Each residency we’re joined by some of the top writers and professionals in the world, with recent guest faculty including Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, National Book Award-winner Robin BenwayOprah Book Club author Cynthia Bond, New York Times bestselling author Janet Fitch, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Scott Alexander, Academy Award-nominated producer Michael Besman, award-winning horror author Brian Evenson, National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Carina Chocano, acclaimed poets Chiwan Choi, Rachel Kann, and Kristen Tracy and, literally, countless others. You can view our most recent guest faculty here. Below, however, is the backbone of the program, our award-winning permanent faculty.

The Core Faculty

Mickey Birnbaum


Mickey Birnbaum’s Big Death & Little Death inaugurated Woolly Mammoth’s new Washington D.C. theatre in 2005. It has been produced subsequently at Perishable Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island; Crowded Fire in San Francisco; the Road Theatre in Los Angeles; and the Catastrophic Theater in Houston. The play was nominated for a 2006 Helen Hayes/Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, and was a 2006 PEN USA Literary Awards Finalist. His play Bleed Rail premiered at the Theatre@Boston Court in Los Angeles in 2007, and won a 2008 Garland Award for Playwriting. Mickey spent two months living in playwright William Inge’s boyhood home in Independence, Kansas as the recipient of a 2006 Inge Fellowship. He has written numerous children’s plays for L.A.’s celebrated non-profit organization, Virginia Avenue Project. He is a founding member of Dog Ear, a Los Angeles collective of nationally-renowned playwrights (visit www.dogear.org), as well as The Playwrights’ Union, and was a member of the 2008-2009 Center Theatre Group Writer’s Workshop. Over a thirty year career, Mickey has written screenplays for Universal, Paramount, Columbia/Sony, Interscope, Warner Brothers, and Leonardo di Caprio’s Appian Way Productions. He collaborated with director Steven Shainberg (Secretary, Fur) on the screenplay for The Big Shoe and recently adapted the John Irving novel The Fourth Hand in collaboration with Shainberg. He wrote The Tie that Binds (1995), starring Keith Carradine and Darryl Hannah, for Interscope/Hollywood Pictures. Mickey received his MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of Riverside, Palm Desert in 2013. He teaches screenwriting at Santa Monica College as well. Mickey plays bass accordion for the Accordionaires, an accordion orchestra. Hs most recent play, Backyard, was a finalist for the 2015 PEN Center USA Award for Drama.


Elizabeth Craneis the author of four collections of short stories including When the Messenger is Hot, All this Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter. Her work has been translated into several languages and has been featured in numerous publications including Other Voices, Ecotone, Guernica, Catapult, Electric Literature, Coachella Review, Mississippi Review, Florida Review, Bat City Review, Hobart, Rookie, Fairy Tale Review, The Huffington Post, Eating Well, Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Reader and The Believer, and anthologies including Altared, The Show I’ll Never Forget, The Best Underground Fiction, Who Can Save Us Now?, Brute Neighbors and Dzanc’s Best of the Web. Her stories have been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts. She is a recipient of the Chicago Public Library 21st Century Award, and her work has been adapted for the stage by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater company. Her novel The History of Great Things was published by HarperPerennial in April 2016 and her fourth collection of stories, Turf, was released in 2017 from Soft Skull Press. A feature film adaptation of her debut novel, We Only Know So Much, won Best Feature at the Big Apple Film Festival in 2018.

Jill Alexander Essbaum


Jill Alexander Essbaum’s the author of several collections of poetry including Heaven (winner of the Katherine Bakeless Nason prize), Necropolis, Harlot, and most recently the single poem chapbook The Devastation. Her first novel, Hausfrau, was a New York Times Bestseller and has been translated into 26 languages. Her work has appeared in dozens of journals including Poetry, The Christian Century, Image, and The Rumpus, and has been included in textbooks and anthologies including The Best American Erotic Poems and two editions of the annual Best American Poetry anthology. A two-time NEA fellow, Jill is currently working on a new collection of poems and a second novel.


Gina Frangello’s the author of four books — Every Kind of Wanting, A Life In Men, Slut Lullabies (a ForeWard Magazine Best Book of 2010), and My Sister’s Continent (named one of the Best Books of the Year by Las Vegas Weekly) — and edited the acclaimed anthology Falling Backward: Stories of Fathers and Daughters. In addition, Ms. Frangello has published dozens of stories, essays, and works of literary criticism – her work has appeared in such venues as the Chicago Tribune, Best of the Midwest, Prairie Schooner and others — which have resulted in her receiving several notable awards, including the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award in 2005 and the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose in 2002. Ms. Frangello is also an esteemed editorial voice, notably as one of the founding editors and publishers of Other Voices Books, an award-winning literary press based out of Chicago, and, as well, serving as the Sunday editor of The Rumpus and as the literary editor of The Nervous Breakdown. Gina has been a regular faculty member in the MFA programs at both Northwestern and Columbia. She is the editor of the Coachella Review. Her next book, a memoir, will be released in 2020.


Tod Goldberg is the New York Times and international bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Gangster Nation (Counterpoint), The House of Secrets (Grand Central), Gangsterland (Counterpoint), a finalist for the Hammett Prize, Living Dead Girl (Soho Press), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the popular Burn Notice (Penguin) series, three times a finalist for the Scribe Award, and two collections of short stories, most recently Other Resort Cities (Other Voices Books). His short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Black Clock, The Normal School, Post Road and Las Vegas Noir, where his story “Mitzvah” was subsequently named a Distinguished Story of the Year in Best American Mystery Stories. His essays, journalism, and criticism appear regularly in many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Review of Books and have earned five Nevada Press Association Awards for excellence, while his essay “When They Let Them Bleed,” which first appeared in Hobart, was most recently featured in Best American Essays. In addition, he is the co-host, along with Julia Pistell & Rider Strong, of Literary Disco, one of the greatest podcasts on the planet, and with Maggie Downs of Open Book, which airs on KCOD in Palm Springs. Tod Goldberg holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Literature from Bennington College and directs the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside. His next book, Gang Related, will be out next year.

Stephen Graham Jones


Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen novels, six story collections, a couple of standalone novellas, and, so far, one comic book. Most recent are Mongrels and Mapping the Interior. Up soon are a couple of horror novels from Saga and another horror novella from Tor. Stephen’s been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, a Bram Stoker Award, four This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. He’s also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Joshua Malkin


Joshua Malkin has written feature projects for Sony, Warner Brothers, Cross Creek Entertainment, Universal Pictures as well as for more than a dozen production companies, both big and small. These include: an adaptation of the 80s cult franchise Beastmaster, a supernatural thriller for Australian company See Films and a “re-boot” of the franchise Buck Rogers In the 25th Century. He also wrote and produced three documentaries; two about the art of puppetry, and the other about underground comics. In 2008, his screenplay Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever completed production for Lionsgate. He is currently developing an animated family film for Intrigue Entertainment, a horror movie for Traveling Picture Show, and a TV series for Canadian-based Rezolution Pictures/showrunner Jonathan Glassner (Outer Limits, Stargate SG-1.) Joshua is a professor of screenwriting at the University of California Riverside, an occasional story architect for the video game industry, and the proud father of twins.


Anthony McCann


Anthony McCann was born and raised in the Hudson Valley. He’s the author of four collections of poetry, including Thing Music and I Heart Your Fate. His new prose non-fiction book, Shadowlands, on the 2016 takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed right-wing protestors, will be released in July 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing. Anthony lives in the Mojave Desert with his family. Anthony holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and currently teaches poetry and literature at the California Institute of the Arts as well.

Mary Otis photo2


Mary Otis is the award-winning author of the short story collection Yes, Yes, Cherries. Her stories and essays have been published in Best New American Voices (Harcourt), Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Electric Literature, McSweeney’s, Zyzzyva, the Los Angeles Review of Books Fiction Issue, The New American Canon, and in numerous other venues. Her writing has been performed by WordTheatre and recorded for Electric Literature. The New York Times has said of her work, “Sadness and humor sidle up to each other, evocative of the delicate balance of melancholy and wit found in Lorrie Moore’s stories.” Her writing is anthologized in Woof: Fiction Writers on Dogs (Viking), Do Me: Tales of Love and Sex (Tin House), and My First Novel (Writer’s Tribe Books). Her story “Pilgrim Girl” received an honorable mention for the Pushcart Prize, and her story “Unstruck” was a Distinguished Story of the Year in Best American Short Stories. Mary attended Bennington College and previously taught creative writing in the UCLA Writers’ Program and served as a mentor in the Mark Program for PEN. She also teaches at the Noepe Writing Center in Martha’s Vineyard. Mary is part of the core faculty of the UC Riverside Palm Desert M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts program.

William Rabkin


William Rabkin has written and/or produced hundreds of hours of dramatic television. He served as show runner on the long-running Dick Van Dyke mystery series “Diagnosis Murder” and on the action-adventure spectacle “Martial Law” and is currently creating series in China and Brazil. He has also written a dozen network TV pilots. His work has twice been nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Television Episode from the Mystery Writers of America. He has written three books on writing for television, “Writing the Pilot” (2011), “Writing the Pilot: Creating the Series” (2017), and, with Lee Goldberg, “Successful Television Writing” (2003) and seven novels. He is the co-creator and co-editor of “The Dead Man,” a 28-book series of supernatural action thrillers published by Amazon’s 47 North imprint. Rabkin is part of the core faculty of UCR-Palm Desert’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts, as well as serving as an associate professor in television writing and producing for Long Island University’s TV Writers’ Studio MFA program. His latest show debuts on HBOAsia soon!

Emily Rapp


Emily Rapp Black is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir (Bloomsbury USA) and The Still Point of the Turning World (Penguin Press), which was a New York Times Bestseller, an Editor’s Pick, and a finalist for the PEN Center Literary Award in Nonfiction. A former Fulbright scholar, she was educated at Harvard University, Trinity College-Dublin, Saint Olaf College, and the University of Texas-Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow in Fiction and Poetry. She is an active advocate for parents of terminally ill children through the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association, where she helps facilitate conversations between doctors and parents/caregivers about alternative approaches to pediatric palliative care, and she also works as a hospice care volunteer in the Inland Empire. Black has received awards and recognition for her work from The Atlantic Monthly; StoryQuarterly; the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation; the Rona Jaffe Foundation (Emerging Writer Award); the Jentel Arts Foundation; the Corporation of Yaddo; the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where she was a Winter Writing Fellow; Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain; and Bucknell University, where she was the Philip Roth Fiction Writer-in-Residence. IN 2017, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her blog, a live medical narrative, http:// ourlittleseal.wordpress.com, was named by TIME as one of the top 25 blogs of 2012, and that same year the Huffington Post described her work as “Required Reading for Women.” Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in VOGUE, LENNY LETTER, the New York Times, Salon, Slate, Huffington Post, the Sun, TIME, Brain.Child, the Rumpus, Role/Reboot, O the Oprah Magazine, the Nervous Breakdown, The Establishment, Bodega, Good Housekeeping, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications and anthologies, including The Modern Loss Anthology (Harper/Wave) and O’ s Little Guide to Starting Over (Flatiron Books). Since 2012, she has been a literary correspondent for the Boston Globe. She also writes home and design, fashion, fitness, and lifestyle features for various publications, including Palm Springs Life, Fitness, and Redbook. Her essays about medical ethics, genetics, disability issues, medical narratives, 19th century philosophy, and the ethics of end-of-life care have appeared in many academic journals and anthologies. She has two books forthcoming in 2020: Sanctuary: A Memoir (Random House), and Cartography for Cripples: Mapping Disability and Desire in the Life and Work of Frida Kahlo (New York Review of Books). She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at UC-Riverside, and also teaches in the UCR School of Medicine.

Rob Roberge


Rob Roberge’s most recent book, the memoir Liar (Crown, 2016) was named a Spring 2016 Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” pick and is now out on paperback on Future Tense Books. It was singled out in The New Yorker, who wrote, “…both the smallest and the biggest pieces of his memoir fascinate,” and was chosen as one of the best non-fiction books of 2016 by both Powell’s Bookstore and Entropy Magazine. Liar was released, in France in translation the same year. Roberge is the author of four books of fiction, most recently the novel The Cost of Living (OV Books, 2013), about which Cheryl Strayed wrote “is both drop dead gorgeous and mind-bendingly smart.” He is core faculty at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert MFA in Writing Program, his short fiction and essays have been widely published and anthologized, and several of his plays have been produced in Los Angeles. A number of his books and screenplays have been optioned. Also a musician, he has released two solo albums, and has played with the LA-based roots rock bands The Violet Rays and The Danbury Shakes, and he plays guitar and sings with LA’s art-punk band The Urinals. He is at work on a new novel.

John Schimmel


John Schimmel is in the middle of an extraordinarily diverse career as a writer/producer. He’s been the President of Furthur Films and Ascendant Pictures, an executive at Douglas-Reuther Productions, Belair Entertainment, and Warner Bros, co-penned the Tony-nominated musical “Pump Boys And Dinettes,” published fiction and nonfiction, including his first book, Screenwriting Behind Enemy Lines: Lessons from Inside the Studio Gates. He currently works as Senior Producer (narrative content) and Head of Global Video Production for Cloud Imperium Games which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crowd funding effort in history. He recently executive produced the film Foster Boy with Matthew Modine and Lou Gossett Jr., written and produced by his student Jay Paul Deratany and also executive produced by Shaquille O’Neil. John is also part of the core screenwriting faculty at the University of California at Riverside’s Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts, providing not just an insight into how to write screenplays, but how to write screenplays that sell.


Mark Haskell Smith is the author of six novels with one word titles including Moist, Baked, and Blown; and the nonfiction books Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World and Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup. He has written extensively for film and television. His credits include the feature films “Playing God” (Touchstone Pictures, 1997) and the Brazilian film “A Partilha” (Columbia/TriStar/Globo Films, 2002) which won the Audience Award for Best Picture and the Crystal Lens Award for Best Screenplay at the Miami Brazilian Film Festival; as well as original pilots for ABC and CBS television, and the film Gun Shy, starring Antonio Banderas. He is part of the core faculty of the UC Riverside Palm Desert M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts program. He is a graduate of The Evergreen State College and has an M.F.A. degree from the American Film Institute.


Deanne Stillman has written several books of literary nonfiction and her plays have been produced in festivals around the country. Her latest book is Blood Brothers (Simon Schuster), which received a starred review in Kirkus, won the 2018 Ohioana Book Award for nonfiction, and appears on several “best of the year” lists, including two at the millions. Her other books include Desert Reckoning, based on a Rolling Stone piece, winner of the Spur and LA Press Club awards, an amazon editors pick, recipient of rave reviews in Newsweek and elsewhere, currently under option for film; Twentynine Palms, an LA Times bestseller and “best book of the year” praised by Hunter Thompson, and Mustang, an LA Times “best book of the year,” recipient of rave reviews from the Atlantic to the Economist, now available in audio with Anjelica Huston, Frances Fisher and John Densmore. Her essays have appeared in the NY Times, LA Times, Tin House, the rumpus, Angels Flight – Literary West, Salon, Slate, Orion, High Country News, the LA Review of Books (where she is a columnist), literary hub, and elsewhere, and her work is widely anthologized. She has also written for film and television, including the groundbreaking series “Square Pegs” and “A Different World.” Her play, “Reflections in a D’Back’s Eye,” is a finalist in the 2019 Garry Marshall Theatre New Works Festival and a semi-finalist for the 2019 Blues Ink Playwriting Award from American Blues Theater. “Star Maps” received its West Coast premiere in the Ink Fest series at the Hudson Theatre (LA) in 2016. Additionally, she was a winner of the first announced Amtrak writers residency. She’s a member of the core faculty at the UCR-Palm Desert MFA Low Residency Creative Writing Program. For more, see www.deannestillman.com.


David L. Ulin is the author or editor of ten books, including Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay; The Lost Art of Reading: Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time; and Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a California Book Award. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Tom and Mary Gallagher Fellowship from Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship. The former book editor and book critic of the Los Angeles Times, he has written for AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Black Clock, Columbia Journalism Review, Harper’s, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Zyzzyva, and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. He is editing the Library of America’s collected works of Joan Didion, the first volume of which will be published in October 2019.

Mary Yukari Water


Mary Yukari Waters’ fiction has appeared three times in “The Best American Short Stories.” She has also appeared in other anthologies including The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and Zoetrope 2. She is the recipient of an NEA grant, and her work has aired on the BBC and NPR. She has published two books, both with Scribner: the short story collection The Laws of Evening (a Barnes & Noble Discover Award for New Writers selection, Booksense 76 selection, and Kiriyama Prize Notable Book), and a novel, The Favorites. Waters received her M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine. She is a core member of the UC Riverside Palm Desert low residency M.F.A. Creative Writing faculty.

Matthew Zapruder


Matthew Zapruder is Writer-in-Residence and a founding member of our core faculty.

He was born in Washington, DC. in 1967. He earned a BA in Russian literature at Amherst College, an MA in Slavic languages and literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA in poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he studied with Dara Wier, James Tate, and Agha Shahid Ali. Zapruder is the author most recently of Sun Bear, Copper Canyon, 2014, and Why Poetry, a book of prose about poetry, Ecco/Harper Collins, 2017. An Associate Professor in the MFA at Saint Mary’s College of California, he is also editor at large at Wave Books, and from 2016-7 held the annually rotating position of Editor of the Poetry Column for the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Oakland, California. He also plays lead guitar in the rock band The Figments, a Western Massachusetts based band led by songwriter Thane Thomsen. Zapruder’s other collections of poetry include Come On All You Ghosts (2010), The Pajamaist (2006), and American Linden (2002). He collaborated with painter Chris Uphues on For You in Full Bloom (2009) and co-translated, with historian Radu Ioanid, Romanian poet Eugen Jebeleanu’s last collection, Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems (Coffee House, 2008). Come on All You Ghosts was selected as one of the year’s top 5 poetry books by Publishers Weekly, the 2010 Booklist Editors’ Choice for poetry, the 2010 Northern California Independent Booksellers Association poetry book of the year, and as one of the New York Times’s 100 Notable Books of 2011. His second collection, The Pajamaist, was selected by Tony Hoagland as the winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and was chosen by Library Journal as one of the top ten poetry volumes of 2006. His first book, American Linden, was the winner of the Tupelo Press Editors Prize, and was published by Tupelo in 2002. German and Slovenian language editions of his poems have been published by Luxbooks and Serpa Editions; in 2009, Luxbooks also published a separate German language graphic novel version of the poem “The Pajamaist.” A collaborative book with painter Chris Uphues, For You in Full Bloom, was published by Pilot Press in 2009. His poems, essays and translations have appeared in many publications, including Open City, Bomb, Slate, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Tin House, Harvard Review, Paris Review, The New Republic, The Boston Review, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Believer, Real Simple, and The Los Angeles Times. His work has also appeared in many anthologies, including Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll; Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century; Seriously Funny: Poems about Love, Death, Religion, Art, Politics, Sex, and Everything; and Best American Poetry 2009, 2013, and 2017. His awards include a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship in Marfa, TX, and the May Sarton prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has taught at New York University, The New School, the University of Houston, and at the University of California at Berkeley as the 2010 Holloway Lecturer in the Practice of Poetry. With Brian Henry, Zapruder co-founded Verse Press, which later became Wave Books. As an editor for Wave Books, Zapruder co-edited, with Joshua Beckman, the political poetry anthology State of the Union: 50 Political Poems (2008). He was the editor of Tyehimba Jess’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning volume of poetry, Olio. His next book, Father’s Day, will be out this fall.