Executive Director Celine Kuhn has deep roots at The Telling Room and she’s been intricately involved in our work since 2008. A voracious reader and a lover of words and stories, she’s fascinated by both group dynamics and the human condition. Celine's background is in community engagement. She worked in primary care, quality improvement and health policy for over fifteen years. She was previously the program manager of Shared Decision Making at Maine Health, through which she embarked on a long listening tour throughout the state to hear Mainers’ stories about their decisions around health care. Celine is a believer in the power of community, story, and creating systems for sustainable change and improvement.
Program/Volunteer Coordinator Peyton Black relocated from a small town in central New Jersey to join The Telling Room in summer 2018. She earned her BA in International Studies from the College of Charleston, in South Carolina, a place that she finds to be strikingly similar to Portland. Back home, Peyton worked at a large pool management company for the past nine years, where she has worn just about every hat. Peyton is a lover of travel, books, the outdoors, and her three-legged rescue pup, Sawyer.
Shima Kabirigi is The Telling Room's Young Writers & Leaders Teaching Artist. She works closely with Sonya to teach YWL and to improve our YWL program coordination to meet increased demand. She attended Pennsylvania State University, but now studies at the University of Southern Maine, majoring in Business Administration. Before arriving at The Telling Room, she worked for the city of Portland’s General Assistance program. When she is not working, she dedicates her time to a community based project initiative, the Center for Immigrant and Community Services, and she enjoys spending time outdoors, African dancing, doing puzzles, and rediscovering Portland.
Communications Manager Blaire Knight-Graves is a self-described Jackie of All Digital Trades. Blaire began her career working as a video producer, digital content strategist, audio producer, social media wizard, and copywriter for the web. She attended Mills College in Oakland, CA, and began her career and hails from the innercity of Chicago. She recently worked at DePaul University for a number of years as a content producer and has worked as a senior content strategist and video producer at various production houses, agencies and startups. She previously taught a college-level course at DePaul University on professional skill development in the field of communications and rained under HARPO producers early in her career. Blaire is deeply passionate about film and television, the culture of trends and hype, and is an advocate for feral cat rehabilitation and changing the narrative surrounding the adoption of black cats. She lives with her partner in Portland with their feral-turned-affectionate black cat, Phoibe.
Publications & Community Engagement Coordinator Clare LaVergne joined The Telling Room team in the summer of 2018 after volunteering with us for many years, mentoring YWL students, working as a Teaching Artist, and serving as a fellow on our publications team for the 2017-2018 school year. Originally from Houston, Texas, Clare holds a B.A. in creative writing and publishing from Emerson College and a M.A. in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts Boston. In her concurrent job, Clare researches and writes the stories that accompany stamp campaigns for the United States Postal Service. In her free time, Clare enjoys exploring the natural beauty of Maine and working on her French language skills.
Director of Publications Molly McGrath is a writer, editor, and inspired advocate of young authors and the youth publishing movement. As a veteran teacher she helped create and lead the Young Writers & Leaders program, the Young Emerging Authors fellowship, and currently co-leads our Publishing Workshop. Molly has an MFA in creative nonfiction and has been editing books for publication for nearly two decades, first in Boston, and for the past fifteen years here in Maine, where she lives with her husband and two sons.
Young Writers and Leaders Teaching Assistant and AmeriCorps Multilingual Corps Marlin Pamba is a Telling Room alum of the Young Writers and Leaders program in 2016-2017, as well as Publishing Workshop. Her love of working with students and writing keeps her involved. She recently graduated from Casco Bay High School and is currently pursuing a degree in education at Southern Maine Community College. Concerts and traveling are high on the list of ways she enjoys spending her time.
Teacher and Book Designer Amy Raina has been teaching young people in Maine for over a decade. She’s currently pursuing her MFA in popular fiction at the Stonecoast Program, with the University of Southern Maine. Raina is a consultant for the National Writer's Project and also a graduate of USM's MS.Ed in Teaching and Learning (ETEP - Extended Teacher Education Program). She’s worked as a public school teacher in both traditional classrooms and special education classrooms. Raina has also taught anti-bullying curriculum and sexuality education to students in grades ranging from kindergarten to college. Amy started her career at Maine College of Art, receiving a BFA in Printmaking in 2005. She has been a producer and writer for Boston’s The Femme Show and a contributing writer to the Minerva Rising Literary Journal. She's also a proud MamaBear to two tenacious kiddos and believes that empowering young people with creative tools will quite literally save the planet from destruction.
Development Assistant / Office Manager Rachele Ryan joined The Telling Room in the fall of 2016, after moving to Portland from Brooklyn, New York. She combines years of administrative experience with a history of writing-based volunteer work: in the past, she has been a mentor for Girls Write Now and the PEN American Center Prison Writing Program. Rachele graduated from Sarah Lawrence and completed her M.F.A. in fiction at Warren Wilson College. When not at work, she enjoys tackling ambitious cooking projects with her husband, reading, and exploring Portland with her dog, Olive.
Development Director Sarah Schneider holds a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Maine at Farmington and has studied towards her M.F.A. at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She was the Grants & External Affairs Manager at Maine Family Planning for over nine years and then worked at the Maine Women’s Fund as their Development Coordinator before joining The Telling Room in December of 2014. She remains optimistic that she will someday finish writing a biography of her cousin Doris Cochran, who was an avid weaver and pioneering herpetologist at the Smithsonian. Sarah lives in Portland with her husband and their young daughter.
Young Writers & Leaders Program Lead Sonya Tomlinson has been teaching with The Telling Room since 2008. Sonya holds a B.F.A. in Design from UNC-Greensboro. Deeply involved in the arts both professionally and personally, she spent nearly a decade as traffic manager and contributing arts writer at The Portland Phoenix and on the events staff at Space Gallery - all the while moonlighting as performing and recording artist Sontiago on Montreal’s Endemik Music. Her heartstrings are tugged in the direction of teaching high school students self-expression through songwriting and poetry. Sonya lives in Portland with her husband, young son, and cat, Goose.
Program Director Nick Whiston is originally from Boston, attended Earlham College in Indiana, and came to The Telling Room after working in education for eight years in Oakland, California. As a classroom teacher and then nonprofit director, Nick worked diligently to create opportunities for young people, focusing on college access and preparation. Since joining The Telling Room in 2013, he has rediscovered an appreciation for creative writing and the importance of youth voices. When he is not working, Nick enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, playing tennis, and dominating in fantasy baseball.
Lead Teacher Marjolaine Whittlesey grew up in France and came to Maine to go to College of the Atlantic where she focused on literature, ecology and performing arts. Her innate love of teaching quickly took over and for the past ten years she has taught creative writing, French, and theater to students of all ages. When she is not teaching, she works as an actor, director, and theater educator with several companies around Maine, and particularly enjoys juggling the verbal thrills of Shakespeare with the embodied storytelling of physical theater. She loves collaborating with passionate artists and educators who invite students to trust their voice.
Lead Teacher Kathryn Williams is the author of three young adult novels — The Debutante; The Lost Summer; and Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous, which Publishers Weekly called "a tasty read" — as well as a humorous guide to living with roommates and several Disney junior novels. Her nonfiction has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Newsweek, The New York Observer, ZEST Maine, and the Barnes and Noble Book Blog. A Southerner born and bred, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Sewanee School of Letters in Sewanee, Tennessee, and can confidently employ the pronoun "y'all."