Introducing the new leadership team


Mary Portzen, co-coordinator

Mary has been attending the conference since 2011 and became a speaker in 2012. 

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 under the name Mary Potter Kenyon 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 2025. She has been teaching writing classes and conducting workshops on creativity and grief for community colleges, women’s groups, churches, and libraries since 2011. She is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Sheri Shonk

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. 

  “My desire is to write stories of real, flawed characters that experience the grace and restoration of God in a very real way, giving hope and light in a sometimes very dark world”. 

 Sheri currently has three independently published books, with the next book in the Houses of Hope Series, “Walk With Me,” just released in March, 2024. 

Sheri can be found at:

her blog

Susan Hoffert

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

Nick Portzen

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 speak together on the power of prayer in marriage and are co-writing a book on the same topic. 

Mary Humston

Author and speaker Mary Jedlicka Humston’s poetry and essays have been widely published locally and nationally. She has won numerous poetry awards. She’s had a poem published every year since 2005 in the Iowa Poetry Association’s Lyrical Iowa

Thirty poems were published in past years in the Iowa City Press-Citizen newspaper. Another poem was displayed on the 2014 Krakow Wall of Poetry in conjunction with the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature. 

Humston has presented dozens of workshops, readings, and speeches on such topics as letter writing, poetry, writing, chronic illness, prayer, and Little Free Libraries. She coauthored Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink with Mary Potter Kenyon

Like her on her “Mary Jedlicka Humston” Facebook Author Page.

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) (

Cherie lives in Cedar Falls & has been coming to the Conference since 2011 and gained several writing mentorsShe 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.

Follow her on Substack,

Follow her on Facebook,

Her author website,

Her Amazon site,

Her publisher's website,

Cherie Dargan | WordCrafts Press 

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 four novels. 

The relationships forged at these conferences last throughout the year. Join us on Facebook! (group) (Page)

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. 

Why attend the CF Christian Writers Conference?

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