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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rachel is thrilled to join the Writopia Lab team and work with talented young writers. She earned her MFA in fiction from Columbia University, where she worked on the Columbia Journal, and received her BA in English from Vassar College. She is an assistant editor at NOON. She previously wrote for Publishers Weekly, reviewing novels, short story collections, and memoirs, and she was an assistant teacher in the Art for Kids program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. When she’s not working on her novel and collection of short stories, she writes press releases for classical musicians and opera singers as well as scripts for educational videos. In her free time she hangs out with her dog and volunteers at animal shelters.
Rachel Dean joined Writopia Lab, Westchester as an instructor in 2019. She graduated summa cum laude from Monmouth University with a degree in Journalism and received her MFA from Adelphi University in Creative Nonfiction, where she was the recipient of a fully-funded candidacy and studied under Katherine Hill, Martha Cooley, and Jacqueline Jones LaMon. Rachel has taught Creative Writing as an adjunct professor and has worked for Bridges to Adelphi, a comprehensive program that assists students on the autism spectrum as they pursue college degrees. Rachel loves teaching and learning with students, and she enjoys working in creative environments like the one fostered at Writopia Lab. She is currently at work on a collection of nonfiction lyric essays and spends her spare time reading, writing, and traveling.
Jesse Karlan is thrilled to join the Writopia team as an instructor. Jesse spent over a decade working in professional musical theatre after earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from AMDA College and Conservatory for the Performing Arts. In 2015, Jesse self-published an epic fantasy novel titled The Garnestone. From 2015 to 2017, she worked as a voiceover and literary assistant at Abrams Artists Agency and simultaneously earned certificates in TV Writing and Fiction Writing from the University of California, Los Angeles. Jesse logged countless hours reading, proofreading, writing, and copy editing screenplays, teleplays, and novels. In August of 2017, The Bridges Academy hired Jesse as the head of their middle school drama department. Jesse fell in love with teaching. The Bridges Academy educates students who are twice exceptional. At Bridges, Jesse created a curriculum that catered to a wide variety of student needs. She also conducted a study using Sanford Meisner’s Repetition Exercise to aid in the development and recognition of social cues in children on the spectrum. Jesse’s combined theatrical and literary backgrounds enable her to inspire writers to utilize their artistic ability: empowering themselves, finding their voice, and allowing their creativity to inspire others. Jesse is currently a second-year MFA Writing candidate at Sarah Lawrence College, specializing in Speculative Fiction.
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