Literary Laureate

The Inlandia Institute Literary Laureate award celebrates the literary excellence of our region. Inlandia Literary Laureates must live or work in Inland Southern California, write in a regional voice, work with diverse audiences, mentor emerging writers, foster creative literacy, and have a body of critically acclaimed published work.

nikia chaney

Inlandia Literary Laureate Nikia Chaney 2017-2019

Nikia Chaney is the author of us mouth (forthcoming from University of Hell Press, 2018) and two chapbooks, Sis Fuss (2012, Orange Monkey Publishing) and ladies, please (2012, Dancing Girl Press).

She is founding editor of shufpoetry, an online journal for experimental poetry, and founding editor of Jamii Publishing, a publishing imprint dedicated to fostering community among poets and writers. Highly active in the community, Nikia has won fellowships and grants from Cave Canem, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Squaw Valley, and the Barbara Demings Fund.  Nikia’s poetry has been chosen by Nikki Giovanni as the winner of the 2012 OSA Enizagam Poetry Award.  Of her poem “the fish”, Ms. Giovanni writes, “…What power this poem has with showing the difficulty of growing up with a terrible secret. What a powerful song this friend sings for a friend drowning in if not evil, then certainly, difficulty.” Her poem, “hummingbird” was used as inspiration for an original score and a forthcoming video by Motionpoems.

As the fourth Inlandia Literary Laureate, Nikia hopes to help highlight the voices of San Bernardino, “this city that sits below mountains and deserts,” its history, the people, the community and what people really know of it.  She also wants to hold consecutive workshops to address and heal violence in the community.

Past Literary Laureates:

Juan Delgado

Inlandia Institute Literary Laureate 2014-2016
Interim Provost and Professor of Creative Writing, Chicano Literature, and Poetry at California State University, San Bernardino

Regent’s Fellow: University of California, Irvine
American Book Award Winner

Projects: SCIPP at Bryant Elementary School of Arts and Innovation
A partnership with MFA students from the University of California, Riverside and Cal State San Bernardino and the Riverside Unified School District that brings a program of interdisciplinary writing and group literary and publishing projects to children in grades three to six.

Native Voices Poetry Festival:
Celebrating the human voice, the free festival gathered native writers, poets, singers, and storytellers from the region under the leadership of respected community members and elders.


gayle brandeis

Gayle Brandeis

Inlandia Institute Literary Laureate 2012-2014
Visiting Professor and Writer-in-Residence, Sierra Nevada College
Associate Faculty, Antioch University, Los Angeles

Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change
Nominee and Special Mention: Pushcart Prize
Quality Paperback Book Club/Story Magazine Short Story Award
Writer Who Makes a Difference Award, Writer’s Magazine

Projects: Orangelandia Anthology:
An inclusive exploration of Inland Southern California’s powerful citrus heritage in memoir, fiction, poetry, and documentary forms.

Women Wonder Writers:
A workshop for and anthology by at-risk young women.

Writer-in-Residence, Riverside Art Museum:
An innovative partnership with the arts community to reach area writers, young and old.


Susan Straight

Inlandia Institute Literary Laureate 2010-2012
Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing, University of California, Riverside

1990 Milkweed National Fiction Prize
2001 finalist, National Book Award for Fiction
Best American Short Stories (2003)
2007 Lannan Literary Award
2008 Edgar Allan Poe Award
2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Project: Literature for Inlandia: The Inaugural Tour
As the first Inlandia Literary Laureate, Susan worked with Inlandia staff, librarians, teachers, and professors to speak and give away books at the public libraries in Mecca, San Bernardino, Perris, Corona, and Riverside and at colleges and schools including Riverside City College, Mt. San Jacinto College, La Sierra High School, and Victoria Elementary School.