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

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.

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.

After the sun sets and the lights go out in the newsroom, KJZZ Music Director and Host Blaise Lantana and her team take over the 91.5 airwaves to share the cool sounds of classic jazz. Lantana is a veteran musician and public broadcaster. She moved to the Valley in 1994 to serve as an on-air host for KJZZ’s sister station, 89.5 KBAQ. While she has a deep affinity for classical music, the sounds of classic jazz lured her to take on the role of KJZZ’s Music Director in 1995. She spent 20 years on the road performing and composing with blues and jazz ensembles, including some Valley bands. You can still catch her perform at special engagements around town. As KJZZ’s Music Director, one of Lantana’s primary responsibilities is to scope out new artists and recordings and then decide which selections and interviews to include in KJZZ’s weeknight jazz schedule.

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.

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.

Joe Silins

Equal parts starry-eyed idealist and crusty construction worker, Joe Silins grew up in Mesa but has called Tucson home since 2000. A freshly-minted entrepreneur, Joe doesn’t have excessive amounts of free-time, but in the time he does have he likes spending time with friends, doing yoga, and talking about how he should be camping and hiking more.

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.