2014 Power of Words Conference

Here are the workshops and events of the 2014 conference, held at Lake Doniphan Retreat Center in Excelsior Spring, MO near Kansas City, Sept. 18-21.


7-9 p.m., Thurs., Sept. 18: Transcending the Border Wars: Poetry Reading with Missouri and Kansas State Poets Laureate Denise Low, William Trowbridge, Wyatt Townley, Walter Bargen and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. Missouri and Kansas have a long history of border wars, dating back to before the Civil War. Luckily, we are able to (mostly, sometimes, kind of) transcend our assertions that one of our states is better than the other through poetry. Come hear five state poets laureate past and present read their poems, and talk about their poetic inklings, calls and surprises. A reception follows the reading (Free event).

P1. Poetry, Change, and Homecoming: A Panel Discussion of Five Poets Laureate With Break-Out Writing Workshops – Denise Low, Wyatt Townley, William Trowbridge, Walter Bargen and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. After a panel discussion about how poetry catalyzes change and homecoming in us as individuals and as part of various communities, we’ll discuss how and why poetry matters. Participants can then divide up to wander off with a poet laureate for a writing workshop to try out a writing prompt or two. A great way to get your poetry on! (Photo to right: Three Kansas poets laureate: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Wyatt Townley & Denise Low)

Denise Low is the 2007-2009 Poet Laureate of Kansas, past president of Associated Writers and Writing Programs and author of more than two dozen books, including Natural Theologies: Essays about Literature of the New Middle West (The Backwaters Press 2011) and Ghost Stories: From Einstein’s Brain to Geronimo’s Boots (Woodley 2010). A fifth-generation Kansan of mixed British Isles, German, and unaffiliated Lenape (Delaware) and Cherokee heritage, she received a 2011-2012 NEH Faculty Fellowship for research into Northern Cheyenne ledger art.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-2013 Poet Laureate of Kansas, founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College (where she teaches). Author of 16 books including poetry, fiction, non-fiction and memoir, recent publications include the recently published Poem on the Range: A Poet Laureate’s Love Song to Kansas, and with photographer Stephen Locke, Chasing Weather: Tornadoes, Tempests, and Thunderous Skies in Word and Image.  She leads writing workshops widely, and with singer Kelley Hunt, co-writes songs, performs, and leads Brave Voice writing and singing workshops.

Walter Bargen, first poet laureate of Missouri, recently was awarded the William Rockhill Nelson Award for poetry for his book The Feast. Other books include Trouble Behind Glass Doors, and Days Like This Are Necessary. His poems and fictions have appeared in over one hundred magazines, including American Literary Review, American Letters & Commentary, and Denver Quarterly. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for theArts poetry fellowship (1991); winner of the Quarter After Eight Prose Prize (1996), the Hanks Prize (1996), and the Chester H. Jones Foundation poetry prize (1997).

Wyatt Townley is the 2013-2015 Poet Laureate of Kansas. Her work has been nominated for The Pushcard Prize, ready by Garrison Keillor on NPR, featured by Ted Kooser in his American Life in Poetry column, and appeared in hundreds of venues, including The Paris Review and Newsweek. Her books include The Breathing Field (Little, Brown), Perfectly Normal (The Smith), and The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press). Formerly a dancer, she has taught yoga for over 30 years and is the founder of Yoganetics, a therapeutic system practiced in 10 countries.

William Trowbridge is the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate of Missouri. His poetry publications include five full collections: Ship of Fool (Red Hen Press, 2011), The Complete Book of Kong (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2003), Flickers, O Paradise, and Enter Dark Stranger (University of Arkansas Press, 2000, 1995, 1989), and three chapbooks, The Packing House Cantata (Camber Press, 2006), The Four Seasons (Red Dragonfly Press, 2001) . He is a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at Northwest Missouri State University, and teaches in the University of Nebraska low-residency MFA in writing program.

P2. Make Story the Seed of Your Marketing Creativity – Doug Lipman. Put your art at the heart of your marketing. First, learn the connection between story and marketing—and how true marketing is rooted in joy. Second, learn to create two key “stories” that will become the foundation of your marketing (including your informal marketing). Finally, learn ways to integrate stories and “story form” into all your marketing materials. This is marketing that speaks your language!

Doug Lipman, the foremost authority on storytelling coaching, is popular in the U.S. and abroad as a performer, coach, author, and teacher. Doug’s storytelling grew out of his work as a pre-school and music teacher in the 1970’s. He has been teaching and coaching storytellers since 1979 and, beginning in 1998, has worked extensively in the corporate sector. In addition to his workshops and classes on all aspects of storytelling, Doug has published numerous books and released instructional videos, audiocassettes, and multi-media courses such as the Storytelling Workshop in a Box™.

P3. Fearless, Stress-Free Singing and Songwriting – Kelley Hunt. Using both our unique singing and songwriting voices, we’ll explore safe, easy, and fun ways to express ourselves with wild (and gentle) abandon. We’ll start by using stress free techniques to warm up our physical voices, we’ll sing as a group, followed by delving into specific ways to begin our own songwriting process, including learning the basics of song form, style, structure, inspiration and collaboration. Expect to leave feeling energized & inspired!

Kelley Hunt brings her unique blend of jazz, blues, rock and gospel music to her TLA audience and will be showcasing songs from her latest cd, “The Beautiful Bones” as well as material from previous recordings.This national recording artist/songwriter/guitarist/and soulful piano player will combine her passionate stage presence with her superior vocal, keyboard and songwriting skills especially for Friday’s intimate concert. Vintage Guitar magazine said Kelley’s “rich, soulful voice is an instrument in and of itself.” Her 1,500 performances include festivals, concerts and six appearances on “Prairie Home Companion.”

P4. Creative Maladjustment: Using Film to Make the Invisible Visible. Explaining concepts and meanings behind choices in my films, I will show numerous clips and sequences from my films and others showing influences and approaches to subject matter, detailing how I try to interact with audiences. This workshop speaks to how film can serve as a powerful form of storytelling and history, with ample time to discuss how we can use such storytelling and history to understand, explore and communicate more about current-day issues, identities and possibilities.

Kevin Willmott is one of the most prolific independent writers and filmmakers working today. His writings and films focus on the concept of our “Living History” –how the history of the past can shape our lives, outlooks and opinions of other peoples and cultures today. ture film, C.S.A: Confederate States Of America, is about America, had the South won the Civil War. After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, CSA was released theatrically in the U.S. by IFC and was distributed in several foreign countries. His other films include the recently-released Jayhawkers, the story of a young Wilt Chamberlain breaking racial barriers, Destination Planet Negro!, The Only Good Indian, and The Battle for Bunker Hill. A director, producer, writer and activist, Kevin grew up in Junction City, KS, teaches in the Film Studies Department of the University of Kansas, and works as a peace and civil rights activist.

P5. Been Brave Since When – Caits Messner. Using poetry as a medium of exploration and excavation, participants will use a five step writing process to acknowledge the struggles of our ancestors, and transform them into a celebration of strength. With joy and pain living so closely in our brains neurologically and experientially, we’ll toe the line, leaning into our personal stories, connecting them to a larger narrative and sharing our culture and creativity out loud.

Caits Meissner is a poet and arts educator dedicated to healing and transformative through storytelling. Winner of the OneWorld Poetry Contest, Caits Meissner attended the 2008 Pan-African Literary Forum in Ghana. The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You, Caits’ book with poet Tishon, arrived 2012 on the Well&Often imprint. Caits currently facilitates an online intensive writing course, Digging Deep, Facing Self, designed to uplift, heal and transform women into their boldest selves.

P6. Does It Work Like a Poem, or Just Look Like a Poem? Scott Cairns will lead a discussion of what makes a poem a poem, engaging in an examination of the primary genres in both literary and popular writing, and a discussion of what distinguishes poetry from those other genres. Along the way, the workshop will discuss ways we might characterize what distinguishes “literary writing” (in any of those genres) from their “popular writing” counterparts. The focus will be on characterizing what might be called the poetic operation of language. Participants will also have the opportunity to draft three lines toward a poem, and then revise/work those lines to do more, suggest more, open the poem to multiple meanings.

Scott Cairns, poet, and writer, recent books are Compass of Affection: Poems New and Selected and the memoir Short Trip to the Edge: Where Earth Meets Heaven — A Pilgrimage. Professor at the University of Missouri and a Guggenheim Fellow, Cairns’ writing has appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Spirituality and Health and The Best American Spiritual Writing


1B. Snap!: A Story of Healing Through the Arts – Regi Carpenter. Snap! is the true and inspiring story of one teenage girl’s spiral downward into mental illness, suicide attempts and institutionalization, and the power of art, love and therapy to heal. By listening to and discussing this story, we can open up the conversation about mental health and the power of art, specifically music and storytelling to heal both the teller and the listener.

Regi Carpenter is a solo performance artist, short story writer, and performance coach. An award winning performer, Regi has toured her solo shows and workshops in theaters, festivals and schools, nationally and internationally. Her writings and blogs about storytelling, ancestry and identity have been published in various print and online publications. Regi holds a BFA from Ithaca College where she currently teaches storytelling. Her performance piece Snap! won the 2012 Boston StorySlam. Snap! is a featured Listen story on The Moth website.

1C-1. Healing the News Cycle with Narrative – Sarah Smarsh (45 minutes). Sick of the news? That’s because it’s toxic. The foundation, methods and content of traditional media outlets are driven by profit, speed and other forces that disconnect us from the heart of public stories. That’s all changing, though. Learn about the recent online explosion of narrative nonfiction, at once journalism and art form, that heals the disconnect between detached news reporting and meaningful human experience. Smarsh will guide you through this new media landscape, giving you tools to change the way you consume news–a powerful, cumulative, daily experience in all our lives–and actively contribute to this paradigm shift by sharing or publishing your own witness to public issues and current events.

Sarah Smarsh has reported on culture, politics and the environment for Harper’s Magazine, The Huffington Post, Kansas City’s The Pitch and many other newspapers and magazines. She is the author of two books on Kansas history and the editor of a feminist essay collection on women’s wellness funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Sarah has published personal essays on poverty in Parcel Magazine and The Flint Hills Review and performed them on-stage via national and regional live-storytelling series. Sarah has taught memoir-writing and journalism at Washburn University, Columbia University, Ottawa University and the Lawrence (Kan.) Arts Center and spoken extensively on the healing power of narrative. Sarah holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia, as well as degrees in journalism and English from the University of Kansas. 

1C-2. The Language of (Dis)Ability: Person First and Empowerment – Jo’el Roth (45 minutes). This workshop acquaints participants with the latest events in the world of disability rights, especially regarding how we use language. As in the language of race and feminism, the subtle use of phrases can either diminish or empower. For all members of the creative, academic and social service communities, this information will be timely and useful in helping them to avoid using outdated phrases and terminology which might have a negative effect on many people. After a short presentation, participants will be led through a series of creative exercise prompts, and have a chance for interaction and discussion.

Jo’el Roth obtained a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling after many years leading health workshops for the Navy on ships at sea, as well as freelance science writing for national publications. Her article based on this workshop appeared in the American Counseling Association’s magazine, and she facilitated variations of this workshop at the 2011 American Counseling Association Conference in San Francisco and the 2013 Southwest Conference on Disability in Albuquerque. Jo’el’s creativity workbook, Life is a Writing Prompt, is available on Amazon and Kindle.

1D. The Art of Gathering Stories That Matter – Jo Radner. Discover how to use your skills as a verbal artist to conduct interviews that generate powerful stories to strengthen social and community bonds. We’ll look at the best techniques of oral history interviewing, focusing particularly on the strengths (and inherent vulnerabilities) that verbal artists can bring to the process. Through interactive exercises you will learn to listen deeply to emerging memories, to be silent when silence is needed, and to ask effective questions at the right moment.

Jo Radner is a folklorist, oral historian, and award-winning storyteller who has been studying, teaching, telling, and collecting stories most of her life. She has performed from Maine to Hawaii; her stories favor characters whose lives defeat simple explanations. Jo’s workshops on the art of interviewing have served historical societies, libraries, hospice and home-care organizations, schools, and intergenerational and multicultural groups. Jo is past president of the American Folklore Society and the National Storytelling Network.

1E. Rising to Tell You: Writing First Person Poems of New Beginnings – Kelly DuMar, M.Ed. Telling stories of loss, failure, illness and how we rise from the ashes to begin again is essential for integrating our personal growth with the ability to inspire friends, loved ones and others who encounter losses. We’ll use creative writing prompts and Playback Theatre structures to draft poems of healing highlighting hope of new beginnings.  Participants will be inspired to find beauty and meaning in their journey, gaining feelings of satisfaction for what they have personally achieved as well as awareness of how they may use their experience to benefit others.

Kelly DuMar, M.Ed., is a poet, playwright and former psychotherapist who has been facilitating experiential workshops blending creative writing, storytelling, poetry, playback theatre and psychodrama for over 30 years. A Certified Psychodramatist, a Fellow in the American Society for Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama and a Playback Theatre Artist, she’s presented workshops the Mass. Poetry Festival, International Women’s Writing Guild, Boston Book Festival, New England Theatre Conference, and National Association for Poetry Therapy. She’s the author of Before You Forget: The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children.

2A. Trauma, Silence, and the Recovery of Voice – Katherine Orr. Underscoring what poet Audre Lorde and so many others have claimed, that poetry is not a luxury but, rather, an activity supporting survival, this workshop considers ways in which poetry mediates between trauma and a livable post-traumatic life. We’ll look at current research on brain function and trauma, and how trauma can silence and shatter the self. We’ll then explore, through writing prompts, how the symbols, images, and metaphors within poems function as transformative agents, vehicles that convey the writer from trauma, silencing and loss toward whatever treasure prevails.

Katherine Orr, PhD, is an Associate Professor of English at Kent State University where she teaches Poetry and Creative Writing. Her poems, which have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Midwest Journal of Contemporary Thought, and other literary magazines, most often depend upon images from dreams.  Jungian psychology informs her research on trauma and transformation through the creative process. She lives in Burton, Ohio, with her Bernese mountain dog, Ruby.

2B. “My Tree Called Life”: Writing and Living Through Serious Illness – Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, John Willison, Lou Eisenbrandt, Kathy Cagg, Anne Haehl, Brian Bachoroski, and Teri Mahoney. How do we live with heart and wisdom when faced with serious illness? Come hear six Kansas Citians who write through cancer, Parkinson’s, arthritis and other challenges at Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s writing workshops at Turning Point: The Center for Hope & Healing. The writers will share — through short readings and telling their stories — how they embrace their tree of life, no matter the growing conditions. We’ll also discuss and experience (through a writing exercise) how writing in community helps us find meaning, clarity, and inspiration. (Photo, from left: John Willison, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Teri Mahoney, Peggy Mulvihill, Kathy Cagg.)

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., Kansas Poet Laureate Emeritus, is the author of 16 books, including a novel, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust, a bioregional memoir on cancer and community, and four poetry collections. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness and their caregivers. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads writing and singing retreats.

Kathy Cagg has lived with serious illness for many years. She currently facilitates a grief support group that draws on the power of the arts to make and keep community.

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, serves on the Turning Point board, and her award-winning photographs have been included in “Explore My KC” and her writing in My Tree Called Life. She is currently working on a book about her Vietnam experiences.

Anne Haehl is a lover of words, both spoken and written. She uses her poetry and storytelling in hopes of making a contribution to creating the community of hope. She lives with her husband, a three-legged dog and three cats. In addition to caregiving, Anne juggles eight chronic conditions, from arthritis through leukemia. The Haehls have two grown children.

Teri Mahoney was diagnosed with Stage IV uterine cancer over ten years ago, and she survives with lung metastases. Living in Gladstone, Missouri, she is retired from 36 years as a registered nurse. Several of her photographs,“Two Views of the City,” were donated to St. Luke’s Art Festival in 2005. Her hope for the future is a better understanding in the world of those who live with chronic illness.

Peggy Mulvihill is a breast cancer survivor and deals with chronic pain from RSD in her left wrist. Coming to Turning Point Writing Group has allowed her to be honest with her own health, and mindful listening to others assists her in being the best caregiver for Megan.

John Willison is a therapist, living in Shawnee, Kansas. Diagnosed with metastatic cancer he often writes of grief, and the unexpected joy, that comes when living with a chronic illness. His wife is his constant muse and his love for her and his family breathes life into his poetry.

2C. Questions for the Second Half of Life – Mary Brandenburg. As we transition into the second half of our lives (not necessarily a chronological distinction), we discover that there is no road map, no “grand to do list” that marked our earlier years. Questions we meet may include: what is being asked of me going forward, issues of aging and health, thoughts about mortality and vitality, how do I remain inspired and enlivened? What is my legacy, my contribution? Join me for a conversation — through writing together, and talking about what we find through poetry and prose — about aging with awareness.

Mary Brandenburg has been a practitioner of traditional acupuncture for three decades. In that time she has been honored by those who have sought treatment to be a partner through the many transitions that fill a life: births and deaths, losses and gains, sadnesses and celebrations. Inspired by attending three TLAN conferences (2010,2012, 2013), she began offering therapeutic writing workshops in her community. She finds this type of writing to be creative, healing, clarifying and empowering.

2D. InterPlay and Vocal Improv: Paths to Creative Potential – Stan Stewart and Jadyn McCune. Join us at this workshop and we promise to offer you some improvisational means to open up to your own creativity. We’ll invite you to participate in a variety of improv modalities from a number of teachers who have inspired us over the years. Based on experience with these games, we anticipate having a fun and enlivening time that may include introspection, poignancy, community, surprise, laughter, and more. No previous experience of any kind is required to participate. Bring a journal and come dressed to move.

Stan Stewart is a certified InterPlay Leader and improvisational musician (piano, guitar, voice and more) who has taught improvisational forms from California to New York City and has performed improv music in the U.S., Canada, Spain and Australia. While attending his first Power Of Words Conference last year, he fell in love with Jaydn McCune. For him, TLA is a place of “creative foreplay”.

Jaydn McCune, a social worker by trade, weaves her love of the creative arts into her professional role as the Director of the Collaborative Solutions Network, a regional initiative to support the emotional well being of children, youth and families. She is an author , singer songwriter and founder of the improvisational vocal group, Ephemera. She lives in Ithaca, N.Y with her new husband, Stan Stewart, with whom she fell in love at last year’s TLA conference. TLA = Towards Love Always!

2E-1.Every Day is Basil Houpis Day – Robin Bady (45 minutes). Listen to the story of Basil Houpis, the perfect target for middle school bullies. He was from Greece, wore weird clothes and was the new kid. And no one did anything. This is the story about the experience and after-affects of bullying in a small New Jersey shore town – the story of the bullied, the bullies and the onlookers too afraid to say or do anything. And what to do if you get a second chance.

Robin Bady, an award winning storyteller, has a passionate relationship with the spoken word! She performs and teaches nationally and internationally. She was co-founder of the Bread and Roses Theater; Artistic Director of the Organic Youth Theater, Chicago and the Children’s Theater Workshop of the 92nd Street Y; founder of the multi-ethnic storytelling ensemble Shirazad’s Children; and past Director of the Storytelling Center of New York City. She believes stories are our birthright and our legacy.

2E-2. Journey Through Body and Soul: A Radio Play About Art and Transformation – Hagith Sivan (45 minutes).  Sivan’s radio-play in progress, “Life or Theatre: A Play with Songs,” is a modern journey into the soul, unfolding the life of a painter who painted her own life in the shade of imminent destruction. This is an experimental session calling for active participation of the audience. The play was inspired by the stunning visual/textual diary of Charlotte Salomon, a Berlin artist who spent the last two years of her life painting her own life and time in the South of France (http://www.jhm.nl/collection/specials/charlotte-salomon). Deported to Auschwitz where she perished in 1943, the 26 years old Charlotte will be our blithe spirit.  This is a session for lovers of radio drama and of recorded books who are ready to plunge into the depth of another soul.

Hagith Sivan cannot recall presenting or facilitating a workshop in which so much of her own self is invested. A professor of history and Jewish Studies at the University of Kansas, Sivan has published widely about gender and the Bible, Roman princesses, children in antiquity, and many other areas. Her books include Palestine in Late Antiquity, and she has been awarded numerous fellowships around the world, and a Fulbright.

3A. Improvising Life – Callid Keefe-Perry and Keegan Olton. This workshop will be an exploration of what improv teacher Jimmy Carrane calls “Slow Comedy,” a way of doing improvised theater that is grounded in honest emotional responses and connection. But still wicked funny. Seriously. Using hands-on activities and acting exercises we will play with the understanding that you don’t have to be funny to be funny and that there is Truth in Comedy. No experience is necessary and all levels. Keegan Olton, living in San Francisco, is a comedy improv artist, tech guru, builder and poet. Callid Keefe-Perry, a theologian and PhD candidate from Boston, is an advocate for the arts and their use in ministry, education, and personal growth.

3B. Laughter and Orature – Lyn Ford. Laughter and the communion of the spoken word are still a good and needed “medicine.” Through call and response, an interactive story, laughter exercises, discussion, and small-group and pair-share activities, we’ll approach ways to teach and tickle the mind, touch and strengthen the heart, and encourage a sense of personal well-being and community.

Lyn Ford is a nationally recognized, fourth-generation Affrilachian storyteller; certified Laughter Yoga leader; Ohio teaching artist for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education and the state-based collaborative initiative with the Kennedy Center for the Arts; writer for several education resources and two storytelling anthologies; author of Affrilachian Tales, published in 2012 by Parkhurst Brothers Publishers, Inc.

3C. Problems or Possibilities? Using Co-Created Community Theatre to Inspire Social Change – Jadyn McCune. Do you have a message that you want to share in a way that opens hearts and changes minds? This workshop will explore one organic approach to using co-created community theatre as a path to inspiring social change. This workshop will include a viewing of a powerful play that was created using this model, an explanation of the production process and an opportunity for participants to discuss ways they could use this model in their own work.

Jaydn McCune, a social worker by trade, weaves her love of the creative arts into her professional role as the Director of the Collaborative Solutions Network, a regional initiative to support the emotional well being of children, youth and families. She is an author, singer songwriter and founder of the improvisational vocal group, Ephemera. She lives in Ithaca, N.Y with her new husband, Stan Stewart, with whom she fell in love at last year’s TLA conference. TLA = Towards Love Always! 

3D. Portraits of Success: Developing a Path to Right Livelihood – Olive L. Sullivan and Liz Spencer.  When Liz Spencer, photographer and student, met Olive Sullivan, poet and teacher, they soon recognized they had embarked on parallel journeys of transformation. In this presentation, they’ll share their poems, stories, and artwork, weaving their two separate narratives into a seamless message of how service to one’s community can become service to one’s self. Embracing the process of your self-portrait includes recognizing the need to keep developing even in the face of back-sliding, failing, and moving forward again. Participants will develop a personal mission statement and write toward right livelihood that embodies their gifts and their stories.

Olive L. Sullivan is a poet and writing teacher who believes in using her talents to inspire and empower others. She also offers workshops on writing and the writing life. When not writing, Sullivan enjoys travel with her boyfriend Spike, fly fishing, snowshoeing, and scouting flea markets to outfit her 100-year-old house.

Liz Spencer is a photographer, speaker, teacher, woman, and mother who decided if she didn’t like the life she was living, she’d better do something different. A fine art photographer at heart, she holds several photography awards and honors. Her images tell the stories of her subjects. Her work is featured in award-winning publications, marketing, and PR campaigns and in frames. She has decided to never stop learning and savoring life.

3E. Melody of Language – Martin Swinger. Prosody is the melody of language. Melody gives emotional expression to words. Martin Swinger guides workshop participants to explore the music of prosody through simple improvisational speaking/singing exercises which scaffold into a breath-taking symphony of group-created, in-the-moment juxtaposition of voice and word. The purpose of the workshop is both experiential and educational benefiting anyone wishing to perform songs or poetry and deeply satisfying for anyone who feels the need for more singing in their lives. No singing ability or talent required.

Martin Swinger, Life-long musician, studies with vocal masters Rhiannon (long-time member of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra), Ysaye Barnwell (Sweet Honey and the Rock), Moira Smiley and Barbara McAfee. Co-founder of vocal ensembles ImproVox and Flash Tonic, Martin shares his playful approach to improvisational singing with National Association for the Education of Young Children, national gatherings of The Children’s & People’s Music Networks, New Jersey Teen Arts Festival and Maine and Massachusetts Music Educators Association.

4A. Write Whole, Healers: Self-Care for Transformative Language Artists – Jen Cross. How do we who facilitate healing or transformative experiences for others take care of ourselves in the process? Write Whole, Healers will be an experiential workshop about radical self care for transformative language artists who bring their skills to bear in oppressed and traumatized communities. We will discuss transformative writing practice (alone and in community) as self-care, and will write together about our experiences as facilitators.

Jen Cross is a writer and performer who has facilitated sexuality and survivors writing workshops since 2002. She leads workshops at Writing Ourselves Whole in Oakland, CA, and at colleges and organizations across the country. Jen received her MA in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College, and is a certified Amherst Writers & Artists workshop facilitator. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have been widely anthologized.

4B. Sisters of Survival: Writing in Prison – Iris Wilkinson and Sharon Sullivan. Sisters of Survival is a creative writing group at a Women’s Prison that Wilkinson and Sullivan facilitate. This workshop is a presentation of the performance piece written by the group. Participants will read the script, followed by a discussion of the power of the word for transformational experiences in the prison environment.

Iris Wilkinson and Sharon Sullivan are colleagues at Washburn University. Wilkinson teaches in the Human Services department and facilitate therapeutic writing groups in a variety of settings. Sullivan is on faculty in the theater department and currently serves on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

4C. Transformation at the Threshold–A process of release. Beth Honeycutt.  The wedding ceremony holds a very special place in our society. the exchange of vows is often mythical and magical and done in the spirit of love. What happens, though, if later that magical marriage ends in divorce? Releasing the Vows of Marriage helps people move beyond the betrayal of their vows to find resolution and peace. If you have been through divorce or know someone who has been impacted by divorce, come experience how working at the energetic level transforms and empowers people to live again. We will explore elements of ceremony and re-awaken the importance of language through both our spoken and unspoken words. Come live for a time at the level of the mythic and experience the threshold of transformation. 

Beth draws upon over twenty years of experience as a family law paralegal to bring a fresh perspective to resolving the pain of divorce. A full-mesa shaman and graduate of the Four Winds Society’s Healing the Light Body School, she also leads Dying Consciously programs and consults with individual clients using processes focused on luminous healing and energy medicine. Finishing Line Press released Beth’s first book of poetry, “Finding Direction,” in July 2013

4D. Wholeness Through SongShaping – Holly Phares. As people who live full and intense lives, we often find ourselves feeling broken or less than whole. In this workshop, we’ll draw on writing prompts that inspire healing, loving and forgiveness, land on a line that resonates with what calls to each of us most, find a melody for that line, and create together, through improvisation and rhythm, our way to sing toward wholeness. All are welcome (no singing experience or special ability required).

Holly Phares, a professional singer/songwriter/educator for almost 30 years, has facilitated workshops on vocal technique, taught privately, and directed both professional and amateur choirs from all walks of life, age levels, ranging from “non-singers”, amateur singers to seasoned professionals. Throughout all of these experiences, she has seen repeatedly how the human voice has the limitless power to create healing in not only an individual person’s life, but globally as well!

4E.1. Writing Into the Big Questions of Our Lives – Heather Severson and Sandy LaCava (45 minutes). In looking at the Big Questions of our lives, we can employ kinesthetic, sensory, and other methods in combination to access multiple sources of creativity and self-knowledge. In this workshop, we examine best practices in observation, reflection, meditation, movement, and playfully creating artwork in our process of inquiry. We ultimately meet our own wisdom and develop habits to access it more often and more deeply. Writers participate in a journal-writing practice that gently holds the writer accountable for achieving specific, measurable goals over time. Writers, workshop facilitators, and others will benefit from the practical information and scientific verification of what we know in our hearts to be true: writing heals.

Heather Severson is an award-winning writer, educator and gypsy scholar, plying her craft wherever adults gather for self-development and education. Heather’s formal writing practice began with diaries and journals written at the feet of her scholarly grandfather. Thirty-five years and two hundred and sixty notebooks later, Heather has a myriad of effective, healing, and life-improving practices to share with other journal writers. Beyond writing prompts and periodic venting, journal writing can lead to sustainable happiness.

Sandy LaCava has been a jack of many trades, entrepreneur, hospice worker, silver jewelry-maker, movie house manager, server and chief bottle washer. Presently she is a youth librarian and cofounder of the Dorothy Foundation, which promotes collaborative sharing in cancer research. As a freelance writer, educator, artist, yoga/meditation instructor and healthy lifestyle advocate (before it was mainstream), Sandy intertwines her varied experiences into writing memoir and children’s stories, and loves self-exploration through journaling, art and movement.

4E-2. Story Games – Priscilla Howe (45 minutes). Playing with stories is a great way to stretch and flex our creative muscles. We’ll play a variety of sure-fire story games, drawing on old tales as well as inventing new ones. This workshop is for the perennially shy as well as for the out-going participant to connect with our joyful and creative inner selves. These story games are useful for those who offer workshops or classes on creativity, storytelling and writing, and for those who need a laughter break during the conference.

Priscilla Howe, a full-time professional storyteller since 1993, has been giving workshops for the last twenty years for teachers, librarians, students and storytellers. She’s used these games in workshops around the US and in Belgium, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. She’s presented at the National Storytelling Conference, Head Start conferences, teacher in-services and storytelling festivals, among other venues.


José Faus is a visual artist and writer. He has exhibited extensively throughout Kansas City and worked on a variety of mural projects locally, in Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, and Bolivia. He is a recent winner of Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange award and recipient of a 2012 Rocket Grant. A native of Bogota, Colombia, he is a founding member of the Latino Writers Collective and editor of Kansas City Hispanic News. His writings have appeared in the anthologies, Primera Página: Poetry from the Latino Heartland and Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland and in other publications including the forthcoming Dicho Magazine and Present Magazine. He is a board member of the Writers Place and Nuevo Eden and president of the Latino Writers Collective. He writes, “I believe in the idea that the only work of art we create is our life.”

Stephen Locke is a Director of Photography and professional storm chaser. He produces motion and still photography for business and private collectors. Chasing Weather: Tornadoes, Tempests, and Thunderous Skies in Image and Word, his new book with poet Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, combines storm photography with poetry. Based in Kansas City, his Tempest Gallery is a showcase of storm imagery shot throughout the Great Plains. Stephen is also well known for his time-lapse cinematography. Clients include Andrews McMeel Publishing, Accord Publishing, CBS, Mayo Clinic, The Weather Channel, Discovery, Severe Studios, and TornadoVideos.net. See his video at his vimeo website.

Ken Lassman, a fifth-generation Kansan, is the author of Wild Douglas County and Seasons and Cycles: Rhythms of Life in the Kansas Area Watershed. He’s been writing the Kaw Valley Almanac, a web-based weekly guide to what to look for in the land and sky, for over a decade, plus numerous essays on the prairie, bioregionalism, and living close to the land. Ken is also an occupational therapist and director of Habilitation Services at Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka, KS. He helped found and is a member of the Kansas Area Watershed Council. Ken has led nature walks for and given presentations to various organizations over the last three decades.

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