Introducing the new leadership team
Mary has been teaching writing classes and conducting workshops for community colleges, women’s groups, churches, and libraries since 2011. She is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
Mary Potter Kenyon, co-coordinator
Mary has been coming to the conference since 2011 and quickly joined the leadership team.
Mary graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and is a certified grief counselor trained under world-renowned grief expert David Kessler. She is widely published in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies, with essays featured in ten Chicken Soup for the Soul titles.
Mary is the author of seven books, including the award-winning Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace and Called to Be Creative: A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity. Her children's book on grief will be published in 2024.
Sheri Smith Shonk is a storyteller who loves surprises and great endings. Raised in Northern California, she now resides in Iowa with her husband and youngest three children. She is currently pursuing her Bachelors in English with a concentration in Creative Fiction Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Sheri loves trying new foods, family history and listening to good music, particularly jazz when she writes.
Susan A. Hoffert writes stories of daily living to warm a reader's heart. Her pet adventures appear in several Chicken Soup For The Soul books and other anthologies.
Follow her Facebook at www.facebook.com/susanA.hoffert
Cherie Dargan, Webmaster
Cherie's first novel, Grandmother's Treasures, Book One, The Gift, was published in October 2022. Her second novel, Grandmother's Treasures, Book Two, The Legacy, came out in October 2023. She's currently at work on Book Three, The Promise, and Book Four, The Recollection. Cherie is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) (https://acfw.com/)
Cherie lives in Cedar Falls & has been coming to the Conference since 2011 and gained several writing mentors. She loves technology: she's created half a dozen websites over the past twenty years. One of her favorite titles is “mom” to her four children (Mikki, Sean, Jon, and Anna) and "grandma" to grandsons Corbin and Mason, 10 and 13, and granddaughter Nora, 1 1/2. Cherie is married to retired reference librarian Mike Dargan, who serves as her tech support and cheerleader.
Nick Portzen was born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa and joined the Army in 1970, at the age of 17. He was an owner/operator of a business in Wisconsin for 35 years. Widowed in 2018, Nick met and married Mary in 2021. With years of experience in cooking and catering, Nick will be providing the meals during our event. Nick and Mary live in Dubuque, where they have spoken together on the power of prayer in marriage. Nick and Mary are co-writing a book on the same topic.
David, Cherie, and Sheri
Cherie had both of these students in her classes at Hawkeye Community College. What a great experience to catch up with them today. David is writing Science Fiction. Sheri has self-published several novels.
The relationships forged at these conferences last throughout the year. Join us on Facebook!
Mary and her baby boy working on an article at her typewriter. I love this photo! Doesn't it look like the baby is about to make an editorial comment? This photo inspired my design of the website using vintage typewriters and laptops and iPads.