Who We Are
Rebecca Wallace-Segall

Executive Director, Instructor
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mini-rebeccawsRebecca founded Writopia Lab in April 2007, currently directs the national organization, and teaches writing workshops in NYC and at special events throughout the country. Rebecca has won multiple teaching awards including the Scholastic Awards' 2012 Ovation Inspired Teacher Award for submitting the most outstanding senior portfolios on the national level and for "developing a method of working with students that inspires them to create original work that embodies their unique, personal voice.... Because of [her] tutelage... these students are now empowered to bring that voice into the broader world..." She has also won the 2008, 2009, and 2011 National Gold Apple Teacher Award for "submitting the most outstanding group of submissions on the national level" to the Scholastic Art & Writing event. She lectures at schools, events, and parents' organizations on a variety of topics including "How to Inspire the Writer Within Your Child," "Writing for High School and College Admittance," and on "Identifying and Participating in Positive Competitions." Previously, Rebecca established the creative writing program at the Abraham Joshua Heschel Middle School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as a consultant. While she was there, the program outperformed every other school in the city (including every elite public and private institution) in Scholastic's prestigious Art & Writing Awards competition. She has been awarded recognition from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards as an "outstanding educator" every year since 2006. (Writopia won Scholastic's official endorsement in 2007.) Rebecca was also nominated by students and selected to be entered into the 11th Edition of Who's Who Among American Teachers.

Rebecca has taught at SUNY Albany, New York University, and at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. In 2009, Rebecca was invited to join The Op-Ed Project Mentor Editor Program and has since helped several brilliant women break into some of the nation's most widely read national opinion pages. In 2002, she had the pleasure of working with young writers in New York City public schools for the first time as a resident writer with the Teachers & Writers Collaborative. By 2003, she was working at the Heschel School, planting the seeds for a unique and successful creative writing program there. She also participated in the judging of the Scholastic competition in 2006 and currently serves as a judge of several national youth writing competitions (in which her students are not involved).

Writings
Rebecca began writing for publications in 1997. She has contributed opeds about education and writing to the The Atlantic Monthly and The Wall Street Journal, and thought pieces to The Huffington Post, and The Nation, along with five cover stories (and other pieces) to the Village Voice. She has contributed the foreward to Bryant Park's Poem in Your Day Chapbook 2012 and to The Scholastic Award's 2012 Best Teen Writing. She also served as Senior Editor at Psychology Today Magazine, and won Salon's "Best People Story of the Year Award" for "Love Labor’s Flossed." In 1999, she became a Journalism Fellow at Brandeis University. In 2003, she entered the world of comedy writing, and began writing and performing sketch comedy around NYC. She won a “Best Sketch” competition at the Upright Citizens Brigade in 2006.


 
Yael Schick

Associate Director of Programs
Instructor

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ewewYael is thrilled to be part of the Writopia team! She received her BA in English from Stern College of Yeshiva University, and joined Writopia Lab in 2011. She has taught and tutored writing in several New York City colleges and private schools, and has worked as a director, most recently  directing at 59e59 Theaters and at Roy Arias Theater.  At Writopia she works as an instructor and program developer. Her Writopia students have received Scholastic recognition on both on the regional and national levels, and she has served as a national judge for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. In 2012, she was recognized by the Scholastic Awards "as an outstanding educator whose dedication, commitment, and guidance are represented by student work selected for national honors."


 

 
Danielle Sheeler

Associate Director of Camps and Curriculum
Instructor

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Danielle_4Danielle is honored to work as an instructor and program developer at Writopia. Danielle studied writing at Stanford University and New York University, and graduated from the Draper Program at NYU in January 2010. Her latest one-act play, Under Somebody's Nose, was produced at Roy Arias theater in November of 2012. She produced and performed the one-acts Graduands to Graduates; The Megalomaniac and Valedictorian Commence and Scene From a Dartboard at the Manhattan Repertory theatre in March through June 2010, and the one-act Look at Me When I Am Talking to You at the Wings Theatre in New York in May 2008. Her short story “Before Noon” was published in the Intersections Issue of the NYU journal, Anamesa.  She has had the opportunity to teach English and creative writing in a classroom setting to children in Ghana, Africa, Chinatown, New York, East Palo Alto, California, and New Orleans, Louisiana.


 

 
Courtney Sheinmel

Instructor
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mini-courtneysCourtney Sheinmel teaches summer and year-round fiction and memoir workshops at Writopia Lab. She grew up in California and New York, graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College, and Fordham University School of Law. After working as a litigator for several years, Courtney decided to focus on her true love: writing. Her critically-acclaimed debut “tween” novel, My So-Called Family, was published by Simon & Schuster in October, 2008.  Her second book, Positively, came out in September 2009.  She is also the author of Sincerely Sophie/Sincerely Katie (June 2010) and You Can’t Even Measure It (2011). You can visit Courtney online at www.courtneysheinmel.com.


 
Daniel Ajl Kitrosser

Playwriting and Screenwriting Teacher

Original Artistic Director of Writopia Lab's Worldwide Plays Festival

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mini-danDan Kitrosser has been teaching year-round at Writopia since 2007. He is the founding artistic director of Writopia's Worldwide Plays Festival and teaches musical theater, playwriting, language play, and fiction workshops. Dan is currently an MFA student (dramatic writing) at the New School and is also the resident storyteller at Central Park and an award-winning playwright. His plays and musicals have appeared at Urban Stages, 45 Bleecker Theatre, The Ohio Theatre, The Brooklyn Lyceum and American Place Theatre. His children's musical, NIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLY, has been declared "a winning original musical!" by TimeOut Kids, and had an extended Off-Broadway run. He was the recipient of the 2010 Brooklyn Arts Council Grant for his one-man musical THE LEGEND OF ICHABOD CRANE (Halloween Pick - Village Voice) which he continues to tour around the city. At Writopia, six of Dan's students have won "Best Play" in Stephen Sondheim's 2008, 2009, and 2010 Write a Play! contests, and many others were named finalists or won honorable mentions. A graduate of NYU, Dan's screenplays include Old Days, directed by Matt Shapiro and starring Brad Oscar (Tony Nomination, The Producers) and Mary Beth Piel (Dawson's Creek) and Bodybuilder Island, directed by Matthew Kliegman. Dan has been a final committee judge for the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival for four years (this coming summer will be his fifth). Dan's play Be Here Now won this festival and was a finalist in Stephen Sondheim's National Playwriting Competition.
 
Jordana Frankel
Instructor
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JordanaJordana Frankel is so excited to join Writopia! Her debut young adult novel, THE WARD, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in 2013. She received her B.A. from Goucher College in Maryland where, as the recipient of the Kratz Creative Writing Fellowship, she studied the art of storytelling within indigenous cultures. After graduating, she spent a year in Italy studying to be an artiste, but instead acquired a deep knowledge of pasta, and returned home to follow her true love: words. She then received her M.F.A. in creative writing with a focus on poetry from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. Jordana has worked in the publishing industry for the last few years, but now devotes herself full-time to her writing.


 

 
Eunju Namkung

Program Developer and Coordinator
Instructor

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eunjuEunju has been part of the Writopia family since 2008. She had attended Writopia as a teen writer and returned as a full-time staffer in the summer of 2013. She had been introduced to Writopia through the Jack Kent Cook Foundation Scholarship in partnership with Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. It had all started with a Scholastic National Gold Medal for a story about a talking Easy Bake Oven that offers a magical brownie to a girl whose idea of a superhero was to turn into a boy. During her senior year in highschool, she placed second in the Random House Creative Writing Competition for Personal Essay/Memoir, as well as won various recognitions from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards on both regional and national levels. Eunju studied at Yale University where she earned a B.A. in Film Studies.


 
Steve DiUbaldo
Instructor
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Steve D Bio PicSteve is thrilled to be an instructor with Writopia in New York City! He is a playwright, screenwriter, and poet, whose playwriting has appeared onstage in production, workshops, and readings in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, The LABryinth, terraNOVA Collective, A Red Orchid Theater, Cherry Lane, Tisch School of the Arts, Greenwood Cemetery, Loyola Marymount University, the Lyric Theater, Pico Playhouse, The Underground Theater, and with Rising Phoenix Rep’s “Cino Nights”, among others. His film sketch “Couples Therapy” appeared on the front page of FunnyOrDie and is now in distribution with Shorts International. He also writes for the Snag Films Thundershorts web series, "Augie, Alone." He is a member of the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre apprentice company, “The Middle Voice.” He was a 2014 terraNOVA Collective “Groundbreaker,” and was the recipient of the “Rita and Burton Goldberg Playwright Foundation Fellowship” and the “Most Outstanding Playwright Award” at NYU, where he received his MFA in Dramatic Writing in 2013.


 
Kira Peikoff

Instructor
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KiraKira Peikoff is thrilled to join Writopia, NYC. She is the author of Living Proof, a debut thriller which will be published by Tor/Forge in early 2012. Kira holds a B.A. in journalism from NYU, and has contributed to New York magazine, Newsday, the New York Daily News, and The Orange County Register. From 2008-2011, Kira worked in the editorial department at two major publishing houses, which helped hone her judgment of good storytelling--a skill she hopes to pass on to her students, along with a love of creative writing. Visit her online at www.kirapeikoff.com.


 
Jane Kelley

Instructor
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JAK_author_photo

Jane is pleased and proud to be joining the Writopia Lab. Her most recent middle grade novel, The Girl Behind The Glass (Random House 2011), was named one of Bank Street College’s best books of 2012. Her debut novel, Nature Girl, was published in 2010 by Random House. The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya will be published by Feiwel and Friends in the fall of 2013. Jane has also written over thirty short non-fiction texts on topics ranging from birds to infinity. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in theater. Her daughter, Sofia Johnson, is a Writopia alum who currently attends the University of Chicago. Jane lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a ravenous black cat. For more information, please visit Jane’s


 
Alyssa Sheinmel

Instructor
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alyssaAlyssa Sheinmel is the author of The Beautiful Between, The Lucky Kind, and The Stone Girl, all published by Knopf Books for Young Readers. Alyssa grew up in California and New York, and graduated from Manhattan’s Spence School and Barnard College. Alyssa worked in publishing for nearly a decade, and now writes full time in New York City. You can visit Alyssa online at AlyssaSheinmel.com or follow her on Twitter @AlyssaSheinmel.


 
Rachel Barclay

Instructor

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Writopia_PhotoRachel is thrilled and honored to be joining the Writopia Lab team! She is an award winning playwright and poet based out of Washington D.C. Her plays have been developed and produced in New York, London, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. She was the recipient of the Kennedy Center’s JFK National Playwriting Scholarship and a finalist for the National Partners of American Theatre National Playwriting Award. Her poetry was published in the anthology, The Poetry of Yoga, in November 2011.As an educator, Rachel has worked with Horizon Theatre Company’s “New South Young Playwrights Festival”, the DC Theatre Lab, and Imagination Stage’s “Speak Out On Stage” program, where she guided students through a devised theatre-making process and wrote the book and lyrics for the program’s musical, On This Side of the Mountain, which will be produced in June 2012. Rachel is also a founding member of In One Day DC, a social outreach initiative whose mission is to cultivate community connection and empowerment through artistic expression. Rachel has an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Catholic University of America and a B.A. in Theater and English with a minor in Creative Writing from Arcadia University.

 
Rachel Ephraim

Instructor
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mini-rachek

Rachel Ephraim has taught fiction and memoir at Writopia Lab in Brooklyn and Manhattan since 2008, spearheaded the establishment of Writopia Brooklyn, and is now the Branch Manager for Writopia's Hudson Valley region. Her work has appeared in The Apple Valley Review, The Barcelona Review, Word Riot, Listen Party, The New York Spirit, Park Slope Reader and other journals and publications. In 2009, 2010, and 2012 Rachel's students were honored at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards with both regional and national awards. Through Writopia, Rachel has led workshops at MS 51, PS 58, Friend's Seminary, Bryant Park and at High Meadow School (Stone Ridge). In 2010, Rachel was accepted as a resident to La Muse Inn, an artists’ residency in the south of France. In 2011, she attended Vermont Studio Center on a writer’s grant. In 2012, she was a writer-in-residence at Milkwood International in the Czech Republic and at Gowry Art Institute in India. She received her MFA at Columbia University while working in the fiction department of The New Yorker and couldn't be happier with her new move to the Hudson Valley where she's inspired daily by the natural beauty of the landscape.


 
Eric Lutz
Chicago Branch Manager
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Eric

Eric joined Writopia in 2014. His fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Boiler, Brawler, The Apeiron Review and Line Zero, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His journalism and essays have appeared in Salon, Paste Magazine, the Chicago Reader and, most frequently, Newcity. He lives in Chicago and is the proud owner of an 18-year-old cat named after a 90s rock band. He is thrilled to be the Chicago Branch Manager.


 
Elsa Bermudez

Instructor
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Elsa photoElsa Bermudez is an instructor at Writopia NYC. She is an eclectic short story writer, script writer, comedian, and artist. She holds her BA in Philosophy and is currently a Creative Writing in Fiction graduate student at the New School. Elsa is also an Editorial Intern for H.O.W. Journal, an improv student at Upright Citizen's Brigade, an aspiring author, actress, and teacher. Her work can be seen in her computer documents file, her google drive, or listed on her recently born IMDB page. Elsa loves fashion, hates speaking in third person, and lives in Astoria, Queens.


 
Brigit Kelly Young

Instructor
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brigitBrigit is honored to work as an instructor at the oasis of creativity that is Writopia! Brigit's poetry and fiction have been published in several venues, some of which include The North American Review, 2River View, Eclectica Magazine, Drunken Boat, Opium Magazine, The Pinch, Emerge Literary Journal, and Midwestern Gothic. She has received a nomination for the Million Writers Award, and is a winner of the Esther Unger Poetry Prize as well as a two-time recipient of the James Emanuel Poetry Award.

 


 
Taylor Sykes

Instructor, Admin Support, Assistant Program Developer
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taylorTaylor joined the Writopia team the summer of 2013. She graduated from Purdue University West Lafayette in 2013 with her BA in English Education and Creative Writing. During her last year of college, she taught American Literature and Creative Writing at McCutcheon High School in Indiana full time. Taylor received several literary awards from Purdue for her creative and critical writing and was recently a finalist in NPR’s Three-Minute Fiction Contest. Her short fiction was published on NPR’s website and a portion was read on the air during All Things Considered. She is passionate about literary outreach and can never pick between writing fiction, nonfiction and poetry. She has been a fan of Writopia for some time so she is thrilled to be part of the team of inspired thinkers, teachers and writers.

 


 
Cathleen Bell
Instructor
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mini-cathlennCathleen is the author of two novels for young adults, Slipping (Bloomsbury 2008) and Little Blog on the Prairie (Bloomsbury 2010). She holds a BA in American Studies from Barnard College and an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University. Aside from teaching writing to kids, she’s worked as a reporter, a salesperson, a market researcher, a copywriter, a birthday party entertainer, a personal shopper and a research assistant. Visit her online at CathleenDavittBell.com. She is thrilled to join the Writopia community. She has two dogs named Oscar and Oprah. Her favorite food is pizza and, strangely, in her thirties, she's developed a great love for playing catch.


 
LEE AUGUST PRALEY

Instructor
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augieAugie joined Writopia Lab the summer of 2013. He is an award-winning writer, director and producer. His films include “NOTHING IS FUN ANYMORE”, “HELLO, OLD FRIEND”, “WHAT COLOR IS YOUR TUESDAY?” and the upcoming feature directing debut "THE HITCHING POST" Praley’s work in theatre has been seen across the world in cities including Chicago, Washington, DC, New York and Tbilisi, Georgia. His play “EUPHORIA: SOMETHING BETTER IS COMING” had its world Premiere at the Rustavelli Theatre in Georgia as a co-production with the US State Department. Most recently, his play “THANKSGIVING AT CHEKOV’S” was a finalist in the Eugene O’Neill National Playwright’s Conference. As an actor he has worked with Forum Theatre (bobrauschenbergamerica), No Rules (YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN), dog & pony DC (COURAGE) and starred in the film "A GIRL NAMED CLYDE". For the theatre he has directed “BAT BOY,” “IS THERE LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL,” “IT’S A SMALL WORLD,” "RESURRECTION" and “MACBETH.” Praley studied Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago and received his MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU'S Tisch School of the Arts.

 


 
Molly Haas-Hooven

Instructor

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small_headshotMolly Haas-Hooven is so excited to join Writopia! Molly is a writer, actor and teacher originally from western Massachusetts. She has trained in improv, voice, clown, Suzuki, puppetry and dance with Shakespeare and Company, the Roy Hart Theatre and Double Edge Theatre. Most recently her writing has been produced by the New School for Drama, Ugly Rhino and New Century Theatre. Her play Shadow Trees received a Harold and Mimi Steinberg award for Best Original Play in 2009.  Molly loves combining her interests in peace-building and art-making and in 2010 she co-produced a monologue workshop for twenty teens and adults at a Boston center for domestic violence. She has worked with typical and special needs children from infancy to high school age in classroom and theater settings. She graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University where she received her B.A. in theater arts and has since performed throughout the Northeast.  She currently studies at the New School for Drama (MFA in playwriting, expected 2014).


 
Cory Tamler

Instructor

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Cory_Tamler

Cory Tamler is a playwright and recent transplant to New York after living in Chicago and Berlin (where she was a 2010/2011 Fulbright Scholar). She focuses on community-based work, international collaboration, and the intersection between science and art; her plays have been produced in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Germany, and elsewhere. Most recently, Cory worked with Open Waters Theatre Arts in Maine and three small family-owned farms as the playwright for Farms & Fables, a multi-year project culminating in October 2011 with a play that put farmers onstage alongside professional actors in a story about the future of agriculture. Cory has designed/taught a playwriting workshop for teens at The Telling Room in Portland, ME, and co-designed/co-taught theater classes for students of all ages in Pittsburgh, PA and in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She is originally from Pittsburgh, where she studied physics and fiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh. As a homeschooled kid, she took a lot of writing and theater classes and wouldn't be who she is today without them. She is thrilled to be able to step back into that environment as an instructor for Writopia.


 
Christina Drill
Instructor
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ChristinadrillChristina Drill is so very excited to be a part of the Writopia team! Christina graduated with a BFA in Playwriting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 2011. During her senior year at NYU she interned for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and after college moved to Panama to teach literature and creative writing to high school students. She really loves kids' brains. Christina co-runs the online zine Pieces of Cake, and her poems and short stories have been published by Two Serious Ladies, Dollar Stories, and The Newer York. Her first collection of poems, "New Bows," will be published as a chapbook by Five/Quarterly in the fall.


 
Jonathan Zimmerman
Instructor
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JonZimmerman BioPicJon teaches fiction, nonfiction, and filmmaking at Writopia, NYC. He is a screenwriter freelance writer, and playwright. He received his MFA in film production from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts He has won multiple awards for his independent television production and feature film writing, including the Final Draft Big Break screenplay festival as a semi-finalist. His most recent credit is A Canter's Prayer, a Channel Productions documentary feature due for theatrical distribution in early 2015. His non-fiction work has appeared in such publications as Salon, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Tablet. He also specializes in digital interactive fiction, with Choice of the Rock Star published by Choice of Games LLC, and The Painted Portals of The Prado Pandemonium slated for release by Pocket Gems in November on their Episode platform.


 
Amy Dupcak
Instructor 
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AmyresizeAmy Dupcak is truly excited to join Writopia, NYC. She studied Writing, Film History, and other random things at Sarah Lawrence College, then earned an MFA in Fiction from The New School. Along the way, she's worked as a music and culture journalist, editor, blogger, and publishing intern. She started and taught a Creative Writing course for high school seniors in Westchester, and now teaches English and tutors on the college level in Manhattan. She has published short stories and creative nonfiction in Sonora Review, Fringe, Phoebe, The Dirty Napkin, and other literary journals, and has also completed her first novel, which she is hoping to get out into the world very soon!


 

 
Carolyn Ferrucci
Instructor
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carolyn picture Carolyn is a poet and short story writer from New York City. She is a graduate of Eugene Lang College the New School for Liberal Arts, where she received her BA in Creative Writing (2012). Carolyn is founder and curator of the monthly poetry reading series Spilt Milk and has read her work with various series around the city, including at The NYC Poetry Festival on Governor's Island (2013). She has collaborated on a sound collage reading at the Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco (2014), and continues to collaborate with visual artists on site- specific installations, zines, and video projects. She is an ArtFarm Nebraska writer in residence (2014), and recent recipient of a writer's residency at AIR Bergen, Norway (2015). Carolyn is inspired by and thrilled to be part of the Writopia community.


 
Stephen Cedars
Instructor
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SRC_Head_Shot_WritopiaStephen began teaching fiction and playwriting at Writopia in 2011.  His original theatre has been produced throughout New York City for the past seven years through the Brick Theatre, the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival, and the Ontological-Hysteric Incubator, chashama. He has also co-produced community theater for Williamsburg families.  He studied English, History and Theatre at Louisiana State University, and recently graduated with his MFA from NYU's Department of Dramatic Writing, where he was awarded the John Golden Prize for Excellence in Playwriting.


 

 
Sarah Bernstein

Instructor
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Sarah is a playwright who has worked on all sides of the New York theatre world. She first partnered with Writopia through her position as Acquisitions Director at Playscripts, Inc., where she spearheaded the development of the Playscripts Scholarship Award, presented to a promising high school playwright as part of the 2013 Worldwide Plays Festival. Sarah's plays include New Mutants, A Reunion, All The Women, and Random Decay, and her work has been produced with FullStop Collective, Turnip Theatre Co., and the American Globe Theatre. She has also helped to discover and champion new plays as Literary Manager and Acquisitions Director at Playscripts, and as a member of the Literary Wing of the Lark Play Development Center. Sarah graduated with Honors in Playwriting from Brown University, where she studied with Bonnie Metzgar and Paula Vogel. After falling in love with Writopia through her work on the Worldwide Plays Festival, she is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Writopia's brilliant students and staff as an instructor.


 
Kara Ayn Napolitano
Instructor
KaraAyn.HeadShotKara Ayn Napolitano, as a performer has recently been seen in Life Recital (30 minute musical) at Roy Arias and Theater for the New City, Captain Marbles... (children's musical) at 45 Bleeker, and A Grimm Reality in Bryant Park; as a vocalist she has performer her own folk/rock/comedy music all over Manhattan and now sings with the rock/jam band Mr. Hunter (www.mrhunterband.com); produced plays include Life Recital (Roy Arias, 2011 and Theater for the New City, 2010) and Plane Play (Under St. Marks, 2010). She co-founded the company Drift In Act Out, which has produced two short play festivals.  She teaches TriYoga and Speech Level Singing and thinks music, theater and yoga are pretty freaking cool, aiming to spend most of her time in them.

 
Steve Ross

Graphic Novel Mentor

Steve_Ross_press_photoSteve Ross is an artist, illustrator and writer whose work has appeared in many magazines and periodicals including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He is the creator of two popular graphic novels: Marked, a re-imagining of the Gospel of Mark and Blinded, an idiosyncratic take on the misadventures of St. Paul of Tarsus.  He and his son, Allen (a proud Writopia alum), are also the creators of the online web comic www.SeventyOfSeventy.com.

Steve began his professional career as a teenager in San Antonio, Texas, selling pictures of angst-ridden, dark and disturbing surrealist art to his friends and teachers. Soon after high school he landed a job drawing dining room tables for a local furniture company, and was surprised when the owner became upset that he was drawing dark and disturbing surrealist furniture for the company's newspaper ads. They parted company.

You can visit Steve and see more of his work at www.StevenTracyRoss.com.

 

 
Beth Breier

Instructor

Beth_BreierBeth Breier is excited to be teaching the summer book-making workshops at Writopia Lab. She is a NYS licensed visual arts teacher and has taught art to childen at different schools in Queens. She also gives private art lessons. Beth holds a BA in studio art and an MS in art education from CUNY Queens College. She studied drawing and painting at the Art Institute of Florence. When she is not teaching art, she creates small sculptures with found objects.


 
Alex Yates
Instructor
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DSC_0143_2Alexander is very excited to be involved with Writopia Lab. He earned an MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University, and his first novel, Moondogs, was published by Doubleday and Random House Audio in the spring of 2011. Other work of his has appeared in Salon, American Fiction, The Kenyon Review Online, and the Tin House Blog. He has taught writing in Syracuse, NY, and Fairfax, Va. He used to live in the Philippines. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, he will live in Rwanda.


 
Beth Buchanan
Instructor
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beth4x51Elizabeth Buchanan joined Writopia DC as an instructor in February of 2012. She has taught writing at The University of Oregon, where she earned her MFA in fiction writing, and at the St. Albans School for boys, where she currently serves as the school’s writer-in-residence. Her stories, reviews, and interviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Iron Horse Literary Review, Bluestem Magazine, Helix, and therumpus.net, among others, and she is currently at work on a collection of short stories.


 
Cherie Buenaflor
HR/Operations Associate
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Picture of CherieCherie is the HR/Operations Associate at Writopia Lab. Before joining Writopia, she was assisting with HR, event planning, and other administrative duties at both corporations and various non-profits, including StoryCorps and the Asian American Writer's Workshop. She is originally from the Bay Area, where she graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in Asian American Studies and Communication. She is superbly passionate about storytelling, playwriting, and promoting diversity (and also super excited to be part of the team!).


 

 
Abby Coleman
Branch Manager/Instructor
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abbyAvecMeowAbby Coleman joined Writopia Lab in September 2012. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at The New School where she is a poetry editor for LIT magazine. She completed her BA in English/Creative Writing from Hendrix College in Arkansas. Her poetry and artwork have appeared in The Providence Journal, The Aonian, The New School Collaborative (for which she also created the cover design), and most recently in great weather for MEDIA, and Eleven Eleven. She has created two chapbooks, The Heart Machine and Involuntary Rabbits. Abby is thrilled to serve as the Brooklyn branch manager and instructor for Writopia Lab.


 


 
Michelle Schusterman

Instructor
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Michelle SchustermanMichelle Schusterman joined the Writopia team in the spring of 2014. Michelle is the author of the middle grade series I HEART BAND and THE KAT SINCLAIR FILES (Penguin), as well as the upcoming horror-fantasy novel MAUDEVILLE (Egmont). She has a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of North Texas and was a middle and high school band director for several years before teaching ESL in Brazil and Korea. She currently lives in New York City with her husband (and bandmate) and their chocolate lab (who's more of a vocalist).


 

 
Jeremy Wallace-Segall
Chief Operating Officer
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mini-jeremyJeremy Wallace-Segall is the Chief Operating Officer for Writopia Lab. Jeremy oversees technology and back-office functions, contributes to the organizational literature, recruits new students and new schools, and does light housekeeping.

Jeremy has built and implemented databases and websites for 15 years. He ran a consulting business, ABCDataworks, for six years, that brought database, website, and communications strategy to non-profits and socially minded corporate ventures. Jeremy spent a few years in the corporate world, but most of his work experience has been focused on making the world a better place by helping non-profit organizations manage their data collection and dissemination. Jeremy has written corporate policy documents, software documentation, branding copy for websites, tutorials, and recently published a featured article of the month on Idealware.org.


 
Daniel Olavarria
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headshotdanielocropDaniel is a recent addition to the Writopia Family and is excited to be joining the fold!  A graduate of New York University (2009), Daniel's studies in philosophy and public policy have led to his work in several non-profits focused on community development, including the Business Outreach Network and Union Square Partnership.   Alongside his work in public administration, Daniel also has years of experience the in the field of Information Technology, highlighted by his time at Apple Inc as a technician and trainer.  By combing these two worlds into one concentrated form, Daniel hopes to be an administrative rock star for the Writopia Team!
 
Tom Flynn
Operations
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tf1Tom is an Operations Assistant at Writopia Lab. Tom has worked in higher education, business consulting and creative management. He is also a is a seasoned professional writer. Tom studied Philosophy and Peace Studies at Siena College and earned an M.S. in Communication and Rhetoric at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. At Rensselaer, he became Creative Director of a research group that created interactive multimedia learning software. He also worked on a variety of K-12 multimedia initiatives and taught a graduate level seminar for teachers on technology in the classroom. As an undergraduate, his fiction was published in the Siena literary journal The Sphere. In a past life, Tom studied with Marilyn Robinson and Amy Hempel at New York State Writers Institute Graduate Creative Writing Workshop at Skidmore College. He has written and edited for the literary magazine Pavement Saw, Guitar School Magazine, Hudson Valley Writers Guild and Scyre. While living outside Boston, he wrote about the arts and nightlife for the Boston Phoenix publication Stuff @ Night. And, during a more than 15-year association, Tom published countless feature length articles, interview pieces and reviews on music , culture and the arts for the alternative newsweekly Metroland in New York’s Capital region.

 


 
Jocquelyn Downs
Branch Manager, Writopia DC, Instructor
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Jocquelyn1Jocquelyn Downs is very excited to be a part of the Writopia family. Jackie obtained her MFA in Film from Howard University and her Bachelors of Arts in Broadcast Communications from Johnson C. Smith University. In 2011, Love Languages, her thesis film, was showcased in the Cannes International Film Festival’s Short Film Corner. She’s also written, directed and produced original plays and musical productions that have been produced at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jocquelyn has also worked as an Associate Producer for WSOC-TV and served as Producer for the Saturday Morning 8am Show. In her spare creative time, Jackie writes and performs spoken word poetry.

Jackie has also been working closely with students on their creative writing for ten years in Washington DC and around the country. She has developed curricula for a variety of courses and age groups ranging from middle school to college. As a high school Fine Arts instructor, over a period of six years Jackie taught courses including Creative Writing, Theater Arts, Public Speaking and Music Appreciation. She has led directing workshops at high schools in the Washington DC area and has worked as a Dramatic Arts Teaching Artist for the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in Washington DC. She is currently juggling a few creative projects that are in post production and is excited to start this next phase of her life with Writopia.


 
Maddison Conforti
Program Manager/Instructor
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maddisonMaddison Conforti happily joined the DC Writopia team in June 2013. She graduated from DePauw University with a BA in English and Latin and has an MFA from Columbia College Chicago where she fell in love with the essay and teaching writing. Maddison's work has appeared in Eye on the World and South Loop Review. Originally from Indiana, Maddison also dabbles in literary translation and is an expert napper, wanderluster, and lover of all things Italian.


 
Aditya Desai

Program Coordinator/Instructor
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adiAdi is elated to join Writopia! He received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Maryland in 2012. Prior to joining Writopia, he taught English and creative writing at DC area universities. His stories have appeared in The Kartika Review and The Sakura Review, and has contributed essays for the Smithsonian Institute. He is currently shopping his first novel and churning out another. When not teaching or writing, he moonlights as a non-tacky wedding DJ, and otherwise imagines himself a dashing super spy or romantic swashbuckler.


 
Genna Kohlhardt
Program Coordinator/Instructor
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Photo of GennaGenna joined the Writopia DC team in the fall of 2013. Genna’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Strange Machine, H_NGM_N, Fact-Simile, Jupiter 88 and The Anvil Lit Review. She received her MFA in poetry from Boise State University where she developed a love for teaching while working as teaching-writer and WITS resident at the Log Cabin Literary Center. In 2011 she founded Goodmorning Menagerie, a chapbook press dedicated to publishing works by well-known and emerging poets. Genna grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado with a BA in English and Fine Art.


 
Annette Lutivini Majanja
Instructor
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annetteAnnette Lutivini Majanja is excited to join Writopia in DC. She grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, received her B.A at the University of Nairobi, and worked in publishing in Nairobi for three years. Her writing has been published in Kwani? and McSweeney's. She received her M.F.A in creative writing with a focus on fiction from the University of Maryland, College Park.

 


 
Melissa Wyse

Instructor, Writopia DC
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Melissa Wyse has been an instructor with Writopia DC since the summer of 2010. She has taught writing at American University and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and she works as a writing tutor and freelance editor in Maryland and DC. Melissa is completing her MFA in fiction and creative nonfiction writing at American University. Her stories, articles, and poems have appeared in print and online publications, including Urbanite and decomP.


 
Julia Wang
Coordinator, Writopia DC Affiliate for the Scholastic Awards
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mini-juliawangJulia Wang joined Writopia, DC the fall of 2010. She is completing her Creative Writing MFA at American University and working on her Children’s Literature MA at Hollins University. She works as a freelance editor and has taught writing to third grade students. When she was in high school, she participated in the Scholastic Writing Awards and received a Gold Key and a prestigious American Voices Award. She is thrilled to be working with the Scholastic Awards and with Writopia, to do her part in bringing the program to a new generation of young writers. Here’s to a great year!


 
Khadijah Johnson

Instructor
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khadijahKhadijah Johnson is thrilled to be a part of the Writopia DC team! She is a native Washingtonian writer who attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Khadijah has nearly 10 years of corporate management experience and has worked as a freelance writer. She earned her BA in English from the University of Maryland and MFA in Fiction from National University, San Diego. When she is not at Writopia, Khadijah is either reading historical fiction or hard at work on her current project, a Gilded Age novel set in Washington, DC.


 
Amy Abrams

Instructor
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Amy AbramsAmy Abrams is pleased to join Writopia Lab DC. She is an award-winning author, journalist, literary journal editor and former publishing executive at art magazines (including Art & Antiques). She has published over 200 stories, both fiction and non-fiction, contributing to The Wall Street Journal, Art in America, and Village Voice Media. She has appeared on TV and radio programs including NPR and SiriusXM, as well as lectured about publishing, art and the media to university, museum and writing conference audiences across America. www.AmyAbramsWrite.com


 
Cristin Terrill

Instructor

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cristinmoorCristin Terrill is a young adult novelist living in Washington DC. Her debut novel All Our Yesterdays will be published by Disney-Hyperion in the fall of 2013. She holds a BA in Drama from Vassar College and an MA in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.


 
Amanda Miska

Instructor

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Amanda Miska

Amanda joined the Writopia DC Branch in the winter of 2013. She is a fiction writer whose stories have been featured in NIB Magazine, Whiskey Paper, Black Heart Magazine and Buffalo Almanack. She received her Bachelor's degree in Secondary Education for English/Communications from Penn State University, where she won the Eddie Nichols Fiction Award for her undergraduate creative writing workshop. She went on to pursue her MFA in Creative Writing at American University. When she's not writing/reading, she's a mom to two awesome little girls, and she sells vintage clothing with her sister on Etsy and at local flea markets. She's currently at work on a collection of short stories.


 
Adrienne Benson Scherger
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Instructor
AdrienneAdrienne joined Writopia DC in 2013. She writes fiction and personal essays. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Skirt! Magazine, Defying Gravity, Sierra Nevada Journal, the Washington Post, and Brain, Child. Her work-in-progress is a collection of linked stories about expatriates in Kenya. A native of the District, she is an adult “foreign-service brat” who spent most of her childhood following her development-worker parents around sub-Saharan Africa. After getting a BA in creative writing from Lewis and Clark College, she joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in a Himalayan village in Nepal. Since then, she has not only picked up an MA in nonfiction, but also called Kyiv, Ukraine; Tirana, Albania and Syracuse, New York home. Happily settled in Washington now, she lives with her three kids, one husband, and one barky terrier called Thor, Dog of Thunder.


 
Kathleen McCleary

Instructor
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McClearySmallKathleen McCleary is the author of three novels, including HOUSE AND HOME (Hyperion); A SIMPLE THING (HarperCollins) and LEAVING HAVEN (due out in Oct. 2013 from HarperCollins). Her non-fiction articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and other publications. She has also taught writing as an adjunct professor at American University. When she's not writing, she can be found in the gym, trying to teach herself to do pull-ups. You can find more about Kathleen's work at www.kathleenmccleary.com

 


 
Jessica Spotswood
Instructor
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JessicaJessica Spotswood is thrilled to join Writopia DC! She is the author of BORN WICKED (Penguin, 2012) and STAR CURSED (Penguin, 2013). SISTERS' FATE, the third book in The Cahill Witch Chronicles (a YA historical fantasy trilogy) will be released in August 2014. She has a BA in English and Drama from Washington College and an MA in Theatre History & Criticism from Catholic University. She lives on Capitol Hill with her playwright husband, Stephen Spotswood. You can find Jess online at www.jessicaspotswood.com..


 
Daniel Moskowitz

Instructor
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DanielMDaniel is the author of Flamingos Don’t Wear Bathing Suits, a book of children’s poetry published in 2012 by Bullmoose Books. A followup, Owls Just Don’t Give A Hoot, is scheduled for release early next year. An Atlanta native and graduate of the University of Georgia, Daniel currently lives in Washington D.C., where he is working on his masters degree at the Johns Hopkins University.


 
Alex Henderson

Instructor

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AlexphotoAlex Henderson gets excited every time he thinks about going to work at Writopia Lab. He came to Washington from North Carolina, where he focused on creative writing and Russian at UNC-Chapel Hill. After he graduated, he moved to Prague to work in a bookstore and write. Now an MFA candidate in fiction at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, Alex spends most of his time riding the metro with his notebook balanced on his knees. His fiction has appeared in Harper-Perennial’s Fifty-Two Stories and Ekleksographia. He will listen to anyone tell a good story.

 
Cynthia Kane
Instructor
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Cynthia Kane Cynthia is very excited to join the Writopia team! She has received her B.A. from Bard College and her M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. She has worked with Michael Gross, New York Times best-selling author, on 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building and Rogues Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and journals, including The Jerusalem Post, Wandermelon, VegNews, Pregnancy, Yoga Journal, Bridal Guide, and The Columbus Dispatch. Her short story “Curly” appeared in the anthology Submerged: Tales from the Basin (2008). Cynthiapublished Take a Hike: The Best 50 Routes in the Community of Madrid (Ediciones la Librería, May 2011) and started a guiding company called Hiking in The Community of Madrid, which has been written up in Gadling and the AOL guide to Madrid. She is a contributing writer toEveryDay Feminism and Gurl.com, and is hard at work on a memoir.For more check out her website at www.cynthiakane.com.


 
Christine Stoddard
Instructor
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ChristineStoddardBioPicChristine Stoddard joined Writopia in July 2012 after graduating from VCUarts. As the founder of Quail Bell Press & Productions, Christine edits Quail Bell Magazine, directs documentaries, writes comics, and produces other art and media projects. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the media industry's 20 visionaries in their 20s at the MediaNext Conference in New York City. Christine is also a Puffin Foundation emerging artist, a Southeast Review featured artist, a Cyberpunk Apocalypse visiting writer, and one of Style Weekly's Top 40 Under 40. Christine has edited two books of writings from Quail Bell Magazine—The Nest: An Anthology of The Unreal and Airborne: An Anthology of The Real (Brandylane Publishers). Christine also co-authored Images of America: Richmond Cemeteries (Arcadia Publishing), released in 2014, and is looking forward to the release of Once Upon a Body (Six Gallery Press) and The Hispanics of Virginia(The History Press). Christine has performed her writings at events ranging from BUNKERprojects' Performance Art Festival to the Annapolis Fringe Festival. Her films, photo media, and collages have been shown everywhere from the New York Transit Museum to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. One of her greatest joys is working with kids to tell their stories.


 
Jessica Dall

Instructor 
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JessicaDallJessica joined Writopia Lab in 2012 as an instructor in Washington, DC. She is the author of the novel Grey Areas (PaperBox Books 2010) Don't Ask(Vagabondage Press 2012) and The Bleeding Crowd (Melange Books 2012) along with numerous published short stories. Outside of teaching and her own writing, Jessica has also worked in the submissions and editorial departments of a small science fiction, fantasy, and horror press (2009-2011).


 
Vanessa Wang

Instructor
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Vanessa Wang image Vanessa Wang is happy to join Writopia, DC this summer of 2014. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in Civil Engineering from National Taiwan University. Vanessa's writings in Chinese and English have been published in World Journal, INK Literary Monthly, and will be forthcoming in Kweli. She grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Taipei, Taiwan, and has lived in many cities including Tokyo and Madrid. She has worked as a copy-editor for engineering articles, an English tutor, and a college academic advisor. She has been shortlisted for the Glimmer Magazine Short Story Award for New Writers as well as the 2014 David T.K. Wong Fellowship.


 
Lisa Friedman

Instructor

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me__elvis_publicity_shotLisa Friedman writes novels, nonfiction, essays and a humor column titled Laugh Out Loud. Her work appears in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and in newspapers and magazines around the country. Lisa loves to work with writers. She coaches individuals working toward publication and has lead workshops, discussions and writing labs in elementary and high schools in MD. She earned her MA in Creative Writing from the Johns Hopkins University where she is a guest lecturer, and has won several awards for her work including Best Humorist by the Erma Bombeck Center. Lisa is looking forward to brainstorming with the creative writers at Writopia.  Read about Lisa at: www.lkfriedman.com


 

 

 
Kelly Ann Jacobson

Instructor
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kellyannKelly Ann Jacobson is thrilled to be teaching at Writopia in Washington, DC, and looks forward to helping students discover the joys of crafting their own stories. Kelly is currently pursuing her MA in Fiction at Johns Hopkins University, and she is the Poetry Editor for Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine. In 2013, her novella was named a finalist in the Iron Horse Literary Review novella contest. Kelly has had or will have poems published in Wooden Teeth magazine, Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine, Coldnoon, Blue Hour Magazine, Promptly, and Poetry Pacific; fiction in The Exhibitionist Magazine and The Writing Disorder; and nonfiction in life2pointoh.com and 20somethingmagazine.com. Her work can be found at www.kellyannjacobson.com.


 
Sheila McMullin
Instructor
Sheila@writopialab.org

Sheila McMullin pictureSheila McMullin is a writing instructor at Writopia DC. She received her MFA in poetry from George Mason University. In 2010, Sheila lived and traveled throughout China teaching English to university students in the Shandong Province. While writing is her first love, Sheila also loves traveling to meet new people, exchanging ideas on how to live a happy life, being outside, and engaging with the imagination to learn something new! You can read some of her work in So to Speak: A feminist journal of literature and art, 1913: A Journal of Forms, YEW: A Journal of Innovative Writing and Images by Women, HER KIND: A Literary Community Powered by VIDA, The Catbird Seat Blog at the Poetry and Literature Center in the Library of Congress, and in The Lit Pub.

 


 
Mason Henderson

Instructor
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picture of MasonMason is extremely excited to join the Writopia family. He received his B.A. in Creative Writing and B.F.A in Music Performance at Western Michigan University. Currently in his third year, he is working on completing an MFA in poetry at the University of Maryland. Over the course of his teaching career, Mason has taught anything from middle-school band classes to undergraduate poetry workshops. Always shifting between his engagement with music and his passion for writing, Mason likes to think he combines the best of both worlds writing as a poet. Currently working on a collection of poems for his graduate thesis, he’s never been more excited to work with the young writers and students that contribute their time to writing, reading and language. His poems are awesome and often have bears and other awesome animals in them.

 


 
Jennie Berman Eng
Instructor
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JennieJennie Berman Eng joined the Writopia DC team in the summer of 2013. She received her MFA in Playwriting from The New School for Drama. Jennie was a playwright-in-residence at America-In-Play, and currently writes with DC Playwrights Forum. Recent plays include Exit Carolyn (Sans A Productions) at The Drilling Company in New York, Wildwood Flower (Speranza Theatre Company, 2011 Reading Series), and Cherry (Naked Angels’ First Monday reading series, New York. She is the former Creative Director of Greasy Pork Chop Productions, which produced plays in New York and Los Angeles. Jennie is a Teaching Artist for Young Playwrights Theater and Ford’s Theatre Target Oratory and Residency in Washington, D.C. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and the two cutest kids on the planet, Lily and Jasper.


 
Stephen Spotswood
Instructor
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Stephen SpotswoodStephen is excited to be a part of the Writopia family. He is a DC-based playwright, teaching artist, and journalist. Stephen received his MFA in Playwriting from Catholic University in 2009. Produced works include: In The Forest, She Grew Fangs (Washington Rogues); We Tiresias(Best Drama, Capital Fringe Festival 2012); When the Stars Go Out (Bright Alchemy Theatre); Sisters of Ellery Hollow(Capital Fringe 2011); The Resurrectionist King (Active Cultures Theatre); Off A Broken Road (Imagination Stage); andA Cre@tion Story for Naomi (Bright Alchemy). He is a company member with Pinky Swear Productions, a frequent dramaturg at Theater J, and a member of the Forum Theatre Artist Ensemble.


 
Jessica Thwaite
Intern
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JessicaThwaiteHeadshotJessica is ecstatic to join the Writopia DC team! She is a sophomore English major at the University of Maryland, where she is also a copy editor for the student literary magazine Stylus and publishing assistant for the Feminist Studies academic journal. She has volunteered for years with her hometown’s “College for Kids” summer education program, and is excited now to work in an environment where she can share her excitement about creative writing and self-expression with the talented young people of DC.


 

 
Steve Lewis

Los Angeles Branch Manager/Instructor

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A recent transplant from Writopia DC, Steve is thrilled to be joining the Writopia West squad. Steve’s work as a playwright has been honored by the Kennedy Center and Sundance Lab (winner of the Mark Twain Prize for Comic Playwriting), placed as a Finalist for New Dramatists’ Princess Grace Award for Playwriting, and published by Smith & Kraus. As an arts educator, Steve has also taught fiction and playwriting for the award-winning Young Playwrights’ Theater, Arena Stage, Imagination Stage, and the University of Maryland. Steve studied creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania (B.A.) and the Catholic University of America (M.F.A.). He and his wife love Los Angeles, and their two tiny dogs love not living under threat of snow burial.


 

 
Leslie Margolis

Instructor
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LeslieMargolisLeslie Margolis loves writing and teaching. She's thrilled to join WRITOPIA LA. She’s the author of a bunch of books for children of all ages, most recently, ONE TOUGH CHICK, in her ANNABELLE UNLEASHED series. Forthcoming is SECRETS AT THE CHOCOLATE MANSION, her third MAGGIE BROOKLYN MYSTERY. A recent transplant from Brooklyn, she is actually loving life in LA. Aside from writing, reading, and teaching, Leslie enjoys running, biking, swimming, cooking, and hiking with her family and Aunt Blanche, their rescue mutt. For more on Leslie, please visit www.lesliemargolis.com and www.maggiebrooklyn.com.

 


 
Tanya Frank
Instructor
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Tanya_headshotTanya Frank is excited to join the Writopia LA team. She received her M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction from the University of California, Riverside. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Connotation Press, Fiddleback, WriteGirl Anthology, LA Family Magazine, and Lumina, the Sarah Lawrence College Literary Journal. In 1999 she was commissioned by Anglia T.V and the B.B.C. to write “Kissing Buba,” a short drama for T.V. and cinema. She later worked as a script editor for the London Film and Video Development Agency. Since 2002, Tanya has taught creative writing to middle school children and facilitated memoir-writing workshops for elders.Tanya is currently working with a literary agent on an autobiographical novel about growing up on a council housing estate in East London during the Thatcher era.

 


 
Aaron Shulman
Instructor
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Aaron_headshot Aaron Shulman joined Writopia LA in the spring of 2013. He is a writer and former Fulbright scholar who specializes in social issues and the arts. His essays, reportage, and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in The Believer, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Republic, The American Scholar, Frequencies, and The Literary Review. He teaches creative writing to undergraduates at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy--and to Writopians in Santa Monica.

 


 

 
Shabnam Piryaei

Instructor
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ShabnamShabnam Piryaei joined the Writopia LA team in the summer of 2013. Shabnam is the author of ode to fragile. Her writing has been awarded the Poets & Writers Amy Award for Poetry and the Transport of the Aim Poetry Prize, as well as grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her short films have been screened at film festivals and art galleries in the U.S. and internationally.


 
Emily Beyda
Instructor
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Emily_headshotEmily Beyda joined Writopia the summer of 2013. She is a writer of fiction and food and travel journalism. Her stories have been featured in The Cupboard, Postcard Shorts, and Lightning Cake, and a piece she wrote recently debuted in spoken word form at an exhibition in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She writes a monthly culinary advice column called Ask a Glutton for The Hairpin, and worked as a restaurant critic for AsiaLife and The Word magazines when she lived in Saigon. She is hard at work on her first novel.

 


 

 
Melanie Thorne
Instructor
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Melanie_headshot Melanie Thorne joined Writopia the summer of 2013. She is the author of Hand Me Down, a critically acclaimed debut novel in the tradition of Dorothy Allison and Janet Fitch. Praised by media, named a Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2012, and nominated for the 2013 YALSA Alex Award for adult books with special significance to teens, Hand Me Down tells the compelling story of a girl who has never been loved best of all and her fight to protect her sister. Melanie earned her MA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Davis, and has been awarded the Alva Englund Fellowship, the Maurice Prize in Fiction, and a residency at the Hedgebrook Writer’s Retreat. Born and bred in northern California, she recently moved to Los Angeles, where she is basking in the glorious SoCal weather and happy to be joining the Writopia team.

 


 

 
Janet Edwards

Instructor
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JanetEdwardsJanet Edwards is so excited to be joining Writopia LA. Her poetry and reviews have been published in Weave Magazine, McSweeney's, The Rio Grande Review, The Raven Chronicles, and The Exquisite Corpse. Janet holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from New York University and a B.A. in English from Louisiana State University, where she won the Dara Wier Award for Poetry. She has worked with youth in various capacities for over fourteen years, as a camp counselor, writing and English tutor, and creative writing instructor at NYU.


 
Michelle Meyers

Instructor
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MichelleMeyersMichelle joined Writopia LA the summer of 2013. Her prose pieces have been published in DOGZPLOT, jmww, and Clerestory Journal of the Arts. Her plays have been developed and/or produced in New York City (New Dramatists); Los Angeles (Hollywood Fringe Festival and the Pacific Resident Theatre); Chicago (Indie Boots Theatre Festival); Great Barrington, MA (Berkshire Fringe Festival); Providence, RI (Production Workshop, the McCormack Family Theater, and the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts); and Nova Scotia, Canada (Acadia Theatre Company). Michelle graduated from Brown University with degrees in “Literary Arts” and “Theatre—Writing for Performance” and is a recipient of the Weston Award for Playwriting and the SCCC Creative Writing Award for College Students. Her first novel will be released on Amazon in 2014. When not working with Writopia, Michelle teaches English and history at Fusion Academy Los Angeles, an alternative private middle and high school, and is part of the Los Angeles playwrights’ collective Fell Swoop Playwrights.


 

 
IAN McDONALD

Instructor
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Ian 
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 </script>Ian McDonald joined Writopia LA in the summer of 2014. He is a writer, director and educator from Portland, Maine. His plays have been produced or developed by Playwrights Horizon, Soho Rep, Theatre Masters, Walking Shadow Theatre Co., The Portland Stage Co., The Skylight Theatre Co., The Eagle Project, Moving Arts Theatre Co., The Blank Theatre, The Veritas Ensemble, American Repertory Theatre, The Great Plaines Theatre Conference, American Theatre for Higher Education and The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, among other places. He is the recipient of The Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, The Clauder Competition's Gold Prize, and a Playwriting Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Ian received his BA in English Literature from Loyola Marymount University, and his MFA in Playwriting from Brown University, where he also taught.

 


 
MAGGIE SPILMAN

Instructor
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Maggie SpilmanMaggie Spilman is very excited to be joining the Writopia team. She received her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and is currently an MFA candidate at California State University, Long Beach in creative writing. Her story “Muscle Memory” won the James Kirkwood Literary Prize in 2013. In 2014 she was chosen as one of six writers in the US to receive the PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship for fiction. When not writing her own stories she has been helping young people tell theirs through writing and visual arts since 2009, working through organizations like AmeriCorps, After School Matters, Alternatives Inc, ACE Enrichment and 826LA.

 


 
Jess Lacher

Instructor
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Jess LacherJess Lacher joined Writopia LA during the summer of 2014. He holds a BS in film from Northwestern University and a MFA in creative writing from Hunter College, where she was a Hertog Fellow and an adjunct professor in English and the humanities. Her short stories have been published in print and online, and her plays have been performed across the country. She recently moved from New York to Los Angeles and is working on a novel and a screenplay.

 


 
Léna Roy
Branch Manager, Instructor
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mini-lenarLéna began teaching Writopia Lab workshops in Manhattan in 2009, then went on to bring the program to New York City's northern suburbs in 2010. Léna is the author of the YA novel, Edges, published by FSG. She co edited the award-winning Girl's Write Now anthology, First Lines. Her writing was featured in the essay collection for middle school kids and their teachers: Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Essays to Devour: Your Favorite Authors Take on the Dreaded Essay Assignment. In 2014, Léna was recognized by the Scholastic Awards "as an outstanding educator whose dedication, commitment, and guidance are represented by student work selected for national honors." Léna earned her BA from Barnard, studying English and Italian literature, and her MA in Drama Therapy from NYU. Mentoring has long been the connective tissue in Léna's life, whether through her work with at-risk adolescents in Utah, California, and New York; or through her own writing discipline, as fostered by her late grandmother, author Madeleine L'Engle. It was her grandmother who taught Léna to transform the solitary nature of writing into a sacred sense of community, where her art and the art of others can flourish. You can visit Léna at www.lenaroybooks.com.


 
Sarah Darer Littman
Instructor

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LittmanSDSarah Darer Littman is an award-winning author of books for young people. Her first novel, Confessions of a Closet Catholic, won the 2006 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers. Her novel Life, After was a 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. She is also the author of Purge, named one of Bank Street College of Education’s 2010 Best Books of the Year and Want to go Private? a 2012 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and a Bank Street College Best Book for 2012. Her YA novel Backlash will be published by Scholastic in April 2015 and she’s one of 12 authors chosen by CT Humanities to write "The Great CT Caper”, an online mystery serial. Sarah also writes middle grade series fiction. In addition to writing for young people, Sarah is an award-winning political columnist for CTNewsJunkie.com and an adjunct professor in the MFA program at Western CT State College. Visit her online at http://sarahdarerlittman.com, http://wanttogoprivate.com and on twitter @sarahdarerlitt.


 
Veera Hiranandani
Instructor

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Veera pictureVeera Hiranandani is the author of several works for children including the novel, The Whole Story of Half a Girl (Delacorte Press), which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asian Book Award Finalist. She is also the author of the upcoming chapter book series, Phoebe G. Green (Grosset & Dunlap). She received her MFA in fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. A former book editor at Simon & Schuster and Montessori teacher, Veera is now focused on writing more books, teaching, and family life. She is so pleased to be part of the Writopia Lab team! You can learn more about Veera at www.veerahiranandani.com.


 
Rachel Snyder
Instructor
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rachelsnydersmallRachel Snyder joined Writopia Lab in spring, 2012. A poet, Rachel's work has appeared or is upcoming in Slice Magazine, The Pedestal Magazine, Word Riot, Birds Eye Review, Big Lucks, and The Foundling Review. She teaches College Writing at SUNY Purchase and has also taught at Manhattanville College. Rachel attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she earned her BA and later an MFA in creative writing. In 2014, Rachel was recognized by the Scholastic Awards "as an outstanding educator whose dedication, commitment, and guidance are represented by student work selected for national honors."


 
Melissa Marino
Instructor
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Melissa Marino picture

Melissa happily joined Writopia in March 2014. She is the author of YA novel, Witch Way (Lycaon Press, 2014) and two novels in the paranormal/fantasy genre. Melissa also dabbles in poetry and short-story writing and she is currently writing a chapbook. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College and MA in Psychology from Iona College. Melissa is honored and delighted to be a part of the Writopia team! Visit her online at www.mamarino.com/

 
Gaby Boland
Program Coordinator, Instructor
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Gabriele Boland pictureGabriele Boland received her degree in journalism from SUNY Purchase. She graduated with highest honors and was the 2011 recipient of the Peter Keller Journalism Scholarship award. Her articles have been featured on a variety of sites, including Huffington Post and Her Campus. A voracious consumer of YA fiction, Gaby is a regular contributor to the literary blog, Bibliosmiles. As a three time NaNoWriMo winner, she is excited to help everyone give a voice to their inner writer.


 
David Neilsen

Instructor
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daveHeadDavid Neilsen joined Writopia Lab in the Spring of 2013. He spent a decade writing horror screenplays for Hollywood, managing to get a single, non-horror feature produced straight to DVD and optioning a not-really-horror TV Pilot to 20th Century FOX. More recently, he switched from screenplays to novels and from horror to YA/MG, completing a number of short stories and his first novel. David has also written extensively on the web, and has been featured in numerous national publications, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly.


 
Catherine Curan

Instructor
Catherine.Curan@writopialab

Catherine Curan PictureCatherine began teaching with Writopia Lab in 2012. Her writing has been published in Fiction, Many Mountains Moving, Ozone Park Journal, the SalonZine and Sleet magazine. As a journalist, Catherine has investigated the mortgage industry for the New York Post, covered fashion shows for Condé Nast Portfolio.com, and earned a Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Award for her Crain’s New York Business special report on the hip-hop economy. Catherine earned her A.B. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Princeton University, graduating cum laude, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She volunteers as Associate Publisher of the online journal Anderbo.com, and has twice served as a national judge for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.


 
Rob Roy

Operations Manager

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Rob2

Rob is Writopia Lab's administrator for the Westchester & Fairfield labs. Having worked more than a decade in New York film production, Rob says he's perfectly qualified to run errands, file paperwork, and tinker on computers. And because Rob shares Writopia's vision of building an environment in which to foster the creativity of teens and kids, he now runs, files, and tinkers with more joy than he did before.


 
Alexandra Cohl
Intern
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Alexandra Cohl Alexandra is thrilled to intern with Writopia NYC this summer. She recently graduated from the University of Delaware with a BA in English Literature and a minor in Theatre Performance. She has yet to write the next great American novel, but she does enjoy writing personal essays and fictional stories inspired by her own experiences. Periodic summer visits to her grandparents’ house in upstate New York—or as her mother called it: “cousin camp”—proved to be inspirational. She and her cousins would create and perform original stories regularly, sometimes charging for entry. Since then, she has always loved the therapeutic power and beauty of words. Besides reading and writing, she also loves to sing and is specifically inspired by R&B and soul music.

 


 

 
Peter Cohen
Teaching/Tech Intern
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peter_fbbio_picPeter has been attending Writopia workshops since the organization began in 2007. He has always enjoyed writing, but didn’t really get started on it until he met Rebecca when she taught his 7th grade English class. Since then Peter has submitted numerous pieces to the Scholastic Writing Awards, receiving recognition for many of them, including a National Silver Key for his senior portfolio.
Peter is currently a student at SUNY Binghamton, and he frequently visits Writopia to help out and visit on his vacations.


 

 
Teddy Becker-Jacob

Intern
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teddyTeddy Becker-Jacob is thrilled to be part of the Writopia team as the development intern. During his time as a Writopia writer, his play "Drunk and Armed" was featured in Writopia's second ever Worldwide Plays Festival, and he received recognition from the Scholastic Awards for his plays, essays, and senior portfolio. As Writopia's development intern, Teddy drafts grant proposals and promotional material in addition to helping coordinate fundraising efforts. In 2013 and 2014, he received the Community Development Award at Writopia’s annual benefit in recognition of his work. He hopes that by broadening the reach of Writopia’s innovative programming, he can help provide a home for cerebral young people from all backgrounds. Teddy recently graduated from Stuyvesant High School and will attend Stanford University next year. In his free time, he plays the banjo.


 
Emma Arett
Intern
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Picture of Emma ArettEmma is thrilled to join the Writopia Lab team as an intern! A St. Louis, Missouri native and a sophomore at Barnard College, Emma is pursuing a double major in Creative Writing and Urban Studies. In addition to working with Writopia, she teaches SAT prep classes, serves as the Events Editor for 4x4 Magazine at Columbia, and hosts a weekly radio show on WBAR. Emma is also a fiction writer, and was most recently listed as a finalist for Glimmer Train magazine's May 2014 Short Story Award for New Writers.


 
Elyse Pitock
Intern
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Elyse Pitock pictureElyse is an intern at Writopia Lab. She is a junior at Barnard College studying history. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Jewcy.com, the Barnard Bulletin, and others. Her plays have been performed in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. When she's not writing, she is an avid knitter who likes to watch nature documentaries and make crafts.





 
Ross Walker
Intern
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RossWalkerBioPicRoss is an intern at Writopia and an English Major at NYU. Ross loves writing and helping other's discover their love for writing as well. He has extensive coursework in english literature and theory and spends a lot of time in writing workshops as well. In his experience he has found that the only thing better than telling stories is hearing them!