Alumni and professor authors return to UCSC

The Creative Writing Program hosts the Living Writers Reading Series

From left to right: Emma Wood, Jared Joseph, Eric Sneathen, Connor Bassett, Jose Antonio Villaran, Sina Grace, Chiara Barzini, Rebecca Rukeyser, Sarah Ghazal Ali, Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Peter Gizzi, Nathaniel Mackey.

UC Santa Cruz has produced hundreds of award-winning authors. Championing important and diverse perspectives, these authors and their works reflect the excellence and diversity for which we celebrate the Literature Department’s Creative Writing Program. 

For over two decades, the Living Writers Reading Series has connected current UCSC students with trailblazing alumni authors through live readings and engaging dialogues. This year, the series invites back 10 recent creative writing alumni and two former professors to talk about their publications and careers after graduating from UCSC. Students and community members are invited to attend lecture presentations from Jan. through March at the Humanities Lecture Hall or on Zoom. The events are free and open to the public.

“These 12 distinguished authors exemplify the transformative power of our Creative Writing Program,” said Humanities Dean Jasmine Alinder. “Their impactful contributions to literature serve as a beacon of inspiration for current and future students. Through their words and experiences, they illuminate the limitless possibilities that lie ahead, inspiring a new generation of writers to explore, create, and make their mark on the world.”

The Living Writers Reading Series was started by Humanities Associate Dean and Literature Professor Micah Perks and Emerita Professor of Literature Karen Yamashita nearly two decades ago when they were hired the same year. Students in the program are required to attend the readings; as a result, the entire creative writing program comes together five times a quarter, cultivating a growing community space. The Living Writers Lecture Series seeks to introduce current students and the larger UCSC community to new writing and the many ways of being a writer in the world by celebrating accomplished authors across a variety of writing mediums. 

Perks, the organizer of this quarter’s reading series, emphasizes the importance of these events for building community within the Creative Writing Program. 

We want students to be connected to more ways of being a writer in the world,” Perks said. “Maybe the alumni author is a detective novelist or maybe they are an extremely experimental poet. Our trailblazing alumni run the gamut of writing and we want to create a space for our current students to be exposed to all of the possibilities. We want to connect them to the work while creating a space for community within the creative writing program at UCSC.” 

This quarter, the Living Writers Lecture Series will highlight the work of alumni authors in their careers' early stages and welcomes back two former creative writing professors. Featured alumni will include creative/critical concentration Ph.D. alumni, undergraduate debut novelists, undergraduate poets, and former UCSC professors. 

“This time we're highlighting people who are earlier in their career,” explains Micah Perks, “ We're trying to do a series that features alumni who the students will feel more connected to because they’re just a little further on” 

The 2024 Living Writers Reading Series Authors


January 18: Ph.D. Creative Writing Graduate Alumni

Emma Wood (Ph.D. ’22): Originally from New York City, Wood has degrees from Harvard, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and UCSC. She is the author of The Real World and translator of A Failed Performance. Recent work has appeared in The Drift, The American Poetry Review, ZYZZYVA, Fence, Jubilat, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. She currently teaches writing at Xavier University in Cincinnati and is executive director of Stone Soup, the literary magazine for kids by kids.

Jared Joseph (Ph.D. ’20): Joseph’s most recent writing has been published in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Iowa Review, and Action. His A Book About Myself Called Hell was published in 2022, and his novel Danny the Ambulance was published in 2023. Jared Joseph teaches at Los Angeles City College and lives in Los Angeles where he writes, plays music, and drinks coffee like it's a hot dog eating contest. 

Eric Sneathen (Ph.D. ’22): Sneathen is a poet and queer literary historian living in Alameda. He is the author of Don't Leave Me This Way, Minor Work, and Snail Poems. With Lauren Levin, he co-edited the selected fiction of Camille Roy, Honey Mine. His essays and interviews have been published by Jacket2, SF MoMA's Open Space, Poetry Foundation, and Social Text Online.

Connor Bassett (Ph.D. ’22): Bassett's first novel, Gad's Book, was published in 2023. His writing has appeared in Chicago Review, Quarterly West, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is an assistant professor of English at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Jose Antonio Villarán (Ph.D. ’22): Villarán is the author of two books of poetry, la distancia es siempre la misma, el cerrajero; one book of cross-genre literature, open pit; one book of translation, Album of Fences, by Omar Pimienta (2018); and the AMLT project, an exploration of hypertext literature and collective authorship. A Spanish edition of open pit was published in June 2023, and his fourth book, a work of Auto-Fiction, titled Dear Excelsior, Kiko died in Vietnam while he was playing fútbol, is forthcoming in 2025.


January 25: Undergraduate Alumni

Sina Grace (Stevenson ’08): Grace is a GLAAD media award-winning writer and artist living in Los Angeles, best known for a prolific library of work that balances slice-of-life, blockbuster action, and everything in between. His groundbreaking Iceman series at Marvel Comics paved the way for Grace to work on his favorites: Jughead's Time Police for Archie, Wonder Woman for DC, Go Go Power Rangers for Boom Studios, and The Haunted Mansion for Disney/ IDW. He is currently promoting Rockstar and Softboy at Image Comics, and Superman: The Harvests of Youth, a young adult graphic novel he wrote and illustrated at DC.


February 1: Undergraduate Debut Novelists

Chiara Barzini (Stevenson ’01): Barzini is an Italian author and screenwriter, nominated among the 100 most influential Women of 2020 by Forbes Italy. She is the author of the story collection Sister Stop Breathing and the novel Things That Happened Before The Earthquake. Her fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including Bomb, Noon, Freeman’s, LitHub, The Los Angeles Review of Books, NY Tyrant, ZYZZYVA, and the anthology Tiny Crimes edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto. She has a regular column in D Repubblica and has written articles and profiles in Rolling Stone, Vogue, Vanity Fair Italy, Vice, and more. She has recently translated Goliarda Sapienza’s poems into English and is at work on a translation of Diane Williams’ latest story collection into Italian.

Rebecca Rukeyser (Stevenson ’07): Rukeyser is the author of the novel The Seaplane on Final Approach. Her work has appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Believer, Granta, The Guardian, and Zyzzyva, among others, and was awarded the Berlin Senate Endowment for Non-German Literature. She’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Originally from Davis, CA, Rebecca has lived and worked in South Korea, Japan, Turkey and China. She currently lives in Germany, where she teaches creative writing at Bard College Berlin.


February 22: Undergraduate Poets

Sarah Ghazal Ali (College Nine ’18): Ali is a poet, teacher, and editor. She is the author of Theophanies, selected as the Editors' Choice for the 2022 Alice James Award. A Stadler Fellow and recipient of The Sewanee Review poetry prize, her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, and other publications. She is the poetry editor for West Branch and an incoming Assistant Professor of English at Macalester College. 

Julian Talamantez Brolaski (Kresge ’99)Brolaski (it / xe / them) is a poet and country musician, the author of Of Mongrelitude, Advice for Lovers, and gowanus atropolis. Julian is a 2023-2024 Bagley-Wright lecturer, a 2021 Pew Foundation Fellow, and the recipient of the 2020 Cy Twombly Award for Poetry. Their poems were recently included in When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (2020) and We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics. With band Juan & the Pines, Julian released the EP Glittering Forest in 2019; Julian’s first full-length album It’s Okay Honey came out in August 2023.


March 7: Former UCSC Professors

Peter Gizzi: A former Professor of Creative Writing at UCSC, Gizzi is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently Fierce Elegy, Now It’s Dark, and Archeophonics, a finalist for the National Book Award (2016), all from Wesleyan. His editing projects have included o•blēk: a journal of language arts; The Exact Change Yearbook; The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer; and, with the late Kevin Killian, My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer. He teaches poetry and poetics in the MFA Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Nathaniel Mackey: Born in Miami and raised in Southern California, poet, novelist, editor, and critic Nathaniel Mackey earned his BA from Princeton University and his Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is a Professor Emeritus of creative writing at UCSC and is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Blue Fasa, Nod House, the National Book Award-winning Splay Anthem, Whatsaid Serif, and Eroding Witness, which was chosen for the National Poetry Series. He has published several book-length installments of his ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, beginning with Bedouin Hornbook in 1986.