David-Matthew Barnes is a best selling author, playwright, poet, and screenwriter. He writes in multiple genres, including mysteries, thrillers, women's fiction, and young adult. He writes horror films under the pen name Declan Mayfair and contemporary romance novels and screenplays under the pen name Wren Valentino. His award-winning screenplays have earned many international accolades, including awards at the New Renaissance Film Festival in Amsterdam, the Play Film Festival in Paris, the Sunday Shorts Film Festival in London, and the Changing Faces International Film Festival in Sydney. For his scripts, he has also received a Los Angeles Film Award, a New York Film Award, an NYC Indie Film Award, a European Independent Film Award, and recognition from the Atlanta Comedy Film Festival, the Colorado International Film Festival, the L.A. Shorts Awards, the NYC Horror Film Festival, and the Rome International Cinefest. He was named the 2017 Grand Prize Jury Winner at Film Invasion L.A. for Best Screenplay. To date, he has written over fifty stage plays that have been performed in three languages in ten countries. His literary work has appeared in over one hundred publications. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, International Thriller Writers, the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. Having lived around the world, he calls Chicago his hometown.


Born on September 3, 1970 at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, California, Barnes is the eldest son of Sam Barnes, Jr., a former police officer originally from Jonesboro, Louisiana, and Nancy Nickle, the former owner of a hip-hop record label originally from Los Angeles. He has four younger brothers. He is the eldest grandson of the late Clifford Nickle, who was a prominent business owner in the Redondo Beach area of California.

Barnes spent his early years there, where he developed a close bond with his late grandmother, Dorothy Nickle, who supported and encouraged his creativity from a young age.

When Barnes was only 7, he successfully auditioned for admission into The Old Globe, a theater in Balboa Park in San Diego who (at the time) offered theatre and dance education for children. Determined to get to and from classes, Barnes convinced his mother to let him take two city buses each day after school.

After his parents divorced, Barnes lived primarily in Northern California, where he attended the Visual and Performing Arts Center (VAPAC) at Sacramento High School and later Berkeley High School, where classmates included actress and model Rebecca Romijn and music video director Dave Meyers.

In his sophomore year of high school, Barnes became a regular on the television series Dance Floor '86, which he appeared on for one year.

In high school, Barnes also found a love for cheerleading, which would become a part of his life for over a decade, including time spent with former Laker Girl turned pop star Paula Abdul, at a summer cheerleading camp in Santa Barbara.

Barnes also has considerable family history in Canada, as his relatives are the founders of the Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary. Entertainers have been prominent in Barnes' family for many generations. His great-aunt was actress Ann Paige, who appeared in the films China Doll and The Young Lions with co-stars Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and Hope Lange.

Barnes fell in love with writing at the early age of 7, when his second-grade teacher recognized his storytelling talents after he wrote a Halloween-themed story titled The Blue Witch. Thanks to his sixth-grade drama teacher, who saw playwriting potential in him, Barnes' first play was produced when he was only 11. The script was a tribute to soap operas titled Life Isn't Easy.

By the age of 13, Barnes was writing plays and short stories on a second-hand typewriter his mother gave him as a Christmas present.

Barnes credits meeting young adult author Norma Fox Mazer (who was a visiting author at his junior high school) as the defining moment when he knew he would become a writer.

At the age of 15, Barnes published his first short story, a dramatic tale of five teenagers surviving the aftermath of a nuclear war titled The Children Are Crying, featured in the anthology Across the Generations (which also includes early literary work by actress Aya Cash). Barnes has been a professional writer since.

At the age of 19, Barnes spent a year living in Europe, primarily on the Greek island of Ios, where he worked as a dancer at the legendary Scorpion Night Club and spent many months living in a bamboo hut. He also spent time living in Germany, where he rediscovered his childhood love for the German language, which he studies to this day.

While he was a student in the Department of Theatre and Film at American River College in Sacramento, Barnes found his passion for playwriting. There, he was able to study creative writing and theatre formally for the first time, mentored by Emmy Award winning writer Harold Schneider and theatre director Pamela Downs.

In Sacramento, Barnes worked extensively in community theatre, including performances with the T Street Players, where future Golden Globe winner Jessica Chastain was a fellow company member. Barnes was also a resident playwright and director at the Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre, where many of his early plays received award-winning world premieres.

Barnes then received a substantial scholarship to study playwriting at the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, where classmates included Judy Greer and Michael Muhney. Barnes attended a master acting class at DePaul, taught by visiting guest artist and Academy Award winner Faye Dunaway. While in Chicago, Barnes also studied television production and fiction writing at Columbia College and worked as a production intern for The Montel Williams Show and VH-1.

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Barnes wrote and directed the coming-of-age indie film Frozen Stars (starring Lana Parrilla of ABC's Once Upon a Time), which received worldwide distribution and is available via Netflix. The script for Frozen Stars was adapted from his stage play, which was developed while he was a college student in Chicago. Barnes and Parrilla met while co-starring in a play together, The Furthest Room, written by Paul Saucido, which was produced at the Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles.

Inspired by her performance on stage, Barnes cast Parrilla in the leading role in Frozen Stars. The film also features performances by Charlotte Nielsen (who also served as an executive producer and was key in getting the film produced), Juan Monsalvez, Yelba Osorio, Reynaldo Gallegos, Mateo Herreros, Leifi Phillips, James Dalesandro, Robin Karfo, and Trish DeBaun.

The film's soundtrack includes tracks by Lysa Flores, Jaci Velasquez, Crystal Lewis, an original title song by Wendy MaHarry, and two tracks by Latin freestyle legend Angelina (who spent time on the set). The film was recognized for featuring a predominantly Latino cast. As a result, the film received international press coverage and received a world premiere screening at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles.

Once Frozen Stars was finished, Barnes spent the next few years working on several film and television projects in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, including directing a documentary called Why So Fly?, which offered a backstage look at the all-female hip-hop trio Northern State.

After struggling to self-produce a handful of independent film and TV projects, Barnes shifted his focus solely to writing in the fall of 2016, announcing his retirement from film and television directing and producing. Since then, he has achieved a new level of literary success, primarily as a screenwriter and playwright.

Barnes' acclaimed screenplay Boxcar is currently being produced by Kupenda Films and Revolver Amsterdam and directed by Dutch filmmaker Coen Haver. The film will premiere in Europe in early 2018, including planned screenings at Pink Film Days in Amsterdam, at the New Renaissance Film Festival in London, and a planned screening in Shanghai.

Barnes received the award for Best Short Screenplay at the 2017 New Renaissance Film Festival in Amsterdam, the award for Best Short Script at the 2017 Play Film Festival in Paris, and the award for Best Short Screenplay at the Sunday Shorts Film Festival in London for Boxcar.

Barnes also received a 2017 Los Angeles Film Award for Best Screenplay Short, the award for Best Short Screenplay at the 2017 Universe Multicultural Film Festival in Los Angeles, and the award for Best Screenplay Short at the 2017 Changing Face International Film Festival in Sydney, Australia for his screenplay Tagged, which explores the lives of two young black women coping with the homicide of a man they loved.

For his dramatic screenplay Made From Scratch, Barnes was named the 2017 Grand Prize Jury Winner at Film Invasion L.A. The script also received an award from the 2017 Colorado International Film Festival.

Barnes' screenplay Baby in the Basement, a dramatic story about two teen runaways whose friendship sadly turns into a mutual suicide pact, received the 2017 European Independent Film Award for Best Short Film Script and the award for Best Short Film Script from the 2017 Mindfield Film Festival in Albuquerque. The script was also named a finalist for Best Short Script at the 2017 Play Film Festival in Paris.

Barnes' screenplays and teleplays have also been official selections and finalists in the Atlanta Comedy Film Festival, the Hollywood Screenplay Contest, the New York Short Film and Screenplay Competition, the Los Angeles Television, Script and Film Festival, the StoryMode Independent Short Film Awards, the Queer Hippo International LGBT Film Festival in Houston, the Windy City International Film Festival in Chicago, the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition in London, and the Film Makers TV Writing Competition in Los Angeles.

Barnes has also written several novels, including Mesmerized (Bold Strokes Books, 2010), Accidents Never Happen (Bold Strokes Books, 2011), Swimming to Chicago (Bold Strokes Books, 2011), The Jetsetters (Bold Strokes Books, 2012), Ambrosia (Blue Dasher Press, 2012), Wonderland (Bold Strokes Books, 2013), Stronger Than This (Bold Strokes Books, 2014), Fifty Yards and Holding (Bold Strokes Books, 2015), and the novelettes Backfire, Bruised, Delinquent, I Think We're Alone Now, Patience is Waiting, and Riding with James Dean. Two of his young adult novels, Swimming to Chicago and Wonderland, have been recognized by the American Library Association for their diversity. Barnes has just completed work on his forthcoming young adult novel, The Marijuana Mermaids.

Barnes is also the author of a collection of short stories titled Boys Like Me (Blue Dasher Press, 2018), two collections of poetry, Souvenir Boys (Blue Dasher Press, 2013) and the forthcoming Love and Detours, and several collections of stage plays, scenes, and monologues, including the international bestseller Monologues That Kick Ass (Blue Dasher Press, 2013).

To date, Barnes has written over fifty stage plays that have been performed in three languages in ten countries, including And The Winner Is (Playscripts, Inc.), Are You All Right in There? (Playscripts, Inc.), Better Places to Go (Blue Dasher Press), Bracelets and Boyfriends (JAC Publishing), Clean (JAC Publishing), Don't Mention It (JAC Publishing), False Hopes (JAC Publishing), Frozen Stars (Blue Dasher Press), Johnny Ramirez Really Wants to Kiss Me (Blue Dasher Press), Pensacola (JAC Publishing), Sloe Gin Fizz (JAC Publishing), Somebody's Baby (Blue Dasher Press), Temporary Heroes (Brooklyn Publishers), Threnody (Blue Dasher Press), and Unrequited (Brooklyn Publishers). Barnes has just completed work on two new stage plays, The Truants and Vacancies.

Barnes' stage plays have been official selections for the Chicago Director's Festival, the DC Queer Theatre Festival, FronteraFest, the Johannesburg One-Act Drama Festival, the Mid-America Dramatists Lab, the NYC 15-Minute Play Festival, the Rough Writers New Play Festival, Spectrum: LGBT New Play Festival, and the Western Australia Drama Festival. His plays have been performed on stages across the country including the American Globe Theatre, the Boston Center for the Arts, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Hyde Park Theatre, and the Producer's Club in New York City. Internationally his plays have been produced in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Guam, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

Barnes' literary work has appeared in over one hundred publications including The Best Stage Scenes, The Best Women's Stage Monologues, The Best Men's Stage Monologues, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Best Advice I Ever HeardThe Comstock Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, The Magnolia Review, Memoryhouse, New Plains Review, Review Americana, The Southeast Review, and 105 Five-Minute Plays for Study and Performance. He has also served as the guest editor of dramatic literature for The Louisville Review and as a judge for the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowships in the category of Young Readers Literature.

Barnes was selected by Kent State University as the national winner of the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award. In addition, he has received the Carrie McCray Literary Award, the Slam Boston Award for Best Play, and earned double awards for poetry and playwriting in the World AIDS Day Writing Contest. He has received national awards in the Split This Rock Poetry Contest and the New Works for Young Women playwriting competition. He is the winner of two Elly Awards from the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance, an award from Writer’s Digest, and an award from the Florida Freelance Writers Association.

Barnes graduated magna cum laude from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and English. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, where literary mentors included Brighde Mullins, Elissa Schappell, Cathy Smith Bowers, and Ashley Warlick.

In 2007, Barnes received a scholarship to study playwriting in workshop with Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Marsha Norman at the Southampton Theatre Conference at Stony Brook University in New York. While there, Barnes was also selected for a private workshop with bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates. Barnes has also been a MasterClass student of powerhouse television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood, and bestselling author Judy Blume. He has also been a workshop student of writer and translator Achy Obejas, bestselling author Dorothy Allison, and poet Lauren Zuniga.

Barnes has been an educator for over a decade, instructing college courses in writing, literature, and theatre.

In 2008, he was nationally selected to serve as the Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Pennsylvania State University.

From January 2009 until January 2015, he was a faculty member and on line instructor at Southern Crescent Technical College in Griffin, Georgia, where he developed the curriculum for a first-ever Theatre Appreciation course, which received statewide approval from the Technical College System of Georgia for instruction in 25 colleges. He also served as the college's cheerleading coach and was the founding faculty advisor of the Performing and Literary Arts Student Association (PALASA).

From 2012 until 2017, Barnes was a faculty member of the low-residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he instructed and mentored graduate students in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Playwriting, and Screenwriting.

In January 2015, Barnes was named the new Program Director and Lead Faculty of the Theatre Arts department at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado, where he was the recipient of the 2016 Inclusion and Diversity Service Award.

In March 2017, Barnes directed the Colorado premiere of The Best of Everything, adapted for the stage by Julie Kramer, from the novel by Rona Jaffe.

In October 2017, Barnes directed a production of Martin Sherman's powerful play, Bent.

In the summer of 2018, Barnes directed a production of Jon Jory's stage adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

In August 2018, Barnes was named the new Director of Marketing and Communications at Red Rocks Community College.

Barnes is a member of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), Dramatists Guild of America, International Thriller Writers, the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Barnes writes horror films under the pen name Declan Mayfair and contemporary romance novels under the pen name Wren Valentino.

He divides his time between Denver and Chicago.

Amazon Author Page (France)
Amazon Author Page (Germany)
Amazon Author Page (Japan)
Amazon Author Page (UK)
Amazon Author Page (USA)
Bewitching Book Tours
Blue Dasher Press (Publisher)
Bold Strokes Books (Publisher)
Brooklyn Publishers (Publisher)
The Cover Collection (Book Cover Designer)
Declan Mayfair (Pen Name)
Go On Write (Book Cover Designer)
JAC Publishing (Publisher)
Lea Schizas (Editor)
Paper and Sage (Book Cover Designer)
Performer Stuff (Publisher)
Playscripts (Publisher)
Smith & Kraus (Publisher)
Wren Valentino (Pen Name)


Read the Script Corner interview with David-Matthew on winning the Best Short Screenplay award for 'Boxcar' at the 2017 New Renaissance Film Festival in Amsterdam.

Read an interview with David-Matthew and Dutch filmmaker Coen Haver about their collaboration on Boxcar.

Read the Performer Stuff interview with David-Matthew on playwriting.

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