2018 CAST

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Robyn Awend is an Art Director, visual artist, and activist. Her background in fine arts and art curation has driven her work in the local non-profit arts community for the past twelve years. Robyn’s personal artwork uses words and word fragments to inspire her prints and mixed-media installations, exploring identity through  cultural and societal influences. Awend’s recent work, handmade paper from discarded clothing, features the quote, “It Takes Courage To Be Who You Really Are.” Robyn lives in the burbs with her amazing husband and three beautiful children.






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Avivah was born in NY, raised in Atlanta and is now a self proclaimed Minnesotan. She is a public speaker, non-profit manager, singer, and a mom to many foster loves. Her career finds her spending days partnering local organizations with schools to provide meals to kids living in food insecurity. In addition, she is a local advocate for the needs within the foster care system, and is passionate about seeing kiddos in healthy homes. In her spare time she can be found drinking great coffee, trying a new dish and fully embracing each new day. You can find her adventures here:

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To encounter Shawntan is to encounter a paradigm shift in the way you view yourself and the world. A visionary and conscientious thought leader, Shawntan Howell is firmly committed to developing others. Her commitment to the development of people is what led to the creation of Girls Are Powerful, to inspire and encourage the next generation of girls and young women to embrace their individuality, hone their POWER and confidently walk in the direction of their dreams and goals. A native of Chicago, IL, she holds a B.A. in Statistics and Computer Science from the University of Minnesota-Morris and an M.A. in Leadership from Augsburg University.

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Anne is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato. As a teacher-scholar, her mission is to empower students to craft compelling stories and advocate for their passions. Her research explores issues related to health and organizational communication, such as implementing school-based wellness policies, and building more inclusive workplaces for women and individuals living with chronic illness. She lives in Rosemount with her husband and son. Outside of the classroom, you can find her leading family adventures to the zoo, running, drinking coffee, performing kitchen karaoke, and listening to her toddler’s stories.

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Betty is a mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. Formerly an elementary school behavior specialist, Betty is now a wellness coach helping and empowering women and their families to live a happier and healthier lifestyle inside and out. Her passions include stalking her beloved grown children, remodeling a dream home on the lake with her husband of 35 years, walking Ft. Myers Beach or hiking the mountains in Norway with her parents, good books, long conversations with friends over wine and helping raise the impoverished village of Minoterie, Haiti to a thriving community. She is blessed. Her website is:

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Nausheen Malik is a youth advocate and a diversity trainer.  She received the Human Rights Award from the City of Eden Prairie in 2017 for her efforts in establishing a program of inclusion for students from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to help strengthen their identities and address issues they face on school playgrounds.  The program has been adapted by the Minnetonka School District to cultivate a culture that celebrates diversity.  She is the program director at Creative Hearts running youth programs with a philosophy that “Playgrounds are the best places to teach and learn”.  Her dream is to empower the youth of the world to be advocates for spreading peace and justice.




Michele has held so many titles and done so many disparate things that if we listed even half, you’d think we were talking about several different people. Her current most important roll is mom to two lovely souls, doing her level best to see that they make it to adulthood less scathed than she. The easiest way to reach out to her, and she truly hopes you do, is through her website, The site is a reminder not only how to spell her name, but also that it takes all of ‘us’ to get where we need to be.

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Amanda Rosas received the message “You will become an accomplished writer” from a fortune cookie and believes it to be a prophecy.  Indeed, Amanda writes periodically for Visitation School, where she teaches Spanish language and culture and women’s studies in an all-girls environment.  She attended an all-girls high school and college, and then received a Fulbright Scholarship to study Spanish feminist literature in Madrid. Originally from San Antonio, Amanda draws beauty, strength and creativity from the Mexican women in her family and from her husband and two young daughters. Amanda is also a distance runner in her limited free time.

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Laura spent her former professional life in the non-profit sector, raising funds and managing campaigns and Foundations for both local and national organizations. Recently Laura made a career transition as a small business owner, taking over the family memorial business, Katzman Monument Co.  She loves the challenge of running her own business (which she often does in her pajamas), and considers it an honor to assist families through the highly emotional process of designing a memorial. She is most in her element when meeting a friend for coffee or brunch, traveling, telling stories, developing meaningful connections and finding the ridiculousness inherent in human behavior (mainly her own). She lives in S. Minneapolis with her magical husband, spirited daughter (age 5) and curmudgeonly Shih Tzu, Barry.

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Originally from Mumbai, Cheryllyne resides in Minneapolis with her husband, Andy Harwood, 3 kids—Leo, Indigo and Rex—and a menagerie of pets. She quit her 20 years+ advertising career as a brand copywriter to pursue her passion for fair housing. As a licensed realtor and the CEO of the Vaz+Harwood Team Keller Williams, she wants more minority diverse folks and women to own real estate. Her other two passions include sustainable gardening and teaching Minnesotans how to cook Indian food. She founded the South Minneapolis Mompreneur group, and has been featured in IAM MPLS and Minnesota Women’s Press.


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Kathleen West is a veteran middle and high-school teacher and semi-professional minivan driver. She has a degree in English from Macalester College and a Master’s degree in literacy education from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her hilarious husband, two sporty sons, and very bad goldendoodle. An experienced long-distance runner, Kathleen is excited to have just graduated to the 40-60 year-old division of her local running club. She recently finished writing her first novel and is at work on her second. You can find her online at WordSavvyBlog.Com and on Twitter @52BooksPlus.


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Laura is a writer, a reader, and a maker of cheesecakes. You might find her at a softball game, a jazz concert, or a nonprofit board meeting, but you'll never find her on a ladder or entering a triathlon. Since she discovered live competitive story slams, you should probably not say or do anything ridiculous in front of her. Or wait--please say and do a lot of ridiculous things in front of her. She lives in Minneapolis with her three favorite people, who show up in her stories whether they like it or not.

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Hawona Sullivan Janzen is a Saint Paul based storyteller, poet,
singer, and composer who believes that art is the only thing that can save us from ourselves.

She is the co-founder of the Witness Creative Writing Program at  the University of Minnesota and has done commissioned work for  a variety of organizations including the St. Paul River Stewards, Silverwood Park, and the Minnesota African American Museum. Her jazz opera, "Clean" debuted at the Soap Factory Gallery in  2016.

When she is not home with her family, she can be found performing around town with the Sonoglyph Music and Poetry Collective, creating shadow puppets at the Monkeybear Harmolodic Workshop, or working on a collaborative photo-poetry art installation project in the Rondo Neighborhood scheduled for debut in late summer of 2018.

Watch Hawona read, "Grandmother and Beebee” >>