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Director Karen Schubert co-founded Lit Youngstown in 2015. She holds a B.A. in Professional Writing & Editing and an M.A. in English from Youngstown State, and an M.F.A. in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts (Cleveland State). She is the author of The Compost Reader and five chapbooks, and her poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, reviews and interviews have been published in AGNI Online, Diode, Apple Valley Review, American Literary Review and many others. She has taught in numerous academic and community settings, and her awards include an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and residencies at Headlands Center for the Arts and Vermont Studio Center.



Development Coordinator Katelyn Urs earned her B.A. in English with a minor in creative writing at Youngstown State University. During her undergraduate career, she served as a writing intern at the Youngstown Jewish Community Center. There, she helped her clients undergo narrative therapy as she developed their personal stories into chapter books. She also worked as a writing consultant and student tutor at YSU’s Writing Center. Now, she is pursuing an M.A. in English on the professional and technical writing track at YSU. She currently enjoys copyediting for Jenny Magazine, leading workshops at the YSU English Festival, and crafting her own creative works. 

Board of Directors



Tricia D’Avignon (President) received her Bachelor of Fine Arts emphasis in Photography from Youngstown State University and her Masters in Urban Planning Design and Development from Cleveland State University. Currently, she works locally as an urban planner. She enjoys visiting other rustbelt cities with a group called Rustbelt Young Urban Preservationists to explore new cities, learn about their history, and photograph historic structures. Tricia spends her free time working on house projects, attending arts and music events, and volunteering with the Handels Neighborhood Association and Mill Creek Metro Parks.



Chris Gibowicz is a lifelong resident of the Youngstown area. She has over 30 years experience in public school education serving in leadership positions like teacher, mentor, instructional coach, principal, and curriculum director. She earned her Masters in Education at Youngstown State University. Chris is the author of a collection of poetry and prose, Lead, Love, Live. She is also a certified teacher of yoga, Reiki, and Silver Sneakers. For self-care, she enjoys hiking and meditation.



Alex Harper holds a B.A. in Fine Arts from Ohio University and an M.L.I.S. with a specialization in Museum Studies from Kent State University. She has worked for the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County since 2014 and currently serves as the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Specialist. In 2018 she founded Project LIT Youngstown, PLYMC's chapter of Project LIT Community--an international grassroots literacy movement and network of educators, librarians, students and community members working together to promote literary in their communities.


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Rebe Huntman's essays, stories and poems have appeared in such places as The Southern Review, Ninth Letter, Sonora Review, and The Pinch. She is the winner of an Ohio Individual Excellence Award and fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, and Brush Creek Foundation. A former professional Latin dancer and choreographer, she holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the Ohio State University and teaches creative writing at the Columbus College of Art & Design.


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Cassandra Lawton is a student in the NEOMFA program. She serves as the Editor-In-Chief of Jenny Magazine. She has fiction published in Bridge: The Bluffton Literary Journal and Rubbertop Review, nonfiction published in Entropy and Anomaly, and poetry published or forthcoming in Volney Road Review and I Become The Beast, as well as a featured piece forthcoming in Abominable, the monster fiction anthology from Wicked Shadow Press. Visit her website at to learn more or connect. 


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Barbara Marie Minney (Vice President), a native of West Virginia, is a transgender woman, award-winning poet, writer, and quiet activist. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and publications, including Politico and The Buckeye Flame.  Barbara also wrote the introduction to the 2021 Akron Pride Festival Guide. Barbara’s first collection of poetry, If There’s No Heaven, was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and was selected by the Akron Beacon Journal as a Best Northeast Ohio Book in 2020. Barbara is a retired attorney and lives in Tallmadge, Ohio,
with her wife of over 40 years.



Jeffrey Murphy (Treasurer) received his B.S. in Physics from Youngstown State in 1999 and his Juris Doctor from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 2021. Jeff has had his poetry published in Last Call: An Anthology of Beer, Wine & Spirits Poetry and legal papers published in the Cleveland State Law Review and the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law.



Maria Cougras Pappas is an area educator whose service spans the roles of Teacher, Gifted & Talented Coordinator, High School Literacy Coach, Elementary Principal, Chief of Curriculum, and Superintendent. She was selected as The Ohio Gifted Educator of the Year by The Ohio Association for Gifted Children and was appointed to the State Superintendent's Gifted Advisory Panel. Selected by Superintendent Joseph Meranto as the district’s Academic Equity Chair in 2020, Maria also serves on the Board of Junior Achievement of the Mahoning Valley. As a District Superintendent Maria was selected to serve on the National Gallop Superintendent’s Panel for input on education issues in the U.S. Most recently her work as a child advocate resulted in her appointment in 2022 by the Mahoning County Commissioners to serve on the Mahoning County Children Services Board.



Penny Wells was born in Dallas, graduated from Brown University, and taught in Youngstown City Schools for over 35 years. In 2009, she created the nonprofit Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, which takes high school students to the Civil Rights sites in the South where they visit historical sites, meet leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and learn the lessons of the Movement. They return home with an action plan to implement in their schools and community. These students were able to get the Ohio General Assembly to pass their Ohio Nonviolence Week bill into law in 2013. They organized the First Annual Nonviolence Parade and Rally in downtown Youngstown. There are now a full week of activities during Nonviolence Week, which is the first full week in October every year.



Shaunda Yancey is a literacy specialist with over two decades of experience in education. One of Shaunda's key strategies is working closely with public library systems to provide students with access to a wide range of books and reading resources. Shaunda is also the owner of D.O.P.E poetry, a non-profit organization that supports scholars community wide who are interested in writing and performing original poetry. As a Project LIT chapter leader, Shaunda is also committed to promoting literacy through student book clubs, and also runs book clubs for parents and community members with opportunities to engage in literacy activities to support their children's learning.

Advisory Council


Lesley Nneka Arimah, Cynthia Atkins, Christopher Barzak, Jan Beatty, Jill Christman, Teri Ellen Cross Davis, Jeanne Dutton, Matt Forrest Esenwine, Candace Fleming, Kelly Fordon, Mike Geither, David Giffels, David Hassler, Jon Kerstetter, Jacqui Lipton, Philip Memmer, Philip Metres, Craig Paulenich, Bonnie Proudfoot, Joy Priest, Judith Vollmer, Janet Wong

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