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About the Series

Ada Limon at end of her reading October 7 2015  Christopher Moore at MPC 3

As participants in The MPC Guest Authors Series, accomplished writers of poetry and prose come to our main campus in Monterey or connect with us online for public readings and discussions of writing and literature with MPC students.

Supported by The MPC Creative Writing Program, English Department, and Humanities Division, as well as The MPC Foundation and The Arts Council for Monterey County, the Series typically presents two Guest Authors each academic year, one in the Fall and one in the Spring semester.

Further enhancing the vibrant and inspiring Creative Writing environment at MPC, the Series offers extraordinary opportunity for those who pursue their own writing interest by way of our multi-genre Creative Writing curriculum to meet with and learn from diverse literary artists of consummate skill.

To ensure that you receive notice of upcoming author events, please send your email address to Series Director Henry Marchand of the Creative Writing Program at:


Susan Orlean

susan-orlean-by-gaspar-tringale-1 Best-selling author of The Library Book, The Orchid Thief, The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup, and My Kind of Place as well as hundreds of stories about people, places, and events that have appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and other top publications, Susan Orlean met with students, faculty, staff and community members via Zoom in April 2020 for a discussion of her published work and her writing process. This was the author's second Guest Authors Series appearance; she visited campus in March 2018 for a wide-ranging talk about writing Creative Nonfiction, during which she emphasized that the essence of journalism is curiosity, and that beginning from a position of ignorance about the subject is not a weakness for the writer, but provides a potentially limitless opportunity to learn.

The audience at both events had many questions about researching, drafting and revising stories, and her answers offered invaluable insight into the writing of creative nonfiction (aka Literary Journalism or Narrative Nonfiction). For video of the 2018 event, including the Q & A, click the author's name above her picture.

Victoria Chang


Victoria Chang read from and discussed her poetry in the Karas Room on Thursday, October 4, 2019. Author of multiple poetry collections, a picture book for children, and a verse novel for middle grade readers, Ms. Chang met with students in Brandi Kary's ENGL 53: Poetry Writing the evening before, and with Henry Marchand's ENGL 31: Introduction to Creative Writing on Thursday afternoon. At each event, she shared her experience of writing and publishing, and answered questions from students. At the Thursday evening public reading and discussion, she read from her books Barbie Chang; OBITS; and Love Love.

Winner of many awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Ms. Chang works with a team to run Antioch University’s low-residency Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Program and co-coordinates the Idyllwild Writers Week.  She also serves on the National Book Critics Circle Board.


Nick Taylor

Nick Taylor, March 2019

Novelist Nick Taylor, who writes historical fiction and (as T.T. Monday) mystery fiction, discussed the writing of genre fiction in in the Karas Room on March 14, 2019, and earlier in the day met with students for a conversation about his work and the process by which writers can maximize their chances of finding a literary agent -- and seeing their work in print. Mr. Taylor emphasized that a writer must first write something good, then decide which reading audience would most appreciate it: is it best described as a Young Adult novel? Is it Horror? Romance? Hard Boiled Detective fiction? When the genre has been identified, the search for an agent who might represent the work can begin. A good way to focus the search for an agent, Mr. Taylor said, is to look at published authors' Acknowledgments pages in their books; writers will always thank their agents, so if you write Horror, for example, look for the names of agents in Horror writers' Acknowledgments, then find their web sites.

After the Karas Room discussion, Mr. Taylor signed copies of his novels for audience members. He also donated a copy of each to the Circulatiing Collection of the campus library.

Tara Goedjen

Tara GoedjenOn October 26, 2017, Tara Goedjen read from her chilling Young Adult novel, The Breathless, which tells the tale of the Cole family of Blue Gate Manor, an old plantation house near Mobile Bay in Alabama. Lost love, festering hate, and the supernatural combine as a mysterious death plunges the Coles and those around them into a contemporary gothic tale that is at once romantic and deeply unsettling. The Karas Room audience had many questions for the author about the publishing industry today, and how an aspiring novelist might find success in finding an agent, a publisher, and an audience. For video of the event, including the Q & A, click the author's name above her picture.

Earlier in the day, Tara met with Henry Marchand's ENGL 31: Introduction to Creative Writing class for discussion of her work and experience. Class members learned, among other things, that the author almost completely scrapped the first draft of the novel and ultimately revised it seven times before publication. The author also revealed that she is presently writing her next novel, a science fiction tale set near a U.S. military base in Southern California's Mojave Desert.

Benjamin Percy


Werewolves and demons, secret agents and superheroes. Novels, short stories, screenplays and comic books. Benjamin Percy has never met a storytelling medium he doesn't like, and his imagination doesn't recognize any limits, either. Author of Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction  (required reading in MPC Creative Writing classes) as well as the Green Arrow and James Bond comics, collections of short stories and novels including The Dark Net, Red Moon, The Wilding and The Dead Lands, Ben joined us in the Karas Room on Wednesday, May 12, 2017 for a talk about writing fiction called "Thrill Me: The Art of Suspense and Momentum." Illuminating the process of writing stories that readers can't stop reading with examples of dynamic structure from his own books as well as movies, TV series and the work of a wide range of writers, Ben gave the standing-room crowd a mini-course in narrative craft -- then answered audience questions about writing and signed dozens of copies of his books. The event was recorded but is not available on YouTube; the MPC library and the Creative Writing Program lending library in HSS104 have DVDs you can borrow.

 Jeff Maysh

Jeff Maysh

Journalist Jeff Maysh specializes in long-form narrative nonfiction -- meticulously researched and vividly written stories -- about scams, cons and criminals. Want to know about "The Pez Outlaw" who made millions in the black market for Pez candy dispensers? "The Bombshell Bandit" who had a run of successful bank robberies? The "Cheerleader Mom" who assumed her daughter's identity to join a high school cheer squad? Jeff's written about them all, for top magazines including The Atlantic, Smithsonian and Vanity Fair.

His most recent works are available as e-books from Amazon -- learn about one of history's most flamboyant con artists, "The Handsome Devil" who sold the Eiffel Tower to scrap metal dealers (twice!), and "The Spy With No Name," who posed as a woman's long-lost son to position himself for the theft of British and American military secrets.

On March 15, 2017, Jeff talked about his writing process and the stories he's written, read excerpts from his work, and answered audience questions about today's journalism and publishing in the Almaden Room at the Student Center. Earlier in the day, he met with Henry Marchand's Creative Nonfiction Class (ENGL 52, offered every spring semester) for an informative conversation about the craft and business of writing marketable narrative nonfiction.

Tess Taylor

 Tess Taylor color photo

On Thursday, May 24, 2016, poet Tess Taylor read from her most recent collection, the widely-acclaimed Work & Days, in the Almaden Room at the Student Center.

Micah Perks

Micah Perks Color Photo

Novelist Micah Perks read from her new book, What Becomes Us, on Thursday November 17 in the Karas Room at the LTC (campus library.

Laurie R. King

 Laurie R. King photo

On Thursday, May 24, 2016, mystery novelist Laurie R. King read from The Murder of Mary Russell, the latest in her Mary Russell series, and from a pair of works-in-progress in the Karas Room of the campus library.

Ada Limon

Ada Limon October 7 15 at MPC

Ada Limón read from her newest book of poems, the National Book Award finalist Bright Dead Things, before a capacity crowd in the Karas Room in an evening event on October 17, 2015. This event (and other Guest Authors Series events) can be seen in its entirety online. Earlier in the day, Ms. Limón spoke with MPC students during Henry Marchand's ENGL 51: Fiction Writing class, and on Tuesday evening, she visited Brandi Kary's ENGL 53: Poetry Writing, where she spoke of her writing career and read from her four books.


Joyce Carol Oates (credit Michel Spingler) Joyce Carol Oates read her masterful short story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" in the MPC Theatre on March 26, 2015, noting that she had previously read it at a public event only once, and that its working title was "Death and the Maiden." Of the story's mesmerizing and horrible antagonist, Arnold Friend, Ms. Oates noted his origin in an actual murderer, "The Pied Piper of Tucson," of whom she read in the early '60s while living in Detroit, Michigan. Fascinated by the killer's ability to win the trust and loyalty of Tucson's teenagers away from their parents, the writer was led to explore the power and allure of evil within and among human beings. Responding to audience questions, Ms. Oates also mentioned that one of her lesser-known novels, What I Lived For, remains among her personal favorites -- and that in re-reading her works she does indeed find things she'd do differently if writing them now. ("I edited ['Where Are you Going, Where Have You Been?'] while I was reading it for you just now!" she said.)


.Novelist Okey Ndibe, Spring 2015 Guest AuthorNovelist Okey Ndibe (Arrows of Rain; Foreign Gods, Inc.) demonstrated the art of storytelling and discussed the importance of finding your voice as a citizen during a dynamic, interactive discussion with the audience in Lecture        Forum 103 Acknowledging that the role of activist writers  in Africa, (focusing in particular on his own birthplace,  Nigeria) is both imperative and perilous, he noted the jailing of prominent Nigerian literary figures including Wole Soyinka and the execution of others (including Ken Saro-Wiwa). But despite the dangers, he said, it is a human duty to speak out in the face of tyranny. His novels and weekly column about Nigeria's politics and problems  show his commitment to that duty.


  On October 1, 2014, Montana Poet Laureate Tami Haaland read from her books and new, unpublished work in the Karas Room of the campus library. Earlier in the day, Ms. Haaland yalked with the students in Henry Marchand's ENGL 31: Introduction to Creative Writing class, and she also met with Brandi Kary's ENGL 53: Poetry Wrfiting class the evening before. After the reading, the Poet Laureate, who is also Chair of the Department of English, Philosophy and Languages at the University of Montana - Billings,  answered audience questions about her writing and the writing of poetry in general. She then signed copies of her books, When We Wake in the Night and Breath in Every Room, which were available for purchase. Watch for an interview with Tami Haaland in the next issue of Scheherazade, and enjoy her reading in its entirety on the MPC Guest Authors Series YouTube channel by clicking on her name above.



Craig Johnson Close Up 2 March 19 2014 On March 29, 2014 a packed house at the Monterey Peninsula College Theatre enjoyed the tale-telling talents of best-selling novelist Craig Johnson, whose Sheriff Walt Longmire mysteries combine compelling characters, an evocative Wyoming setting and engaging plots -- spiced with true-to-life dialogue and humor.

Mr. Johnson read from the upcoming tenth novel in the series and spoke of the changes wrought on his life by the success of the books and the hit television series, Longmire, based on his work. He also answered questions from the audience about his writing process, the differences in the novels and tv series, and more.

The event can be seen in its entirety via The MPC Guest Authors Series on YouTube.

Earlier in the day, Craig Johnson met with MPC students to discuss the writing of fiction and his own writing experiences. 

Craig Johnson speaks with MPC students March 19 2014Students respond to Craig Johnson

Among the advice Mr. Johnson offered to fiction writers was to make use of a key phrase in seeking information needed to make your stories credible and convincing: "Tell me a little about yourself." He explained that in writing the first Walt Longmire novel, The Cold Dish, he realized that he knew little about the work of a Sheriff in Wyoming; he sought out such a Sheriff and... the stories are certainly credible and convincing. Likewise, in writing the novella The Spirit of Steamboat (selected as the first ever "Wyoming Reads" book, to be read and discussed statewide in libraries and schools), he needed to learn about vintage airplanes and flying. And so, he found a pilot who had the experience and knowledge he needed. (Of course he also read copiously about the subjects.)

Asked if he writes at any particular time of day, Mr. Johnson said that writing is best done when the energy is there, when it must be done. Still, he does have a fairly regular schedule, given that he is a rancher and must rise before sunup to care for his animals. Thereafter, he returns to the house and can begin writing (after brewing the coffee).

Finally, on the question of whether he outlines his novels before writing them, the author said he does so, invariably. "That's not to say that you don't make alterations along the way," he added. "You might think you know exactly how things are going to go, but things can happen in the writing that take you a new way." In the end, he said, writers only know what their stories are all about when they have written them. Writing is a process of discovery; first for the writer and then for the reader.

Learn more about Craig Johnson and his works, including the May 2014 release Any Other Name, at

 To receive email notification of upcoming Guest Authors Series events, please email



HillmanPhotoNEW  Poet Brenda Hillman read from her work and shared her advocacy of poetry as an essential art with an appreciative audience in the Karas Room of the campus library on Thursday, October 24 2013.

With the recent completion of her four book series inspired by the elements earth, air, water and fire, Ms. Hillman read poems from these and other collections -- and also read the poem "Earthrise" by area writer Niklas Spitz from Issue 3 of Scheherazade, The MPC Literary Magazine.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Hillman met with MPC students and faculty for an informal discussion of poetry and creative writing in general. She said that she believes poetry grows from the inherent human need to explore the mystery of existence, and that the sometimes disjointed or fragmentary effects achieved in Modern poetry reflect the poet's individual experience of existence -- "We think in fragments," she said, and a subjective, free-associative quality is to be expected in poetry as it is in thinking and experience.

Brenda Hillman's visit to MPC was made possible by the MPC Humanities Division and English Department; the MPC Creative Writing Program; The MPC Foundation; and The Arts Council for Monterey County.

Click the poet's name above for video of Brenda Hillman's Guest Authors Series appearance at MPC!


Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore had a packed Lecture Forum audience laughing for two solid hours on Wednesday, April 24 2013 as he recounted the origins of many of his thirteen wildly imaginative novels.

The author also revealed that his next novel, The Serpent of Venice, takes Pocket, the title character of a previous novel (Fool) from King Lear's England to Venice; there the wily, profane fool meets characters from other Shakespeare plays, notably Othello and The Merchant of Venice. (The novel was published in April 2014.)



The audience, which included devoted fans from as far away as Riverside, Sacramento and San Jose,

also learned that Moore will write a sequel to his novel A Dirty Job -- and then he signed every book presented to him for his signature, chatting and laughing with all. 


Click here for video of this MPC Guest Authors Series event!

Earlier in the day, Christopher Moore met with MPC students for a conversation of the novelist's craft.


His advice included:

Write in scenes, each scene contributing to the advancement of the story. Know what every character in your novel wants -- this isn't knowledge the reader necessarily needs, but if you know it and keep it in mind your characters will behave appropriately in whatever situation the story presents.

And, if your story's premise is not entirely in keeping with reality as you and your readers know it (think of novels by, oh, Christopher Moore), it will work if it remains true to its own internal logic -- and for that to happen, you must first commit to the premise completely.

Learn more about Christopher Moore at


Jane Smiley photograph, from her web siteOn April 19, 2012 one of the nation's most celebrated literary artists read from her fiction and discussed novel writing at a Series event in the campus Lecture Forum. A northern California resident and recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature, Jane Smiley read from recent novels for adult and young adult readers, and from her book about long-form fiction, 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.

The event was recorded by AMP Media of Monterey, and can be viewed here.



Aimee Bender, March 15 2012, for web page Every seat in the Sam Karas Room was filled on March 15, 2012 for novelist/short story writer Aimee Bender's appearance. The audience enjoyed the author's reading of her own take on Charles Perrault's classic fairy tale, "Donkey Skin" -- Aimee's story appears in an anthology of "updated fairy tales" titled, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me.


A lively and inspiring discussion of fiction writing followed the reading, and Aimee signed copies of her books for many in attendance.

Visit Aimee Bender's web site:


Peter Chilson photo sized for web pages

    The Spring 2011 Guest Author was Peter Chilson, author of the award-winning travel memoir Riding the Demon: On the Road in West Africa and the short fiction collection Disturbance-Loving Species.






Tess Taylor


The Fall 2010 Guest Author was:

Tess Taylor, Poet, Author of The Forage House 







  Jennifer Gilmore for web page


The Spring 

2010 Guest Author was

Jennifer Gilmore, Novelist

Author of The Mothers; Something Red; The Golden Country




The MPC Guest Authors Series gratefully acknowledges the support of the

MPC Creative Writing Program, English Department, and Humanities Division.

Additional support is provided by The MPC Foundation.

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