Young Writers Camp To Hold Benefit Reading: Local Authors Raise Scholarship Funds for High School Playwriting Workshop

Young Writers Camp (YWC) – a 26-year-old program of the South Coast Writing Project (SCWriP) at UCSB – is holding a benefit reading on Monday, March 14 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the San Marcos High School cafeteria to raise scholarship funds for its first ever High School Playwriting Workshop.

The reading, co-sponsored by the San Marcos Writers’ Society, will feature several local and acclaimed authors: Amada Irma Perez, David Holmes, Val Hobbs, Jack Hobbs, Cynthia Carbone Ward, and Lori Anaya. In addition to being authors, all the readers are educators and fellows of  SCWriP. It will also feature two San Marcos students, Gabby Goldberg and Megan McQueen, reading their winning pieces from a Poetry Slam earlier this year.

The evening will be emceed by former San Marcos drama teacher Phil Levien, who along with David Holmes will be leading the Playwriting Workshop in the summer. For over 20 years, Levien and Holmes collaborated to lead a rich drama program at San Marcos, influencing hundreds of students–many of whom can be seen on the stages around town today. In 2014, both Levien and Holmes retired from full-time teaching to continue pursuing their respective acting careers.

“Over our many years working together, David and I witnessed the transformative, and at times even therapeutic, power that drama has for students,” commented Levien. “I feel a deep commitment to providing this experience to kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds, which is why the benefit is so important to me.”

Benefit attendees will be asked to pay a $25 donation at the door, which includes refreshments and a raffle ticket for various prizes, including signed copies of several of the authors’ works. Those who would like to donate separately to the program can also do so through the YWC 2016 GoFundMe campaign at

During the summer Playwriting Workshop, Levien and Holmes will lead up to 25 incoming 10-12 grade students through a three-week writing process in which every student will compose their own short play, participating in strategic theatre games and writing exercises to hone their craft. The Workshop will run Monday-Thursday July 11-July 28 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at UCSB. An early bird registration rate of $275 is available through April 30, after which the rate increases  to $295. Sibling discounts and scholarships are available. Applications can be downloaded at

About Young Writers Camp

Young Writers Camp, a program of the South Coast Writing Project (SCWriP) at UCSB, began in 1990 as a way to inspire a love of writing in youth and provide SCWriP fellows extended professional development opportunities in the summer. The camp has served thousands of children across the Central Coast, from Thousand Oaks to Santa Maria, providing a nurturing environment for students to grow their writing confidence and skills. Learn more at or at

About the Benefit Readers


Phil Levien

After graduating from Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, Philip Levien spent twenty years acting on stage and appearing in over 100 films and television shows. He then retired from Hollywood for twenty years and worked as a high school teacher in Santa Barbara, CA. During his time teaching English and Theatre Arts at San Marcos High School, he directed classic plays with English learners, at-risk youth, and special ed students, being recognized as a SB County Distinguished Educator, Carnegie Fellow, SCWriP Fellow, and the ADL’s Educator honoree. In June of 2014, he retired from his full time teaching position to return to acting.


David Holmes

A local celebrity in the Santa Barbara theatre world, David Holmes has lit up stages all over town, including the most recent production, ShakeSbeer, in September 2015. David has acted or directed in the Santa Barbara community since his arrival in 1980. He has directed 33 plays, 32 musicals, and 29 talent shows and has mentored around 185 one-act plays. Until his retirement in 2014 from teaching theatre for over 30 years at San Marcos High School, he served the Santa Barbara Unified School District as a member ofthe executive board of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and was on the executive board of the Santa Barbara Teachers Association. He became a SCWriP fellow in 2010. Believing that there are few things more essential to the development of our youth today than exposure to and involvement in the arts, David encourages a comprehensive arts curriculum for Kindergarten to grade 12 and serves as a member of the Granada Theatre Community Engagement Committee to represent the interests of the local high schools in partnership with the Granada organization.


Amada Irma Perez

Amada Irma Perez changed her life after more than 25 years of being a classroom teacher for kindergarten through university graduate classes when she wrote her first story during the 1998 South Coast Writing Project (SCWriP) Summer Institute at UCSB. With the encouragement of her fellow writers and then program director Sheridan Blau, she decided to publish it. My Very Own Room Mi Propio Cuartito (Children‘s Book Press, 2000) won numerous awards including the prestigious Tomas Rivera Children’s Book Award, and was inducted into the Latino Literature Archives of the University of Southwest Texas, San Marcos. It is given to every newborn in San Antonio, Texas through the Library Foundation‘s “Born to Read” program, and has sold more than fifty thousand copies. A leading advocate of programs encouraging multicultural understanding, her books explore universal themes. She has been a frequent presenter at local, state, national, and international conferences as well as visiting schools, libraries, community centers, and bookstores for many years offering writing workshops as well as motivational talks. Her other Children’s Book Press publications include My Diary from Here to ThereMi diario de aqui hasta alla and Nana’s Big Surprise -Nana, que sorpresa!


Valerie & Jack Hobbs

Valerie Hobbs did not set out to write novels for young adults, but ever since critics praised her 1995 coming-of-age story How Far Would You Have Gotten If I Hadn’t Called You Back?, she has been a respected author of fiction for teens. At the rate of approximately one book per year, Hobbs has crafted character-driven tales about young people on the verge of adulthood, forced to make serious decisions about the direction their lives will take. For many years Hobbs taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara, while also writing her books. More recently she has cut down on her teaching duties in order to have more time to work on novels. She also enjoys meeting students at seminars and school visits. Her husband, Jack Hobbs, is a legend in Santa Barbara in his own right, teaching for over 30 years at San Marcos High School and penning a variety of works in that time. Both Jack and Val are fellows of the South Coast Writing Project.  


Lori Anaya

Lori Anaya listened to her father tell stories while hiking California hills and wrote her first poem in fourth grade. She has been an elementary teacher for over 20 years, currently teaching 2nd grade  in Hueneme School District. She continues to write poetry, middle grade novels, and notes to self about future books and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and is a fellow of the South Coast Writing Project (SCWriP).


Cynthia Carbone Ward 

Cynthia is a teacher, editor, essayist, co-founder of the Gaviota Writers Group, and a fellow of the South Coast Writing Project. A regular contributor to the Santa Barbara Independent and various other publications, she is also the author of three books and the creator of an ongoing oral history website called The Living Stories Collective and a long-standing blog, Still Amazed. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she now lives on a cattle ranch on California’s central coast, a fact that amazes her daily.


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