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FICTION PROGRAM

Marcy Arlin is Artistic Director of the OBIE-winning Immigrants’ Theatre Project, directing at MESTC, LaMama, NYTW, Public, ArtTheater (Koln), Tenement Museum, Czech Center, Romanian Cultural Institute, Ohio Theatre, among many others. She is a professor at CUNY and Pace and has given workshops on immigrant theater for social change at Yale, Brown, NYU, University of Chicago (her alma mater), and in Eastern Europe. Marcy studied writing at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas and has published widely in spec fiction. She has written for tcgcircle.org and is editor of Czech Plays: 7 New Works. She is the recipient of grants including CEC ArtsLink and the Ford Foundation, and was Fulbright scholar to Romania and the Czech Republic. She is a member of Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers and Theater Without Borders. Marcy's writing reflects her interest and concerns about cultures, immigration, and Mel Brooks. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and cats and bakes a mean pecan pie.

Akilesh Ayyar is a writer who, like the ouroboros, the self-devouring snake, is always trying to figure out just what it is that he's always trying to figure out. His interests lie at the intersection of literature, philosophy, psychology, and religion. He has published a smattering of essays, fiction, and prose poetry in journals like Philosophy Nownon+x, and Lines of Flight, and in his salad days co-authored a didactic dialogue on eastern philosophy entitled Irreverent Spiritual Questions. He has graduate degrees in  law, forensic psychology, and information systems from Harvard Law School, CUNY, and Carnegie-Mellon respectively, and has externed at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. Despite growing up in Los Angeles, he feels his obsession with new restaurants and his distaste for driving reveal him to be a New Yorker at heart. He lives in Brooklyn.

Tyson Duffy is a New Hampshire native. He graduated from a state university in Georgia and in 2013 was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Morocco. Currently working as an editor at a commercial printer in Manhattan, he spends his mornings, evenings, and weekends reading and working on a novel. He lives with his wife in Queens.

Suzan Flamm, a lawyer for many years, is now focused on her novel-in-progress. Set in 1940’s Palestine during the British Mandate, it is a sequel to a screenplay she wrote. The novel follows a few characters from the script that deserved more attention, at least according to them. She actually quit a paying job to take this on and finds herself thinking about that decision quite frequently. Originally from Los Angeles, Suzan has practiced law in a variety of positions in New York City, including as a prosecutor and investigative attorney. She has written extensively for legal and trade publications and taught courtroom communication and investigative interviewing at John Jay College in New York. Most recently she worked for a non-profit legal compliance association. Suzan has two grown children and lives with her husband in Port Washington, NY. She is a graduate of UCLA and UCLA Law School.  When not writing, Suzan can be found binge-watching British TV shows on Netflix to “research” English colloquialisms. 

Wendy Hammond’s plays have been produced in U.S. theatres such as Second Stage, HERE, Soho Rep, Long Wharf, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Charlotte Rep, and People Light and Theatre. Her plays have also been produced, including in London, Milan, Rome, Tel Aviv, Singapore and Melbourne. Her screenplays include Julie Johnson which stars Lili Taylor, Courtney Love and Spalding Gray.  Wendy’s plays and screenplays have received several awards. She is a New Dramatists alumnus, holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU and a Masters of Divinity from Yale Divinity School.  She has taught playwriting and screenwriting in several universities, recently at NYU TischAsia School of the Arts in Singapore. She now writes, teaches, and lives in the New York area with her truly amazing son, Will. She is an excited beginner at writing prose, and can’t wait to start on this new Writers’ Institute adventure.

Kathleen Griffin woke up naked on a seashell about four months ago, head splitting, remembering nothing. According to the contents of the wallet lying beside her, she attended the Rhode Island School of design for her Masters Degree. A further Google search indicates a series of international residencies and reveals as well her generous inclusion to a few prestigious collections. Since her awakening Kathleen has written a very nice article about a dog for her hometown paper; the dog's owner is still talking about it. Inspired by this, Kathleen is now dedicating the fullness of her attentions to developing her talent as a fiction writer. She is in the process of completing her first novel, Dreams of the Astronaut.

Elyse Hilton. Many years ago, when she was about to graduate college, Elyse’s grandfather asked about her plans for the future.  She said she wanted to be a writer.  He appeared taken aback, then recovered and said proudly, “Well if you’re going to be a waiter, be the best waiter you can be.”  Elyse compromised by becoming a lawyer and working for the City of New York.  Years passed and now she’s retired.  Too old to become a waiter, she is ready to work as a writer.  She writes poetry and short stories and hopes to become the best writer she can be.

William Hood, a returning student who likes to be called Bill, retired as Professor of Art History at Oberlin College in 2007. Since then he has been living in New York, teaching part-time at Columbia and NYU's Institute of Fine Arts. He is the author of a scholarly book on the Florentine Renaissance painter Fra Angelico. For the past several years he has participated in the Writers Institute to learn to write for a wider, non-specialist audience. This summer he's completing the draft of a book about life-changing encounters with works of art. Titled A Concert of Statues: Art in a Life, his book focuses on the Classical male nude and its afterlife in Renaissance and later art. During the 2016-17 term, he plans to turn full-time to fiction writing.

Andy Lobashevsky discovered New York when he was a music reviewer for the Old Gold & Black at Wake Forest University. With all expenses generously comped and riding the subway a magical experience, he was immediately smitten by the city. After college, Andy earned a medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in his hometown, and it proved to be the ticket for the big dance. He stayed long enough in residency to complete an internship and then shifted focus for a blossoming interest in film. While making ends meet through various gigs in production and healthcare, he collaborated on a few independent projects with friends. Eventually, Andy developed an idea for a documentary-style video essay about a group of musicians, which he hopes to complete editing in the very near future. Now, between watching the skyline mushroom year after year from Manhattan and playing softball in Prospect Park during the warmer months, he consistently produces works through his publisher—“Moleskine”—who seldom rejects anything he submits. 

David Merrill is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Before that he was an entomologist studying ant-butterfly symbioses in Australia, and before that he was a bike messenger. After spending a number of years writing painfully dry academic articles, he recently switched to more interesting projects: a profile of a one-legged wrestler and some short stories about the challenges of parenting. He lives with his wife and two children in Manhattan.

​Kathleen Seltzer, a returning student, moved to New York City in 1977 from Philadelphia. She arrived as a photographer and worked for the Soho News and the then beginning Details magazine. Her work has been shown in the United States and Europe. She is now making pictures with outdated Polaroid film and paintings and drawings that incorporate organic material. The first story she ever wrote was in the third grade. It was about a dentist, a subject she doesn’t plan to return to.

Ian Shapira is a staff writer at The Washington Post who loves writing fiction (outside the pages of the newspaper). He grew up in Louisville, KY, graduated from Princeton University in 2000 with an English degree, and immediately began working as a reporter for The Post. He's written about the impact of CIA officers' lives on their families and helped unravel a mystery about a stolen Renoir painting. His articles on the Virginia Tech and Navy Yard shootings have been included in The Post’s entries that won the Pulitzer Prize and that were named as a finalist in the breaking news category. This year, he is beginning to review novels for The Post and hopes to get his first piece of fiction published.

Rhonda Silver has taken a long, circuitous route to arrive, happily and finally, at the Graduate Center’s Writers’ Institute. She has been a tax accountant, a newsletter writer/editor, an alternately part-time and full-time “stay-at-home” mom, and a grant writer. She has also devoted herself to many non-profit organizations, and serves as a volunteer court advocate to assist domestic violence victims in Family Court in Essex County, NJ. Rhonda holds a BA in Economics from Rutgers College where she was part of the school’s first class of women, as well as an MBA from The Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania. Initially inspired by her favorite childhood authors, Rhonda has written short memoirs and fiction, as well as poetry, throughout her life. A five-year survivor of lymphoma, Rhonda has had two pieces included in collections published by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. In 2014, she completed the TCS New York City Marathon in order to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Rhonda has lived her entire life in the New York City area. She and her husband currently split their time between the city and their home in Upper Montclair, NJ.

Holly Woodward, a returning student, is a writer and painter.  Her novel-in-progress follows a couple of dominatrixes in New York City.  A book of poems Sin for Beginners was finalist for the National Poetry Series.  Her second novel project chronicles the lives of Russian poets from the start of Stalin’s reign through WWII.  Holly was a doctoral fellow at Moscow University for a year, after two semesters at Saint Petersburg University.   She served as writer-in-residence at Saint Albans, Washington National Cathedral. Holly is a calligrapher and marbles paper, which she incorporates into handmade books.  An anthology of modern aphorists, Short Flights, includes a chapter of her work.

NON-FICTION PROGRAM

Sean Carlson is at work on his first book, a nonfictional narrative of emigration from Ireland to the United Kingdom and the United States. His writing, which has appeared in the Irish Times, USA Today, the New York Daily News, and elsewhere, includes vignettes from Cambodia and a column on Boston's burrito scene. He received a Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers. Sean has managed global communications with Google and editorial and special projects with Yahoo. He leads trainings with the International Center for Journalists, and co-founded the TechRaking summit series with the Center for Investigative Reporting. He previously interned with the Consulate General of Ireland in Sydney, Australia and serves on the board of the nonprofit Irish American Writers & Artists.

Tess Clarkson earned her B.A. in History and Communication at Loyola University Chicago and moved to Manhattan to attend Fordham University School of Law. In the middle of Tess' first year at Fordham, Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance offered her a spot in its Irish dance chorus, and she began traveling across North America with the show and performed in the original cast of Michael Flatley's Feet of Flames in London. Following her return to law school, Tess also had the opportunity to dance in the Broadway production of Riverdance. Since officially hanging up her dance pumps upon earning her J.D., Tess has worked on Wall Street as a lawyer. She also serves as a hospice volunteer and is a trained end-of-life doula. Tess discovered her passion for creative writing after a friend gave her Julia Cameron's An Artist's Way. Many writing workshops followed, and Tess currently is writing about her friend's death on Air France 447 and how it led Tess to serve the dying.

Alan Edelstein is a nonfiction filmmaker originally from western Massachusetts. His short documentary “The Wizard of the Strings,” about the 1920s stringed-instrument virtuoso and vaudeville star Roy Smeck, received an Academy Award nomination in 1986. More recently he produced and co-directed Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay (2013), which was selected as one of the Best Films of 2013 by Entertainment Weekly, and was featured on the PBS series American Masters. His new film, An Art That Nature Makes, about the contemporary art photographer Rosamond Purcell, will have its theatrical premiere in Manhattan in the summer of 2016. A freelance journalist as well as filmmaker, Alan has written on arts and culture for publications including The New York Times, The Forward, and Transition. He is grateful to be using his time at the Writers’ Institute toward the completion of a book-length seriocomic essay on religion, an unruly mix of memoir, historical research, travelogue, gossip, and amateur philosophical speculation.

Janee Graver wrote a bestselling technical book in the ‘90’s which sold well over a quarter million copies and was translated into twenty-plus languages.  Years passed and Janee took her creative nonfiction writing private as she stepped up to the demands of running three companies and two nonprofits, raising two sons, and following her own diverse interests (Her first company was focused on tech and her fourth on loose leaf organic tea).  Today her life is rich with experiences of world travel, and she lives in New York City as a new urban resident, consulting to emerging companies.  Curious about how people live, over the last five years she has followed the international Jewish community and rowing community in almost a dozen countries.  She writes essays about her experiences. Her essay about a meditation retreat in Auschwitz was published as part of an international collection of writings in 2015. Janee spent her childhood in Buffalo, NY,  earned her MS Degree in Information Science and Instructional Technology from Syracuse University, and her BS from Northwestern University.  She worked as a teacher of the deaf in her first career.  When not writing, traveling, or consulting, Janee can be spotted on her kick scooter, joyfully zipping around New York City.

Wendy Hammond’s plays have been produced in U.S. theatres such as Second Stage, HERE, Soho Rep, Long Wharf, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Charlotte Rep, and People Light and Theatre. Her plays have also been produced, including in London, Milan, Rome, Tel Aviv, Singapore and Melbourne. Her screenplays include Julie Johnson which stars Lili Taylor, Courtney Love and Spalding Gray.  Wendy’s plays and screenplays have received several awards. She is a New Dramatists alumnus, holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU and a Masters of Divinity from Yale Divinity School.  She has taught playwriting and screenwriting at several universities, recently at NYU TischAsia School of the Arts in Singapore. She now writes, teaches, and lives in the New York area with her truly amazing son, Will. She is an excited beginner at writing prose, and can’t wait to start on this new Writers’ Institute adventure.

Dmitry Kiper, a returning student, has a deep love for a great variety of art forms. He writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry; he also paints and plays guitar—with a special interest in improvisation. Dmitry holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of California at San Diego and an M.A. from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. As a freelancer, he has written for The New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail, and The Onion (A.V. Club). As a contributor to Current Biography magazine, he has profiled a variety of fascinating people, including jazz pianist Robert Glasper, science writer Mary Roach, neuroscientist David Eagleman, and philosopher Denis Dutton. Dmitry has lived in New York City since 2006. He currently teaches literature at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). 

Frank Ligtvoet studied and taught literature at Amsterdam University before working in international publishing in his native Holland. Twenty years ago he moved to the U.S. with his now-husband to work as the counsellor for culture in the Dutch diplomatic services. He is now a freelance writer whose work, inspired by the adoption of his two kids, deals with adoption and diversity. He is writing a memoir on his time as a member of a secret homosexual literary society, Castrum Peregrini. Its German leader, a follower of the poet Stefan George, guided his Freundeskreis [Cirlce of Friends] from a canal house on Herengracht in Amsterdam.

Alyssa Petersel received a BA in psychology and a BA in international studies from Northwestern University in 2013. Alyssa was awarded the Northwestern Public Interest Fellowship in 2013. She completed the fellowship at Strengthening Chicago's Youth (SCY), a violence prevention collaborative convened by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, where she worked in research, community building, policy and advocacy. Alyssa raised $12,000 via Kickstarter crowdfunding to spend eight months in Hungary conducting research and interviews for her debut nonfiction anthology Somehow I Am Different, which was released on March 22, 2016 and has since won first place in the Biography/Autobiography section of the New York Book Festival, earned a starred Kirkus Review, and was featured as Kirkus' Indie Book of the Month for July 2016. Alyssa is now obtaining her Masters in Social Work (MSW) at New York University and participating as an author in the 2016-2017 Jewish Book Council Network. Alyssa lives in Brooklyn, New York. 

Molly Rogers turned to writing after failing as a location scout, waitress, legal secretary, and counter of money belonging to a now disgraced celebrity chef. After a brief detour through graduate school to study art history, she returned to writing and thus far has had one play produced, one book published, one short story read on the radio, and one personal essay published in a literary journal. While she has had rather more success writing on the history of photography, she hopes to cover more imaginative ground with a project called "Cold War Family Album; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Mom." She lives in Queens.

Dasha Shkurpela is originally from Kyrgyzstan and works in painting and sculpture.  Her writing is part of the continuous interchange between different modes of perception and expression.  Dasha has an MFA in Painting from the Massachusetts College of Art, an MA in History from the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and a BA from the University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. To make a living Dasha works for profit in the non-profit industry. She collects Soviet Socialist Realist porcelain, grows avocado trees, meditates, swims, and is a devoted listener of classical music.

Victor Xavier Zarour Zarzar is a doctoral student at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. Born and raised in Mexico in a Palestinian family, he went on to complete a Baccalaureato in Philosophy and a BA in English Literature in Rome, Italy, a city that has been fundamental to his personal and intellectual development. He is currently finishing coursework for his PhD and will start teaching literature at Baruch College in the fall. His interest in literature spans across genres and periods. His work focuses on the development of the novel, and, in particular, the works of Elena Ferrante.