Anderson “Poetically Undefined” Allen is a spoken wordsmith, slam poet, actor, mentor, and teaching artist based in Rochester, NY. He launched his career as a professional writer and performer in 2014 after participating in an open mic hosted by Rochester’s only adult poetry slam team, Roc Bottom Slam Team (RBS), where he later served as Creative Director. He is the co-author of several productions, including the critically acclaimed Anatomy of a Black Man and 12 Dollars, featured at Keybank Rochester Fringe Festival. Anderson’s honors include a 2018 Big Pencil Award for inspiring the creation and appreciation of literature as a teacher of youth, a 2018 ESTA Festival Outstanding Actor Award, and a TANYS Award for outstanding acting. He is Artist-in-Residence at The Avenue Blackbox Theatre. As a teaching artist, Anderson uses his craft as a tool to build community and enrich the lives of young people so they are encouraged to use their art as a form of resistance and radical self-love.
Jamie Bozek is excited to return to Hogwarts for another year! A teacher in the Brighton Central School District for 16 years, he teaches 3rd grade at French Road Elementary School. Previously, Jamie pursued an acting career in New York City. He lives happily in Pittsford with his wife Jennifer and his 3 sons Will, Ryan, and Henry.
David Broadnax is an aspiring writer and actor who enjoys all aspects of the creative process. He loves delving in the various realms of imagined possibility, and encourages all to try their hand at creative works whenever they can.
Sarah Brown is a writer, former Writers & Books staff member, and current Children & Family Experiences Librarian at Webster Public Library. She has a 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 in 1989. She attended the School of the Arts and Berklee College of Music, where she pursued her passion for performance while studying music business and management. She joined RCTV in 2013 and currently manages radio station WXIR. Teaching SummerWrite camps is her favorite RCTV responsibility! While she loves the work she does with the community, Rashida’s favorite job is being a wife, and mother of two.
Kimberly Caceci is a former SummerWrite Apprentice and a recent graduate from Ithaca College with a BA in Writing. Having disabilities, herself, and identifying as Hard-of-Hearing, she has a passion for disability advocacy and writes her stories surrounding a perspective that is too often overlooked.
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 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 Eagle Productivity Solutions doing scriptwriting and instructional design. When she’s not playing tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, she usually can be found reading a book.
Neyda Colón-DiMaria is a dance artist, writer, and, above all, a human. She was born into the Rochester arts community and is a School of The Arts and Borinquen Dance Theatre alumna, and credits both for allowing her to blossom. She currently is an undergraduate at The University at Buffalo, and is the Director for Nomad Dance Theatre and The Barrio, a network connecting Womxn and Non-Binary communities.
Tracy Cretelle is a writer, puppeteer, teacher, and student who works as an instructional coach for English Language Learners and Multilingual Learners in the Rochester City School District. She writes poetry, fiction, and papers on social justice. She is currently conducting research using anti-racist methodologies in an effort to support initiatives that seek equitable access to education for all. Tracy is currently working on her EdD in Teaching and Curriculum at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. 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.
Rylie Day 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 in 2013 with a degree in English Literature. Before teaching at Writers & Books, she took classes as a teen and young adult. Having taught in many settings and circumstances, Rylie feels most at home in the classroom, whatever form that may take.
Julie Donofrio has been making people laugh for years, sometimes on purpose. She 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”), 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 has NYS teaching certifications in Childhood Education and Special Education, and she received Writers & Books’ Big Pencil Award in 2015.
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. He has worked as Promotions Coordinator for Entercom Radio and Associate Producer of the Key Bank Rochester Fringe Festival. 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.
Michael M.B. Galvin spent the last 20 years as a professional screenwriter in Los Angeles, working with MGM, Fox, Disney, Warner Brothers, and Miramax, as well as many 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 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 and 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.
Sean Jefferson is a drummer/composer/producer and a full-time member of the grammy-nominated soul-jazz outfit Paradigm Shift. He also works as a film composer and has debuted work on several films featured in international film festivals. He has performed and recorded with many world-class and Grammy Award-winning artists and worked as a songwriter and producer, 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.
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.
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! After the wonderful experience founding the first film camp in 2012 for Deaf and HOH teenagers on the east coast, and co-founding another film camp in 2019 with two leaders on the west coast, Stacy is happy to help individuals and communities establish their own youth programs!
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. Currently a freelance writing coach and editor, as former Director of Education at Writers & Books, she edited hundreds of student anthologies.
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 BA in Dance. She has created such works as Poetry in Motion, a fusion of slam and dance performance, and organized work for students at her school to participate in a poetry competition.
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 currently is a Youth Program Coordinator and lead teacher in 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, regionally, and throughout the U.S. She has a 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 worked in independent film and television, and as the student/talent liaison on Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio. In Chicago, she 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.
KaeLyn Rich (she/her) is the author of Girls Resist!: A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution, a YA activism handbook for young people ready to fight for change, social justice, and equality. KaeLyn is also a contributing writer for LGBTQ+ publication Autostraddle; the Vice President of Organizational Advancement for feminist advocacy org, UltraViolet; a public speaker on intersectionality, LGBTQ+ issues, and sexuality; a nonprofit leader; an occasional gender studies professor; and a direct action organizer. She’s an adoptee immigrant born in South Korea and raised in Western New York, a comfort food foodie, and a persistent devotee of the serial comma. She lives in the Swillburg neighborhood of Rochester with her spouse, a toddler T. rex, a fluffy scaredy-cat, a betta fish named Billy, and a rascally rabbit.
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 the 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 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; serves on the Key Bank Rochester Fringe Festival’s Board of Directors; and is an ensemble member of Impact Interactive LLC, a unique theatre-based training company in Rochester. Alexa has been actively involved with Writers & Books since 2009.
Melissa Michal Slocum is of Seneca, Welsh, and English descent. A fiction writer, essayist, photographer, and literature and creative writing professor. She has a 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; and have been performed in Chicago, Denver, and La Crosse, Wisconsin. She has served as a SummerWrite Coordinator and teacher for the past four 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 earned 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 New York State from different perspectives.
Almeta Whitis is a renowned storyteller, theatre 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.