Meet our speakers
Panel: Embracing Your Story To Empower Others
Cancer Survivor, Entrepreneur and Author
Lara Lazenby is a four-time cancer survivor, originally diagnosed in 1975 with stage III cancer. A teacher, artist, entrepreneur, author, and speaker, she helps others embrace their scars and stay groovy despite life’s blindsides. Her debut novel Scars, Scribbles, and the Power of Crayons won first place at the Royal Palm Literary Awards for unpublished Literary or Mainstream Fiction in 2018. Lara wants others to look at their own scars and see, strength, faith, hope, healing, and a little magic. Most women get silver on their 25th wedding anniversary. Lara’s husband, Steven, gave her his kidney.
Author and Speaker
When Lois Strachan became blind at the age of 21 she realized she had a choice – to go home and give up, or to go out and see what life still had to offer her as a blind person living in a sighted world.
Lois is an author, speaker, blogger, accessible travel podcaster, disability consultant and sometime rock musician who uses her story to demystify blindness and show the world that disability does not mean inability. She is the author of a series of illustrated children’s books, “The Adventures of Missy Mouse” which help children understand that a visually impaired person is simply a ‘normal’ person who uses different techniques to accomplish tasks. Her memoir, “A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way” was published in 2016. Lois is currently updating the book prior to converting it to an audio format.
Lois lives in Cape Town South Africa with her husband and a houseful of dogs, one of whom is her guide dog, Fiji.
Melinda has found a healing solace in writing and journaling that brought her to share her story and complete her memoir of escaping her past as a victim of abuse in “Call me Master” and her companion book, “Rising from the Ashes” a healing journey of breaking the chains of her past. Something a bit different. Having 30+ years of experience as an antiques and vintage dealer, she shares her knowledge as an Antique Dealer for those looking to start in this business. “Old Stuff & Dusty Treasures”- An ultimate beginners guide to starting an Antique Dealer business. Fueled with renewed purpose in her new season of life, you can find her with her nose in her worn Bible, in the garden grounding herself or presenting a workshop to help others find the strength to create healing for their lives.
Mentor and Speaker
Neena has since served as a YMCA summer camp counselor for over nine years and presently serves as the 2018 YMCA Birmingham’s Give Campaign Face. Neena is a newly licensed attorney, a three time published author for her Howard University honor’s thesis and two University of Alabama School of Law papers, with one being published in the Harvard Journal on African American Public Policy. Neena is a proud African American and Indian mentor, speaker, and giver. Neena always tells her message with truth and authenticity.
Lyn Fairchild Hawks
Lyn Fairchild Hawks writes YA contemporary fiction and short stories about gifted, weird, and wise teens. She is the author of Minerda, a graphic novella about bullying, and a collaboration with illustrator Robin Follet. She is also author of How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived the Dark Ages of Nought, her debut novel where Michael Jackson fandom meets #metoo. Wendy’s back story appears in The Flat and Weightless Tang-Filled Future, a collection of short stories. Lyn is a 2012 recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and the 2011 James Jones First Novel Fellowship contest semifinalist. In her other life, Lyn’s an education geek who loves teaching and Shakespeare. She’s written Teaching Julius Caesar: A Differentiated Approach, and is co-author of The Compassionate Classroom: Lessons that Nurture Wisdom and Empathy and Teaching Romeo and Juliet: A Differentiated Approach. A former high school and middle school educator, Lyn designs curriculum and distance learning programs for gifted youth and runs the educator blog, Teachers Workshop. Learn more about her at lynhawks.com.
As a child I was:
a bit of a day dreamer
As an adult I am:
A caregiver and nurturer
The realist who lives next door (though not always literally)
A teacher (though not by degree) and researcher
I want to be an advocate for those most in need, a mentor to those looking to find their voice, and build a community that’s accepting to all. I’m a work at home mom looking to build up my online business empire. With three children of my own (two with special needs), I draw from personal experiences and past work experience as a former assistant PreK teacher. I had once desired to pursue a career in Developmental Psychology or Communications, but when I was drawn into the world of blogging; I began to realize that I could accomplish my goals and purpose online. I also realized that I could reach more people while still being able to cultivate relationships locally if I so desired.
Kristyn Maslog Levis
Kristyn M. Levis is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter and photographer with over 16 years experience. She worked as a TV reporter in the Philippines and a radio broadcaster with SBS in Sydney, where she still occasionally does voice-overs. She is the Creative Director for 3C Digital – social media and digital marketing specialists for small businesses.
She also has experience as a journalist, sub editor and editor for various print and online media. Several of her stories have landed in the New York Times and Al Jazeera. While working as a broadcast journalist in the Philippines, Kristyn covered bomb threats, rebel insurgencies and political rivalries. She finished her masters degree in communication in Singapore through the ASEAN scholarship. As a photographer, Kristyn’s work has been published in various magazines and displayed in exhibits in Australia and the Philippines. She self-published two children’s picture books before writing her first novel. Her best selling YA novels The Girl Between Two Worlds and The Girl Between Light and Dark are published by Anvil publishing. Her third book is set for release mid 2019 by the same publisher.