Previous Writers' Room Programs

The Sesame Workshop Writers’ Room fellowship program debuted in 2017. Since then, we’ve selected 31 writers from across the United States to work with and mentor in-house, while also connecting them to the wider children’s media industry. Many fellows have gone on to develop their own concepts with Sesame Workshop, as well as write for Sesame Street and various programs at Nickelodeon, Disney, DreamWorks, and more.

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

− Chris Nee, Creator/Executive Producer of Doc McStuffins

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.

2019 Fellows

Travis Gregory|St. Louis, MO

Travis is a comedian and writer who studied at the University of Missouri and has appeared on The Adam Carolla Show and The Koy Pond with Jo Koy. After working as a legislative consultant in Ferguson, MO, he co-founded a digital platform for unsung community artists and comedians of color in St. Louis. His passion is using satire to tell the stories of the hidden figures that history has forgotten.

Malik Isasis|Brooklyn, NY

Malik is an award-winning writer and director based in Brooklyn. He has written and directed several short films and three features, and he is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective. He believes that films redefine personal identity, counter prevailing cultural stereotypes, and conceive new directions for the future.

Mylo Lam|Los Angeles, CA

Mylo is an educator, writer, poet, and performer. A graduate of UCLA and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Mylo creates stories about and for people of color. He hopes to contribute to the kinds of children’s media that left an indelible mark on him as a kid - ones that inspire children to look at their own world in new and inventive ways. His poems can be read on the upcoming issues of Barrelhouse and The Coachella Review.

Utkarsh Rajawat|Astoria, NY

Utkarsh is a writer/performer who likes theater, sketch comedy, and TV. He's performed with the PIT, Magnet, and Boogiemanja, and was a Princess Grace Award Finalist for playwriting in 2018. He wants to make immersive, empowering, representative work, and also jokes!

Kayla Skipper|Oswego, NY

Kayla is a freelance writer and a production assistant in film and TV. She is a graduate of Newhouse at Syracuse University where she received her Masters in Television, Radio, and Film. Kayla enjoys working and volunteering with children at church, summer camps, and other organizations. She hopes to write stories and create characters that especially highlight the “Quiet Awesomeness” of introvert kids.

Pilot Viruet|Astoria, NY

Pilot is a culture writer and editor living in Queens, New York. Their work has appeared in The New York Times, Vulture, VICE, The Atlantic, and more. Pilot's career emphasizes reporting on diversity, representation, and inclusion.

Ryan Willard|New York, NY

Ryan is a filmmaker, actor and host. His award-winning short film, Quantum, has screened at more than 20 festivals worldwide. He began in children’s media on Wee Sing in Sillyville, was on-air talent at Nickelodeon, and currently commentates professional table tennis matches for USATT. Ryan co-produced the feature film, Safe Spaces, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

Jebby Zhang|Fremont, CA

Jebby is animated filmmaker and storyteller. She graduated from CalArts with a degree in character animation. Her goal is to make diverse, humorous, and empathetic content for kids. Her dream is to have her nephews brag about her on the playground.

2018 Fellows

Nayna Agrawal|North Hollywood, CA

Featured in Variety's "100 Writers to Watch" (2015), Nayna is a former NYC investment analyst, SF community foundation VP, DC legislative writer and Asia-based international aid director in anti-trafficking initiatives. In 2017, in addition to being a Moving Arts Theater fellow and a video game writer, she was a finalist for Screenwriters Colony, the O'Neil Playwrights Conference, the PlayPenn fellowship and the Stella Adler playwright-in-residence.

Sara El-Behiri|New York, NY

Sara spent six years working in television before realizing her true calling in children's media. She spent the last two years working at Nickelodeon Animation Studios. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Animation at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She has a passion for animation that delights and expands the imagination.

Cynthia Furey|Los Angeles, CA

Cynthia is a sitcom writer, food journalist, and graduate of the University of California, Irvine. She’s worked as a restaurant critic and recipe developer for such publications as The Orange County Register, the Zagat Restaurant Guides and Google. Cynthia also is an alumna of the NBC Diversity Scene Showcase and the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program in television. She is a culinary school survivor.

Vanessa Garcia|Miami, FL

Vanessa Garcia is a playwright, novelist, and journalist. Her novel, White Light, was one of NPRs Best Books of 2015. Her writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and numerous other publications. One of her first words was “Mig-Mon,” which, in her early language, translated to “Big Bird.”

Michael Rodriguez|New York, NY

Michael is a comedy writer from Columbia University and is especially interested in finding humor at the intersection of identity and the western canon. He is a student at UCB NY, and a librettist at the BMI Musical Theater Workshop, and hopes to write memorable stories that inspire young audiences.

Roxy Simons|New York, NY

Roxy is a UCB trained comedy writer with a degree in English from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She writes for the New York City-based sketch comedy troupe BoogieManja. Roxy’s goal is to create better representation on TV, especially for young girls of color.

Darnell Walker|Charlottesville, VA

Darnell is a writer, cultural anthropologist, and documentary filmmaker, traveling the globe in search of the stories people don’t know they need to hear and see. The Most Beautiful Thing in the World, his first children’s book, and other content he creates for children is secretly dedicated to his younger self and publicly dedicated to all the children who long for something familiar.

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.

Past Speakers

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

Two-time Emmy Award winning Erica Branch-Ridley oversaw multi-platform approaches to learning for preschoolers at Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (HITN). Her work combined touchscreen apps and games with traditional learning methods, to address the academic and socio-emotional needs for young Hispanic children 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.

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.

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

As the head of the Animation and Family Entertainment division at The Gotham Group, LLC since 1999, Julie represents creators of top-rated series, experienced show runners, Emmy award winning writers and directors, and New York Times best-selling authors. She also served as the co-producer on The Spiderwick Chronicles feature and as a co-executive producer on the Hallmark Channel’s Dear Dumb Diary movie. A “recovering” lawyer, Julie learned the secret ways of the studios before switching sides to promote and defend talent rights.

Billy LopezWelcome to the Wayne, Creator/Co-Executive Producer

Billy is a writer and musician from New York City. He created Welcome to the Wayne, an animated comedy, for Nickelodeon, and has written scripts, lyrics and music for various preschool shows, including The Wonder Pets!, 3rd and Bird, and Peg + Cat. Billy lives in Brooklyn with his wife, two kids, and a husky named after Spike from Cowboy Bebop.

Sascha PaladinoMiles from Tomorrowland, Creator/Executive Producer

Sascha is an Emmy-nominated writer, producer, and filmmaker. He is the creator and executive producer of Disney Junior's intergalactic adventure series Miles from Tomorrowland, and is currently executive producer of the upcoming Mira, Royal Detective, Disney's first show set in an India-inspired land. He has produced and written for shows including Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, Henry Hugglemonster, Doc McStuffins, Octonauts, Blue’s Clues, Wonder Pets!, and more. He has worked with companies including Nickelodeon, Disney, The Jim Henson Company, MTV, Scholastic, and the BBC. Sascha's films include the award-winning Throw Down Your Heart, which explores cross-cultural communication through music in Africa.

Adam PeltzmanWallykazam!, Creator/Executive Producer

Adam Peltzman is a three-time Emmy winning creator, writer and producer. Recent shows include the Nickelodeon series Wallykazam! (Creator and Executive Producer), the PBS series Odd Squad (Co-Creator and Co-Executive Producer), and the WNYC scripted podcast series, This Podcast Has Fleas (Co-Creator and Executive Producer). Additional head writer credits include The Electric Company, The Backyardigans and Blue's Clues. Adam has done development work for Nickelodeon, Disney, Amazon, Sesame Workshop, Dreamworks, The Jim Henson Company and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Adam has helped adapt two TV shows into live theatrical productions which have toured nationally, and has written several short comedic plays that have been produced throughout the U.S.

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.

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.