2016 CAST


Luci J. Byrne

An engineer by education, Luci Byrne has only recently started to write again after taking a nearly 20 year hiatus from that hobby. Prior to motherhood, she was a project leader and an expert at Powerpoint presentations. Now, she considers herself lucky if she gets more than 5 minutes of “alone time” to put coherent thoughts together. She currently fills her time wrangling two precocious boys, volunteering to lead science projects, and looking for missing socks.

Watch Luci read, "Hush" >>


Junita L. Flowers

Junita Flowers is a blogger, speaker, entrepreneur and a mom. Her goal is to inspire others on camera, on paper, with a microphone and, of course, with cookies. Junita is the owner and founder of Favorable Treats, a cookie company that produces frozen cookie dough using scratch-made family recipes. Junita recently started a blog, She Laughed She Cried She Inspired, about finding inspiration through adversity. When trying to successfully juggle the demands of entrepreneurship, motherhood and life, Junita lives by her personal vision statement: faith is my foundation, family is my motivation, business is my determination. Junita is blessed to be a mom to her daughter Shelby, and her son, Jonathan, both of whom inspire her to be her best self.

Watch Junita read, "Lost and Found" >>


Cherish Sonja Gibson

Cherish Sonja Gibson is a perpetual poet and occasional essayist whose art is grounded in her Liberian-American identity. She been published in the Minnesota Women’s Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune and Saint Paul Pioneer Press and was a 2015 Givens Foundation Emerging Writers’ Mentor Program fellow. Cherish was born and raised in South Minneapolis by her fantastic Liberian mother and enjoys laughing, puppies and well-seasoned food.

Watch Cherish read, "Dominant Traits” >>


Kate Anne Gjerde

Kate Anne Gjerde lives in St. Louis Park with her family and loyal labrador. Her hobbies are reading, writing, traveling, and eating. She has penned a memoir, Given-Away Girl, about her adoption and reconnection with her biological family. So, literary publishing houses and agents: the manuscript is ready for publication.

Watch Kate read, “You, Me, Same-Same” >>


Hawona Sullivan Janzen

Hawona Sullivan Janzen is a Saint Paul based visual arts curator, poet and singer. Co-founder of the Witness Creative Writing Program at  the University of Minnesota’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC), Hawona has recently done  commissioned work for the St. Paul River Stewards corporation and Silverwood Park.  When she is not home with her family, she can be found performing across the Twin Cities with her fellow musicians and poets in the Sonoglyph Music and Poetry Collective.

Watch Hawona read, “Grandmother and Beebee” >>


Andrea Mullenmeister

Andrea Mullenmeister loves gardening, traveling, making art, writing, and playing. She is passionate about advocating for her son and herself. Her articles about prematurity and parenting a child with extra needs have been published on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, You and Me Medical Magazine, BlogHer, and Preemie Babies 101. She’s a stay-at-home-mom to her warrior son, Jaxson, who was born prematurely at only twenty-three weeks gestation. Being such an early preemie, he has faced a number of obstacles including a three month NICU stay, multiple surgeries, a developmental delay, ADHD, and a brain tumor. He is a hilarious and curious preschooler who recently learned to say “Hey, watch THIS!” You can find Andrea at An Early Start where she writes about her family’s story of love, hope, and survival.

Watch Andrea read, "Afraid of Heights" >>

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Sally K. Sexton

Sally K. Sexton is a mother, teacher, artist and emerging essayist.  She lives in South Minneapolis with her husband and two children. With her master’s degree in education, Sally teaches both middle school and parent education.  Amidst breakfast crumbs and forgotten homework, Sally writes from her dining room table to explore the topography of motherhood within the landscape of life and to find meaning in the tiny, unusual incidents that arise from parenting a child with special needs. You can often find her running along Minnehaha Creek as well as down trails of inspiration to the place where life and art intersect.

Watch Sally read, “Fiercely Relevant” >>


Liz Sjaastad

Some may know Liz Sjaastad for her work with entrepreneurs, providing organization development and executive recruiting services. She received an MS in human resource management from Loyola University in 1992 which set her on that path. Others know her for her three children with husband John who they nurture each day in their fantabulous city of St. Paul. Her liberal arts experience at Knox College led her to John, an appreciation for literature and to all the gifts having an open, yet critical mind bring forth. In her quiet time, she turns to writing. Writing brings her clarity and calm, new friendships, and intellectual stimulation.  Inspired by the brave memoirists she’s read, she’s cracking open her memories, growing thicker skin and letting the words flow.

Watch Liz read, “My Bounty From Mom” >>


Heather Strommen

Heather Strommen – Last seen jumping up and down with excitement about being chosen for the LTYM 2016 cast – is a passionate, straight-from-the-heart storyteller, yoga teacher and mother to four amazing human beings. In addition to writing her own stories, Heather is in love with making a house a home, always designing and refining the world around her. Founder of the blog Sweet Shady Lane, Heather has a simple mantra that keeps her happy: Write. Decorate. Repeat.

Watch Heather read, "Wake Up Call" >>


Hillary Wentworth

Born and raised in New England, Hillary Wentworth now lives, writes, and wanders in South Minneapolis. She earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and her work has appeared in publications such as Black Warrior Review, The Fourth River, and Minnesota’s own She currently serves as a prose editor for Storyscape Journal. You can find her online at

Watch Hillary read, "Naming" >>

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Sally Koering Zimney

Sally Koering Zimney is a presentation coach and consultant, an award-winning speaker and a writer whose mission is to create talks that move their audiences and the world. She has 15+ years of experience coaching speakers and creating impactful experiences that open minds and hearts. Sally is also the host of This Moved Me, a podcast and blog about the art of public speaking, interviewing beloved TED speakers like Julian Treasure – storytelling experts like Michael Margolis and LTYM’s Ann Imig – and brilliant undiscovered talent – sharing insight and inspiration so that our talks can move the world.

Watch Sally read, "I'm Grateful for Tacos" >>

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Colleen Kruse is a longtime stand up comedian and writer. She has performed on Comedy Central, the Independent Film Channel, and MTV. Her work has appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Minnesota Womens Press and the Rake Magazine. Colleen currently lives in Minneapolis with her sexy man friend and three cats.

Watch Colleen read, "Cannibal Hamsters" >>