Welcome Spring 2020 Cohort: Student Bios

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Rob Bowman moved to California five years ago from Denver, his longtime home and setting for his currently in-progress novel. His fiction has appeared in The Coachella Review, The Donnybrook Writing Academy, and the upcoming Palm Springs Noir from Akashic Books . His other credits include Modern in Denver, Book and Film Globe, and others. He teaches high school English and co-hosts the film and pop culture podcast Reel Disagreement. When not immersed in these things, he is with his wife and their two sons.
Debra Carillo comes from a family full of oral storytellers.  Her DNA was soaked in it.  She honed her skill as a criminal defense attorney in over 100 jury trials, which naturally follow a three act structure:  Opening Statement, Case in Chief and Closing Argument.Accepted into UCLA’s coveted Screenwriting & Producing MFA program, Debra knew that she had arrived.  Oh, but, she hadn’t.  At her first introductory workshop, her professor asked the students to think of a story so personal that they would never tell another soul, much less write about it.  They did so.  He then solemnly announced:   “That is what you need to write about.”  She knew that she would never, ever write about her tragic saga of her lost newborn son snatched from her when she was 14 years old.  While she achieved a measure of success as a Legal Consultant to film luminaries from Producer Steven Bochco to Tupac Shakur, she personally wrote nothing but superficial drivel in the program.


After an arduous 31 year saga in which Debra finally found her son, she is ready.  On December 4, 2019, she told her story on stage in the Storytellers Project at Rancho Mirage Public Library.  It was such a transformative experience, unleashing so much feeling, that she knew now was the time.  Working with Tod Goldberg as one of her coaches, she realized that this genius program would be a treasure trove of everything she needs to help her finally gift her story to her boys. Debra is the proud mother of two sons, and, yes, they also share the same father.

Sara Grimes’ natural mode of communication is poetry. She is a lifelong writer. A product of San Francisco free-spiritedness, she values creativity and expression.  Her repertoire of literature ranges from reading the majority of the Victorian canon to political economics to Persian poetry– and much in between.  She enjoys salsa dancing and works as a classroom assistant at a literacy center for immigrants.  She lives in Seattle with her dog Austen, who conducts himself with a copious amount of gravitas.
Joe Hackett is so grateful to be a part of this particular writing program.  Having done loads of television as an actor, he hopes that this will give him more to offer.  Moreover, he has been blessed with three kids and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and family.  He currently works as a television editor, who has started to direct and produce films. He is dedicated to discovering more about the craft of writing and feels super lucky to have the chance to grow with diverse peers and talented writers-as-teachers.  He believes that, in general, humans are good people but so complex and conflicted. Now how to get that story down on paper…
Brady Greer Huffman is an actor/director/storyteller/educator with numerous credits, both nationally and internationally. He has received honors working as an actor in Chicago and the Inland Empire of CA. In 2009, he co-founded a non-profit theatre, The SchoolHouse Company, in Sioux Center, IA.  As a playwright, he has adapted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Jungle Book into full length dramas and has had his original drama, Parcel, staged at his alma mater, Northwestern College, IA.  Currently, he works as an Administrative Assistant for Arrowhead Family Medical Group, INC, a drama instructor at Redlands Christian School, the Technical Director for the drama program at La Sierra University, and a sponsored director for Loma Linda University’s Humanities Program. www.bradygreerhuffman.com
Originally from Florida, Lori Hunt is a semi-native Angeleno, having lived in Southern CA for thirty years where both her children were born and raised. She is making her way toward a professional writing career from public education where she served as a Teacher and Assistant Principal for almost two decades. Lori earned an undergraduate degree in Theatre and a graduate degree in Education. She is elated to join the UCRPD family and is excited to define a life for herself that makes her palms sweaty and her spine shiver. Lori is currently writing her first novel for the young adult space.
Mackenzie Kram is a first semester graduate student at University of California Riverside, Palm Desert. Originally from Miami, Florida, Mackenzie earned his Associates in Mass Communications and Journalism at Miami-Dade College and his Bachelors in Communication Arts at Florida International University before moving to Palm Springs, California. As a screenwriter, Mackenzie writes his screenplays around character psychology and conflict management, enabling him to create dramatic, suspenseful stories. While Mackenzie’s short screenplays communicate essential morals, his sample script, “The Spirit of Bruce Lucker,” transcends character psychology and conflict management to another dimension by testing a man’s perceptions and his relationship when he encounters living and spiritual reminders of a long, lost friend. Presently, Mackenzie is working on three feature-length screenplays, “The Brush of Happiness,” “Chasing Candy Crooks,” and “Jason and Ashley’s Big Move.” Simultaneously, Mackenzie is an active filmmaker and production assistant. In 2016, he served as co-producer and second assistant director of Daniela Tomas’ short film “Quimera.” During his time at Florida International University, he was involved in the institution’s Panther Film Festival Community Forum. Mackenzie was also an active member of For Reel? Pictures, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Film in Florida. It was through For Reel? Pictures that Mackenzie wrote and produced his first film “Phony Pop-Up.” Despite quitting For Reel? Pictures in February 2019, Mackenzie’s film-making career blossomed with the release of several short films. He is also a cinematographer and production assistant at Southwest Church, a position he has held since October 2019. Not to be outdone by film-making and screenwriting, Mackenzie volunteers for the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films every January and June, respectfully. He also holds a part-time job at Regency Cathedral City 10. Outside film and television, Mackenzie enjoys watching Miami Heat basketball, reading screenplays, listening to music, and plane spotting at Palm Springs International Airport.
Jack Larkin grew up in the small town of Ramona where he enjoyed playing sports and exploring the outdoors. He studied Geography at UC Santa Barbara, then worked many different jobs throughout the country. He later returned to California, living in the Bay Area for several years as a high school teacher and administrator. Jack has also lived abroad in Ireland and Colombia, but now calls San Diego home as he works to help implement Restorative Justice in schools. He enjoys writing fiction and screenplays and has recently produced a proof of concept for one of his screenplays, Upside Right.
Maxamina Muro got her start as a writer when she founded a weekly news memo in the sixth grade. Her kind teacher typed out the words she’d written and ran it through the mimeograph so Maxamina could deliver it. It was a great lesson that a writer needs support and someone to believe in them. From there she went on to write magazine articles, ad copy, and even some scripts. All along the way she learned the lessons writers learn on the job, like how to accept criticism, how to collaborate and how to live through the ups and downs of a writing career. When her friends started to talk about retirement (still years away), she realized that she had no desire to join them on cruise ships, in buffet lines or craft classes. She wants to spend her time writing novels and becoming a better writer. So, she decided to enroll in an MFA program in fiction, with the goal of never retiring.
Jack Novak is a playwright and actor based in Washington, DC. His plays include The Great Lt. Sprinkle Didn’t Save Me (production, Field Trip Theatre), Transferal (workshop, Rorschach Theatre), Journeying Jack (winner, Aurand Harris Memorial Playwriting Award), and the musicals Interface and Fanatics (commissioned by Imagination Stage). He has also received two fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. He studied Theater at Northwestern University, and performs regularly as an actor and improviser.
Rachel Spalding is a content writer and third-generation Californian who is excited to be joining the UCR MFA program to complete her memoir on life in the Golden State on the eve of Donald Trump’s election. As a reporter, she has written for the Los Angeles TimesThe Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly. She managed the sites for the entertainment brands mary-kateandashley.com and the Warner Bros. television show, “Gilmore Girls.” She covers parenting for Romper.com, PopSugar, and MommyPoppins.com. She is the author of two completed screenplays — one of which was a finalist in a contest no one’s ever heard of, and another that induced a talent manager to reply he’d consider it if Rachel had an agent…to which an agent replied he’d be interested if she already had the manager. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Creative Writing program and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids, and a mildly-neglected maltipoo, Shepherd.
Before becoming a novelist, Arlon Jay Staggs spent fifteen years as an award-winning copywriter working across multiple industries and for three Fortune 500 companies. While Arlon earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Mississippi College School of Law, he learned two things about himself: that he loved to write and that he hated practicing law. Arlon and his husband Drew are outdoor and travel enthusiasts and have visited over 30 countries. They live in San Diego, California and Nashville, Tennessee with their dogs, Sergeant Chocolate Chip and Captain Biscuit.
Carmen “Jackie” Williams was born in Mexico and grew up in Southern California.  When she is not writing screenplays, she is in a studio performing bilingual voiceovers.  She has sold paintings to art collectors and enjoys visiting museums. A perfect day for her involves coffee and knitting with friends.  Jackie loves long walks at Target with her husband and three kids.
Dawn Yun is New York City born, and Fairfield County, Connecticut raised and now resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a degree in journalism and has written about business, health, food, music and celebrities for The San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, USA Weekend, Parents and other publications. She authored The Joy of Outlet Shopping, was a contributor to Never Pay Retail, and as a bargain shopping expert appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning. She was a product spokesperson, has taught public speaking to tech companies and has worked in the tech industry as an editorial director. She also wrote Calming Crafts: New Crafts to Inspire Your Creativity, founded The Writing Mamas Salon and Mama Monologues public performances, and began a plant-based food company selling cashew cream spreads in sweet and savory flavors including Himalayan Salt, Ancho Chile, Coconut Curry, Mexican Chocolate and Caramel Churro. She has returned to freelance writing and is working on a memoir, a novel, a TV series and a play.
By | 2020-04-02T17:21:02-07:00 April 2nd, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|Comments Off on Welcome Spring 2020 Cohort: Student Bios

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