Welcome Spring 2021 Cohort: Student Bios

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Chicano writer Nicholas Belardes has ghostwritten novels and short fiction for Harper Collins Teen. A pioneer of the first novel by tweet, Small Places (2008), he also serialized his middle-grade novel The Twelve Rules of Survival (Pine Reads Review, University of Arizona). His latest story, “A Dangerous Wand,” will be appearing in Speculative Fiction For Dreamers (Ohio State University Press, August 2021). His sci-fi, “Sky Seekers,” will be appearing in El Porvenir, Ya! Citlalzazanilli Mexicatl: Chicano Science Fiction Anthology (Somos en escrito Literary Foundation Press, 2022). His fiction has been published in Carve Magazine, Southwestern American Literature, Pithead Chapel, Acentos Review, and others. His 2020 Boom California essay, “South Bakersfield’s Confederate Remains” (University of California Press) about being a teen at a Confederate-themed school was mentioned in the L.A. Times by Pulitzer-winning journalist Christopher Knight as an engaging read on the dangers of racist infrastructural monuments. Nicholas has taught history, writing, and has worked in both 3-D animation and television news. While at UCR Palm Desert Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, he plans to work on his eco-horror novel The Deading, his novel American Fade, and an unnamed screenwriting project. Find him on Twitter @nickbelardes where he obsessively posts about birds. Read more at nicholasbelardes.com.
Boaz Dror is an LA-based writer/director who grew up bilingual and fell in love with the language of cinema at an early age. After graduating with a BA in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas in Austin, he spent several years in commercial and corporate video production. He subsequently worked as an ADR screenwriter, filling mouth-flaps on several Japanese anime series, before directing and producing his first independent feature comedy. Since then, he’s written gangster flicks for Bollywood, sketch comedy for Hollywood, and has sold a number of pilots to big-time studios. He specializes in off-beat genre shows for animated and live-action TV, and has recently published an independent comic book series via Kickstarter.
Shelbi “Chuck” Glover is an aspiring screenwriter from rural Kentucky. She gained her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Louisville, with a heavy focus on creative writing and socialist literature. When Chuck isn’t writing, she’s watching a movie; when she isn’t watching a movie, she’s thinking about one. (All the while hanging out with her cat, Miss Peach.)
Brandon Gnuschke is a proud Southern California resident, living in and around the Inland Empire his entire life. He graduated from California State University San Bernardino with a BA in English, with an emphasis on creative writing. Although his preference is fiction, Brandon has a strong passion for screenwriting and poetry, the latter of which has earned him the distinguished honor of being published in both The Sand Canyon Review and The Pacific Review respectively. He is currently working on his first novel, entitled The Unfinished Works of Jackson Tate. When he is not engrained in the world of storytelling, Brandon is spending time with his wife and three-year-old son.
Originally from Las Vegas, Briana Hall now lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and rambunctious dog, Tuesday. She’s the oldest of four siblings, born to young parents who stuck together despite financial instability and extensive hardship. She is the first in her family to pursue a master’s degree after previously graduating summa cum laude with a dual bachelor’s degree in economics and English writing from The University of Oklahoma. While she currently holds a position as Director of Business Development for a social shopping platform, she is also an internationally certified sommelier and writes creative nonfiction. Her work includes a memoir of a family tragedy that occurred in 2017, as well as cultural observations of both Los Angeles and America at large.
Stephanie Harvey grew up in New England and adores California because it is not New England. She earned a BA in English at the University of Vermont where she also minored in sociology with a concentration in criminology. She worked in advertising in the nineties and then “retired” to become a mom of two awesome kids who are now teenagers. She enjoys writing about dark things, sometimes criminals, but also loves comedy even though she’s not that funny. When she is not writing she likes to hike, drink wine and play with her dog.
Hailing from the Hoosier State, Melissa Johnson became a “spousal unit” when she married a Marine and darted around the U.S. and Okinawa with their two “rugrat units” before plopping down in California. She has spent the last couple of decades in education with the most recent of those years serving as principal of a private school. Like many, COVID was a wake-up call that life is short and one cannot spend all of her creative juices writing Student Handbooks and school policies. Her goal in getting an MFA is to focus on putting everything in her head onto paper and discovering whether she is chasing a dream or chasing her tail. A self-proclaimed masochist, Melissa enjoys running, cycling, Oxford commas, reconciling accounts, and, of course, writing.
Lisa Loop is a poet and novelist from Seattle living in LA. Her poetry has appeared in The Weekly Zephyr and Z Publications Best Emerging Poets of 2019. She has a BA in English from Whitman College and has worked in a variety of writing-related jobs in film and publishing. She and her husband, writer Andrew Chapman, have two grown daughters. She enjoys hiking, cooking, and collecting cool boots she has no place to wear.
Bella Meaux is a K-8 substitute teacher by day and a writer of fiction by night. She received her BFA in Film/Theater from Columbia College Chicago in 2012. She lives with her two precious, fat cats and lovely fiancé in Chicago, IL.
A native of Washington State, Michael Medina currently lives in the deserts of Arizona with his husband Justin and dog Rebel. Michael has been a writer of fiction since he was a teenager, an audio drama podcaster, and a lover and purveyor of all things storytelling (from theater to podcasts, to local television. Michael has always been interested in the many cultures of the world and it inspires him every day. As A graduate of Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, Michael earned his degree in Anthropology with a minor in Technical Writing. When he’s not writing or spending time with his husband, Michael can be found (like any self-proclaimed geek) Reading comics, podcasting, and playing video/tabletop games with friends.
Leena Pendharkar is a writer and director whose sophomore feature film, 20 Weeks, premiered at the LA Film Festival, and was released in theaters and on Hulu. She has also written and directed many short films, including Awaken, starring Parminder Nagra, which has screened in almost twenty film festivals over the last year. Leena was recently in the Warner Brothers Television Directing program. She has written many feature film scripts, including adapting the Ursula Le Guin novel, The Telling. She is an Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in the Film Production department where she teaches filmmaking and screenwriting. She is excited to work toward her MFA and reserve dedicated time for her writing her film and television projects.
Betty-Jo Tilley is a top-producing Los Angeles-based realtor best known for bringing home buyers and sellers together, negotiating contracts, avoiding lawsuits, and writing stellar real estate marketing copy for 33 years.  On notification that a missing Pasadena City College transcript rendered her UCR acceptance provisional, Ms. Tilley’s memory failed to recall ever attending that institution.  Pursuant archival research evidenced her enrollment in two courses prior to graduating from high school, during the summer of 1969, an interlude of which she retains scant remembrances.  When congratulated for her admission to the UCR MFA Program in Creative Writing, Fiction, she exhaled, “Wait.  What?  I thought this was an MBA Program.”  Nevertheless, Ms. Tilley is excited to learn new things, meet new prospective real estate clients, and avail of any retail and entertainment discount opportunities for students.  She also looks forward to a time when “No Res” becomes “Low Res”.
By | 2021-03-29T13:18:52-07:00 March 26th, 2021|Categories: Uncategorized|Comments Off on Welcome Spring 2021 Cohort: Student Bios

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