Navigating Stormy Waters: Telling Your Tales When They're Hard Stories to Tell

Room 2209, Kansas City Convention Center, Street Level
Thursday, February 8, 2024
9:00 am to 10:15 am


How do you write your tale with compassion and love when it is a hard story to tell? These five writers will read from their works of memoir and autobiographical fiction touching on their own stories and their family stories of addiction, mental illness, trauma, neglect, and chaos. After, they will talk about how they were able to navigate the choppy waters of truth telling in their books, and how they use their voices for change and to highlight their own stories of redemption and forgiveness.

Outline & Supplemental Documents




Juanita E. Mantz (JEM) is a writer & lawyer with two books, Portrait of a Deputy Public Defender: or, how I became a punk rock lawyer (Bamboo Dart Press, 2021) andTales of an Inland Empire Girl (Los Nietos Press, 2022). She produces the Life of JEM podcast where she interviews writers on writing.

Laurie Markvart is a professional singer, musician, published author, songwriter, blogger, and poet. She thrives through life with generalized anxiety disorder and is a social media advocate for positive mental health awareness. She is also a recent breast cancer survivor. She lives in Los Angeles.

Toni Ann Johnson won the 2021 Flannery O'Connor Award for her linked story collection Light Skin Gone to Waste. She is a 2015 NAACP Image Award nominee for her debut novel Remedy For a Broken Angel and a two-time winner of the Humanitas Prize for her screenplays Ruby Bridges and Crown Heights.

Nikia Chaney is a multigenre author of nonfiction, science fiction, and poetry. Her memoir Ladybug is available from Inlandia Institute (2022). Her forthcoming poetry book To Stir & is forthcoming from Word Works press.

Hannah Sward is the bestselling author of Strip: A Memoir which has received rave reviews from authors such as Melissa Broder and Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. She has appeared on NBC in honor of National Recovery Month, C-SPAN BookTV and many others discussing trauma, recovery, and healing.


February 7–10, 2024
Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Convention Center