Rand Abbott is a disabled veteran who grew up in a small country town on a farm on the east coast. He joined the military and traveled the world and lived overseas for a bit. He landed in California and it stuck — the ocean, the mountains the desert, surfing, skiing and rock climbing — all in one place. Today he is a retired person who enjoys the sunrises and sunsets the high desert offers, the wildlife, and the climbing that the park offers. He likes to be of service when the opportunity arises, and lives by the motto: Life is not about adding days to your life, but rather life to today.
Turiya Autry is a poet, playwright, university professor, reporter, youth engagement specialist, mixed media artist and public speaker. Acclimating to the hi-desert, she's participated in several Thought Theater productions and is a Desert Trail Newspaper reporter and photographer. Turiya teaches on-line courses at Portland State University and Washington State University. She’s provided performances, workshops, classes and residencies to 50+ K-12 schools, over 25 colleges, and hundreds of venues nationwide. Her poetry collection, Roots, Reality & Rhyme, bridges the personal and political, the mythic and the real and set the stage for her theatrical, multi-media, one-woman show. More info at www.TuriyaAutry.com
Erika Castellanos is a 25 year old mother, activist, and Chicana spoken word poet in the Eastern Coachella Valley (ECV). From a young age, Erika was around social activism that focused on the injustices that affected her community. She began to create a voice for herself and wanted to share her experiences through storytelling. In high school she helped host various Poetry Slams. She now hosts Open Mics around the ECV that create space for creative consciousness. As a young mother her poetry focuses on uplifting the women and her community through storytelling.
Caryn Davidson worked in the education branch of Joshua Tree National Park for 20 years. She was the park liaison for the Artist-in-Residence program from 2006-2016. She then served as the director of education for Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, part of the new Sand to Snow National Monument. She holds a master's degree in French from UCLA, and worked for the French Consulate in Los Angeles before moving to the desert in 1987. Caryn's work has been published in The Stone, L.A. Weekly, GEO, Interpretive Writing, Phantom Seed, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California; The Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, Picasso: Creator and Destroyer; Spillway, LAICA Journal, and elsewhere. She has lived in Joshua Tree for 32 years.
Keegan Jennings Goodman grew up in the Ozarks, studied in New York, went to art school in Chicago, lived in Paris, is working on a dissertation on the French philosopher Georges Bataille at the University of Toronto and now lives in the desert teaching philosophy at Copper Mountain College and works in the metal shop at Joshua Tree National Park. His first novel, The Tennessee Highway Death Chant was published by Featherproof Books in 2016. His next novel The Strip Teen Dream Journey is in the works, with the accompanying rock and roll album to be released early next year.
Rubén Martínez is a writer, performer and teacher. He holds the Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing at Loyola Marymount University, and is an artist in residence at Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts. He is the author of Desert America: A Journey Across Our Most Divided Landscape, Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail, and other titles. He is the curator of the Los Angeles-based VARIEDADES performance series, events that engage topical themes, telling stories from the point of view of hidden or underwritten historical figures.
Jonathan Maule is the winner of the 2014 Academy of American Poets Contest at Cal Poly, SLO, and co-editor of Aperçus. His first book of poetry, Dog Star, was published by Big Yes Press. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Askew, Talking River, Rain Taxi, RHINO Reviews!, Spillway, and Phoebe. A graduate of the MFA program in creative writing at the Rainier Writing Workshop, Jonathan also holds an MA in education and teaches Reading and English courses at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.
Cowboy Pete McLeod is a 29 year old ranch hand, and home inspector from Cheyenne Wyoming. He enjoys riding bulls in different rodeos and managing cattle at a full time cattle ranch in the Mojave Desert. He became interested in rodeos because he likes the thrill and adrenaline. Outside of work he enjoys other hobbies like skydiving, off-roading, competitive trap shooting, and hunting.
Jesika von Rabbit is the former front-woman of Joshua Tree’s hi-desert trailblazers Gram Rabbit. She has released two solo albums, Dessert Rock the follow-up to her 2015 release Journey Mitchell, both on Dionysus Records. Jesika’s solo endeavor began with her performing literally solo with two dancers and has evolved into a full band line-up. JvR has toured with Eagles of Death Metal, performed at Desert Daze and has shared the stage with a diverse roster of acts including Wanda Jackson, Cat Power, and Crystal Method. Dubbed “The Queen of the Hi-Desert”, Jesika even has a menu item named after her, at the world-renown Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown, CA., the delicious “ Nachos von Rabbit”.
Melissa Spurr is a native Californian, though she spent some formative years in Colorado learning to ski and underachieving in high school. For much of her twenties, she traveled the world on the cheap. She’s been to more than 20 countries and 6 continents and can say, “I have diarrhea,” in seven languages. To everyone’s surprise, Melissa earned a mathematics degree from UC Irvine. She met her darling husband Peter while living in a bohemian student trailer park there. She left her soul-killing corporate job as an industrial engineer and fled to Joshua Tree with Peter in 2004.
Cheryl Montelle is thrilled to host and curate Mil-Tree’s first spoken word fundraiser. She is a writer whose stories have been published in anthologies and magazines, and performed in Los Angeles, Joshua Tree and New York City. She created and hosted Desert Stories at the HDCC for 12 years, 14 shows. She has also produced similar shows in New York City and Los Angeles. Cheryl loves bringing community together and in 2012 she founded the veteran/community non-profit, Mil-Tree. For more information go to mil-tree.org.