Sondra Hall is the Founding 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 both teacher and student. She’s seen first hand that when kids’ imaginations are ignited, they're more engaged and enthusiastic about learning. Because she thinks a lot of students spend too little of their school day crafting stories, swimming in their imaginations and applying their creative spark to the page, she conceived of "Take My Word For It!" as a way to bring the adventure that is writing to elementary school kids.
BAY AREA INSTRUCTORS
Erin Carini is an experienced English tutor with a background in ESL education and child development, a writer, and a former journal/zine editor. She is an avid reader of graphic novels and mystery collections, lover of 80s music and a cat enthusiast. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Writing at California College of the Arts and is working on a collection of memoir pieces and short stories.
Syda Patel Day is a fiction and non-fiction writer whose novel, A Waterless River, is soon-to-published, while she is working on another novel. She was the Lucy Grealy scholar at Bennington College Graduate Writing Seminars and has been awarded the Kathryn Green Fellowship in fiction writing at the Djerassi Residency, a Steinbeck Fellowship for fiction writing, and has also been given fiction residencies at the Headlands Center, Yadoo, and a full fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, as well as a Ford Foundation and Fulbright grant for international research and writing. She has been invited to speak and read publicly by National Public Radio, the Intersection for the Arts (SF), the American Bar Association and the U.N. International Human Rights Law conferences. She holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and was a Lewis Fellow at Harvard Law School. In her more creative incarnation, she received an MFA in Fiction Writing from Warren Wilson College and an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from Bennington College. Her first love of writing was poetry, and to that end, at Yale, she was awarded a Holtzmann Fellowship and the Mary Cass Award for poetry.
Jessi Dotter used to write for grown-ups. She was an editorial writer for a wedding magazine, a freelance music journalist, and communications director for a Montessori school. But one day, Jessi realized that kids have a lot more fun than grown-ups do. So, she decided to write for kids. Since then, she’s published two novels for middle grade readers. And, she hopes to publish many, many more. Besides her writing experience, Jessi has enjoyed working in the education field for over 15 years. She’s done everything from teach 2-year-olds how to somersault to run a preschool. And, then there was that time she transported a tadpole in her car so she could teach outdoor education classes. The point is, Jessi is committed to bringing fun educational experiences to kids. And, in her opinion, nothing is more fun than creative writing.
Julian Mithra plopped into facilitating writing workshops in 2012 and fell in love with the power of listening to children. First, they dipped their toes into informal education via homeschool consulting and leading field trips at the Port of Oakland in ecology and African American history. They received their MA from UC Berkeley in Folklore (a department no one's heard of) by exploring the disciplinary boundaries between material and immaterial, er, non-material culture in the Southwest. The Mingei Museum (San Diego) and Peralta Hacienda (Oakland) reach young visitors through Julian's inquiry-based curriculum. Julian also performs poetry, crafts one-of-a-kind books, cuts up found footage for video poems, and collages black and white zines.
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.
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 spent 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 before returning to San Francisco.
Austin Salzwedel is an artist, academic, and educator from the beautiful Pacific Northwest. He recently graduated from the Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley with a Masters in art history and religious studies, and looks forward to pursuing a PhD. in the years to come. For now, however, he is enjoying independent writing, research, and teaching during a much deserved sabbatical.
Joseph Shumake is a songwriter and musician who writes, records, and performs music for the band, Sister Chief. He graduated from California Institute of Integral Studies with a Bachelor's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. His focus while obtaining his degree was creativity and consciousness; how creative expression allows for deeper understanding of the Self, local and global community. Joseph is also a self-taught painter, sculptor, and woodworker.
Ani Tascian was the same age as her now nine year old son when she wrote her first story about a man hanging off a clock. That day, with her teacher's support she declared she would be a writer when she grew up. She recently graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from St. Mary's College of California after delaying her dream for many years. She is thrilled to be teaching writing to kids.
Flora Tsapovsky is a Bay Area writer who often contributes to the San Francisco Chronicle, North Bay Bohemian, and other print and online publications. Writing poems and short stories since age 5, Flora calls the Bay Area her third home; she was born and grew up in Communist Russia, immigrated to Israel with her family at the age of 8, and finally, moved to the Bay Area four years ago. Passionate about storytelling, food writing and fashion journalism, Flora documents her frequent travels and experiences on Bicoastalista.com, a website dedicated to bi-coastal women and the cultural and inspirational aspects of style and travel.
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.