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.
Neyda Colón-DiMaria is a teaching and performing artist with strong roots in dance and spoken word. A School of The Arts and Borinquen Dance Theatre alumna, she is currently part of the Dance Department at School of The Arts, finding joy in giving back to the community that raised her. Her work is community- and identity-driven.
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.
Judy DeCroce is an internationally published poet, flash fiction writer, professional storyteller, teacher, and performer. With her husband, she recently published The Posture Of Trees, a book of poems.
Julie Donofrio has worked as a comedian, improv actor, children’s entertainer, teacher, and humor writer (of the column, “Take My Advice; I’m Not Using It”). She has appeared everywhere from New York City comedy clubs, to the beverage tent at the Monroe County Fair, to the Toronto and Rochester Fringe Festivals. Her television credits include a guest-starring role in the pilot “Finding Fabulous.” The recipient of Writers & Books’ Big Pencil Award in 2015, Julie has NYS teaching certifications in Childhood Education and Special Education.
Chris Fanning, Director of Communications, Special Events & Operations, 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.
Vanessa Fulmore, Youth Education Associate, is an enthusiastic reader and educator who earned a dual Bachelor’s degree in Childhood and Special Education from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Outside of sharing her talents with Writers & Books, she teaches third grade at a private school in Albany, NY, while actively pursuing her Masters in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology from the University at Albany. Vanessa is passionate about creating lifelong learning opportunities for students of all ages.
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.
Anna High is an elementary school teacher, writer, and current graduate student at Nazareth College studying Literacy Education. She is dually certified in Childhood Education and Special Education and is passionate about creating inclusive spaces where all students’ creativity can be fostered. Past summers spent at Writers & Books as both a student and an apprentice confirmed her love for reading and writing, as well as her passion for education. In her free time, Anna enjoys reading, playing guitar, and hiking.
M.J. Iuppa was Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College,1997-2021. Since 2002, she has been a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. She was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching in 2017. She has published five full length poetry collections, most recently, The Weight of Air, (Kelsay Books, 2022). She lives on a small farm in Hamlin NY.
Daystar/Rosalie Jones (Pembina Chippewa-Cree) was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. She holds a Masters in Dance from the University of Utah and studied with Jose Limon at Juilliard School, NYC. In 1980, she founded Daystar: Contemporary Dance-Drama of Indian America, the first Native modern dance company in the USA. Daystar was the first Native American (USA) to receive an Individual Choreographer’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1997), and in 2016, she received the First Annual Lifetime Achievement Award in Performing Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts. In 2004, UC-Riverside created the Daystar archive for cultural/career related materials. A lifetime of learning from tribal Elders and Knowledge Keepers enables her to continue creating unique native-based dance theater into the 21st century, to be shared broadly with all.
Stacy Lawrence hosted the 2009 and 2011 Deaf Rochester Film Festivals with a magnificent team; founded and directed Deaf Film Camp for several summers at Camp Mark Seven in the Adirondacks; co-founded the ASL CAN Film Camp in Polson, Montana in 2019; and with spectacular children, produced several music videos in ASL. She 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 Writers & Books when they were little; (3) she loved teaching ASL at Writers & Books years ago; and (4) SummerWrite is welcoming Deaf and Hard of Hearing youngsters to her Deaf filmmaking workshop again this year! She hopes to continue creating a tapestry of education, linguistic equality, inspiration, and inclusion at Writers and Books.
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.
Kylie Newcomer is a teaching artist and youth program coordinator at Flower City Arts Center. She earned a BFA with a concentration in photography and a minor in art history from the SUNY College at Brockport. Her current work focuses on alternative photography, particularly the cyanotype process, and risograph printing.
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.
Sara Bickweat Penner is an actor, director, and Voice and Movement specialist with an MFA from The Actors Studio in New York. She has taught actors and business professionals in various settings, including the New York Film Academy and the Music Theatre Company in Chicago. She has contributed to numerous independent and industrial films, and performed and produced in the New York, Berkshire, Minneapolis, and Rochester Fringe Festivals. In Chicago, Sara co-founded Candentia Theatre Company, which focused on the production of new and devised work. Locally, Sara works as an actor, director and intimacy director at Blackfriars Theatre, JCC CenterStage, The Company Theatre, Geva, and elsewhere. Prior to her full-time appointment at the University of Rochester, she was an Adjunct Lecturer of Voice and Movement at the University of Rochester and a Lecturer of Acting and Voice and Diction at Finger Lakes Community College.
Marna Rossi, PhD, is a storyteller and workshop leader who helps young people express themselves through storytelling, poetry, and drama. 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 and taught child and adolescent development at Nazareth College and RIT. Marna is the recipient of Writers & Books’ 2011 Big Pencil Award for inspiring the creation and appreciation of literature in young people.
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.
Amy Sherman is a social studies teacher with a passion for the arts, currently teaching at a high school in Buffalo. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in history and M.Ed. in Social Studies Education from the University at Buffalo. Amy also enjoys teaching dance, a discipline in which she trained for over 10 years. She first joined Writers & Books as an Apprentice in 2019 and is excited to be returning as a Teaching Artist for her fifth year of SummerWrite. When she isn’t teaching, Amy enjoys reading, writing and spending time with friends and family.
Claire Torregiano is a writer, reader, and artist. She graduated from SUNY Purchase with a BA in Creative Writing. Claire is active in Rochester’s performing arts community, with two years as a production assistant for the Rochester Fringe Festival and as the props and assistant stage manager for Pittsford Musicals’ Beauty and the Beast. A Teaching Artist Institute of Rochester alum, she has mentored writers of various ages. Currently, she is the events manager and executive assistant for the Ugandan Water Project, a non-profit organization based in Lima, NY. Formerly a SummerWrite Apprentice and a SummerWrite Coordinator in 2022, she is excited to return this year as a teaching artist.
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.
Almeta Whitis is a renowned storyteller, theater artist, author, and poet who has taught on five continents. Combining diverse stories and traditions, alongside history, she encourages students to explore movement, dance, film, and the visual arts; and helps them gain knowledge of academic subjects and the world at large. Her experience as an educator, university professor, and Master Teaching Artist has resulted in many awards, among them, Phi Delta Kappa’s 1995 Lay Teacher of the Year, National Endowment for the Arts’ Most Skilled and Experienced Community Artist, and Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1993 Decade of the Child Award. She is featured in Rochester Museum and Science Center’s “CHANGEMAKERS: 200 Rochester Women Who Have Changed The World” exhibition.
Misty Yarnall received her BA in Creative Writing from Purchase College. She is a member of the Teaching Artist Institute of Rochester and has facilitated workshops for writers of all ages through such nonprofit organizations as Writers & Books and the Hudson Valley Writers Center. Her work can be found in literary magazines, including Prime Number Magazine, The Roadrunner Review, and Coalesce Community. She holds awards in the Sixth Act Playwriting Competition, the 2 Pages/2 Voices Playwriting Contest, and the POV Fest Screenwriting Contest.