Learn more about Writopia in Washington, D.C.
Jocquelyn 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 agea 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.
David Kim is delighted to be a member of the Writopia family. He received his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland, where he served as a reader for local literary magazines, taught an undergraduate course in Asian American Literature, and completed a collection of linked stories that he hopes never to see again. After graduate school, he spent considerable time in the nonprofit sector, coordinating, designing, and teaching creative writing workshops and reading enrichment classes for the Harlem Children's Zone.
He is also a former New York City teaching fellow and has taught English Language Arts at high schools in both Brooklyn and Baltimore. Most recently, he taught creative writing and English composition at a community college in Bloomington, Indiana. He is excited to return to the DC metro area and for the opportunity to work again with young writers. His favorite authors are Junot Diaz, Elizabeth Strout, and Yiyun Li, names he hopes his students will be familiar with shortly. When David is not reading, writing, or teaching, he is most likely listening to Kendrick Lamar or watching Good Will Hunting for the hundredth time.
Laura Owsiany is so excited to join Writopia Lab as Registration Coordinator and an instructor. She holds a BA in English from Georgetown University. After graduating, Laura worked as a full-time tutor in McLean, VA, where she mentored students in college essay writing and taught everything from English to calculus. She previously served as an intern for Writopia Lab in the summer of 2015, and as a publishing intern at the nonprofit 826DC. In addition to writing, Laura enjoys reading modernist poetry, photography, the outdoors, and frequenting DC’s many free museums.
Kathleen McCleary is the author of three novels, including House and Home (Hyperion); A Simple Thing (HarperCollins) and Leaving Haven (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 McHugh is thrilled to be a part of Writopia Lab. She's a novelist, playwright, and short story writer with seventeen books published by small presses in the last seven years, including the first three novels in her edgy young adult series, the Darla Decker Diaries. Her play, Fools Call It Fate, won the Mobtown Theatre playwriting competition in 2010 and was named "Best New Play of 2011" by Baltimore Broadway World. While crafting fiction is Jessica's biggest passion in life, she derives immense joy from inspiring and encouraging the creativity of others. She's honored to join the Writopia Lab family as an instructor this summer. For more information on her ever-expanding McHughniverse, please visit www.JessicaMcHughBooks.com or excellent publishers like Post Mortem Press and Evolved Publishing.
Melanie Howard is excited to join Writopia Lab as an instructor in the Greater Washington DC area. Melanie is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared online and in print in Time.com, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, SELF, Seventeen, Parenting, Good Housekeeping and other major publications. She is the co-author of the satirical novel, Queen of the Court (2013) and her second novel, a mystery set at a girls’ boarding school in 1963, is in the publication process. Melanie is an honors graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in General and Comparative Literature. She loves writing for a living for many reasons, but mostly because she gets to stay home with her dog, Rocket.
Katherine is thrilled to join the Writopia team! A Tennessean at heart, she moved to Maryland to work on her MFA in Fiction Writing, which she received from the University of Maryland in 2014. She also has a MA in English from Southeast Missouri State University and a BA in English and Journalism from Union University. Her first book was a construction paper cut-out of a cat's face, containing a story about a disobedient kitten that she wrote in the 2nd grade. Since then, her writing has been published in Glasschord, Journey, and Big Muddy, and reviewed on newpages.com. As a journalist, she wrote entertainment and feature stories for small newspapers in Tennessee and Missouri. Currently, she teaches composition at the University of Maryland and Montgomery College. Katherine enjoys big cups of coffee, sushi, collecting books and journals, running and, of course, writing. She hopes to adopt a cat soon and name her after one of her favorite authors, Flannery O'Connor.
Monica adores teaching creative writing with Writopia DC! In 2010 Freestyle (Schiffer Publishing), her first middle grade novel and 2011 Crystal Kite Award finalist, was born. Monica went on to write nonfiction for Science Weekly before earning her Master of Fine Arts in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has always loved a good adventure and has always loved including those adventures in her writing. For over twenty years she has worked on wildly fun marketing assignments, which have exposed her to exotic places like Cambodia and to interesting movements like the Underground Railroad. Currently, Monica is marketing a novel and several picture books.
Chad is thrilled to join the team at Writopia Lab DC. He is a freelance editor and writer and has published fiction in Salamander, Black Warrior Review, and Nimrod International Journal. He also has written extensively about culture and higher education. Originally from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, Chad earned his B.A. in English and in American studies from the University of Virginia and his MFA in creative writing from Indiana University, where he taught academic and creative writing and also served as the fiction editor for Indiana Review. In addition to writing, Chad loves hiking, camping, being on the water, reading (of course), traveling, karaoke, analyzing television and film, gardening, and attempting to cook. To learn more about Chad and his work, visit www.chadbanderson.com.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Allen is thrilled to join the Writopia staff! She is a native of Defiance,Ohio and earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University in 1984. She also holds a master’s degree in English (2011) and an MFA in fiction writing (2013) from George Mason University. Somewhere in between those degrees, Allen worked in corporate marketing communications, public relations, and freelance writing and editing. She is the author of several short stories published in various genre anthologies, including Twisted Yarns and Southern Haunts 3, and is currently revising her MFA thesis project (aka, her novel). She also is the co-author of the graphic novel trilogy, The End of Gath. At home in Alexandria, Virginia,Allen lives with her husband and two rarely cooperative, but (fortunately for them) cute dogs. In her spare time, she frets about her two grown children and her grandson.
Jenny Splitter is excited to be joining Writopia in Washington D.C.! Though she was an attorney in a former life, she now writes about science, food and health for outlets like Slate, Salon, New York Magazine and Vice. She's also a storyteller in D.C. who has performed for audiences at the 9:30 Club, the National Gallery of Art and the Birchmere, and was selected for Story District's best of the year Top Shelf show in 2014. Her plays, H Street Housewives and The Dish, were produced for the Capital Fringe festivals in 2013 and 2014. Keep an eye out for her in the upcoming documentary, Science Moms! She lives in the H Street Northeast neighborhood of Washington, DC with her husband and two kids.
Michael is excited to be a part of the Writopia Lab family! He's a writing coach, author, and an award-winning filmmaker. His written work has been published by Penguin and others and his feature documentary work has been seen in over twenty countries. His projects have included an in-depth analysis of the US government’s military strategy of preemptive war, the efficacy of the leading treatment for PTSD in the world today, and the state of third, forth, and fifth political parties in America. He holds a B.A. from Georgetown University, an M.S. from UMass, Amherst, and a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham in the UK. He’s also the founder of India’s longest-running, live true storytelling organization, Tall Tales, through which he’s coached hundreds of storytellers while teaching original writing workshops across South Asia.
Sita Romero is thrilled to join the Writopia Lab team! She is an MFA candidate in the Fiction program at Queens University of Charlotte, where she serves as an editorial assistant for QU Literary Magazine. Her short fiction has been published with Transmundane Press and Third Flatiron. As an instructor, Sita has a passion for cultivating a love of writing by ensuring every student feels nurtured and supported in workshop. Sita has taught creative writing to middle and high schoolers. She is a member of Science Fiction Writers of America and the Society for Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. She grew up on the coast of Florida and after recently spending a year living abroad in Mexico, has settled in Northern Virginia with her husband, three of her kids, and over 200 board games.
Rita is excited to join the Writopia Lab family! She received her MFA from Oregon State University, where she taught composition and creative writing. Her stories and poems have appeared in Permafrost, Grist, The Cossack Review, and Five on the Fifth, among other publications. Life on Dodge, her debut poetry chapbook, is forthcoming from Brain Mill Press. Her favorite things are dragons, all-you-can-eat sushi, and the movie Labyrinth.
Josef Kuhn is delighted to be a part of the Writopia Lab community. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University, where he taught writing and literature classes and was the Fiction Editor for the journal Phoebe. His work has appeared most recently in Superstition Review, The Columbia Review, and Rough Beast. Prior to graduate school, he worked in journalism and media for several years in Washington, DC, and he earned his BA in the Program of Liberal Studies from the University of Notre Dame. When he's not reading or writing, he enjoys seeing live music, discovering odd little museums or galleries or restaurants in DC, and teaching himself how to do the shuffle.
Louise Pisano Simone is happy to be a part of the Writopia Lab family. Louise earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and also holds a doctorate in Literature, History, and Ethics from Georgetown University. Her novel, Heir of the Jaguar, won a 2011 Next Generation Honors Medal, and her work for children has appeared in Appleseeds and Cobblestone magazines. A former librarian, Louise has spent way too much time reading fantasy and science fiction, and is a real sucker for anything that takes place in an alternate reality. The chance to nurture imagination and creativity in young writers, and a persistent head-butt from her cat, Momma Reno, get her up and moving each morning.
Norah is excited to join Writopia Lab! She has an MFA in fiction writing from George Mason University. Before taking a high school writing workshop, Norah wanted to be a mathematician. She still thinks math is beautiful, a way to tame the chaos, but prefers putting the chaos into words. Norah has published stories, poems, and articles in Agave Magazine, The Nassau Review, Stymie, The Washington Post, and others. Her novel excerpt was short-listed for the Ropewalk Press Chapbook Prize. Norah’s been teaching writing to kids since she was 17. She lives in Virginia with her husband and son.
Sarah Wheeler is a writer and educator originally from Portland, Oregon, and currently living her best life in the DC area. She graduated in 2018 with an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction from George Mason University in Virginia, where she taught composition, literature, and creative writing. She has short stories published in Mid-American Review, Gone Lawn, From the Depths, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel, and is thrilled to be part of the Writopia Lab team!
Zite Ezeh is very excited to join Writopia Lab as a Summer 2018 intern. Zite is currently a rising junior at Oberlin College studying Creative Writing and Peace and Conflict Studies. Zite has been writing ever since she was 10 years old and has a lot of love for the workshop space and process. Rooming with Ash, a YA novel Zite wrote when she was 13 years old, was picked up in 2016 by BLVNP Incorporated and published in November of 2017. Recently, Zite's writing has been centered more around fictional memoirs and oral history narratives, but she still loves to explore genres and expand her scope as a writer.
Zachary (Zack) Gardner is jazzed to be a part of Writopia Lab as an intern. He is currently a sophomore working hard to major in both English and Secondary Education at Vanderbilt University. Currently, he is the lead writer and designer for the Desktop Dungeons Extreme Edition team and is working on another currently unannounced video game project. In whatever scraps of free time remain, Zack enjoys board games and playing the piano.
Sofia Laguarda was a Writopia Lab student for four years, and now she's excited to return as a summer intern! She is a proud graduate of Sidwell Friends High School — where she was editor-in-chief of the satirical newspaper and literary magazine. During her time at Writopia, Sofia won two national Scholastic writing awards for short story and personal essay, and was published in Bethesda Magazine. She is now a junior at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where she majors in English. Sofia is on the editorial board of The New Journal at Yale, a magazine for longform journalism. She also performs with The Coven, an all-female standup group! Her favorite authors are David Sedaris, William Zinsser, and Jane Austen.
Marina Cooper is excited to join Writopia Lab, especially since she has fond memories of attending many workshops at Writopia Lab D.C. in the past. She has also taken two summer song-writing workshops at the UVA Young Writers’ Workshop; she went on the Putney Writing in Ireland Program; and she has been accepted to the Yale 2018 Summer Writers’ Workshop. She is a rising sophomore at Princeton University where she is a staff writer for one of the campus literary magazines and where she plans to major in English and minor in creative writing. One of her short stories has received a regional gold key in the 2013 Scholastic Writing Awards and was featured in the associated anthology Raw Feet.
Ebony is ecstatic about joining the Writopia Lab team as a summer intern and being surrounded by promising youth, dedicated instructors and staff members, and an overall positive environment. Ebony is currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley studying African-American Studies and Education. Ebony is excited to work with students hands-on in helping to enrich their creative skills. She sees Writopia Lab as a perfect medium for her love of education, children, and the arts. Ebony enjoys painting, drawing, and writing, both as hobbies and stress relievers. In many ways, she sees herself in the students because she is one. Ebony plans to graduate in 2019 and pursue a career in education.
Naomi is very excited about joining the Writopia Lab team as a creative writing teaching intern! Currently, she is a junior at the College of William and Mary and is majoring in film and media studies with a minor in creative writing. She discovered her love of writing through fanfiction, and after exploring fiction, poetry, and journalism, she found a passion for screenwriting. Naomi plans to pursue a career in television writing and works as a variety editor for her campus newspaper The Flat Hat. When she’s not busy writing for school or for fun, Naomi can be found (re)watching her favorite shows, listening to podcasts, and hanging out with her two Siberian cats.
Danny Berger is thrilled to be joining the Writopia Lab team as a college intern! Danny was born and raised in the Spring Valley neighborhood of Washington, DC and now attends Hamilton College, where he is majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in History. At Hamilton, he helps run the Novelists’ Support Group, a club for Creative Writing and Literature majors who meet to workshop pieces and discuss the craft of writing. Besides his love for writing, Danny also enjoys music, and he is ecstatic to have the opportunity to help young creatives find their voice, whether it be on the page or in the music stave. As a DC native, Danny is so excited to inspire young creatives in his hometown and pass on the incredible passion he has for storytelling.
Shea Sion is a long-time Writopian, student, and intern, and is ecstatic to be working with Writopia Lab again this summer. Shea started as a student back in the seventh grade and worked as an intern in their freshman year of high school. Shea is a rising sophomore hoping to major in creative writing at Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences with a possible East Asian Studies minor. Shea is experienced in writing various genres including fiction prose, poetry, scripting, and memoir. Shea's passions outside of creative writing include drawing, discussing, and blogging about cartoons, playing ukulele, and playing D&D.
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