2024 Power of Words Conference

September 26-29, 2024 at Unity Village, Missouri

This powerful conference brings together writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, educators, activists, healers, health professionals, community leaders, and more! Together we explore the written, spoken and sung word, seeking to find how it can bring liberation, celebration, and transformation to individuals and communities. 

Pre-Conference events will be held on Thursday evening, September 26 and Friday morning and afternoon, September 27. They are open to all Conference attendees for an additional fee.

Our workshops offer five ways to focus on TLA—Narrative Medicine/ Healing Stories, Social Transformation, Engaged Spirituality, Eco-TLA, and Right Livelihood. 

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(If you join the TLA Network as a member, you will save on the conference now, and on classes and other offerings later.)


Session Descriptions


Thursday, September 26, 2024


PRE-CONFERENCE POET LAUREATI

A Celebration with Midwest Poets Laureate: Huascar Medina, Glenn North, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Wyatt Townley, Eric McHenry, Maryfrances Wagner

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009–13 Kansas Poet Laureate, and founder of Transformative Language Arts. Author of twenty-four books, including a memoir on cancer and community, and other prose, she leads community writing workshops for people living with serious illness and teaches widely. Her most recent books are How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems and Miriam's Well, a novel. She also coaches and consults on writing and creativity, and co-leads collaborative workshops and retreats: Writing from the Soul and the Art of Facilitation with Joy Roulier Sawyer,Brave Voice with Kelley Hunt, and Your Right Livelihood (retreat and class) with Kathryn Lorenzen.

Eric McHenry: Eric McHenry is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Odd Evening (Waywiser, 2016). His honors include the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, and a term as poet laureate of Kansas. His poems have appeared in The Threepenny Review, The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, Field, and The Yale Review. His prose appears in The American Scholar and The New York Times Book Review. He teaches English at Washburn University.

Huascar Medina: Kansas Poet Laureate Emeritus and Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, Huascar Medina is a father and arts administrator. He’s an op-ed writer at Kansas Reflector, an editor for seveneightfive magazine, South Broadway Press, and latinidad.us. Medina also sits on the National Council on the Arts. Website, Instagram, Soundcloud.

Glenn North: Glenn North is the Director of Inclusive Learning and Creative Impact at the Kansas City Museum. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from UMKC and is the author of City of Song, a collection of poems inspired by Kansas City’s rich jazz tradition. He is a Cave Canem fellow, a Callaloo creative writing fellow and a recipient of the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award. His ekphrastic and visual poems have appeared in art exhibitions at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the American Jazz Museum, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Glenn is also an adjunct English professor at Rockhurst University and is currently filling his appointment as the Poet Laureate of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. Website, Documentary, Instagram, Twitter.

Wyatt Townley: Wyatt Townley is Poet Laureate of Kansas Emerita. She has published six books, four of poetry, including Rewriting the Body, The Breathing Field, Perfectly Normal, and The Afterlives of Trees. Her work has been read on NPR and published in journals ranging from New Letters to Newsweek, North American Review to Paris Review, Yoga Journal to Scientific American. Commissioned poems hang on the walls of the Johnson County Library and the Space Telescope Science Institute Library, home of the Hubble. Website, Facebook.

Maryfrances Wagner: Maryfrances Wagner’s latest books are The Immigrants’ New Camera, The Silence of Red Glass, and Solving for X. Her book Red Silk won the Thorpe Menn Book Award. Co-editor of I-70 Review, she also serves as President of The Writers Place. She was Missouri 2020 Individual Artist of the Year and served as the 6th Missouri Poet Laureate 2021-2023. She is the daughter of four Italian immigrant grandparents. Website, LinkedIn.




You had me at Poet Laureati. Register me now!



Friday, September 27, 2024


MORNING PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS

Marianela Medrano - Mindful Writing for Transformative Grief

Mindful Writing (MW) offers an opportunity to rediscover the power of silence, somatic awareness, and writing to introspect and see from a wider lens. Mourning or sorrowing allows us to ritualize our feelings. Transformative Grief happens after we descend into the depth of feelings, thoughts, and emotions about a loss. MW is appropriate for examining the gifts of loss and building Transformative Grief. Yes, you are reading correctly; Grief is a spiritual, transformative force we can generate from loss.

Marianela Medrano: Marianela Medrano was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and has lived in the United States since 1990. A poet and a writer of nonfiction and fiction, she holds a PhD in psychology. Her poetry has been translated into Italian and French. She is a faculty mentor for the PhD program in Visionary Practice and Regenerative Leadership at South Western College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her individual publications include: Oficio de Vivir (Buho,1986), Los Alegres Ojos de la Tristeza ( Buho,1987), Regando Esencias/ The Scent of Waiting (Alcance,1998), Curada de Espantos (Torremozas, 2002), Diosas de la Yuca, (Torremozas, 2011), Prietica (Alfaguara, 2013). Rooting (Owlfeather Collective, 2017). Website,LinkedIn, Facebook,Youtube, Instagram.

Exodus Brownlow – Writing Strictly from The Imagination: Giving a Voice to Those Literally Without and How Deeply Sitting with the Inanimate Teaches Us the True Complexities About The World

The workshop would focus on selecting from a group of physical objects, each with an assigned one-sentence prompt, and then creating a fictional account on the prompt's behalf. The idea is to allow the writer to exercise their imaginative powers and to create, truly, from a place of non-restriction. Essentially, and summarized, this would be considered as "play time" but for writers. Readings of the work created would also be encouraged.

Exodus Brownlow: Exodus Oktavia Brownlow is a writer, editor, seamstress and budding beekeeper currently residing in the enchanting pine tree forest of BlackHawk, Ms. Her books include I'm Afraid That I Know Too Much About Myself Now, To Go Back To Who I Knew Before, And Oh Lord, Who Will I Be After I've Known All That I Can,and Look at All The Little Hurts of These Newly-Broken Lives and The Bittersweet, Sweet and Bitter Loves. You may find her, and more of her work at exodusoktaviabrownlow.com.


AFTERNOON PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS

Glenn North - Writing to Repair: A Restorative Poetics Workshop

At its essence, Restorative Poetics is about the healing properties of poetry on both a personal and community level. Poetry provides a unique opportunity for introspection that can be helpful in confronting personal trauma or the harm we see unfolding in our communities such as issues in the areas of social justice, poverty, disparities in healthcare, gender inequality, and so on. Poetry is not a panacea, but where there has been harm, poetry can help repair; where there is a wound, poetry can be a balm. In the Restorative Poetics workshop, we will tour the Kansas City Museum, which is a city museum that fully employs a Restorative Practices modality for its exhibit content, programs, and outreach. Workshop participants will then take a collective journey toward healing by crafting poems that confront the issues that matter to them the most, and if they choose to, they can share those poems with the world.

Glenn North is the Director of Inclusive Learning and Creative Impact at the Kansas City Museum. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from UMKC and is the author of City of Song, a collection of poems inspired by Kansas City’s rich jazz tradition. He is a Cave Canem fellow, a Callaloo creative writing fellow and a recipient of the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award. His ekphrastic and visual poems have appeared in art exhibitions at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the American Jazz Museum, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Glenn is also an adjunct English professor at Rockhurst University and is currently filling his appointment as the Poet Laureate of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. Website, Documentary, Instagram, Twitter.

Ada Cheng – In the Service of Community: Weaving Art, Love, and Hope to Create Intimate Spaces

This workshop includes two components. First, Dr. Cheng will show how she uses storytelling to build brave and intimate spaces conducive to productive dialogues. She will focus on the human values embedded in this art form. Participants will have the opportunity to share their stories and experience the transformational power of storytelling. Second, Dr. Cheng will demonstrate how this immersive approach can be utilized in different contexts to generate care, trust, and solidarity across differences. 

Dr. Ada Cheng, an educator-turned artist, producer, speaker, and community builder, has utilized storytelling to illustrate structural inequities, raise critical awareness, and build intimate communities. Committed to amplifying and uplifting marginalized voices, she has created numerous storytelling platforms for BIPOC and LGBTQIA community members to tell difficult and vulnerable stories. Dr. Cheng has been a speaker for Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau since 2019. She has been named 2023-24 Lund-Gill Chair in the Rosary College of Arts and Sciences at Dominican University. Her interests encompass academia, storytelling/performance, and advocacy. Website, Facebook,Instagram.

Divine Ink: Crafting Theopoetic Journeys Through Poetry and Handmade Books - Jennifer NeToi

Divine Ink: Crafting Theopoetic Journeys Through Poetry and Handmade Books is an immersive workshop inviting participants into a transformative exploration of spirituality through creative expression. Through guided writing exercises, participants delve into the depths of their souls to unearth the divine whispers within. As they craft their own poems infused with the sacred, they also learn the art of handmade bookbinding, weaving their verses into tangible manifestations of spiritual insight. Join us for a soul-stirring journey of self-discovery and creative empowerment.

Jennifer-NeToi, a community engagement and education leader, seamlessly intertwines her passion for the humanities with a steadfast dedication to inclusivity. As a teacher, poet, and children's book writer, she actively fosters environments where everyone feels recognized, valued, and inspired to express their creativity. She envisions a society that celebrates the richness of our world and actively examines the human condition. She has a profound commitment to fostering transformative learning experiences for all.



EVENING CONFERENCE OPENING SESSION

Marianela Medrano - Embodiment of Interbeing Through Mindful Writing

Marianela Medrano: Marianela Medrano was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and has lived in the United States since 1990. A poet and a writer of nonfiction and fiction, she holds a PhD in psychology. Her poetry has been translated into Italian and French. She is a faculty mentor for the PhD program in Visionary Practice and Regenerative Leadership at South Western College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her individual publications include: Oficio de Vivir (Buho,1986), Los Alegres Ojos de la Tristeza ( Buho,1987), Regando Esencias/ The Scent of Waiting (Alcance,1998), Curada de Espantos (Torremozas, 2002), Diosas de la Yuca, (Torremozas, 2011), Prietica (Alfaguara, 2013). Rooting (Owlfeather Collective, 2017). Website,LinkedIn, Facebook,Youtube, Instagram.


Vi Tran - Concert

Vi Tran is a preacher’s kid and the son of butchers. Born in the shadow of Sai Gon, Vietnam and raised in the cattle country of southwestern Kansas, he’s equal parts sea salt and wheat fields. He is founding owner and managing curator of The Buffalo Room performance event space and as the creator of The Butcher’s Son, an autobiographical refugee story and folk musical memoir about his family’s escape from Vietnam. Vi Tran Band has opened for legendary rock band Kansas and has opened for such acts as Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Barenaked Ladies, Beck, Ben Folds, Counting Crows, KT Tunstall, Ray LaMontagne, Willie Nelson, and Violent Femmes. Their full-length album American Heroine, a symphonic rock, folk, and Americana song cycle, was included on Best-of lists by Mark Manning (KKFI 90.1 FM) and Timothy Finn (Kansas City Star). As a storyteller, actor, singer-songwriter, composer, and playwright, Tran examines topics as varied as the unpacking of inherited cultural trauma among refugee populations living in diaspora to the dismantling of the toxic masculinity within the mythos of the Hemingway Hero. YouTube, Facebook.

Yes. Register me now, please.



Saturday, September 28, 2024


WORKSHOP SESSION 1: FIVE CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS

1A: It’s Not Just Play: Whole-Body Narrative for Marginalized Voices - Meghann Perry

The Embodied Storytelling technique uses personal narrative through body and voice to support key developmental processes like emotional regulation, identity formation, risk-taking and mistake-making, wrapped inside playful, creative games. Its egalitarian structure supports strong community-building and peer leadership as participants quickly become facilitators and is especially powerful for people experiencing marginalization and highly stigmatized challenges. Join us to understand this unique set of tools, play some games, and take some of them home with you. 

Meghann Perry is a Storyteller, Theatre Educator, Curriculum Designer and Addiction Recovery Coach. She’s been creating innovative learning and performance experiences blending Theatre, Storytelling, and Coaching for the last nine years. Meghann is a global speaker and storytelling coach and creator of two groundbreaking programs, Recovery Storytelling and Embodied Storytelling. She is the founder of Meghann Perry Group and leads a team of talented, dedicated facilitators offering revolutionary, inclusive arts-based wellness programs for marginalized voices. Website, Facebook, LinkedIn

1B: Where’s the Money, Honey?: The Art of Bringing Home the Bacon - Kathryn Lorenzen, Cheryl Kane, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Come unpack the challenges that many of us often have in pricing and charging for our services, overcoming cultural myths around money, and embracing practical strategies with mindset and language to build confidence in talking about money. Learn from the experience of three arts and business pros as well as other attendees, bring your questions, and engage in this exploration of making friends with your worth and your compensation.

Kathryn Lorenzen is a career coach, creativity coach, songwriter, and poet. Her songs and recordings have appeared in feature films and TV series including The Americans and Last Man On Earth. With an earlier career in copywriting and marketing communications, she is now a career coach to freelance writers and artists seeking livelihood in support of their art. She is co-leader of Your Right Livelihood in partnership with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and a published poet. kathrynlorenzen.com


Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam's Well, a novel; and The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she offers writing workshops, coaching and collaborative projects, including YourRightLivelihood.com with Kathryn Lorenzen, Bravevoice.com with Kelley Hunt, and TheArtofFacilitation.net with Joy Roulier Sawyer. CarynMirriamGoldberg.com Facebook, Instagram.

Words and language arts have been part of Cheryl Kane’s identity throughout her lifetime. As a former Language Arts educator, one of her greatest joys has been helping young writers find their voice. As a poet, fiction and essay author, she marvels that words uncover universal similarities among people, regardless of how things appear on the surface. Cheryl and her husband are proud parents of three adult children and own two dogs, Winston and Holly.




1C: That Reminds Me of a Story - Lewis Mehl-Medrona and Barbara Mainguy

Conventional psychiatric diagnosis masquerade as nouns, things that we have. From our studies with Indigenous elders, we have learned to view emotional suffering as verbs and not nouns. We will explore how to do this, to look beyond diagnoses as motivators and explanations for behavior, and to explore the suffering behind the diagnosis. We include writing exercises that involve turning nouns into verbs with reference to the emotions of characters and clients. 

Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD (’75 Stanford University; ’80 Psychological Studies Institute) and Barbara Mainguy, MA, LCSW (’10 Concordia University; ’17 University of Maine) have studied the views of Indigenous traditional elders on mind and mental health for years. Their observations have led to a proposal within the Indigenous concepts of Two-eyed seeing, to incorporate Elder's views with contemporary neuroscience to improve how we understand and manage emotional distress. They practice in Orono, Maine. Lewis’ website, Coyote Institute website



1D: The Power of Our Words For Civic Engagement - Brittany Crabtree & Chris Kempke 

With polarization becoming a key challenge of our times, we'll explore potential strategies and solutions through the lens of language. By increasing our awareness of our own perceptions of terminology associated with public service, we can strengthen our ability to communicate with others, stay engaged in solutions-oriented conversations in their communities, and inspire new strategies to invite more community members to the table. This workshop is especially pertinent for people involved community-minded and/or collaborative projects, causes, and organizations.

Brittany Crabtree is the Executive Director of the Missouri Community Service Commission. As an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps alum, she has a passion for helping people connect and communicate with one another.

Chris Kempke is the Cultural Community Development Director at Missouri Humanities. He is an 8-year veteran of Community Development work and is dedicated to fostering community growth and resilience.

1E: Finding the Voice of Our Bodies Through Poetry - Shelby Jordan 

Our bodies, too often treated as decorations, are incredible instruments that have a lot to say to us. Come build resilience and compassion toward your body through the power of poetry and writing in community together. Whether you've struggled with eating disorders or body image issues or not, this workshop -- welcoming all aged 12-99 -- offers a place where we can listen to and write about and from our bodies while also exploring innovative individual and communal writing together.

Shelby Jordan is a recent college graduate, and up-and-coming poet from the Midwest. Shelby's philosophy in life has always been to serve others, and the community she lives in. This is especially applicable to the population of those struggling with an eating disorder. Shelby published her debut poetry book, The Bending and The Breaking (And Everything In-Between) just over one year ago. Shelby hopes to become a therapist specializing in eating disorder recovery. Instagram


AFTERNOON KEYNOTE PERFORMANCES

Exodus Brownlow – "You Mold Your M's Like Soft Mounds, and I Sharpen My M's Like Pointed Mountains, But Maybe We Could Meet in The Middle and Make a Smooth Hill?"

“...in which I will be reading from a future nonfiction manuscript in-progress. In this collection of essays, poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, the author seeks a compromise between themselves, the passing downs of the past, the possibilities of the future, and the current standings of the present. "You Mold Your M’s Like Soft Mounds, And I Sharpen My M’s Like Pointed Mountains, But Maybe We Could Meet in The Middle and Make a Smooth Hill?" centers upon giving and receiving, the debilitating mental effects of OCD, other'ed southern religions and their impacts upon fashion, art-form and the practice of sewing, and the familial relics we choose to pass down or store away.  

Exodus Brownlow: Exodus Oktavia Brownlow is a writer, editor, seamstress and budding beekeeper currently residing in the enchanting pine tree forest of BlackHawk, Ms. 

Joy Zimmerman – Hear Our Voices Concert

In this time of personal and global challenge, our voices can bind us together. Joy will share songs of hope, struggle, and community building from her most recent album, "Where the Light Lives." You are warmly invited to dive in, reflect, and sing along. 

Joy Zimmerman cultivates joy as a touring folk singer-songwriter with a clear, rich voice. A former social worker, Joy brings audiences powerful, tender songs. Her two most recent albums debuted as Top Ten Albums of the Month on the Folk Alliance International (FAI) Folk Chart. Joy has received an Artist as Activist grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, ten Walnut Valley Music Festival NewSong Showcase wins, and Heartland Song Network Artist of the Month. You will often find Joy hiking in the woods with her wife or writing songs on her screened porch. Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube



Know you want to come? Register now!


WORKSHOP SESSION 2: FIVE CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS

2A: Theatre for All: Inclusion, Sharing Talents, and Championing Disability Justice - Wilbur Neuschwander-Frink

Theatre for All is an interactive presentation about inclusive theatre and using theatre to share messages of social justice. This workshop presents information about Open Arts Minnesota, a non profit dedicated to inclusive theatre for people with disabilities. 

Wilbur Neushwander-Frink (she/they) is a playwright, founding member and Executive Director of Open Arts Minnesota- a non-profit dedicated to the mission of providing inclusive theatrical opportunities for people with disabilities. Wilbur has over 30 years of experience working as an ally in Minnesota’s Disability Justice Movement. Her primary work in this movement is devising/co-creating original plays based on the ideas and concerns of the members of the various groups served by Open Arts Minnesota.The plays focus on issues of disability such as accessibility and inclusion in community. The plays are also adapted so all members can participate and share their gifts and talents. Wilbur works with three community theatre groups in SW Minnesota and also offers virtual activities. Website, Facebook.

2B: Words of Power, Enriching CommUNITY - Alec Esparza

The purpose of this proposal is to demonstrate viable possibilities of CommUNITY transformation motivated by meaningful communication, intentional commitment and inspired participation by community members.  The process of exploring and identifying members' words of power and storytelling may serve as a catalyst of what they may model or teach others members of the community for celebrating, preserving and sharing the hopes and expectations of the community they live in and the world they touch.

Alec Esparza, MA, Retired, has 30 years of experience utilizing the cultural folk arts of storytelling, altar making ofrenda’s, adventure learning and re-entry programming in collaboration with families, community partners and organizations throughout California and other states. His approach to embracing healing, social transformation and community wellness is to create sacred space to inspire experiential critical thinking activities and processes that enhance facing life’s challenges on life’s terms with greater strength, understanding and wisdom. https://www.ozocommunity.com

2C: Reclaiming Your Story: Writing Memoir, Mental Health, and the Body - Jane Hseu, Kimberly Gomes, Danielle Bainbridge

Our panel Reclaiming Your Story focuses on the question: how do you narrate our journeys with mental health, trauma, and healing through essays and memoir? Each writer (Danielle Bainbridge, Jane Hseu, and Kimberly Gomes) will explore this theme through personal writing, performance, and Q & A with the audience. Viewers will leave the session empowered to tell their own story through the memoir form, as well as access the healing properties of personal writing. 

Jane Hseu is Professor of English at Dominican University outside Chicago, where she specializes in racial minority US literature and writing creative nonfiction. She is working on a memoir about how her mental health journey necessitates coming to terms with a family history of mental illness. She has published personal essays in literary magazines Kartika Review, La Tolteca, and riksha: Asian American Creative Arts in Action, and academic essays on Asian American and Latinx literature. Website, Dominican University.


Kimberly Gomes is a California-based multimedia creative who writes about open roads, rising selves, and blooming strength. She's the author of Love Notes to the Body (Dancing Girl Press, 2019), and A Road of Her Own, which was named a 2022 semi-finalist for the Black Lawrence Press Prose Book Award. Her work has been featured in publications such as Rogue Agent, Sunset Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Entropy Magazine. Learn more at kimberly-gomes.com.


Danielle Bainbridge is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Northwestern University and a filmmaker. Her memoir Dandelion received the 2015 Barry Lopez prize for creative nonfiction from Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, a 2016 scholarship to Tin House, a 2022 Anne LaBastille Writing Residency, and a 2023 virtual residency from the Banff Centre, and was a semi-finalist for the Kore Press 2016 memoir award and the 2023 St. Lawrence Book Award from Black Lawrence Press. Northwestern.




2D: Close Encounters: When Poetry Intersects With the Healing Power of Nature - Julie Martin

“Close Encounters” aims to foster a deeper connection with poetry by immersing participants in sensory experiences. After a brief introduction including a mindfulness practice of grounding through naming sensory experiences, participants will be introduced to the triante poetry form, using sensory description. The group will then visit the Carl N. Chinnery Nature Trail or the Unity Village Gardens to engage with the environment on the grounds of Unity Village.

A poet and a public school teacher, Julie Martin has made a career of nurturing creativity in others. Drawing inspiration from the environment, her poems invite the reader to join her in discovering all that is hidden in plain sight.

Julie’s poetry has been widely published in literary journals, and she frequently joins other poets in giving readings in Minnesota and beyond. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry, Homespun Alchemy, about the power of place at home, in the backyard, and beyond. Website, Instagram.

2E: Better Together: Collaborating in the Arts - Olive Sullivan

Consider the possibilities for collaborating with other artists to share your writing, storytelling, music, or other forms of TLA. After a discussion on collaboration, Olive will share her experience in creating a play -- blending ballet, poetry, traditional theater, and music -- that gave her new ways to share her story of navigating cancer and re-envisioning survival. We'll then engage in writing prompts to discover and discuss collaborative possibilities with other artists.

Olive L. Sullivan has been writing and telling stories since she could talk. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast and has taught classes in topics ranging from community journalism to creative writing. She enjoys mentoring students of all ages, supporting their dreams with her own drive and vision. Her book Wandering Bone (Meadwolark Press, 2017) was published during the five months she spent in a locked isolation ward being treated for Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Her second book, Skiving Down the Bones (Meadowlark Press, 2022), deals with themes of illness, grief, and loss. She is a member of the Transformative Arts Network and The Dramatists Guild of America. She is listed on the Kansas Touring Artists Roster. A version of this presentation was given at the Missouri Poetry Society annual meeting in 2023. Facebook, Making Beautiful Books.


WORKSHOP SESSION 3: FIVE CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS

3A: Activating your Family Archive - Amanda Lacson

We activate the tangible objects in our archives when we tell their story. From telling the history behind a single photo or heirloom to juxtaposing generational recurrences in nonlinear formats, this workshop will demonstrate how we can create new meaning in our family stories by engaging deeply with the things we and our ancestors have saved. Participants may bring in family heirlooms, but can also work with digital photos, memories, or objects in the room.

Amanda Faye Lacson is a Filipina-American writer, photographer and historian. Her work, both personal and community-oriented, is centered on exploring how our identities are shaped, how they impact the way we move in the world, and how we write our history. She aims to bring forward voices that have been less-studied through creative nonfiction and playwriting; photography that documents the artistic process at work; oral history-oriented podcast interviewing; and community-based workshops for the family historian. amandafayelacson.com; familyarchivebusiness.com; @amandafayelacson on FB & Instagram 

3B: My Tree Called Life: Writing and Living Through Serious Illness – Caryn, John Swainston, Kimberly Deeken, Lou Eisenbrandt, Maggie Mosher, Michelle Finnerty, Kim Phillips

How do we live with heart and wisdom when faced with serious illness as a patient, survivor, or caregiver? Come hear Kansas Citians who write through cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease, and other challenges at Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s writing workshops at Turning Point share -- through their writing and insights – how they embrace their tree of life, no matter the growing conditions. In this narrative medicine session, we’ll also do a short writing prompt and discuss starting and sustaining such workshops.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam's Well, a novel; and The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she offers writing workshops, coaching and collaborative projects, including YourRightLivelihood.com with Kathryn Lorenzen, Bravevoice.com with Kelley Hunt, and TheArtofFacilitation.net with Joy Roulier Sawyer. CarynMirriamGoldberg.com. Facebook, Instagram, Turning Point

Louise (Lou) Eisenbrandt, of Overland Park, Kansas, is a retired registered nurse who served as an Army nurse during the Vietnam War. She gives frequent talks on her war experiences, served on the Turning Point board, and her books include Vietnam Nurse: Mending and Remembering and Unsteady as She Goes: Battling Parkinson's. YouTube, Amazon.





Maggie Mosher's love of the arts came from growing up on the Navajo Reservation. Maggie, who taught special education for 20 years while battling twelve chronic autoimmune conditions, writes plays and poems to express the grief, hope, gratitude, and fear that comes with the daily unknowns of living with systemic lupus erythematosus and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. She currently does research at KU on extended reality and individualized instruction to improve social and behavioral outcomes of students with high-incidence disabilities. Project VOISS, LinkedIn.

John L. Swainston, a survivor of many medical challenges, started writing poetry to cope with feelings of isolation during COVID.  A member of the Mystic Poet Society, The Writers Place, and The Kansas City Writers Group, he has poems published and numerous awards. His first book of poems, Memory Box, was published spring 2022. John is a retired Finance Executive, College Adjunct Professor, and Army Veteran living in Gardner, Kansas. He serves as treasurer of the TLA Network. Website


Michelle Finnerty was diagnosed in 2010 with Neuromylantis Optica, a rare disabling disease. The writing group at Turning Point taught her how to write from a positive perspective which helped her heal from family turning away and deal with the emotional impact of having a disability, especially one with an uncertain future. She tries to be positive so when she went on disability, she decided to look at it as giving her time to use her love of sewing, crocheting and card making to make donations for charity groups.


Kimberly Deeken is a mother, poet, lover of learning and registered nurse. As a critical care nurse for 18 years and a neurological disorder survivor of 26 years she has seen recovery from both sides. She believes deeply in the power of poetry to connect , decompress and heal the stress inherent in this wonderfully chaotic life we all share.

Kim Phillips, a military veteran who also worked in marketing and ran a bed and breakfast, is a cardiac arrest survivor living with heart failure. Trained at Mayo Clinic to be a community educator, she volunteers through WomenHeart and St Luke’s Muriel Kauffman Women’s Heart Center. She writes stories of healing and living with chronic illness as well as historic fiction about her Volga German ancestry.  Retired, she and her husband live with their big dog in Leawood, Kansas. 



3C: Seeking Soul Through Nature and Poetry- Bobbie Jo Morrell

In this workshop we will explore our spiritual connections to nature through images and poetry. We will use mindfulness, reflection, and free-writing to engage with the reactions of our spirits to the material, and then share insights with our companions.  Weather-permitting, we may do our reflections/writing outside.

Bobbie Jo Morrell lives in Colorado, has a Master’s degree in Counseling and is a Certified Spiritual Director. 

Her spiritual path has led through participating in and leading reflective writing workshops and contemplative practice groups, hiking and backpacking in the Rocky Mountains – including solo backpacking sections of the Colorado Trail. She is currently counseling and leading small groups and workshops in reflective writing. Website

3D: Writing Monologues for Healing & Transformation: Making the Leap from Page to Stage - Kelly DuMar

In this writing generative workshop, you will learn how writing for the stage differs from writing a memoir or personal essay. You’ll see how your personal experience of healing & transformation can be crafted into a short monologue to be performed as a theatrical experience that engages an audience. Stella Adler called theater the “seeing place”– the place we come to see the truth about our lives and social situation. And August Wilson was “fascinated by the idea of an audience as a community of people who gather willingly to bear witness.” One monologue writer from Kelly’s workshops has described the impact of memoir-inspired performance monologues in her own words: “To write a monologue where someone else can perform the story and the knowing of my lived experiences…well that is a transcendent experience." No prior experience necessary.

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from Boston. She’s author of four poetry collections, including jinx and heavenly calling, published by Lily Poetry Review Books in March 2023. Kelly teaches a variety of creative writing workshops, in person and online, and she teaches Play Labs for the International Women’s Writing Guild and the Transformative Language Arts Network. Kelly produces the Featured Open Mic for the Journal of Expressive Writing. Website, @kellydumar on Twitter and Instagram.

3E: Our Stories in a Glance: Manhattan Community Video-Portraits - Amy Gross

The Manhattan Community Portrait project is grounded in the belief that every individual possesses a unique story. Adding personal narratives to a video portrait allows the viewer to see more than an image and promotes deeper understanding. Join this session to experience portions of the community workshops we facilitated using art and stories as the catalyst to build connection. We will view a sample of video-portraits and explore how this project could be expanded to other communities

Amy Gross is a facilitator, story catcher and story teller. After a career in leadership development, she was given the unexpected gift of a professional pause and practiced simply being and not constantly doing. She rediscovered her hidden dream of writing and her passion for guiding others to discover their own spark and to chase their dreams of “someday.” A Nebraska native, she earned her Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Kansas State University.Manhattan Community Portrait, Someday Now Substack.


AFTERNOON IMMERSIONS: Music, Story, or Energy

Ohhh...immersions! Time to register.

Notorious Chorus: Power of Words in Harmony – Beth Watts Nelson

Cultivate your voice and experience the joy of harmony singing. Notorious Chorus builds community through the power of music.All humans welcome and encouraged!  If you can breathe – you can sing!

Beth Watts Nelson is a Kansas City based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and choral music educator.  In addition to solo and duo performances, she can be heard in several projects throughout the Kansas City area including Konza Swamp Band, Catgut, and her latest endeavor, Little Miss Dynamite.  Building upon a twenty-year career in music education she is now the founder and director of Notorious Chorus, a community-based, group singing workshop for adults.  Beth holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Kansas State University and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music.  Her songwriting awards include the Walnut Valley Festival NewSong Showcase, the John Hartford Memorial Festival Songwriting Contest  and the Ozark Mountain Soul Songwriting Competition.  Beth is a 2023 recipient of the ArtsKC Inspiration Grant and a 2024 inductee of the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Touring Roster. bethwattsnelson.com.

The Great Migration: A Daughter Makes Her Bones - Oyah 

The Great Migration: My Heroine's Journey to the Dreaded “Down South”. An Ethnographic Telling of my childhood trip to the Deep South. This heroine's journey to visit my Father’s people in Monroe Louisiana would shape my understanding of culture, courage and cousins.

Oyah! Beverly A. Scott is a talented writer, poet, and social activist. Her unique style of writing is characterized by its rhythmic and melodic voice, which has captivated audiences across the country. Her poetry has been read by two presidents, and she has been recognized for her contributions and activism in Black Chicago’s literary, womanist, and other communities. She has worked with Queen Mother Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Pulitzer Prize in Poetry winner Gwendolyn Brooks, MacArthur Fellow Dr. Sokoni Karanja, and former President Barack Obama as a founding member of the Lugenia Burns Hope Institute for Community Organizing. She served as Consulting Producer on a Discovery Network docuseries covering the murders of Black Women on Chicago’s South and West Side. Beverly (Oyah) A Scott served as Community News Editor for the legendary Black Newspaper The Chicago Daily Defender and was a contributor to Ethan Michaeli’s award-winning book The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America. She is the founder of the Heart & Soul Garden, a nonprofit organization that empowers women and girls through spiritual, cultural, and creative programs and events. (Oyah) Beverly A. Scott is a graduate of Goddard College “22”. She is the mother of five, grandmother of three, and happily married to Col. Eugene F. Scott (Ret). They reside in the south suburbs of Chicago with their Labrador Roxy Hart. Instagram, Facebook

Reiki for TLA: Changing the World from the Inside Out - Ashley Barnes

Amidst chaos and uncertainty, the call for balanced and inspired changemakers echoes louder than ever. In this workshop, you’ll discover simple energy practices to release stress, find your center, and shift your energy, empowering you to enact change while tending to your well-being. Ideal for beginners or those seeking a refresher, you'll explore tools to support your TLA work and foster personal growth. Don't miss this opportunity to empower yourself and enact positive change.

Ashley Barnes is a multi-passionate creative, neurodivergent L&D leader, holistic coach, poetry author, and Reiki Master/Teacher. And she loves cats.  As a writer, she believes in the transformational power of words to create powerful shifts and give voice to those who feel voiceless.  Working with individuals and organizations, she develops and facilitates human-centric strategies to empower personal growth & foster creative well-being solutions. To learn more about Ashley, visit her website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Tiktok.   


EVENING KEYNOTE PERFORMANCES

Glenn North - "To Make a Poet Black and Bid Him Sing"

Poet Glenn North will look at the history of African American poetry from the early writings of Phyllis Wheatley to the Harlem Renaissance to the Black Arts Movement. In this presentation he will examine how the Black poetic tradition has helped contextualize the Black experience, how it has been an effective tool in the pursuit of liberation, and how it has influenced the poetry he creates. North will also discuss the Restorative Poetics Initiative he is implementing as the Kansas City Museum's Poet-in-Residence. 

Glenn North is the Director of Inclusive Learning and Creative Impact at the Kansas City Museum. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from UMKC and is the author of City of Song, a collection of poems inspired by Kansas City’s rich jazz tradition. He is a Cave Canem fellow, a Callaloo creative writing fellow and a recipient of the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award. His ekphrastic and visual poems have appeared in art exhibitions at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the American Jazz Museum, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Glenn is also an adjunct English professor at Rockhurst University and is currently filling his appointment as the Poet Laureate of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. Website, Documentary, Instagram, Twitter.

Ada Cheng - "Speaking in Tongues: Three Tales in Our Troubling Time"

In this performance, Dr. Cheng will weave three different stories in three distinct genres, including poetry/spoken words, personal narrative/theatrical storytelling, and personal essay. Rather than presenting a cohesive meta-narrative about the troubling world we live in, Dr. Cheng will show how personal trouble is uneasily meshed with political turmoil and how resistance and rebellion can come in multiple forms. Most importantly, she hopes to demonstrate that, while ambivalence, fragmentation, and doubt mark the struggle with integrity, solidarity, and vision for a better world in our troubling time, she remains hopeful for the future.  

Dr. Ada Cheng, an educator-turned artist, producer, speaker, and community builder, has utilized storytelling to illustrate structural inequities, raise critical awareness, and build intimate communities. Committed to amplifying and uplifting marginalized voices, she has created numerous storytelling platforms for BIPOC and LGBTQIA community members to tell difficult and vulnerable stories. Dr. Cheng has been a speaker for Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau since 2019. She has been named 2023-24 Lund-Gill Chair in the Rosary College of Arts and Sciences at Dominican University. Her interests encompass academia, storytelling/performance, and advocacy. Website, Facebook,Instagram.



Sunday, September 29, 2024


WORKSHOP SESSION 3: FIVE CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS

4A: What's Going On: Music for Personal & Community Transformation - Joy Zimmerman

“Without music, life would be a blank to me.” -Jane Austen | Music is a healing force, community connector, challenger of injustice, spiritual balm, and memory keeper. We will illuminate the power of music, its cultural and social impact, a wide array of musical applications, and the craft of songwriting. Writers, teachers, facilitators, musicians, and others interested in exploring new ways to weave music into their work and their lives are heartily welcome.    

Joy Zimmerman cultivates joy as a touring folk singer-songwriter with a clear, rich voice. A former social worker, Joy brings audiences powerful, tender songs. Her two most recent albums were #6 and #8 Albums of the Month on the Folk Alliance International (FAI) Folk Chart. Joy has received an Artist as Activist grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, ten Walnut Valley Music Festival NewSong Showcase wins, and Heartland Song Network Artist of the Month. Website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Patreon

4B: Making Home – Geneva Toland

Humans have evolved to cultivate deep ties to specific places, to love the landscapes, beings, and watersheds they call home. Yet so often we do not have the time or practices necessary to reflect and reinforce these ties, or what I call to "make home." Through song and eco-somatic writing prompts, participants will explore: What are the stories of the land I call home? Who lives there? How can I root myself deeper into this ecosystem?

Geneva Toland is a writer, farmer, naturalist, educator and song leader currently working towards her MFA in Poetry at the Institute for American Indian Arts. Her writing has appeared in humana obscura, Canary Literary Magazine, West Trade Review, among others. She feels humbled to live on Ute, Diné, and Puebloan homelands where she writes and facilitates workshops connecting people to the seeds, stories, and songs of the land. See her other offerings at www.genevatoland.com.

4C: Medicinal and Poetical Wordplay: A Performance For Spirit and Community - Christopher Sims

Come immerse yourself in the poetic artistry of spoken word poems that are medicinal to the ear and the spirit. I will be performing original poems with a community-oriented passion and drive about inequities, injustices, and environmental harms happening in the world, all of these works are potential conversation starters. Anyone interested in helping to transform their community would learn more about the power and process of spoken word poetry for social change. There will be time for reflection about my work, themes, concepts, and process.

Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, since the age of ten Christopher has understood the importance of arts and its impact. As a young poet, he performed in a talent show at Haskell Elementary. Christopher D. Sims is a workshop leader as well, having led workshops nationally at Unitarian Universalist conferences, in Rockford, IL, and the surrounding area on performance art. For five years he taught writing workshops at Rockford, IL’s Spectrum School of Rockford. SoundCloud, ReverbNation, Instagram

4D: Speaking Up for Themselves Through Barrier-Free Theatre - Sally Bailey and Elise Kellogg and Merri Bork

One community that rarely has a chance to speak up and be heard in most societies are the adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). They are often not given credit for having plans, ideas, or incredible imaginations. This session will share how actors in the Barrier-Free Theatre of Manhattan, Kansas, are engaging their imagination through improvisation to create their own play which is performed in each spring.

Sally Bailey, MFA, MSW, RDT/BCT is Professor of Theatre and directs the Drama Therapy Program at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS.  Her books include Barrier-Free Theatre, The Drama Therapy Decision Tree, Drama in the Inclusive Classroom, and Careers in Creative Arts Therapies. She has directed and scripted plays for the Barrier-Free Theatre in Manhattan, KS for the past 25 years. Drama Therapy Central

Co-Presenter Elise Kellogg is a second-year graduate student at Kansas State University working toward her master’s degree in Drama Therapy. Kellogg is currently serving as the director of the Barrier-Free Theatre under the supervision of Sally Bailey, MFA, MSW, RDT/BCT. In addition to the theatre, Elise works with IDD clients in the community through various initiatives such as Bowling Blast, Friday Fun Night, Project EXCELL, and a Foundational Reading Skills Class.

 


Co-Presenter Merri Bork (bio to come)

4E: The Art (and Artifice) of Your Inner Critic - Judy Brenneman 

When that voice in your head insists that you're not good enough, you don't know enough, you haven't done enough, and you never will—do you give up and hide? Don armor and fight? Don't quit creating! Explore peaceful, productive ways to challenge and benefit from (yes, benefit from!) your personal Inner Critic.

Judy Fort Brenneman is a story meddler, award-winning author and playwright, occasional poet, and through her company, Greenfire Creative, LLC a long-time writing coach and retreat leader with expertise in helping writers who have interesting neurologies. Her work has appeared in everything from literary magazines to museum exhibits, books, and stage plays. She’s especially interested in the role of writing, story-making, and creativity in human resilience. Website, Facebook (Judy), Facebook (Greenfire Creative), LinkedIn, BKSY


CONFERENCE CLOSING SESSION

Our closing session brings us together to witness one another's discoveries and collectively behold the meaning, transformation, inspiration, and joy of the conference. In addition to coming together in respect and appreciation to speak what has moved us about the conference, we'll also enjoy the soulful music of singer-songwriter Kathryn Lorenzen. Together, we'll create our best ways to carry our experience, questions, ideas, and new understandings home.

Kathryn Lorenzen

Kathryn Lorenzen is a career coach, creativity coach, songwriter, and poet. Her songs and recordings have appeared in feature films and TV series including The Americans and Last Man On Earth. With an earlier career in copywriting and marketing communications, she is now a career coach to freelance writers and artists seeking livelihood in support of their art. She is co-leader of Your Right Livelihood in partnership with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and a published poet. kathrynlorenzen.com








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