Storyteller and oral historian


Before returning to her family home in western Maine as a freelance storyteller and oral historian, Jo Radner spent 31 years as a professor at American University in Washington, DC. There she taught literature, folklore, women’s studies, American studies, Celtic studies, and storytelling.

She is currently writing a book titled “Wit and Wisdom in the New England Village Lyceum,” about a 19th-century village tradition of creating and performing handwritten literary newspapers. Radner received her PhD from Harvard University and is a past president of the American Folklore Society and the National Storytelling Network.


Burnt into Memory: How Brownfield Faced the Fire

Drawing on interviews with townspeople, letters, photographs, and newspaper reports, Jo Radner tells the history of the furious 1947 wildfire that in a few hours destroyed almost all of the little town of Brownfield in western Maine.

Neighbors fought and fled the fire, saving what they could and supporting one another, then returned to the devastated town to rebuild their community. In the Brownfield citizens’ own words Radner tells an epic story of terror, courage, generosity, and hope. 

Family Stories: How and Why to Remember and Tell Them

Telling personal and family stories is fun – and much more. Storytelling connects strangers, strengthens links between generations, and gives children the self-knowledge to carry them through hard times. Knowledge of family history has even been linked to better teen behavior and mental health.

In this active and interactive program, storyteller Jo Radner shares foolproof ways to mine memories and interview relatives for meaningful stories. Participants will practice finding, developing, and telling their own tales.

Wit and Wisdom: Homegrown Humor in 19th Century New England 

Whatever did New Englanders do on long winter evenings before cable, satellite and the internet? In the decades before and after the Civil War, our rural ancestors used to create neighborhood events to improve their minds. Community members would compose and read aloud homegrown, handwritten literary “newspapers” full of keen verbal wit.

Sometimes serious, sometimes sentimental but mostly very funny, these “newspapers” were common in small villages across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and revealed the hopes, fears, humor, and surprisingly daring behavior of our forebears. Jo Radner shares discoveries about hundreds of these “newspapers” and when possible, provides examples from villages in your region. 

Poet, Writer, Archivist


Jefferson Navicky is the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection. He is the author of four books, most recently Head of Island Beautification for the Rural Outlands (2023) as well as Antique Densities: Modern Parables & Other Experiments on Short Prose (2021), which won the 2022 Maine Literary Award for Poetry.


The Offshore Islands Belong to Themselves: Ruth Moore & Her Poetry

Ruth Moore was one of Maine’s most beloved 20th century writers. Jefferson’s presentation includes highlights from the Ruth Moore collection at the Maine Women Writers Collection. This talk touches on some of her most well-known books as well as her often-neglected poetry. Jefferson will share a variety of Moore’s poems and invite audience participation. 

Elizabeth Coatsworth & Kate Barnes: Processing the Literary Archives of Mother & Daughter

Jefferson Navicky had the rare good fortune of processing the extensive archival papers of Elizabeth Coatsworth, one of the most accomplished children’s book authors and poets of the mid 20th century, as well as the papers of her daughter, Kate Barnes, Maine’s first Poet Laureate.

Together, their papers present an intimate glimpse into the makings of a matriarchal line of Maine writers. Jefferson will speak about his experience processing these collections, as well as present illustrative work from each writer, and provide historical and biographical context. 

A Day in the Life of Maine Women: Diaries of Everyday Life

The Maine Women Writers Collection has numerous diaries spanning the 19th and 20th century kept by Maine women across the state whose lives were remarkable in their unremarkableness. In the quotidian passing of their days – from weather to chores to historic moments – the accumulation gives shape and significance to their lives.

By sampling and discussing a selection of these diaries across time, we will all connect with the common struggles and small triumphs of what it’s like to be human and to live day by day. 

Community Support Coordinator, Lewiston Public Schools


James Ford is a public-school employee and a Black man of African descent who is tracing his lineage to the middle passage. As a former Restorative Practices Coordinator, Ford appreciates building relationships with peers, students, and families.

Ford is currently the Family and Community Support Coordinator for Lewiston Public Schools and is working with the Maine Education Association to create an Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee to address issues that impact educators of color and their students.


Relationships: How Important They Are Today

Pulling from his experience as Community Support Coordinator for Lewiston Public Schools, James Ford’s talk reminds us of the importance of slowing down, listening, and seeking connections with others, both personally and professionally.

Writer, Veteran


Cody Mower is a non-binary author, veteran and advocate whose primary goal is help others tell their own stories.


In Your Own Words

This presentation explores the importance of veterans telling their own stories—as a practice of personal healing and as an act of challenging how veterans are portrayed in popular culture.

Mower shares stories from their published work, explores how writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Tobias Wolff have dealt with post-military life, and examines how the entertainment industry, especially in the Vietnam era, began to control the narrative of the veteran.

Occupational Therapist, Writer, Teacher


Cavenaugh Kelly, PhD, MS, OTR/L, is a writer, occupational therapist, researcher, and teacher. As a writer, his fiction short stories have been published in numerous peer-reviewed literary magazines, and he is a former award-winning print journalist. As an occupational therapist for over twenty years, he has worked primarily in home health in rural Maine. As a professor at Husson University, in Bangor, Maine, Kelly has taught for over ten years, winning the Theresa W. Steele award for teaching excellence in 2022.

His research at Husson on the influence of close reading on the empathy levels of healthcare students has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals, and he has lectured on his research findings nationally and internationally, winning the Global Empathy Award in 2022. He received a Bachelors in English Literature from the University of Southern Maine; a Masters in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern Maine, and a Doctorate in Transdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Disability Theory, Communication Theory, and Narratives from the University of Maine. He lives in Maine with his wife and son.


Teaching Empathy Through Stories 

What is empathy? Is empathy a given trait, or something that can be improved upon? Can empathy be taught? Why is empathy important in healthcare? Can we teach healthcare workers to be more empathic through stories? What kinds of stories facilitate empathy?

Cultural Historian, Penobscot Nation


Carol Dana works to preserve, share, and teach Penobscot language and storytelling.

She was born in Bangor in 1952 and attended school on Indian Island until the fifth grade. She later attended college in Machias, got married in 1971, and had her first child in 1972 before moving to New York and working on Akwesasne Notes.

Dana returned to Maine to raise a family on Indian Island and started working on the Penobscot Dictionary in 1982. She currently works in the Cultural Historical Preservation Department for the Penobscot Nation. Available for speaking December - March 


Atlohkewe: Tell Me a Story 

Dana has researched 189 stories from the Folger library that were oral tradition stories told in winter. Dana’s talk also features stories from In Indian Tents by Abby Alger, Algonquian Legends of New England by Charles Godfrey Leland, Gluscabe the Liar and other Weird Tales by Horace P. Beck, and Silas T. Rand’s Legends of the Micmacs. Dana is winner of the Maine Humanities Council’s 2022 Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize

Educator, Community Interpreter


Virginie Akimana is from Rwanda. She is currently an ESOL Instructor at Portland Adult Education and a Community Interpreter. Virginie has a Bachelors’ degree English-Literature, an MBA-IB (International Business), and a Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLTHE). She also holds an Executive Postgraduate Diploma in International Trade Policy and Trade Law. 

From 2009 to 2018 Virginie taught Communication Skills of English, Marketing Management, and other Business courses at the University of Rwanda. Since 2017, she has been an Acting Manager of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network in the Great Lakes region (UN SDSN GL). Her favorite color is green and she loves reading and traveling. 


Naivete, Me and My People

This presentation focuses on how naïveté can be a cultural sickness—how people can blindly believe it is okay to marginalize others in the name of culture and the other side accepts fate without deeply analyzing the situation.