Our Board

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., is the founder of Transformative Language Arts and co-founder of the TLA Network. 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.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.

John Swainston

John L. Swainston started writing poetry to cope with feelings of isolation during COVID.  He learned the craft by taking Zoom classes in poetry and writing at Turning Point, a support organization. He is a Member of the Mystic Poet Society, The Writers Place, and The Kansas City Writers Group.  He has had twenty-seven poems published with three awards: a poem in Veterans’ Voices received Editor’s Choice Award. His first book of poems, Memory Box, was published spring 2022. John is a retired Finance Executive, College Adjunct Professor, and Army Veteran. Gardner, Kansas. Board treasurer.

Amanda Faye Lacson

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. New York City. Membership & Outreach Committee co-chair.

Jennifer-NeToi

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. Jennifer-NeToi's commitment to teaching and learning is evident throughout her extensive career. Grounded in literature, art, philosophy, and history, her academic journey includes a Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Jackson State University. Jennifer-NeToi 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. Classes Committee co-chair.

Judy Brenneman

Judy Fort Brenneman, story meddler and enthusiastic supporter of TLAN, is an award-winning author and playwright, occasional poet and, through her compay, Greenfire Creative, LLC, a long-time writing coach with expertise in helping writers who have interesting neurologies. She’s especially interested in human resilience: how we survive, learn and grow from, and transcend traumas and challenges. Her short work has appeared in everything from literary magazines to wayside signs and museum exhibits. Her longer work includes the award-winning book, “Electric Lemons: Interpretation and the Art of Writing” and the play, “Dracula and The Writing Coach,” winner of the Trimedia Audience Choice Award--Best Theatre. Global Committee chair.


Kitra Cooper

Kitra Cooper is a lifelong word junkie, and circled back to her childhood joy of writing poetry and prose after retiring in 2020 from a federal government career of writing policy, procedure, and public relations material. She is now creating her right livelihood as a facilitator, coach, and writer because she knows the words we use to tell our stories can be life-changing, for ourselves and others. Kitra loves connecting with people and working with organizations to provide personal and leadership development opportunities. She enjoys traveling and exploring, gardening, and renovating her historic home in Manhattan, Kansas. Power of Words Committee co-chair.


Kelly Hams Pearson

Kelly Hams Pearson is a blogger, poet, trainer, consultant, and creative coach. She views life as a continuous journey of placing faith in action.  One of those many creatives with a required 9 to 5, she serves as Conciliation Specialist-Peacekeeper with the United States Department of Justice-Community Relations Service. She helps provide facilitation, mediation, training, and consultation services that improve communities' abilities to problem solve and build capacity to prevent and respond to conflict, tension, and hate crimes based on race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. Kelly continues to be a fledging seminary student at the Chicago Theological Seminary, a reformed helicopter mom, an ardent fan of meditative stretch yoga, and an involved member of her community. Parkville, Missouri.

Cheryl Kane

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 at the way words build bridges between people and uncover the universal similarities among them, regardless of how different things may appear on the surface. Cheryl and her husband have been married for 34 years. They are the proud parents of three adult children, and own two dogs, Winston and Holly. Tulsa, Oklahoma. Membership & Outreach Committee co-chair.

Amy Gross

Amy Gross, Ph.D., is a facilitator, story catcher and storyteller. After a career in professional and leadership development, she was given the unexpected gift to pause, be still, and practice simply being and not constantly doing. In that space, she discovered the discipline of Transformative Language Arts. As a recovering perfectionist and workaholic, she is rediscovering her hidden dream of writing and her passion for guiding others to discover their own spark and to chase their dreams of someday. A native of Nebraska, she earned her Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Kansas State University.  Manhattan, Kansas. 


Joy Zimmerman

Joy Zimmerman is a touring folk & acoustic roots singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Joy’s soulful voice lights up songs of hope, resilience, and humor. Her latest album, Where the Light Lives, debuted at #6 on the Folk Alliance International Folk Chair, and her previous album, The Canvas Before Us, debuted at #8 on the Folk Alliance international Folk Chart 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 loves outdoor adventures and living with her wife in Kansas City. Prairie Village, Kansas. 

Elizabeth Chelsa

Elizabeth Chesla writes, edits, and teaches from the same Philadelphia suburb where she was raised. After earning her MA from Columbia University, she spent a decade teaching writing and literature in New York City, then moved back home to raise her family. Along the way she developed and taught online writing and literature courses for homeschoolers, became a yoga teacher specializing in support for hypermobility and trauma, and co-founded a weekly embodied writing group for women with fellow Transformative Language Artist Tracie Nichols. A developmental editor and the author of multiple books on reading, writing, and critical thinking skills, Liz recently published You Cannot Forbid the Flower, her first book of fiction. She credits her TLAN classes and colleagues with helping her find her voice as a writer. Classes Committee co-chair.



Ashley Barnes 

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.  Her poetry is dedicated to those who are disrupting what it means to be “normal”, simply by being themselves. Working with individuals and organizations, she develops and facilitates human-centered strategies that empower potential & forge unconventional paths for success. She especially loves working with leaders, guiding them to amplify their energy and impact in the world and encouraging them to “follow their weird.” 


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