Keynote Speakers


Marcel “Fable” Price

Marcel “Fable” Price is a biracial North American writer, teaching artist, community activist, motivational speaker, and was recently appointed Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids.
Fable the Poet is noted for his work with youth and spreading mental health awareness through using his own stories to consume the audience.

“At times, we all feel fragile. We are paper boats entertaining the waves of life.”
He is an official partner of Mental Health America and is known across the nation for crowd-interactive features that leave those attending enlightened and empowered. He is author of Adrift in a Sea of M&Ms.
Buckle up, prepare to make a new friend, and enjoy the ride.

Speaking on: Making a Difference Through Writing
Poetry in Motion: Networking, Community, Collaboration, and Supporting Local


Rachel Gleason

Rachel’s poetry is an interaction between religious symbolism and contemporary observation brought together through vivid imagery and word play. Her performance style is described as a balance between humor—an understated wit—and gospel/evangelical-inspired charisma. Her poetry has been published in Chicago magazine Curbside Splendor and has been featured on WYCE’s Electric Poetry several times. Her coming-out story was highlighted on NPR in a series about identity, acceptance and forgiveness in West Michigan’s LGBT community.

In addition to being a spoken-word poet, Rachel is a singer/songwriter with a simple style and a unique, powerful voice. She is currently recording her first album of music and poetry.

Speaking on: Making a Difference Through Writing


Additional QWSW Speakers


D.F. (Damon) Arnold

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, D.F. Arnold is an author, consultant, and motivational speaker. He provides training in leadership and motivation to a wide range of groups — including professional athletes, executives, and students.

Damon understands success and failure. He also understands how to motivate others to achieve their dreams and discover their IT. After getting kicked out of two high schools and ultimately graduating from a continuation school, his message is simple, “It’s not how you start but how you finish that counts.”

Dr. Arnold’s candidness, transparency, passion, and high energy motivate audiences to step beyond their limitations and into their greatness. He believes with proper guidance and training, you can discover your IT and achieve everything you desire in life.

Speaking on: The IT Factor: Don’t Let Perfection Paralyze You From Reaching Your Dreams


Melanie Faith

Melanie Faith is a professor for Southern New Hampshire University where she teaches English 540, a graduate course on contemporary writers and publishing. She is a freelance writing consultant and a tutor at a private high school. Her writing has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. Her poetry collection, This Passing Fever, set in 1918’s influenza epidemic, will be published from FutureCycle Press in 2017. A Regency novella also will be published in 2017. Currently, she is writing a craft book on the art of writing flashes. She was featured artist in OVS Magazine’s Spring 2017 issue, and her scale photograph—taken in Pisa, Italy—made the front cover. In 2016, her photography was featured as the cover of Jessie Carty’s latest poetry book, in the Birmingham Arts Journal, and in Cargo Literary Journal. She enjoys collecting (quotes, books, and shoes) and spending time with her darling nieces.

Speaking on: In a Flash! Tips for Writing the Memorable, Compressed Fiction and Nonfiction Editors See


Joy Gaines-Friedler

Joy Gaines-Friedler is a prize-winning author of three full-length poetry collections. Her most recent awards include first place in both the 2016 Margo Lagattuta Poetry Prize, and in the “Family” category of the 2016 Poetry Society of Michigan poetry contest. A Pushcart Prize nominee her work is published in over 75 literary magazines and anthologies, including the stunning poetry and art book Poetry in Michigan in Poetry published by New Issues Press and edited by Jack Ridl and William Olsen. Her work is also included in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poets. Joy holds an MFA and an almost MA in American Literature. She teaches creative writing for non-profits in the Detroit area, including Springfed Arts and One Earth Writing. She also runs workshops throughout the state and online. Her website and blog includes 18 of her photos and poems.

Speaking on: Show & Tell: Finding Material for and Bringing Energy to Memoir


John Gonzalez

A veteran journalist who got his start working for his hometown newspaper when he was in eighth grade, John Gonzalez has been in the journalism business for nearly 40 years. Originally a sports reporter, John made his mark as an entertainment journalist interviewing everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Garth Brooks to Jerry Seinfeld to Bob Hope. At MLive Media Group, he is responsible for the Michigan’s Best Series and writes about food, travel, and beer. In 2016 he was inducted into the Central Michigan University Journalism Hall of Fame. Based in Grand Rapids, John is married and the father of three sons. He’s from Capac, Michigan.

Speaking on: Journalism 2020: A Fresh Take


Ryan Hipp

Ryan Hipp is a published author-illustrator of books for kids from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Michigan Reading Association honored him with the Gwen Frostic Award for work greatly impacting literacy. Ryan is a leading expert in Michigan on fostering visual literacy and creative thought with 10 years’ experience and research in the field. He gives presentations to help educators inspire and motivate young people. Ryan is dedicated to helping kids achieve their goals and overcome life’s obstacles as depicted in his newest book Little Steps.

Speaking on: Picture Books: Breaking into Writing and Illustrating for Children


Brian Jud

Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales and President of Book Marketing Works. He has over 25 years of publishing experience as a media trainer, book-marketing consultant, television host, and the author of hundreds of articles and several books about selling books to non-bookstore buyers including How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore. He also wrote five books on career transition that are distributed internationally.

Brian was the host of the television series The Book Authority and has been a guest on over 1200 television and radio shows, including Today. He is a media trainer and author of the media-training package You’re On The Air, including the two media guides, It’s Show Time and Perpetual Promotion.

Speaking on: How to Get On and Perform On the Air – For Authors of All Genres


Gloria Klinger

Gloria Klinger is a former high school librarian and current book-lover. She loves writing and reading poetry and has won several prizes for her poetry in the annual Muskegon Museum of Art Ekphrastic Poetry Contest. Her work has been published in Encore: Prize Poems 2016 by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and in Imagine This: An ArtPrize Anthology.

Facilitator: Supportive Small Writing Groups Motivate and Inspire


Mardi Jo is the author of five books, including The New York Times bestseller, Wicked Takes the Witness Stand. She studied journalism at Michigan State University and holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. Her memoir, Bootstrapper, was named a Michigan Notable Book, won the Great Lakes Booksellers’’ Choice Award, and the Housatonic Award for Creative Non-Fiction and was optioned for film by Academy Award-winning actress Rachel Weitz. She writes a monthly column for her hometown newspaper The Traverse City Record-Eagle and is a sought-after workshop leader and speaker. Mardi is the mother of three grown sons and lives on the Big Valley, the small Traverse City farm featured in Bootstrapper, with her husband Pete and her dogs Olive and Gretchen.

Speaking on: Murder in the Stacks: Writing and Selling True Crime


Sarah McElrath

For 25 years Sarah McElrath has practiced the ninja skills of balancing her professional job as a school library media specialist with her home life and artistic life. So far, she has not been fired nor had her house condemned. Her two teenage daughters, her husband, and the cat—despite what Minion thinks—have not starved. Sarah has three YA novels in various states of revision. She dabbles in poetry and essay, paints with watercolor and acrylic, and believes technology can be a powerful tool or a time-suck, depending on how one uses it. In her professional role, Sarah has conducted technology trainings for fifth-graders all the way to adults. She won’t say which group is easiest.

Speaking on: Power Tools for Your Writing Toolbox


J.R. (Joe) Roper

J.R. Roper is a teacher and writer living in West Michigan with his lovely wife and kids. He has a passion for middle-grade and young adult fantasy and is the author of The Morus Chronicles: The Hunter Awakens, Mel & the Black RiderThe Spirit of Steel, and The Tower Below. He won a 2016 Moonbeam Award, 2015 Readers’ Favorite Award, and a 2015 Children’s Literary Classics Award. He was a finalist for a Foreword Reviews’ 2015 award in juvenile fiction and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his personal essay, Over the Edge.

His abnormally high caffeine levels have been rumored to change vampires back to human form, and there is a story floating around about J.R. living in the belly of the dragon.

Speaking on: Your Story Needs a Skeleton


Fred Sanderlin

Fred Sanderlin is a retired educator who spent most of his career deliriously happy teaching fourth grade. He says his years teaching at the high school level and teaching English and social studies at Western Michigan University (WMU) and directing cultural affairs at LSSU were no less important, just not as lively.

He is the author of the highly regarded novel Journey to Little Rock and a soon-to-be-published fictional memoir Hallelujah Hill. He holds an M.A. in theatre arts, has directed plays from children's theatre to civic productions, and produced and performed in his one-person show on e.e. cummings. Girls’ high school basketball teams he coached won numerous conference and tournament titles, culminating in a state championship in 1984. Fred was twice invited to the Czech Republic International Music Camp to teach theatre for English.

Speaking on: Turning Family Stories into Fiction


Linda K. Sienkiewicz

Linda Sienkiewicz is the award-winning author of the novel In the Context of Love, a finalist in the 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, 2016 Sarton Women's Book Awards, 2016 USA Book News Best Book, and 2016 Reader's Choice Awards. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in numerous literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Clackamas Literary ReviewRattle, CALYX, Spoon River Poetry Review, SlipstreamA Twist of Noir, and others. She has a poetry chapbook award and a Pushcart Prize nomination. Her MFA in fiction is from the University of Southern Maine. Linda works as a volunteer for the Neighborhood House, a non-profit human services organization, and lives in Rochester, where she spoils her grandchildren and then sends them home.

Speaking on: Get Close to Your Readers through Point of View (Fiction)


Angela Sweet-Christian

Angela Sweet-Christian, PhD, is a psychology professor teaching MA-level APA writing-style courses. She won honorable mention for her short story, Fall Swim, in The Glimmer Train magazine. She has published her dissertation, which pretty much everyone does, even if the research led to nothing other than a sense of utter despair at the amount of time it took to write it. She shall spare you the title, but Google her under Google Scholar if you are suffering from insomnia.

Speaking on: 
What’s So Funny? How to Add Humor to Writing.



Janet Vormittag

Janet Vormittag is an author, animal advocate, and 10-year member of Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization that helps members develop public speaking and leadership skills. Janet has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Grand Valley State University and was a correspondent for The Grand Rapids Press for 10 years. She is publisher and editor of the West Michigan-based Cats and Dogs, a Magazine Devoted to Companion Animals, which she founded in 2006. Janet is the author of two novels: Dog 281 and its sequel More Than a Number. Her latest book, You Might be a Crazy Cat Lady if ..., is a memoir that spans 30-plus years of living with cats. In her free time, Janet enjoys geocaching, kayaking, hiking, gardening, and drinking tea. She lives in West Michigan with… her cats.

Speaking on: Overcoming Glossophobia—the Fear of Public Speaking