Alumni Cover Banner



Current Graduate Students

Maribel Apuya

Maribel Apuya (Screenwriting) was born in Quezon City, Philippines and later grew up in Oahu, Hawaii. She earned her BA in Computer Science and Political Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she was both a Presidential Scholar and a National Science Foundation Scholar. While at UH-Manoa, Maribel discovered a love for theater and writing that eventually led her to move to New York City, where she attended the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater and trained with other renowned theater companies. However, as an actress she realized that her real work is to create diverse stories – and ones that feature strong, multi-dimensional female characters.  She came back to writing, and studied at UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting.

In her efforts to shed light on stories of her own heritage, Maribel produced and directed The Sakada Series, three documentary shorts highlighting the life stories of the Sakadas – Filipino contract workers who toiled as laborers on Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations between 1906 and 1946. The Sakada Series won an “Award of Merit” from Impact DOCS Awards, “Best Documentary Short” from the Honolulu Film Awards, and the “Silver Award” from Spotlight Documentary Film Awards.

Carissa Atallah

Carissa Atallah (Playwriting) is an avid writer, poet, and adventurer from Southern California. Her works, ranging from poetry collections to travel blogs, have been published in various online platforms and local literary magazines. She has also performed spoken word on stages across the state. While Carissa earned her BA in English with a minor in Art from the University of California Merced, her educational pursuits have expanded far beyond the classroom. From studying theatre in London’s famous West End, to learning Spanish with a host familia in Argentina, to meeting herds of wild llamas in the deserts of Chile—Carissa’s hunger to see the world is quelled only by a desire to write about it.

Clark Barclay

Clark Barclay (Screenwriting) has a passion for the performance arts that has not waned since he made his debut stage appearance at the age of five as an orphan in Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet, The Nutcracker. For the past decade, Clark has worked as a touring DJ, music producer, and filmmaker in and outside of Hollywood. Clark is also a dedicated schoolteacher. He has taught English, Spanish, dance, and drama throughout Los Angeles, the SF Bay Area, and Guadalajara, Mexico. As a teen, Clark started writing and producing narratives and documentaries. This led him to become a screenplay coverage writer and screenwriting student at De Anza College in his hometown, Cupertino, CA. He holds a BA in Spanish from CSU Chico. He also loves adventure travel, extreme sports, and street art.

Andrea Bennett

Andrea Bennett (Creative Nonfiction) is a longtime magazine reporter, writer and editor who has written for Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Town & Country, The Wall Street Journal, Departures, T: The New York Times style magazine and others, and was most recently a group editor-in-chief for city and custom publications for Modern Luxury, including Vegas and Wynn. She earned her B.A. in Art History at Wellesley College, and later attended The New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture and New York University's Journalism and Economic Reporting program. After years in Boston, New York, Kuwait, Atlanta and Las Vegas, she now lives in San Diego with her daughter.

Amanda Biggs

Amanda Biggs (Screenwriting) was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri before moving to the hustling and bustling metropolis of Laramie, Wyoming for her undergraduate degree in communication.  While in Laramie, she created and coordinated the first ever international Mountain West Improv Fest and made a small town name for herself in standup comedy.  She is excited to trade the sights of snow and cattle for that of smog and Priuses as she transitions back into city life and finds new inspiration for her scripts to come.

Joseph Cardenas

Joseph Aaron Cárdenas (Creative Nonfiction) is native of Los Angeles California. He earned his B.S in Anthropology and English with a minor in Communication from Washington State University. After graduation he worked as the assistant coordinator for the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Financial Literacy Program. He is a 2017 Voices of Our Nations Art Foundation (VONA) Writing Fellow and the son, brother, nephew, and hijo of inmigrantes.

Patrick Carroll

Patrick Carroll (Fiction) writes, sings, and sews about history's playing on the body of the mind. He grew up in Silicon Valley, studied comparative literature at Princeton, and lived for six years in New York City, tutoring. He reveres George Herriman, Shigeru Mizuki, Joseph Roth, Dolly Parton, Emily Dickinson, Franz Kafka, Gayatri Spivak, Thomas Pynchon, Mary Austin, Ishmael Reed, Alan Hollinghurst, Joan Armatrading, Nathaniel Hawthorne . . .

Alejandra Castillo

Alejandra Castillo (Poetry) earned her BA at Kalamazoo College as a Posse Scholar from East Los Angeles. She majored in Anthropology and Sociology but sneaked in enough English classes to receive an English minor. Her poetry thesis, “Daughter, We Are Gypsies,” received English Department Honors and her plays, “Miss Long Beach” and “Say Yes” were staged in local theatre festivals. Upon graduating, Alejandra left the mitten state to return to L.A., where she worked as a Program Coordinator at 826LA’s After-School Writing & Tutoring Program. Her fluency in Spanish later led her to work for non-profit organization Operation Walk, interpreting for American medical teams in mission trips to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Alejandra’s other passions include reptiles, YouTube vlogging, rock concerts, tattoos, belly dance, aerial arts, the beach, and returning home to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

Courtney Cook

Courtney Cook (Creative Nonfiction) is a Midwestern transplant who was raised in the northern suburbs of Chicago. After studying poetry and short fiction at the Chicago Academy for the Arts high school, Courtney obtained her B.A in Creative Writing & Literature from the University of Michigan. Her work most often focuses on sex, love, and illness. She loves to paint, visit museums, and take care of her growing bedroom garden. Though a strong believer in the phrase “Midwest is best,” she hopes that California will change her mind, and bring merit to the saying “West Coast, best coast.”

Stefani Cox

Stefani Cox (Fiction) writes speculative fiction of all sorts and sizes, with a focus on race, gender, mental health, and the environment. Though currently living in Los Angeles, she spent most of her years in Northern California and will defend cold, windy beach cliffs any day. She comes to UCR by way of an urban planning and communications background, with a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley. Stefani’s work has been published to LeVar Burton Reads, PodCastle, and FIYAH, among other outlets, and she’s received fellowships to VONA and Hedgebrook. When not writing or reading, Stefani is usually hiking, crafting, taking pictures, or being a low-budget foodie. She lives with her husband and a cranky-lovable senior rescue dog.

Bredna Delfino

Brenda Delfino (Poetry) is a writer and a poet born in Entre Rios, Argentina, but is currently based in Riverside, California. She received a B.A. in English-Writing from La Sierra University in 2015. Her feminist-oriented poems influenced by Eco-poetics explore the unequal distribution of power at all dimensions of life. Delfino’s nostalgic tone and lyrical inclinations often revisit homeland memories to make sense of a past paved by resilient women who survived poverty and domestic violence—in a country flooded with political corruption and a history of human rights violations. As an immigrant, home is a word she cannot define, but she is constantly searching for it within the walls of her own skin. Delfino is passionate about language and translation and is an advocate for Holistic education. As a future educator she hopes to aid and encourage younger generations to find their voices and tell their stories through the healing power of poetry.

Conor Devitt
Conor King Devitt (Screenwriting) spent his childhood in Seattle and attended college a few hours away at Washington State University, where he earned his BA in Journalism in 2015. After graduating, he spent nearly three years working as a political and business reporter for a small newspaper in the Caribbean. He likes Westerns.
Jennifer Espinoza

Jennifer Espinoza (Poetry) is a trans woman poet from California. She intentionally identifies herself as a “trans woman poet” because she does not believe in hiding who she is, nor in separating the art from the artist. Her work exposes and interrogates the failures of a strict gender binary, and questions the measures we use to decide who is granted personhood; it also attempts to make space to celebrate queer joy and survival. She is the author of two collections of poetry, and her writing has been published in various print and online journals, including Denver Quarterly, American Poetry Review, PEN America, and others. She lives in Riverside with her amazing wife and adorable dog. She is equally angry about the world and hopeful for the future.

Chantal Eyong

Chantal Eyong (Screenwriting) is a writer and media producer, born and raised in New Jersey. Her passions include education, storytelling, and exploring the mysteries of her identity as a first-generation West-African. Chantal received a BA in English with Concentrations in Geography and Creative Writing at Rutgers University in 2009. She also received a certificate in E-Learning and Instructional Design from the University of California Extension in 2019. Chantal also graduated from the 2018-2019 Creative Lab Hawaii Writers Program. As a media producer, Chantal has collaborated on documentaries and short films featured on PBS and national/international film festivals. The documentary short she co-produced, "Thailand Untapped" received an Emmy nomination in 2013. Chantal currently lives in Southern California. On her free time, Chantal sings, travels, admires freshly cut grass, and eats copious amounts of bolillo bread rolls from Cardenas Market.

Sara Fowler

Sara Ellen Fowler (Poetry) is an artist and poet living in Los Angeles, CA. Her writing has been published through Green Gallery Press, Hysteria, and Office Hours LA. She is the founding editor for the magazine collective plots by clots. She has shown art in Milwaukee, WI and Los Angeles, CA, and has participated in the Ashbery Home School and Community of Writers at Squaw Valley workshop. Sara earned a BFA in Fine Art from Art Center College of Design and is enrolled as an MFA candidate at UC Riverside, Fall 2019. 

Soleil Garneau

Soleil Garneau (Poetry) is a Los Angeles-based poet. Born and raised in New Jersey, she studied Photography & Imaging at New York University. Shortly after earning her BFA, she left New York for New Orleans, where she found writing. Both enraged and enthralled by her surroundings, much of her work was rooted in her experience of the Gulf South. Her poems explore her relationships to place and the body, as well as personal and family history. She uses her lineage as a lens through which to consider migration, diaspora, and intergenerational memory. She hopes to begin a career in teaching, to share her love of literature and help others foster theirs.

Esther Gatica

Esther Gatica (Playwriting) was born and raised in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Her formal theatre studies began at CC-Artes (Honduras). Her career path continued with Teatro Prometeo’s Acting Conservatory in Theatre Arts at  Miami Dade College (Miami, Florida). With Prometeo she has performed in: “Electra” a Rasa boxes adaptation by Fernando Calzadilla, “The Conduct of Life” written by Maria Irene Fornes and Directed by Joann Yarrow for the International Hispanic Theatre Festival in Miami, as well as several staged readings done as part of the Miami Book Fair International under the direction of Beatriz Rizk. Esther has written and directed two of her own one-act plays "On Behalf of them, Thank you" and “Lolo”, presented as part of the Arts and Philosophy Department of Miami Dade College. Esther is a recent Bachelor's in Fine Arts recipient from Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, Oklahoma). There she also performed in several productions: "Rosencrantz And Guildenstern are Dead" by Tom Stoppard, "Twelfth Night" by Shakeaspeare, and  "Lost in Yonkers" by Neil Simon, among others. Understanding the power of storytelling in all forms, she is eager to continue growing and is blessed by the opportunity to do so at UCR! Para Dios todo es posible. 

Paige Goodwin

Paige Goodwin (Playwriting) appeared in her high school's production of Hairspray before realizing that she was, perhaps, the world's least gifted actor. Instead, she earned her BA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Maryland in 2016, where she wrote plays for a campus troupe and discovered her true place in theater. Since graduating, she has been a theater educator with multiple non-profits in Washington DC, and a house manager for theaters in the district. She is currently a reader for both the Shakespeare Theatre Company (DC) and Arena Stage, as well as member of the 2019 Playwright's Arena Cohort. She enjoys hiking in National Parks and keeping a count of how many rollercoasters she's ridden. Because she grew up in Maryland, she likes to put the state flag on nearly everything she owns, and Old Bay on nearly everything she eats.

Joanna Greenberg

Joanna Greenberg (Creative Nonfiction) has two great loves: words and coffee. She is a recovering New Yorker, and gets very excited every time she sees a palm tree. Her creative nonfiction has been published in The Metropolitan Review, Gandy Dancer, Hello Giggles, and Thought Catalog. When she is not writing, she likes to go on adventures and take selfies with her cats.

Chanel Harwick

Chanel Harwick (Fiction) is Wisconsin’s best kept secret, which is to say that no one even knew they wrote fiction before they got accepted into UCR. This is also to say that no one noticed Chanel leave. With a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire (a school only known to Wisconsinites) Chanel drove themself to the airport after their mother insisted: “Your life isn’t a John Hughes movie. Take the shuttle.”

Chanel is bitter, and brittle, and empty as their wallet. They write exclusively with themes in rural poverty, pulling from their childhood to build parallels using magical realism, with the ultimate goal of crafting short Midwestern gothics. Chanel’s other interests include: modern witchcraft, aestheticism, card games, the color yellow, Dollar Tree, cigarellos, and lying about having interests other than writing.

Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler (Fiction) is a writer, editor, and journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, anthologies, and elsewhere online and in print. Before returning to graduate school, she worked in digital media and has degrees in journalism and linguistics. In addition to writing, Madeline loves learning and speaking different languages, and has lived in Switzerland, Japan and, most recently, northern Spain. Raised in Kansas (she's heard all the Dorothy jokes, save it!), she now lives in Long Beach, Calif.

Ann Hughes

Ann Hughes (Screenwriting) grew up in Idaho and earned her BA in Creative Writing and Film Studies from Emory University. She hopes to one day write for animation and adopt cows.

justvig_andrew Andrew Justvig (Playwriting) is from St. George, Utah and did his undergraduate degree in Theatre Arts Studies at Brigham Young University. His background is playwriting, but he has been an actor, director, tech, and dramaturg for many productions for the past decade. Andrew has applied his playwriting skills to politics and has interned for campaigns, the Utah Legislature, and the Utah Governor’s office. Andrew has Cerebral Palsy and was inspired by Disney movies and theme parks to walk at age seven. His dream is to work as an Imagineer for Disney and write scripts for the theme parks. Andrew married his sweetheart, Carrie, in August 2017 and they enjoy using their Disneyland Annual passes, serving in their church, and eating Ben & Jerry’s Tonight Dough while watching This Is Us.

John Lachausse (Fiction) earned his BA in Fiction from Columbia College Chicago. He serves as editor for The Matador Review and his research interests include Southern mythologies, queer theology, and birds.

Marcos Leon

Marcos Damián León (Fiction) is a teacher and writer from the Salinas Valley. He earned a B.A in Public Health from Vassar College but decided that medicine and winter were not worth the struggle. He fled to Southern California and is now writing stories that center Latinxs.

Glaydah Namukasa

Glaydah Namukasa (Fiction) is a Midwife and Writer from Uganda. She holds a First Class degree in Community Psychology from Makerere University. Alongside helping mothers deliver babies, she has delivered one novel, The Deadly Ambition(Mallory International Publishers, UK), a young-adult novella Voice of a Dream (Macmillan Publishers, UK) which was awarded the Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa in 2006. Her short stories have been published in anthologies in Uganda, South Africa, the UK, the US and Sweden. In 2014 she was selected on the Hay Festival List of the 39 African Writers destined to influence the future of African Literature.

She is a member of FEMRITE, Uganda Women Writers’ Association where her writing career was irrigated into bloom, and where she has mentored those who share the writing passion. Glaydah  believes in Writing as a mirror through which the world must look into in order to see a particular image of itself.

Amanda Oliver

Amanda Oliver (Creative Nonfiction) is originally from Buffalo, New York. She has a B.A. in English and a Master's in Library Science. She worked as a librarian in Washington, D.C. for six years, focusing on underserved populations throughout the city. She has also lived in New York City, Seattle, and on Vancouver Island. She has written for The Hairpin, This Recording, Medium, and several other publications, focusing on relationships, travel, and the idea of home. While she appreciates her cold-weather roots, she is excited to be writing in Southern California. She lives with her cat, Monday, who very much embodies her name.

Kyrié Owen

Kyrié Eleison Owen (Creative Nonfiction) is an essayist and memoirist who experiments with hybrid forms. She received her B.A in Creative Writing from University of Cincinnati and was the nonfiction editor for their literary journal, Short Vine. She is Native American, affiliated with the Comanche Nation. Though she is a Native Midwesterner and was raised in many cities across the country, she thinks of the West Coast as home.

M. Martin Perez M. Martin Perez (Poetry) is a native New Yorker, born in 1994 on the northernmost tip of Manhattan. He is a first-generation American, son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Raised in Harlem and the South Bronx, he is passionate about the boons of social diversity, and the plight of the working poor. Having witnessed a bevy of urban oddities, he gets bored very easily—this gives him an inclination towards eccentric characters, absurdist humor, and novel situations. Many of his poems try to find stability in cognitive dissonance, or bridge gaps between disparate worldviews; most of them are influenced by musical rhythms and lyrical cadence. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Stony Brook University, and plans on becoming a professor of creative writing to remind future generations of the potential and significance of the spoken and written word.
Abigail Reese

Abbie Reese (Creative Nonfiction) is an author and documentary filmmaker who is particularly interested in the lives of women in primary oral cultures and enclosed communities. In her relationship- and research-based practice, Abbie utilizes a hybrid of oral history, documentary, and ethnographic methodologies to explore the construction of individual and cultural identity, rites of passage, and the liminal stage as someone joins a heterotopia. She has an MFA in visual arts from the University of Chicago (2013) and an undergraduate degree in history (1999).

Abbie was a fellow at the University of Chicago Center in Paris (2017) and worked at a CNRS research center, the Interdisciplinary Institute of Contemporary Anthropology. She was a fellow at the University of Bern Institute of Social Anthropology (2013) and Columbia University’s Oral History Research Office (2008). Abbie lived for a year (2003-2004) on a hospital ship off the coast of Sierra Leone and worked as a media liaison for the BBC.

Abbie has received grants from the Embassy of Switzerland, the Illinois Arts Council, Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, and others. She has been an artist-in-residence in Vermont and New Mexico. She is a dual citizen of the United States and Luxembourg, and is usually with her dog, Cedric, a traveling champ.

Danny Rivera

Danny A. Rivera (Playwriting) was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, arguably a Valley Boy through and through. He is a first-generation American with parents hailing from Mexico (Dad) and El Salvador (Mom). Danny acquired his B.A. in Creative Writing at California State University Northridge with a primary focus in narrative fiction before discovering his love of writing for performance. He has one published play but is assuredly working on getting more work published/performed. As a self-taught musician, Danny often composes accompanying music to the material he is working on.

Danny would also like you to know that he is an avid toy collector currently assembling his ideal Justice League in conveniently portable plastic form.

 Oh, and he also loves dogs.

Crystal Salas

Crystal Salas (Poetry) is a Chicana poet, educator, and soft creature of context who received her B.A. in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work has appeared in Chaparral Poetry, The Speakeasy Project, The Acentos Review, and YAY! LA Magazine. On stage, her work has appeared in True Focus Theater’s original productions: Cat Fight and Life, Death & the Middle. In the years prior to her work as an MFA candidate at UC Riverside, she taught high school English and coached a fierce youth slam poetry team in Los Angeles. She was a 2016 Fellow for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop where she continues to serve as an instructor every summer. When she is not writing, she can be found chauffeuring her abuelos around so they can see all the locales they bookmark when watching Huell Howser's California's Gold.

Johnny Saras

Johnny Saras (Screenwriting) likes to think he never left his five-square-mile New England hometown, despite four years of studying film and psychology at the University of Miami and another four years working in Hollywood that say otherwise. He has been a campus late-night comedy television host, a low-key adventurer, and critically heartbroken a time or two. His dreams are almost always the same but he hopes they don’t mean anything too important. He would like to have a wife and kids one day. He writes.

Selene Steets

Selene Steets (Fiction) has lived in many places, but Hollywood, CA is her hometown. After working with the homeless community in Los Angeles for several years, she moved to Eugene, Oregon to raise a family. During her time there she attended the University of Oregon and studied World Religions, Women and Gender Studies, and Creative Writing.

Influenced by anarchist politics and mystical literature across religious and philosophical traditions including Christianity, Buddhism, and Jungian Psychoanalysis, she is particularly interested in the meaning of these theories in the context of the modern urban outcast. Her writing focuses on the spiritual experiences of people in the fringes of society, particularly those experiencing homelessness, sex work, and mental illness.

Fernanda Vidaurrazaga

M. Fernanda Vidaurrazaga (Fiction) holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and a B.A. in Media and Cultural Studies from UC Riverside. Since her graduation, she has ventured into music blogging, helped put together a film and music festival, taught after-school classes, and worked at a library. Her interests include ancient mythology, graphic novels, speculative fiction, and satire.

Eileen Waggoner

Eileen Elizabeth Waggoner (Creative Nonfiction) is a writer and digital media producer from West Virginia. Her work is rooted in the intersection of arts and activism, and the geographical and cultural crossroads of Appalachia. She writes about pop culture, queer identity, and place. Her narrative essays, poetry, and screenwriting have been published in the Appalachian Anthology of Writers, the Travelin’ Appalachians Revue, Vandaleer, and Fluent Magazine, among other publications online and in print.

She is the cofounder of Boshemia, a US/UK arts and culture print magazine and global feminist collective for womxn and LGBTQ+ folks. As a part of her community engagement with Boshemia, she leads zine-making and poetry workshops in the UK and US. She believes in writing and performance as a means of empowerment and healing. Before returning to writing, Eileen moonlighted as a professional actor in the UK and produced documentary films and interactive exhibits for museums in Nashville and Washington, D.C.

Rachel Will

Rachel Will (Fiction) is a mixed-genre writer with interest in autofiction, queerness, and sticky metaphysical situations. She attended USC as an undergrad and has reported across Southeast Asia focusing on travel. She has reported from coffee fields in Java and interviewed neon benders in the valley. Her words have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, International New York Times, Monocle, Artsy, and others. She is starting an online magazine for femme queers called Gayettes and will gladly trade niche lesbian memes with you.