Writer in Residence
2021 Writer in Residence Dr. Melanie Peffer
Dr. Melanie Peffer is a writer, speaker, researcher, and educator originally from Pittsburgh, PA. She has lived in Greeley for the last five years.
Dr. Peffer is affiliated with the University of Colorado Boulder as a researcher in the Institute of Cognitive Science and teaches introductory biology as part of the Health Professionals Residential Academic Program. Over the last ten years, she has taught biology to a variety of audiences and researched how people learn and understand science, particularly biology. She also frequently writes on topics ranging from motherhood in STEM to science communication.
Dr. Peffer is author of the best-selling book, Biology Everywhere: How the science of life matters to everyday life. Biology Everywhere is a journey through the science of life as told through our daily experiences. She was invited to speak on Biology Everywhere at TEDxCU in April 2021 and collaborated with TED-ED to produce a lesson based on Biology Everywhere.
She plans to spend her residency working on a children’s spin-off series. In the children’s book, we follow the path of a small child exploring the biology in their immediate environment in Weld County. The children’s book would target children in late elementary grades when children begin to read to learn (rather than learn to read). This is also an age when groups underrepresented in the sciences, such as girls, begin to feel less like a scientist and lose interest in the sciences.
Since the book series presents a child exploring their immediate environment, one shared by children living in Weld County, children will identify with the main character and be able to readily apply what they are learning to their lives. This increases the appeal of the content, fostering continued interest in reading, positive views about science, and a sense of belonging in our community.
When not writing, Dr. Peffer enjoys playing her flute and piccolo and enjoying all that Colorado has to offer in the great outdoors with her husband and son.
About Writer in Residence
The High Plains Library District Foundation is proud to support the Writer in Residence program as part of the District’s vision to serve as an incubator for the arts and to further our mission of building a community of library lovers.
The goal of the HPLD Foundation’s Writer in Residence program is to support the creative process of one (1) writer during a nine-month time-period so they may complete a manuscript with the intent to publish.
The resident’s work can be of any style or genre but must be related in some fashion to the High Plains Library District service area in subject matter. Applicants must reside within the High Plains Library District boundaries (see map), must be an HPLD cardholder (or become a cardholder), must be at least 18 years of age, and must be willing to commit to all associated duties of the residency. The High Plains Library District boundary as specified in establishment documents is coterminous with the Weld County boundary plus the Town of Erie (including the portion in Boulder County) and excluding the Windsor RE-4 school district (Clearview Library District), and the City of Dacono.
Click to see larger map.
Writer In Residence duties include:
- Appear at HPLD events
- Work with HPLD staff to develop relevant programming
- Work with HPLD staff to create content (social media posts, blog posts, email blasts etc. )
- Agree to MOU
- Commit to nine continuous months of residency
Applications are reviewed in a blind judging process by a committee of local writing professionals. High Plains Library District resident will be announced no later than April of each residency year.
Past Writers in Residence
2020 Writer in Residence
Joshua Collier has lived in Colorado since he was not much more than a toddler. Growing up with innovative educators as parents, he had constant opportunities to learn through hands-on projects and adventures exploring the hidden complexities all around us. This inspired both his creative expression as well as his overwhelming desire to know how everything works. The two strengths continued to intertwine as he pursued his education and career.
After completing his master’s degree in Communication and the Arts, with a focus on directing cinema and TV, his creativity has primarily been expressed through video, graphics, and photography. The desire to perpetually learn all he can evolved into a mission to inspire that same mindset of exploration and awe in the youth. He taught as a STEM teacher, coaches robotics teams, and runs after school programs and summer camps, as well as assisting his parents in bringing STEM focused, project-based learning to Kenya and Zambia.
Joshua’s goal for the residency is to create a book that encourages growth in STEM through engaging characters, historical relevance, and STEM projects that can be done at home. The story follows three friends and their unexpected adventure with a mysterious time traveler. A combination of Dr. Who and The Magic School Bus, this journey will test their ability to investigate, problem solve, and work as a team as they jump through history attempting to stop a mischievous adversary. The book will include STEM centered solutions and facts, with the goal of inspiring youth to see every problem as a chance to learn and overcome.
2019 Writer in Residence
Laura Brashear has been reading and writing stories for as long as she can remember. One of her first stories, bound and made official by her first grade principal, was titled, My Dog Bo.
She loves the freedom reading and writing allows, from creating characters to conveying life truths. This passion led her to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Laura is excited about her nonfiction project which affords her the opportunity to share her husband’s unexpected journey with leukemia and the profound impact their family’s love of horses had on his recovery.
Laura is a lifelong resident of Colorado and has lived in the Fort Lupton area for over thirty years, where she and her husband raise their three children and train horses. They live on a farm with cattle, chickens, ducks, three dogs, a cat, and a guinea fowl hen named Kevin. She is currently sharing her knowledge with students at Aims Community College, where she is a Writing Tutor and Adjunct Instructor teaching composition.
2018 Writer in Residence
Julia McSherry was selected by a volunteer panel to serve as the District’s third Writer In Residence. McSherry is a freelance writer based in Greeley, originally from Louisiana. She makes her home on a small acreage with her two dogs, two horses, two barn cats and a flock of free range hens. She loves to cook and is passionate about slow food and fast (fresh) ingredients. An avid gardener, she was a Colorado Master Gardener, Weld County, for five years.
The book she will be working on during her residency is a combination memoir/cookbook, titled Catch and Devour, about her relocation from New Orleans to Greeley after Hurricane Katrina. She loves the West and hopes to capture some of the charm afforded by the unique agriculture, high plains and mountain landscape of northern Colorado. The narrative before and after recipes will tell stories related to cooking, farm life, sustainability, healthy growing and eating and slow rather than fast food. Excerpts of the book will be published online through a blog and eventually in print.
“Where I grew up in central Louisiana and then lived for decades in the New Orleans swampland, hunting and fishing was a way of life. With that, so was cooking game and fish,” says McSherry. “Colorado has a similar history of living off the land, whether it’s through raising cattle, growing crops as a farmer or vegetables as a backyard gardener. Cooking and recipes are part of the stories of our lives. Who doesn’t remember their mother’s gumbo (in my case), their grandmother’s biscuits, or a favorite aunt’s chocolate chip cookies? Food and cooking conjure stories,” McSherry stresses.
“The High Plains Library District Writer in Residence Program is a wonderful symbiosis,” McSherry emphasizes. The residency provides an opportunity for writers to have time to write while also contributing to the community through library programs and events.
2017 Writer in Residence
On behalf of HPLD, a volunteer committee selected Chris Muscato as its second Writer in Residence. Muscato is an adjunct professor at the University of Northern Colorado. He first came to Greeley as an undergraduate student, left to earn a master’s degree in Mexican history from the University of Wyoming, and is thrilled to be back in this community. Chris is also a contract writer for Study.com, creating online lessons about history, architecture, art, music, and literature. When not writing, teaching, or grading, Chris spends time with his wife Kristin and his dog Buddy enjoying all that colorful Colorado has to offer. Read an excerpt from Chris’s writing project here.
2016 Writer in Residence
During her residency, Jaydine Rendall completed two books in her High Plains Heroes series. The young adult fiction novels are set in the plains of Northern Colorado during the late 1800s. The three-book series was given a publishing contract with the first novel set for release in early 2017. More information about Jaydine’s work and her residency experience can be found here.
Resources for Writers Impacted by COVID-19
The Foundation has been lucky to have worked with so many talented writers throughout our Writer in Residence program including the over 100 incredible applications we’ve received from local creatives. We understand that COVID-19 has impacted all of the writers in our community and we wanted to compile a list of available resources to help writers make it through this tough time.
Available resourcess for writers include:
- PEN America: provides grants to professional writers who are financially impacted by COVID-19
- Foundation for Contemporary Arts: provides grants for experimental work that has been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19
- The Dramatists Guild Foundation: provides loans to playwrights and lyricists for emergency expenses
- Writers Emergency Assistance Fund: provides assistance to writers who are ill or are caring for someone ill
- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America: provides help to cover unexpected medical expenses for genre writers
For more information about what resources are available to artists in Weld County, visit the Greeley Arts District’s COVID-19 Resources page. For more information on national resources, see the Authors League Fund’s Emergency Resource List.