Workshop Leader Community

NYWC Workshop Leader Retreat (2013)

The heart of NYWC is our talented and diverse pool of writers and social justice activists. These dedicated members of our community volunteer their time to lead weekly writing workshops, edit and publish NYWC workshop participants’ writing, and coordinate readings, book launches and other events that help bring unheard New Yorkers’ stories to new audiences.

Maritza Arrastia is a Cuban-Puerto Rican writer of fiction, poetry, and screenplays. She reads her writing in arts, community, and academic spaces; has written, produced and directed screenplays, is the author of the novel Exile; and was recently anthologized in Breaking Ground. She is a recipient of NYFA fellowships in screenwriting and playwriting, and in fiction. Her website makes public her ongoing novel Todos; a collection of microcuentos; and some of her poetry. She is a worker writer who thinks of writing as liberation art and is committed to brining writing into her work as an educator and social justice activist. She has been with NYWC since 2014 and has been working, along with Elena Schwolsky, to build workshops in Sunset Park Brooklyn.

Andrea Bozzo is a writing workshop leader who did extensive financial writing during her almost thirty year professional career.  Currently in retirement, she is working on her memoir and lives in downtown Brooklyn with her husband and her dog

Kimberly Bliss is Philippine-born, Buffalo-bred, and Brooklyn-burroughed. She is new to NYWC and very excited to be the new workshop leader at Serendipity II. When she’s not killing it in fantasy baseball, she’s working on her novel.

Barry Blitstein began as a playwright and stage director (MFA Brooklyn College). He has lived in New York, Southern California, Berlin. His work has been published in NYWC’s “The Hidden Chorus” and “A Common Purpose,” “Off The Rocks,” “Hartskill Review,” “The Inflectionist Review” and “East Bay Review.”

Colleen Breslin joined NYWC in November 2012 as a workshop leader. Having no concrete ideas about what community of writers will best suit her, she looks forward to what will open up and to joining the Coalition’s movement to create space for new voices and new perspectives. When she is not acting like a lawyer in her gig with the National Labor Relations Board, Colleen is thinking about democracy in the workplace and watching the kids on her Clinton Hill block play sidewalk soccer. She hopes the ideas that come to her will find themselves in full written form on of these days.

Ashley Calloway-Blatch is a news editor living in Harlem. She was born and raised in Miami, and ventured up to New York City to pursue a career in journalism. When she is not journaling, you can find her going for a run along Central Park or trying (and sometimes succeeding at) a new Pinterest recipe.

Barbara Cassidy’s work has been seen at  JACK, The Flea Theatre, Playwrights’ Horizons, Dixon Place, Little Theatre, The New York International Fringe Festival, and Bric Studios. She is a MacDowell Fellow, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Recipient and has received grants from the Brooklyn Arts Council. She earned her MFA at Brooklyn College, and is an affiliated artist with New Georges. Her play, INTERIM, was nominated for the Barrie Stavis Award. Cassidy is an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Leland Cheuk is the author of the novel THE MISADVENTURES OF SULLIVER PONG (CCLaP Publishing, 2015) and the story collection LETTERS FROM DINOSAURS (Thought Catalog Book, 2016). Cheuk has been awarded fellowships and artist residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Dejrassi Resident Artists Program, I-Park Foundation, and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Salon, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, [PANK] Magazine, and others. He lives in Brooklyn. For more info, visit

Victoria Cho is a Korean-American writer who was born and raised in Virginia. Her writing has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, The Collagist, Perigee, Quarter After Eight, Luna Luna, and Word Riot. She has been an NYWC workshop leader since 2009 and is also a VONA/Voices alumna. She lives in New York City.

Deborah Clearman led NYWC’s workshop for seniors at the 14th Street Y from 2003 to 2011 and now leads a workshop for women in jail at RMSC (aka Rosie’s) on Rikers Island.  Deborah served as NYWC’s Program Director for about 8 years, and in that time helped build NYWC from a small grassroots organization into one of the largest community based writing programs in the world.  She wrote and illustrated The Goose’s Tale (Whispering Coyote Press) for children. Her short stories for adults have been published by various literary journals, including Beloit Fiction JournalConnecticut Review, Ginger Hill, Oasis, and Quality Women’s Fiction.  She has also performed numerous public readings and story-tellings in New York City, at venues such as The Moth, The Pink Pony, Cornelia Street Café and others. Ms. Clearman has more than twelve years of experience teaching art and English as a foreign language, including a year in Todos Santos, Guatemala. Ms. Clearman has an MFA in painting from Indiana University and her paintings have appeared in galleries and exhibitions throughout the country. Her first novel, Todos Santos,  was published by Black Lawrence Press. Check for info.

Shanté Cozier joined the NYWC team in the spring of 2015. She leads workshops in Canarsie and at Brooklyn East Collegiate Middle School. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at the City College of New York, where she is focusing on fiction in the art of short stories and novel writing.  She is also the winner of the 2015 ND/SA Chapbook prize for her first chapbook of poetry entitled Sometimes Angels.

What If Writing Is Dreaming Together?: Poetry & Prose from NYWC Workshop Leaders

Poetry & Prose from NYWC Workshop Leaders

Mario de la Cruz is a graduate of the Master’s of Science in Narrative Medicine program at Columbia University.  With a background in adolescent and young adult health programming,  he has developed multiple HIV/AIDS prevention programs and sexual health education programs for both healthcare institutions and non-profit organizations, with emphasis on at-risk youth groups. During his time with the New York Writer’s Coalition he has been fortunate to work with the LGBT populations at both SAGE and New Alternatives.  Mario is also one of the founding editors at The Intima, an online journal of Narrative Medicine, and a contributing author to the book, The Uncharted Path from Clinic-Based to Community-Based Research. His upcoming work will focus on exploring visual, oral and performance based narratives, and lately he has begun experimenting with very short fiction stories of illness and healing.

Ann Marie Cunningham is a science journalist who has written for print, broadcasting, and the Web. She is co-author of Ryan White: My Own Story and a correspondent of Women’s eNews ( In November 2015, she launched a new writing workshop for teens at the Bloomingdale Branch of the New York Public Library.

T.K. Dalton has led a bi-lingual workshop with members of the Deaf community at Tanya Towers residence. Currently, he works with seniors at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights. His fiction and nonfiction appears in Red Rock Review, Radical Teacher, Rain Taxi, and The L Magazine; drafts of his novel, More Signal, More Noise, have earned him residencies at the Montana Artists Refuge and the Vermont Studio Center. He holds an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon and is completing the ASL-English Interpreting program at Union County College. When not camped at his writing desk or frolicking in the Deaf community, Tim teaches composition at LaGuardia Community College.

Ben Dolnick leads a drop-in workshop for adults at the Brooklyn Public Library, Central branch. He lives in Fort Greene with his wife and dog, and is the author of three novels and counting.

Libby Rumelt holds a BFA in Creative Non-Fiction from Emerson College. She currently leads the writing workshop at the Ali Forney Center for LGBT housing compromised teens and young adults. Libby will begin work to become an LCSW in the Fall of 2016 at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work.

Leah Falk was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and lived in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Michigan before coming to New York. Her poems can be found in Kenyon Review, Smartish Pace, FIELD, Blackbird, 32 Poems and elsewhere. Her collaborations with composers and choreographers have been performed in Vancouver, Ann Arbor, New York, and Indiananapolis. Also an educator, she’s worked with young people in the Boston and Detroit Public Schools, at Interlochen Arts Camp, and at the University of Michigan.

Susan Fedynak is a native New Yorker excited to join NYWC in bringing free writing workshops to her hometown. She received a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, where she was an Honors Trustee Scholar. She is a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts merit award recipient. She is also the recipient of a World Learning scholarship, which sent her to South Africa to study arts and culture. Her work has appeared in Stork, Blood, and Thunder, and the speculative fiction anthology A Field Guide to Surreal Botany, published by Two Cranes Press. She lives in Queens with her music producer husband and their imaginary puppy named Tofu.

Mary Feinberg taught language arts and drama in East Harlem during an exciting and innovative period in public education when workshops were taught by people like Peter Elbow, whose focus on writing as a step in the development of language skills was instrumental in helping students to become better writers as well as readers. She conducts two workshops at the New York Presbyterian Hospital for adults.

Dennis Gonzalez – My name is Dennis Gonzalez and I studied literature in Peru before coming here. Since I cannot live without reading or writing, I decided to continue studying literature otherwise I would have dried out like a plant without sun or water. Anyway, I could tell you where I studied and when I got my degrees but I figured that it is better to be honest and tell you that I want to share my love for literature in this program.

Frank Haberle’s short stories won the 2011 Pen Parentis Award and the 2013 Sustainable Arts Foundation Award, and have appeared in the Adirondack Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Melic Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Necessary Fiction, Cantaraville, Hot Metal Press and elsewhere. Frank is a proud parent of three kids and a development professional with New York City nonprofit organizations . A former NYWC Board member, Frank now leads the Moving Pen workshop at University Settlement.

Jonah Kruvant A writer, teacher, and student of the world, Jonah Kruvant received his Bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College, his Master’s degree in Teaching from Fordham University, and his MFA degree in Creative Writing from Goddard College.  After living abroad in four different countries, Jonah settled in New York. His debut novel, The Last Book Ever Written, satirizes our competitive, success-driven society, foresees the effects of the economic recession, and warns what could happen if we let technology get out of hand. Visit his website at

Sammi LaBue is a fiction writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her creative work can be found in [PANK] Magazine, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Body Parts Magazine, and elsewhere, while she has contributed to many non-fiction outlets including The Feminist Wire and Glamour Magazine. With a background in publicity and publishing Sammi is thrilled to be focusing on her passion of literacy advocacy leading the VISIONS NYWC workshop for visually impaired seniors. She is currently an MFA candidate with the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Angela Lockhart is a writing workshop leader with life-long experience writing as a poet and playwright who also sings and directs plays.  Inspiring others to express themselves creatively, Angela has worked individually and collaboratively with other artists to create performances that include theater, dance, poetry/spoken word and song. Angela’s Work as a playwright has been noted in the New York Times, Glamour Magazine and the book Mega Trends for Women.  Two of her poems can be found in From The Web, an anthology of previously unpublished female political poets.

In the early 1990’s Angela founded Living Lessons Inc. a non-profit Educational Theatre company teaching community members to be actor-teachers.  Angela and the company created performances that shared personal experience regarding AIDS, domestic violence and addictions.  In the summer of 2010 Angela worked with early childhood educators in North Carolina to create a multi-media performance that included song and spoken word to lobby and educate policy advisors. The summer of 2011 will be Angela’s third year leading a week-long creative writing workshop at the World Fellowship Center in Conway New Hampshire.  She is currently leading a NY Writers Coalition workshop at Stepping Stone, a transitional housing facility operated by Institute for Community Living in downtown Brooklyn.

Derek Loosvelt has led an NYWC workshop at the Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City, New York, the Osborne Association in Brooklyn, and at the RNDC Center at Rikers Island. He is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the MFA program at the New School, where he received the New School Chapbook Award for “Michigan Left.” In 2008 he was named a One World Scholar by the Pan-African Literary Forum in Accra, Ghana. His writing has appeared in various magazines and journals. He lives in Brooklyn.

Alison Lowenstein is a native New Yorker and Brooklyn based writer and editor. She writes children’s books, short stories, and plays. In addition, she’s published NYC guidebooks for Rizzoli’s Universe imprint, and her articles have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Departures, NY Daily News, Newsday, and many other publications.

Denice Martin-Thompson has developed into a respected educator, poet, author, motivational speaker and youth activist through her life experiences, education, and professional experience, . She has published 5 books of poetry, which include Struggling to Survive the Story of a First Year Teacher Told through Poetry, Poems for my Sons, Looking for my Horizon, Destined to Fly Free and Dee’s Explosion. Her children’s books include two picture books, What Qurin Wants and The Very Tired Mommy. She has recently released her newest work, a personal empowerment guide for girls entitled Can Girls Run the World?  Denice Martin-Thompson has developed a resume for youth empowerment and public speaking through her work at Passages Academy and her desire to ignite the passion for reading, writing, performing and living an empowered life in others. Seminars include topics of Poetry, Self-publishing, The Writer’s Notebook- Unlocking the Door to a Life Long Love for Writing, and The Key to Living an Empowered Life as a Teen.  She takes a unique perspective of being an educator as well as a poet to create a passion filled experience that her audience will never forget. Denice Martin-Thompson is a full-time teacher, but she is ready, able & willing to speak, perform and serve the youth of the community. You can visit her at

John Maney is originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, where he attended Macalester College, majoring in Religious Studies, and Sociology. In 1995 John moved to New York to pursue writing. While in New York he has attended poetry workshops at the Frederick Douglas Creative Arts Center, as well as through Cave Canum. John is a member of the New York Writers Coalition, and The Writer’s Room. He has published in the anthology HEAL, by Clique Calm Books; the anthology Testimony, by Free Spirit Press; and most recently in Art’s Buoyant Felicity, by Evolutionary Girls. He’s also had poetry appear in Sufi Magazine, and has a chapbook entitled Nkatie Wonu, by Broken Rose Publications. John has been featured in readings at several venues throughout New York City and State. Under the auspices of the New York Writers Coalition John has conducted creative writing workshops for formally incarcerated men and women at the Fortune Society, in Queens. He currently leads an ongoing workshop at the Port Morris Wellness Center, an addiction treatment program through Albert Einstein Medical College in the Bronx.

Matt Matros is a nine-year resident of Brooklyn, and a graduate of the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College. His non-fiction has appeared in The Washington Post and on, while his fiction has appeared in Spectrum and in his high school literary magazine. Matt is the author of the instructional memoir The Making of a Poker Player, and he is desperately trying to finish his first novel.

NYWC Workshop Leaders celebrate the launch of What If Writing Is Dreaming Together?

NYWC Workshop Leaders celebrate the launch of What If Writing Is Dreaming Together?

Melody Nixon is a New Zealand-born writer living in Harlem. Her essays, fiction, and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in ConjunctionsCura Magazine, Midnight Breakfast, No, Dear Magazine, Hoax Publications, and The Appendix, among others. She is the Interviews Editor of The Common, Co-Founder and Editor-at-Large of Apogee Journal, and co-curator of the First Person Plural Reading Series–Harlem.

Judith Ohikuare is a Brooklyn-born and Brooklyn-based writer and editor. She has written about business, technology, health, and education for various outlets, including and Inc., and she looks forward to expanding her practice of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction writing with others through NYWC.

Melissa Petro is a freelance writer and instructor for Gotham Writers Workshop and Red Umbrella Project, a nonprofit organization that amplifies the voices of individuals with experience in the sex trades, and is the editor of PROS(E), a literary journal for current, former and transitioning sex workers. She has written for SalonDaily BeastHuffington PostJezebelxoJaneRumpusPenthouse,Poets and Writers and elsewhere.

Paul Rozario-Falcone is a Singapore-born writer who calls Brooklyn home. He has published eight books of nonfiction, including a travel guide based on the 15th century voyages of Chinese admiral Zheng He. He was the co-founder of the first Singapore Literature Festival in New York, as well as the Second Saturdays Reading Series, both devoted to Singaporean and American literature in the city.

Jason Schwartzman is a writer and editor who grew up in New York City. He edits for the experimental magazine True.Ink and the literary journal Claudius Speaks. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, nymag,, Nowhere Magazine, Untapped Cities, Gothamist, River Teeth, among other places. You can read a selection of his work here.

Elena Schwolsky is a lifelong writer and social activist who joined NYWC in 2014.  She is currently co-leading, with Maritza Arrastia,  “Cosechando Cuentos.” a Spanish language workshop for immigrant women who are members of worker-owned cooperatives in her neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  Elena’s writing is informed by more than 30 years of work as a nurse and community health educator including 10 years spent as a pediatric AIDS nurse at the height of the epidemic. Elena currently works as a consultant and trainer for a variety of community health education projects in New York City and has trained peer educators in Cuba and Tanzania. Her essays and stories have appeared in the American Journal of Nursing, The Veteran, and the anthology Storied Dishes:  What Our Recipes Say About Who We Are, and she is at work on a memoir exploring the intersection of her personal and professional experience in the AIDS epidemic.

Micky Shorr, a new writing workshop leader, is a social worker/psychotherapist and a long time advocate for social justice. Born in Brooklyn, she has lived in California and the Hudson Valley. Micky is a poet whose work is in a number of literary journals and has been read on local radio in Kingston, NY. Since moving back to Brooklyn, Micky visits the ocean, misses her garden and plays with her grandson. She is hoping to get motivated soon to submit her poetry chapbook to competitions and have it published.

Fritz Tucker, a Brooklyn native, facilitates writing workshops with NYWC, teaches sociology and history at BMCC, and is a regular contributor to Zeteo on the subjects of participatory democracy and social movements. While earning his BA in Fiction Writing at Columbia College of Chicago. Fritz completed a novel and novella. You may request copies of his works–especially if you are a secret agent or publisher–as long as you ask nicely, promise to withhold judgment, and are prepared to have your mind blown.

Arnine Cumsky Weiss teaches deaf and hard of hearing children. She is the author of two novels, The Undefeated and She Ain’t Heavy and four books of non-fiction related to bar and bat mitzvah and converting to Judaism. Last summer she assisted with a workshop in the South Brooklyn’s Children’s Garden led by Nancy Sanchez-Taylor which had several future leaders of the free world and at least one future presidential hopeful.

Avra Wing is the author of the young adult novel After Isaac, praised in Publishers Weekly as a “complex story of life, love, grief, and recovery.” Her first novel, Angie, I Says, was made into film Angie starring Geena Davis and James Gandolfini. Avra’s poetry has been published in numerous journals, including Hanging Loose and Michigan Quarterly Review, and her collection, Recurring Dream, won the 2011 Pecan Grove Press Chapbook Competition. She leads a workshop at the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, New York, as well as a poetry-writing intensive. You can find her at