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-authored Becoming Madeleine, a Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters, coming out in February 2018. 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. From 2014 to present, Léna has been 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/.
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.
Erin McLaughlin, an English Creative Writing major and education minor at Binghamton University, is ecstatic to join Writopia Lab Westchester as an intern this summer. Erin was born and raised in Mount Kisco, New York, and later moved to nearby Pleasantville, New York. She has been a creative writer since age eleven, primarily writing fiction and poetry. Additionally, she has been published in New York’s Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology. As demonstrated by her leadership roles, such as president of Binghamton University’s literary magazine, Ellipsis, and editor-in-chief of the school’s satirical newspaper, Erin is devoted to all types of creative writing. Erin also enjoys music, art, and tutoring students in literary through volunteer programs at elementary schools in the Binghamton, New York area. Erin hopes to become an English teacher in the near future with a supplemental degree in Special Education. Additionally, she hopes to publish her first novel by next summer.
David Neilsen joined Writopia Lab in the spring of 2013. His first book, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom was published by Crown Books for Young Readers in 2016. Crown published his follow-up, Beyond the Doors, in 2017. David 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. David has also written extensively on the web, and has been featured in numerous national publications, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and Entertainment Weekly.
Jacob Gamage joined Writopia Lab in the fall of 2017. After receiving an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he went on to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching Literature at Bard College in upstate New York. His writing has appeared in small press literary journals, educational journals, and online magazines, and he is currently working on a collection of personal essays that explore the tension between the longing for rootedness and the desire for exploration. He has taught creative writing and composition at the University of Wisconsin and at a diverse group of high schools around the country. Most of all, he enjoys working with kids and teens as they explore their own worlds, both real and imagined, and the characters and voices that inhabit those places.
Alexa Salvato has worked at Writopia Lab on-and-off in many capacities since 2013, and she’s so excited to rejoin the team this summer. She has a BA in journalism from Ithaca College and is beginning her Master’s of Arts in Teaching at Northeastern University. Her journalistic work and creative writing have previously been published in Stillwater Magazine, River River Literary Journal, BUST.com, Chronogram magazine, Buzzsaw magazine, and various other publications. She was awarded a Scholastic Outstanding Educator award for her young writers’ regional recognition in 2017. She is passionate about empowering young people to be stronger readers and more compassionate citizens.
Maxine is thrilled to return to Writopia Lab this summer as a college intern! During her junior and senior years of high school, she attended Writopia Lab as a writer. She is entering her senior year at Bucknell University as an Arts Merit Scholar, Creative Writing and Women's and Gender Studies double major, and Spanish minor. She works as a writing consultant at the Bucknell Writing Center during the academic year, and has served as the vice president of the campus fantasy/science fiction writing club known as the Writers of Rohan. She has a passion for writing novels, painting, reading, and analyzing science fiction and fantasy far more than she probably should.
Edward Kim is a rising junior at New York University. As an English major, Edward has a deep passion for both the study and the practice of the literary arts. Edward sees writing as both a form of creative freedom and expression as well as a medium for rich communication of complex yet universally resonant ideas. He also has a minor in Teacher Education and aims to direct this experience towards becoming an English teacher after receiving a BA in English and an MA in English Education. Prior to becoming an intern at Writopia Lab’s New York Metro North branch in 2018, Edward has had previous experience working in early childhood education, particularly the summer after his senior year of high school where he served as a teaching assistant at Port Chester Head Start. Edward’s additional hobbies include songwriting, animation, and video game design. During his time working with Writopia Lab, Edward hopes to help students achieve the same passion for literature that he discovered during high school.
Lily Alig is an English and Women's and Gender Studies double major at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio and has plans to eventually work in publishing before pursuing her PhD in Literature. 2018 is her first summer with Writopia Lab and she is thrilled to be working with a program that embraces the joy of writing. Lily grew up in Piermont, New York, where she now spends her summers reading memoirs and writing poetry. At Kenyon, Lily is an associate for the literary magazine The Kenyon Review, as well as an editor and staff writer for Her Campus. Lily is also a liaison at the college writing center for Women's and Gender Studies classes. Primarily a poet herself, Lily loves exploring all genres of writing and challenging herself to break out of her creative comfort zone.
Anthony Madalone was born and raised in lower Westchester County, and regretfully did not discover Writopia Lab until he began interning this year. He is a rising sophomore at The College of William & Mary, where he plans to double major in English and Theatre. On campus, he is an Associate Opinions Editor for William & Mary’s student newspaper, The Flat Hat, and actively performs in both student and faculty-run theatrical productions. Additionally, Anthony serves as an orientation aide, participates in Greek life, and enjoys running William & Mary’s trails. Despite all of this activity, he still finds the energy to sing show-tunes at 1 AM to the point of nearly getting fined by his RA.
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