Sondra Hall is the founder and Director of “Take My Word For It!”. Her inspiration as an artist-educator is fueled by her belief in the power of the written word to transform. She’s seen first hand that when kids’ imaginations are ignited, they are more engaged and enthusiastic about learning. “Take My Word For It!” has been leading kids on word expeditions for the last 7 years through after school and community-based classes as well as camps throughout the Bay area as well as in northern Virginia.
Sarah Bruhns graduated in 2010 from San Francisco State University with a degree in Creative Writing and has been roaming the writing world ever since. She is a long-time volunteer and intern at 826 Valencia, where she designed a comic book creation class and taught in the English Language Learners’ Summer Series. She is a huge fan of comics, space, superheroes and secret identities in all forms, and one day aspires to be the first graphic novelist on Mars. She can be found at Borderlands Cafe in San Francisco, drinking way too much coffee.
Chelsea DeRose is happy to trade in the Chicago skyline for the coastal highway. She is attending USF for her MFA in Poetry. Chelsea earned her BA in History with a minor in Creative Writing at Lewis University. In tune with the emotional needs of others, Chelsea has worked a range of jobs from customer service, to patient care, to classroom and academic positions. When she is not engaging in poetry she enjoys talks on Native American history, ghost hunting, bookmaking, and drinking tea.
Estela Duran is an aspiring fiction writer from the East Bay. She recently graduated from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Estela is looking forward to getting her MFA back in the city, filled with wonderful writers and professors who she grew close to. Her ultimate goal would be to work as a Creative Writing professor at San Francisco State. Estela has worked with children from the ages of six to twelve in after school programs, for 826 Valencia, as well as an exciting summer of fun with Camp Galileo as a Team Leader.
Alexandra Ghaly holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Michigan State University and is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at George Mason University. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in the New Haven Review, Wag’s Revue, and Fugue, respectively. She loves teaching and writing! In her spare time, Alexandra enjoys backcountry camping, playing with her cats, and reading W.S. Merwin.
Jay Ivey holds an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University where he taught Literature and Composition, tutored at the University Writing Center, and served as Editor for Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art. As a teacher of writing and robotics, he has had the privilege to work with students from every single grade level, from kindergartners to law students, and he is always thrilled to see ten-year-olds writing with more heart, imagination, and (on occasion) better grammar than twenty-year-olds. In his spare time, he enjoys pretending not to brood over that novel he’s still working on.
Ivy Johnson was born on the open prairie where she picked crocuses as a child. Her first book, As They Fall, was published by Timeless, Infinite Light Press in June 2013 and is a collection of 110 note cards for aelatoric performance. She calls it a book of poetry. She received her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Mills College in Spring 2013. While at Mills, she served as the coordinator of The Contemporary Writers Series and poetry editor of the 580 Split literary journal. She has taught for the Oakland Youth Poetry Workshop and gets really excited about working with kids.
Bianca Licata is a writer and artist in the North Bay. When she isn’t writing or sketching, she’s busy working on her Masters degree and Teaching Credential through USF. Bianca received her BA in English from UCSB, and often dreams of one day living on ocean-front property in Santa Barbara again. Bianca is an excited member of the team, and is constantly surprised by the wisdom and honesty of children.
PJ Magellan is a fiction writer from the Washington, DC area. He did his undergraduate work in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. After graduating, he lived in Buenos Aires for four years working as an English teacher and freelance translator. In addition to teaching and traveling extensively throughout Uruguay and Argentina, he also attended writing workshops in a small used bookstore in the cobblestoned streets of San Telmo, where he began to craft his first novel. He is currently in his first year of the MFA program at George Mason University.
Sage McClive has always enjoyed the writing realm, despite the curiosities of branching into many other creative realms. With an undergrad education in Psychology, Sage launched into a very dynamic and profound experience of being a Child Life Counselor at a Catholic Charities facility near Baltimore, Maryland. This is where she learned many skills in relating to children – especially those who want to learn, but have challenges in finding the ways to reach their goals. Her current goals are to marry the passion of creative writing with her skills for helping children overcome their creative challenges.
Sheila McMullin is the 2012-2013 Heritage Fellow at George Mason University where she is an MFA candidate in poetry. She is poetry editor and blog/twitter manager for So to Speak: a journal of language of art. Sheila interns at the Library of Congress in the Poetry and Literature Center helping to create easily accessible poetry resources for the public through the internet. In 2010, Sheila lived and traveled throughout China teaching English to university students in the Shandong Province. While poetry is her first love, Sheila also loves traveling to meet new people, exchanging ideas on how to live a happy life, being outside, and engaging with the imagination to learn something new about ourselves!
Stephen Novotny is a poet and educator. He teaches English through the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison, co-curates the Hearts Desire reading series at the Bay Area Public School and prints letterpress chapbooks and ephemera through his poetry press. He recently received an MFRA from the University of San Francisco where he studied poetics.
Emily Phillips was bitten by the writing bug at the tender age of 10. Poems, short stories, and novels have been in her blood ever since. She took her first real writing class when she was 24 and wishes there had been a “Take My Word For It!” around when she was a kid. Emily received her MFA in Creative Writing from California College of the Arts and has been teaching with “Take My Word For It!” for three years.
Antona Rechif graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. She has taught Arts and Crafts at Purple Crayon, led Summer and Winter Camps with San Francisco Gymnastics, and also spent a semester working for the African American Shakespeare Company. She is just returning to the city after spending two years in Chicago earning her Masters in Creative Writing, and teaching Intro to Science Fiction to college freshman at the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago.
Sandra Stringer graduated from Portland State University in 2011 with a MFA in Creative Writing. After returning from a Fulbright grant to Azerbaijan where she taught academic writing to university students, developed an ESL course for homeless children, and interviewed international refugees, she is developing these various topics for a book of nonfiction. She is a published short story writer, a grant writer, an editor, and a Pilates trainer.
Jessie Szalay has loved writing for as long as she can remember. Her passion for words followed her while she wrote, published, and taught children around the U.S. and in Japan, England, the UAE, and Jerusalem. A resident of Washington, DC, Jessie is an MFA candidate in nonfiction at George Mason University and nonfiction editor for So to Speak: a journal of language of art. In her spare time, she’s having a blast writing an action-packed young adult novel. Jessie is thrilled to be working with the young people of Northern Virginia as they discover the power and fun of writing with “Take My Word For It!”
Danny Thanh Nguyen has taught writing and creative arts to youth for over ten years, including through the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, and the Asian Art Museum. He received his MFA from Indiana University and edited the anthology AS IS: A Collection of Visual and Literary Works by Vietnamese American Artists.
Qinglan “Q” Wang is an MFA candidate in poetry at George Mason University. Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, she traded her surfboard for a BA from Bates College in Maine. She spent the last couple of years teaching elementary school children the meaning of ‘Ohana in southern Rhode Island. In addition to poetry, she loves making silly faces to go along with great rhymes.
Chrissy Widmayer received her MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University in 2013. While at Mason she taught English, served as Nonfiction Editor for So to Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, and completed a graduate certificate in Folklore. A Michigan native, Chrissy now teaches Composition at Northern Virginia Community College. She spends her spare time obsessing over all things Harry Potter, singing in her car, and learning tarot. Her writing can be found in Flashquake.
Anna Wilson, aka “Annah Anti-Palindrome,” is an Oakland-based educator, writer and sound-artist. Anna(h) obtained her MFA degree in Creative Writing/Poetry through Mills College in 2011. Just for the record, she has nothing against palindromes on principle…it’s just kind of a long story. Anna(h) has tutored writing, led creative writing workshops, and facilitated after school programs for a variety of different age ranges (from elementary to high school students). She is currently a submissions editor with Deviant Type Press publishing collective.
Amelia Whitcomb’s favorite toy as a child was an old manual typewriter. She spent hours typing out imaginary manuscripts and nonsense words, and ripping out pages in pretend frustration. These days, Amelia spends much of her time working on her real-life novel and teaching creative writing to children, in the hopes of fostering the same kind of passion for the written word that she has had for as long as she can remember. Amelia has worked as a food writer, an editor, a homeschool teacher, a tutor, and a nanny, among other things. In 2012, she had the privilege of receiving her MFA in Creative Writing from California College of the Arts.
Lindsey Wolkin is a writer, visual artist, and ice skating coach living in Oakland. Her stories and poems have been published in Transfer, Forum and Passages North and her artwork can sometimes be viewed in local cafes and galleries. She is the recipient of a San Francisco Artist Commission Grant, and a Vermont Studio Center Residency. Lindsey has taught creative writing, art and comic book making for over 9 years. She is currently working on a novel.
Zach Wyner has been a playwright, actor and tutor and has spent eight years teaching in progressive elementary schools, including the past four years at Park Day School in Oakland. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco in 2009. Currently, he is tutoring, volunteering at 826 Valencia and is at work on a collection of short stories. His work as a teacher had clarified his passion for writing and he is thrilled to bring the two together as an instructor for “Take My Word For It!”.