SummerWrite 2020 Instructors

Caren Barth holds an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. Over the last fifteen years she has taught literature and writing to college students, babywearing to parents, hula hooping to kids and adults, and a bit of everything to her two children. She has been writing since she was nine years old.

Jamie Bozek is so excited to be back at Hogwarts for another year!  He has been teaching in the Brighton Central School District for 16 years.  He is currently teaching 3rd grade at French Road Elementary School.  Before beginning his teaching career, Jamie pursued an acting career in NYC.  He lives happily in Pittsford with his wife Jennifer and his 3 sons Will, Ryan, and Henry.

Sarah Brown is a writer, former W&B employee, and is currently the Youth Services Librarian at the Webster Public Library. She has an MS in Library and Information Science and wields it to spread her love and appreciation for stories to all ages. Join her in her mission!

Rashida Burch-Washington is from the island of St. Croix, USVI. Her family moved to Rochester, NY in 1989. She attended the School of the Arts, and the prestigious Berklee College of Music where she pursued her passion for performance while studying music business and management in Boston, MA. She joined RCTV in 2013 bringing her extensive experience in theatre, music, performance, and production. Rashida currently manages radio station WXIR, but teaching the SummerWrite camps is her favorite responsibility at RCTV. While she loves the work she does with the community, Rashida’s favorite job is being a wife, and mother of two.

Lisa Buck has been a teacher in the Rochester City School District for 20 years. She earned her undergraduate degree from Nazareth in studio art and her Master of Elementary Education from St. John Fisher. A mother of two, she lives in East Rochester with her partner and two dogs. In her spare time she paints, gardens, camps, and kayaks.

Ben Callahan is an artist and educator who teaches enrichment programs in several school districts across Western New York. He moved to Rochester after acquiring his Master of Education at Monmouth University in New Jersey, the state he was born in.

Casey Cardillo is a frequent teacher at the Creative Workshop. She earned a BS from Nazareth College in May 2014 in Studio Art and Art History including an internship at the MAG. Casey is currently working towards her elementary school teacher’s certificate and MA in education via Western Governers’ University. As a teacher, Casey’s goal is to foster the creativity that she knows lies deep within every student and inspire them through artistic outlet. She has a warm, friendly, and patient approach  teaching of art to children.

Sarah Cedeño’s work has appeared in Punctuate, The Journal, 2 Bridges, The Pinch, The Baltimore Review, New World Writing, The Rumpus, Hippocampus Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Sarah holds an MFA from Goddard College in Vermont and has served as editor of several literary magazines. She lives in Brockport, NY with her husband and two sons, and teaches writing at the College at Brockport and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Neyda Colón-DiMaria (teaching fellow)is an education major at MCC and a School of The Arts alumna where she majored in dance. She began seriously writing poetry her freshman year of high school and performed for the first time two years later when she ran for Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester, telling her story in Spanish and English and through dance. Since then she has performed for open mics, Latinx Events, and Black Lives Matter Day for RCSD. Storytelling and cultural expression have always been important to Neyda so she is very excited to share it with you!

Tracy Cretelle is a writer, puppeteer, teacher, and student in the Rochester area. She writes poetry, fiction, and papers on social justice. Her idea of a perfect day is a day spent in creative collaboration with friends (of all ages) writing or imagining ways to make the world better. Tracy believes that anything done from the heart is well worth doing.

Rylie Day is native to Rochester and graduated from Nazareth College in 2013 with a degree in English Literature. Her passions include Shakespeare, children, and anything to do with cheese. She most enjoys writing short fiction and creative non-fiction. Before teaching at W&B, she took classes as both a teen and young adult, which established her life-long fondness for the organization. In her free-time, she can be found roaming around Highland Park with her two dogs and infant daughter.

Judy DeCroce is an educator and professional storyteller who has taught and entertained for over 25 years. Her technique is “first person” storytelling—being the characters in each story. As a writer, she has been honing her craft for 10 years and is preparing a manuscript for publication. As an instructor, she has helped students “flash” their writing, creating shorter pieces and adding a hook and a twist, making it flash fiction.

Julie Donofrio has been making people laugh for years, sometimes on purpose.  She has worked as a comedian, improv actor, and humor writer (of the column, Take My Advice; I’m Not Using It) and has appeared everywhere from New York City comedy clubs to the beverage tent at the Monroe County Fair.  She has performed in the Toronto and Rochester Fringe Festivals, and her television credits include a guest-starring role in the pilot “Finding Fabulous.” Julie is also a children’s entertainer and a teacher. She was the recipient of a Big Pencil Award from Writers & Books in 2015.

Chris Fanning interned at Writers & Books while attending St. John Fisher College. After graduation, he came on staff as their PR Associate while also working as a Promotions Coordinator at Entercom Radio. He served as the Associate Producer of the Key Bank Rochester Fringe Festival from 2016 – 2019. Chris oversees all matters relating to public relations, marketing, and special events.

David Festenstein is a culinary arts instructor at Monroe #2 BOCES and the RCSD, and a chef at Richardson’s Canal House.  He has also worked locally at Mario’s, The Lodge at Woodcliff, and Restaurant 2Vine.  David enjoys looking for new foods, recipes, and culinary techniques and enjoys working with young chefs.  He holds degrees from SUNY Cobleskill and Johnson & Wales University. He is excited to lead classes at Writers & Books.

Michael M.B. Galvin spent the last twenty years as a professional screenwriter in Los Angeles. He has worked with major studios like MGM, Fox, Disney, Warner Brothers, and Miramax along with a slew of independent studios and production companies. His adaptation of Fat Kid Rules the World, with writing partner Peter Speakman, won the audience award at the 2012 SXSW film festival. Galvin is also the co-author of the Rebels of the Lamp series of middle-grade novels on Disney’s Hyperion imprint. There is a Post-It note on his refrigerator that asks ‘Why aren’t you writing?’

Christine Green is a freelance writer, teaching artist, writing coach, and speaker. She currently writes a literary arts column for Rochester’s (585) Magazine. She also is a contributor to 55 Plus Magazine and In Good Health. She grew up in San Jose, CA and holds a Bachelor in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MA in Anthropology from the College of William and Mary.

Laura Jackett has a New York State Permanent Teaching Certificate in art K-12. Ms. Jackett holds a Master’s degree from Buffalo State College as well as a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rochester Institute of Technology. She taught art and other subjects for public schools from 1984–1999 and has taught art for various colleges since 1999. She has also facilitated many workshops around the country. Her artwork, primarily photography, printmaking, and bookmaking, has been exhibited in various locales around the world, receiving several awards.

Sean Jefferson is a drummer/composer/producer. He currently is a full-time member of the grammy-nominated soul-jazz outfit Paradigm Shift. Sean also works as a film composer and has debuted work on several films that were featured in international film festivals. He has had the privilege to perform and record with many world-class and Grammy Award-winning artists. Additionally, he has worked as a songwriter and producer for countless artists preparing demos, EPs, and full-length album releases. Sean is the founder and director of Rochester Contemporary School of Music, where he also serves as the drum instructor.

Lisa Johnson is a poet, author of Reflections of My People, a long-time high school English teacher, and the former managing editor of Motion Magazine and the Frederick Douglass Voice. She has performed at various spoken word venues and has conducted workshops for W&B for over a dozen years. A community activist, playwright, and producer, she delivers her neo-soul lyrics across many media and has earned roles as an actress in two locally produced movies. She enjoys working with diverse artistic styles.

Daystar/Rosalie Jones (Little Shell Chippewa) specializes in “native modern dance” and contemporary storytelling as seen through the perspective and experience of ancestry and cultural values. In 1980, she founded her own company, Daystar: Contemporary Dance-Drama of Indian America. Since then, she has created over thirty choreographic works, including the scripted dance-drama No Home But The Heart and other published writing on contemporary Indigenous dance and theater. Now in permanent residence in Rochester, NY, Daystar continues to create unique native-based dance theatre and is interested in sharing that creativity – dance, song, storytelling – with all ages in workshop and residency environments.

Michelle LaVarnway received a Master of Science in Music Education from Nazareth College, and a Bachelor of Music from SUNY Fredonia. She is a vocal music teacher in the Greece Central School District, the choir director at the First Presbyterian Church of Honeoye Falls, and a mom.

Megan Lawrence is a Rochester bilingual elementary school teacher with a passion for the Spanish language and nature. She received an MS in Bilingual Education from SUNY Brockport, and a BA in Childhood and Special Education from St. John Fisher College. Her love of Spanish developed over years of instruction and a semester abroad in Mexico. She teaches English and Spanish Language Arts, along with math, science, and social studies in both English and Spanish! In her free time, she loves to hike with her dog and husband, go camping, and enjoy the outdoors in any way she can!

Stacy Lawrence is thrilled to be back at Writers & Books because: 1) her life was forever transformed by the Flying Words Project at W&B in the 1980s, 2) her children enjoyed classes at W&B when they were little, 3) she loved teaching ASL at W&B years ago, and 4) W&B is welcoming deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) children to a deaf filmmaking workshop again this summer! Stacy established the first film camp for Deaf and HOH teenagers, and has made the Deaf Rochester Film Festival one of the primary venues for films about, by, and for individuals who are deaf and HOH.

Ben Leyer began teaching at the Creative Workshop at the Memorial Art Gallery in Spring, 2018, but remembers taking classes with John Kastner when he was a child. That class and other experiences fed his creativity and led to a long journey in the arts. Ben earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from the Cleveland Institute of Art and a Master Degree in Art Education from Nazareth College. He has worked as a long-term substitute art teacher in several local school districts. He is thrilled to be joining the workshop as a teaching artist with a specialty in drawing, cartooning, and sculpture for children and teens.

Wendy Low writes poetry, prose, performance poetry, and drama. Her poems, stories, and essays have been published in Breaking the Silence, Desperate Acts, HazMat Review, Napalm Health Spa, Rochester Woman, on “The Poet’s Walk,” and elsewhere. A former college English instructor, she has more than 30 years of experience in making creative writing enjoyable to beginning writers and helping writers of all levels improve their craft. Low edited hundreds of anthologies as former Director of Education at Writers & Books. She is currently a freelance editor and writing coach.

Emma Lynge graduated from Goucher College in 2015 with a degree in Creative Writing and Art History. She now works at Eagle Productivity Solutions doing scriptwriting and instructional design. When she’s not playing tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, she can usually be found reading a book.

Gary DeWitt Marshall has enjoyed a fruitful career in film, television, and theatre. Marshall has appeared in Life on Mars, Without a Trace, The Guardian, Southland, ER, and 24; as well as films The Hurricane, In & Out, Renaissance Man, Game Day, Love Walked In, and Still Water. He originated the role of freedom fighter Micheal Dube in the Tony-nominated drama The Song of Jacob Zulu. Gary’s other critically acclaimed credits “Four Men on a Couch” (2016 ROC Award Best Stage Play), “Twelve Dollars” (2017 TANYS Award for Outstanding Direction), “Monologues on Clarissa Street,” “Blues for Mister Charlie,” “Talk,” “You Shouldn’t Have Told,” and “Smudge Stick – The Pungent Aroma of Truth.”

Jessica Merrills is a Kindergarten teacher at Uncommon Schools Rochester Prep. Originally from Chicago, she attended Denison University where she received a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a B.A. in Dance. She has taught at the elementary level for four years. She has created works like Poetry in Motion with the fusion of both slam and dance performance. Jessica has also organized work for students at her school to participate in a poetry competition.

Kimberly Morgan/Caceci has been a student and apprentice at Writers & Books since she learned about the organization her senior year in high school. Though she recently graduated from Ithaca College with a BA in Writing, she isn’t quite finished with reading, writing, learning, or growing yet. Having disabilities herself and identifying as Hard-of-Hearing, Kimberly has a passion towards disability advocacy and writes her stories surrounding a perspective often overlooked.

Paul Moyer is a Professor of History at the College at Brockport with more than twenty years of experience in the classroom. He is the author of several books and essays, teaches a number of courses on the history of witchcraft and witch-hunting, and is learning the Old Norse language in his spare time.

Juliana Muniz received her BFA in Fine Art Photography from RIT and her MFA in Visual Studies from Visual Studies Workshop, SUNY Brockport. She is currently a Teaching Artist and Education Coordinator at Flower City Arts Center and has been a lead teacher for Studio 678: Photo Club for several years. Her work has been exhibited locally and abroad, and she continues working on long term photographic projects with a documentary approach.

Tracy Nemecek is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.  As an undergraduate, she majored in Psychology and English, and discovered that bibliotherapy (the application of storytelling, reading, and literature as sources of healing) is the perfect nexus between her interests in people and stories.  In her counseling work, she has applied bibliotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and psychoeducation to assist children, teens, and adults in both private practice and school settings to learn more about themselves, set and achieve realistic goals, and strengthen their coping skills.

Kylie Newcomer earned a BFA with a concentration in Photography from the SUNY College at Brockport. She is currently a Youth Program Coordinator and lead teacher in our Studio 789: Monroe Photo Club. Her work has been exhibited locally and she continues to produce work in photography and digital art in Rochester, NY.

Sara Bickweat Penner spent many years working in theatre in New York City, Chicago, and regionally throughout the U.S. She has an MFA from The Actors Studio in New York and has worked with Ellen Barkin, Lee Grant, Arthur Penn, Elizabeth Kemp, Ron Leibman, and many others. She has done independent film and television, and worked as the student/talent liaison on Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio. In Chicago, Sara co-founded Candentia Theatre Company. Sara has taught acting at the New York Film Academy, the Music Theatre Company in Chicago, at public and private schools throughout New York City, and currently at The University or Rochester and Finger Lakes Community College.

Robert Ricks is an award-winning writer and director, as well as a literary and theatre teaching artist, and youth mentor with over 20 years experience at the Rochester City School District, City of Rochester Department of Youth Services, Writers & Books, and Kumba Consultants. He founded M.I.B. (Mentors Inspiring Boys & Girls) for youth ages 8-18, to provide a creative outlet for youth, foster community building skills, and build self-confidence. He has published two novels and written and directed several plays which address topics ranging from the struggles of today’s inner city youth to racial injustice throughout American history.

Marna Rossi, PhD, is a storyteller and workshop leader who helps young people become more expressive through storytelling, poetry, and drama. In addition to her work at W&B, she has designed and taught programs for University of Rochester’s Girls’ Science, Math, and Computer Camp; the Urban League Teen Program; the YMCA; and church youth programs. She has performed with the Storytelling Guild of Rochester. Rossi has also taught child and adolescent development at Nazareth College and RIT. She is the recipient of the Writers & Books’ 2011 Big Pencil Award for inspiring the creation and appreciation of literature in young people.

Alex Sanchez has published eight novels with Simon & Schuster, including the American

Library Association “Best Book for Young Adults” Rainbow Boys and Lambda

Award-winning So Hard to Say. His novel Bait won the Tomas Rivera Mexican-American

Book Award and the Florida Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction. His full-length

graphic novel You Brought Me the Ocean comes out from DC Comics in June. He has a

Master of Guidance and Counseling, and worked for many years as a youth and family

counselor. Find out more at www.AlexSanchez.com.

Alexa Scott-Flaherty is an actress, director, producer, and teacher. She is a proud member of Labyrinth Theatre Company in New York City. She works locally at Blackfriars, Geva Theatre Center, and The JCC Centerstage. She also worked as an actress in New York at many theaters including The Public Theatre, SoHo Rep, and PS 122; with the Royal Shakespeare Company of London; and The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. Alexa is an adjunct lecturer at the U of R International Theatre Program and she serves on the Board of Directors for the Key Bank Rochester Fringe Festival. She is also an ensemble member of Impact Interactive LLC, a unique theatre-based training company in Rochester. Alexa has taught and worked at Writers & Books for 11 years.

Melissa Michal Slocum is of Seneca, Welsh, and English decent. She is a fiction writer, essayist, photographer, and a literature and creative writing professor. She has an MFA from Chatham University, MA from Penn State, and PhD from Arizona State University where she focused on education and representation of Indigenous histories and literatures in curriculum. She has read at the National American Indian Museum and Amerind Museum, and has published in The Florida Review, Yellow Medicine Review, and the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program’s Narrative Witnessing Project. Her short story collection, Living Along the Borderlines, was a finalist for the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize.

Katherine Varga is a playwright and freelance writer. Her plays have been featured in Geva Theatre’s Regional Writers Showcase, the Rochester Fringe Festival, Writers & Books’ 2 Pages / 2 Voices festival, and on the University of Rochester campus, in addition to being performed in Chicago, Denver, and La Crosse, Wisconsin. She has been a SummerWrite coordinator and teacher the past three summers and is constantly amazed by the creativity of SummerWrite kids. MFA: Ohio University.

John Watson is a Producer/Educator at RCTV. A lifelong resident of Rochester, he received an AA from MCC in Communications and Media Arts, and a BA in Journalism and Broadcasting with a minor in Film Studies, from SUNY Brockport. When he isn’t teaching a class or working with youth groups, he spends time outdoors fishing, hiking, biking, camping, playing hockey, and flying his Phantom 4 drone. He is currently working on marrying his passion for the outdoors and using drone photography and action cams by creating a program that will allow viewers to see Rochester as well as New York State from different perspectives.

Storyteller, author and poet, Almeta Whitis‘ work as a classroom teacher and a university professor has resulted in multiple awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts’s “Most Skilled and Experienced Community Artist.” Her children’s story “Emerald Topaz” was awarded “Best Story” by The First International Storytelling and Education Conference in Beijing, China. Having taught creative writing and performance on five continents, she uses stories and history to stimulate the imagination, emphasizing honor and respect to gain deeper knowledge of cultural connections among all people.

Kate Whorton is the Director of Ceramics at the Flower City Arts Center in Rochester. She received a Masters in Art Education and her BFA in Sculpture from the University of Southern Mississippi. She moved to Rochester several years ago. She lives with her husband, who teaches creative writing at SUNY Brockport, and their two daughters, in Brighton, NY.