique spent two decades working as an entertainment executive. When her twin daughters’ nanny saw their first steps, Monique decided that witnessing their childhood would be more rewarding than producing worthless reality television so she left the business. Monique hopes to emerge from the MFA program with an account of her life so far.  It has been an interesting journey. She has lived in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Finland, New York, Virginia, and Florida.  She has been a housekeeper, line cook, bartender, production assistant, development executive, television producer and sample lady. Monique’s literary hero is Augusten Burroughs and her goal is to write as fearlessly and hilariously as he does.
Chris Lacroix is a former television marketing executive turned stay-at-home dad. Between Target runs, playdates, and meetings with his therapist, Chris wrote a novel based on his parenting journey. Sandwiched is represented by Folio Literary Management and is currently on submission. Now that his daughter is 13 and preparing to lay him off, Chris plans to reinvent himself at UCR and write a much better novel. Chris received his B.A. in English from Loyola University of Chicago and is an alumnus of Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.  He lives in Los Angeles with his daughter, Ellie, and husband, Rollin.
Anna Magladry is a born and raised Los Angelino. She has worked at places such as TMZ, Chelsea Lately, Huffington Post, and ABC Family. After working at an entertainment agency representing neurotic authors and writers, she decided she would like to be the client (and someone else’s headache). Her main area of interest is Medieval England—particularly the War of the Roses. She wants readers to be as jazzed about a Fifteenth Century murder mystery as she is and is well aware she has her work cut out for her.
Collin Mitchell is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara (Comparative Literature/Film Studies) and recently moved from Los Angeles to Palm Desert with his wife and son. He published “The Faithful,” a historical biography of Giuseppe Verdi with The Mentoris Project in 2018. Collin will be studying fiction and non-fiction in the program.
Ryan Nickerson lives in Los Angeles where he works in creative advertising at a film studio by day, and reads and writes novels by night. He is a massive film nerd who can be found multiple times a week at The Landmark or AMC Century City. The last book he read was LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE and the last movie he saw was THE FAVOURITE – he found both to be provocative and wonderful. A dual citizen of Brazil and the United States – Ryan has an affinity for exploring new cultures via art, food and travel. He has studied International Business in China, Producing at UCLA & he has a Bachelor’s Degree from Plymouth State University where he graduated cum laude, majored in Business Administration and minored in Media Studies. Oh and he is a people person, so feel free to say hi if you see him.
Melissa F. Olson is the author of ten Old World novels for 47North as well as the Tor.com novella Nightshades and its two sequels. She lives in Madison, WI with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and two jittery chinchillas. Read more about her work and life at MelissaFOlson.com.
Leanne Phillips has lived in California all her life, growing up mostly in San Diego and Monterey. She currently lives in San Luis Obispo on California’s Central Coast. Leanne earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Cal Poly, with an emphasis in Creative Writing and a minor in History. While at Cal Poly, she was co-editor of the school’s literary journal, Byzantium. Leanne works as a civil litigation paralegal at a San Luis Obispo law firm. She is a certified crisis counselor, volunteering with organizations which support survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. She also volunteers with the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. In her spare time, Leanne enjoys beachcombing, reading, watching films, going to the theater, listening to live music, and spending time with her children and grandchildren. Leanne is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing not only to improve her own writing, but to gain skills which will help her to reach her publishing goals. In the future, Leanne hopes to launch a small press with a focus on rescuing forgotten literature by women writers.
Amy Reardon writes about women finding their voices. She has a degree in journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and is an alumna of Stanford’s OWC program in novel writing. She is at work on a novel about a single mom who tries to break into the Perfect Moms club at her kids’ school. When she’s not plotting new and terrible troubles for her characters, she works in communications in the corporate world. Amy lives in Denver. She always sides with the dog.
Laurie Rockenbeck was raised a Navy brat and moved around a lot as a kid. She lives near Seattle with her family, two cats and a dwindling number of chickens. She graduated with a degree in journalism and quickly learned that writing fiction was a lot more fun. With a grandmother who started every story with, “This is a true lie…,” there is no doubt that story-telling and exaggeration are part of her genetic make-up. Her mystery series features Seattle Police Department’s only trans male homicide detective and a pro-dominatrix turned private investigator. Rockenbeck has her private investigation license but prefers writing about made up cases to investigating real ones.  In addition to writing mysteries, she also writes steamy erotica under a couple of pen names. She is also publishing her own and other authors under three unique imprints.
Linda Romano is a native of New York and spent most of her childhood on the south side of Chicago. She currently lives in Silicon Valley employed as an engineer and help raise two wonderful (now adult) children.  Most weekends are spent bike riding and as much time as possible in the beautiful outdoors of northern CA. She has stories to share and pursuing an MFA in nonfiction to learn how best to tell them.
Rodney Schmidt is from Southern California and has a BA in English from California State University, San Bernardino. He has been fortunate to be published in the Press Enterprise, High Voltage magazine, Pacific Review, and Coyote Chronicle.
As dancer, Wanda Tierney performed professionally with regional companies. Later, she received a B.A. in Psychology and an MA in Dance Movement Therapy, and has taught at the college level and developed a program in Movement Therapy. She became part owner of Ballet Arts in Boulder and founder of Boulder Ballet. Wanda’s students have won major competitions and performed with major ballet Companies. Recently, she began taking writing classes. Her poetry was published in Pooled Ink, Sunday Morning, a short story; placed third in The Denver woman’s Press Club competition and her flash fiction, 100 words, placed second in the National League of The American Pen Women, Inc. Currently her focus is on screenwriting.
Christopher Wiley is a California poet and playwright. His poems have been published in the James White Review, RFD, Amethyst, The National Poetry Press and a male sexuality anthology, Men & Intimacy. Several of his stage plays were produced at Theater Bobo in Washington, DC and the New Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Some Men is his first book of poetry. Stillness After Thrashing is his second collection of published poetry written for his late husband, Bill Moss. He currently lives in Palm Springs, California with his ever-joyful Boston Terrier, Olive.
By | 2019-03-21T16:44:03-08:00 March 21st, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|Comments Off on Welcome Spring 2019 Cohort: Student Bios

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