Speakers & Topics

List of Speakers for 2024

Susie Finkbeiner

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.



Amylee Weeks

Mary Potter Kenyon

Writer and Speaker

Mary Potter Kenyon 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 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.  

Opening devotions and The Writer's Journey 



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 three 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” will be released this fall. 

  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 

What Is Self-Publishing? 

This workshop is a short introduction to the current trends of publication focusing primarily on Independent or Self-Publishing. We will delve into what is involved, why a writer might choose to self-publish, current platforms, and things to avoid when pursuing publication. We will touch on the role of beta readers, editors, formatters, cover design, and marketing. A short time for questions will be given at the end of the workshop. 

Jocelyn Green

David 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 National Press Photographers Association Region 10 Photographer of the Year, an honor he repeated 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.”  And 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, 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 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 monthly blog at bridgesandangels.wordpress.com.  LaBelle’s latest book, and first novel based on the disappearance of my mother in the 1969 flood was published in March, 2019.  In May of 2022, David, and his wife Erin, began a job share as reporter/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 on others in any way I can.”


Having the courage to be vulnerable while striving to be your authentic self 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. 

Robin Mulder

Ryan Howard

Podcaster, Writer, & Speaker

Dr. Ryan S. Howard is the host of Cutting Edge Faith, a podcast with nearly 140,000 downloads across 195 countries. He is a contributor for Charisma Magazine online and is the author of 21 Days to a Spirit-Led Life. He holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies and has degrees in engineering and business. Ryan speaks about faith in everyday life and has delivered messages at churches in the US and Brazil. He works in global procurement and manufacturing and has visited over 20 countries, worked with nearly 200 businesses, and coached over 50 leaders. Ryan lives in Iowa with his wife Bruna and their son John.

 Learn more and connect with Ryan at ryanshoward.com

This workshop will provide an overview of podcasting. You’ll learn the benefits of podcasting and how writers can expand their reach by promoting their work on podcasts. We’ll cover how to find and join podcasts as a guest and the simple steps to creating your own podcast.

The workshop will be delivered by a seasoned podcaster who has been a guest on top

ranked business and Christian podcasts and has produced over 200 episodes of his own

show with nearly 140,000 downloads across 195 countries.