Learn more about Writopia in the New York Metro North region.
Léna 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 Girls 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.
Rachel Ephraim is a Writopia Instructor for the Westchester Region. She is a graduate of Columbia University's M.F.A. fiction program and has taught creative writing to kids, teens, and adults for the last ten years. Her short fiction has been published in the Apple Valley Review, The Barcelona Review, Word Riot, and other publications, and her non-fiction has appeared in The New York Spirit, Hudson Valley Parent, and Organic Hudson Valley. She was managing editor of the Park Slope Reader as well as slush-pile reader at The New Yorker, and now lives upstate where she is raising her daughters on a small homestead.
Sarah 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 SarahDarerLittman.com, WantToGoPrivate.com and on Twitter @sarahdarerlitt.
Veera 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.
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/.
Donna Lee Miele joined Writopia Lab in 2014 as an instructor at Cuppa Pulp Writers' Space in Nanuet, New York. She also teaches in Westchester. Donna writes primarily fiction and non-fiction (though she's been spotted enjoying poetry slams and open mics in Nyack). She recently finished a full-length fiction manuscript based on her family's life in Mindanao, Philippines during World War II, and is at work on her second novel. She received her MFA from Manhattanville College, has been published in MendaCity Review , blogs for Magnificent Nose, and has work forthcoming in Atticus Review. As owner-manager of Cuppa Pulp Writers' Space, Donna leads writing salons and workshops, organizes and facilitates author events, and just generally enjoys stirring the local writing soup, along with her Rockland County cohorts. She's looking forward to supporting a new generation of writers with Writopia Lab!
Rob is Writopia Lab's administrator for the New York Metro North 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.
Alexa Salvato has interned with Writopia Lab since 2013. As a high school senior Alexa received a national American Voices award from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She is currently a student at Ithaca College in the Park Scholarship program for Journalism. Alexa helps co-teach summer workshops for young Writopians, acts as editor for student submissions to The (Parenthetical), and volunteers as a WritopiaMentor for a local high school in Ithaca, NY. Alexa's essays, articles, and poetry have been published in Chronogram Magazine, Ithaca College's Buzzsaw Magazine, and New Moon Girl Media.
Anu Amaran (pen name: A. Anupama) is excited to work with the team of Writopians, young and old, in the Metro North labs. Anu is a poet, critic, essayist, and translator whose work has appeared in Fourteen Hills, CutBank, Numéro Cinq Magazine, Tulane Review, and elsewhere. She studied at Northwestern University and Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she received her MFA in writing. She currently organizes literary community and is a founding editor of the literary journal River River. She lives and writes in Nyack, New York. Find Anu’s musing at seranam.com.
Cara Stevens joined the Writopia team in the Fall of 2015. She has written 9 books for children including Dragon School, a mid-grade novel, and 3 books for Nickelodeon. She has designed educational video games and interactive storybooks, written for teen blogs like Kidzworld and BeingGirl, and has created ads and written articles for major publications. She studied Psychology at Vassar College and earned a Master of Arts degree in Communication from New York University. She is thrilled to join the Writopia community and hopes to learn a lot from the young writers in her workshops! She loves watching Doctor Who, Gilmore Girls and Animaniacs with her kids, and has read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 17 times and counting. Cara lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, and loud, white, fluffy dog Oliver.
A writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, PJ DeGenaro is overjoyed to be joining the staff of Writopia's Northern Metro labs as of the summer, 2015. PJ’s writing has appeared in numerous publications including The Adirondack Review, The Westchester Review, and The Hudson Independent. Her short story, “Everything Is Not Yet Lost,” was awarded “Best Thing We’ve Read Today” by The Furnace Review. PJ earned her BA in Fine Art from Hofstra University, and her MFA in Fiction at Manhattanville College. She has taught academic writing at the college level, and has developed and facilitated creative writing workshops for adult-education programs.
Stephanie is thrilled to help kids and teens discover the joys of writing through Writopia Lab. Stephanie also works as a freelance writer/editor/researcher in the realms of journalism, web content, nonfiction book manuscripts, and film/television project development. In a teaching capacity she has taught creative nonfiction writing online through the Creative Nonfiction Foundation; has run script analysis seminars at NYU/Tisch School of the Arts to graduate and undergraduate film and dramatic writing students; and instructed high school students on writing college entrance essays. Her literary essays and book reviews have appeared in the following literary journals and anthologies: Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers; Brain, Child’s Greatest Hits; Brevity; Creative Nonfiction; Italian Americana; MotherVerse; and The Yorktown Anthology of New Writers (Gotham Press). Stephanie has a BA in Theatre from the University of Colorado (1986) and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College (2000). She lives in Katonah, New York, with her two children.
Kate is ecstatic to be joining Writopia’s northern Westchester division! Kate has served as a Teaching Artist in NYC’s public schools for over thirty years. She is a playwright member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre where several of her one-acts have been produced. Her plays have been published by Samuel French, Broadway Play Publishing and included in Applause Books’ Best Short Plays. Her latest one-act, Casting Cordelia, can be found in the 2015 edition of The Westchester Review.
Sheela Chari is the author of several books for young readers, including the upcoming Finding Mighty, and Vanished, which was an Asian/ Pacific-American Library Association (APALA) Children’s Literature Honor Book, an Edgar nominee for best juvenile mystery, and an Al’s Book Club Pick on the Today Show. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU, and has taught writing courses at NYU, Boston University, and the Rye Arts Center. She is so excited to join the Writopia community! You can visit her online at www.sheelachari.com.
Joe, who will be joining Writopia as a volunteer writing mentor, is the author of three novels; nonfiction books on science, natural history, and baseball; and a bunch of mystery short stories. He's also worked as a mentor for writing students (everything from middle schoolers through adults) for many years, and may love that part of his life the most. He lives in Westchester with his family, which currently includes two kittens and a patient old dog.
Justin Allen is excited to be an instructor at Writopia Lab. Justin is the author of two novels, Slaves of the Shinar and Year of the Horse. He is also the author of three plays. Murder at the Masque: The Casebook of Edgar Allen Poe and Gilbert and Sullivan, The Ballet! were both commissioned and produced by Dances Patrelle. The Beatitudes was commissioned by Eidolon Ballet in Concert and was produced for the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival. Justin is curently formulating a new script, which he wants to call Superhero: The Legend of the Lightning Defender. Justin earned his MFA at Columbia University and studied Comic Book Scripting at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He loves fantasy and science-fiction, mystery and alternate history, love stories and comic books, and he adores work that defies classification. He has taught writing as a part of the Columbia Writing Workshops at Bank Street College of Education, led a seminar focusing on graphic novels and comic books at Bethesda Academy, and spent years as a children's ballet master in New York City. He looks forward to reveling weekly in the work of the talented and creative young writers that make Writopia Lab a special place.
Rodlyn is thrilled to be joining the Westchester Writopia Lab team as a summer college intern. She is an undergraduate student at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, and is pursuing an English-Writing interdisciplinary major and a Gender Studies minor. She is the Arts & Society editor of their online news source, The Greyhound, and an editor for the Poetry & Fiction section of Loyola’s literary magazine, Corridors. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, feminist literature, and writing poetry.
Elise Chidley joins Writopia Lab this spring 2017 as a Creative Writing Instructor. Elise’s first novel, Your Roots are Showing, was shortlisted for the 2009 National RITA Awards. Her other books include Married with Baggage and The Wrong Sort of Wife. Her work has also appeared in the Chicken Soup series, and one of her short stories was short-listed for the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award. She holds an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and an M.F.A. in Fiction from Penn State University. For many years she worked as a magazine journalist, writing for a national parenting magazine in South Africa, and for healthcare trade publications in Pennsylvania. She has taught English at Penn State and at the University of Natal, South Africa. She is widely traveled and even more widely read, with a passion for young adult literature inspired by her teen daughters. She is currently working on a young adult novel, and loves the energy and inventiveness of young writers.
Isabella is super excited to be part of the Writopia community this summer as an intern in Westchester! Isabella is a rising sophomore at Mount Holyoke College. She has not yet declared her major, but is leaning towards English. Isabella is a Speaking Arguing Writing mentor in her school's writing center, an Arts & Entertainment writer for the Mount Holyoke News, and an active member of the Mount Holyoke dance department.
Matt is truly excited, ecstatic, and electrified to be a part of Writopia’s team as an intern this summer in Westchester. He is a soon-to-be sophomore (whoa!) at Stanford University pursuing a degree in English Literature. At school, way on the other side of the country (double whoa!), Matt participates in an eclectic and time-consuming, crazy-making mixture of writing, theater, and improv. He is a staff writer and desk editor for The Stanford Daily and a staff writer and frequent drummer for Ram’s Head Theatrical Society. During his rare trips home, you can usually find him responding to demands for attention and affection from his cat and/or dog. He somehow got a short science-fiction story published in Bewildering Stories Magazine back in 2015.
Sophia is thrilled to be joining Writopia Lab, Westchester as a Writing Instructor. Sophia is an author of books for children and young adults. Her first book, What Things Mean, is a young adult novel published by Scholastic Asia (2016). This work won the Grand Prize at the 2014 Scholastic Asian Book Awards, and is one of the first young adult stories about the Philippines to have been published by Scholastic. What Things Mean was included in the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Top 10 Books of 2016. Her second book, a children's picture book titled Soaring Saturdays, won 2nd Prize at the Samsung KidsTime Authors' Awards (2015). It was digitized into an interactive e-book app in 2016 and is set for print release by Scholastic Asia in 2018. Sophia wanted to be many things growing up: doctor, teacher, ballerina, ninja, crime-fighting international spy, wizard, time traveler, journalist, and lawyer. She likes to think she can be all these things through writing. She studied creative writing at the University of the Philippines Diliman, and is currently a Creative Writing MFA Candidate with a concentration in Writing for Children and Young Adults at The New School in New York City. You can find her online at www.sophianlee.com.
Michaela Florio is ecstatic to be joining Writopia Lab, Westchester as Program Coordinator. Michaela received her BA in English & Literature from University of Alaska Anchorage and her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she worked with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Vijay Seshadri. She is currently writing a collection of essays focusing on Alaska and relationships, and hopes to climb Denali with her stepfather so she can finish a memoir on their relationship. Michaela has taught English and creative writing courses at the college level in Westchester, led creative aging workshops for Alzheimer's and dementia patients through Timeslips, played Division I college soccer, and has coached players ranging from age three through college. Whether on the field or in academia, she enjoys mentoring and helping people to achieve their full potential. Her hobbies include hiking, camping, fishing, and backpacking, and on the weekends you can find her playing soccer on various county leagues, and enjoying all the pizza.
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