Our Team

Our mentors are hard-working, creative professionals, dedicated to the art of mentorship as well as to their own writing, illustration and storytelling projects. Below, meet the talented pros who makeup our Inklings community, and who join our mentorship team as their creative commitments allow. Society of Young Inklings is always looking for creative individuals to join our thriving community! Check out our current opportunities here.


Naomi Kinsman Downing
Founder and Executive Director

Author of the From Sadie’s Sketchbook Series and Spilled Ink, the award-winning Inklings Writers’ Notebook, Naomi is passionate about sharing her love of writing and creativity with young writers. Naomi’s background in improvisational and story theatre as well as her arts education work in Chicago, Portland, and the Bay Area has convinced her that creative play is a doorway through which learners can find inspiration and transformative learning experiences.

Naomi loves to play in many ways, but some of her favorites are tap-dancing, sketching, experimenting in the kitchen and tag with her Portuguese Water Dog, Turley. Naomi has a BA in Theatre Arts from Seattle Pacific University and has studied theatre with the Piven Theatre Workshop and ACT. She also has a Masters in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University.

Sarah Perez
Executive Assistant

Sarah joined the Inklings team in 2015. Her love for organization and problem-solving along with her passion for arts education make her a key partner in handling the behind-the-scenes tasks that help keep the Young Inklings wheels turning.

Sarah is a life-long musician and book lover. She is thankful for her 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Huff, who instilled in her a love of reading and writing.  She grew up in Orlando, Florida where she sharpened her creative skills at a performing arts high school and earned her BA in music with a focus in education. She spent several years teaching elementary school music before moving to California.

Sarah enjoys brand new notebooks, staring at the California coast, and good coffee (sometimes even not-so-good coffee).  She lives in South Orange County with her husband Socrates, and her two young children, Cora and Miles.

Board Members

Imtenan Almubarak
Board Member

Imtenan is currently working as a researcher and leading project management activities at KAPSARC, an independent energy policy think tank. She holds a Master’s degree in Software Engineering – Entrepreneurship & Technology Leadership with distinction from DePaul University, Chicago. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager and software engineer in several organizations, including a startup, in the States and Saudi Arabia. Imtenanparticipated as a mentor for gifted students at Saudi Aramco and in a number of events targeting tech entrepreneurs.

She is a Future Energy Leader at the World Energy Council in London. She was also appointed as a Sustainable Development Ambassador. Imtenan holds a patent in the United States (issued Nov 8, 2016) and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) ®.

Odette Harris
Board Member

Dr. Odette Harris is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and Director of Brain Injury for Stanford Medical Center. Dr. Harris manages and coordinates the medical and surgical care of all patients suffering from traumatic brain injury that are admitted to the Stanford System. She focuses on implementing and streamlining current treatment algorithms aimed at improving the outcomes of this growing population. The primary focus is specific not only to mortality but to functional outcome improvements. Dr. Harris works in a collaborative manner with colleagues in Surgical Trauma, Neuro-Critical Care, Nursing, Rehabilitation, and all related specialties.

Kelly Hoy
Board Member

Kelly Hoy has been a public and private school teacher for more than 20 years. After completing her degree at the University of Rhode Island, she started her public-school career as a computer specialist at Crim Elementary in Bridgewater, NJ and as a third-grade elementary school teacher in Dunellen, NJ. She then moved to California private schools: teaching special education at Star Academy in San Anselmo, fifth-grade at Phillips Brooks School in Menlo Park, and currently, fifth-grade humanities at Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco. Teaching and writing are her passions. She has published a number of case studies and analyses in several editions of Anita Woolfolk’s best-selling psychology text, Educational Psychology. Her goals as a teacher are to develop an appreciation for the unique stories of her students, strengthen their voices, cultivate empathy, and advance social justice, as they all grow academically, socially, and emotionally.

Ravi Kalkunte
Board Chair

Ravi is an Innovation manager in the field of polymers and plastic films.  He has been involved in new product development all his professional life and continues to introduce new products with unique functionalities. He has a Master’s in Textiles from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Wake Forest University. He came to the US as a student to pursue higher education. Ravi likes to travel and play tennis. He has 3 children and has experienced first-hand how good writing skills can facilitate access to great opportunities. He is passionate about encouraging children into trying new and creative pursuits.

Jackie Reynolds

Jackie is an experienced Program and Project Manager and has spent the last six years creating, standardizing and optimizing global programs for Microsoft. Prior to working in technology, she supported operations and projects for a couture fashion company in Seattle. Along with her professional career, she has also made relief work and community service a priority. In 2009, she travelled to the Philippines after Typhoon Ketsana with a disaster relief team to deliver food and tents to thousands of displaced people, often wading through mud or knee high water to get to families. In 2010, she and the team headed to Haiti after their catastrophic earthquake to again deliver food, shelters and medical aid. She travelled back to Haiti four more times to help build over 400 houses. Preceding her recent move to the San Francisco Bay Area, Jackie was a Big Sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program as well as a volunteer for the Seattle Symphony. Her other passions include travel, art, reading, writing, eating delicious pastries, indoor cycling and outdoor adventures. Jackie has a BA in Business Administration from the University of Washington and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

Eva Tsai
Board Member

Engineer turned B2B marketer, Eva excels at applying engineering rigor and innovations to marketing as a method to fuel hypergrowth. Eva built worldwide marketing from the ground up as Chief Marketing Officer in two companies, Algolia and vArmour. Her strategic initiatives focused on category creation and driving growth worldwide. Before vArmour, she was hired by Citrix to help it scale revenue from $1B to $5B and spearheaded “Moneyball” predictive analytics to transform marketing. Prior to Citrix, Eva held strategic roles at BEA Systems, BroadVision and Oracle.

Eva’s innovations and leadership have been recognized with notable industry awards and patents. She was named Female Executive of the Year by the Stevie Awards and led her team to win the Stevie Award Marketing Department of the Year during her time at vArmour. She was recognized by Silicon Valley Business Journal as one of Silicon Valley’s 100 Most Influential Women and received the Marketer That Matters™ award, commissioned by The Wall Street Journal. She holds three patents in self-serve application development and has one pending in machine learning and adaptive optimization.

Eva also serves on the advisory boards of several companies including Weblife.io and tCell, which she advised from inception to successful acquisitions by ProofPoint and Rapid7, respectively. She holds a B.S. and an M.S. in Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Alex Doherty

Alex is a writer based in the Bay Area and has an MFA in screenwriting. He worked as a Story Assistant for film and TV production in Los Angeles before working as an Assistant Producer at LucasArts in San Francisco. He’s querying his first novel in 2018, a Middle Grade adventure! He’s inspired by the creativity of others and enjoys theater, movies, reading and finding time to practice his green thumb when he’s not hiking.

Malar Ganapathiappan

Malar received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, summa cum laude, from Arizona State University and recently became certified as a Creativity and Empowerment NLP Coach. Writing is a profound part of her life as a way to process, reflect, generate ideas, create, and express herself. She loves inspiration and sharing her passion for writing in her roles as a writing instructor, coach, mentor, and tutor.

Olivia Ghafoerkhan

Olivia grew up in rural north Florida, hiking through the woods imagining different worlds. She now lives outside Washington DC. She received her BA from Florida State University, where she majored in English and minored in Women’s Studies. She received her MFA from Hamline University, specializing in writing for children and young adults. She writes both fiction and nonfiction. When she’s not hard at work, Olivia enjoys hiking, visiting the beach, and Bollywood movies.

Alex Jacobus Kordahl

Ann has published short fiction, poetry, and essays for young readers and adults in the US and the UK. Her debut YA thriller is Romancing the Dark in the City of Light. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and lives with her family in San Francisco.

Ailynn Knox-Collins

Ailynn was a Montessori teacher for many years and loved sharing her love of books and writing with her students. She has a degree in law, several teaching credentials and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. With four books in the middle-grade sci-fi Redworld series published, and another nonfiction series coming out in 2018, Ailynn is working hard on a graphic novel, among other books. When she’s not writing, she is working with her 4 dogs on agility, obedience and rally competitions. She is excited to join Young Inklings and share her love for writing with young authors everywhere.

Gwen Lee

Gwen Lee is the award-winning author of six children’s books and an architecture book. Fluent in three languages, she had worked as a translator, theater manager, and cartoonist in her youth before studying architecture in the UK. In her final year in college, Gwen discovered that what she really wanted to do was to tell stories. While working as an architect and design writer, Gwen published her first children’s book Little Cloud Wants Snow! A recommended book for the Read! Singapore Festival 2014, Little Cloud Wants Snow! has been translated to Korean and Mandarin, and is being used by schools in Texas to educate children about weather science. Today, Gwen is one of the few interdisciplinary writers straddling the fields of architecture and literature, writing for both children and adults alike. She enjoys working with young writers from all backgrounds to help them discover their unique literary voices. Gwen lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Tasslyn Magnusson

As a fourth grader, Tasslyn Magnusson once tried to read her school library from A to Z, backward. She got stuck on P. L. Travers and Mary Poppins and has been reading anything and everything since. When she’s not writing her poetry or working on her middle grade novels, she’s reading fan fiction written by her teens and trading book recommendations with their friends. Tasslyn received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in January 2017. She has had several poems published and won the 2017 Room Magazine Poetry prize.

Polly McCann

Polly A. McCann, author and illustrator, loves to put a rainbow of color in every picture. She graduated with her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University. Polly is a writing mentor for Society of Young Inklings as well as managing editor of Flying Ketchup Press. Her art and poetry have been published in national magazines and newspapers, international journals, and several upcoming books. When she’s not teaching college essays or looking for mermaids and unicorns, she loves to spend time with her two kids, make pizza from scratch, and explore the unexpected. Find her at pollymccann.com

Kalena Miller

Kalena grew up in College Station, Texas, then moved a thousand miles north to attend Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. In 2015, she graduated summa cum laude with a major in religious studies and a specialization in women’s and gender studies. In July of 2018, Kalena graduated with her MFA from Hamline University after presenting her critical thesis on the history and craft of young adult Chick Lit. Her previous teaching experience includes two years at Maine Arts Camp, three years as a writing tutor at Carleton College, and one year working as a paraprofessional at the Academy for Precision Learning in Seattle. She currently lives in Hopkins, Minnesota with her husband, Kenny, and Toy Australian Shepherd, Toshley. When she’s not writing or teaching, Kalena enjoys tap dancing, needle felting, and watching reruns of the West Wing.

Trisha Parsons

Trisha has been working with children and students for five years as a skills trainer in day-treatment settings, a Special Education paraprofessional, a tutor, and currently as a mentor for the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. In July of 2018, she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She has had poetry published in High Plains Register, Spittoon, and Wicked Alice, but is currently invested in writing novels for young readers.  When she’s not writing or working she likes to practice calligraphy, explore the beautiful nature around her Colorado home, and hang out with her husband and dog.

Melody Ramie Reed

As a child, Melody could be found sitting on the floor surrounded by books at the public library. The friends she met in those pages and the adventures she experienced sparked her imagination. Her love of story led to her love of writing at an early age.

As an adult, Melody can still be found surrounded by books at the public library, but now she’s behind the desk. She enjoys helping patrons find enriching tales and shares her passion by leading writing classes for adults and teens. Melody is a creative professional with over 15 years teaching children. She has a BS in Computer Science from St. Francis University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. When she’s not writing, reading or revising, she fancies walking her dogs, listening to beach waves, or eating ice cream. She has raised 3 children and lives with her husband near Chicago.

Sonja Solter

Sonja spent her childhood summers in her mother’s homeland of Finland and traveled the world extensively with her family. She read so voraciously as a child that she once brought over 70 books on a trip. (Her mother is still trying to figure out how that slipped by her.) Sonja graduated with an interdisciplinary degree in Human Biology from Stanford University and has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She writes for all age levels and has had a reader published for the educational market. She has also been a Music Together director and teacher, where she especially enjoyed the collaborative improvisation aspect of the program. Sonja lives with her husband and two children in Louisville, CO, and enjoys nature, travel, and yoga. Look for her upcoming debut middle grade novel in verse, When You Know What I Know.

Beth Spencewood

Beth Spencewood grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she spent the long winters reading her favorite books and writing funny short stories starring her friends. She got a bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked in nonprofit management for many years. Now she has an MFA in writing and writes novels for young adults. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling, playing board games, biking with her family, or cross-stitching.

Patrick York

Patrick Garrett York is from the Mojave Desert of California. He received his MFA from the University of California, Riverside where he was a Gluck Fellow of the Arts. He lives in Los Gatos, California with his wife.

Advisory Board

Lauren Byunn-Rieder
Youth Advisory Board

Inés García
Youth Advisory Board

Claire McNerney
Youth Advisory Board

Anna Yang
Youth Advisory Board

Avery Yue
Youth Advisory Board

Collaborating Artists

Collaborating and Contributing Artists

We also partner with a group of professional authors, illustrators, and creatives that we call our Collaborating Artists. Collaborating Artists serve as volunteers and encouragers for Society of Young Inklings and our young writers. Click here to see our featured partners.