Heather Woodward, Creative Writing Program Director, is from a family of Cal Bears, a Bay Area native, and the daughter of public school educators. She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in Film Studies from U.C. Berkeley, where she studied writing with Ishmael Reed, Floyd Salas, Charles Muscatine, and Gary Soto. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Ms. Woodward has been teaching at SOTA since 1997; she has never taught anywhere else—nor has any desire to. In 2001 she was awarded a Golden Apple Fellowship from the San Francisco Ed Fund to return to the film department at UC Berkeley full-time for one semester, where she developed a six-week film course to be taught as part of the 10th or 11th grade English curriculum. She started the SOTA Creative Writing Program in 2002, and in 2007 received National Board Certification. An ardent supporter of Ronald Chase’s Art & Film program, she has served as co-moderator with Ronald at the Friday evening Ciné Club screenings. She has been involved with 826 Valencia for many years, and in May 2009 received their Teacher of the Month award. She has an adult daughter, Hadley. Ms. Woodward loves reading, writing, film, backpacking, traveling, and her students—not necessarily in that order.
Isaiah Dufort, Programs Co-ordinator
Isaiah is Director of San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers, an arts education non-profit providing free film screenings, museum tours and tickets to local arts and culture events to Bay Area students. Art & Film has a long history of partnering with Asawa SotA and the Creative Writing department in particular. Isaiah currently produces the department’s three annual shows after having served as the playwright-in-residence for seven years. He also provides support for the senior thesis program, the Umlaut literary magazine and runs the CW summer workshop for incoming freshmen.
Ploi Pirapokin, Assistant Director
Ploi’s work is featured in Tor.com, Apogee Journal, the Bellingham Review, Cleaver Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and more. She has received grants and fellowships from the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Creative Capacity Fund, the Headlands Center for the Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, Kundiman and others. She is a graduate of the 2018 Clarion Writer’s Workshop and holds an MFA in Fiction from San Francisco State University where she has taught creative writing as a lecturer. She also teaches at the UCLA Writer’s Extension Program, the Creative Nonfiction Foundation, and at Education Unlimited summer camps. Her website is: ppirapokin.com.
Lara Coley, Artist in Residence
Lara Coley is a West Coast writer, educator, and artist. She studied literature, linguistics, and French before receiving her MFA in Poetry from San Francisco State University. She lived in France for four years while working as an English teacher, painting, and translating poetry. She has been a curator for VelRo Reading Series, program coordinator for Poet-in-the-City, and an Editor-in-Chief, Poetry Editor, and Managing Editor for several literary journals. She is the recipient of awards including the Browning Society Prize for Dramatic Monologue, the Dan J Langton Poetry Prize and the League for Innovation Poetry Prize. She was runner up for the Harold P Taylor Academy of American Poets Award and the Split Lip Turnbuckle Chap Contest. Her work is featured in journals New American Writing, Australia’s Visible Ink, Rogue Agent, Red Light Lit, and others. Look her up at laralazocoley.com to say, ‘hi.’
Taylor Duckett, Artist-In-Residence
Taylor “Just Duléa” Duckett is an author, songwriter, and spoken word artist from New York. She is the Founder/CEO of, and Creative Director for, publishing company Conviction 2 Change LLC and actively works to produce and publish works that help to erase society’s margins. Taylor received her B.B.A. in Business Law and Accounting from the University of Miami and is pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing (poetry) from San Francisco State University. Taylor’s published titles include, What Really Happened to Cyrano: The Untold Story of Cyrano de Bergerac (2015), A Poetic Expression of Change (2015), and S.W.A.G. – Saved With Amazing Grace (2016), and Sex, Love, and Other Emotions (2018). She has also had work published in Genre:Urban Arts Print No. 5 and Bay Area Generations #61.
Past SotA CW Artists-In-Residence
Maia Ipp Associate Director of Creative Writing, is a poet, translator, and editor who has had the great pleasure of working with SOTA’s Creative Writers since 2008. Maia currently teaches the program’s advanced workshops in fiction and poetry, and coordinates the senior theses. She is also an active agent in preserving Heather’s sanity, instigating dance parties, and inflicting the dreaded (but ultimately appreciated) literary critique assignment. Since 2006, Maia has worked at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, at various times shelving books, editing literary and nonfiction projects, and serving as personal assistant to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Maia studied creative writing and French literature at UC Santa Cruz, and lived in Paris, where she studied at the University of Paris III and worked in a bookshop.
Kar Johnson, Artist-In-Residence
Kar Johnson is a writer, educator, performer, and bookseller in San Francisco. Their writing has been featured in The Northridge Review, sPARKLE +bLINK, and Red Light Lit, among others, and has received honorary mentions from Transfer and Glimmer Train. Kar received their BA in journalism, creative writing, and queer studies from Cal State Northridge, and an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University. Kar was Poet-in-Residence at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in Fall 2017. They co-host the podcast Queers in Space.
Nicole Jost, Playwright-In-Residence 2016-18
Nicole Jost is a playwright and educator. Her plays have been staged and read at Rorschach Theatre, The Inkwell, and the Capital Fringe Festival in her hometown of Washington, DC; Gadfly Theatre Productions in Minneapolis; The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s regional showcase in Denver; and San Francisco Playhouse, Z Space, Best of PlayGround, Breach Once More, ReproRights! Theater, and the SF Olympians Festival in San Francisco. She is a two-time recipient of the James Milton Highsmith Playwriting Award for queer theater. Her short plays have been published in Fourteen Hills and Transfer Magazine. Nicole is the former Artistic Director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, the only professional theater in Washington, DC dedicated entirely to arts education. She received her B.A. in Theater and Cultural Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her M.F.A. in Playwriting at San Francisco State University.
Sarah Fontaine does various types of work which attempt a greater connection among humans. This work includes hosting communal events, editing a magazine (Actually People Quarterly), and publishing books, inquiries, and interviews at the Carville Annex. She also asks questions, writes letters, blog posts, emails, text messages and essays, visits women and trans people inside California prisons, visits legislators who make decisions about women and trans people in California prisons, among other things. Sarah quit high school at 16. She got a BA from Prescott College, an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts, and last summer rode her bike across the USA alone, which has been her biggest learning experience to date. Sarah views teaching as a part of a reciprocal life practice, as a way to honor people as they are, and support them in becoming who they want to be. She’s been practicing teaching for 15 years inside and outside of buildings, across the western USA.
Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a night-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a waiter at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont. Translated into more than a dozen languages, his first novel The Oracle of Stamboul was a finalist for the California Book Award, the NCIBA Book of the Year Award, and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, he is a recipient of scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Montalvo Arts Center, New York State Summer Writers’ Institute, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and Elizabeth George Foundation. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Slate, National Geographic Traveler, and Georgia Review.
Michelle Tea is the author of four memoirs, a collection of poetry and the novel Rose of No Man’s Land. Her first YA book, A Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, will be published January 2013 on McSweeneys. She is the founder and Executive Director of the RADAR Reading Series, which hosts the monthly RADAR Reading Series, the annual Radar LAB Writers Retreat, and the international Sister Spit performance tours. She is Editor of Sister Spit Books, an imprint of City Lights.
Sam Hamm turned to screenwriting when it became apparent he would never make a living as a cartoonist. His screen credits include Never Cry Wolf, Batman, Batman Returns, and Monkeybone, and he co-created, with Sam Raimi, the television series M.A.N.T.I.S. At the moment he is working on an untitled comedy for DreamWorks, a two-part Batman comic for DC, and an episode of the cable anthology series Masters of Horror, to be directed by Joe Dante. His favorite hobby is missing deadlines. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Creative Writing Department Head, Heather Woodward.
Lily Robert-Foley is a doctoral student in comparative literature at Université of Paris 8, and teaches English at Université d’Angers in France. In 2009, she transcribed and annotated The North Georgia Gazette (Green Lantern Press). She is also the author of two forthcoming books, m (Corrupt Press) and graphemachines (Atelier de l’Agneau). She is co-editor of the Omnia Vanitas Review, a journal of literary erotica.
Nick Hoff is a writer, translator, and bookseller. His translations of Friedrich Hölderlin’s Odes and Elegies were published by Wesleyan University Press in December, 2008; he has also published translations and poems in Telos, The Journal of Modern History, Fifth Wednesday, and other journals. Nick studied philosophy at Yale University.
Israel Haros received an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. His work ranges from poetry for the page, to short fiction, to performative poems, stories, and monologues. He is also extremely invested in painting and music. Currently he is working on a series of name poems exploring the history of naming and renaming within the Latino community of East Los Angeles. Israel has been a youth mentor, tutor, and teacher to students in the Bay Area and Southern California. Ultimately, he is concerned with creating new curriculum for a generation of inner city youth who need to see, hear, and read works by/for/from their communities as a means to appreciating writers and worlds further afield.
Victor Cartagena, Salvadoran-born, is based in San Francisco and works in the media of printmaking, painting, drawing and mixed media on canvas and paper, installation and set-design. As a member of Tamoanchán, a collective of Latin American printmakers, Cartagena studied and worked at Berkeley’s distinguished KALA Art Institute from 1990-1996, sponsored by the California Arts Council. Cartagena has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions in the US and internationally. His many grants and awards include a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation 2001 Visual Arts Purchase Award, the competitive Art Council award in the year 2000, and 1996 and 2000 Pacific Prints Awards. Cartagena’s work is in numerous private and institutional collections, including the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Contemporary Art Museum in Honolulu, and the Oxbow School of Art in Napa, CA. Cartagena is represented by Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles, CA and TinT Gallery in Thessaloniki, Greece. His website can be found at http://www.victorcartagena.net.
Dan Hoyle is an actor and writer based in San Francisco. Tings Dey Happen, his third solo show, directed by Charlie Varon, premiered at The Marsh in San Francisco and won the 2007 Will Glickman Award for Best New Play before running five months Off-Broadway in New York at The Culture Project, where it was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show. Hoyle’s previous solo shows,Circumnavigator and Florida 2004: The Big Bummer had extended runs in SF before touring colleges throughout the country. His essays have been featured in The San Francisco Chronicle, SportsIllustrated.com, and Salon. He also performs with his father, actor and comedian Geoff Hoyle, and holds a double degree in Performance Studies and History from Northwestern University. Tings Dey Happen received rave reviews from the Chronicle’s theater critic Robert Hurwitt during its SF run.
Rocco Kayaiatos (aka Katastrophe) is a poet and underground hip hop MC/producer. Winner of the 1998 Youth Speaks Poetry slam, he went on to compete nationally and was a featured youth slam performer in the acclaimed documentary Poetic License, which aired on PBS in 2000.
Giovanni Singleton received an MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics from The New College of California. She is a recipient of a New Langton Bay Area Award Show for Literature, and founding editor of nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including Chain, Fence, Five Fingers Review,Callaloo, The Breast: An Anthology (Global City Press; New York, 1994), Beyond the Frontier: African American Poets for the Millenium (Black Classics Press; MD, 2002), and on the building of Yerba Buena Center for Arts. In 2002, she was featured guest on NPR’s “Fresh Air” hosted by Michael Krasny. She has taught poetry in the San Francisco Unified School District and at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, CA.
Octavio Solis is a playwright and director living in San Francisco. His works Man of the Flesh, Prospect, El Paso Blue, Santos & Santos, La Posada Mágica, El Otro, Dreamlandia, The 7 Visions of Encarnacion, Bethlehem, The Ballad of Pancho and Lucy, Gibralter, Lethe, and Marfa Lightshave been mounted at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the New York Summer Play Festival, the Dallas Theater Center, the Magic Theater, Intersection for the Arts, South Coast Repertory Theatre, the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the San Jose Repertory Theatre, Shadowlight in San Francisco, the Venture Theatre in Philadelphia, Latino Chicago Theatre Company, Teatro Vista in Chicago, Thick Description, Artattack, Campo Santo, the Imua Theatre Company in New York, and Cornerstone Theatre. Most recently, Lydiagained great acclaim in its 2008 opening at the Denver Center Theatre Company, and has been nominated for the 2009 Steinberg/ATCA Award. Solis has received an NEA Playwriting Fellowship, the Will Glickman Playwright Award, a production grant from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, the 1998 TCG/NEA Theatre Artists in Residence Grant, the 1998 McKnight Fellowship from the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, and the National Latino Playwriting Award for 2003. He is the recipient of the 2000-2001 National Theatre Artists Residency Grant from TCG and the Pew Charitable Trust for Gibralter at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His new anthology, Plays by Octavio Solis, is published by Broadway Play Publishing.
Niloufar Talebi is an award-winning translator, born in London to Iranian parents. She received a BA in Comparative Literature from UC Irvine, and an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She studied theater with Jean Shelton and Cyril Clayton and has produced and performed nationally. In 2003 she founded The Translation Project (www.thetranslationproject.org), a literary organization and production company with innovative multimedia projects that bring contemporary Iranian literature to wide audiences. She edited and translated Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World (North Atlantic Books, August 2008). Niloufar has presented at numerous venues including the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York City, The New School, The National Arts Club, St. Mark’s Poetry Project, Asia Society, the New York Public Library, Litquake, SF Public Library, ODC Theater, Theater Artaud, Berkeley Reportory Theater, Actor’s Theater, and Intersection for the Arts. She created “Midnight Approaches,” a DVD of short videos based on new Iranian poetry, as well as “Four Springs” and “ICARUS/RISE,” multimedia theatrical pieces also based on new Iranian poetry. She is the recipient of translation prizes from the International Center for Writing and Translation (2004), the American Literary Translators Association (2005), the PEN/New York State Council on the Arts (2006) and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize (2006). Visit her at www.niloufartalebi.com.
Truong Tran is a working poet and assemblage artist. He obtained his MFA from San Francisco State University and has received many honors including the Fund for Poetry Grant (2007) a San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grant (2003) and Intersection Writer in Residence (2003). He has shown his work locally at Intersection, APAture, Kearny Street Workshop, and Muse Gallery. In 2010 Truong had his first solo show at Mina Dresden Gallery and was part of (re)CLAIM at SOMARTS. Truong has published many volumes of poetry, most recently Four Letter Words (Apogee Press, 2008).
Carol LeMaitre began her career performing and touring with a dance company at the age of 16. Eight years later she discovered the world of new music and performance art and has never gone back. LeMaitre has collaborated with numerous cutting edge musicians and theater artists, developing a style that is has been described as ritualistic and stunningly expressive as well as witty and entertaining. By abstracting pedestrian movement and working primarily with non-dancers LeMaitre is able to create work that is accessible to a wide audience and often wickedly funny.
Claire Light is a Bay Area fiction writer, blogger, critic, and cultural worker. She has worked for twelve years in nonprofit administration, particularly arts in the Asian American community. Her MFA in fiction came from San Francisco State University, and some of her fiction is published in McSweeney’s, Hyphen,Farthing, and The Encyclopedia Project. A chapbook of her short stories, called SLIGHTLY BEHIND AND TO THE LEFT, was published by Aqueduct Press last December. She has taught writing to teens, college students, and adults, and is currently coordinating free writing classes for teens through the Oakland Book Project. She blogs at Hyphen and her personal blog “SeeLight.”
James Brook is a poet and translator with abiding interests in Surrealism, film noir, and “the city.” He is the principal editor of two anthologies, Resisting the Virtual Life and Reclaiming San Francisco; his translations include Resistance by Victor Serge, My Tired Father by Gellu Naum, The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette, and Panegyric by Guy Debord. His poems can be found in many journals, including Big Bridge, Exquisite Corpse, and City Lights Review.
Dana Teen Lomax is the author of Disclosure (Black Radish Books), Rx (Dusie), Curren¢y (Palm Press), Room (a+bend), and co-editor of Letters to Poets (Saturnalia Books). She’s writing Shhh! Lullabies for a Tired Nation and editing Kindergarde, an anthology of avant-garde work for children. She teaches at San Francisco State University and Downtown High School.
Kara Maria is a visual artist whose work is inspired by current events. A wide variety of issues — from environmental crisis to international politics and war — feed into her paintings and works on paper. Sometimes the figurative elements in the work are very clearly presented, and other times they are abstracted to the point that they become nearly illegible. Although many issues are referenced, the work itself remains non-linear, seeking to raise questions rather than to give answers. Raised in Binghamton, New York, Maria moved to San Francisco in 1990 to attend UC-Berkeley. There she earned a BA in Art Practice in 1993, followed by an MFA in 1998. Maria’s work can be found in public collections including the diRosa Preserve, Napa CA; the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Stanford, CA: and the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV, among others. She has been the recipient of awards such as a Masterminds Grant from SF Weekly; a grant from Artadia, New York, NY; and an Eisner Prize from the University of California, Berkeley. She is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco; and Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles. Her prints have been published by presses including Gallery 16, San Francisco; Shark’s Ink, Lyons, CO; and Smith Andersen Editions, Palo Alto, CA. For more information, and to see her work, visit www.karamaria.com.
Jeffrey Alphonsus Mooney is a performer, teacher, and “culture worker.” He has taught and performed around the U.S. and Canada for almost twenty years. He just finished a successful run as musician/composer with Kirk Read in in This Is The Thing, and was this year nominated for an IZZY award for his music with Sean Dorsey in Bully.
Kirk Read is the author of How I Learned to Snap, a memoir about being openly gay in a small southern high school. How I Learned to Snap has been translated into German and was named an American Library Association Honor Book. Read co-curates the two longest-running queer open mic events in San Francisco, Smack Dab and K’vetsh. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He has toured the United States extensively as a solo performer and as part of a collective. He was part of the Neo-Dandy Cabaret, directed by Keith Hennessy, which ran for six weeks at the New Conservatory Theater. He is a frequent performer at the Porchlight storytelling series and many other Bay Area venues.
Marcus Shelby is an award-winning composer, arranger, educator and bassist working and residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. He studied under James Newton and Charlie Haden and his credits include original scoring for film, theater, and dance, as well as jazz composition for his own groups, the 15-piece Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, the Marcus Shelby Trio and the Marcus Shelby Septet. He is nationally recognized for his innovative and collaborative approach to composing and arranging for text, the visual arts, dance and theater. In 2000, Marcus’ interest in composing for jazz orchestra, and his work in collaboration with the Bay Area multidisciplinary arts organization Intersection for the Arts, led him to form the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra. The MSJO is comprised of some of the Bay Area’s most respected and sought-after young musicians. Marcus has been awarded two residencies with Intersection for the Arts, through Theater Communications Group and Meet the Composer, and in 2000 was awarded the Creative Work Fund grant to compose for the MSJO. The project resulted in the recording, “The Light.” In 2002, Shelby was commissioned by the Equal Justice Society to compose a suite for jazz ballet in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Port Chicago Mutiny. At present, in addition to composing and performing, Shelby is on the faculty at San Francisco State University, and on the UC Berkeley faculty for the Young Musicians Program. CityFlight named him one of the ten most influential African-Americans in the Bay Area for 2005.
Tom Zito is an experienced media professional and serial entrepreneur who, after an award-winning career as a critic and writer for The Washington Post and New Yorker, traveled west to create a series of companies at the intersection of media and technology: Isix, the first company to develop an interactive set-top cable box; Digital Pictures, the originator of full-motion video games; garagebad.com, now owned by myspace.com and the most popular social-netowrking site for independent musicians and their fans; and Integrated Media Measurement Inc. (IMMI), the industry’s leading source of cross-platform measurement data, acquired in 2010 by Arbitron. Zito attended the NYU School of Film and Television, and graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University with a degree in Philosophy. He was a writer on the ABC TV series Capital News, oversaw the creation of fourteen low-budget feature films, including the martial-arts title Supreme Warrior produced in association with the Hong-Kong-based Shaw Brothers Studio, taught aesthetics and critical writing at George Washington University, and sits on the Board of Directors of Project Avary (Alternative Ventures for At-Risk Youth), a Bay Area charity that works with the children of incarcerated parents.
Thanks both to its San Francisco location and its increasing visibility in the literary community, SOTA Creative Writing has hosted a variety of guest speakers of regional, national, and international reputation. These include:
Lorin Stein (Editor of the Paris Review)
Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; founder of 826 Valencia)
Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Dorothy Allison (novelist and essayist; Bastard Out of Carolina, Skin, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure)
Beth Lisick (New York Times bestseller Everybody Into the Pool; Helping Me Help Myself)
Marisa Crawford (Poet)
Kar Johnson (Poet)
Lara Coley (Poet)
Sarah Brodey (dialogue in fiction and playwriting)
Daniel Handler (Author)
Andrew Saito (playwright-in-residence, Cutting Ball Theater)
Amy Trachtenberg (visual artist)
Benjamin Hollander (poet and essayist)
Thomas McBee (writer and teacher)
Jeff Gardiner (poet and scholar)
Erika Shuch (choreographer and director)
Howard Wiley (jazz musician)
Sunaura Taylor (artist, writer and activist)
Marisela Treviño Orta (poet and playwright)
Daniella Salzman (meditation teacher)
Heidi Alletzhauser (photographer)
Paul Yamazaki (Head Buyer, City Lights Bookstore)
Maxine Chernoff (author, poet, chair of SFSU Creative Writing department)
Judith Coburn (war reporter in Vietnam, Central America, and Middle East for the Village Voice and others)
Paul Cox (Veterans for Peace)
Landis Everson (Berkeley Renaissance poet)
David Ford (playwright and director)
Robert Gluck (fiction, poetry; San Francisco State Creative Writing faculty)
Dana Gioia (poet, critic)
Samara Halperin (filmmaker)
Robby Hecht (songwriter)
Paul Hoover (poet)
Lewis MacAdams (activist poet and journalist; Birth of the Cool)
Dan Millman (Way of the Peaceful Warrior, The Journeys of Socrates)
Katia Noyes (freelance writer, novelist; Crashing America)
Hoa Nguyen (poet)
Liz Perle (editor, publisher, non-fiction author)
Tennessee Reed (poet)
Donald Revell (poet and editor)
James Tracy (Molotov Mouths Outspoken Word Troupe)
Marianne Villanueva (writer and teacher)