SummerWrite 2024 Teaching Artists

Rajesh Barnabas is a digital media teacher and artist, with a background in documentary and experimental media. His collaborations with local artists in Rochester include Mara Ahmed, Carvin Eison, Olivia Kim, Athesia Benjamin, Natasha Alford, and N’Jelle Gage Thorne. Rajesh’s particular passion is teaching animation, game design, and sound production.

 Bridget Blakley is a lighting designer, stage manager, and director for Out of Pocket, Inc, as well as other theater companies around Rochester. She earned her B.A. in Theatre Arts and Masters in Childhood Education from Nazareth College. She is thrilled to share her passions for theater and teaching with SummerWrite campers! When she is not teaching 3rd grade or working on shows, Bridget loves to read fantasy novels, watch Marvel movies, and create fun crafts with her Cricut. 

David Broadnax is an actor and writer with an AA in Graphic Design from Monroe Community College, where he also studied theater and served as an award-winning Resident Assistant. He has performed locally with the Rochester Latino Theatre Company, Everyone’s Theatre Company, and in the Rochester Community Players dual language (English/ASL) production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. David holds a day job in the service industry and in his spare time often can be found serving as DM in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.

Ben Callahan is an artist and educator who teaches enrichment programs at Westview Academy. He moved to Rochester after acquiring his Master of Education at Monmouth University in his home state of New Jersey.

Emma Callahan graduated from Goucher College in 2015 with a degree in Creative Writing and Art History. She works at Council Rock Primary School as a second grade Teaching Assistant. When she’s not playing tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, she usually can be found reading a book.

Verónica Cisneros (she/they) is a poet and translator from the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a Certificate of Achievement in Literary Translation from the University of Rochester. This marks her third summer with Writers & Books, where she was formerly a Communications Intern (2022) and SummerWrite Coordinator (2023). Currently, she works as a Family Development Analyst for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County 4-H through the AmeriCorps VISTA program, where she focuses on delivering programs around mindfulness.

Tracy Cretelle is a writer, puppeteer, teacher, and student who works as a teacher for Multilingual Learners in the Rochester City School District. She writes poetry, fiction, and papers on literacy, creativity and social justice. While working on her EdD in Teaching and Curriculum at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester, she is conducting research using anti-racist methodologies to support initiatives that seek equitable access to education for all. Her idea of a perfect day is collaborating creatively with friends (of all ages), writing, or imagining ways to make the world better.

Rylie Day-Walker is a writer, tutor/teacher, mother, and lover of Shakespeare who enjoys writing fiction and creative nonfiction. She graduated magna cum laude from Nazareth College with a degree in English Literature. She has been published in literary magazines and newspapers, was part of the 2021 Listen to Your Mother cast, and is a guest at Rochester’s speakeasy. Having taught in many settings and circumstances, Rylie feels most at home in the classroom, whatever form that may take.

Chris Fanning, Deputy Director, began his career at Writers & Books as an intern over a dozen years ago while attending St. John Fisher College. A key contributor to developing SummerWrite’s Hogwarts Academy program in 2016, Chris enjoys a long history of fostering confidence and creativity in children in a variety of roles, including camp counselor, preschool teacher, and literary teaching artist.

Karen Graham recently retired from teaching middle school for 33 years in the Penfield Central School District, including over 20 years as a Gifted Education specialist. She has presented at national, state and local conferences on topics ranging from teaching creativity to challenging high ability readers in the classroom. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Rochester. Karen is also an amateur baker, hoarder of cookbooks and a recently-converted cat lover.

Wendy Low has over 40 years of experience in making creative writing enjoyable and vital to beginning writers, and in helping writers at all levels improve their craft. Her poems, stories, and essays have been published in Breaking the Silence, Desperate Acts, HazMat Review, Napalm Health Spa, Poems on Wheels, and Rochester Woman, as well as on Rochester’s “The Poet’s Walk.” Her poems and plays have been performed on local stages. A former college English instructor and the former Director of Education at Writers & Books, she currently teaches, coaches, and edits freelance.

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.

Francesca Padilla is a queer Dominican-American fiction writer born and raised in New York City and currently living in Rochester. She holds a Bachelors in creative writing from the State University of New York at Purchase College and is a past recipient of a Walter Dean Myers Grant from We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel What’s Coming to Me (Soho Teen, 2022) has been recognized as a Junior Library Guild selection and a Best Teen/YA Book of 2022 by Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal. By day, she also works in health and human services.

Taurus Savant is an artist, writer, musician, published author, and community advocate that uses any given combination of creative avenues and mediums to contribute to various initiatives and projects locally and beyond. By way of New York City, he grew up in Rochester and became self-taught in his endeavors – reveling in authentic expression and promoting ideals of audacity and perseverance felt in his paintings, poetry, and songs. As a community advocate, Taurus lends his voice in advisory to social justice calls to action and draws from lived experiences in Rochester to bring in equitable change among the most marginalized. He currently is in his fifth year of teaching artistry as the Resident Poet for Flower City Arts Center’s Studio 678 Photo Club youth after-school program.

Alexa Scott-Flaherty is an actress, director, producer, and teacher. A proud member of Labyrinth Theatre Company in New York City, she works locally at Blackfriars, Geva Theatre Center, and The JCC Centerstage. She has worked as an actress in New York City at 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 a visiting lecturer in the Department of Performing Arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology; serves on the Key Bank Rochester Fringe Festival’s Board of Directors; and is an ensemble member of Impact Interactive LLC, a unique theater-based training company in Rochester. Alexa served as Development Director at Writers & Books from 2009 to 2019, and has been teaching at the organization for over a dozen years. 

Katherine Varga is a playwright, theater critic, fiction writer, and essayist. She earned her MFA from Ohio University. Her plays have been performed in eight states, and locally were featured in Geva Theatre’s Regional Writers Showcase, the Rochester Fringe Festival, and Writers & Books’ 2 Pages/2 Voices festival, as well as on the University of Rochester campus. Her creative prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Passengers Journal, Qu Literary Magazine, Arasi, The Evermore Review, Welter, and The Paper Crow. Her arts journalism has been published in the Democrat & Chronicle and Rochester City News. Katherine has worked with Writers & Books as a SummerWrite Coordinator and teaching artist since 2017, and is constantly amazed by the creativity of SummerWrite campers. 

Misty Yarnall is a Rochester-based writer, editor, and teaching artist. She received her BA in Creative Writing from Purchase College and currently works as the Administrative and Communications Coordinator and the Youth Programs Coordinator at the Hudson Valley Writers Center. She actively teaches creative workshops through libraries, homeschool co-ops, and nonprofit organizations. She is passionate about creating brave spaces for people of all ages to share their stories.