2024 Power of Words Conference

September 26-29, 2024 at Unity Village, Kansas City, Missouri


Join the Power of Words Conference to explore the written, spoken and sung word to find how it can bring liberation, celebration and transformation within our communities. 

Network with writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, health professionals, educators, and change-makers to connect with those who share your passion of making a difference with words.    

Discover diversity and experience visionary voices at keynote sessions. Get inspired with workshops in five areas:  Social Transformation, Right Livelihood, Engaged Spirituality, Narrative Healing and Ecological TLA.

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.


The important stuff:

Early Bird pricing has been extended to August 1st!

Our conference schedule.

The session descriptions.
Travel and lodging information.
Information about becoming a sponsor or underwriter.

Scholarship and Work-Study Info & application form. (We offer work-study positions as well as partial scholarships for the general public and students and for people of color or people living with serious illness and/or disability.)


Yes! I want to register now.

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

Conference Schedule | Travel & Lodging Info | Sponsor & Underwriter Info



Our Poets Laureate

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg,

Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita

Eric McHenry,

Kansas Poet Laureate Emeritus

Huascar Medina,

Kansas Poet Laureate Emeritus

Glenn North,

Poet Laureate of the Kansas City Jazz District

Wyatt Townley,

Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita

Maryfrances Wayner,

Missouri Poet Laureate Emerita

Our Keynote Presenters

Exodus Brownlow

Ada Cheng

Marianela Medrano

Glenn North

Our Muscians

Kathryn Lorenzen

Beth Watts Nelson

Vi Tran

Joy Zimmerman

Keynote Presenters and Special Guests

Keynote Presenters

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.

Ada Cheng: 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. WebsiteFacebook, Instagram.

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, LinkedInFacebook, YoutubeInstagram.

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. WebsiteDocumentaryInstagramTwitter.

Poets Laureate


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, Southbroadway Press, and latinidad.us. Medina also sits on the National Council on the Arts.

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. WebsiteDocumentaryInstagramTwitter.

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.

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.

Musicians


Kathryn Lorenzen: Kathryn Lorenzen coaches people at all life stages in career transition, career development, and creativity. Following a successful stint in marketing and advertising, she moved into the career field as a recruiter, uniting over 500 people with jobs and careers over 20 years. Now as a full-time coach, she is dedicated to helping people find their strengths, gifts, and ideal mode of work. Kathryn is also an accomplished singer songwriter and recording artist, with songs in TV/film and on streaming services. More here, Linkedin, and see Your Right Livelihood, the micro business she offers with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

Beth Watts NelsonBeth Watts Nelson is a Kansas City based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and lifelong student of music. In addition to solo performances, she can be heard in several projects throughout the KC 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 is available for booking or private lessons any time except the third weekend of September when she can be found near Stage 7 at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. bethwattsnelson.com.

Vi Tran: 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.

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


Schedule-at-a-Glance | Travel & Lodging Info | Sponsorship Info


Register for the Conference

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

Testimonials From Past Conferences

"Come and meet some seriously interesting and diverse people with a love of transformational politics, poetry and language. I loved the whole experience!"

Barbara Bloomfield

"I always appreciate the comraderie at this event. People are non-judgemental and open. I don’t think it would be possible to feel more accepted or at peace. This truly satisfies and transcends the human experience by combining heart with art."

— Anonymous

"The Transformation Language Arts conference provides a home for artists, writers and musicians who want to help create a peaceful world. I go to learn, I go to contribute, I go to sustain hope."

Diane Glass

"As an artist and philanthropist who participates in artistic/humanities conference and festivals throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Middle East - I'm very impressed with this conference! The workshop and performance presenters were diverse; audience participants supportive; key note speakers memorable; staff magnificent. A genuine pleasure to be in attendance!"

Joseph Galata

"The TLA Conference is an adventure of diving into a deep pool of unexpected discoveries. Some are delightful and awe-inspiring, some frightening and strange, but the immersion in diversity and the authenticity of the presenter's (and participant's) stories and presence is palpable and real. A necessary reminder of what we are so starved for in the current climate of media and political rhetoric. If change is going to be sustainable and humane, we need more people trained and working with the qualities of these warriors. The Conference is a way to either dip a toe in or dive in head first."

Robin Russell

"The Power of Words Conference...in the midst of the unpredictability of daily life, for a few precious days I found myself surrounded by beauty, reminded yet again how art and wordcraft are not luxuries, to paraphrase Audre Lorde, but tools for survival, 'sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas.'

We think and language into existence, whether our language takes the shape of words, images, sounds, or movements, summoning new worlds with our breath and our bodies. And as we come together to share we move away from isolation and fear and into one another, drawing close to the hearth where we warm and nourish ourselves before heading back out.

This is the power of words -- that something so fragile, awkward, limited and limiting can, in the end, still be a way in: a key in a lock, a warm breeze signaling an end to winter's slumber, a torch to light the way."

Shomriel Sherman

The TLA Network exists to support and promote individuals and organizations that use the spoken, written, or sung word as a tool for personal and community transformation.


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