Local Writers Extras

Save the Date!

The 2023 Writers Conference will be Thursday, Nov. 2 – Saturday, Nov. 4.

Our 2022 conference was loads of fun and our conference planners are already busy identifying potential faculty and making big plans.

A Big Writers Conference Thank You!


Thank you to everyone who attended the 2022 Writers Conference. It was a blast! If you missed it, you can still watch some of the session recordings at Library OnDemand.  

We value your feedback and hearing from you helps ensure we offer programming you value.

If you want to share your conference experience with us, please fill out and submit our Attendee Survey.  

We would love for you to share your opinion about our Local Writers Programming as well.  


Meet the Presenter: Polly McCann

The lyrical poetry of Polly Alice McCann paints a beautiful narrative revolving around the internal heartland. With poetry as beautiful as hers, it is no surprise that she is also an artist! This author, artist and dreamer began writing poetry after taking an impactful trip to the desert with a pillow and a book. We can only imagine the beauty she discovered there that would inspire her to start to write — and continue writing — poetry.  

Polly received her MFA in Writing from Hamline University. Her poetry has been published both nationally and internationally in journals such as “Naugatuck River Review” and “arc23” in Tel Aviv. Polly is the managing editor of Flying Ketchup Press and an adjunct writing professor. You can find her poetry collections, including her newest collection, “Night Blooming,” along with her memoir, “Pray Like a Woman,” at online stores.

You can learn more about Polly McCann on her website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can also learn more from her at this year’s Writers Conference, where she’ll be teaching two sessions: “Chatting About Chapbooks: Five Ways to Share Your Poetry” and “Place & Power in Narrative Poetry.”

We look forward to seeing you there!

-- written by Kathryn “Katt” Cooper, adult services specialist

Photo collage of conference planners

Our Writers Conference Planners! Clockwise from top left: Helen Hokanson, Jesseca Bear, Lisa Allen, Kathryn "Katt" Cooper, Joseph Keehn, Diane Haner and Cindy Frazer.

Meet the Conference Planners!

Now that we’ve introduced you to our Writers Conference authors and presenters, it’s time to introduce ourselves!

The core team that plans the Writers Conference is small, but mighty!

Helen Hokanson has worked at the Library for 25 years. She found her niche as the Local Writers Librarian in 2014 and leads our committee not just in planning the Writers Conference, but in visioning and planning year-round programming, readings, and writing contests.

Joseph Keehn is the Events & Programs Coordinator for the Johnson County Library, where he plans, develops, implements, evaluates and manages programs and events that meet the diverse needs of all patrons. He has been with the Writers Conference since its beginning.

Cindy Frazer has been at Johnson County Library since 1985 and has been on the Writers Conference committee for 7 years. Thanks to Cindy, we have signage and schedules and all those didn’t-think-of-that essentials that make the conference successful.

Lisa Allen started at the Library in 2019 and joined the Local Writers Committee that same year. She is an Adult Services Specialist.

Jesseca Bear started at the Library in 2012 and joined the Local Writers Committee earlier this year. She is an Adult Services Specialist.

Kathryn “Katt” Cooper started at the Library in 2018 and has been part of the Local Writers Committee since 2019. She is an Adult Services Specialist.

Diane Haner has worked at the Library since 2001 and joined the Local Writers Committee in 2016. She is an Adult Services Specialist.

-- written by Lisa Allen, adult services specialist

An Evening with Anne-Marie Oomen

When we talked with Writers Conference faculty member Anne-Marie Oomen about the possibility of an event to celebrate her newest, award-winning memoir, As Long as I Know You: The Mom Book, the conversation quickly turned to what Oomen calls “book good.”

We learned, then, that as much as Oomen loves to read her work in front of a crowd, she also has bigger goals for this book. Specifically, she wants to share what she and her family learned as they navigated her mother’s deteriorating health and transition into assisted living with others who are currently facing—or will soon face—this stressful time of life.

To bring this vision to life, we planned this evening to be both a literary event and a community conversation. Local author Virginia Brackett will moderate the event and will be in conversation with Oomen about the book itself and the craft elements that make it unique.

In addition, Tim Wholf, Johnson County’s new Director of Aging and Human Services, will join Oomen and Brackett to discuss the realities of navigating the system when a parent or loved one is aging and needs assistance.

In addition to discussions with Brackett and Wholf, Oomen will read from the memoir, which was awarded the 2021 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Sue William Silverman Prize for Creative Nonfiction and will take questions from the audience. Books will be available for purchase from local business The Green Door Book Store & Gift Shoppe.

-- written by Lisa Allen, adult services specialist

Meet the Presenter: Jamie Lynn Heller

Jaime Lynn Heller’s life is filled with roles: counselor, teacher, parent, spouse, daughter, aunt, neighbor, writer, and a multitude of others. How is it that she finds the energy to juggle all this? She uses poetry as her caffeine.

Heller’s chap book “Domesticated” was published in 2015 (Finishing Line Press) and “Buried in the Suburbs” was published in 2018 (Woodley Press). 2019 was an exciting year for Heller as “Buried in the Suburbs” received a Kansas Notable Book Award from the State Library of Kansas. This collection of poems aims to show the natural rhythms of the world that are overlooked. You can find a complete list of Jaime Lynn Heller’s works on her website.

Jamie will be at this year’s Writers Conference facilitating writing exercises with Metaphor Dice! Get your creativity rolling early with this unique writing tool.

—written by Kathryn “Katt” Cooper, adult services specialist

Meet the Presenter: Diana Richards

Clear, concise, accurate: these are words that guided Diana Richards in her 25-year career as an instructional designer and business trainer. Turns out, they are the same words that drive her as an editor and writer.

Those words and the practice they embody have helped Diana in her years as a Senior Tutor in the Writer Center at Johnson County Community College. Diana has also been a copy editor for an international magazine and says, “It doesn’t matter what you’re writing. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, a mystery or a romance, you will lose your message if it’s not built on a strong foundation of solid grammar and proper punctuation.”

So it’s no surprise that Diana will join us at this year’s Writers Conference to offer One-on-One Edits, which will focus on readability and transparency. These sessions, Diana says, are not for theoreticians or academics; they are for real writers in the real world. Emphasis will be on how to use punctuation and grammar to enhance your story, not impede it.

Diana is a past winner of our writing contest. Her story, “Cactus,” was selected in 2021 for the category The Fool’s Journey. You can read it here.

—written by Lisa Allen, adult services specialist





Kelly Sime

Kelly Sime

Meet the Presenter: Kelly Sime

Show of hands: how many of you have an author photo? How many have an author photo that you love?

If you’re like me, having your photo taken isn’t exactly your favorite thing. I can think of countless other things I’d rather do than have my picture taken. But here’s the thing: when you want to put your writing into the world, people will want to see YOU. You’ll need a photo if you want to publish work online, because most places ask for a short bio and a photo. You’ll need a photo if you want to present at conferences. And you’ll definitely need a photo when your book is published!

And you don’t want just any photo, either. A selfie might be cute, but does it really serve you as an author? Your photo tells people about who you are: it conveys tone, style, and genre.

Here’s where Kelly Sime comes in. She has more than 20 years of event and portrait photography experience, and she specializes in on-location occasions like weddings and non-profit fundraisers. Her style specialties are candid and photojournalistic images.

Kelly will be at the Writers Conference for two reasons: first, she’ll be walking around taking photos of the sessions, presenters, and attendees at the library. Second—and perhaps most importantly—she'll be taking author photos for any conference attendee who wants one. In just a few minutes, the two of you will work together to create an authentic portrayal of your personality. These photos are free to attendees and will be available online 2-4 weeks after the conference.

— written by Lisa Allen, adult services specialist