Meet Our New Voices

We received more than 150 applications for our new Voices board. Here, the 13 writers chosen say a few words about themselves. Throughout 2018, we will meet with them to talk about writing. Look for their voices in The Courant's Opinion pages.

Haddiyyah Ali is a 21-year-old Connecticut native who has spent an embarrassingly large chunk of that time trying to live the life of Rory Gilmore. A product of an Islamic private school, Hartford public schools and the University of Connecticut, Haddiyyah has had the privilege and pleasure of forming and expressing her opinions with a range of influences and audiences. She was first published in The Hartford Courant the summer after her freshman year at UConn, a year that changed her politics and the way she viewed her role in the fight for freedom for marginalized peoples. She is a student of politics, liberation and DIY tutorials she'll never follow through on. She promises she's much better at writing columns than bios, and she blogs, inconsistently, at bombblackhijabi.wordpress.com.

Arianna Basche graduated from Williams College in 2016 with honors in English for her creative writing thesis, a collection of short stories. She also co-founded a student sketch comedy group, Office of Student Laughs, which lives on today on YouTube as The PAC. Her love of humor writing means she spends a lot of time laughing. Her love of fiction writing means she also spends a lot of time crying over painful childhood memories. Arianna's nonfiction has been published in The Hartford Courant and Hartford magazine. She currently works tutoring college students in composition and assisting the Hartford Public Library's ESL program.

Suzanne Bates is the policy director at the Yankee Institute, where she does research and writes about Connecticut state policy. Through her work, Suzanne hopes to disrupt the Land of Steady Habits so that Connecticut can begin to grow again. Prior to coming to Yankee, Suzanne was a journalist for more than a decade. She worked for news organizations like the Associated Press, the New Hampshire Union Leader and Good Morning America Weekend. While covering the 2008 presidential primary in New Hampshire, Suzanne was the first newswoman — as far as she knows — to use the term "Obama Mamas." Originally from Canada, Suzanne has embraced her adopted homeland and all of its messy and entertaining politics. Suzanne holds a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in political science from Brigham Young University. She lives in South Windsor with her husband and five children.

Norma Buchanan is a Connecticut native, born in New Haven and raised in Woodbridge. After earning a master's degree in English literature, she embarked on a career in journalism, much of it spent in New York City. She has written for newspapers and magazines for nearly 40 years. Her first job was with the New York-based newspaper Women's Wear Daily. From there, she moved on to magazine work, holding writing and management positions at trade and consumer publications. She writes chiefly about watches and the global watch industry. Most recently, she worked for WatchTime magazine, a bimonthly publication aimed at watch enthusiasts. Fifteen years ago, she moved back to Connecticut and now lives in Wallingford.

Leo Canty has spent five fabulous years living the dream in retirement. After 40 years in labor, political and communications activism, his biography-writing skills have faded. Fortunately, his listening skills remain. So he asked friends and family to offer bios of him. They said: "Big-picture guy." "Excellent traveling buddy." "Artistically sarcastic." "Articulates issues free from static and clutter." "Leader who inspires team participation." "Speaks his mind and his truth." "Offbeat rebel." "Moves hard left — with right jabs." "Quick with analysis and solutions." "Adept at fixing and building." "Smart and principled." "Easy to talk to." "A kind and genuine soul." "Fun to be around." "Still idealistic despite losing many clashes opposing flawed human institutions." "Doesn't seem to like to shop." Leo hopes the shopping aversion won't adversely impact progress of the Courant Board of Contributors.

Kathleen Flaherty is a third-generation Newington native. She is a graduate of Kingswood-Oxford School, Wellesley College and Harvard Law School. Kathy is the executive director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project. Her husband, Jim Valentino, is the owner/operator of James Robert Creative. Their dog, Bella, has a Facebook page, but Bella doesn't remember the password, so she doesn't post anymore. (Kathy and Jim do not have children.) Kathy tweets from @ConnConnection about mental health, disability rights, soccer (the real football), running and other things that show up on her timeline. Kathy has run a race in 141 of Connecticut's 169 cities and towns. Kathy has lots of ideas about how the world should work. She has learned that adjusting one's expectations to reflect reality makes it easier to live through each day.

Alisha Berger Gorder is a married mother of two from Easton who loves politics, newspapers and being outdoors. She is a a graduate of Trumbull High School and has a bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Pennsylvania. Gorder was on staff at The Patriot Ledger and The New York Post and has freelanced extensively for The Easton Courier and The New York Times.

Jeff Harder is a freelance writer and an Old Saybrook native with bylines in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Vice Sports, ESPN.com, Esquire.com and many other publications. He writes about the surprising, the odd and the absurd, and he's covered subjects ranging from mixed martial arts to sleep deprivation, Ironman triathlons to New York subway graffiti, his own intractable obsession with dogs to his own intractable swearing habit. Formerly a resident of Cape Cod, where he served as managing editor of Cape Cod Life magazine for five years, he now lives half a mile from where he grew up with his wife, toddler and two jowly, drooling dogs, all of whom are perfect in every way. He enjoys Brazilian jujitsu, hiking Devil's Hopyard, cooking (and eating) omelets, and reading things printed on dead trees.

Tracey Moore is an associate professor at the Hartt School's Theatre Division, where she teaches acting, musical theater and career preparation. Prior to academia, she was a professional actress and singer in New York. She appeared as Emma Goldman in the Broadway national tour of "Ragtime," as Nimue in the Richard Harris tour of "Camelot," and at regional theaters across the U.S. in leading roles such as Mama Rose in "Gypsy," Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd" and the Earth Mother in "Menopause The Musical." She is the author of "Acting the Song" and "The Student Companion to Acting the Song," as well as articles in Teaching Theatre, Dramatics, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, Methods: A Journal of Acting Pedagogy, and Teaching Artist Journal.

From a young age, it was clear Ali Oshinskie had a slightly above-average understanding of computers. And with that — not to mention her gregarious and witty nature — Ali's fate was set by the technologically baffled elders in her life: "You gotta do something with computers, honey!" So she went to acting school. After realizing that the University of Hartford wasn't the glamorous Hollywood life she imagined, she transferred to the University of Connecticut to study English literature. Under the tutelage of Professor Gina Barreca (who is also a Hartford Courant columnist), Ali explored creative nonfiction and was published by The Courant for the first time in 2016. But everything really fell into place when she discovered podcasting — a place to use her tech savvy, writing skills and love of conversation. She launched her first podcast, "Professors Are People Too," in the fall of 2016 and now runs Podstories, a podcasting agency, producing, consulting and teaching about podcasts in central Connecticut. She's produced episodes of "The Colin McEnroe Show" and "Where We Live" as an intern at WNPR and won a seat at the UConn School of Business Innovation Quest incubator program.

Grace Preli is a creative and cool 22-year-old from rural eastern Connecticut. She is inspired daily by people and their individual and collective journeys. For her, each day is a chance to grow, change, respect, love and create, within herself and our world, a beautiful, kind and gentle place. Raised on a farm and well-traveled, she has long sought out diverse and exciting experiences. Grace is honored to share her joy and enthusiasm for life with readers.

Benjamin Rodriguez, a native of western Massachusetts, attended the University of Massachusetts, receiving his bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in public administration. He has worked in the fields of public health, philanthropy and health insurance. His experience includes managing substance abuse, mental health and children's oral health programs, volunteering as a Big Brother and serving on nonprofit boards. Ben lives in Suffield with his wife and four children.

Philip L. Smith is a retired undersecretary of the state Office of Policy and Management, where his responsibilities included transportation, economic and workforce development, and housing. He also served on the Transportation Strategy Board, the Connecticut Development Authority and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. Before his appointment at OPM, he held positions at the state departments of Labor and Economic and Community Development. He began his professional career as a radio reporter in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. He is a registered Republican and lives in Bridgeport with his wife, Maura O'Connell.

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