Azia Armstead (she/her) is a poet from Richmond, Virginia. She holds a B.A. in English from Virginia Commonwealth University with minors in Creative Writing and History as well as an MFA in Poetry from New York University where she received the Goldwater Fellowship. In 2019, Azia was a nalist for the Furious Flower Poetry Prize judged by A. Van Jordan and honorable mention for the Arts Club of Washington’s Scholarship Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Boston Review, The Quarry and Obsidian. She currently lives in Brooklyn.
Creative Marketing Director
Storytelling is in Chelle’s DNA. Chelle (Rochelle)’s imagination is the lens through which she experiences the world. Like many children, life obtruded upon her dreams, and bit by bit, she forgot them. Her stories never forgot her. In the wake of a career as an HR executive, she evolved into perhaps the world’s most reluctant stay-at-home mom. She raised two children, trained a beloved boxer puppy, and in quiet moments, listened to the muse. She returned to writing and hasn’t stopped. A linguaphile and lover of the oxford comma, anything, in the form of a story can engage, inform, and delight. A grateful steward of Girls Write Now’s emerging creatives, she commits to never let any writer ignore a siren’s call.
Director of Community Initiatives
Marisa holds a B.S. in Music Education from New York University and a M.P.S in Arts and Cultural Management from Pratt Institute. Adopted from Bogota, Colombia and raised in Long Island, NY, Marisa holds over 15 years of experience in education, beginning her career as a choir teacher for the NYCDOE. It was in the classroom that she discovered her passion creating experiences for students of color that affirmed a sense of belonging and connectedness, developing a powerful voice through the performing arts. After transitioning into administration, she joined WeMusic as their Director of Education, launching a program portfolio of K-12 music classes, college audition preparation, mentorship opportunities and teacher training programs in both China and the United States. Never losing sight of what she has gained from her own unconventional career path, Marisa is committed to creating inclusive communities and opportunities for those who hold the drive to define their authentic power and earn a seat at whatever table they desire. She is raising two brave, amazing daughters, a loyal, rescued Malti-poo and enjoys exploring Brooklyn, finding live music and salsa dancing.
Sally Familia (they/them) is a queer poet and freelance editor. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Washington Heights, Familia has a rooted passion for their community. They spent a year serving as senior editor for La Galería Magazine, a Dominican-based magazine for the Dominican diaspora in Washington Heights. They hold a B.A. in creative writing with a focus on poetry from SUNY Oswego. Most recently, Sally’s passions have shifted; now incorporating a strong desire to work with and for the youth. Sally hopes to merge their love for literature, Queer and BIPOC communities, and the youth as they continue to navigate the artist/ professional dichotomy. Sally has been awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for the poem, “The Trouble with Reminiscing” (2019). They were also nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Brooklyn Poets for the poem, “Esperanza, Republica Dominicana”. Sally is currently working on their first poetry collection.
Senior Marketing Coordinator
Spencer George is a Writer and Teaching Artist hailing from the Carolinas. She holds a B.A. in English and Human Rights with a concentration in Creative Writing from Barnard College and is pursuing her M.A. in Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her work focuses on narrative representations of the rural South and has been published in The Bitter Southerner, The Adroit Journal, Longreads, and Medium, and once received a shout-out in the The New York Times. She is the creator and writer of GOOD FOLK, a weekly newsletter and podcast examining the intersection of artistry, empathy, and community in and around rural America and the American South. She spent the last few years working as a Teaching Artist in rural North Carolina schools, and has previously worked with the StoryCorps Mobile Tour, as a barista at a tea house and farm, and as a yoga teacher at a boy’s summer camp in Canada. Spencer was the 2019 recipient of the Peter S. Prescott Prize for Prose Writing and is currently at work on a neo-Southern Gothic novel set in a post-climate change Appalachia about a pine tree god who appears only in dreams and the individuals who worship him.
Community Manager, Writing Works
Margery Hannah excitedly joins Girls Write Now after several years in program development and management within the nonprofit sector. An ardent supporter of education, Margery has experience teaching K-12 English throughout NYC. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English, Literature, and Ethnic Studies from Wichita State University, where she received multiple scholarships and English departmental honors; an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook University; and an MA in Aging Studies from Wichita State University. She is a McNair Scholar alumna whose scholarly research helped propel financial literacy course requirements for Kansas high school graduates. Passionate about writing, Margery worked as a ghostwriter for many years; currently she keeps a multi-genre blog called The Literary Purveyor.
Community Manager, Writing 360
Jesse Jagtiani is an artist and educator of Indian-German descent. She holds a Doctor of Education in Art & Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, an MFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, and an undergraduate degree in Visual Communications from the University of Arts, Berlin. In her past, Jesse co-founded and co-managed a video production company, served as the director of a media art studio, helped establish an online school for contemplative studies, and taught digital art classes and spiritual art workshops in academic and non-academic settings. Jesse’s research investigates the formative dimensions of intuition and is based on bridging indigenous wisdom, perennial philosophy, and modern science for a greater balance of the intuitive and the rational mind in Western education. Jesse has presented her research at various conferences, such as the College Art Association Conference (CAA) and the National Art Education Association Convention (NAEA) and her writings are published in a variety of literature, such as the book Developing Informed Intuition for Decision Making and the journal Visual Inquiry: Learning and Teaching Art. She currently serves as an Editorial Board Member for the Journal of Art Education Pakistan. Jesse is passionate about supporting emerging teen & young adult writers and leaders on their creative, academic and career pathways.
Mi So Jeong (they/she) brings to Girls Write Now many years of administrative and operations management experience in universities and nonprofits. Over the past decade, Mi So has been discovering the transformative magic of writing, particularly while completing a Master’s in Art History at Sorbonne Université (Paris) and, prior to that, a B.A. in Art History at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where they grew up. In addition to their work at Girls Write Now, Mi So is focused on co-creating liberatory relationships with people and place through ancestral, storytelling, and other practices in collectives of displaced folx.
Vahni Kurra (she/hers) hails from disparate parts of the American Midwest with roots in Southern India. She recently earned a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Kenyon College, where she co-edited Hika, Kenyon’s oldest, student-run literary magazine. Vahni’s work centers on themes of displacement, and her personal essay, “Banana Republic,” was published in Oyster River Pages. She is currently the book review editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection. Vahni has always been a strong advocate for the rights of women and trans* folks, as she has interned for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and helped facilitate a peer support program for Kenyon students impacted by sexual assault. Vahni is excited to blend her passions for gender equality and creative writing as she works with Girls Write Now to ensure that all mentees have the same opportunities that she did to pursue their artistic and personal dreams.
Kelsey LePage comes to Girls Write Now with great experience from administration and fundraising to developing curriculum and teaching youth. She has worked in creative, educational, and humanitarian settings serving local communities — at YMCA, Playworks, and most recently in sales and event management at NY Kids Club. Originally from New Hampshire, Kelsey enjoys hiking, kayaking and would be perfectly happy getting lost in a museum or library for a day. She is excited to be starting a new life in a new city and to be sharing her passions with the Girls Write Now team.
Director of Special Initiatives
Molly MacDermot found the teen years hard until she discovered books and a diary, which she wrote in daily. She thanks Charlotte Brönte and Harper Lee for paving the way. Molly served as Editor-in-Chief of five national magazines, including J-14, the #1 teen entertainment magazine in the US. She conceptualized and managed several teen websites and their social media components. Molly is a regular columnist, consults as a media strategist and has written five young adult books. Molly was featured in The New York Times, Adweek, Mediaweek, and Folio, and has appeared on MTV, Vh1, Inside Edition and several morning television shows to talk about pop culture and the youth market. Molly started her career at The New Yorker, and previously worked at Marie Claire (Australia) and Redbook.
Community Manager, Publishing 360
Emily Mendelson comes to Girls Write Now with a love of writing, meaningful experience developing curriculum for nonprofit organizations, and a long-held belief that there is no limit to the ways that people can express their thoughts and ideas. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School and is excited to share her passion for stories in all forms as a member of the Girls Write Now team.
Salesforce & Systems Manager
Elmer Meza earned his BA in Economics from Dartmouth College in 2010. After graduation, he spent a year studying Mandarin Chinese at Fudan University in Shanghai. Elmer began his career as an Americorps VISTA member at New York Cares where he helped to build a local volunteer base for select NYC public schools. Since then, he has focused on technology and data management at Prep for Prep, Oliver Scholars, Delivering Good and most recently at The Brotherhood Sister Sol.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisor
Sheena Daree Miller (she/they) is a writer based between Brooklyn and South Florida. Her writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in Ms. Magazine, The Rumpus, Zone 3 Press, Split Lip Magazine, Autostraddle, Taco Bell Quarterly and elsewhere. Their writing has graciously been supported by The Seventh Wave, Aspen Words, Columbia Journalism School, and St. Nell’s Humor Writing Residency for Ladies. Sheena was a 2021 Margolis Award finalist and the recipient of the Dave Family Humor Studies Award. In her faculty development role at The New School, she facilitates workshops and develops resources to support both new and returning instructors in teaching for equity and inclusion. She is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisor for Girls Write Now.
Founder & Executive Director
Over the past 25 years, Maya Nussbaum has grown Girls Write Now into one of the nation’s leading institutions creating change at the intersection of gender, race, age, and poverty. In addition to being the first writing and mentoring organization of its kind, Girls Write Now continually ranks among the top programs nationwide for driving social-emotional growth for youth. Under Maya’s stewardship, the nationally award-winning nonprofit has mentored the next generation of writers and leaders to impact businesses across industries, shape culture, and change the conversation. Maya has been distinguished three times by the White House, including by the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities and as a White House Champion of Change.
Daniella Olibrice is a native New Yorker who enjoys exploring the city’s many facets—its arts, foods, nature, neighborhoods, and people. She comes to Girls Write Now after having been involved in and managed capacity building, workforce development, mentoring and academic programs at universities and non-profit organizations in New York. Her passion for education started in college when she worked with the Cooper Union Saturday Art Program, an afterschool program targeted to students from NYC high schools who were underrepresented in the visual arts and architecture. Daniella has taught as an adjunct professor with State University of New York and City University of New York for several years. In the teaching and mentoring roles she’s held, what she has enjoyed most is the nurturing of the talents she sees in others. Although her first mode of expression was visual (drawing, collage, photography, etc.), she has always been an avid reader, and in the last few years has been exploring different writing genres such as memoir, short stories, and poetry as part of her artistic practice.
Senior Community Coordinator
Lisbett Rodriguez (she/her) is a Dominican-American lifelong learner bringing her love of stories, community and service-oriented work. She was previously a Girls Write Now mentee and graduated from Brooklyn College with a Bachelor of Arts in English. As an undergraduate student, she contributed to producing two publications of the Brooklyn College literary magazine, The Junction which provided her with the tools to support in producing the annual Girls Write Now anthology for three years and counting. In August 2022, she became a Salesforce Certified Administrator after developing a strong interest for systems and databases. She’s passionate about work that centers and uplifts women and gender-expansive folx and has previously worked with two women’s organizations, Legal Momentum and the Brooklyn College Women’s Center. In her free time, she enjoys watching feel-good shows, spending time with friends and playing video games.
Jeanine Marie Russaw (she/her) is an autistic writer, educator, and content creator who boldly wears her HSP traits as badges of honor. She eagerly joins Girls Write Now with an open heart and a passion for the written word. Jeanine holds a B.A. in Journalism from Hofstra University and recently earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. While pursuing her M.A.T., she rolled up her sleeves and embraced life as an upper elementary classroom teacher, building relationships with more than 120 little someones at the height of a global pandemic. Over time, her love of reading and writing (and love of convincing kids to love reading and writing) became an unmistakable part of her teaching identity. As a writer, her words have found their way within the physical and cyber walls of NBC, CBS and Newsweek. A native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Jeanine has called Harlem her home for the last seven years…though she has possessed the spirit of a New Yorker since birth.
Director of Curriculum & Engagement
Erica Silberman fell in love with Girls Write Now when she group-taught a playwriting workshop for them in 2005. Through the years, she has stayed involved with the organization as a mentor, a teacher in various outreach programs, and a member of both the Program Advisory Committee and the Host Committee. Erica has an extensive and wide-ranging background in the theatre as an actress, playwright, director, teacher, acting coach, and producer, as well as experience in the design world. She formerly served as co-president of the Women in the Arts and Media Coalition and on the board of the League of Professional Theatre Women. Erica is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and the Dramatic Question Theatre, where she runs a monthly literary and music salon.
Senior Editorial Manager
After several years of volunteering as a photographer, Richelle Szypulski is thrilled to share her love of storytelling and strategy in service of the Girls Write Now mission. A journalism graduate of Point Park University and NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute, she has worked in marketing and editorial—most recently as a digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Outside of work, you’ll often find her frequenting yoga, dance and meditation studios around the city, rehearsing for community theater productions or missing her subway stop yet again thanks to a too-enthralling audiobook.
Karen van de Vrande is helping Girls Write Now raise funds to grow and expand their successful programs. After a long career in corporate management with AT&T, RSL Communications, and Nielsen, Karen was living the life of leisure when the siren song of nonprofit fundraising led her to begin grant writing for a theater group in New York City and then for several other nonprofits across the United States. Having had her own foundation for many years, one priority of which was funding young people and the arts, and being on several nonprofit boards herself, she knows how challenging it is to raise money and wants to do what she can to help.
Director of Information Technology
Joe Wilson graduated from CSU Global with a degree in Information technology and a minor in Cybersecurity in 2021. Joe began his IT career in 2001 working in Cyber crimes as a local law enforcement officer in the State of Kansas. Joe started his own IT consulting firm in 2005, JNJTech, which focused on small local businesses and non-profits in Leavenworth Kansas. Joe currently serves as the Chief Information Officer for Girls Write Now. He enjoys spending time with his wife and children, he especially enjoys his 2 new grandchildren. Joe’s favorite quote comes from one of his many mentors over the years, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
Annabel Young (she/her) is a writer, poet, and creative who is passionate about decolonization work. She is Ojibwe by way of Brooklyn (Saginaw Chippewa descendent, ajijaak/crane clan). Annabel holds a B.A. in English and American Studies, with minors in Indigenous Studies and Inequality Studies. She comes to Girls Write Now after acting as both Managing and Layout Editor of Cornell’s oldest literary magazine, Rainy Day, and writing for Cornell’s yearbook. During her undergraduate years, Annabel helped to bring Jamie Black’s REDress project to Cornell to bring awareness to MMIWG2S on campus. In her free time, Annabel can be found writing short stories and poems that focus on themes of family, colliding worldviews, and the daily life of a twenty-something.
Guest/Teaching Artist Openings
Interested in teaching, hosting or speaking at a Girls Write Now event for a diverse, multi-generational group of women, trans* and gender-expansive writers? We’d love to hear from you!