The Saint Paul Almanac is pleased to announce its first 2012 event—the third in its 2011–2012 season of acclaimed Lowertown Reading Jams which celebrate the rich literary history of Minnesota’s capital city.

The “Yours Truly” Lowertown Reading Jam will be presented on Monday, January 9th, 2012 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, 308 Prince Street in Saint Paul. This presentation of the eclectic series, presented by Wendy Brown-Báez, features Mai Vang, Tyler Marie Arends, Angela Ken, Chaunesty Perkings, Michael Liljedahl, and English teacher Jennifer Plum.

About “Yours Truly”

Mai Vang, Tyler Marie Arends, Angela Ken, Chaunesty Perkings, and Michael Liljedahl

Language is one way we can explore the unknown, delve into our inner depths, articulate the stories that make us who we are, share our past and our memories, and affirm our hopes for the future. Someone once said, “Stories are the shortest bridge between two people.” Using poems as guideposts, we launched into writing our own narratives that span between our contemporary technologically driven world and the beauty of poetic expression from poets of diverse backgrounds. We found places where we intersect, where we resonate, where we are uniquely individual, where we long to be heard.

Face to Face Academy is a charter school that enables students who have fallen behind in traditional settings to work toward graduation. Our after-school writing group wrote about home and dangerous neighborhoods, happy and struggling families, the joys and challenges of parenting, how to make the world a better place, sorrows and disappointments, our dreams and our blessings. “Yours Truly” presents our personal stories and collaborative poems, a reflection of what it means to be young, vibrant, determined, curious, and wise.

The “Yours Truly” Reading Jam sees the return of Saint Paul painter Ta-Coumba Aiken, our new-artist-in-residence. Ta-Coumba is the force behind some of Minnesota’s most beloved and acclaimed public artworks, including the Jax/Gillette Children’s Hospital mural, the Minneapolis Central Library’s tile fireplace, and the north side’s Pilot City murals project.

RSVP on Facebook

Introducing the performers

Wendy Brown-Báez

Wendy Brown-Báez is a writer, teacher, performance poet, and installation artist. She has published poetry and prose in numerous literary journals and is the author of Ceremonies of the Spirit (Plain View Press) and Transparencies of Light (Finishing Line Press). Wendy has performed from Minneapolis to Mexico in bars, cabarets, cafés, galleries, bookstores, and cultural centers. She is the creator of Writing Circles for Healing and received 2008 and 2009 McKnight grants to teach writing workshops, which is how she met the staff of Face to Face Academy and became the after-school writing instructor. The grant enabled the students to create an art installation featuring a spoken-word CD that was installed at the school, at Altered Esthetics Gallery, at Mid-town Global Market, and was a part of Night On the Street. The writing workshop at Face to Face helps her keep her finger on the pulse of what young people are thinking and their responses to the world. Their resiliency and honesty never cease to amaze her.

Tyler Marie Arends is a native of Saint Paul and a graduate of Face to Face. She hopes to go on to college and major in law or medicine. In her spare time she likes to sing, write, and spend time with family and friends. She joined the speech club because she likes to act. She believes that writing has helped her to cope with all her struggles in life.

Angela Ken is a native of Saint Paul and has four brothers. She anticipates graduating in 2014 from Face to Face. Her goal is to fix cars and be her own boss. She says, “In life when your car breaks down and there is no one to help, I want to know I can fix it myself. Everyone needs a car mechanic and I want to be able to help people. Everyone in life has complications.” Angela likes hip hop and R& B and says, “I like to listen to music to help sort out my thoughts. Writing is important to me so that I can learn more about my life and improve my future.”

Michael Liljedahl lives in Saint Paul and will have graduated from Face to Face in December. His interest in life is to study gemology and become a jeweler. He particularly enjoys hands-on activities as a way to learn. He volunteers with Second Harvest, as he likes to help those who have even less than he has.

Chaunesty Perkings intends to graduate in June 2012. She plans on going to college to study journalism and pre-law with the goal of attending law school. Being a lawyer is her main dream, since arguing and debating are her rush-giving passions. She says, “At the end of the day, you need people to fight for you and to win.” She spends her free time writing, dancing, drawing, and photographing.

Mai Vang grew up in a traditional Hmong family. Although her parents wanted a good education for her, when she got to high school, things started to crumble. She got pregnant at almost 17 and her relationship with the baby’s father fell apart as he became abusive. She took the steps to protect herself and her son, got a job, and went back to school. She says she doesn’t regret the past: “It all got me to where I’m at now.” She will graduate this December.

Jennifer Plum

Jennifer Plum has been teaching English at Face to Face Academy in Saint Paul for twelve years. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and was inspired to become a teacher by one of her own high school teachers. He introduced her to Kerouac and D. H. Lawrence. She read On the Road when she was sixteen years old and decided that the “mad ones” were the people for her! The Eastside school community changed her life. She developed a career in charter schools, met her husband, fell in love, got a promotion as the Academic Director, had a baby girl, and found her voice. Working with youth through literature and creative writing continues to reveal to her the secrets of the universe.

About the Saint Paul Almanac

Now in its sixth edition, the Saint Paul Almanac features essays, poems, photos, maps, and listings of events, bars, restaurant, theaters, and other cultural venues within a datebook format. Available in full color for the first time and—another first—includes gorgeous, hand-drawn, poster-size, pull-out maps of the City of Saint Paul and Downtown!

The 2012 Almanac features 129 stories and 180+ photos. Contributors include literary giants, everyday residents, students, journalists, new Americans, and lovers of Saint Paul who live in other corners of the world. Information on upcoming events, how to make a submission, and other Saint Paul Almanac news is available at

The 2012 Saint Paul Almanac sells for $17.95 online (including S&H) at, and is available for $14.95 in independent and mainstream bookstores everywhere, as well as at libraries and coffee houses throughout the city.

Saint Paul Almanac‘s generous partners and sponsors include the City of Saint Paul’s Cultural STAR program, McKnight Foundation, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC), Lowertown Future Fund, Saint Paul Foundation, Mardag Foundation, F.R. Bigelow, Minnesota Humanities Center, Traveler’s Employee Arts and Diversity Committee, Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, SPPS, Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), Black Dog Café, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Twin Cities Daily Planet, and KFAI.

Get directions

The “Yours Truly” Lowertown Reading Jam will be presented on Monday, January 9th, 2012, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, 308 Prince Street in Saint Paul. RSVP on Facebook

Posted in: News