Explore Arizona StoryFest is celebration of storytelling which is described as the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment.

Storytelling is in partnership with azcentral, Arizona Republic, the Arizona Storytellers Project, and South Mountain Community College's Storytelling Institute. The following Arizonans will share stories with the community.

Storyteller Bios

Mario Avent is a recent graduate of South Mountain Community College. He is currently studying Visual Effects in Animation at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and simultaneously working on getting his Storytelling Certificate at SMCC. Before living in Arizona, Mario and his wife Chantel lived in Germany for three years where Mario served in the United States Army. Mario has actively been a part of the storytelling community ever since he won the 2015 Greek and Roman Myth Throwdown, telling his first ever story where he portrayed the Greek God Kronos as a wrestler. Mario has sung in the SMCC Community Choir and Jazz Band. He loves using his musical talents, and his vocal noises with storytelling to entertain young and old. Mario wants to use storytelling with his career in animation to teach people about history, culture, and how to laugh with life.

Karina Bland is a longtime, award-winning journalist at the Arizona Republic and, where she is on the storytelling team and writes a popular column. She is the daughter of a Marine father and an immigrant mother, a Weight Watchers drop-out, and a two-time graduate of Arizona State University. Karina raises her teenage son and tap dances in Tempe.

Brittany Castro has been with the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College since she was 16 years old. She started her journey into this world through an amazing program called ACE (Achieving a College Education) where she began taking college-level courses while she was in high school. Brittany is currently at ASU (Arizona State University) pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Digital Culture – Design as well as working on a storytelling certificate. Brittany Castro took her first storytelling class through the ACE program, and she’s been hooked ever since! Brittany had a long journey to get to where she is today. From high school, she went on to South Mountain Community College to graduate with her Business Associates degree. Later she realized that the path she was on wasn’t what she wanted for herself and she needed a change. Now she is pursuing her passions in Digital Culture – Design and storytelling.

Megan Finnerty is the founder and director of the Storytellers Project and the Storytellers Brand Studio at Gannett. Finnerty is a reporter and storytelling consultant, and she writes and talks about feelings. She reports on identity as seen through the lenses of food and drink, relationships, and the pursuit of idle pleasures. And she has hosted more than 70 nights of live storytelling with more than 470 tellers. Finnerty feels strongly about NPR, feminism, cocktails and her hair.

Daniel Gonzalez covers immigration, the border and minority communities for the Arizona Republic. He has reported extensively along the U.S.-Mexico border, and from Mexico, Germany, Spain, Italy, Puerto Rico, and Belfast, Northern Ireland. He has received numerous local and national journalism awards for his work. He was a lead reporter and writer for the Arizona Republic and USA Today Network’s “The Wall” series, which was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. He has taught newswriting and ethics and diversity courses at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He has a journalism degree from the University of Iowa and studied Spanish literature at the graduate level at Syracuse University.

Brian Krauss is an avid adventurer, outdoor guide, park ranger and native Arizonan. He loves sharing his passion and experiences through the medium of storytelling and connecting people to the natural world.

Dr. Travis May has been a part of South Mountain Community College for over 17 years and is currently the third faculty member in the Storytelling Institute. He really enjoys being a storytelling instructor and feels storytelling is more than just telling stories, it is a way to express ideas and passions and connect with people. Dr. May enjoys incorporating storytelling to engage learners in cultural and community awareness.

Dianna Náñez has worked with The Arizona Republic since 2006, covering politics and government, Latino communities, and public safety. As part of the Storytelling team, she wrote narratives that gave voice to interesting people, uncovered truths, or got to the heart of a complex issues. Currently, she’s a member of the investigative team reporting about child-welfare in Arizona and a weekend breaking-news editor. She also chairs the newsroom's Diversity Committee, which works to ensure that news coverage accurately reflects Arizona's diverse people and communities.

Roger Naylor is a full-time freelance travel writer specializing in the American Southwest, and the vast majority of everything he writes centers on Arizona. Roger has been the primary travel writer for the Arizona Republic since 2007. He writes the feature for the Explore Arizona section three Saturdays a month, covering the state with a variety of stories on road trips, museums, state parks, wildlife refuges, national parks and monuments, ghost towns, hiking trails, restaurants, kayaking, jeep tours, hot air balloons, historic locales, kid-friendly adventures, outings for those with limited mobility, festivals, and just about everything else. He specializes in off-the-beaten-path and little-known getaways.
Kim Porter

Kim Porter is a writer/performer and a storytelling coach who was recently named Best Storyteller by Phoenix New Times. Porter is an award-winning and critically-acclaimed playwright and solo-performer whose work has been produced in Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. Her creative non-fiction has been published in the New TimesNarratively, and the May 2018 Reader's Digest.

Marshall Shore is Arizona's “Hip Historian" or "Hipstorian” who specializes in finding and sharing the most interesting bits and curiosities from our past: the semi-forgotten people, places, and events that have made us who we are today. As the official “Unofficial Phoenix Historian,” Marshall uses storytelling magic, often including found film footage, old photographs, sound recordings, ephemera, and artifacts, to bring our history to life in his entertaining and educational presentations.

When KJZZ senior field correspondent Stina Sieg was 22, she moved to the desert. She hasn’t been the same since. At the time, the Northern California native had just graduated from college and was hankering for wide-open spaces. So she took a leap and wrote to nearly every newspaper in New Mexico until one offered her a job. That’s how she became the photographer for a daily paper in the small town of Silver City. And that’s when she realized how much she loved storytelling. In the years since, the beauty of having people open up and share their stories — and trust her to tell them — has never gotten old to Sieg. When she’s not reporting, chances are Sieg is running, baking, knitting or driving to some far-flung town deep in the desert — just to see what it looks like.

Liz Warren, a fourth-generation Arizonan, is the director and one of the founders of the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. The Institute received the Maricopa Community Colleges 2016 Diversity Award, and the 2014 New Times Best of Phoenix award for “Best Place to Learn to Tell Tales.” Her textbook, The Oral Tradition Today: An Introduction to the Art of Storytelling is used at colleges around the nation. Her recorded version of The Story of the Grail received a Parents’ Choice Recommended Award and a Storytelling World Award. She serves as storytelling coach for Gannett’s nationwide Storytellers Project. In July 2014 she received the Oracle Award for Service and Leadership from the National Storytelling Network. In September 2014 she was named to the New Times list of 100 Creatives in Phoenix.  She spends most summers in Ireland teaching for Mesa Community College’s Study Abroad Ireland program. The Arizona Humanities Council recently awarded her the Dan Schilling Award as the 2018 Humanities Public Scholar.

Joy Young is a performance and teaching spoken word artist based in Phoenix, Az. Their poetry, storytelling, and workshops often center on transgressing borders and enter topics pertaining to social justice through poetic personal narratives. They have been featured on Button Poetry and Everyday Feminism as well as on stages and in colleges and classrooms across the country. Additionally, Joy is the cofounder of Off the Page, a monthly writing workshop and open mic and Prickly Pear Printing, a press dedicated to capturing stories to sustain us in what is often an inhospitable world.