|2013 Guest Speaker Bios & Photos|
Donia Bijan graduated from UC Berkeley and the Cordon Bleu. After presiding over a number of San Francisco's acclaimed restaurants and earning awards for her French-inspired cuisine, she ran her own restaurant, L'Amie Donia, in Palo Alto for ten years. Since closing her restaurant in 2004, Ms. Bijan has divided her days between raising her son, catering, and writing a memoir where she reimagines her passion for cooking as a vessel to travel back and forth between the kitchens of her childhood and the formal kitchens of her training, illuminating the experience of exile, and drawing from her Persian, French, and American pantry to thread ties between cultures.
Jack Bowen graduated from Stanford University with Honors in Human Biology. He went on to earn a Masters Degree in Philosophy from California State University, Long Beach graduating Summa Cum Laude. Jack's debut novel, "The Dream Weaver" made the San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller list in March 2006 and the Amazon Top 500 and was released as an Anniversary Edition in 2008. His second book, "A Journey Through the Landscape of Philosophy" was released in 2007 as a major college philosophy textbook. He recently completed a national tour for his most recent book, "If You Can Read This: The Philosophy of Bumper Stickers" (Random House, 2010). Jack was also a two-time All-American water polo player while at Stanford, an alternate goalie of the 1996 Olympic Team, and a member of the 2000 Olympic Training Team. Also an avid musician, he has been a recording drummer on over ten albums.
|Mike Cassidy Mike Cassidy is a business columnist at the San Jose Mercury News who writes about the distinctive culture of Silicon Valley. His Silicon Valley Dispatches column has for years looked at the entrepreneurship, diversity and risk-taking tradition that makes the valley a place like few others in the world.
|Max Doty |
Max Doty is an award-winning screenwriter, game-writer and novelist. He holds a BA and an MA from Stanford University in English literature as well as an MFA in fiction writing from Arizona State University. For the last six years, he has worked as a writer for Electronic Arts' Surviving High School, a successful mobile game, which he has also adapted into a series of young adult novels. In 2009, he and co-writer Phillip G. Flores won Netflix's inaugural Find Your Voice competition for his screenplay Almost Kings. The movie went on to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival and is now available on DVD. He is currently working on several screenplays as well as a novel.
|Jay Dyckman |
Here's my story: Went to law school in New York City. Became a lawyer. Became a miserable lawyer. Quit being a miserable lawyer. Started writing. Found myself in Hollywood. Now a delightfully happy tagline and trailer writer for movies and television. I still have no idea how it happened.
|John W. Evans
John W. Evans, a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, is the author of the memoir, Death in a Forest Wilderness: A Young Widower’s Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2014), winner of the 2013 River Teeth Book Prize. He is also the author of the poetry chapbooks, No Season (FWQ, 2011) and Zugzwang (RockSaw, 2009), as well as poems and essays that appear in Slate, The Missouri Review, Boston Review, ZYZZYVA, and The Rumpus. A native of Kansas, he was previously a Fulbright Hays Fellow to India, a Chicago public school teacher, and a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh. He currently teaches creative writing at Stanford.
Lydia Fitzpatrick received her MFA in 2010 from the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award for short fiction and a Colby Fellowship. Since graduating, she's been awarded the 2010-2011 Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and a 2012 Elizabeth George Foundation Grant. Her fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and Mid-American Review. She lives in San Francisco, where she's working on her first novel, Lights All Night Long.
Dan Johnson graduated from Duke University and went right to work for a dotcom during the late-90s boom. After the boom busted, he started all over again as a freelance writer, penning articles for various now-defunct travel publications and business websites. Along the way he wrote his first novel (Jon’s Place) and turned it into a semi-successful online serial.
After living in Boston, New York, and Chicago, he came back to the Bay Area and worked straight jobs while freelancing on the side, eventually landing at San Francisco State. While there he picked up an MA in Creative Writing, met his (eventual) wife, and wrote The Perplexing Problem of the Porcelain Bandits – currently available through Wonderful Terrific Publishing (or online at perplexingproblem.com). He currently lives in San Francisco, where he works in software and writes on the side.
Wilson Liévano first dreamed of becoming a journalist at age 14, when he discovered the work of a man considered the father of investigative reporting in Colombia. Still, in a country rife with murderous drug cartels, it was not considered a safe or particularly high-end profession. But the courage of journalists in Colombia inspired him. After graduating in 2002 from the Universidad Externado de Colombia, he freelanced then interned with CNN en Español in Atlanta. In 2004, Liévano earned a master's in journalism from Boston University. The following year, he took a translating/editing job at The Wall Street Journal Americas that set him on an unexpected career path. Noting that the edition's website had few stories - and few readers - he took on the job of improving it. The revamped site was an instant success and readership jumped exponentially. In 2008, he was named Editions Coordinator for Multimedia.
Michael Lindenberger is a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, where he is developing legalbooksmarts.com, a subscription website for literary book reviews of law-related works. He is on leave from The Dallas Morning News, where he writes about the politics and policy of transportation.
A 2006 graduate of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, he is also a contract writer for TIME.com, where he covers national legal affairs. He has been an adjunct professor of media law at the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism.
His freelance work has been published by The New York Times, Reuters, and various magazines and newspapers around the country. He has worked at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, and led the newsrooms in daily and weekly newspapers in Indiana and Tennessee.
As a Louisville native, he is fond of horseraces in May, autumn views of the Ohio River, and of bourbon, in any season.
Dan McDermott, a former LAHS graduate, was inspired to write as a LAHS student. Dan went on to attend film school, gained critical success in film and television as a writer, and eventually became a top executive at Dreamworks Television. His current TV production company, Di Bonaventura Pictures, signed a 3-year deal this summer with ABC Studios. His recent television series, “Zero Hour”, premiered on NBC February 14th.
Three-time Emmy award winning Raj Mathai serves as weeknight news anchor for NBC Bay Area.
Raj anchors the nightly 5pm., 6pm and 11pm News and is among the Bay Area's most well-known TV personalities. He is also part of the Giants broadcast team joining Jon Miller and Mike Krukow when the Giants are on NBC Bay Area.
In his series titled 'The Interview', Raj profiles some of the top newsmakers in the country. His guests have included Gen. Colin Powell, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, software pioneer John McAfee and celebrity chef Tyler Florence.
Raj has reported on-location from the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Athens, Turin,Vancouver and London. He’s among the handful of people in the world to have run the Olympic Torch three times (1996, 2002 and 2008). Raj is "at home" in the Bay Area. He grew up on the Peninsula and graduated from Los Altos High School. He went on to graduate from San Diego State University with a degree in journalism and political science.
Tami Mulcahy is past president of the West Coast Songwriters board of directors. WCS is one of the most highly respected non-profit music organizations in the United States. WCS assists writers, performing artists, publishers and producers in their music careers.
This past year Tami has been recording with Grammy producer Enrique Gonzalez Muller, Grammy music director Larry Batiste and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Harris. Armed with her third CD titled Lucky Forward, she is headed back to the performance stage. Known for her beautiful vocal ability, Tami takes the listener on a music journey that is story telling at its best.
Sharon Noguchi is a reporter in the Metro section of the San Jose Mercury News. She covers K-12 education and other subjects. She loves writing about kids and food, and is now trying to find her way around Twitter.
She began at the Mercury News a long time ago, after working at a local daily in Palo Alto and at newspapers in Tokyo. She worked on her school newspapers in junior high and high school. She grew up in Palo Alto, attending Cubberley High School, then UC-Santa Cruz and UC-Berkeley.
She has two daughters, a freshman and junior in college, who serve as her reluctant informants on youth culture.
Ken Pontac has been a Migrant Film Worker in the animation industry for over a quarter of a century, writing and directing content for television, film, and various new-fangled thinking machines. In the past year Pontac has written scripts and dialog for the Marvel Universe MMO, an upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog game, a new animated series featuring the ghost gobbling Pac-Man, Disney's animated action/adventure series Slugterra, the charming pre-school show Octonauts, and the less-than-charming Internet sensation Happy Tree Friends (a show so violent that it's BANNED IN RUSSIA). He is also still receiving royalty checks for writing the LazyTown song "You Are A Pirate," which has become an Internet meme, enjoying millions of hits on YouTube and inspiring multiple mash-ups and drunken karaoke videos. Pontac lives in Sausalito with a beautiful redheaded nurse and his two crazy canines, Whistle the Wonder Dog and Little Mickey Blue Eyes.
|Jacques J. Rancourt |
Jacques J. Rancourt is currently a Wallace Stegner Poetry Fellow at Stanford University. His poems have appeared or will appear in New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Colorado Review, among others. He is also the recipient of a 2011-'12 Halls Emerging Artist Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and a 2012 work-study scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference. He lives in Oakland, CA.
Michelle Richmond is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Year of Fog, the award-winning story collection The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress, and the novels No One You Know and Dream of the Blue Room. Her short stories and travel essays have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. She is the founder and publisher of Fiction Attic Press and currently holds the Sister Catharine Julie Cunningham Chair at Notre Dame de Namur University.
David Sarno, a Los Angeles native, took a journalism path that by today's standards is somewhat unusual. He began his career at a website crafting a daily digest of the nation's newspapers. He ended up working at a newspaper, writing about the Web. As a columnist, reporter and early blogger for the Los Angeles Times, he wrote extensively about the rise of digital culture over the last decade as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google became not just central but inescapable in everyday life. Before the Times, he joined the Huffington Post in its infancy, where he got to participate in the building of a scrappy media startup that soon became one of the nation's best-known news sites. Earlier in his career, he wrote the now-retired "Today's Papers" column for Slate.com, where he got a crash course both in the way the country's biggest newspapers covered the news each day, and in how to write for the Web. In 2004, he earned a master's degree in English and fiction writing from the University of Iowa. Sarno's undergraduate degree is in computer science, from Yale.
Evan Schnair, a poet and an educator, earned an M.F.A. in Writing from California College of the Arts and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Colorado College. He teaches college composition, literature, and creative writing, and previously taught high school English and Literature. His poems appear in Shampoo Poetry, Monday Night, BlazeVox, and elimae. When he's not writing or teaching, he will be cycling or running around San Francisco.
|Daniel A. Seddiqui
Like lots of college grads, Daniel Seddiqui was having a hard time finding a job. But despite more than forty rejections, he knew there were opportunities out there. So he set out on an extraordinary quest: fifty jobs in fifty states in fifty weeks. And not just any jobs. His goal was as much to explore America as to explore different careers, so he chose jobs that reflected the culture and economy of each state.
Working as everything from a cheesemaker in Wisconsin, a border patrol agent in Arizona and a meatpacker in Kansas to a lobsterman in Maine, a surfing instructor in Hawaii and a football coach in Alabama, Daniel chronicles how he adapted to the wildly differing people, cultures, and environments. From one week to the next he had no idea where he was going to sleep, what he was going to eat, or how he would be received. He even became a roving news item, appearing on CNN, Fox News, World News Tonight, MSNBC and the Today Show—which was good preparation for his stint as a TV weatherman.
Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif is a 2011 winner of the Boston Review/"Discovery" Poetry Prize as well as fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center and National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review, jubilat, Witness, Gulf Coast and others. She is currently at work on a poetic rewrite of the US Department of Defense's Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.
Heidi Sloss is a national sales expert whose best-selling book, "Fortune is in the Follow-Up" teaches business owners, consultants and independent sales agents how to think, breathe and behave more entrepreneurially so they can increase their prospect-to-client conversion rate. She shares tips and tools that are time tested, action oriented and motivational. She is also a co-author of the book, 10 Powerful Women 10 Strategic Insights into Successful Business, a new book produced by 3L Publishing released December 2012. Heidi lives in Northern CA with her husband and two children. She belongs to several stitching guilds and plays tennis when she is feeling competitive.
|Austin Smith |
Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He holds an MA in poetry from the University of California-Davis and an MFA in poetry from the University of Virginia. As a Stegner Fellow he hopes to complete a collection of linked, multigenerational stories about a dairy farming family, called Hagiography. He also hopes to work on a memoir about growing up on a farm, called The Silo.
Phil Taylor is in his 20th year at Sports Illustrated, where he is currently one of the two authors of the Point After, the magazine's popular backpage column. Taylor has built a reputation as one of the magazine's most versatile staffers, writing about college football and basketball in addition to covering the NBA, NFL, Major League baseball and the Summer and Winter Olympics.
|Xuan Juliana Wang
Xuan Juliana Wang was born in Heilongjiang, China, in 1985. She graduated from University of Southern California, received her MFA from Columbia University, and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford. Her work has been published by The Atlantic and Ploughshares.
|Melanie M. Watkins, M.D.
Melanie Watkins, MD is a psychiatrist, author, and speaker. She graduated from Stanford University in 2003. She enjoys speaking at high schools, colleges, and medical schools on issues regarding academic success, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She has published short stories and articles in various popular publications including Chicken Soup for the Single's Soul and Chicken Soup for the African-American's Soul. Her memoir, Taking My Medicine, is about how she overcame challenges along her path, such as teenage pregnancy and being a first generation college student. She currently practices psychiatry in Walnut Creek and blogs on www.takingmymedicine.com.
Rita Williams was in that first wave of women journalists on TV and started on-air almost forty years ago. The past 30 years she's worked as a reporter for KTVU-TV in Oakland. The sheriff of San Francisco has called Rita a pit bull dog with a heart… a term she loves because she is known for her digging, her exclusives but also her compassion as a reporter.
Rita’s won several Emmies, Tellies, a PASS award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a public service award from the Society of Professional Journalists and other awards. Recently, she was one of the lead investigative reporters in the Oakland BART shooting stories that contributed to a prestigious Peabody award and Edward R. Murrow award to KTVU.
Williams also taught broadcast news writing at Stanford and was a Knight Fellow there in 1985-86. She has a master’s in political science/ international affairs from George Washington University and a B.A. in journalism from Texas Tech University. She is a former staffer/press secretary for the late Texas Congressman George Mahon, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. She worked as a news reporter at KSAT-TV in Texas from 1975 to 1978. In 1978 she moved to the West Coast, working as news reporter for KQED-TV in San Francisco before she joined KTVU in 1980.
Norman Zelaya is a writer born and raised in San Francisco. He received his MFA in Creative Writing in 2001 from SFSU. He has since published stories in journals such as ZYZZYVA, Fourteen Hills, and NY Tyrant. His work is reflective of his experiences growing up in the Mission during the 80s. He is currently looking for representation for a newly completed novel.
Norman works as a Special Education teacher serving the children of his community.