Board of Directors

Ekhlas Ahmed

Ekhlas Ahmed, a refugee and an activist from Darfur, Sudan, fled with her family to Egypt and lived there for two years before being resettled in Portland, Maine in 2005. She has since graduated high school with honors and earned a degree in sociology with hopes of helping resettle other refugees. She is the Vice President and Co-founder of Darfur Youth of Tomorrow, an organization raising awareness in her community of the violence and needs in Darfur. The Darfur Youth of Tomorrow has taken Ahmed to a number of places, most recently to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where she was invited to speak about the genocide by the UN Refugee Agency and read a poem about her homeland. She appeared on the Ellen show in 2017 after writing a letter about her life and her advocacy work. Ahmed teaches English at Westbrook Middle School and she previously taught English at Casco Bay High School, her alma mater. She also formerly ran a program called Make It Happen, which prepares multilingual students for college. She is writing a book called The Bridge Between, an autobiography in poetic form to share her experiences and raise awareness about Sudan.

 

Lydia Atwood 

Board Treasurer Lydia Atwood is a Massachusetts native with strong family roots in Maine. She has over twenty-five years of experience in finance, accounting, human resources, and operational management. Her financial experience includes the full spectrum, from hands-on bookkeeping, budgeting, and cash management, to the role of financial manager and CFO. She is currently employed as a business valuation and forensic accounting consultant at a public accounting and business consulting firm. Since 2009, she has been Treasurer of the Board of SMART Child and Family Services in Windham, Biddeford, and South Portland. SMART’s mission is to partner with individuals, families, and communities to provide integrated and compassionate behavioral health services to improve the well-being of those in need. Her family resides in South Portland. She loves to write, and is an avid reader of just about everything. She considers writing to be one of the most important life skills.

 

Chris Bicknell

Chris Bicknell has been working with youth since 1988 in a variety of settings including community centers, therapeutic schools, residential programs, psychiatric hospitals, correctional facilities, shelters and street outreach programs. Chris began his career as an Art Therapist focused on working with youth who were unable to engage in traditional talk therapy and had experienced significant trauma. For the past fifteen years Chris has been doing program development and administrative work. He developed and implemented outcomes-based employment training and placement programs for incarcerated youth at both the Long Creek Youth Development Center (LCYDC) and the Mountain View Youth Development Center in Maine. Chris developed and implemented the “Project Adventure” program within LCYDC to facilitate self-determination, teamwork, responsibility, and respect through adventure-based counseling and restorative justice, a revolutionary approach in a correctional facility. For nine years Chris was Preble Street teen services coordinator. He was responsible for the design and implementation of the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter (the only purpose built shelter for youth in Maine). Chris is currently the executive director at New Beginnings where he is responsible for assisting and advocating for people in crisis due to unstable or conflictive living situations, resulting in increased stability and more productive lives. Since 2012 Chris has been a committed volunteer at The Telling Room. He has co-facilitated several workshops, supported several Glitterati and Big Night events, been a Slant storyteller, and been a member of the development committee. This has allowed him to stay connected to youth, creativity and contribute to an organization that he had admired from a distance for several years.

 

Chelsea H. B. DeLorme

Chelsea H. B. DeLorme is a writer completing a residency in motherhood and is also currently at the halfway point of a two-year program through Stanford Continuing Studies, where the expectation is that she'll have a rough draft of a novel in a year. As an art history major at Cornell, Chelsea spent two years interning for the curator of modern and contemporary art at Cornell’s Johnson Museum. After graduation, she attended a publishing boot camp in New York through the Columbia Journalism School, where everyone told her not to move to San Francisco if she wanted to work in magazines. In San Francisco, she was an editor at one of her favorite magazines, Dwell, and started a publication called Design Mind as part of a thought leadership platform for the global design firm, frog. In 2012, Chelsea graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with an M.Ed. in arts in education and the aim of doing work that impacts people more directly than print. For three years she taught a junior seminar about the internet and identity at the Maine College of Art. Since becoming a mother (of two), Chelsea has continued to freelance as a writer, editor, and community manager based in her home state of Maine. Projects she's produced range in scope from local events and annual journals to two small books for Penguin/Random House: Q & A A Day for Writers and Q & A A Day for Moms. In her six years as a board member at SPACE Gallery she was part of a team that stewarded the organization through expansion and the purchase of the Artist Studio Building in downtown Portland. She is drawn to visual people of all stripes and gets excited about expanding their voices through words.

 

Dan Edwards

Apart from stints in Boston and Minnesota, Dan Edwards is a lifelong Maine resident. Dan was born in Lewiston, grew up in North Yarmouth and made it all the way to Yarmouth, where he lives with his teenaged son and almost teenaged daughter. He goes to a lot of soccer games. In a fit of worldly zeal, Dan attended – and graduated from – the University of Maine, located fully two hours away from his home town. He studied English, but took two science courses and one math course while there, because he had to. Not long after graduation, Dan entered the exciting, fast-paced world of advertising as a copywriter. He worked briefly with a small ad agency, then became a freelance writer. Apart from a three-year diversion to pursue a dream of dot.com riches (“riches” turns out to equal $3,000.00), and a brief ten-year career as a real estate attorney, he’s been working in writing, creative direction and brand development ever since. In his spare time, Dan coaches the Falmouth Boys’ and Girls’ Varsity swim teams with three close friends. He also plays blisteringly mediocre rhythm guitar in a band that somehow manages to find three or four places to play every year, presumably because (a) the other members of the band actually possess band-oriented talents and abilities; and (b) it’s not easy to find a band that’ll play for babysitting money.

 

Anya Endsley

Originally from western Massachusetts, Board Secretary Anya Endsley relocated to Portland with her husband, her almost 2 year old son, and dog and cat from upstate New York last June, having lived in Brooklyn for six years before that. She went to law school in New York City and practiced at a large corporate law firm there right after graduating. Anya then clerked at the New York State Court of Appeals, in Albany, before going to a small firm in Glens Falls, NY to do trusts and estates work. She now practices trusts and estates law at Verrill Dana, where she handles estate planning, probate, and trust administration matters. Outside of work, she has always had a passion for creative writing, the arts, and working with children. She has written poetry since she was 10 years old, and is a fourth-generation female poet on her mom’s side of the family. Anya comes from a family of educators and knows how empowering it can be to find one’s voice, especially during the formative years. She believes that self-expression through art–whether creative writing or visual arts–is one of the most fundamental parts of what makes us human.

 

Patty Howells

Board President Patty Howells teaches cooking to kids and grown-ups--in her kitchen, in other people’s kitchens, and at summer cooking camp. Her training and expertise is in French cooking, but she enjoys all kinds of cuisine, and she believes everyone can learn to prepare and enjoy delicious, nourishing foods. In previous lives Patty has been a pastry chef, a civil rights investigator, a bicycle courier, a pregnancy counselor, a nutritionist, and a Peace Corps Volunteer. Patty has seen first hand that stories (both inside and outside the kitchen) can change lives. She became a fan of The Telling Room the moment she encountered our earliest students’ stories, and to this day she remains passionate about the The Telling Room’s work of empowering young people to find their voice through writing.
 

 

Alisan Kavookjian

Alisan Kavookjian is the youngest child of a mathematician father and artist mother, who passed countless childhood hours daydreaming around university settings in Tucson, Los Alamos, Paris, Princeton, and New York City. She has always been fascinated by the way people and places interact, and she believes that service is the most informative way to explore this idea. As such, she began volunteering as young and as often as she was allowed, and never stopped. At New York University, she completed a BA in psychology with a research focus on infant and toddler locomotor skills, and a MSW with a clinical focus on individual and group work with adolescents. She worked in New York City, both as a program manager at the Workplace Mentoring Center of Big Brothers/Big Sisters and as a manager of the Volunteer Department of St. Vincent’s Hospital, before taking a break from full-time work to raise her growing family. She believes in the goodness of people and is inspired by daily observations of kindness and sincerity all around. She lives in the West End of Portland with her husband, Kevin, and their four children, Topher, John, Eve, and Rosie.

 

Kate Malin

Kate Malin was born and raised on the coast of Maine and after way too many years away, she finally moved back to the city she loves (Portland!) from Hong Kong in 2013 to raise her young family. Previously, she has worked on the PR team at Christie's auction house where she handled the global media campaigns for some of the world's most iconic works of art and most well-known art collections. She is a co-founder of Sassy Media Group, a boutique digital media company with bases in Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, and Manila. Producing fun, stylish and locally-relevant lifestyle content for women, the Sassy and Sassy Mama sites are among the leading online resources for women in Asia and the Middle East. A native of Yarmouth and a graduate of YHS (Go Clippers!!!), Kate attended Middlebury College where she earned a BA in international politics and economics, with a minor in French.  

 

Jerry Mopembe

Jerry Mopembe originated from the Democratic Republic of Congo and studied Business and Managerial Economics at CIDEP University in Kinshasa. He is currently taking classes for the MBA program at USM and works as the Diversity Recruiting Program Manager at Unum. Prior to joining Unum, Jerry was a program assistant at the New Mainers Resource Center. His professional background also consists of seven years of increasing responsibilities in the banking industry, respectively as a Loan Officer, Credit Coordinator, Branch Manager, Training Coordinator, and Recruiting Coordinator. He strongly believes in capacity building as a means to achieving one's professional goals and cites his own journey as a living testimony.

 

Tim Schneider 

Board Vice President Timothy R. Schneider is general counsel and principal consultant at Tilson Technology and was previously Maine’s Public Advocate where he represented Maine utility consumers in proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission, regionally and before FERC. Tim was also previously a member of Pierce Atwood LLP’s Energy Group. His practice included a wide range of matters before state and federal regulators, in addition to energy-related transactions. He is a graduate of Harvard University and received his law degree from New York University School of Law. Prior to attending law school, Tim led youth programs for the Maine Sea Coast Mission in Washington County.

 

Donna Simonetti

Donna Simonetti is a member of the Board of Directors of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) and serves on the Nominating and Governance Committee. She is a former executive director at JP Morgan, where she was director of fixed income compliance. In that capacity, she advised the firm’s public finance department on compliance issues regarding the sales, trading, underwriting and investment banking of municipal securities. Prior to joining JP Morgan in 2008, Ms. Simonetti was managing director principal at Bear Stearns and Co., Inc., where she oversaw compliance activities in the firm’s municipal bond and public finance departments. Previously she was a senior vice president and senior business analyst in the municipal capital markets division at First Albany Capital, which she joined in 1981, and earlier served as a municipal credit analyst and institutional municipal sales principal. Ms. Simonetti began her career as a municipal credit analyst at Fidelity Management and Research Company. Throughout her career, Ms. Simonetti served on numerous industry committees and practice groups, including the MSRB’s Uniform Practice and Glossary Committees. She currently serves on the finance committee of the board of The Telling Room. As Treasurer of the Organization of Music Parents at Huntington (OOMPAH) from 2000-2005, Ms. Simonetti was responsible for preparing combined financial statements, filing annual tax returns, preparing 1099 forms as well as paying salaries and expenses for the OOMPAH Summer Music Programs.  Ms. Simonetti received a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany and a masters of business administration degree from Northeastern University.

 

Peg Smith

Peg Smith is partner at Pierce Atwood in Portland, Maine with a practice that includes all aspects of real estate law, including commercial and residential conveyancing, leasing, and title review and analysis. She is a graduate of Boston College Law School and holds a BS in Nutrition from Penn State University. Peg worked for several years in the field of nutrition prior to attending law school and remains passionate about the connection between food and health. As a child, she spent summers hiking and camping in the Canadian woods, and she now fuses her love of the great outdoors with her real estate expertise by serving on the Maine Advisory Board for the Trust for Public Land. Originally from Pennsylvania, Peg lives in Cumberland with her husband Brad and two young daughters, Helen and Eve, and sneaks time to run, hike, garden and hang out on her yoga mat whenever she can.

 

Beth Stickney

Beth Stickney began specializing in Immigration and Nationality law in 1986, and moved from private practice into the nonprofit world in 1994. As the Directing Attorney at the International Institute of Boston (now Int. Inst. of New England), Beth was selected under a Ford Foundation grant to train other immigration legal aid providers nationwide in nonprofit management to improve their programs’ sustainability. In Maine, Beth co-founded the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Maine’s only nonprofit statewide provider of immigration legal aid to low-income Maine residents, where she served as executive director through June 2011. During her tenure, she grew ILAP from a purely pro bono attorney project to a brick and mortar agency with eleven staff and over 100 attorney and non-attorney volunteers. In addition to Beth’s work at ILAP, she initiated and taught the immigration law course at the University of Maine School of Law from 1994 through 2005 and again in 2016. She is co-author of Immigration Law and the Family (Thomson Reuters). Beth has been a frequent invited presenter at local, national and international conferences and continuing legal education seminars covering immigration and international human rights law issues, as well as immigration nonprofit management.

 

Sean Tabb

Sean Tabb is a senior marketing manager for L.L.Bean. Prior to that, he worked his way from product manager to vice president of marketing and new product development over a 13 year career at William Arthur, Inc., a Hallmark Cards subsidiary and maker of personalized stationery and wedding invitations. He brings a broad range of marketing experience including branding, national advertising, digital marketing and website development, licensing, public relations, market research and more. He also enjoys writing, and has published work at the website The Morning News. Sean lives in Portland, Maine with his wife and two children. 

 

 

Advisory Board

Susan Conley

Susan Conley is a co-founder of the Telling Room. She is the author of The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf, 2011), which was excerpted in the New York Times Magazine and was an O, The Oprah Magazine Top Ten Pick, and a Slate Magazine "Book of the Week," and Paris was the Place (Knopf, 2013). Susan is the recipient of two MacDowell Colony residencies, a Breadloaf Writer’s Fellowship, and a Massachusetts Arts Council Grant. Other work of hers has appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The North American Review, and DownEast Magazine. In the past she taught workshops at Emerson College and Harvard's Teachers as Scholars Program. She lives in Portland, Maine, with her husband and two boys, and is completing a novel forthcoming from Knopf.

 

Sara Corbett

Co-founder Sara Corbett is the author of Venus to the Hoop: A Gold-Medal Year in Women’s Basketball and A House in the Sky. She is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. Her feature stories have covered topics like child-trafficking in Cambodia, the resettlement of Sudanese orphans in the U.S., and the psychological struggle of soldiers wounded in Iraq.

 

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc directed The Telling Room from 2006 to 2011 and still teaches workshops both here and at schools and organizations around New England. His first collection of poems, Death of a Ventriloquist, was chosen by Lisa Russ Spaar for the Vassar Miller Prize and published in 2012. His poems have appeared in magazines including Guernica, The New Republic, and Tin House, on the PBS NewsHour Art Beat, and have received awards from the Bellevue Literary Review and UC Berkeley. He lives in Portland with his wife and sons and is at work on more poems and a novel. 

 

Ari Meil

Ari Meil is director of marketing at Maine Media Workshops. His books include Portland's Best, Portland Through the Lens, and The Way Life Should Be: Stories by Contemporary Maine Writers. Ari is also the author of 2 short novels, Triptych and Fiction.

 

Genevieve Morgan

Genevieve Morgan was a founding board member of the Telling Room and served as board president from 2008-2012. She is a writer and editor who has authored numerous works of non-fiction and a YA Fiction series called The Five Stones Trilogy. Formerly, she produced a local radio show focused on health and spent several years writing about women's health. Before that she was the managing editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. She writes for a variety of corporate and editorial clients and is a marketing and brand consultant, but her true love lies in making up stories and telling them to anyone who will listen.

 

Michael Paterniti

Co-founder Michael Paterniti is the best-selling author of Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain; The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese; and Love and Other Ways of Dying, longlisted for the National Book Award. His work has appeared in publications including Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire and GQ.

 

Board Committees

GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE

Dan Edwards, Chair
Tim Schneider, Board
Patty Howells, Board

 

HUMAN RESOURCES

Beth Stickney, Chair, Board Member
Chris Bicknell, Board
Jen Harnish, Community Member

 

FINANCE

Lydia Atwood, Chair, Board Member
Kevin Cote, Community Member
Celine Kuhn, Executive Director
Rachele Ryan, Staff
Sarah Schneider, Staff
Tim Schneider, Vice President
Donna Simonetti, Board
Sean Tabb, Board

 

DEVELOPMENT

Patty Howells, Chair
Ekhlas Ahmed, Board
Mary Baumgartner, Community Member
Andrew Griswold, Staff
Celine Kuhn, Executive Director
Jerry Mopembe, Board
Rachele Ryan, Staff
Sarah Schneider, Staff
Peg Smith, Board
Ruth Story, Community Member

 

SHOW + TELL: A LITERARY SPECTACULAR

Alisan Kavookjian, Co-Chair
Kate Malin, Co-Chair
Peyton Black, Staff
Susan Conley, Writer
Sarah Cotsen, Community Member
Andrew Griswold, Staff
Ann Hayes, Community Member
Patty Howells, Board President
Lily King, Writer
Celine Kuhn, Executive Director
Katie Magoun, Community Member
Sean Mewshaw, Director
Tania Powers, Community Member
Rachele Ryan, Staff
Sarah Schneider, Staff
Sonya Tomlinson, Staff

 

SUPER FAMOUS WRITERS

Susan Conley, Chair
Lily King, Board Member
Celine Kuhn, Executive Director
Andrew Griswold, Staff

 

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Celine Kuhn, Executive Director
Patty Howells, Board President
Tim Schneider, Vice President
Lydia Atwood, Treasurer
Susan Conley, Ex Officio
Anya Endsley, Secretary

 

PUBLICATIONS

Molly McGrath, Staff
Clare LaVerne, Staff
Kathryn Williams, Staff
Amy Raina, Staff
Anja Hanson, Former Board Member
Catherine Fisher, Former Board Member
Sean Tabb, Board
Donna Simonetti, Board
Cameron Jury, TR Ambassador
Evgeniya Dame, Designer, Intern
Ashley Halsey, Designer, Contractor
Jenny Ibsen, Artist, Volunteer
Melissa Kim, Editor, Volunteer
Jane Armstrong, PPS Teacher/Administrator
Edite Kroll, Literary Agent
Ann Hayes, Scholastic VP

 

PROGRAM EVALUATION

Dr. Caroline Shanti, USM School of Social Work
Elora Way, Data Innovation Project
Daniel Cassidy, Research Assistant
Peyton Black, Staff
Nick Whiston, Staff

 

PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT (Task Force)

Malia Nalli, Community Member
Jeff Thaler, Community Member
Alison Isara, Community Member
Mona Abdelkader, Community Member
Celine Kuhn, Executive Director
Marjolaine Whittlesey, Staff
Sonya Tomlinson, Staff
Anja Hanson, Former Board Member
Liam Fay-LeBlanc, Student
Anya Endsley, Board
Beth Stickney, Board