2024 Native American Writers Seminar Fellows Revealed

The Native American Media Alliance, in partnership with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, has announced the selected fellows for the 4th Annual Native American Writers Seminar.

“It’s an incredible experience to see emerging indigenous talent develop through the seminar.” Announced Ian Skorodin, director of strategy for the Native American Media Alliance. “Each fellow learns the essential tools and opportunities to break in and maintain a career in this industry.”

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The Native American Writers Seminar is a 2-month intensive that develops emerging indigenous writers. Each participant chosen for the seminar workshops an existing script with seasoned and established writers. The program provides intensive development workshops and is accompanied by rigorous creative sessions.

In addition, the seminar highlights prestigious writing programs, provides creative feedback and offers mentorship from past participants of Native American Media Alliance writing initiatives. These group sessions provide insight into career and professional growth.

Here are 4th Annual Native American Writers Seminar cohorts and their bios:

Laura Casey is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and an aspiring screenwriter based in Norman, Oklahoma. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she focused her studies on academic writing about visual media. After completing her degree, she worked in libraries before pivoting into the field of cosmetology. For the past several years, she has been fortunate to be a part of the still-growing Oklahoma film and television production industry as a hair stylist and makeup artist. She has been part of over twenty productions so far, and her writing is often inspired by personal interactions and observations that are unique to this industry.

In recent years, her credits include working in the makeup department on Killers of the Flower Moon and Love and Death, and in the hair department on Tulsa King and Twisters. Her hope is to use her voice to tell relatable stories with a real-life feel that can be produced ethically, with the health and safety of crew being the ultimate goal.

Sean-Joseph Takeo Kahāokalani Choo is a queer, multi-ethnic, multi-hyphenate theater artist based in Honolulu. Through his company, Kamamo House (a queer-centered theater, new work & artist cultivation/advocacy organization, and podcast), Sean creates space for folx to develop work and create community. Sean has worked with theaters in Hawaiʻi and on Turtle Island. Sean’s playwriting has been recognized by the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and produced and workshopped by various independent theaters in Hawaiʻi and New York.

As a company actor at Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Sean devised numerous shows over the six seasons he worked with the company including co-producing, co-writing, composing, and co-directing Da Holidays episode of The HI Way, which won a Regional Emmy in the category of Arts/Entertainment-Long Form Content. Imi Ā Loaʻa: Search and Find was an augmented reality project created by Moses Goods, ʻInamona Theatre Company, and the Honolulu Theatre for Youth Ensemble in Spring 2022. The project, of which Sean was proud to co-create, celebrated the rich history and many possible futures living Hawai’i, exploring Native Hawaiian ideas of “time” and “place,” mixing elements of live performance, a walking tour, and digital gaming.

Cody Schlegel, hailing from rural northwest Ohio, discovered his passion for storytelling early on. Moving through Michigan and California, he eventually settled in East Tennessee, where his creativity flourished. In 2013, he was a  finalist in the All-Sports Los Angeles Film Festival, marking a significant milestone. Schlegel’s literary journey expanded with the release of two novels: Junction in 2015, a gritty crime thriller, and Odyssey Tale in 2020, a reimagining of Homer’s epic with fairy tale characters. The latter, also available on Audible since 2021, showcases his versatility in storytelling and adaptability to new publishing platforms.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Schlegel finds fulfillment in family life, sharing precious moments with his wife, two children, and beloved canine companions. This balanced approach underscores his holistic view of creativity and personal happiness. Schlegel’s diverse heritage, including Native (Pechanga), Czech, and German descent, likely influences the cultural depth of his narratives, adding layers of richness and authenticity. With a steadfast commitment to his craft and a knack for captivating storytelling, Cody Schlegel continues to enchant audiences with his imaginative tales, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape.

Teotl Veliz, an Indigenous Chicano student from California’s South Bay, is a multifaceted documentarian, writer, producer, and founder of Great Nations Pictures. With a deep-rooted passion for storytelling inherited from his family and local community, Veliz gained recognition by winning the California State Championship for the National History Day Competition with his documentary The Tragedy of Terminal Island. His radio show on 101.5 FM, focusing on Chicano community issues, showcased his commitment to cultural representation. Veliz pursued Art History at UC Santa Cruz, integrating Indigenous art into his projects.

His dedication to expanding Native representation in the film industry led him to produce an award-winning spot for Hulu and secure a paid internship at Writ Large, honing his skills in scriptwriting and representation. Currently, Veliz is developing a Western comedy anthology series centered on Indigenous experiences and working on his TV Pilot Red West. As the founder of Great Nations Pictures, he aims to bring ancestral stories to the screen while earning recognition such as the Watsonville Film Fellowship and the Reyna Grande Kresge Scholarship with collaborator Heather Layman.

Amanda WouldGo (Secwepemc and Wampanoag) is a storyteller immersed in indigenous myths and fantasy. With the Secwepemc word for “story,” slexéy̓em, tattooed on her wrist, Amanda believes stories can entertain and heal. Her current project is inspired by Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Matrix, The Sandman, and Jim Henson, blending ancient and modern themes through storytelling for hope and empowerment.

Eager to collaborate with other indigenous and queer creators, Amanda crafts narratives that emphasize indigenous knowledge and queer experiences, vital for a diverse society. Her work includes short graphic books and stop-motion animations using Secwepemctsin, reimagining traditional tales for today’s audience. As a visual artist skilled in paper cutting and mixed media, her art has been showcased in Santa Cruz, CA, and Oakland, CA. A recent NAMA Animation Lab fellow, Amanda used magical realism to depict a 5-inch Secwepemc elven heavy metal musician’s adventures. Her goal is to create inclusive narratives that celebrate indigenous and queer identities, ensuring their stories impact broadly.

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