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10 Days of Free From Violence: Twin Cities Authors Reflect on the Possibility of Peace

A multicultural panel of local authors will reflect on different perspectives related to the possibility of peace. The goal of the discussion will be to discover common ground and build a coalition committed to mutual understanding, compassion and a sustainable model for living in a community free from all forms of violence. The following authors will be in attendance:  Keno Evol, Kathy Haddad, Andy Johnson, Stanley Kusunoki, Jenny Landon, and Mark Ristau. Come join us for what promises to be a lively and inspiring conversation!

Kathryn Haddad is a writer, teacher and community organizer whose work explores contemporary Arab American experiences and reflects on the political reality of life for Arab and Muslim Americans. 

Kathryn founded Mizna – one of the few Arab American Arts and literary organizations in the United States where she served as its Artistic and Executive Director for twelve years.  Kathryn is a 2004 – 05 recipient of an Archibald Bush Leadership Fellowship for her work with the Arab American community.  As a writer, she received three Playwright’s Center Many Voices Fellowships as well as awards from the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis. She was the recipient of the 2018 Kay Sexton Award by the Minnesota Book Awards. 

Kathryn Haddad is a playwright and writer of creative non-fiction whose work has been appeared in many venues throughout the United States. Her play, Zafira the Olive Oil Warrior appears in the anthology, "Contemporary Plays by Women of Color", edited by Roberta Uno. She is the current artistic and executive director of New Arab American Theater Works.


Mark Ristau is a lawyer and a writer who considers himself, first and foremost, a storyteller. He is particularly fond of stories that dare to fill hearts with hope and minds with dreams of possibility. He credits his daily yoga practice with keeping his head clear and his life in balance during the writing process. Born in Chicago, he currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Mark’s debut novel, A Hero Dreams is the first installment in the Hero’s Path series. It has garnered the following independent book awards:

National Indie Excellence Awards – New Fiction (Winner) and Visionary Fiction (Finalist)

IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards – Popular Fiction (Winner of Silver)

Next Generation Indie Book Awards – First Novel (Finalist) and Inspirational Fiction (Finalist)

Visit Mark’s website at 


A. Rafael Johnson entered The University of Alabama MFA Creative Writing program in 2008. He edited for Black Warrior Review and Fairy Tale Review. He interrupted his studies to teach in post-conflict Liberia as part of USAID-funded reconstruction efforts. After returning to Alabama, Johnson completed his MFA and remained on campus, lecturing in composition, literature, hip hop, spoken word, and creative writing.


A. Rafael Johnson was named a Kimbilio Fellow in African American Fiction in 2014. His story, The Boy Who Climbed His Mother Into Heaven was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His essay Wince: George and Trayvon was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His debut novel The Through (Jaded Ibis Press, 2017) was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. A. Rafael Johnson teaches at the Augsburg University Low-Residency MFA program and The Loft. 


Jenny Landon is the founder and executive director of Growing Out Of Darkness™ (GOOD) as well as the published author of Growing Through Grief. After losing her dad to suicide in 1999, Jenny was determined to find something GOOD from such a heartbreaking situation. She now devotes her time and energy to carrying out the mission of GOOD which is to bring an end to suicide and the stigma around it while fostering authentic healing. 

Through Jenny’s personal and professional experiences, she has realized that a vital piece to ending suicide is shifting our focus on addressing the manner in which we live in order to avoid a moment of crisis. Through her work at GOOD, she offers information on intentional living, authentic healing, and meaningful connections. Jenny provides information rarely discussed in conjunction with mental health with the intention of helping her audience discover ways to pursue healthy, effective, and hope-filled lives. 


Stanley Kusunoki is the author of two collections of poetry; 180 Days, Reflections and Observations of a Teacher, and Items in the News, both published by North Star Press of St. Cloud. He has taught creative writing to young people through programs at The Loft, Asian American Renaissance, Intermedia Arts, and S.A.S.E., The Write Place. He was the recipient of a Loft "Asian Inroads" mentorship, and was awarded a MN State Arts board "Cultural Collaboration" grant to create, write and perform "Beringia-The Land Bridge Project" with Ojibwe performance poet, Jamison Mahto at Intermedia Arts. He is the host curator of the Bridges reading series at Barnes & Noble HarMar Mall (soon to relocate to Blue Harbor Center for the Arts!) Kusunoki is currently the High Potential Coordinator at Red Oak elementary School in Shakopee. He lives in St. Paul with his wife, Claudia Daly.


Keno Evol is the founder and executive director of BlackTableArts. An arts based org centered on conjuring other worlds through black art by connecting creatives and cultivating volume in black Life. BlackTableArts cultivates the Black Lines Matter: Where Black Writers Meet program, The Free Black Table Open Mic, The Because Black Life Conference and A Garden Of Black Joy Poetry Anthology.

Evol won first Place in the 2017 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest. Evol is a six year educator having taught at nineteen institutions across the state of Minnesota. Evol has received the Verve Grant, the Beyond the Pure fellowship, The Emerging Writers Grant and The Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship for his work. He has been published in Split This Rock, Radius Lit and Vinyl


Julie Penshorn 

Kids are suffering worldwide for many reasons. My hope is that my kids’ books and music can afford children the power to take us into our shared future with more compassion, less fear, with more forgiveness, less war, and more capability to provide peaceful, safe homes and communities for the next generation. 

My brand-new children’s book, "I Can See Peace,” for ages 4 and up, shows children imagining, envisioning, and seeking peace in life. Children and adults reading this book are inspired and educated as they search for healthy life paths. Last year I released another children’s book, “The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace,” which teaches young children conflict resolution through a touching story using animal characters.

At the end of my life, I don’t want to wonder what I have done for others. I want to know. I want to know I my stories helped bring more peace and sustainability to the planet, beginning with children.

Earlier Event: September 27
Open Mic
Later Event: September 29
Tony Plocido Book Release