Speakers & Topics

List of Speakers for 2024

Keynote Speaker

Susie Finkbeiner

Writer and Speaker

Susie Finkbeiner is the author of The All-American and All Manner of Things which were both selected as Michigan Notable Books. 

Her other novels include Stories That Bind Us, The Nature of Small Birds, and A Cup of Dust. She and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.


Mary Portzen 

Writer and Speaker

Mary Portzen graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Psychology. She is a certified grief counselor trained under world-renown grief expert David Kessler and a Therapeutic Art coach. Mary has had over 700 pieces published under the name Mary Potter Kenyon. This includes hundreds of pieces published in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies, including essays in ten Chicken Soup books. 

She is the author of seven non-fiction 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 by Familius Publishing in 2024. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she has been doing workshops and programs on expressive writing for healing, creativity, and writing for conferences, women's groups, libraries, and community colleges since 2011. Mary founded a grief retreat and Faith Writers conference in Dubuque, where she lives with her husband Nick Portzen.  

“Breaking into Publication by Writing Shorts” and “Letting God Lead in Your Writing.”



Sheri Shonk

Storyteller, Writer, and Speaker

Sheri Smith Shonk is a storyteller. Every childhood report card remarked, “Sheri is a daydreamer and often doodles story ideas when she should be doing math.” Raised in Northern California, she now resides in rural Iowa with her husband and youngest three children. She loves trying new foods, family history, and listening to good music, particularly contemporary Christian or jazz when she writes. Billie Holiday is her favorite jazz diva by far. 

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 four published books, “Dancing On”, “To Sing a New Song” and “Giving In To Grace”. The fourth book in the Houses of Hope Series, “Walk With Me” was just released in March. 

  Sheri can be found at: www.facebook.com/SheriSmithShonkAuthor, www.amazon.com/stores/Sheri-Smith-Shonk/author https://pouringfromafullpitcher.wordpress.com, and https://sherig32.wixsite.com/website 

I Wrote a Book, Now What?


Jocelyn Green

Inspiring Faith & Courage

Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning and bestselling author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Mark of the King; Wedded to War; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. Her books have garnered starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and have been honored with the Christy Award, the gold medal from the Military Writers Society of America, and the Golden Scroll Award from the Advanced Writers & Speakers Association. 


Amylee Weeks

Artist and Speaker

Amylee’s art is a reflection of her journey of faith. Through simple drawings, she listens to her heart and creates what is speaking to her at that point in life’s journey. In her own words, Amylee describes her art process -- “As life ebbs and flows, my heart soaks it all in. There is a quietness of my heart that draws its strength from God. And it is in that quietness that I create.” She hopes that the recording of her journey and her reflections will speak to others on their journey.

Amylee is an eclectic artist. She has elements of watercolor, acrylic, and ink in her art. There are sketches, doodles, and illustrations as well. Her love for creating art for everyday items was born when she lost someone very close to her when she was in her twenties. Small parts of her heart healed each time she visited her local bookstore. Amylee creates art that brings hope and a hint of joy to all who come across it in their daily lives.

Dave LaBelle

Photographer, Writer, and Speaker

Throughout his 50-year career, Dave LaBelle has been a photographer, editor, teacher, author, and lecturer.  LaBelle has worked for 20 newspapers and magazines in nine states, including the Anchorage Times, San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, The Chanute Tribune, Ogden Standard-Examiner, The Sacramento Bee, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he was the assistant manager editor for photography.  LaBelle’s love for feature photography and his ability to hunt out feature ideas has helped him win numerous awards.  

At age 19, he was the National Press Photographers Association Region 10 Photographer of the Year, an honor he repeated for the next two years.  He was runner-up to W. Eugene Smith for the first Nikon 'World Understanding award' in 1974 and runner-up for the NPPA 'National Photographer of the Year' award in 1979.  In 1991, NPPA honored LaBelle with the 'Robin F. Garland Award for photojournalism education.' 

LaBelle has written five books, including “The Great Picture Hunt.”  In 2002, the Photographic Society of America Inc. honored LaBelle with the 'International Understanding Through Photography' award.  LaBelle has also taught photojournalism at Western Kentucky University, and the University of Kentucky, and directed the photojournalism sequence at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio from 2010-2016.  LaBelle also taught photojournalism for Kent State in Florence Italy in the Spring of 2017.  In 2018-19, he taught photography with The Athens Photo Project in Athens, Ohio, a non-profit art program that promotes mental health recovery.  In addition, LaBelle writes a monthly column for Oregon-based Ruralite Magazine, contributes to Florida Currents Magazine, Ojai Magazine in California, and writes a blog at bridgesandangels.wordpress.com.  LaBelle’s latest book, and the first novel, is based on the disappearance of my mother in the 1969 flood. The book was published in March 2019. In May of 2022, David, and his wife Erin, began a job share as reporters and photographers at the Dyersville Commercial, a weekly newspaper in northeast Iowa.  In his words, “My life’s mission is to use the gifts God has blessed me with to be a blessing to others in any way I can.”


“Finding God in the Everyday, with Words and Pictures” 

Each of us must learn to recognize our God-given gifts, trust them, strengthen them, and then use them to Glorify God.  I plan to share with you my life's mission and the techniques I have found worked for me in this ongoing pursuit.  This will include some practical tips for better, more meaningful photographs. 

Robyn Mulder

Writer, Editor, Blogger, Speaker

Robyn Mulder lives in South Dakota with her husband, Gary. They go to Lincoln, NE often to visit their four children and two precious grandchildren. Robyn published her first book this year: Staying Away from the Edge: Help and Hope for Living after a Mental Health Diagnosis. She also writes at robynmulder.com and encourages others with her "Catch Your Thoughts with Robyn Mulder" podcast.

Title: In the Dark about Editing? (Bright Ideas from a Freelance Editor)

Does you're progect knead profesional editing? It sure does! (Hopefully you caught all four errors in that first question.) 

Come spend some time with a freelance editor and learn about the different levels of editing your project might need, as well as typical rates, where to find an editor, and best practices for working with an editor.

Editors use Track Changes in Word to make changes and leave comments. We'll take a look at an example and see how you, the author, can accept or reject changes. A good editor will help you produce a book you can promote with pride!

robynmulder.com - Focus Friday Blog and other resources

therobynsnest.org - Help for Angry Moms, and Happy Moms, Too!

Cherie Dargan 

Storyteller, Writer, Speaker, and Webmaster

Author of Grandmother's Treasures, Book One, The Gift & Book Two, The Legacy. Book Three, The Promise will be published this summer.

After nearly 30 years in education, and 20 years teaching writing, literature, and educational technology courses at Hawkeye Community College, Cherie took early retirement in 2016. She joined the Cedar Falls Authors Festival planning committee, celebrating the five best-selling writers with ties to Cedar Falls—Bess Streeter Aldrich, Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Robert Waller, and Nancy Price. They hosted 60 programs during 2017-2018. She also became its webmaster.


During Covid, Cherie finished her first novel titled Grandmother's Treasures, The Gift, and drafted four more books. WordCrafts Press published The Gift in October 2022 and The Legacy, Book Two, in 2023. She's at work revising the Third book, The Promise and Book Four, The Recollection (A Jubilee Junction Christmas Novella).


Cherie became President of the League of Women Voters of Black Hawk-Bremer Counties in 2017, advocating for voting rights for all, organizing events, and writing letters to the editor. But 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. Cherie is married to retired librarian Mike Dargan, who serves as her tech support, and cheerleader. They live in Cedar Falls. 

"Building Your Platform: So, What's a Platform?" 

Cherie Dargan

As a carpenter’s daughter, I grew up watching my father work out in the garage using his saw, hammer, and other tools. I also watched my mother work at her Smith Corona typewriter as she wrote Christmas plays for church and devotionals. People tell new writers that they need to work on building a platform, but what do they mean? Think of it as  building  your web presence. Give your future editor something to google!

I began attending the CFCWW in 2012,  a decade before Wordcrafts Press published my  first novel. But I began working on that platform through blogs, writing articles for the local newspaper, and creating websites. I’ll share my experience, provide some examples, and give you a list of free digital tools. For those of you who want more help, sign up for a free consultation. Let’s get to work on building your web presence.

Follow her on Substack, https://cheriedargan.substack.com/

Follow her on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/CherieDarganAuthor/

Her author website, www.cheriedargan.com

Her Amazon site, https://tinyurl.com/f8k2998z