The Writers

The Writers are youth (12-18 years old) from a broad spectrum of life circumstances and experiences. Some have enjoyed ample support and opportunities, while some have not.  Many writers:

  • Fear writing and criticism;
  • Stop their thoughts and feelings from flowing;
  • Find focusing on writing difficult;
  • Think their voice is unimportant.

Given an opportunity to write and a reader to listen, most participating teens:

  • Enjoy writing and the responses to it;
  • Begin to explore and express their thoughts and feelings on paper;
  • Naturally increase their skills and fluency;
  • Write for the sake of discovering themselves.


The Readers are committed, writing-proficient volunteers who enjoy engaging with and learning from teens.  They look forward to connecting with youth with whom they otherwise may never interact and to building respectful, honest relationships that benefit everyone.

Readers are asked first to BE CONSISTENT and return writings promptly.  Teens are very motivated by Reader’s responses and look forward to receiving them in the mail. 

In addition, we ask that Readers:

  • Commit one hour each week of the academic year to read and respond to two teens’ writings;
  • Read, comment and send back writings as soon as possible;
  • Follow provided Reader/Writer guidelines for responding and editing;
  • Be flexible if youth unexpectedly leave programs and need to be replaced.

Facilitators are available to Readers for on-going support through phone and email.

The Facilitators/Founders

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Joy Williams

Joy Williams offered important support and expertise during Reader/Writer's organization and first year of operation.  Her experience working in communities of color and corrections and her strong belief in the power of families and communities to heal themselves and each other, contributed greatly to the principles behind Reader/Writer.

Joy holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology of Law, Criminology and Deviance and Youth Studies from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in Sociology of Families from Georgia State.

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Lia Venchi

Lia Venchi created Reader/Writer directly out of her experience as an English teacher and program developer for  Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools.  Her experience facilitating reading and writing with youth and in developing and coordinating programs led to working with the Juvenile Justice System in Hennepin County, the Children's Defense Fund, and many local law firms and businesses....all which inform and contribute to Reader/Writer today.

Lia has a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas.


Ann Williams

Ann Williams, a long-time advocate and organizer for Berkeley Public Schools, brings her energy, vision and passion for social justice to the creation and implementation of Reader/Writer. Her endless ideas and support of all kinds has provided the back-bone of this nonprofit and has directly benefited hundreds of youth. She continues to inject new life into Reader/Writer on a weekly basis.

Ann, a graduate of Smith College in Massachusetts, has served in organizations and on boards at local and national levels.

Board Members


Nadja Baer is a technical transactions and licensing attorney at Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.'s Minneapolis office.  She works with clients from a variety of industries who wish to protect and commercialize proprietary technology.  In addition to her legal practice, Nadja is part of the Fredrikson Flyers and has run the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon every year since 2011.

As any good lawyer, Nadja believes in the power of words.  She also believes that every person has a story to tell that only they can tell. Serving as a board member of (and active Reader for) Reader/Writer is a privilege that suits her education, experience and personal values.


Monica Clark is a partner in the Finance and Restructuring Department at Dorsey & Whitney LLP and is chair of the firm's Bankruptcy Practice Group.  Monica clerked for Judge Robert Kressel of the U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota.  She holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Iowa and a Master's Degree in English from the University of Virginia.


Malissa Eng is an associate in the Patents Group at Fredrikson & Byron, P. A.  Malissa drafts and prosecutes patent applications, as well as evaluates freedom-to-operate, infringement, and invalidity positions.  She represents clients ranging from independent inventors to Fortune 500 companies in areas that include chemical and mechanical arts and related technologies.

Serving as a Volunteer Reader, Malissa has found the program to be incredibly rewarding and is excited to join the Reader/Writer Board to help carry out its mission and seek further opportunities to increase its impact.


Heidi Silton is a partner at Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P. in the firm's antitrust department, primarily in complex business litigation and is the current Hiring Partner.  She and the firm are regularly appointed lead and co-lead plaintiffs' class counsel by courts in nationwide antitrust litigation involving mainly small and mid-sized businesses..

As a member of the firm's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Heidi mentors other women attorneys inside and outside her firm.  In addition, she also serves as a writing coach for Reader/Writer, as a board member of Arete Academy, and as co-chair of events in support of the Sanneh Foundation, the American Diabetes Foundation and Second Harvest.


Ann Williams, one of the founders of Reader/Writer, has worked on and supported a variety of social-justice initiatives in her adopted home-town of Berkeley, California and elsewhere, including her real home-town, Minneapolis.  A firm believer in the individual voice, Ann designs, directs and implements short and long-term events and projects that benefit the well being and expression of people, especially youth. 

Ann has served as a board member for Andrus Family Fund..