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Storytellers

October 10, 2019 Mainstage
Biographical information provided by each storyteller. 

Emily Gwinn
Emily Gwinn is a Resource Coordinator with AmeriCorps at Dishman Hills High School. She is working on her Master of Education and Principal Certification at Whitworth University. In 2016 she co-edited a collection of poetry about motherhood called “All We Can Hold” and in 2014 represented Spokane at the National Poetry Slam.
Melissa Luck
Melissa Luck is a lifelong teller of stories that are simply too long. She grew up as the daughter of a journalist has been one herself for more than 20 years. A graduate of the Broadcast Journalism program at Marquette University, she’s worked as a reporter and anchor; she’s now the News Director at 4 News Now. She’s also the wife of fellow journalist Derek Deis and the mom of two boys. She loves reading stories too; for the last 3 years, she’s read a book a week and blogs her reviews online.
Jessa Lewis
Jessa Lewis was born in Colville and raised in Spokane. She is a small business owner, served as the Eastern Washington Director of Healthcare for All – WA, is a founding board member of Alliance for a Healthy Washington, and most recently ran for State Senate in 2018. She's developed a reputation for taking outlandish adventures, passionate advocacy of issues, and is lovingly referred to as "notorious" by several members of Congress.
Scott Leadingham
Scott Leadingham is the news manager of Northwest Public Broadcasting. He’s a born and raised Washingtonian and a lifelong appreciator of all things outdoors. As you’d expect, he drives a Subaru. He’s an alumnus of Central Washington University (go Wildcats!) and Indiana University (go Hoosiers!). He’s also an Eagle Scout, yet his knowledge of intricate knots is drastically lacking.
Claudine Richardson
Dr. Claudine Richardson is the Director of Student Development, Diversity, and Equity at SFCC. Dr. Richardson holds a Ph.D. from Gonzaga University in Leadership Studies, a Masters from EWU in Public Administration, and a Bachelor’s in Modern Languages and Biology. Claudine identifies and is perceived as a black female, and is also Hispanic (Panamanian and Dominican), Native American (Aruaca), East Indian (Madras), Asian, a religious minority, part of the LGBTQIAPD2+ & disabled community.
Cathy Santangelo
Cathy Santangelo was born and raised in Logan, Utah and moved to Spokane to attend Gonzaga University, where she studied Special Education. After graduation, she lived in the Washington DC area and then overseas in Poland, Italy and Spain. She and her husband stay busy with their three children, Calvin, Luca and Stella. Cathy has returned to her Zag roots and works in Student Development at GU.
Hosted by: Nichole Mischke
Nichole Mischke was a anchor, reporter and web producer at KHQ for 6 years. She is a previous Pivot storyteller & says that getting the opportunity to share her story onstage was the most powerful, healing and transformational experience of her life. She shared for the first time ever about her secret 10-year battle with bulimia, and now speaks widely on cultivating positive body image.
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Previous Storytellers

Molly Allen
Molly Allen has been a co-host of Dave Ken & Molly in the Morning on 92.9 zzu for the last 20 years. She is also the co-founder of Safety Net, a non-profit that supports foster youth aging out of the foster care system. As the mother of a son who she adopted out of the foster care system, she saw the need firsthand. Molly is the Playwright in Residence at Stage Left Spokane and has had several original plays produced, the most recent "Closing It Up." Her biggest joy is her three grandchildren.
Chris Cook
Chris joined the Spokane Symphony shortly after graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music. He’s also the trumpet soloist at The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes & teaches music at Gonzaga. Chris is also active in the poetry scene, having represented Spokane at National Poetry Slam & the Individual World Poetry Slam. He hosts 3 Minute Mic, Auntie’s First Friday poetry open mic. He may be the only child to have gone trick or treating as pioneering heart surgeon, Dr Michael DeBakey.
Vik Gumbhir
Vikas Kumar Gumbhir is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Gonzaga University. Raised in Kansas City, MO, he attended Regis University in Denver, CO, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. He earned his PhD in Sociology from the University of Oregon in 2005, and his dissertation—But is it Racial Profiling? Policing, Pretext Stops, and the Color of Suspicion—was published in 2007. He teaches classes on the criminal legal system, policing, crime and media & more.
James McPherson
A retired communications studies professor at Whitworth University. Before earning a Ph.D. from WSU, he worked as a print journalist, as a photographer, in corporate and non-profit public relations, on farms, and in factories and sawmills. He is a former president of the American Journalism Historians Association and the author of two books related to media history and politics. Jim and his wife Joanna plan to explore the west in a travel trailer, collecting new stories over the next year.
Katherine Morgan
Katherine serves as the Spokane-Boise market manager for the Bank of America Local Markets Organization. She has played an active role in the Inland Northwest community since graduating from Gonzaga University in 2006 and receiving her MBA in 2014. Her background includes executive staff roles at the Home Builders Association of Spokane & as President & CEO for the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce. Katherine was raised in the northwest and enjoys the arts, traveling, and triathlons.
Elizabeth Slamkowski
Elizabeth Slamkowski, a Colorado native, quickly fell in love with the Jesuit education and lush PNW trails that Gonzaga University and the Spokane area had to offer. Elizabeth continued living and learning; she moved to Washington D.C. and then Santiago, Chile to travel, teach, and accompany and be accompanied in life's journey. South America brought Elizabeth many beautiful experiences, but the most amazing memory was reconnecting with her future husband, and former Zag, Anthony.
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson graduated from S.C.C with a Business A.A. degree. She's worked as an economic and statistics tutor, a cashier, an auditor, and is currently a business intelligence analyst. In her spare time she performs stand up comedy around the Inland Northwest. She's also written and performed in Lilac City Live.
Host: Mika Maloney
Mika Maloney works as the Program Manager for Spokane Arts. She grew up a big nerd in a small town in southwestern Washington, studying English Literature at Western Washington University, and has lived in Spokane for 13 years. After 8 years of running her own bakery business, BATCH bakeshop, she now enjoys baking as a hobby and spending as much time as possible writing, running, biking, and playing outside.
Music by Michael & Keleren Millham
Voice and guitar duo Michael and Keleren Millham have survived a burned-to-the ground apartment complex, car wrecks, music school, countless miles and over 2000 concerts together–all with surprising good fortune. The classically trained duo have taken that education and applied it to the music that moves them. The resulting tapestry of sound has strong roots in classical, folk, and world music (with a hint of jazz and blues) but their truest and only genre is the voice and guitar lexicon.
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Harry Neff
Harry Neff is a psychotherapist who has always appreciated the diversity of people and their stories. Something he seeks to do as a therapist is to normalize difficulty in life and find coherence and connection in the midst of pain that we may continue to face.
Kent Hoffman
Kent Hoffman is a clinician, attachment researcher, and co-founder of Circle of Security International. His life work has included building intervention approaches for at-risk families dealing with parenting stress. Dr. Hoffman travels extensively throughout North America, Scandinavia, Europe, and Australia teaching clinicians, educators, and social workers. His bestselling book, Raising a Secure Child, was published in 2017.
Glenn Ward
Glenn Ward is a risk taker and avowed lover of people and their stories. He has a degree in social science and in addition to serving on the boards of Temple Beth Shalom and Oregon Tilth, Glenn and his wife are the owners of BumbleBar, which for the last 25 years has been supporting clean food, family farms, and local jobs. In his free time, he enjoys reading, tennis, golf, and any pursuit that takes him outside with kids.
Anthony Schoen
Anthony Schoen, a Principal Mechanical Engineer at MW Consulting Engineers, is an active member of various professional organizations, sits on the Gonzaga University Executive Engineering Advisory Board as an advisor to the Dean, and is an adjunct faculty member at Gonzaga in the School of Engineering. He graduated from Gonzaga University with his degree in Mechanical Engineering. In his free time he is an avid traveler, enjoying hiking, running, skiing, and climbing around the globe.
Alex Franke
Alex Franke is a second year medical student, and a member of the inaugural class at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University. Prior to attending medical school, Alex was an EMT in New Orleans, a professional ski patroller at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, a Search and Rescue Ranger in three national parks and an occasional Patagonia model. When Alex isn’t studying he enjoys skiing, climbing, biking, ultra running, telling jokes and eating doughnuts.
Keleren Millham
A life-long student of vocal pedagogy and composition across multiple genres, Keleren Millham maintains a thriving, diverse private studio, is an adjunct faculty member in the jazz department at Gonzaga University, and maintains both an ensemble and solo performing schedule. Both philosopher and mystic by nature -and shaped by a childhood dedicated to caring for a terminally ill parent- Keleren is additionally a student of the human condition.
Jerusha Emerson
Jerusha Emerson tells stories; she can't help herself. Never one for the shadows, she has been known to quote Shakespeare badly in front of large audiences and generally throw experience and "something she read somewhere" into an elaborate tangle of thought that she's happy to talk through with anyone who will listen. She splits her time between lecturing at Whitworth University and trying to negotiate with her three-year-old. Jerusha thinks the best stories create angst, wonder, and the chills.
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Julie Humphreys
Julie Humphreys is a career television news anchor/reporter. She worked for KHQ-TV for 22 years and has also written articles for newspaper and magazine. Currently Julie works for Second Harvest in media and community relations, telling stories of hunger and hope in our community. She is the proud mother of two 20-something girls. Aside from reading, writing and story telling, Julie enjoys being active outside as often as possible; cycling, hiking, skiing, paddle boarding, and more.
Erin Pringle
Erin Pringle is the author of two story collections, The Whole World at Once (West Virginia UP, 2017) and The Floating Order (Two Ravens Press, 2009). Her work was selected for performance in L.A.’s New Short Fiction Series, and she’s an awardee of an Artist Trust Fellowship. She lives in Spokane with her partner Heather, and son, Henry.
Raymond Reyes
Juan Mas
Juan A Mas is a local Producer and Director in Film, Television and Theater. He is an active arts community organizer and proud dad of 3 amazing children.

Photo by Don & Julia Photography
Ann Porter
Ann Porter is a contemporary artist who works in a variety of materials, including painted and fired stained glass, video monitors, altered video stills and cast polychrome sculpture. er “Twins” series features life-sized cast Babydog sculptures as well as slumped, painted glass. Her most recent work, “Meatheads”, showcases images of political figures laminated on cast paper replicas of raw hamburger. Porter is Art Professor Emeritus from Black Hills State University.
Cleve Penberthy
I spent my 40 year career helping to run schools across America. My last 18 years of school leadership was spent in Spokane as a High School Principal. I’ve served as an adjunct professor at both WSU and Gonzaga, and am currently fully immersed in and loving retirement.
Sam Schneider
Dr. Sam Schneider has lived in Spokane for 6 years. He is a Family Medicine doctor who works for the Community Health Association of Spokane. He has 2 amazing boys, and 1 amazing wife. His interest in story telling dates back to his previous career. Prior to going to medical school he was a professional street performer and owned and ran a small circus in Seattle.
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Nathan Weinbender
Nathan Weinbender is the film and music editor at the Inlander. He previously covered arts and entertainment for the Spokesman-Review. He is a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly show "Movies 101" since 2011.
Mike Malsam
Mika Maloney
Mika Maloney grew up a big nerd in a tiny town where she loved reading, writing, and making art. Now living in Spokane, she teaches baking classes at her bakery, BATCH bakeshop, works for a pretty awesome arts non-profit, Spokane Arts, and spends as much time as possible with her wife travelling & doing fun stuff. She still loves reading, writing, and making art.
Erin Robinson
Mallory Whittaker
Mallory Whittaker is a teacher who spends her days molding the young minds of tomorrow. She often practices her comedic routine on her students, however they have proven to be tough crowd. She likes long walks on the beach, although Spokane doesn’t have many. She enjoys a nice trail run, coffee shop visits for fun, a well done pun, and things that rhyme.
Samantha Wohlfeil
Samantha Wohlfeil is a reporter for the Inlander, where she's written about environmental and rural issues, health care, social services and a mish-mash of other topics that interest her. She grew up in Pullman and no, she did not go to WSU. After about a decade in Bellingham, where she attended Western Washington University and then worked at The Bellingham Herald, she returned to Eastern Washington in early 2017. She's happy to report that it turns out Spokane really doesn't suck.
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Paige Powers
Paige Powers currently works in human resources at Gonzaga University. She is also completing her MBA at Gonzaga. She hopes to use her experience and degrees to be able to start a business to support low-income children in getting access to quality education. In her spare time, you can find her planning weekend getaways, cheering on the zag basketball teams, or sweating it out in a spin or Zumba class.
Tony Flinn
Tony Flinn is a Professor of English at Eastern Washington University and the co-host of Spokane Public Radio’s nightmare comedy show, "Men in Charge.”
Nicole Sheets
Nicole Sheets’ recent work has appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, Christianity Today Women, 1889 Magazine, and Pie and Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Booze and Butter (Sasquatch Books, 2017). Nicole is (very slowly) editing an online anthology of creative nonfiction about spiritual experiences in the out-of-doors, called How to Pack for Church Camp (howtopackforchurchcamp.com) She can be found in the Whitworth English department and on twitter at @heynicolesheets.
Sam Joseph
I have been a lung doctor in Spokane for nearly 30 years, and am partially retired from that activity and now involved in teaching med students at the Washington State University med school. To paraphrase what they said on StarTrek, “I’m a doctor, damn it, not a story teller!”
Suzanne Maguire
Suzanne Maguire is an Acting Teacher, Director and College/Career Readiness Specialist who is passionate about the many ways Theatre develops essential skills for everyday life and every career field. She has worked with actors ages 6 to 65 and most enjoys focusing on actor coaching and the process of leading students to learn and mature as artists and individuals. Suzanne is thrilled to work with Greg Pschirrer and an outstanding group of students in the LCHS Tiger Drama department.
Harry Neff
Harry Neff is a psychotherapist who has always appreciated the diversity of people and their stories. Something he seeks to do as a therapist is to normalize difficulty in life and find coherence and connection in the midst of pain that we may continue to face.
Taylor Ridenour
Taylor will be graduating this spring from Gonzaga University with a degree in Sociology. She has a deep passion for creating spaces for people to feel heard, known, and loved which has led her to run GU’s own version of Pivot. While she doesn’t know what she will be doing in her first season of life post grad; she will continue to call Spokane home. Most importantly, Taylor is always accepting offers to love on any and all dogs.
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Annica Eagle
Annica Eagle is a local community organizer, improviser, and competitive punster. You can find her advocating for healthcare access in Spokane and Olympia, stirring up laughter at the Blue Door Theatre, and as the founder and host of The Punderground. She took home 3rd Punniest of Show in the 2017 O. Henry Punoff World Championships, and this Pivotal moment has led to her to legitimize puns in every facet of her life.
Megan Ferney
I’m somewhat adventure seeking and have a background in education. I’ve taught Physical Education and Art at international schools in Cairo, Egypt, and Bangkok, Thailand. I’ve also run a program using horses as healers with at-risk youth, and am currently a Program Assistant at Gonzaga. I love travel, Thai food, rock climbing, longboarding, and figuring out what makes people tick.
Jennifer Hawkins
Jennifer Hawkins joined the Inland Northwest Blood Center, a Blood Systems Inc. company in 2012 and oversees Donor Recruitment and Marketing and Communications for seven states across the North. Prior to working at INBC, she was the owner of Sylvan Learning Centers in North Idaho and wrote for several publications about parenting and children’s issues. She has an extensive background in community service including CASA/GAL in Spokane.
Nichole Mischke
A GU graduate who south out a degree in journalism because of her passion for storytelling. She currently works as a reporter and web and social media producer for KHQ. Numerous struggles including losing her dad to cancer have made her realize the impact of sharing stories can have for the teller and listener.
Leonard Oakland
LEONARD OAKLAND has taught English, Humanities, and Film at Whitworth University since 1966. He also hosts and produces a classical music program on Sunday mornings on Spokane Public Radio KPBX.
Skyler Oberst
Skyler began working with civic leaders to create a more pluralistic community in the greater Spokane area. He has spoken internationally, as well as at the White House on the power of Interfaith Work on College Campuses and has been a research associate mapping out religious landscape of the Inland Northwest at the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.
Maura Ruiz
A first-generation college student herself, Maura Ruiz is a College Preparatory Advisor at Lewis & Clark High School with the College Success Foundation. Her previous experience in Higher Education includes working extensively with the transition and orientation of college students and parents. She takes particular enjoyment in teaching and mentoring students. Maura holds a master's degree in Social Work from EWU and bachelor's degrees in Spanish and Interdisciplinary Studies from CWU.
Daniel Walters
Daniel Walters is a reporter for the Inlander, where he has the honor of seeing his in-depth investigations appear in the same publication as both the "I Saw Yous" and the "Cheers and Jeers." While Daniel has lived his entire life in Spokane, he's also visited Colfax. He believes in keeping all promises except the ones made to editors about deadlines.
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Liz Rognes
Liz Rognes is a writer, musician, and teacher. She is a singer/songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist whose classical and pop musical influences range from folk to baroque to jazz. Her essays and poems have been featured in various publications, including Trestle Creek Review; Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers; and Railtown Almanac. She teaches at EWU and lives in Spokane with her rock ‘n’ roll librarian and their son.
Ben Faulkner
After spending time in Dallas, Ontario, Michigan, Honduras, and Nashville, Ben is pleased to call Spokane home. He studied Philosophy and Psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and later taught both subjects at an international school in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He now directs the honors program at the Community Colleges of Spokane. When he’s not immersed in curiosity conversations with fascinating people he’s just met, you can find him lost on a trail or in the pages of a book.
Christopher Horsethief
Mark Robbins
I am an English teacher and librarian at Lewis & Clark High School, and I’m “the casino guy” from the Northern Quest commercials. After getting my AA at SFCC, I got married to my non-tv wife, Kristin, and moved to Olympia to go to Evergreen. While there, I performed weekly at the Market Theater in Seattle's Pike Place Market. After I moved back to Spokane, I started The Blue Door Theater doing sketch and improvisation, and eventually got my teaching job. We have two kids, Norman and Mertie.
Lynda Rypien
Isaac Grambo
Isaac Grambo taught art and television production at Boise State University, co-founded the performance art troupe known as Boise Naval Base, wrote, directed, and acted in the public access cable show The Grambo Report, & represented Boise at the National Poetry Slam 4 times. Isaac has been commissioner of Spokane Poetry Slam since 2012, organized the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2013, and coached 4 teams at the National Poetry Slam. He is 2017 host city (Spokane) coordinator for IWPS.
Eugene Jablonsky
Eugene Jablonsky grew up in Southern Ohio, where he chased fireflies and collected fossilized brachiopods. He plays bass in the Spokane Symphony, and teaches jazz at Whitworth University. Eugene also plays Western swing music with The Shutup -n- Playboys and klezmer music with the Meshuggah Daddies. Eugene has a Somewhat- Less -Than-Super Power of free association, practiced over years of entertaining his young daughters and waking up his wife at 3 AM.
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Aileen Keown Vaux
Aileen Keown Vaux earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University. Currently, she lives in Spokane, WA, where she serves as a Career Advisor for the College of Arts, Letters, and Education at EWU. She writes non-fiction and poetry, and is at work on a collection of poems inspired by her passion for county fairs and her experiences growing up in Central Washington.
Shawn Vestal
Shawn Vestal made his literary debut with Godforsaken Idaho, a story collection that won the 2014 PEN Robert W. Bingham Prize and was shortlisted for the Saroyan Prize. A graduate of the Eastern Washington University MFA program, his stories have appeared in Tin House, Ecotone, McSweeney’s, The Southern Review and other journals. He writes a column for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he lives with his wife and son.
Evelyne Ello Hart
Evelyne Ello Hart has previously worked as Executive Director of African Women’s Coalition in Portland. She conceptualized an African leadership theory: Transforming-servant-leadership. She views leadership as a medicinal plant, which heals the leader first, then the people and the environment. She is in the Doctoral Program for Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University.
Claire Rudolf Murphy
Since 1991, Claire has written award-winning fiction & nonfiction books for children and young adults, many with a focus on American history and the story of outsiders. Her 17th publication, a nonfiction book entitled “King and the Kennedys,” will be published in spring 2018 for the anniversary of the deaths of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy. Claire began her writing career in Alaska, where she lived for twenty-four years. Today she lives and writes in her hometown of Spokane.
Samuel Ligon
Samuel Ligon is the author of two novels—Among the Dead and Dreaming and Safe in Heaven Dead—and two story collections, Wonderland and Drift and Swerve. His stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The New England Review, Gulf Coast, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. His essays appear in the Inlander. He’s the editor of Willow Springs and the artistic director of the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference. He teaches at EWU in Spokane.
Kurt Olson
Kurt Olson is a part-time poet, part-time coffee slinger in Spokane. He is the co-founder of Broken Mic, an open mic that has fostered some of the greatest poetry in the city. Kurt genuinely loves whiskey and soft towels. He lives with his wonderful girlfriend and his obnoxious cat who can't read English, yet. He tells stories over and over until everyone around him finally admits they've heard it before.
Jennifer Ferch
Jennifer Ferch is the Chief Operating Officer of NBC Camps, the largest overnight basketball & volleyball camp program in the world. Jennifer received her MA in counseling psychology from Gonzaga University. She and her husband, Dr. Shann Ferch, speak and lecture together nationally & internationally. Jennifer has been a professional speaker and motivator for over 20 years. She has three awesome daughters, a kitty called Narnia and a hamster who is the greatest rodent in the world.
Rachelle Strawther
Rachelle Strawther runs external leadership training & development programs at Gonzaga University, and serves as the Staff Assembly President. Rachelle spent nine years of her life in East Africa - one year as a teacher in southern Ethiopia, and nearly eight years in Kisumu, Kenya, where she worked with grassroots organizations on issues relating to HIV/AIDS, poverty, education, and sports. Rachelle is a mother, a proud member of the Unitarian Universalist church, and a huge GU basketball fan.
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Jennifer Ferch

Jennifer Ferch is the Chief Operating Officer of NBC Camps, the largest overnight basketball & volleyball camp program in the world. Jennifer received her MA in counseling psychology from Gonzaga University. She and her husband, Dr. Shann Ferch, speak and lecture together nationally & internationally. Jennifer has been a professional speaker and motivator for over 20 years. She has three awesome daughters, a kitty called Narnia and a hamster who is the greatest rodent in the world.