Visiting Writers Forum
The goal of Ringling College’s Creative Writing major is to launch careers, one student at a time. And the College’s Visiting Writers Forum is just one of the ways that happens for our students.
A number of industry professionals visit Ringling College each year as part of the College’s Visiting Writers Forum. The series is a critical part of the academic program for Creative Writing students at Ringling. Visiting professionals include game writers, graphic novelists, screenwriters, novelists, journalists, editors, and literary agents.
Every Creative Writing major at Ringling College participates in this author conversation series that includes a robust Q&A period with the audience. Because this series focuses on both the craft and the industry of writing, students discover various blueprints for success directly from successful, working professionals.
The Visiting Writers Forum is hosted by the Creative Writing department and underwritten by a generous grant from the Isermann Family Foundation.
Planning to attend?
Faculty, staff, students, and community members are invited to attend the events. Community members attending in person should park in a visitor parking space on campus. Registration is not required.
Fall 2023 Schedule
Each forum is held from 7-8 pm in the Goldstein Library (room 113) and is free and open to the public.
Robert Plunket was born in Greenville, Texas, in 1945 but raised in Havana and Mexico City. He is the author of the novels Love Junkie and My Search for Warren Harding, and he has written for Healthy Aging, This Week in Ft. Myers Beach, and Sarasota Magazine. He is currently retired and lives in a trailer park in Englewood, Florida, where he enjoys collecting old quilts and raising succulents from scratch.
A former foreign correspondent for the San Francisco-based Pacific News Service, Stan West remains a working journalist, reporting for the Wednesday Journal and WPNA-AM. He’s been a conflict journalist and culture reporter for most of his career. A documentarian who co-coordinates the Oak Park International Film Festival, West has written and co-authored several award-winning nonfiction books, including Suburban Promised Land. West teaches in the Ringling College of Art and Design Creative Writing program.
Jarret Keene earned his Ph.D. in creative writing at Florida State University. A beloved and highly sought-after professor, Keene is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he teaches American literature and the graphic novel. He has written a travel guide, a rock band biography, poetry collections, and edited short-fiction anthologies, including Las Vegas Noir and Dead Neon: Tales of Near-Future Las Vegas. His most recent book is Hammer of the Dogs, a science fiction dystopian novel.
By some accounts, Roy Peter Clark is America’s writing coach, devoted to creating a nation of writers. A Ph.D. in medieval literature, he is widely considered the most influential writing teacher in the rough-and-tumble world of newspaper journalism. Clark has authored or edited more than twenty books about writing, reading, language, and journalism. Humorist Dave Barry has said of him: “Roy Peter Clark knows more about writing than anybody I know who is not currently dead.” Clark lives with his family in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he has become famously fond of pelicans.
Cooper Levey-Baker is a writer and journalist. His fiction has appeared in the Sierra Nevada Review and Burrow Press’s Fantastic Floridas series, and his journalism has won multiple awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society for Professional Journalism. Dead Fish Wind is his first novel.
Watch the ⏯ video.
For more than 20 years, Ken Hite has worked as a full-time writer and role-playing game designer, contributing to many popular games including GURPS, Mage: The Ascension, Savage Worlds, and the Star Trek role-playing game. He’s the author of Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents role-playing games, and he serves as lead designer on the 5th edition of Vampire: The Masquerade. Since 2012, he’s run Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, a weekly podcast with fellow author and game designer Robin Laws.
In addition, Hite is Ringling College’s Creative Writing 2023 Writer in Residence and will be a guest expert in the Anyone’s Game Tabletop Game Design Conference.
Watch the ⏯ video.
Ryan Rivas is the author of Nextdoor in Colonialtown (Autofocus 2022). He is the Publisher of Burrow Press, and the Coordinator of MFA Publishing at Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas creative writing program. Rivas is a former Macondo Writers Workshop fellow, and his work has appeared in The Believer, The Rumpus, Literary Hub, Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, and elsewhere.
Watch the ⏯ video.
Sarah N. Fisk (they/them) is a former mechanical engineer who made the switch to publishing in 2011. They have worked in the publishing industry as an editorial assistant, author’s assistant, publicist, and art director. Fisk is a former Pitch Wars mentor, board member, and Agent Liaison. They host the podcast Queries, Qualms, & Quirks and have a passion for spreadsheets. In addition to serving as a literary agent at Tobias Literary Agency, Fisk writes YA novels as Sarah Nicolas and romance under the name Aria Kane.
Watch the ⏯ video.
Brooke Vitale is a children’s book editor with nearly twenty years’ experience at some of the world’s top publishing companies, including Penguin/Random House and Disney. Over the course of her career, she’s edited thousands of traditionally published and self-published children’s books. Among her favorites (and most successful) published books were Hide and Hug Olaf by Kevin Lewis, which sold over 400,000 copies, and Olaf’s Night Before Christmas, which sold over 250,000 copies.
But she’s more than just a children’s book editor. She’s also a children’s book author in her own right, with more than 100 published books. Among her favorites that she’s written are The Magic is in You, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, The Goonies: The Illustrated Storybook, the Timmi Tobbson Young Explorers chapter book series, and numerous Star Wars: The Mandalorian books.
Migdalia Cruz is an award-winning playwright who has written more than fifty plays, operas, screenplays, and musicals. Her work has been produced across the U.S. and abroad at various venues including Mabou Mines, Classic Stage Company, Playwrights Horizons, INTAR, and Brooklyn Academy of Music, among others. Her plays include Salt, Fur, Miriam’s Flowers, Lucy Loves Me, Dreams of Home, Telling Tales, ¡CHE-CHE-CHE!, Latins In La-La Land, Cigarettes and Moby-Dick, Lolita de Lares, Yellow Eyes, and Running For Blood: No. 3 (a radio play). Cruz wrote book and lyrics for the musicals Rushing Waters, Welcome Back to Salamanca and When Galaxy Six and The Bronx Collide; the libretto for an opera, Street Sense; and lyrics and monologues for Frida: The Story of Frida Kahlo.
In 1996, she received the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays Award for Another Part of The House, and she has been honored with the Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwright Award. Her recent projects include Yellow Eyes at Visión Latino in Chicago and Latins in La-La Land at College of Wooster, Ohio. She is currently writing a play about Chekhov, marriage, consumption, and the writing of Three Sisters as Chekhov is dying.
Sigrid Nunez has published eight novels, including A Feather on the Breath of God, The Last of Her Kind, Salvation City, The Friend, and, most recently, What Are You Going Through. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag. The Friend, a New York Times bestseller, won the 2018 National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2019 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize. In France, it was longlisted for the 2019 Prix Femina and named a finalist for the 2019 Prix du Meilleure Livre. It was also a finalist for the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award. Nunez’s other honors and awards include a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Berlin Prize Fellowship, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. This year she was inducted as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Nunez has taught at Columbia, Princeton, and the New School, and has been a visiting writer or writer in residence at Boston University, Amherst, Smith, Baruch, Vassar, Syracuse, and the University of California, Irvine, among others. Currently teaching in the MFA program in creative writing at Hunter College, she has also been on the faculty of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and of several other writers’ conferences across the country. She lives in New York City.
Cameron Kunzelman is a game critic whose work appears regularly at Paste Games, where he is Editor at Large, and at Waypoint, where his weekly Postscript column deals with endings, death, and final bosses. His writing has also appeared at Kotaku, The Atlantic, Quartz and other venues.
Kunzelman has a monthly podcast (Just King Things) where he and his co-host are reading and discussing all of Stephen King’s books in publication order. He also creates his own games and interactive stories such as Epanalepsis, Alpaca Run, and Catachresis: A Way Too Scary Game.
Watch the ⏯ video.
A Florida native, Heather Sellers, is the author of writing craft books, poetry collections, children’s books, a short story collection, and a memoir, You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, which was featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, the Today Show, Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, and NPR. Her recent essays appear in The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, The Sun, and O, the Oprah Magazine. Her essay “Haywire” was selected for the Best American Essays by Leslie Jamison and “Pedal, Pedal, Pedal,” won a Pushcart Prize in 2018. She is the director of the undergraduate and MFA creative writing programs at the University of South Florida.
Watch the ⏯ video.
Gloria Muñoz is a Colombian-American writer, translator, and advocate for multilingual literacy and writing. She’s the author of Danzirly/Dawn’s Early, which was selected for the 2019 Ambroggio Prize by Rosa Alcalá. She’s also the recipient of the New York Summer Writer’s Institute Fellowship, a Creative Pinellas Artist Grant, the USF Humanities Institute Poetry Award, and a Think Small to Think Big Artist Grant. Muñoz has worked alongside botanists, musicians, dancers, historians, classicists, visual artists, conservationists, and neuroscientists. Muñoz is a co-founder of Pitch Her Productions and she’s one-half of the songwriting team Moonlit Musíca.
Watch the ⏯ video.
Erik Bork won two Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards for his work as a writer-producer on the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and From the Earth to the Moon, for executive producer Tom Hanks (and Steven Spielberg, on Band of Brothers). Bork has sold original series pitches to the broadcast networks, worked on the writing staff of primetime drama series, and written feature screenplays for Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches for UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, and National University’s MFA Program in Professional Screenwriting. He has also been called one of the “Top Ten Most Influential Screenwriting Bloggers” for his website, Flyingwrestler.com, and offers consulting and coaching to writers at all levels. His book The Idea: The 7 Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction was released in September 2018.
Rachel Harrison is the author of the forthcoming novel Cackle. Her debut, The Return, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Guernica, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and as an Audible Original. She lives in Western New York with her husband and their cat/overlord.
After a youth in eastern Canada spent daydreaming, reading, role-playing, and scribbling through plays and short stories, Brooke officially started his jack-of-all-trades narrative career as a writer, producer, and voice director on AAA titles for software giant Electronic Arts. These days, he continues to consult as a writer for the video game industry while acting as a consulting creative for all things transmedia, directing voiceover, speaking, and lecturing, while creating exciting original IP on multiple platforms. One of Burgess’ most noteworthy projects is being writer/creator of the world’s first motion-comic epic, Broken Saints.
Stephen says that he’s “the author of 23 or 25 or so books, 300+ stories, some comic books, and other stuff. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, and has a few broken-down old trucks, one Ph.D., and way too many boots.”
Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author of experimental fiction, horror fiction, crime fiction, and science fiction. Although his recent work is often classified as horror, he is celebrated for applying literary stylings to a variety of speculative genres. Currently, he serves as the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Rob Sanders is a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes. For many years, he worked at Mintz Elementary School in Brandon, FL, where he taught students about books and words and reading and writing. Each day, he headed back home to write fierce and funny picture books for kids. Now he’s freshly retired from teaching, yet Sanders still likes to grow things, teach things, learn things, and read things.
He’s the author of many picture books, including Outer Space Bedtime Race, Rodzilla, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg, Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, and Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution.
An RPG designer and videographer originally from Ontario, Canada, Banana Chan is one half of the board game publishing company Game and a Curry. She enjoys writing smaller, weirder LARPs that are too obscure to function. She currently lives in New York, where she creates videos, writes games on the subway, and eats lasagna.
Her most recent successful Kickstarter project was Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall—“An RPG of Chinese immigrants running the family restaurant by day, and dealing with the hauntings of Jiangshi by night!”
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of a bestselling book of nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, & Other Astonishments, which was named a finalist for the Kirkus Prize in non-fiction, and four award-winning poetry collections, most recently, Oceanic (2018). Awards for her writing include fellowships from the Mississippi Arts Council, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for poetry, National Endowment of the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Her writing has appeared in NYTimes Magazine, ESPN, and Best American Poetry. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program.
Calvin Alexander Ramsey was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up in Roxboro, NC. It has been his ambition to become a writer since childhood, a dream he fully realized when five days before the 9/11 bombings in 2001, Ramsey says he “found his voice.” He’s now a playwright, photographer, painter, and children’s book author.
Ramsey says his work is guided by the African proverb: “When an old person dies, it’s like a library burning down.” To impede permanent losses from the annals of history, he researches each topic religiously, consulting original documentation, secondary sources, and persons who may have survived the era he is addressing. With the objective of shedding light on the overlooked and sometimes missing pages of African American history, Ramsey’s writings stimulate, educate, and bring the audience closer to a truth in American history—a truth that does not always reflect a reality that is easy to view.
Cheryl Klein is the editorial director at Lee & Low Books. She is also the author of two adult books, The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults and Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults, and three picture books, Wings, Thunder Trucks, and A Year of Everyday Wonders. Prior to her work at Lee & Low, she spent sixteen years at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, where she published a wide array of acclaimed titles and served as the continuity editor for the last two books of the Harry Potter series. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Elizabeth Sims learned the art of fiction by listening to tall tales on her father’s knee, and by reading all sorts of books brought home by her mother, a teacher. (These ranged from Grimm’s Fairy Tales to the Canterbury Tales, from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Ernest Hemingway.)
Today Sims is the author of the Rita Farmer Mysteries, the Lambda and GCLS Goldie Award-winning Lillian Byrd Crime Series, and other fiction. Her work has been published by a major press (Macmillan) as well as several smaller houses, and she’s written short works for numerous collections and magazines. She publishes independently under her personal imprint, Spruce Park Press.
In addition, Sims is an internationally recognized authority on writing. She’s written dozens of feature articles on the craft of writing for Writer’s Digest magazine, where she’s a contributing editor. Through her articles, coaching, and editing, she has helped thousands of fledgling authors find their win.
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 37 books, including SWING, THE WRITE THING, REBOUND, which was shortlisted for prestigious Carnegie Medal, Caldecott-Medal and Newbery-Honor winning picture book THE UNDEFEATED, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, HOW TO READ A BOOK, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and, his NEWBERY medal-winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER.
The Host and Executive Producer of the television program, WordPlay, a new kids television program, Alexander is also a regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, and the recipient of numerous awards, including The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. In 2018, he opened the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic in Ghana, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded. Alexander currently serves as the inaugural Innovator-in-Residence at the American School in London, and the Founding Editor of VERSIFY, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that aims to Change the World One Word at a Time.
Writers Guild Award-winning, three-time Emmy Award-nominated writer Alex Rubens is an executive producer of The Twilight Zone, a co-executive producer of Rick and Morty, and one of the luckiest people ever to walk the earth. He’s gotten to work on projects like Key & Peele, Community, Big Mouth, and Long Shot, and to cowrite the major motion picture Keanu with Academy Award-winning writer Jordan Peele. He has also worked as a teacher, a tutor, a ghostwriter, a script reader, a transcriptionist, a cashier, a personal assistant, and a dishwasher. He was born in New York and now lives in California with his wife and their cat.
Over a 30-year career, Ann VanderMeer has won numerous awards for her editing work, including the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award. Whether as editor-in-chief for Weird Tales for five years or in her current role as an acquiring editor for Tor.com, VanderMeer has built her reputation on acquiring fiction from diverse and interesting new talents. As co-founder of Cheeky Frawg Books, she has helped develop a wide-ranging line of mostly translated fiction. Featuring a who’s who of world literature, Ann VanderMeer’s anthologies include the critically acclaimed Best American Fantasy series, The Weird, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, Sisters of the Revolution, and the forthcoming Big Book of SF (Vintage).
Lucienne Diver works as a literary agent for the Knight Agency. She’s also a novelist, having authored the Vamped young adult series and the Latter-Day Olympians series, among other books. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in many anthologies, including Strip-Mauled and Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories. Diver “lived in Florida with her husband and daughter, the two cutest dogs in the world, and enough books to fill an entire store and perhaps some day collapse the second floor of her home into the first.”
Native Floridian Craig Pittman was born in Pensacola, and he graduated from Troy State University (Alabama) where his muckraking work for the student newspaper prompted an agitated dean to label him “the most destructive force on campus.” He has since covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including “hurricanes, wildfires, and the Florida Legislature.” As a Tampa Bay Times reporter, Pittman chronicles some of our state’s weirdest and wackiest moments, some of which went on to appear in his book Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.