Upper Township native Jenna McCoy, 24, was hiking to a volcano in Iceland called Eyafjallajökull in May 2011 when the Grimsvotn volcano about 90 miles away erupted and earthquakes shook the region.

“Everything was covered in so much ash, we had to wear bandanas on our mouths and couldn’t go outside,” McCoy said. “We couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. It lasted a few days.”

She was traveling with a group of about 14 geology students from upstate New York, two guides and a professor. They all stayed at a small inn with an Icelandic family until the air cleared.

She wrote about the experience in “Cinder and Snow,” which won first prize in the Adventum magazine 2012 Ridge to River contest for outdoor creative nonfiction.

“It was one of the most anxiety-ridden, interesting and intense experiences I’ve ever had,” she said.

Getting it published encouraged her to keep writing about her travels. Her work has also appeared in Polaris and The Curbside Quotidian.

McCoy has spent time in Spain; studied abroad in Kashmir, India, high in the Himalaya Mountains; and gone backpacking in the Canadian Pacific. She next plans to travel to either Vietnam or Costa Rica, she said.

The graduate of Ocean City High School’s Class of 2008 and Richard Stockton College of New Jersey teaches eighth-grade English in Edison, Middlesex County. But she travels to Atlantic County regularly as a volunteer writing teacher with the Stockton Center on Successful Aging.

McCoy will lead “Time to Tell — Memory in Poetry & Creative Non-Fiction” for the center at the Noyes Museum of Art of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, 733 Lily Lake Road in Oceanville, Galloway Township. Classes meet 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jan. 4, Feb. 1, March 1, April 12 and May 10.

Call 609-652-8848 to register. For more information, visit

Chef concocts sweet shop

Heather Stafford, of Brigantine, a student at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing, recently created a chocolate birdhouse called “Tweeter Do Hardware”

as part of Chef Educator Tree McCann’s Centerpiece Artistry class.

Students showcased their signature centerpiece — an elaborate display including the characters from “The Wizard of Oz” in honor of the movie’s 75th anniversary. They also completed three intricate centerpieces each, including a village of sugar birdhouses that form “Tweeterville.”

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:

609-272-7219