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Jessica Sharzer leads a workshop during Mount Saint Mary’s 2017 writers’ conference: “To Live & Write in L.A.”

Screenwriter Jessica Sharzer leads a workshop during Mount Saint Mary’s 2017 writers’ conference: “To Live & Write in L.A.”

‘To Live and Write in L.A.’


For two days, a diverse array of novelists, screenwriters, storytellers, journalists, poets and essayists came together at Mount Saint Mary’s University to explore what it means to be a writer in the City of Angels.

“To Live and Write in L.A.” is the third annual writers conference produced by the University’s MFA in Creative Writing program, supported by the Mount’s MFA in Film, Television & Photography. The event, hosted Sept. 16-17 at the Mount’s downtown Doheny Campus, offered emerging and established L.A. writers a retreat-like opportunity to spark creativity and create connections among the city’s vibrant writing community.

The weekend included Q&A panels, writing workshops, author readings, book fairs and film screenings. Attendees had the unique chance to enjoy a networking dinner inside Mount Saint Mary’s historic Doheny Mansion. And the weekend was capped off by a special closing conversation with comedian, actor, screenwriter and novelist Damon Wayans.

Wayans talked about writing in the public eye, and shared his own writing advice: “Artists, we complicate things. But the story is often right there in front of you,” Wayans said. “We need to tell the stories that we’re passionate about. Nobody can refute passion and a good story.

“After you write, share your work. Surround yourself with people who are better writers than you, who will offer suggestions and honest critiques. Listen to their opinions.”

Throughout the conference, topics and speakers appealed to a wide range of genres, interests and styles. This year’s panel of writers included:

  • Karen An-hwei Lee, a poet, essayist and novelist, is a winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award and a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle;
  • Micaela Blei, a two-time Moth GrandSLAM winner and director of education at The Moth;
  • Melissa Broder, author of the essay collection So Sad Today, four poetry collections and a forthcoming debut novel;
  • Victoria Chang, a Guggenheim fellow and poet who has published four books of poems, as well as a picture book named a New York Times Notable Book;
  • Tyler Dilts, a playwright and novelist best known for his ‘Long Beach Homicide’ series of detective novels, including the Edgar Award-nominated Come Twilight;
  • Isaac Guzman, a journalist who was Culture Editor at Time magazine and is now the founder of MexFlix, an online journal devoted to Latino film and culture;
  • Laurie Israel, an Emmy-nominated television writer who just won the 2017 Humanitas Prize in the Children’s Animation category for her work on Disney’s “Sofia the First;”
  • Francesca Lia Block, a Lifetime Achievement Award-winning author of more than 30 widely translated books of fiction, nonfiction, short stories, poetry and more;
  • Adam O’Riordan, a Somerset Maugham Award-winning poet and author of the short story collection The Burning Ground, set in Los Angeles;
  • Jessica Piazza, a poet, co-founder of Bat City Review and Gold Line Press, and professor of writing, rhetoric and critical thinking at USC;
  • Jessica Sharzer, an award-winning TV writer-producer and film screenwriter for Universal, HBO, MTV, Fox and Lionsgate, currently writing a Marvel movie for Sony; and
  • Damon Wayans, an acclaimed comedian, actor and screenwriter who has also written a novel, Red Hats.

About the MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary’s University
The two-year, 36-unit MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary's is an artist-training program for students who want to write professionally in the genres of novel, short story, playwriting, poetry, screenplay and creative nonfiction. With a hybrid teaching approach featuring weekend, evening and online courses, the program is ideal for working adults. The MFA offers a bilingual track in Spanish, as well as opportunities to take classes with the University’s MFA in Film, Television & Photography, and the MA in Humanities.

Watch a video about the MFA in Creative Writing program featuring students, faculty and alums, and learn more at msmu.edu/graduate-programs/creative-writing/.

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