POW 2023 Session Descriptions


November 11 | Online All Day

   Schedule Summary     



Workshops & Presenters

Designing Transformative Multidisciplinary Projects with Collaboration at the Core -- Akwi Nji: What does multi-disciplinary collaboration look like and why is it important? This session offers tangible steps that writers, artists, and arts leaders can take to design projects that intentionally and effectively break barriers between art forms like spoken word, music, movement, and visual art to build stronger communities. This session takes a nebulous concept and uses real world examples to illustrate not only how to design and implement multidisciplinary projects, but how to make those projects most impactful. Attendees will walk away with the motivation to design a more radically collaborative arts experience and the clarity on how to do it.

Akwi Nji is an interdisciplinary artist creating in visual art, words, and voice. Her work explores the intersectionality of gender, race, motherhood, and associations with spiritual and geographic home. A 2016 Iowa Arts Council Fellow, her most recent works include Enuf, a project of spoken word and electronic music with corresponding visual art; correspondence, a project of choreopoetry and electronic music and short film funded by the Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts; and Consider the Meaningful, a collaboration with Ballet Des Moines. She also created The Remoir Project, a nationwide audio and visual storytelling arts initiative, and In Living Color, an alternative arts experience which recently showcased 14 Iowa-based Black artists and led to nearly $10,000 invested in those artists through the event. She serves as an arts advocate on the boards of Brucemore, the Iowa Arts Council, and the Iowa Cultural Coalition. Find her at akwinji.com and Instagram.


Flash Fiction: Exploring the Senses, Emotional Resonance and the Path to Healing -- Riham AdlyThis workshop will introduce flash fiction and it's elements and go beyond that as well as Riham Adly invites attendees to take a good look at how they use their senses and emotions to receive and perceive their reality.  The medium of flash fiction is concise and to the point,  inviting writers to express directly from the subconscious. Riham will share reading material and will end this short interlude with a writing prompt. 

Riham Adly is an award-winning fiction writer and editor from Giza, Egypt. Riham is the first ever female from Africa and the Middle East to have a debut flash fiction collection, Love is Make-Believe, published in English. She is the founder of “ Riham’s Cairo Book Club” and the “Let’s Write Short Stories” workshops in Egypt. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee multiple times and winner of the MAKAN award as well as many other honors, her flash fiction has appeared in over sixty journals such as Litro Magazine, Lost Balloon, The Flash Flood, Bending Genres, The Citron Review, The Sunlight Press, and Flash Fiction Magazine as well as the 2020 Micro-Fiction anthology. Riham has worked as an assistant editor in 101 words magazine and as a first reader in Vestal Review magazine. She offers her signature flash fiction workshops through various platforms.


Mindful Writing: Gratitude, the other side of Grief -- Marianela Medrano: Mindful Writing focuses on the present moment, using all the senses without judgment. It provides pathways to wholeness. “Wholeness” includes all aspects of our lives, not just the desirable, the positive. The practices are based on the four foundations of Mindfulness, and how they connect to writing and healing from ambiguous loss. Ambiguous loss is a sense of loss that is not associated with the death of a loved one. It can include loss of emotional connection when a person’s physical presence remains. It can stem from job loss, divorce, or geographical relocation. Activities will include meditative practices, discussions, and somatic elicitations.

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 SouthWestern 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


Writing the Extraordinary Details of our Ordinary Lives -- Jen Harris: Writing stories based on our personal memories is complicated. In this creative nonfiction workshop, poet Jen Harris helps participants discern which details are vital and which are extraneous. We'll discuss the ethics of writing a story based on a memory, and sharing that story with an audience. Participants should bring an object or image which holds importance to you. Writing prompts given throughout the lesson can be applied to the object post-workshop (this is an abridged workshop).

Poet Jen Harris (she/her) is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. Featured on NPR, Netflix Queer Eye, Creative Mornings, TEDx, and many more, Harris is the author of 3 books of poetry and the recipient of numerous accolades. A sought-after performance artist, Harris is the founder and host of The Writing Workshop KC, whose mission is to nurture creative curiosity and inspire confidence within prompt-based writing workshops. She hosts weekly classes and offers creative coaching to private clients. Additionally, Jen is one half of the artist-to-artist indie podcast Confessing Animals. Her firstborn community love child, Kansas City Poetry Slam, sold out monthly for seven years. Website, Instagram accounts:@poetjenharris, Instagram @writingworkshopkc, Instagram @confessinganimalspodcast


Writing Into the Contradictions: Juxtaposing Images for Deeper Understanding -- Ben Weakley: The world is not an either / or proposition. Juxtaposition, contradiction, and complementarity are everywhere. Look closely, and you will find that our hearts are shaped by both nature and nurture, that light is both a particle and a wave, and that we carry on a daily struggle between free will and a fate beyond our control. In this generative workshop, we’ll take inspiration from haiku poetry and other imagistic forms and create our own arresting juxtapositions. Participants will learn how to generate and juxtapose images that contain mystery and paradox, but when held with a curious mind can yield an abundance of meaning either on their own or as the kernel for a larger piece of writing.

Ben Weakley spent fourteen years in the U.S. Army, beginning with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and finishing at a desk inside the Pentagon. He writes poetry and prose about the enduring nature of war and the human experience for veterans, their families, and anyone who would help them bear witness to war and its aftermath. A believer in the power of words to empower and heal, Ben leads writing workshops for Active Duty Military, Veterans, their families and caregivers, as well as Frontline Health Care Workers and other communities of ordinary people bearing witness to a difficult world. Ben lives in the Tri-Cities of Northeast Tennessee with his wife, two children, and a well-meaning but poorly behaved hound-dog. Website


My Body Is Not a Battlefield: Illness, Body, and the use of Metaphor -- Angie Ebba: Metaphor is used often to describe the sick or disabled body, but how do metaphors impact the way we see ourselves? How can we use metaphor in our writing to amplify our relationship with our bodies, in all their states of being? In this workshop we will look at some of the research in this field, and discuss ways we can use metaphor as a way to empower us and claim ownership of the stories we tell about our bodies. The workshop will include several short writing exercises, and will end with participants creating a collaborative poem about the body. 

Angie Ebba is a queer disabled writer, educator, and performer who teaches and performs online and across the United States. She has poetry published in Closet Cases, Queering Sexual Violence, and several literary magazines, art in several Beyond the Veil Press books, and is a published essayist focusing on writing about disability and chronic illness, relationships and sexuality, and body positivity. She believes strongly in the power of words to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, to build connections and community, and to make personal and social change. Angie can be found online at rebelonpage.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok


What is it You Need to Say?: Time, Space, and Tools to Write Your Truth -- Fiona Bolger: In this workshop we will consider the things we do not say, the places we do not go, the words we do not use. Looking at poems which pull words from the shadows and pin them to the page we will gently consider what our ‘shadow’ poems might look like. We will explore ways to enter the darker places of ourselves and emerge with words we can transform. We will be exploring ways in  through the senses, imagination, memory, language, place and sound. Writers whose texts we will use: CA Conrad, Emily Dickinson, Divya Victor and James Joyce.

Fióna Bolger is a creative mentor, facilitator and poet. Her particular interest is play between languages. Her collections Love in the Original Language (Salmon Poetry, 2022) and A Compound of Words (Yoda Press, 2019) illustrate her love of the plurilingual. She has co-edited All the Worlds Between (Yoda Press, 2017) anthology and is co-editor of forthcoming Salmon Poetry GRT anthology in 2024. Her work has appeared in The Brown Critique, Poetry Bus, Southword, Poetry Ireland Review, The Chattahoochee Review and Wretched Strangers (Boiler House, 2018) among others. She makes her home in her native Ireland. Check her website for further information, see her website.


The Big Picture of Your TLA Livelihood and Life -- Kathryn Lorenzen & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: Come explore ways to use your TLA practice, teaching, facilitation, mentoring, and performance to craft Right Livelihood, the Buddhist term for meaningful work that serves the world and fulfills you. We'll look at usual and unusual venues for work that pays the bills and lifts up your spirits while paying close attention to the big picture of your life's callings. We'll also explore how your creative process can guide you in dreaming up and planning out the work of your heart.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, founder of Transformative Language Arts, has been leading community creative, healing, and social change arts workshops for years, and she has trained and supervised many graduate students in facilitation. She studied meeting facilitation and organizational development through Quaker, bioregional, and grassroots traditions and teachers. Over the last 30 years, she's facilitated hundreds of meetings for groups and businesses and trained dozens of community groups and entrepreneurs. She is the past Kansas Poet Laureate and author of 24 books of poetry, fiction, and memoir. With Kathryn Lorenzen, she leads Your Right Livelihood, an annual class and retreat on the big picture of your work and life. Website, Your Right Livelihood, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn

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. With Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, she leads Your Right Livelihood retreats and classes. Website, Your Right Livelihood, Broadjam (music), LinkedIn


Using TLA to Create and Deepen Your Family Archive -- Amanda Lacson: Your family archive is the collection of memories, photographs and objects that represent and are made by you and your family, whether that’s your family of origin or family of choice. In this workshop we will explore techniques in oral history, historical research, and presenting your family archive. By incorporating TLA into your family archive collection, you will not only document your family history, but deepen your connection to your family stories for this generation and beyond. Please bring writing implements (pen/paper, computer) for writing exercises that will generate a roadmap for creating your family archive.

Amanda Faye Lacson is a Filipino-American writer, photographer and historian. She studied TLA at Goddard College. Her work, both personal and community-oriented, is centered on exploring identity (especially race, ethnicity, and gender expectations), family, and historical and social context. Amanda brings leadership and collaboration experience to the TLAN Board as a founding member of the Goddard Alumni Council; Biographers Guild of Greater New York; and as a co-facilitator of writing workshops and learning circles. Amanda is also the founder of Family Archive Business, a company that will serve the family historian preserving their own family history through workshops and coaching.


Writing Monologues for Healing & Transformation: Making the Leap from Page to Stage:  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."

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from the Boston area. She’s author of four poetry collections, including jinx and heavenly calling, published by Lily Poetry Review Books in March 2023. Her poems are published in Bellevue Literary Review,Tupelo Quarterly, Thrush, Glassworks and more. Kelly teaches creative writing workshops, in person and online, and runs Play Labs with online performance showcases for the International Women’s Writing Guild and the Transformative Language Arts Network. For twelve years, Kelly produced the annual Our Voices Play Festival for Boston Women Playwrights at Wellesley College. Her plays are published by dramatic publishers and performed around the world. Reach her at kellydumar.com, Twitter, InstagramFacebook 


Panelists on TLA in the World


TLA in the World: Transforming Communities Through the Power of Words: Panel Discussion: Transformative Language Arts -- how we use writing, storytelling, performance, and other word arts to bring together communities and help individuals find greater meaning and liberation -- is evident in so many places, from writing workshops for people of color on mindfulness and social change, to storytelling performances focusing on finding resilience and courage in the face of living with disabilities and illness. Come engage in a discussion of how people are, over the long term, facilitating positive change, a greater sense of belonging, and wider opportunities for people in silenced or hidden communities to share their stories and truths through storytelling, writing, theater, and other arts. All of our panelists have deep experience in bringing together people to make and keep community, break silences and speak truths, and use the power of words to better their lives. Listen to each presenter share some of their work and its challenges, gifts, and possibilities, and we'll have time for your questions also.


Alec Esparza has over 25 years of experience utilizing the art of storytelling, ofrendas (altar making) and creative writing expression. Our approach embraces healing, social transformation, community building, and creating sacred space where powerful learning and teaching may be developed through meaningful activities and interaction. We engage participants to explore and identify character traits and strengths that develop capable people to become more culturally responsive and responsible members of the community at-large. Our goal is to deepen and broaden personal tools/skills to face life’s challenges and the world we touch with greater strength, understanding and wisdom. www.ozocommunity.com


Vanita Leatherwood, MA, poet/artist and social change educator, is the Director of Community Engagement at HopeWorks where she provides Transformative Language Arts (TLA) programs for survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. She is the owner of The Yes Within, facilitating virtual and in-person workshops for groups and individuals. Vanita discovered the healing power of words as a child, is a beauty hunter who enjoys working on issues related to personal discovery, transformative justice, stress management, and creativity cultivation. She is a member of the TLA Network, the Teaching Artists Guild, and the National Association of Poetry Therapists. TheYesWithin.com, Instagram, Facebook


David Kopacz is a psychiatrist at the Seattle Veterans Administration (VA) and is a National Education Champion with the VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. He is an Assistant Professor at University of Washington and is certified in psychiatry and integrative & holistic medicine. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois and has worked in Illinois, Nebraska, Washington, and New Zealand. He is the author of Re-humanizing Medicine, and with co-author Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), Walking the Medicine Wheel, Becoming Medicine; Becoming Who You Are, and A Bowl Full of Ideas for Inventive Minds


Sydney Fowler is a queer nonbinary writer, authenticity reader at Inqueery, LLC, and creative writing instructor living in Denver, Colorado. They graduated from Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Book Project in 2021 after earning  a double BA in Queer Studies and Psychology from Metropolitan State University of Denver.  Their work has been published in The Snarktastic Guide to College Success (Pearson), New Directions in Folklore, Handbook of Sexuality Leadership (Routledge), Poems for The Ride (Coin-Operated Press), And We Created Worlds (Lighthouse Writers Workshop). Sydney is writing a novel-length retelling of traditional selkie stories. Read more about their work at thesydneyfowler@gmail.com


Fióna Bolger is a creative mentor, facilitator and poet. Her particular interest is play between languages. Her collections Love in the Original Language (Salmon Poetry, 2022) and A Compound of Words (Yoda Press, 2019) illustrate her love of the plurilingual. She has co-edited All the Worlds Between (Yoda Press, 2017) anthology and is co-editor of forthcoming Salmon Poetry GRT anthology in 2024. Her work has appeared in The Brown Critique, Poetry Bus, Southword, Poetry Ireland Review, The Chattahoochee Review and Wretched Strangers (Boiler House, 2018) among others. She makes her home in her native Ireland. Check her website for further.


Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., founder of Transformative Language Arts and co-founder of the TLA Network, is the past Kansas Poet Laureate. Her 24 books include  How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems and Miriam's Well, a novel. She co-edited The Power of Words: A TLA Reader with Janet Tallman and Transformative Language Arts in Action with Ruth Farmer. A beloved writing workshop facilitator and writing and Right Livelihood coach, she co-leads Your Right Livelihood with Kathryn Lorenzen, Brave Voice with Kelley Hunt, and  the Art of Facilitation with Joy Roulier Sawyer. See her Patreon page for weekly care packages for a creative life. She makes home on family land she and her husband are preserving. Lawrence, Kansas. Board chair.



Performers (Live & Recorded)


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.


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.


Akwi Nji is an interdisciplinary artist creating in visual art, words, and voice. Her work explores the intersectionality of gender, race, motherhood, and associations with spiritual and geographic home. A 2016 Iowa Arts Council Fellow, her most recent works include Enuf, a project of spoken word and electronic music with corresponding visual art; correspondence, a project of choreopoetry and electronic music and short film funded by the Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts; and Consider the Meaningful, a collaboration with Ballet Des Moines. She also created The Remoir Project, a nationwide audio and visual storytelling arts initiative, and In Living Color, an alternative arts experience which recently showcased 14 Iowa-based Black artists and led to nearly $10,000 invested in those artists through the event. She serves as an arts advocate on the boards of Brucemore, the Iowa Arts Council, and the Iowa Cultural Coalition. Find her at akwinji.com and Instagram.


David Romtvedt is a writer and musician from Buffalo, Wyoming.  His most recent books are No Way: An American Tao Te Ching­ and The Tree of Gernika, translations of the nineteenth century Basque troubadour Joxe Mari Iparragirre.  Past books include Dilemmas of the Angels, Zelestina Urza in Outer Space, and A Flower Whose Name I Do Not Know, a selection of the National Poetry Series.  A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming Arts Council, he served for seven years as poet laureate of Wyoming.  With the band Ospa he performs Basque dance music. Website.


Joy Zimmerman is a touring folk & acoustic roots singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Joy’s clear, honeyed voice lights up her songs of hope, resilience, and humor. Her eighth album, The Canvas Before Us, debuted at #8 on the FAI Folk Charts in 2021. A former social worker, Joy is an ArtistINC alumnus and an Artist as Activist grant recipient from the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Joy’s many collaborations include a portrait exhibit she curated based on her song, “Women Who Walked on Water,” at the InterUrban ArtHouse. Joy is the Power of Words conference co-chair. Website, Facebook, Instagram.

Erin McGrane  is an actress, musician, author, and professional development mentor. Notably, Erin appears in the Oscar-nominated film, UP IN THE AIR alongside George Clooney. She is known for her unforgettable cabaret stage performances and toured extensively for a decade with her early-jazz musical group, Victor & Penny. Currently, Erin is authoring a spoken-word poetry project set to original music exploring anxiety, isolation, hope, and growing up in rural Iowa. Erin was honored in KC Magazine’s “The 100: People who make Life Better in KC" and is proud to say she misspent her youth singing in a rock band. She says, I am an artist-entrepreneur and career performing artist with a degree in Theatre, a career in music, and a passion for poetry.” Website, Instagram for Erin, Instagram for Victor & Penny, Facebook

Kevin Willmott is an Oscar-winning writer as well as a director, actor, and educator whose films include BlacKkKlansman, Da 5 Bloods, The Only Good Indian, and Bunker Hill. He is a professor of Film & Media Studies at the University of Kansas.  Willmott grew up in Junction City, Kansas and received his BA in Drama from Marymount College in Salina, Kansas. After graduation, he returned home and worked as a peace and civil rights activist, fighting for the rights of the poor, creating two Catholic Worker shelters for the homeless, and forcing the integration of several long standing segregated institutions. He attended graduate studies at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, receiving several writing awards and his M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing. His film credits for directing, writing, and/or producing include Da Five Bloods, No Place Like Home, Chi-Raq, William Allen White: What's the Matter With Kansas, Destination Planet Negro, The Only Good Indian, and C.S.A.: The Confederate State of America. IMBDUniversity of Kansas.


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.


Kelley Hunt has forged a distinguished reputation as a recording artist, international touring performer and published songwriter. Kelley’s experiences include appearances on some of the world’s largest blues and music festival stages, on internationally distributed radio shows like American Public Media’s “A Prairie Home Companion” (6 times) and on PBS television specials seen in over 70 of the largest US TV markets. She has conducted songwriting workshop experiences in classrooms from grade school to high school, adult education levels and has appeared as a guest artist/workshop presenter at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. Her international performances include the Blues to Bop Festival in Lugano, Switzerland.


Gregg Levoy is the author of Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion, and Callings: Finding and Following An Authentic Life–rated among the "Top 20 Career Publications" by the Workforce Information Group. He is a lecturer and seminar-leader in business, education, governmental, faith-based, and human-potential arenas and has presented at The Smithsonian Institution, National League of Cities, Environmental Protection Agency, Microsoft, American Express, Americorps, American Counseling Association, and dozens of universities and conferences. He is a former "behavioral specialist" at USA Today, and a regular blogger for Psychology Today. Website, I, Linkedin. 


Seema Reza is a writer and performer and the author of When the World Breaks Open and A Constellation of Half-Lives. Based outside of Washington DC, she is the CEO and founder of Community Building Art Works. Her writing has been widely anthologized and has appeared in the Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The LA Review, and LitHub among others. Reza is the 2023 Pauli Murray Art for Racial Justice Fellow at the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. Website, CBAW, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook.


The Transformative Language Arts Network is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization

1741 Valley Forge Road, #175, Worcester, PA 19490

tlan.coordinator@gmail.com

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