2018 Keynote Speaker

Ron Koertge is the author of many celebrated novels and poetry collections, including Stoner & Spaz, Strays, and The Brimstone Journals, all American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults; Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, an American Library Association Top Ten Sports Books for Youth Selection; and The Arizona Kid, an American Library Association pick for “one of the ten funniest books of the year.” A two-time winner of the PEN Literary Award for Children’s Literature, he is the recipient of grants from the NEA and the California Arts Council, and has poems in two volumes of Best American Poetry. Ron grew up in an agricultural area in an old mining town in Illinois, just across the Mississippi from St. Louis, Missouri. He and his wife live in South Pasadena, California. For more information, visit his website.

2018 Guest Faculty

Nicelle Davis is a California poet, collaborator, and performance artist who walks the desert with her son J.J. in search of owl pellets and rattlesnake skins. Her poetry collections include The Walled Wife (Red Hen Press, 2016), In the Circus of You (Rose Metal Press, 2015), Becoming Judas (Red Hen Press, 2013), and Circe (Lowbrow Press, 2011). Her poetry film collaborations with Cheryl Gross have been shown across the world. She has taught poetry at Youth for Positive Change, an organization that promotes success for youth in secondary schools, MHA, Volunteers of America in their Homeless Youth Center, and with Red Hen’s WITS program. She is the creator of The Poetry Circus and collaborator on the Nevermore Poetry Festival. For more information, visit her website.

Alejandro Escudé is the author of My Earthbound Eye, published in September 2013 upon winning the 2012 Sacramento Poetry Center Award. He received a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and is a frequent contributor to Rattle. His poems have also appeared in California Quarterly, Hamilton Stone Review, Main Street Rag, New Verse News, Phoebe, Poet Lore, Tuck Magazine, among many other journals, and in various poetry anthologies. A newer manuscript of poems, What the Atheists Speak Of, was named a finalist for the 2016 Vachel Lindsay Poetry Prize and a semi-finalist for the 2016 Cleveland State University Poetry Open Book Contest. He is a fully credentialed English teacher and has worked in the private, Catholic, and public school systems at the secondary level for nearly fifteen years. Originally from Córdoba, Argentina, having immigrated many years ago at the age of six, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Yi Shun Lai is the co-publisher and fiction editor at the Tahoma Literary Review. She writes nonfiction and fiction, and her work can be found at Bustle.com, Atticus Review, and The Writer magazine, where she writes on the craft of writing and the art of publishing. Her debut novel, Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu, is in its fourth printing and was a semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize in American Humor. She is adjunct faculty for Southern New Hampshire University’s online MFA program, and frequently teaches creative writing and publishing workshops at the Claremont Colleges. Visit her online at thegooddirt.org, and on Twitter @gooddirt.

Returning Faculty

Deborah P Kolodji moderates the Southern California Haiku Study Group and is the California Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America. Former president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, she has a degree in mathematics from the University of Southern California and was recently named to the Board of Directors of Haiku North America. She is author of the full-length collection Highway of Sleeping Towns (2016), which was awarded a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award by the Haiku Foundation in 2017. With over 900 published poems to her name, and four chapbooks of poetry—Seaside Moon (2005), Red Planet Dust (2006), unfinished book (2006), and Symphony of the Universe (2006), she finds inspiration in the beaches, mountains, deserts, and urban life of LA County. For more information, 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 26 years, and is manager of the Wrightwood Farmers Market (Fridays 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.).

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 his website.

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, and is founder of the Wrightwood Blues Society.

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.

Gail Nieto is a long time resident of Wrightwood. She is retired teacher and avid reader. She belongs to two book clubs, one of which has been in existence for almost 20 years. She enjoys reading and discussing a wide variety of genres. She is also a community volunteer, artist, and naturalist who enjoys being outdoors in her garden or just meandering through the woods or along the beach.

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.