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Staff & Board

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 make up our Inklings community. Society of Young Inklings is always looking for creative individuals to join our thriving community! Check out our current opportunities here.

Staff

Naomi Kinsman
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
Operations Manager

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 graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and spent several years in music education prior to working with Society of Young Inklings. Sarah loves reading, staring at the California coast, and good coffee (sometimes even not-so-good coffee).  She lives in South Orange County with her husband and her two children. You can follow her on Instagram @fromsarahsbooknook.

Board Members

Lorelei Ermentrout
Board Member

A journalism major who ended up with a career in IT Project Management, Lorelei brings a love of writing and 20+ years of project management experience to her role as Board Member. She has worked for a variety of companies large and small across several different industries. Lorelei holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute.

As a parent, Lorelei has seen firsthand how writing at an early age can make an impact on a young person. Lorelei’s youngest daughter began writing stories starting in kindergarten, and by third grade, she had won a youth writing contest at a local university.  That experience left a lasting impression on her daughter. Lorelei is proud to support Young Inklings and the work that is bringing similar joy to other young writers.

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.

Tracy Piombo
Board Member

Tracy Piombo began her career as a misunderstood writer at the age of five, when her kindergarten teacher called her first story “too depressing.” To date, her most rewarding writing experiences have been a fantasy fanfiction novel she wrote in fifth grade, and a college thesis on the science fiction of Ursula K. LeGuin. Since then, Tracy’s calling has been to inspire a love of writing and reading in young people, first as an English Language Arts teacher in New York, then as a Library Teacher at Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park, California. Tracy has a BA in English from Wellesley College and a Masters in Library and Information Science from Queens College. She still loves science fiction and stories that some might mistakenly label too depressing.

Wenjun Xu
Board Member

Wenjun is a finance lead at Granite Construction, focusing on treasury and investor relations. She is passionate about making a positive impact through strategic financing, both professionally and personally. She has a Bachelors of Science in Economics/Mathematics from Randolph College, a Master’s in Finance from Vanderbilt University, and is pursuing an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Wenjun enjoys volunteering during her spare time with a focus on the education sector. She firmly believes that good education changes lives.

Mentors

Jodi Anderson-Wolhaupter
Mentor

Jodi loves the energy that comes with being part of writing communities! In middle school, she was lucky to have a teacher who helped her start a writers’ club, which ignited her desire to stay connected with other writers. Jodi earned a B.A. in English Literature and Writing and an M.A. in Teaching from Bethel University. For the past 15 years, Jodi has been striving to encourage young writers’ voices in her role as a middle school English and creative writing teacher at an arts magnet school in Minnesota. She has recently published some editorial pieces with the Star Tribune and a local racial equity organization. She is currently working on a chapbook of pandemic-related poems. When not writing, Jodi enjoys being part of book clubs with friends, playing the piano, biking with her husband, spending time with her family (especially sharing puns with her mom), and cuddling with her Maltipoo dog named Molly.

Andrew Avallone
Mentor

Andrew started his teaching career at The Phillips Brooks School in Menlo Park, where he was an assistant 5th grade teacher. It was during his time at PBS that he connected with Society of Young Inklings and began working as a mentor. Since then, he taught 6th grade and 8th grade World History at The American School of Quito, Ecuador, 8th grade U.S. History at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, and is now a history teacher at The Harker School. Andrew’s interest in writing began at a young age, but was really fostered by his middle school English teacher who encouraged him to keep a writing journal. He soon filled that journal with stories and reflections. He also wrote a blog during his time living overseas. Andrew is excited to return to Young Inklings and looks forward to sharing his love of writing with students. 

Ty Chapman
Mentor

Ty Chapman is a Twin Cities-based author, poet, puppeteer, and playwright of Nigerian and European descent. He is passionate about art that speaks to the Black experience in America. His recent accomplishments include being named a Loft Literary Center Mirrors and Windows fellow and publishing poetry through multiple journals. His poems made the longlist for both Button Poetry’s 2020 Chapbook Contest, and Frontier Magazine’s 2021 New Voices contest.

His debut picture book, SARAH RISING, represented by Savannah Brooks, is set to release in May 2022 through Beaming Books.

Alex Doherty
Mentor

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, 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
Mentor, Mentor Advisor

Malar published her first novel at 17. She writes novels, short stories, picture books, and poetry, as well as blog articles, personal essays, and creative nonfiction. Since 2008, she’s helped writers in every messy step of the creation process as a tutor, writing instructor, workshop facilitator, and freelance editor. Her writing and mentoring is heart-centered and empathetic, drawing from her psychology degree and training in NLP coaching and trauma support to help mentees connect with their inner voice while feeling heard and understood. She’s passionate about healing through creativity. When not writing, you might find her near a waterfall, with cats, or standing outside at night, gazing at the moon. You can learn more about Malar’s work at malarganapathiappan.com.

Olivia Ghafoerkhan
Mentor

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.

Kesha L. Grant
Mentor

Kesha is a Georgia-based writer and editor whose projects include picture books, middle-grade fiction, non-fiction, and folklore. Prior to launching a writing career, Kesha spent many years as a Language Arts and history middle school teacher. Her first nonfiction text, Women in the Civil Rights Movement, published by Scholastic, debuted in 2020. She was bitten by the writing bug in middle school when she entered her first writing contest. Kesha didn’t win the contest, but her love for writing stuck. She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Kesha also holds a master’s degree in education. When not writing, she enjoys cooking, yoga, and spending time with her family.

Tasslyn Magnusson
Mentor

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.

Celina McManus
Mentor

Celina McManus writes poetry and children’s literature. She is a graduate from Randolph College’s MFA program where she was a poetry editor for online journal, Revolute. Her poems have been published in Peach Mag, Hooligan Magazine, Cobra Milk, and others. She is currently working on a collection of poems speaking to the environmental crisis, incorporating play and wonder. She teaches English and is a caregiver. She is from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her fiance and black cat, Marceline.

Melody Ramie Reed
Mentor

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.

Lisa Riddiough
Mentor

Lisa Frenkel Riddiough is a Northern California based writer whose projects include picture books, middle-grade, and short fiction. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Her debut middle-grade novel, Elvis and the World as it Stands, released in August 2021, and her debut picture book, Letters to Live By, arrives in January 2022. Lisa is a former sales executive, an avid squirrel watcher, and a frequent baker of chocolate pound cake. She is pro-Oxford comma! Also, she likes exclamation points!!

Melissa Savage
Mentor

Melissa Savage worked for many years as a child and family therapist and believes that expressing oneself through writing can be a very healing process when struggling with difficulties in life. Melissa attributes her love of writing to her second-grade teacher, Miss Mahle, who introduced her to writing at seven years old. The Lost Pony won critical acclaim from Melissa’s mom and was the start of her love of writing. She eventually earned a Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in Minnesota and published her debut book, Lemons with Penguin Random House’s Crown Books for Young Readers in 2017. Melissa has since begun teaching workshops for both children and adults. She has gone on to write The Truth About Martians (2018), Nessie Quest (2020), and Karma Moon, Ghost Hunter (2021). Melissa loves the process of writing and sharing concepts with fellow writers and is excited to be a part of Young Inklings.  She looks forward to meeting writers of every age, experience level, and background. Melissa loves art, theatre, hiking, and eating marshmallows straight out of the bag. You can find her at melissadsavage.com.

Sonja Solter
Mentor, Drafting Workshop Head Teacher

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. Her debut middle grade novel in verse, When You Know What I Know, is an ILA Honor Book and Colorado Book Award Finalist.

Beth Spencewood
Mentor, Director of Youth Publication Programs

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.

Elizabeth Verdick
Mentor

Elizabeth Verdick loves to write picture book stories and nonfiction self-help for kids of all ages. She received her MFA from Hamline University in St. Paul. She spends her days writing and adoring her two French bulldogs. Elizabeth has two grown children: one loves books and one loves math.

 Advisory Board

Odette Harris
Advisory 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.

Youth Advisory Board

Lauren Byunn-Rieder

Lexi Friesel

Claire McNerney

Alister Sharp

Anna Yang

Avery Yue

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.