RYW Staff

Bird Cox

Executive Director

After receiving her English degree from the University of Virginia, Bird wrote regular food and art columns for C-ville Weekly and Brick Weekly and taught creative writing courses at the Visual Arts Center and VMFA. Currently finishing her first middle grade fantasy novel, she also offers editorial and copy consultant services. She loves writing of any kind, but creating secret worlds of her own filled with strange and wonderful (and sometimes horrible) creatures is closest to her heart. Her years as a student at U.Va.'s Young Writers Workshop made a distinct impression, helping her to prioritize creative insight and exploration above all else. That desire - to look deeper and continually sharpen perspective - is what she aims to share with all of her students. 

Contact her about registration, class info and general RYW inquiries.

Email: bird@richmondyoungwriters.com


Valley Haggard


After traveling through New York, Italy, Colorado, Arkansas and Alaska, Valley returned to live in the house she grew up in, in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. She has taught creative writing to children through ART 180, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, the Virginia Museum, the Children's Museum of Richmond and the UVA Young Writer's Workshop, where she was a camper for two years before becoming a counselor. As Style Weekly's Book Editor from 2004-2011, she wrote reviews, interviewed authors and judged the Style Weekly Fiction Contest and served on the board of the James River Writers from 2008-2011 in various positions, from producer of the monthly Writing Show to Vice Chair of the annual literary conference. She currently writes a monthly column for Belle, Style's magazine for women and teaches creative nonfiction to adults at the Black Swan Bookstore, Chop Suey Books and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. With a BA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, a dog, a cat, a husband and a son, Richmond Young Writers combines her passion for both writing and teaching. Visit her at www.valleyhaggard.com.

Email: valley@richmondyoungwriters.com

Kristin Hott

Community Outreach Collaborator / Friday Night Writes! Captain

A "retired" 90's pop music drummer, Kristin is a lover of storytelling, children's books and the way people's faces light up when they believe they can do the impossible.  She moved to Richmond, for love, in 1997, where she found her place as an advocate for low income communities and an adult educator, helping people earn a GED and redefine their futures. She holds an M. Ed in adult literacy from VCU and is a homeschooling parent of a Richmond Young Writer and a superhero-of-kindness son. Her specialties are curriculum development, instructional design and evaluation, professional development training, and flipped classroom strategies of engagement. Experience working in our local non-profit community, organizational and communication talents and her general happy nature make her a perfect fit as RYW's Community Outreach Collaborator.  She also hatched and nurtures our monthly Friday night youth writing series: Friday Night Writes! 

Contact Kristin about hosting a RYW class, community-based teaching opportunities and event ideas.

Email: kristin@richmondyoungwriters.com

Suzanne Reamy

Writing and the Arts Liaison

Suzanne is drawn to making connections between words and images, both moving and static. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Dramatic Writing from the University of Georgia, Suzanne acted in regional theatre, voice overs, and industrials. She has also assistant-directed and produced local theatre. A student of Jungian psychology for more than twenty years, she wrote her first play, a quirky blend of religion, psychology and pop culture, while attending seminary in Berkeley, CA. Suzanne worked as a design consultant in Richmond for many years before following a call to teach. She earned a Masters in Teaching Middle School English from the University of Louisville and has taught in public schools in both urban and rural settings. Having published a number of poems and articles, Suzanne is now working on a series of travel books. Suzanne loves to build collaborative experiences between her students and artists in the community. While she has taught all genres of writing, her passion is exploring the motivation behind a character’s actions and ways to build dramatic tension in a piece.

Email: suzanne@richmondyoungwriters.com


Samantha Willis


Samantha is a journalist, editor and community advocate in the Richmond region. Most recently, she was arts editor at Richmond magazine, and is now a contributing writer to several local publications including Style Weekly. Formerly, she was digital content manager in the ABC 8News newsroom, and before that, publisher and senior editor of Capital City Books, an independent publishing house in Richmond.  Having loved to write since she was a child, Samantha studied English and creative writing at Radford University. Samantha is also a children's book author, a pianist and vocalist, a loving wife to her husband Jamaal, proud mom to her two fantastic children.


Elizabeth Ferris


Elizabeth has an knack for rearrangement—whether scenes, words, or her own sock drawer. As a professional editor, she helps guide writers to the other side of “writer’s doubt” to create stories that are the best manifestation of the wild and singular storyteller within. Her editing philosophy is based on the belief that the key to taking your writing deeper is understanding your voice and your strengths, not focusing on what you perceive is holding you back. She holds a BA in English from the College of William and Mary and has edited for writers of all backgrounds and publication goals. Visit her online at elizabethferris.com

Kayla Runion

Teacher, Night Balloon Rodeo Co-Coordinator

Kayla Runion was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley, where she received her degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from James Madison University. Kayla is an Urban Agricultural Fellow at Tricycle Gardens and an educator for Peter Paul Development Center, an East End nonprofit. She is also pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Richmond. Ever the doer, Kayla spends most of her time reading, writing, creating, sewing, cooking, and growing food, often incorporating those passions into her writing workshops.

Gary Cohn


Gary Cohn teaches our popular Graphic Novel & Illustration class.  For almost twenty years his business card has read, “writer, teacher, fencer, motorcyclist.” Gary has been a professional freelance writer, having sold and published five young adult novels, many comic book stories, and a wide range of other published work. He currently teaches history at Richmond's own Lynnhaven Academy in the Fan District.

Phil_400x400 (1).jpg

Phil Hilaker


Phil Hilliker is a writer and illustrator living with his wife and son in central Virginia. He draws a lot of monsters and robots while writing stories about monsters and robots. There’s a whole monster and robot thing going on with him. In his heart he’s a cat person but his lungs and sinuses violently disagree by making it impossible for him to breath around any potential feline friends. He should get a fish.

Laura Blackwell

Intern - Friday Night Writes!

Laura is a fantastic writer, thinker and all around joyful person. She is a perfect match for our Friday Night Writes! workshop series for 9-12 year olds. She is currently a full-time college student at Reynolds Community College AND a senior at Armstrong High School. Yes. you read that right. Laura’s work-ethic and dedication to learning are only outmatched by her creativity and enthusiasm. She is interested in psychology and creative writing, of course. We know she’ll make a big impact at any college or university fortunate enough to snag her!