Meet the Staff

The magic that is the young writers camp would not be possible without the hard work and hours of dedication put forth by our staff. Our 2016 YWC team consisted of a camp director, an assistant director, six teaching artist, two senior interns, and eight undergraduate interns.

Stacey Waite – Camp Director

Stacey is totally psyched for the YWC community to write together once again! Slam poet, professor, writer, performer, Stacey is originally from Long Island, New York and lived in Pittsburgh, PA for 13 years before finishing a PhD in English and moving here to Lincoln in 2011. Stacey’s been in Lincoln five years and is still getting used to all the flatness and the lack of traffic. Stacey is an award-winning poet and has published four collections of poems, but her parents were, for a while, way prouder of her career as a Division I softball pitcher back in the historic 90’s when she had a mullet with her uniform jersey number shaved in to her haircut! She knows……Awesome! Stacey is a practiced student of Tai Chi (which, yes, means she can “beat people up” in slow motion with lots of fancy weapons). Stacey’s face makes an involuntary and strange expression if she tastes or smells deli ham. Perhaps the only other thing that has thrilled Stacey as much as starting the Young Writers Camp in Lincoln is being a Poetry Slam Coach for Louder than a Bomb—Great Plains. Stacey’s most awesome treasure is her son, Max, who is a whopping 2 years old and whose current cherished work of literature is Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site!


Gina Keplinger – Assistant Director, Teaching Artist

Gina Keplinger is a twenty-one-year-old poet and creative nonfiction writer who specializes in wearing ball caps backwards and cuddling her tiny pup, Sierra Mist. Gina believes in the magic of handwritten letters and snail mail. Once, in the middle of winter, she wrote to poet Gary Soto and he took the time to write her back. (His letter is her most prized possession.) In the summer, Gina works as a server and spends most of her time covered in guacamole and queso. Her day job at a start-up company allows her to get paid for talking about how much she loves Omaha while wearing blazers – two of her favorite activities. Gina is in a committed relationship with her day planner and is super talented at lip syncing “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes. As an incoming senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Gina studies English, Psychology, and Communications. Her poetry has been published in Black Heart Magazine and Leopardskin and Limes. She has competed at the National Poetry Slam and the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. She has been a teaching artist with the Nebraska Writers Collective for two years now and consumes just enough coffee to keep caffeinated for all of her commitments. Seasonally, Gina enjoys eating falafel and drinking tall glasses of iced tea. She is the proud “plant mom” of five succulents. The Young Writers Camp brought Katie Cooley and Katie Zeleski, two of Gina’s closest friends, into her life last summer and she hasn’t been the same since. She knows you’ll love them just as much as she does. This is Gina’s third year at camp and she absolutely cannot wait to throw daily dance parties for all the campers!


Erin Bertram – Teaching Artist

Erin M. Bertram wants you to know that you’re okay. She recently got engaged, and is growing an herb garden on her bookshelf, both of which make her feel mighty, but in different ways. She’s led creative writing workshops for a variety of organizations, is considering becoming a Zen Buddhist meditation leader, and, most days, her favorite place on earth is her parents’ deck in Illinois. Erin grew up in Chicagoland, holds an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, and is currently a PhD student and Teaching Assistant at UNL, where she’s an OutSpeaking volunteer with the LGBTQA+ Resource Center. She’s the author of eleven chapbooks, and her poems and lyric hybrid texts have appeared in Diagram, Leveler, The New Territory, So to Speak, H_NGM_N, Uprooted: An Anthology on Gender and Illness, and elsewhere. Erin has survived a 104° fever, a brown recluse spider bite, a rollover car accident, Hurricane Katrina, broken teeth, heartache, and getting hit by a sheriff’s car while riding her bike here in Lincoln, but she’s lived to tell the tale. She’s ridden an ostrich in South Africa, stood inside a cathedral made of human bones in the Czech Republic, hiked into the Grand Canyon, visited all five Great Lakes during winter, and played drums in a folk-rock band. But her ultimate goal is to be a good person, write books, and visit all 50 states. Think she can do it?


Derek Funk – Teaching Artist

A former Kidz Bop Kid, Derek Funk’s life is basically going to and from work at East High School in Lincoln, Nebraska where he is an English teacher. His best friends are his dogs, but even they prefer his wife. His hobbies include sighing audibly while entering rooms, and reading Glee fan fiction. The highlight of his week is seeing his lawn in the few hours after he mows it. The stripes make him happy. He listens to sad dad music. Derek’s first writing gig was filling notebooks with bad love poetry about a girl named Mary. There were lots of end rhymes. The end rhymes did not display any artistic sensibilities. Then Derek began to dabble in fiction, which he feels and has been told he is much better at writing. His first published piece was called “Quiet Things”, and he dares you to find it on the internet. No, really. He deleted his only copy and hasn’t been able to find it. Laurus (the journal which published his work) has not sent him any of his requested copies. It’s probably okay, though. He has a feeling that he would be embarrassed to read it again. Since then, Derek has focused his energies on getting his students published, and providing them opportunities to put their work “out there”. He still works on his fiction. Lately (for the last three years) he has been working on something that he doesn’t want to call a novel that is currently titled Cottonwood. Sometimes he feels it’s pretty good. Other times he finds it soul-crushingly awful. This can change by the second.


Katie Schmid Henson – Teaching Artist

Katie Schmid Henson is just happy to be here. Katie is a PhD student in English and lived for a little while in Wyoming, and before that, Hangzhou, China, but before THAT, she lived in Chicago. A native Illinoisan, Katie has learned to cultivate an appreciation for flat landscapes, casseroles swimming in cream-of-something soup, the malted ice cream you can get at a Cubs game (but nothing else about a Cubs game), and those kind of summer days that just drag on and on until someone starts a bonfire in their backyard and makes the sun go down through sheer force of will. Katie is an award-winning poet and published a chapbook last year, but is most proud of two things: 1. She sang a solo in the Chicago Children’s Choir when she was nine in a performance for the Sauganash Women’s Club, and 2. her dog, Sylvie, who looks like a fox and is, at any given moment, nearly beside herself in joy about some smell or ball or bone or another. What are dogs? Are they just perfect, alien creatures sent from the future to teach us how to be more loving and kind and, like, into weird smells? Katie is doing a lifelong scientific inquiry into the problem and will let you know when she publishes her findings.


Adam Hubrig – Teaching Artist

Adam is finally okay with the fact that he didn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider, didn’t meet two droids fleeing their “diplomatic mission to Alderaan,” or even get that special acceptance letter delivered by an owl when he was 11 because he gets to write and teach writing now-it’s the best of all those worlds, really. Adam likes to be (which means write) outside, where trees and birds and butterflies will talk to you if you shut up and listen (just don’t ever trust the squirrels). Adam has a Bachelor’s degree in English, a Master’s Degree in Poetry Writing and is currently enjoying the lovely labor of studying, writing and reading his keyster off in the pursuit of doctoral degree in composition while he also enjoys teaching writing classes at UNL as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.


Jennifer Long – Teaching Artist

There was a time when Jennifer Long could be found at three in the morning, hiding in a secret fort made from the pillows and quilts from her bed, reading a novel about time travel or magic or kissing in castles with only the muted glow of a flashlight to illuminate the wondrous words on the blessed page. That time was last Wednesday. What is she hiding from in that fluffy paradise, you ask? Why the escapist reading? Among other common stressors, the Long Family has recently acquired a puppy – a naughty, naughty puppy – who suffers from regular fits of tummy trouble on the carpet, chews furniture and door frames, and barks at houseplants, legos, and anything on Netflix. Since she can’t spend her entire life in a bubble bath eating Doritos (her favorite de-stressing, puppy-free activity) and she can’t logistically move to Jamaica (where EVERYONE spends a good deal of their time in the water eating Doritos), reading is the next best thing. When she’s not reading, she’s writing: poetry, stories, grocery lists, text fights with her sister, that kind of thing. She has also been known to pen witty memes chronicling the life of her teenage daughter, but since said daughter is a participant at this camp this year, we will save those details for another time. Jennifer has two other children, too, a 10 year old girl and a six year old boy, who loves to re-write popular songs from the radio by inserting the words “fart” and “weiner” into them at random times. Jennifer is thrilled to have another writer in the family. She has a BA in Theatre Performance from Nebraska Wesleyan University, an MA in English Education from UNK, and is currently in the Composition and Rhetoric Master’s program at UNL. She sponsors the LTAB team and teaches at Gretna High School, and loves it, although, to be honest, when she signed up to teach dragons she did have something different in mind. Does anyone know if Hogwarts is hiring?


Katie Cooley – Senior Intern

Katie has developed a huge interest in academic writing which isn’t actually as boring as she thought because on top of researching really interesting things like books and music, she gets to work poetry in between lines of facts. She lived in Iowa until she was 8, but considers Nebraska to be where she grew up and California to be home. Being a barista has allowed her to expand her coffee knowledge (obsession) and learn something new, which she also likes. She’s recently taken an interest in rock climbing, because it’s a little bit terrifying and completely exhilarating. Of all the things in the universe, she places her close friends and family first, creating and participating in art second, and dogs at a very, very close third. Her favorite thing about poetry is that it can find its way into everything from a novel to the redwood forest to evening light turning fields of wheat into gold. She plays horn (the curly one) and tweets a lot.


Katie Zeleski – Senior Intern

Katie will be a senior English major this coming school year, but she’s convinced she’ll never graduate. She works for the Nebraska Writer’s Collective as a coach for Louder than a Bomb, but she also delivers groceries for a living. If you have a dog, she will ask to see pictures. If you have a poem, she’ll ask to read it. If you love music, she’ll ask for recommendations. If you can make her laugh (which isn’t hard), she’ll ask to be your friend.


Bailea Kerr – Undergraduate Intern

Bailea Kerr doesn’t understand why “lallygagging” has a negative connotation. She is a 20 year old undergrad who loves to dabble. She has successfully started dozens of DIY projects and crafts but successfully finished zero. The older she gets the more she finds herself becoming her mother and using words like “groovy” while listening to classic rock. Growing up in a small town on the western side of Nebraska made Bailea eager to become a Husker and has yet to be disappointed by UNL. She is majoring in English with minors in French and Digital Humanities but that’s about the only solid decision she’s made about her future. While she hasn’t decided exactly what career path she wants to take, she hopes it will be a path that leads to helping people and advocating against injustice.


Cassandra Kernick – Undergraduate Intern

Cassie Kernick recently took a quiz and was told her greatest strength is input. The pro side of this means that she is inquisitive and interested in nearly everything, the con side is that others can find all of her random facts and anecdotes a tad dull. This has proven to be true in her frequent rants about the unethical and environmental impact of the dairy industry. (Cassie’s favorite part of life is dairy though, so she rants while crying over her four cheese pizza). Throughout college, she has been experimenting with her love of writing through her Journalism major and English minor. She realized her passions may actually lie in creative writing when she chose to study abroad in order to have more time to work on her novel. Her semester in Florence, Italy resulted in a lot of poems full of wanderlust and also an obsession with gnocchi and truffle oil. (Should have seen that coming, right?) Reading books, watching documentaries, and pretending to know how to garden are what’s keeping her busy this summer. Cassie recently signed up for a half marathon but plans to write a humorous poem if after the first mile things go horribly wrong. She is very thrilled to redo camp at YWC this summer as her only prior camping experience in elementary school resulted in her mom getting called to pick her up after the first night. Cassie is optimistic things will go better this summer and can’t wait to be inspired and learn from all of the amazing writers and campers.


Megan Gierasch – Undergraduate Intern

Ever since Megan was a young lass, she’s dreamed of being whisked away by a clandestine society that raises dragons. Her other dream is to become a published author in her twenties. If one of those things could happen within the next year, that would be swell. Megan loves to read and write fiction, particularly sci-fi and magical realism (or more simply, fantasy). She’s always thinking about food, going as far as planning out her next meal without having consumed half of the breakfast on her plate. Additionally, she loves long walks with her hyperactive dog, Lucy, takes rapturous enjoyment in watching well animated cartoons, revels in every opportunity she gets to travel away from Nebraska, and adores spending time with her two younger sisters, Sarah and Kristen. She’s currently entering her senior year of college at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and plans to graduate in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Film Studies. While unsure of what’s coming next for her after that, she is incredibly excited to intern with the Young Writer’s Camp this summer and with The Prairie Schooner in the fall. If she’s learned anything in college, it’s that you don’t underestimate an English major. That, and if one is determined enough to write a 15 page research paper in one night, it can be done (although she certainly wouldn’t encourage regularly practicing such a feat).


Allison Hess -Undergraduate Intern

Allison Hess is a dachshund enthusiast, substandard barista and current photojournalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with minors in both English and Political Science. Originally from a small town west of Houston, Texas, she has interned at such places at the Lincoln Journal Star and ELLE Magazine in their photo departments. Over the next two weeks, you’ll probably find her lingering the halls of Andrews Hall with her camera.


Becca Human – Undergraduate Intern

Becca is a YWC veteran, but a first-year intern; she’ll be a sophomore English and Political Science major at UNL in the fall, and she’s also someone who doesn’t enjoy describing herself in the third person (yet here we are). Becca considers herself in equal parts a fiction writer and slam poet, so you’ll see her in a variety of different workshops over the course of camp. This past April, she performed with the UNL National Slam Poetry team at the CUPSI tournament in Austin, which was amazing and exhausting and made her love slam poetry even more than she already did. (She’s still not quite sure how that happened.) When she’s not writing, she’s usually working, keeping up with classes, or practicing with the UNL speech team, but she does have some “fun” and “relaxing” hobbies, like maintaining a rockin’ Twitter feed, petting animals until they run away from her, describing inanimate objects and squirrels as “her son”, and caring too much about the band Bastille. Oh, and spending time with her bichon/poodle mix dog who she loves exponentially more than he loves her. If you want to be her best friend, talk to her about Bastille and/or ask to see pictures of her dog. Works every time.


Tina Le – Undergraduate Intern

Tina Le is a 4’11” night owl, firm supporter of puns, aspiring high school English teacher, and dog lover who will give you a high five if you tell her a height joke she hasn’t heard before. She loves writing poetry and creative nonfiction, and wants to start a blog soon. When she isn’t at the library or singlehandedly keeping the coffee industry afloat, she is spontaneously going to concerts, wandering outside despite the 28 different kinds of pollen to which she is allergic, or dabbling with half- finished arts and crafts projects strewn on her floor. Something she wants to try this summer is to go a week without looking at any clocks. Tina grew up in Lincoln, where she occasionally feels like a fish out of water, such as when her friends took her line dancing and she left after half an hour of tripping over her own feet, strangers’ feet, and open expanses of solid ground. She enjoys everything food- related, including (but not limited to) cheese, potatoes, red velvet cake, breakfast at any other time besides morning, and trying cuisine from different cultures. She is a sophomore at UNL who currently works as a writing tutor at SCC. She was an intern for Louder Than a Bomb last semester, where she had a blast and was blown away. She has worked at Chipotle in the past, so if you need advice on rolling the perfect burrito, you know who to ask. She is loving the college experience, but hopes to return to her old stomping grounds of Pius X High School to teach after she graduates—where all the students will be taller than her.


Lucy Long – Undergraduate Intern

Lucy Long has been writing stories for years and would like to thank her third grade teacher for showing her how to use quotation marks around dialogue. When Lucy was six, she wrote an “anthology” called “Lessin Tales” that contained a surprising amount of sass and wisdom for someone her age. Thirteen years later, and Lucy is still wise and sassy, although she’ll sometimes claim she’s never said a sarcastic thing in her life (sarcastically of course). Lucy is quite proud of her bright pink high top converse which she bought and wore almost every day for a year in response to a Target employee telling her that no one buys converse anymore. She is even more proud of her phone which has survived running water, orange juice, being thrown at the ground, thrown across a convent, and some pretty cringe-worthy conversations. Lucy also loves adventures, whether that means running through the Union fountain at night, climbing tall rocks, or getting stuck on a March for Life bus in Pennsylvania for twenty-four hours. After the bus incident, Lucy’s grandma told her not to travel in snow storms, but Lucy experienced some snow in Saint Louis as well, where she washed laundry by hand with dish soap so she wouldn’t have to tell the sisters that she’d accidently drained the batch of water with laundry soap. Lucy’s natural habitat is the Newman Center on campus, and when she’s not staying in chapel past closing time, you can probably find her outside climbing art sculptures, eating dining hall ice cream, writing in her journal, or watching the sunset.


Lan Portnoy – Undergraduate Intern

Lan Portnoy is a sophomore at the one and only University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is a lover of reading and writing poetry, slam poetry, short stories and a little fiction. She graduated from Lincoln East High School in May of 2015 and you may have seen her in the Louder than a Bomb competition a couple times. Lan has also been attending Young Writers Camp since it started in the summer of 2012 and is very excited to be an intern. Not only does she love writing, but you may be able to find her online looking up different ways to hold a sloth; because one day she will hold a sloth, no matter the cost. While holding a sloth is nowhere in the near future, she does love cuddling with her Flat-Coated Retriever Pieper, otherwise known as the Peter Pan breed, because they seem to never age. During the school year she studies family science and has a triple minor in psychology, sociology and women and gender studies. All of this adds up to her attitude to wanting to helping couples and families of all kinds in therapy. While studying all college students need their caffeine, Lan enjoys her working part-time as a Barista at Starbucks. Lan believes that your imagination is limitless and writing it down helps inspiring others.