Meet Our Staff


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Maggie Ritchie (Co-founder and Teacher)Maggie Ritchie (Co-founder and Teacher) holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago, where she earned a certification for teaching the Story Workshop Method (R). She writes mostly magical realism and horror, but loves story in any form. She teaches high school in New Orleans and writes and performs sketch comedy with Virginia’s Harem. In addition to designing our curriculum, Maggie teaches two of our introductory courses.




Geoff HyattGeoff Hyatt (Teacher) has taught various writing and storytelling courses at Columbia College Chicago and Tribeca Flashpoint College. He is the author of the novel Birch Hills at World’s End and a former editor for Blood Bound Books, an independent press specializing in horror and dark fantasy. Currently, he works in the eLearning industry, creating online training, games, and simulations. At an early age, tabletop roleplaying games instilled in him a profound love of fictional worlds and a deep mistrust of all statuary.



Shannon Sipher (Teacher) has a BA in English Literature from Loyola University of Chicago, and an MFA from Columbia College Chicago in writing, where she specialized in speculative and fabulist fiction. She has worked and volunteered in the education sector as a substitute teacher, tutor, technical writer, and administrator in Chicago and her hometown of New Orleans for over a decade. Shannon is also ardent about solving the coastal erosion crisis in Louisiana, reading comic books, and petting any pugs that she sees. And Star Wars, obvi.




Guest Students

Katrina Ostrander (Guest Student) is a freelance writer and editor who previously worked full-time in the tabletop games industry for Fantasy Flight Games. In addition to her work as an editor of tie-in fiction and developer of IPs, she has written for or developed over a dozen roleplaying game products, including adventures, supplements, and core rulebooks. Her most recent writing and development projects include work on Genesys, the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game, and the Age of Sigmar Roleplaying Game. She writes advice and how-to articles relating to gamemastering, adventure design, writing tips, and more at



John Dunn (Guest Student) has been active in the RPG community since the early ’90s as an author for RPGA convention scenarios and later as the coordinator for the Shadowrun Missions ongoing campaign. In more recent years, his focus has shifted to work as a freelance game developer. He’s worked with Fantasy Flight Games, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Catalyst Game Labs, and others. He owns and develops for Melior Via, LLC.




Richard Chwedyk (Guest Student) is a Nebula Award-winning science fiction writer, best known for his stories about bioengineered dinosaur toys called “saurs” (“Bronte’s Egg,” “The Measure of All Things,” etc.) His work has also been nominated for Hugo, Sturgeon and Rhysling awards. He teaches science fiction writing at Columbia College Chicago and short story writing for Oakton Community College in the Chicago area, where he lives. He occasionally blogs at Critinomicon.



Kevin R Czarnecki (Guest Student) is a Chicago-based freelance writer for RPGs, primarily Shadowrun and World of Darkness, including his novel Crimson and the Ennie-winning Dark Terrors. In addition, he works as a voice actor, tutor (VO, writing, etc), counselor, surrogate, and consultant on the occult. You can see him on the Shadowcaster Network, notably Sea of Spears every other Sunday.




Christopher Hunt (Guest Student)  is a twelve-year veteran of the Canadian Army, a long-time gamer, and has recently broke into the world of RPG freelancing. Chris’s unofficial Star Wars RPG blog ran weekly on for the past three years. He has written for Rusted Iron Games, Raging Swan Press, and most recently Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars RPG. Chris is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Political Science. Always the gamer, his thesis, which explores conflict short of war by uniting current threats to historical events, was inspired by a historical board game.




Rachel VenturaRachel Ventura (Guest Student) is the Business Director for Legendary Games. She has been a freelance writer for AAW Games, Battlefield Press, Jon Brazer Enterprises, Mistfit Studios, and Total Party Kill Games. Previously she was the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Frog God Games. Rachel also serves on the board for RPG Creators Relief Fund, a nonprofit charity for game designers in need. In 2015, she was a Guest of Honor Industry Insider for Gen Con. In 2018 her debut adventure, A Feast of Flavor, was ENnie nominated for the Best Family Product.



Rachel VenturaGeorge “Loki” Williams (Guest Student) is a freelance game designer from New Orleans who loves “the weird stuff.” He was co-manager of Planewalker, the Official Planescape fan website, from 2003 to 2015, during which time the site received silver ENnie Awards in 2005 and 2007. In 2012 the first published game product he worked on, Dark Roads and Golden Hells for Kobold Press/Open Design, was also nominated for an ENnie. In the intervening years, he has been a freelance writer and designer for Jon Brazer Enterprises, Goodman Games, Rite Publishing, Legendary Games, Louis Porter Jr Design, Lost Spheres Publishing, Sigil Entertainment Group, and Stormbunny Studios. He also acted as Line Developer, writer, and designer for Savage Mojo’s entire Pathfinder RPG product line. Upcoming works include the soon to be released Cresent City for Bloodlines and Black Magic, and Pop Culture Catalog – Restaurants from Everyman Gaming.

Loki started gaming in 1978 during a protracted hospital stay and has been crafting multiplanar and fantasy space adventures ever since. A native New Orleanian of French Creole background, storytelling is culturally ingrained in him. When not rolling dice he works as a tour guide and lives in a secret lair in the Lower Garden District with his feline handlers, Puck and Gremlin.




Guest Lecturers

Jay Little (Guest Lecturer) is an award-winning game designer with 20 years in the industry who also teaches game design at University of Wisconsin. He is perhaps best known for designing the X-Wing Miniatures Game and the Star Wars Narrative Dice System. Jay has been a Guest of Honor at DragonCon and GenCon, and will teach our 11th session, the Tabletop Role Playing Game Design and Theory Seminar. You can learn more about Jay Little on his website at




Administrative Staff

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Keith KappelKeith Ryan Kappel (Co-founder and Guest Student) is a regular freelancer for Fantasy Flight Games on their Star Wars Tabletop Roleplaying Game, and has a BA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Outside his writing career, Keith served in the United States Navy as an Intelligence Specialist (97-01) at both Naval Space Command and onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Now, the only thing Keith serves is a cold drink at the neighborhood in Rogers Park, Chicago.




Alyx RossAlyx Ross (Guest Student Coordinator) graduated from Michigan State University in the Arts and Humanities. In addition to serving as Guest Student Coordinator, Alyx works as a Regulatory Compliance Analyst in the heart of Chicago. Outside of work, Alyx loves to volunteer and help others. She teaches ESL to refugees and sits on the board for the Safe Haven Network, a Chicago-based non-profit. Alyx is passionate about comic books, politics, plants, and petting dogs. Alyx ensures our guest students and speakers know when and where they need to be.



Dawn Rusnak (Financial Coordinator) earned her accounting degree from Point Park University in 2012. She handles all accounting duties for Adventure Writing Academy and currently works for Highmark, Inc. as a Senior Payroll specialist, and freelances as a tax accountant during tax season. When not at work, she spends most of her time raising two adorable girls. If a student payment processes incorrectly, they may be contacted by Dawn.