2017 Writers' Room Program

The Sesame Street Writers’ Room fellowship had its inaugural year in 2017, with eight talented writers chosen from over 800 applicants from all across the United States. During a six-week period, the writing fellows heard from a wide range of children’s media industry leaders, while developing and workshopping their own original sample scripts. The fellowship concluded with a staged reading from selected fellows who were also awarded Creative Development Deals.

Here’s a program that’s actually making deals—that’s when it matters.

− Chris Nee, Creator/Executive Producer of Doc McStuffins

2017 Fellows

Sarina Bajwa|New York, NY

Sarina is a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University and she has always channeled her creativity, whether as a first grade teacher or a K-12 youth program activist.

Joon Chung|Staten Island, NY

Joon is a comedian who studied at the University of Michigan, but his passion for storytelling led him to performing and writing. He received a grant from Staten Island Arts for his web series We Love Our Customers. Joon hopes to create lasting characters he wished he could've seen growing up.

Ariana Espirtu|San Francisco, CA

Ariana is a writer, editor, and researcher. Since attending the University of California, Irvine, her work has largely focused on demystifying health information, covering topics such as mental health and sex education. She also wrote Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, an educational play about math geared towards fourth to eighth graders.

Monique Hall|Paterson, NJ

Monique is a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her interests lie at the intersection of media, learning, design, and storytelling. She hopes to write stories that are both delightful and meaningful in their representation of voices that don’t often get heard.

Keion Jackson|Port Allen, LA

Keion is an author, playwright, and filmmaker, with a degree from Clark Atlanta University. His work made the rounds at film festivals, and his most recent stage play was performed Off-Broadway. Keion’s goal is to make people laugh, feel good, and remember the things in life that matter most.

Jehan Madhani|Houston, TX

Jehan is a recent graduate of Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She wrote a thesis about romantic comedies and animated a short film about a small frog, FrogBoy. Alongside her studies, Jehan performed sketch comedy.

Rebecca Nichloson|New York, NY

Rebecca is the author of over a dozen creative works and the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including an America-in-Play fellowship, two Many Voices Fellowships, and a Liberace Award. She holds an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Columbia University, an M.A. in English Literature, and a B.A. in Liberal Arts/Business Administration.

Joy Regullano|Los Angeles, CA

Joy has performed on improv and sketch house teams around LA at UCB, Second City Hollywood, and iO West and had one of her original sketch shows picked up for a run at UCB Franklin. Her writing has placed in the Page Awards Top 25 comedy pilots and WeScreenplay Diverse Voices finals.

2017 Speakers

Latoye AdamsResearcher in Media and Educational Technology

LaToye drives a youth-centered design process by integrating formative research throughout the production lifecycle for television content, educational technology and virtual reality. She has collaborated with teams at Nickelodeon, Michael Cohen Group, LLC (MCG), Sesame Workshop and Google. At MCG, she was the Director of Research for Nickelodeon’s Bubble Guppies. She was awarded the Fred Rogers Center’s Early Career Fellowship to conceptualize and test mobile apps for underserved families. LaToye has the great joy of serving as President of the non-profit organization Children’s Media Association.

Erica Branch-RidleyHITN Learning, VP of Creative Development and Production

Two-time Emmy Award winning Erica Branch-Ridley oversees multi-platform approaches to learning for preschoolers at Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (HITN). Her work combines touchscreen apps and games with traditional learning methods, to address the academic and socio-emotional needs for young Hispanic chidren and their families. Prior to HITN, Erica worked at Sesame Workshop, where she led digital strategy for the children’s TV show The Electric Company. Erica was also Sr. Producer at Nickelodeon Online where she created the first fully interactive experiences for Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer.

Janice BurgessThe Backyardigans, Creator

Janice created and served as executive producer of the Emmy Award winning preschool series The Backyardigans for Nickelodeon. As an executive-in‐charge of production and then Vice President at Nick Jr., she oversaw the production of Peabody and Emmy Award-winning Nick Jr. shows including Blue’s Clues, Little Bill and Whoopi’s Littleburg. In 2015 ‐ 2016, Janice served as Executive Consultant for DreamWorks Animation Television. Her latest project is Enchanting Leela, in development with Canadian animation studio Nelvana Ltd.

Koyalee ChandaWallykazam!, Co‐Executive Producer

Koyalee is a seven‐time Emmy nominated producer, director and writer. She is the Creator and Executive Producer of an animated series currently in development with Dreamworks Animation based on Where’s Waldo? Previously, she was the Co‐Executive Producer of Nickelodeon’s hit series Wallykazam! Prior to that, she produced the pilot for the now hit series Odd Squad. For Sesame Street, Koyalee developed, produced and directed multiple seasons of the What’s the Word on the Street? Koyalee’s first job out of college was on the ground‐breaking series Blue’s Clues, and she began directing the series at the age of 23.

Nina CrewsThe Neighborhood Mother Goose, Children’s Book Author/Illustrator

Nina has written and illustrated many energetic stories for young children including The Neighborhood Mother Goose and Below – both ALA Notable selections. Her books have been recognized by the Cooperative Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild, and Bank Street College of Education. Her most recent books are The Neighborhood Sing-Along and Jack and the Beanstalk. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.

Ron HolseyMartha Speaks, Odd Squad, Writer

An award‐winning playwright and two‐time Emmy nominee, Ron has written more than 70 episodes of television for series including Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Big Time Rush, Martha Speaks, Curious George, Arthur, Johnny Test, Wallykazam!, Nina’s World, Odd Squad, Miles from Tomorrowland, Elena of Avalor, The Furchester Hotel and Sesame Street. He has developed original series for several kids’ networks and is currently writing for several new animated series premiering in 2017. Ron is an alum of the Nickelodeon Writing Program and was in the inaugural group of the Emerging Writers Program at Terra Firma Films.

Julie Kane-RitschThe Gotham Group, Talent Manager/Head of Animation and Family Entertainment

Julie represents successful series creators, Emmy award winning writers, directors, and composers, New York Times Bestselling authors, and fresh new voices. Her clients include series creators Butch Hartman, The Fairly Odd Parents; Chris Nee, Doc McStuffins; Daron Nefcy, Star vs. the Forces of Evil; Nadine van der Velde and Scott Kraft, The Fresh Beat Band; Jennifer Oxley, Peg + Cat; Sascha Paladino, Miles from Tomorrowland; and Carl Greenblatt, Harvey Beaks. Julie's literary clients include New York Times Bestselling authors Tony DiTerlizzi and Jim Benton and award winning author/illustrator Brom.

Susan KimCreative Galaxy, Head Writer

Susan is the Writing Workshop Facilitator for the inaugural 2017 Sesame Street Writers’ Room. She is a TV writer, author, documentary producer, and playwright. She has written for or story edited more than four dozen children’s series in the US and abroad, including Wonder Pets!, Reading Rainbow, Arthur, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Cyberchase, Octonauts, Speed Racer, Pocoyo, Handy Manny, the upcoming Welcome to the Wayne on Nickelodeon. Most recently, Susan was made head writer for the upcoming season of Creative Galaxy on Amazon. She has been nominated for the Emmy and Writers Guild award four times.

Chris NeeDoc McStuffins, Creator/Executive Producer

Peabody, Humanitas and Emmy Award‐winner Chris Nee is the creator and executive producer of Disney Junior's Peabody Award‐winning series Doc McStuffins. She is also executive producer of Disney Junior's upcoming animated series Vampirina. Chris has received multiple Emmy Award nominations for writing and won an Emmy in 2002 for her work on Little Bill, based on the children's books by Bill Cosby. Other writing credits include American Dragon: Jake Long, Johnny and the Sprites, Higglytown Heroes, The Backyardigans and Olivia. Chris began her career as an associate producer at Sesame Street International.

Adam PeltzmanWallykazam!, Creator

Adam is a three‐time Emmy award winning writer and producer. He is the co-creator of the PBS series, Odd Squad, and the creator of the Nickelodeon series, Wallykazam! He’s been a head writer of several other award‐winning shows, including The Electric Company, The Backyardigans and Blue's Clues. Adam lives in Brooklyn, New York. He's pretty good at ping pong, and just okay at ending bios.

Maria Perez-BrownGullah Gullah Island, Executive Producer

Named one of the most powerful women and minorities in the cable industry for 2012 and 2011 by Cable Fax Magazine, Maria has over 20 years of experience developing and producing content for leading brands including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., ABC, CBS, and NuvoTV. She was the creator and executive producer of critically acclaimed Taina. She also created the landmark pre‐school series Gullah Gullah Island, which TV Guide recognized as one of the nation’s “top 10 television shows”. Most recently, Maria was CEO of Zwoosh Media, a company that specializes in producing children’s content across linear and digital platforms.

Ken ScarboroughSesame Street, Head Writer

Ken’s head writing credits include Curious George, Martha Speaks, Pocoyo, Arthur, and Doug. He served as a staff writer on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. For Sesame Workshop, Ken developed Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventures. He serves as Executive Producer and Head Writer of the Amazon series If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, which premieres in 2017. Other writing credits include Between the Lions and The Adventures of Pete & Pete. He has received four Emmy awards for his work and six further nominations.

Rosemarie T. Truglio, Ph.D.Sesame Street, SVP of Curriculum and Content

Rosemarie is the Senior Vice President of Curriculum and Content at Sesame Workshop. She is responsible for the development of the interdisciplinary curriculum on which Sesame Street is based and oversees content development across platforms (e.g., television, publishing, toys, home video, and theme park activities). She is also responsible for curriculum development for all Creative Development properties. Previously, Rosemarie managed an interdisciplinary global content team responsible for all global co‐productions and content development across all media platforms, including digital media.

Ligiah VillalobosGo, Diego! Go!, Head Writer

Ligiah was the Head Writer on the Nickelodeon animated children’s show, Go, Diego! Go!, which became the first show to beat Dora the Explorer off the #1 spot. She also wrote several episodes and helped Brandissimo! in the development of the TLC animated series Big Foot Presents: Meteor and the Mighty Monster Trucks. More recently, Ligiah is the Writer/Executive Producer of the indie hit film Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna). She is currently developing a TV pilot based on the NY Times bestseller, The Dirty Girls Social Club, and an animated feature film she wrote titled, Koati, is currently in production.