Born in a shack in Mexico and crossing the border at nine and a half, author Reyna Grande said her childhood inspired her to believe in the power of stories. At the Living Writer Series, Grande shared her history and the path she took to becoming a successful author.

Featured every quarter at UC Santa Cruz, the Living Writer Series invites writers from different walks of life to share their story with students similarly passionate about writing.

The winter quarter series will feature exclusively UCSC alumni, including creative writers, journalists, editors and poets.

Grande, a writer with an unique story to share, kicked off the first winter quarter Living Writer Series lecture on Jan. 9 at the Humanities Lecture Hall. Grande’s difficult past became motivation for her writing career, and her experiences are featured in her first novel, “Across a Hundred Mountains.”

“Not only do we heal ourselves in the telling of stories,” Grande said, “but we also encourage others to tell their own stories.”

Grande recalls listening to the Living Writer Series as a student at UCSC and was excited to be given the opportunity to speak at the school she considers home.

“It is definitely rewarding to be the one sharing my story,” Grande said.

Micah Perks, co-director of UCSC’s creative writing program and Reyna Grande’s former professor, helped create the Living Writer Series to help students find encouragement from current successful writers — often UCSC alumni.

“We started the Living Writer Series 10 years ago as a small venture,” Perks said. “It is now connected to every creative writing class, so there are between 150 and 200 students here, creating a community of writers at UCSC.”

A transfer student at UCSC in 1996, Grande attended Perks’ creative writing class, where Perks helped her write her senior thesis, which became Grande’s first novel.

“Reyna’s story is refreshing and inspiring, and I hope students will listen to her story along with the stories of the upcoming speakers and find inspiration,” Perks said.

Adri Gonsalves and Jacob Block, fourth-year UCSC students and interns for the creative writing program, spoke after the lecture about the series.

“I want students to be engaged, and not think of this as some stuffy lecture,” Gonsalves said.

Block expressed a similar sentiment.

“This is an opportunity a lot of people don’t get, and I want to help people understand early how great this is,” Block said.

Block and Gonsalves find inspiration from the series but also from the creative writing staff at UCSC.

“When I decided I wanted to go into creative writing, I got really lucky because of the amazing staff at UCSC.” Block said. “They’re great at making me feel like creative writing is something I can and should do.”




Jan. 23 — Writer and performer Beth Lisick


Jan. 30 — Fantasy writer Rachel Swirsky, author and illustrator Sina Grace


Feb. 6 — Panel of Editors: managing editor of The Rumpus Zoë Ruiz, current Managing Editor of Catamaran Literary Reader and Senior Editor of the Chicago Quarterly Review Elizabeth McKenzie, one of the creators of the Peabody Award winning Onion News Network web series Daniel Mirk


Feb. 13 — Panel of Journalists: Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press National Writer Martha Mendoza, a correspondent for The Washington Post Nick Miroff, Time magazine’s Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Michael Scherer


Feb. 27 — Poets Sesshu Foster and Angel Dominguez


March 6 — Novelist Molly Antopol