2020 Writers' Room Program

The Sesame Workshop Writers’ Room is a summer-long writing intensive program for underrepresented writers interested in children’s media. The 2020 Writing Fellows will each develop and workshop their own original children’s television concept and script, with guidance from a wide range of industry leaders. Select fellows will have their work featured in a staged reading and will be awarded development deals from Sesame Workshop.

I absolutely loved this experience and I’m so inspired to keep pursuing children's media. If I have a career as a writer, I will have this program to thank for giving me the tools and confidence to tell these kinds of stories.

− Michael Rodriguez, 2018 Fellow

2020 Fellows

Ayub Arain|Chicago, IL

Ayub is a writer and educator who graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a focus in Children's Education and Entertainment. His work often delves into the untold stories of subcultures within the South Asian demographic. After working at The Second City and Melee Everyday, Ayub's ultimate goal is to find the silly in the serious by taking the unfamiliar and transforming it into something we can all understand a little better.

Harron Atkins|Brooklyn, NY

Harron is a writer/actor. He was a WGA Made in New York Writers Room fellow and he is currently a member of the Obie Award Winning playwrights group, Youngblood. His plays have been produced at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Tank, Dixon Place, and Two Headed Rep. Harron hopes to continue to use his writing to entertain, uplift, and inspire change in the world.

Saurin Choksi|New York, NY

Choksi grew up brown and hairy with gorgeous eyelashes. The closest representation he saw on TV was Mr. Snuffleupagus. Twenty odd years later, he became the first South Asian American to host a late-night television series--Fuse’s White Guy Talk Show. Choksi wrote for Refinery29’s After After Party, won the Boston Comedy Fest, and co-created Brown Privilege, a stand-up comedy showcase. He’s thrilled to create stories for the next generation of lil brown, hairy kids.

Ernesto Martinez|Eugene, OR

Ernesto is an award-winning writer and educator. His first short film, La Serenata, directed by Adelina Anthony, has earned multiple film festival awards and is now available on HBO. He began in children’s media as a mentee of Maya Gonzalez, with his book When We Love Someone We Sing to Them/ Cuando Amamos Cantamos, the first bilingual children’s book published in the United States about a boy who loves a boy.

Olivia Matthews|Clermont, FL

Olivia is a playwright and recent graduate of Ohio University, where she received her MFA in Playwriting. Her short plays have been performed in Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and New York City. Olivia’s work often explores family dynamics, the complexities of young women and teens, and the oddities and magic of The South.

Astride Noel|Dallas, GA

Astride is a writer, and she has worked with kids of all ages for over twenty years. She was a BlueCat Screenplay Award finalist for her coming-of-age feature, Girls Pull Hair. Her work focuses on inspiring young people of color to find their own voices and nourish their individuality. She's particularly interested in exploring perspective through storytelling, and she believes this is the key to bringing people together.

Llacey Simmons|Gaithersburg, MD

Llacey is a freelance marketing copywriter. Though she is new to screenplay writing, her unique style combines her love for teaching with her passion for expressing herself through words to create imaginative pieces that inspire audiences of all ages.

Everest Varanasi|Brooklyn, NY

Everest is an American born Singapore raised, screenwriter and filmmaker. After graduating from Columbia College in Chicago, he went on to gain his masters in screenwriting from University of the Arts, London. Now residing in Brooklyn, Everest focuses his efforts on creating diverse, exciting and educational children’s television, with a specific interest in crafting authentic queer and trans characters and storylines for LGBT+ young people of color.

2020 Speakers

LaToye AdamsWonderWhy Consulting LLC, President

LaToye is a researcher and consultant. Through WonderWhy Consulting, she drives a youth-centered design process by integrating formative research throughout the production life cycle for television content and educational technology. Throughout her career, LaToye has worked with leading producers and developers including Sesame Workshop, Nickelodeon, YouTube Originals, and Google. At Michael Cohen Group, LaToye served as Director of Research for Nickelodeon's Bubble Guppies and ushered new production teams at YouTube Originals Kids & Learning through the content research process. In addition, LaToye had the great joy of serving as the 2016-2018 National President of the Children’s Media Association.

Janice BurgessThe Backyardigans, Creator/Executive Producer

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.

Kim DiazSesame Workshop, Director of Production & Development

Kim has spent the past 13+ years in preschool television as a producer, development exec, writer, and (occasional) performer. In her current role, Kim oversees Sesame’s Creative Development pipeline, which includes original series, Sesame Street spinoffs, and animated specials for partners such as HBO Max and Apple TV+. She also runs shorts production and development for the Sesame Studios YouTube channel. Her award-winning work for Nick Jr, Sprout, and Sesame Workshop has also been nominated for 5 Daytime Emmys and has been featured in children’s film festivals across the globe.

Kerri GrantWriter/Story Editor/Executive Producer

Kerri started her children's media writing career as a script coordinator on the groundbreaking show The Backyardigans, which led to a Nickelodeon writing fellowship in Los Angeles. Post writing fellowship Kerri has become the writing professional she’s always wanted to be. She was a staff writer on Doc McStuffins, for which she won the prestigious Peabody Award, Humanitas Prize, NAACP Image Award, Sentinel Award, and NAMIC Award, and a six-time Emmy Award nominee. Kerri has also been a staff writer on Disney’s Elena of Avalor and Mira, Royal Detective and served as co-story editor on Nickelodeon’s Nella the Princess Knight. She’s written for a plethora of other animated shows as a freelance writer and now she is the Story Editor/Co-Executive Producer on an unannounced Netflix animated show.

Ron HolseyHead Writer/Executive Producer

Ron has over a decade of experience in children’s television, having written more than 100 episodes for series on Nickelodeon, PBS Kids, Universal Kids, Cartoon Network, Disney, Amazon, the BBC and HBO. He was co-story editor for the hit Nick Jr. series Nella the Princess Knight, head writer for PBS Kids interactive series Scribbles and Ink and is currently in production on a new series he developed for a major streaming service. Ron won a Daytime Emmy for writing on Sesame Street and has been nominated for three additional Daytime Emmys for writing on Sesame Street, Odd Squad and Martha Speaks.

Susan KimSesame Workshop Writers' Room Instructor

Susan is a TV writer, YA and graphic novel author, documentary producer, and playwright. She has been a writer, story editor, and/or head writer for more than four dozen children’s series in the US and abroad, including Hello Ninja!, Welcome to the Wayne, Astroblast, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Wonder Pets!, Reading Rainbow, Arthur, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Cyberchase, Octonauts, Speed Racer, Allegra's Window, Gullah Gullah Island, and Handy Manny. She has been nominated for the Emmy six times and the Writers Guild award four times.

Karen KirklandCulture Creative Entertainment, Literary Agent and Founding Partner

Over the past 27 years, Karen has been involved in various aspects of the film and television industry; stemming from an independent producing background, she has been nominated for multiple MTV Music Video Awards, won an NAACP Image Award for Video of the Year, and served as the producer of the LA Film Festival. Formerly, as the VP of the Nickelodeon Writing Program, Karen spent 13+ years identifying, developing and staffing writing talent. Karen is an international speaker and has been a judge for numerous screenwriting award competitions including the BANFF World Media Festival, the UCLA Screenwriter’s Showcase and the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition. In 2017, Karen founded The Breakk; a 3-day creative retreat that brings female television writers together with top entertainment execs and working industry professionals.

Tim McKeonHelpsters, Creator/Executive Producer

Tim is a five-time Emmy winning writer and producer. He is creator, executive producer and head writer for the Sesame Workshop live-action show Helpsters, which premiered in 2019 on Apple TV+. Prior to that, Tim co-created and was head writer and executive producer for PBS Kids’ Odd Squad. He has also worked extensively in animation, having written on such shows as Disney’s Gravity Falls and Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. He likes national parks and pie.

Chris NeeDoc McStuffins, Creator/Executive Producer

Peabody, Humanitas and Emmy Award-winner Chris Nee is the creator and executive producer of Peabody Award-winning series Doc McStuffins. She also developed for television and executive produced the hit animated series Vampirina. Chris has received multiple Emmy Award nominations for writing and won an Emmy in 2002 for her work on Little Bill. Chris began her career as an associate producer at Sesame Street International. She has signed a multiyear overall deal with Netflix to write and produce across live action, animation, kids, teens and adults. Chris’ production company, Laughing Wild, is focused on producing up and coming talent with diverse points of view.

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. He became the Head Writer of Sesame Street in 2015 and has also served in that capacity for five Sesame Street specials, as well as for The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo, which debuts in May 2020. He serves as Executive Producer and Head Writer of the Amazon series If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. He has received multiple Primetime and Daytime Emmy Awards for his work.

Ligiah VillalobosGo, Diego! Go!, Head Writer

Ligiah is a writer, producer, consultant, educator and lecturer. She was the head writer on the Nickelodeon animated children’s show, Go, Diego! Go!, which became the first preschool show to beat Dora the Explorer off the #1 spot. She was a cultural consultant on the Academy Award-winning Pixar movie, Coco. She is best known for the indie hit film Under the Same Moon, (La Misma Luna), which she wrote and executive produced. More recently, she wrote on two Netflix animated children's series, Super Monsters Monster Pets and StarBeam. She is currently writing a one-hour drama for HBO Max and an animated children's series for Sesame Workshop. Koati, a feature animated film which she co-wrote and is an associate producer on, is currently in production.