2017 Keynote Speaker

Victoria Patterson is the author of the novels The Peerless Four and This Vacant Paradise, a 2011 New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her story collection, Drift, was a finalist for the California Book Award, the 2009 Story Prize, and was selected as one of the best books of 2009 by the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives with her family in Southern California and teaches at Antioch University’s Master of Fine Arts program. In praise of her most recent novel, Little Brother, the New York Times wrote, “Victoria Patterson is a capable and ­canny writer, and she would have to be to take on the subject of her newest novel, The Little Brother, and produce so arresting and haunting an experience.” It was also listed as one of the LA Weekly Best Books of 2015. For more information, visit her website.

2017 Guest Faculty

Brendan Constantine was born in Los Angeles, the second child of two working actors. An ardent supporter of Southern California’s poetry communities and one of its most recognized poets, he has served as a teacher of poetry in local schools and colleges for the last twenty years. In addition, he brings poetry workshops to hospitals, foster care centers, and shelters for the homeless. He is also very proud of his work with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. His first collection, Letters To Guns, was released in 2009 from Red Hen Press to wide acclaim. It is now taught extensively in schools. His other recent collections are Birthday Girl With Possum (Write Bloody Publishing, 2011) and Calamity Joe (Red Hen Press, 2012). A popular performer, Brendan tours regularly, bringing his poetry and workshops to theaters, schools, libraries, correctional facilities, and community centers across the nation. In addition to his post as poet in residence at the Windward School, Brendan regularly volunteers with organizations like the Art of Elysium. He is also currently working with the Craft & Folk Art Museum of Los Angeles on a project that invites established and emerging authors to bear upon changing exhibits. Constantine’s fourth collection, Dementia, My Darling, was published in the spring of 2016. For more of his work, visit his website.

UrmstonElisa Suzanne Grajeda-Urmston is a college professor, artist, and road-weary musician whose recent poetry and short stories have appeared in Whistling Fire, Tin Cannon, Xicano Poetry Daily, Badlands, Palabra, and The Pacific Review. She is currently a writer for and the editor of HD Living Magazine. A Mexican/British, first-generation American daughter of the Borderlands, she was born in San Bernardino, grew up in San Diego, and now makes her home amidst the coyotes, cottonwoods, and ancient Joshua tree forests on the western edge of the Mojave Desert with her husband, Chris, and her dogs. She earned her MFA in creative writing at California State University, San Bernardino. Her writing inhabits a space between ethnicities and borders, genre and gender, love and loss, glamour and spectacle, drawing from her experiences of thirty years in the music business. Her book, Sound Check, is due out in November.

Kelly Grace Thomas is the winner of the 2017 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle , a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and winner of the first annual Wrightwood Poetry Slam in 2016. Kelly was also a 2016 Fellow for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. Kelly’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Nashville Review, The Boiler, Sixth Finch, Muzzle, Rattle, PANK and more. Kelly’s chapbook, Zersetzung, was a finalist for the 2017 Lorien Prize from Thoughtcrime Press. She has worked for the past five years as a creative writing instructor and poetry coach. During this time Kelly and her team won three poetry championships, and were finalist each year. Kelly has also coached writers who have performed at Dodger Stadium and the Library of Congress. She has helped edit and refine writing and performances prepared for icons such as Gloria Steinem and Maria Shriver. Her students’ work has also appeared on Button Poetry and in the Huffington Post. Kelly currently works to bring poetry to underserved youth as the Manager of Education and Pedagogy for Get Lit-Words Ignite. She lives in Los Angeles and is working on her debut novel Only 10,001. For more of her work, visit her website.

Local Faculty

Mary Duman is a teacher, healer, and artist. She has been a high school art teacher for 15 years. Her degrees include a BFA with a concentration in ceramics and a BS in Art Education. She received a Jerome Fellowship Residency grant to do her artwork at the Northern Clay Center in Minnesota and was an Artist-in-Residence at Eczaserbasi, one of the largest ceramics factories in Turkey. She has donated her artwork to local organizations such as the Wrightwood Farmer’s Market, Wrightwood Classical Concert Series, and Love Roots Yoga Shala.

Ron Frank’s passion for theatre and the classic works of writers focusing on social consciousness and change ignited at an early age. He studied Theatre Arts with the world reknowned teacher of method acting, Stella Adler, resulting in a lengthy list of credits. Leaving behind his love for the stage, he turned his attention to becoming a practitioner of the healing arts. Ron Frank holds a Doctorate in Homeopathic Medicine, is a Diplomat in Homeopathy and a Certified Natural Healthcare Practitioner. He has practiced homeopathy in Palmdale, California, for 24 years. His involvement in Snowline Players, a non-profit Community Theatre group serving the San Bernardino high desert and mountains areas of Southern California, helped Ron find a part of himself that was lost in translation when he became a healer. He is currently on the Snowline Player’s Board of Directors and is scheduled to direct their upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ron has a deep commitment to giving back to the community, with a focus on our children, and to literature and arts that effect change and uplift our social consciousness.

Timothy Green was born in Rochester, New York. He worked in an mRNA research lab, and as a group home counselor for mentally ill adults, before moving to California to serve as editor of the poetry magazine Rattle in 2004. His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Connecticut Review, The Florida Review, Mid-American Review, and Nimrod International Journal. Green has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award, and his first book, American Fractal (Red Hen Press, 2009), won the Phi Kappa Phi award from the University of Southern California. He is a contributing columnist for the (Riverside) Press Enterprise. Green earned his B.A. at the University of Rochester and graduated with a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California in 2009. He lives in Wrightwood with his wife and two children. More information can be found at www.timothy-green.org.

Janet Hay has taught hundreds of music students, toured with rock bands, and ran workshops in the north of Australia. Winning numerous Australian Songwriter’s Association and Unisong awards, she wrote for a symphony orchestra and played gigs around the world before taking a bold leap. She sold her grand piano and arts teaching business and immigrated from a tiny tropical island in the Indian Ocean to bustling California, with a five-year-old, a toddler, a newborn, and a very, very understanding husband and Mr Mom. After working for a jazz label in Hollywood, she secured song placements with Disney and MTV, won the BMI/Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek, Planet of the Apes) Scholarship for Film Composition at UCLA, and went on to study orchestration in Edinburgh, Scotland. Janet composed for the California Contemporary Ballet and co-wrote stage musicals with fellow Wrightwoodian, Dean Alexander. Her career was put on hold when her home-schooled children took up acting, where she spent copious hours observing on the sets of Universal Studios, Sony Pictures, Comedy Central, and theaters of Los Angeles. Years later, Janet was again bitten by the “film bug,” this time studying screenwriting and directing, while winning awards for her short films, and directing one of her original stage musicals.

Gregory Jones is a professor of Communication Studies at Victor Valley College. He holds a PhD in Higher Education Leadership, a Masters in Communication and a Bachelor’s in English Literature. A pianist and vocalist, Jones has been composing, performing and recording music for three decades. He has won an Inland Empire award for musical theater and is a master of ceremonies for the annual Idyllwild Jazz Festival. He’s lived in Wrightwood since 2006.

Joan McCandless was born in Washington, D.C., and has lived in Wrightwood, CA, since 1988. She served as Director of Health & Safety at the American Red Cross in Los Angeles where she developed outreach programs which eventually became national models for health education in under­served communities. More recently Joan worked as a Park Ranger in Yosemite National Park, researching, writing and presenting interpretive walks and talks to visitors from around the world. An avid hiker, backpacker and skier, being out in nature has always grounded Joan. Art is an integral part of Joan’s life. Pastel is her current medium of choice because of its vibrancy and playfulness. Most of her art is drawn from her nature photography and is often inspired by long-­term friendships.

Victoria Barras Tulacro is a life-long resident of Wrightwood who considers herself a recovering poet who now writes fiction. Her most recent works appear in Arcadia, Fifth Wednesday, and The Farallon Review, and she is a regular contributor to the awarding-winning blog, We Will Begin Again. She is currently working on her first novel What We Leave Behind, and is a full-time professor of English at Chaffey College.

Jan Vondra has been a longtime resident of Wrightwood. She grew up surrounded by books, poetry, music and art as her dad was a pianist/music teacher and her mother an artist/English teacher. Her grandmother, also an artist, lived in Montana and had a passion for replicating scenes of the wild Northwest. For most of her professional career, Jan has been a passionate participant in public education, serving as a high school English teacher and a site and district level administrator. Since retiring from the local school district, Jan continues to be an avid reader and is enjoying her opportunity to develop her skills as a student of the arts.