Laura Packer knows the best way to the truth is through a good story. She is a nationally honored storyteller, teacher, coach, and the sole proprietor of think story llc, one of the foremost organizational storytelling groups in the United States. She has told, taught, ranted, raved, consulted and considered storytelling around the world. She has performed at venues as wide-ranging as Ciudad de las Ideas; the National Storytelling Festival Exchange Place Stage; the National Storytelling Conference; Tejas Storytelling Conference; Type-A Parent; The International Listening Association; fringe and arts festivals; schools; assisted living facilities and more. Laura is the winner of the 2010 National Storytelling Network Oracle Award, the 2012 League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling Brother Blue Award and was a finalist in the Boston Story Slam series for three years running. Her 2016 Kansas City Fringe show won Best in Fringe. Most recently she was co-awarded the 2017 J.J. Renaux Mentorship grant from the National Storytelling Network and won the 2018 StorySlamMN championship.
Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux draws on her background in theatre to tell "deliciously imaginative" folktales. She is the author of The Sock Goblin; Kevin Kling called her debut novel, The Marvelous Imagination of Katie Addams, "a fantastic book." She lives in Grand Marais, Minnesota where she and her family run Art House Bed & Breakfast.
Louis Alemayehu is a writer, educator, activist, poet and mentor of younger artists and activist. His writing has appeared in national and international publications. Alemayehu is a founding member of the seminal, award winning poetry/jazz ensemble, Ancestor Energy, strongly influence by Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. In 2009 the Minnesota Spoken Word Association gave Alemayehu an Urban Griot award for 30 years of excellence as a pioneering spoken word artist. In 2012 the Process Work Institute in Portland Oregon certified Louis as a “World Work Elder” as he engages in art as a "spirit weaver" or community builder, connecting diverse populations. Much of his non-artistic work today is centered on Food Security, Climate Change, Human Rights, Environmental Justice and always performance. Alemayehu has been Community Faculty or “Wisdom Carrier” for the Environmental Sustainability class at the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs where he has taught for 12 years. His performances work draws richly diverse audiences in terms of age, race, class, gender, nationality and education. For him storytelling is essential tool of community building. Over the years his collaborators have included master musicians and composers Carei Thomas, David Wright III, Mick LaBriola, Gary Schulte, Donald Washington, Davu Seru, Mankwe Ndosi, Anthony Cox, Dean McGraw and Douglas Ewart.
Wendell Affield, the third of nine children, grew up on a small farm 20 miles north of Bemidji, Minnesota. He was born in New York City in 1947 and moved to Minnesota as a toddler when his mother met his stepfather, Herman Affield, through Cupid’s Columns, a singles publication. At sixteen, after going through a series of foster homes, Wendell dropped out of high school, left home, and rode the rails where he spent time in the Northwest living in hobo camps and bucking hay bales for an old rancher in western Montana. At seventeen he enlisted in the navy. In 1966, during his first Vietnam deployment, during down time, he earned his high school GED. In January 1968 Wendell returned to Vietnam on a second deployment as the cox’n of a river patrol boat with the Mobile Riverine Force. On August 18, 1968, he was wounded in an ambush and medevaced home.
After leaving the navy in 1969 he found work as a meat cutter apprentice in the Chicago area. A few years later he became a manager, a position he held with various companies for thirty years. In 1980 he and his family returned to northern Minnesota. After retiring from Luekens Village Foods in 2001 Wendell enrolled at Bemidji State University to learn the writing craft. Over the years, his Vietnam essays evolved into Muddy Jungle Rivers (2012). His memoir has been used in universities and reading clubs. The book led to reconnecting with men he hadn’t seen in more than fifty years.
In 2010 Wendell’s mother died. Locked in the chickenhouse on the farm where he was raised, he discovered thousands of letters, dozens of diaries, scrapbooks, and photo albums documenting his maternal family history. He spent eight years unraveling his mother’s past. In the process, he came to understand her struggle with mental illness.
Chickenhouse treasures and documents discovered in the old farmhouse attic opened doors to his childhood. Seventy-year-old photo negatives he developed reawakened dormant memories. “Memory is like a shape shifter,” Wendell says, “not to be trusted, but with reams of primary source documents, I have supporting evidence for my memory stories.”
Wendell encourages others to tell their stories. “Our life experience gives us the authority. For many individuals, a common regret near end of life is that their life story will die with them.”
In 2017 Wendell’s first book in the Chickenhouse Chronicles series was published; HERMAN, 1940s Lonely Hearts Search, followed by Pawns (2018). Today, Wendell works on the next book in his series, does public speaking, and Veterans Writing Workshops to promote expressive writing therapy. He speaks to veteran groups about PTSD and facilitates a Veteran’s Writer Group at his local VA Clinic.
Author, Comedian, and Storyteller are just a few words used to describe Chad Filley. This versatile communicator has entertained audiences of all ages throughout the United States and Canada.
Think of an audience and Chad has probably performed for them. He’s been everywhere man, just like Johnny Cash. He’s spoken at corporate functions, prisons, comedy clubs, school groups, festivals, banquets, and churches.
Chad has the unique ability to take everyday situations and spin them into side-splitting, laughter filled tales. Then like a master rollercoaster operator Chad will throw a sudden twist at his audience adding an unforeseen real-life turn. His blend of comedy, tragedy, and heartwarming accounts have left his audiences spellbound.
Chad took the Minnesota comedy scene by storm in 2010. He has appeared in numerous comedy clubs in the Upper Midwest, California, Alaska, and Las Vegas. He has even twerked on the hallowed stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
Most of Chad’s material comes from his everyday life. With a resume including survival in the trenches of parenthood, matrimony, high school teaching and coaching, and firefighting, he is able to combine these experiences with a humorous spin, helping him turn everyday events into comical stories.
As a storyteller I practice the ancient art of oral storytelling. Whether you want to be entertained, enchanted, informed, or inspired, the versatility of story will take you there – a journey into your own imagination.
Genres: I tell literary, historical, folk, and personal stories. My particular favorite is historical fiction. I also love working in concert with local musicians on story and song productions. I am a writer and write many of the stories I tell in performance.
Recent Work: My most recent work includes three story and song ensembles that I wrote, directed and produced:
“The Recent Unpleasantness – Stories & Songs of the Civil War” - 2015
“In Pursuit of a Dream – Stories & Songs of 19th Century Immigration” - 2016
“Stormy Weather – Stories & Songs of the 1930s” - 2017
All of these productions received high acclaim from area audiences, and I was fortunate to receive a Lakes Region Arts Council grant to produce the immigration show, and a grant from the Viking Library System to produce the 1930s show. These recent productions involve working with local musicians who perform the musical selections.
Background: I am a graduate of the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute in Phoenix, AZ, and have over 10 years of experience telling stories in public venues. I also have over 40 years of corporate experience – 30 of which were in the Human Resources management field where I used and taught storytelling as an effective management tool. My directing and producing experience includes the above-mentioned story and song ensembles.
Volunteer Work: I volunteer my services as a storyteller to local senior care centers, service clubs, and museums; and I facilitate a monthly storytelling circle for those interested in honing their storytelling skills.
Title: ”Experiencing History through Story - a closer look at some significant events in our country’s lifetime”
My stories will likely include 19th Century Immigration, the Civil War, the Great Depression/Dust Bowl, Viet Nam - possibly Women’s Suffrage and MN Pioneering