Mentor Bios


Mark Oppenheimer


Mark Oppenheimer, the founding director of THREAD at Yale, was the biweekly “Beliefs” columnist for The New York Times. He has been a contributor to This American Life, a storyteller at The Moth, and a visiting professor at Stanford, Wesleyan, Wellesley, NYU, and Boston College. His three books include Wisenheimer: A Childhood Subject to Debate, about his wild years on the high school debate circuit, and Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America (which he should have called The Bar Mitzvah Crasher). He hosted the famous “dinner table debate,” on YouTube, between sex columnist Dan Savage and Brian Brown, the head of the conservative National Organization for Marriage. He also hosts Unorthodox, the world’s #1-rated Jewish-themed podcast on iTunes.

Peter Aguero


Peter Aguero was born and raised in South Jersey. He's been a high school teacher, and ice cream truck driver, a bar bouncer, a Moth GrandSlam Champion, regular host of Slams and Mainstage shows, and an instructor for The Moth's Community Program. He makes his home in Queens, NY.

Gabriel Arana

Contributing editor, The American Prospect; Contributor, Them

Gabriel Arana is a contributing editor at The American Prospect and a contributor at Them. His work has appeared in publications including The New York TimesThe Huffington PostMicSalonThe NationThe American ProspectThe New RepublicThe AtlanticSlate, and The Daily Beast. He has been a guest on television and radio talk shows including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, CNN’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, The Dr. Oz Show, PBS Newshour, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Gabriel holds a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Yale University. He is a native of Nogales, Arizona and lives in New York City.

Emily Bazelon


Emily Bazelon is a Senior Research Scholar in Law and Truman Capote Fellow in Law at Yale Law School. She is also a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and author of the national bestseller Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. Before joining the Times, Bazelon worked for nine years as a senior editor at Slate. She has been a Soros media fellow, an editor and writer at Legal Affairs magazine, and a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She is a frequent guest on the Colbert Report and NPR's Here and Now. Bazelon is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School.

Phyllis Marie Bowdwin

Artist and Writer

Phyllis Marie Bowdwin, a Bronx-born artist, jewelry designer and griot, captures her people's stories through her writing and her art. She was a Teacher Trainer for the New York City Department of Education, Crisis Intervention Counselor for the Marble Collegiate Church, and Coordinator of Daytime Casting at ABC. Her Middle Passage Maafa brooch was featured in The New York Times, exhibited at the New York Historical Society and is in the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. She holds a B.A. from The New School and an M.A. in Education from Adelphi University. A 2013 BRIO award winner for literature, her short stories have been published in the Bronx Memoir Project and the UFT's Reflections Magazine. As a volunteer, Phyllis conducts life skills workshops for women and girls. Known as the Bronx Pickle, the Quiet Fire, and that nosy, trouble making #$%@&*, Phyllis is currently completing her first volume of short stories “The Quiet Fire Chronicles” and a memoir “A Woman for Herself”  about her mother’s journey with Alzheimer's.

Steve Brodner


Steve Brodner became editorial cartoonist at The Hudson Dispatch, in Union City, New Jersey after getting his BFA atCooper Union in 1976. In 1977 Steven Heller, protean art director of The New York Times Book Review, began tapping him for illustration assignments. Eventually Brodner realized he could survive nicely just doing this without ever having a real job. This is called Freelance Illustration. To this day he is still confused about how this works. In 1979-82 he published his own journal, The New York Illustrated News which was a little like this Bicycle but using a technique called printing. In 1981 he became a regular contributor to Harper’s magazine with the monthly feature, “Ars Politica”, a name thought up by Lewis Lapham, Harper’s editor. In the late 1980’s, as editors realized that Ronald Reagan was less like an Olympian God and more like a rotting puppet, more magazines asked Brodner to contribute regularly. These included the National Lampoon, Sports Illustrated, Playboy and Spy. In 1988 Esquire brought him in as an unofficial house artist. It was there that he did portrait caricature, art journalism and a back-page political cartoon, “Adversaria”. This all served to convince him that illustration was an important part of the mix of any journalistic enterprise. Well . . . isn’t it?  Since then he has worked for most major publications in the US and Canada.

Catherine Burns


Catherine Burns is a producer and frequent host of the Peabody Award-winning The Moth Radio Hour, and the editor of the international bestseller The Moth: 50 True Stories. She is the director of the solo show Helen & Edgar, which opened at The Public Theater in January 2014 as part of the Under the Radar Festival, and was called “utterly absorbing and unexpectedly moving” by Ben Brantley of The New York Times. Prior to The Moth, she directed and produced television and independent films, interviewing such diverse talent as Ozzy Osbourne, Martha Stewart and Howard Stern. Born and raised in Alabama, she now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and five-year-old son.

Amanda Chicago Lewis


Amanda Chicago Lewis writes about marijuana and the war on drugs, with an emphasis on public safety, the influence of special interests, and the ways in which the documented racial disparities of drug law enforcement are being cemented into the details of legalization. She spent two years as a national reporter at BuzzFeed Newsand now writes a biweekly column for Rolling Stone. Her work has also appeared in ViceLA WeeklyPop Up Magazine, and the LA Review of Books, and is frequently used by local and state governments when developing regulations and laws around cannabis.

Linda Gradstein


Linda Gradstein teaches journalism at NYU-Tel Aviv and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She also writes for The Jerusalem Report, The Forward, and other publications. She worked as the Israel correspondent for NPR News from 1990 until 2009. Linda has covered important events in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip such as the intifada, the mass immigration of Soviet immigrants to Israel, the leadership of Yasser Arafat, Hamas in Gaza, the Persian Gulf war, and major elections in Israel. She is a member of the team that received the Overseas Press Club award for her coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as well as the team that received Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for her coverage of the Persian Gulf War. Linda earned a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in 1985 and a master’s degree in Arab Studies. She spent a year as a Rotary Fellow at the American University in Cairo and was selected to be a Knight Journalist Fellow at Stanford University in 1998-9. Linda speaks both Hebrew and Arabic.

Roya Hakakian


Roya Hakakian is a writer and journalist who works in film and print. Her reportage has been featured on network television, including CBS 60 minutes. Her opinions and essays appear in the New York Times and NPR’s weekend Edition among others. She serves on the editorial board of World Affairs: A Journal of Ideas. Her poetry in Persian has been included in many anthologies, including the PEN anthology of contemporary Iranian literature. Her acclaimed memoir, Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran was one of Publisher Weekly's Best Books and Elle Magazine's Best Nonfiction in 2004. Roya is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction for her recent book, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace. It was a 2011 Kirkus Review’s Best and New York Times Notable Book. Roya is a founding member of Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, and is a currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholar in Washington, DC.

Jake Halpern


Jake Halpern's first book, Braving Home (2003), was a main selection for the Book of the Month Club by Bill Bryson. Jake’s most recent nonfiction book, Bad Paper (2014), was excerpted as a cover story for the New York Times Magazine. It was chosen as an Amazon "Book of the Year" and was a New York Times bestseller. As a journalist, Jake has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. In the realm of radio, Jake is a contributor to NPR's All Things Considered and This American Life. Jake's hour-long radio story, "Switched at Birth," is on This American Life's "short list" as one of its top eight shows of all time. Last, but not least, Jake is a fellow of Morse College at Yale University, where he teaches a class on journalism. He recently returned from India where he was visiting as a Fulbright Scholar.

James Hamblin


Dr. Hamblin specializes in preventive medicine and is a staff writer at The Atlantic magazine, where he also served for six years as a senior editor. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Politico, PBS, and Vice. He is the author of If Our Bodies Could Talk (Doubleday, 2016) and a forthcoming book on the skin care industry and skin microbiome (Riverhead, 2019).

Jodi Powell


Jodi Powell is an Associate Producer for The Moth's Mainstage and Slam Teams. Before joining The Moth, Jodi taught creative writing in New York City schools through various youth development programs. She is a performer and draws inspiration for her written work from her upbringing in Jamaica and current residence in Harlem. Jodi is also a teacher with The Moth's Education team.

Danyel Smith


Danyel Smith is a New York City-based media creative, television producer, and author. She is currently culture lead—senior producer and editor— at ESPN’s The Undefeated. Recent fave projects include the television special, The Undefeated In-Depth: Serena with CommonMisty Copeland En Pointe, and Dance, Little Sister. Prior to ESPN, Danyel was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, where she cofounded HRDCVR, an innovative hardcover culture magazine. In addition to writing for Elle, ESPN The Magazine, NPR, the New Yorker, Condé Nast Media Group, and the New York Times, Danyel has served as editor of Billboard, editor-at-large at Time Inc, and as editor-in-chief of VIBE. She is the author of two novels, ‘More Like Wrestling’ and ‘Bliss,’ and is completing a history of black women in pop music. Danyel’s rare relationships with influential artists—from Beyoncé to Mariah Carey to Jay Z to Romeo Santos and more— continue to imbue her projects with vibrance and authenticity.

Sarah Stillman


Sarah Stillman has written on topics ranging from civil forfeiture to amateur drone builders and from Mexico’s drug cartels to Bangladesh’s garment-factory workers. She won the 2012 National Magazine Award for Public Interest for her reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan on labor abuses and human trafficking on United States military bases, and also received the Michael Kelly Award, the Overseas Press Club’s Joe and Laurie Dine Award for international human-rights reporting, and the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. Her reporting on the high-risk use of young people as confidential informants in the war on drugs received a George Polk Award and the Molly National Journalism Prize. Before joining The New Yorker, Stillman wrote about America’s wars overseas and the challenges facing soldiers at home for the Washington PostThe Nationnewrepublic.comSlate, and She co-taught a seminar at Yale on the Iraq War, and also ran a creative-writing workshop for four years at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security men’s prison in Connecticut. Her work is included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2012.

Glynn Washington


Glynn Washington was born in Detroit and attended the University of Michigan and its law school. In 2010, he started Snap Judgment, one of the fastest-growing programs in public-radio history, after winning the Public Radio Talent Quest sponsored by Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which had more than 1,400 entries. Before creating the Snap Judgment radio show, Glynn worked as an educator, diplomat, community activist, actor, political strategist, fist-shaker, mountain-hollerer, and foot stomper. He composed music for the Kunst Stoff dance performances in San Francisco, rocked live spoken word poetry in Detroit, joined a band in Indonesia, wrote several screenplays, painted a daring series of self portraits, released a blues album, and thinks his stories are best served with cocktails. 

Graeme Wood


Graeme Wood is a lecturer in political science at Yale University, a contributing editor to The Atlantic and The New Republic, and books editor of Pacific Standard. He has appeared many times on television and radio (CNN, ABC, BBC, MSNBC, et al.), was the screenwriter of a Sundance Official Selection (2010, short film), and led a Nazi-hunting expedition to Paraguay for a History Channel special in 2009. He was a reporter at The Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh in 1999, then lived and wrote in the Middle East from 2002 to 2006. He has received fellowships from the Social Sciences Research Council (2002-2003), the South Asian Journalists Association (2009), the East-West Center (2009-2010), and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide (2013-2014).  Graeme attended Deep Springs College, Harvard, Indiana University, and the American University in Cairo.