Delaware Poet Laureates "The Twin Poets"
Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Albert Mills
Nnamdi Chukwuocha is a member of the Wilmington City Council and chairs the city’s Education, Youth and Families committee. He is a community-based social worker who sits on an array of boards and commissions including the Sustainable Energy & Utilities Commission and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission. Chukwuocha was recently awarded the Wilmington Urban League’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, and has been recognized as an outstanding Delaware State University Alumni.
Albert Mills is a community-based social worker deeply rooted in the juvenile justice system. Mills has designed and led organizations that provide services for delinquent youth and their families. As a therapist, he serves New Castle County Delaware’s Multi systemic Therapy Services. Mills is a certified A.R.T. therapist, and takes pride in his efforts to utilize art as a tool for foundational change in youth, families, communities, and our society. A co-founder of G.O.A.L.S., and S.Y.A.-Tutoring and Mentoring Programs in Wilmington, Mills is also an honored army veteran who served in Iraq and speaks about his struggles with PTSD as a result of the war. pr
Julianna Baggott is a critically acclaimed, bestselling author who has published more than twenty books, including middle-grade and young-adult novels, under her own name as well as pen names. Her novel for adults, Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her novel Pure, the first of a trilogy, was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and won an ALA Alex Award. The Anybodies, the first in a trilogy written under her pen name N.E. Bode, was a Washington Post Book-of-the-Week, a People Magazine Pick for ‘What’s Cool This Summer," and a Girls’ Life Magazine Top Ten. Baggott’s work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Modern Love column, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Glamour, Real Simple, Best Creative Nonfiction, Best American Poetry, and has been read on NPR’s Here and Now, Talk of the Nation, and All Things Considered.
Cris Barrish a national award-winning investigative reporter, covers Delaware news for WHYY, Philadelphia’s public media NPR affiliate. Cris worked at Wilmington (Del.) News Journal for 34 years, starting out as a sports assistant but ultimately becoming the senior investigative reporter. Cris was lead author of “Fatal Embrace,” a true-crime book about the murder by prominent attorney Tom Capano of gubernatorial secretary Ann Marie Fahey. After retiring from the paper in November 2016, Cris worked for a nonprofit and as a substitute teacher in Delaware public schools, giving him an inside view of the state’s educational system.
Harry Brake hails from Woodbridge High School as the Media Center Specialist and advises the student literary magazine, The Riff. He has recently returned from Mexico City after six years as a LMS at the American School Foundation. Coaching cross country, photography, blogging, and creating project based community projects keep him in the diverse moments of what a Library Media Specialist encounters every day. Harry will be working with students from the Riff Magazine during his presentation.
Donna Carter works as a Teen Librarian for Young and Emerging Adults in order to connect Library Programs and Services with their passions and pursuits. She believes that we all, regardless of age, possess unique interests, and it is her role to help teens identify and enrich that spark that enables them to shine. Donna enjoys offering her services beyond the library walls through storytelling at community events, and by offering Lunch Time Book Clubs in classrooms. Her most rewarding project arose through her friendships with teens with Asperger’s. As a result, she currently offers a monthly Autism Family Support Group at the Greenwood Library. Donna will be working students from the Riff literary magazine in his presentation
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Roxanne Hsu Feldman is a middle school librarian at The Dalton School in New York City. Her Fairrosa Cyber Library was one of the first websites completely dedicated to critiquing and reviewing children’s books. Roxanne also professionally reviews children’s and young adult books for School Library Journal and The Horn Book. She is currently a co-writer and editor for School Library Journal’s “Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog.”
Karla Fleshman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 25 years of experience, as well as an Ordained Clergy who believes in journeying alongside a person and their chosen community to help them identify their potential. Karla wears many hats in the State of Delaware. Besides owning a clinical practice, Karla coordinates the LGBTQ Youth Mentoring Initiative at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware.
Christina Jedra is an investigative reporter for The News Journal. In over two years working in Wilmington, she has written stories that hold powerful people accountable and highlight issues affecting everyday citizens. Her work has included changes to city law, a state labor investigation into a construction training program participants said was exploitative, and a criminal investigation into potential misuse of taxpayer dollars. Christina grew up in North Plainfield, New Jersey, graduated from Emerson College in Boston in 2015, and started her journalism career at The Capital newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
Cordelia Jensen is the author of three verse novels for children and teens: Skyscraping (Penguin, 2015), The Way the Light Bends (Penguin, 2018) and Every Shiny Thing (Abrams, 2018, co-authored with Laurie Morrison). Skyscraping was an American Library Association's Best Fiction Book for Young Adults. Cordelia lives in Philadelphia with her husband and twin seventh graders. There, she teaches creative writing and runs a kids' literary journal. You can find her on Twitter @cordeliajensen and Instagram @cordeliajensen1
Jessica Lauver has taught 7th grade English for 19 years in Appoquinimink School District. During that time she has not only attended Festival of Words regularly but has been a presenter twice before. Being an educator is at the heart of who she is. Jessica loves running book clubs with students (like the ones seen at FOW). Outside of school she plays volleyball and has been involved in other philanthropic efforts over the years. In the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Chimere R. McLean
Chimere R. McLean is the author of Dream, Little One, Dream! and has worked as an English Language Arts teacher in Delaware public schools for the past 15 years. Chimere attended the University of Delaware where she received her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She resides in Middletown, Delaware with her husband, Chris, and son, Cameron. Inspired by the lack of diversity in children’s books, she has dedicated herself to providing opportunities for all children to see themselves as the main character in a story. She is currently working on her second book, Sister Sister, which will be available in the Spring of 2019.
John Micklos, Jr.
John Micklos, Jr. of Newark, Delaware, is the author of more than 50 books for children ranging from preschool through high school. His works include poetry books, picture books, and a wide range of nonfiction titles, including biographies, history books, social studies titles, and more. His picture book One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me! was included as both a Dolly Parton Imagination Library and Scholastic Book Fair selection in 2018. John enjoys school visits and conducting writing workshops with students.
Christy Payne is the Director of Libraries at The Dalton School in New York City. She has her National Teaching Certification in K-12 libraries and is also an adjunct instructor teaching Adolescent Literature at the University of Delaware.
The Riff Magazine editors
Alexis Durham, Hannah Pearson, Alastornia Swift and Regan Todd are from Woodbridge High School. As editors of the Riff Student International Magazine, they get to share their love of literature and reading with others.
LaVern Tabb Robinson
LaVern T. Robinson received a Bachelor’s in Communications from Rowan University and a Masters in Education from Wilmington University. LaVern, an English Language Arts educator and entrepreneur, saw the need for figurative language trade books and created Stinky Steven Stench. She published Stinky Steven Stench, her very first children’s book in 2011. This tongue-twisting book plays with the artful craft of alliteration. This marvelously inventive trade book tells the story of Steven Stench, a young boy that has a squabble with his sister. Her love for children’s book has inspired her to write her latest children’s book I AM.
Paul Volponi is a writer, journalist and educator living in NYC. From 1992-1998, he taught incarcerated teens on Rikers Island to read and write. That experience inspired a pair of novels: Black and White (winner of the International Reading Association's Children's Book Award) and Rikers High (ALA Quick Pick Top Ten). Paul is the author of 12 novels for young adults, including The Final Four (recipient of 5 starred reviews and on the NYC Chancellor's Ninth grade Reading List) and Top Prospect (part of Scholastic's nationwide book club). Paul holds an MA in American literature form the City College of NY and a BA in English from Baruch. You can read excerpts from all of Paul's novels, view author's notes and the novels' origins at paulvolponibooks.com