Board of Directors

Lit Youngstown’s Co-Founder and Director:

Karen Schubert is a Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts grad, the author of The Compost Reader (forthcoming from Accents Publishing, 2020) and five chapbooks, most recently Dear Youngstown (NightBalletPress 2019). Her poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. Her awards include an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and residencies at Headlands Center for the Arts and Vermont Studio Center. She’s been dreaming up Lit Youngstown for a few years and is thrilled over how much we’ve been able to do in such a short time.

Lit Youngstown’s Board of Directors:

Cherise Benton (2019) loves plants, food, and language, and shares these loves with as many people as possible. She does cooking demonstrations at farmers markets throughout Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, volunteers at local farms and in community gardens around Youngstown, and participates in Lit Youngstown, YSU English Festival, and SMARTS events as often as possible. Cherise writes recipes, poems, and creative nonfiction, and hopes to become an audiobook narrator.

RBrown (2019) holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama. They are the author of the microchapbook, Dear John, Love Letters to John Connor… (Ghost City Press, 2018) and their writing has appeared in Boston Review, Apogee, VIDA Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Pittsburgh Poetry Review and others. They served as an editor of BWR from 2015-2019 and as a co-editor of Penguin Review from 2011-2014. In their free time, they enjoy knitting sweaters for all their friends and re-watching Teen Wolf for the 100th time.

Tricia D’Avignon (2019) (Secretary) 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.

Nicole DiPiero (2019) works for the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County where she is a head clerk, union delegate, and sometimes plays the Library’s mascot. Nicole likes to bake, hike in Mill Creek Park, read, watch movies, and spend time with her family and friends and her two dogs, Spazz and Louise.

Liz Hill (Cofounder, Treasurer) (2015) is a writer and spiritual director who has led workshops in creative process, discovering authentic voice, storytelling, and un-journaling. She has a masters in non-profit management from Regis University, and has held leadership positions in a number of book-related non-profits in her previous home, Denver Colorado. She coordinated the Youngstown Stories project which culminated in publication of the book Phenomenal Women: Twelve Youngstown Stories.

Courtney Kensinger (2018) (Chair) is a promotions editor and photographer at WFMJ-TV. During her time at YSU she helped create the YSU Film Club. Courtney is currently working on a non-digital interactive zine about childhood and emotional growth. When she is not crafting musical numbers in her head about clam chowder, she is googling “affect VS. effect.”

Nicole Robinson’s (2016) poems have appeared in Great River Review, Columbia Journal, CALYX, and elsewhere. She’s received an Individual Excellence Award for poetry from the Ohio Arts Council and has over ten years of experience leading poetry and creative writing workshops in shelters, hospitals, prisons, and other community organizations. She serves on the steering committee of the Northeast Ohio Healing Arts Alliance. Robinson received her MFA in poetry from Ashland University and she is currently the Narrative Medicine Coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital where she leads workshops for children, families, and staff.

Liz Hicks Skeels (2018) is a visual artist, and lover of the literary arts.  She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Youngstown State University with a BFA in Studio Art with concentrations on sculpture and painting.  Her works have won many awards and have been acquired by numerous private and public collectors.  From her studio at the Ward Bakery Building in Youngstown, Ohio, she hosts group and private art instruction sessions and workshops.  She had her first solo show at the Art Gallery on Phelps in 2020.  She is employed by the The Butler Institute of American Art as associate registrar.  She is mom to three daughters, and has been told she is a quality paper shoe maker.

Penny Wells (2019) 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.