Register Now for the 3rd Annual Flip the Script! Youth Writing and Performance Conference

Flip the Script! is an annual writing and performance conference where poets between the ages of 13 and 19 engage with professional artists and arts organizers through workshops, panel discussions, community-building, and more. Presented by TruArtSpeaks, and held at the Loft Literary Center, the conference’s third installment will be held on Sunday, February 19, 2017.

#FTS3 will feature leading voices in the national spoken word movement, including Danez Smith, Zhalarina Sanders, Donte Collins, Ed Bok Lee, Andrea Jenkins, Ollie Schminkey, R. Vincent Moniz Jr., Jake Virden, and Khary Jackson, as well as dozens of youth poets sharing their stories and sharpening each other’s skills. Register here!

Also, don’t forget about the #FTS3 pre-celebration: a one-night-only production of Zhalarina Sanders’ ROSE GOLD at the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 18, 2017, at 7pm. 

A few of the people you’ll meet at #FTS3 (L-R in the image), plus workshop descriptions:

Andrea Jenkins is an artist-activist, and award-winning poet and writer. Andrea has been awarded fellowships from the Bush Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and the Playwrights Center and has won writing and performance grants and scholarships from the Givens Foundation, Intermedia Arts, The Loft, the Napa Valley Writers Conference, and Pillsbury House Theater. Andrea is the co-curator of Queer Voices at Intermedia Arts, the longest-running series of its kind in the nation, and currently works collecting oral histories from hundreds of people in the Upper Midwest transgender community as an Oral Historian in the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.

Ed Bok Lee is the author of two poetry collections, Real Karaoke People (New Rivers Press), a winner of the PEN/Open Book Award and Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice) in 2006, and Whorled (Coffee House Press), a winner of the Minnesota Book Award and American Book Award in 2012. Lee grew up in South Korea, North Dakota and Minnesota. As a translator, most recently his work features the poetry of Kim Ki Taek (in Korean Literature Now, Winter 2017). Website.

Donte Collins is a poet. They are the author of Autopsy (2017) and winner of the 2016 Most Promising Young Poet Award from the Academy of American Poets. Collins is the recipient of the 2016 Mitchell Prize in Poetry and is currently a junior at Augsburg College. They are an alum of TruArtSpeaks, a non-profit arts organization based out of the Twin Cities cultivating literacy, leadership and social justice through the study & application of Hip Hop culture.

Ollie Schminkey is a white, non-binary transgender poet/musician/artist.  They facilitate, direct, and host many organizations, including a weekly writing workshop called Well-Placed Commas.  They have also represented the Twin Cities in numerous national poetry competitions, and they are the proud author of their second chapbook, You Are Sad and That Sucks a Lot.  You can find them touring nationally or in print in a bunch of cool lit mags.  Feel free to check them out on their website, or on Button Poetry. 

  • Ollie’s Workshop: Telling Truth: A Poetry Workshop- All levels of writers are welcome to join us in a writing workshop where we will explore nuanced and effective ways to tell your story.  How do you write part of your truth for an audience that might be very different from you (without sacrificing yourself in the process)? How do you write your truth for the people who already know you best?   This is a casual, non-judgmental environment– Bring writing materials, a good attitude, and your friends!

Zhalarina Sanders is a rapper/actress/producer from Tampa, FL who serves as co-founder and Executive Director of The JVN Project, an organization that seeks to use Hip-Hop as a tool of empowerment, and is a graduate student of counseling psychology at UW-Madison. She has had the opportunity to travel and be awarded for her work in theatre and music, appearing on stages such as Broadway in New York and the Queen Elizabeth theatre in London, England. Currently, Zhalarina splits her time between the completion of her first rap album, Again, and working toward a tour of her one-person Hip-Hop theatre piece, Rose Gold.

  • Zhalarina’s Workshop: Rose Gold: Mental Health and Performance Art: The purpose of this workshop is to address the psychosocial experiences of performance artists. We will be debunking myths and misconceptions about artist mental health and focusing on how to accomplish psychological wellbeing through, by, and for the stage. 

Jake Virden is a community organizer, emcee, and practitioner of popular education from NE Minneapolis. Jake has been an active performer and curator in the Twin Cities Hip-Hop community for almost a decade, putting in work on the stage  from Soundset to the Re-Verb Open Mic. In  2016, Jacob released an EP titled The Longest Bridge in collaboration with TC luminary Toki Wright. Check out more music with OFF-10 partners Scoundrel Spence, and Ryan B.U.G.S. Virden here. Additionally, Jake is currently the lead organizer for the Parks and Power campaign, based at Hope Community in South Minneapolis. Parks and Power is a grassroots effort to transform the Minneapolis Park Board and move race conscious public policy at the local level. Check out Parks and Power on twitter at @parksandpower.

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) and [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and the John C. Zacharis Award from Ploughshares. Danez is also the author of two chapbooks, black movie (2015, Button Poetry), winner of the Button Poetry Prize, and hands on your knees (2013, Penmanship Books). They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Danez’s work has been featured widely including in on Buzzfeed, Blavity, PBS NewsHour, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They are a 2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, 3-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, and a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective.

  • Danez’s workshop: Finding Honey in the Rock – A Workshop of Obsession: What can’t you shake? What constantly comes back to you? What never leaves? In this workshop, we will talk about the obsessions that capture us for a season and obsessions that follow us for a lifetime. Designed for experienced and new writers alike, this workshop ask us to dive deeper into ourselves and find new language and new knowledge in the topics that we return to in our writing and our personal journeys. This workshop offers tools useful for overcoming writer’s block, for building or refining a manuscript or project, & for finding new entrances into our own work.

R. Vincent Moniz Jr.: An active force in the Twin Cities artistic community, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. has received numerous literary awards and fellowships for his writing and live performances, most recently Vincent became a fiscal year 2017 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. At the E. Donald Two Rivers memorial SLAM, Moniz became the current and reigning Individual World Poetry SLAM’s Indigenous SLAM Champion. He has performed his poetry all over the Twin Cities and has recently started accepting invites internationally. A Nu’Eta tribal member, he is an enrolled citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes located within North Dakota on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation. Vincent was raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis and you can find his poems all over the neighborhood. Look for Vincent’s collection of poems out of MSU Press in 2017 and find videos of his live performances at Booking requests can be sent to

Khary Jackson is a poet, playwright, dancer and musician. He is an alumnus of Cave Canem, the esteemed writing fellowship for black writers. He has written 12 plays, one of which (Water) was produced in 2009 at Ink and Pulp Theatre in Chicago. He has been a recipient of several grants, including the 2016 McKnight Artist Fellowship in Writing, the Minnesota State Arts Board’s 2012 Cultural Community Partnership Grant and 2010 Artist Initiative Grant for Poetry, as well as the 2009 VERVE Spoken Word Grant from Intermedia Arts. His first poetry book, Any Psalm You Want, was published with Write Bloody Publishing in the spring of 2013.

  • Khary’s Workshop: Participants will actively engage with their writing both vocally and physically, moving beyond the presentational style and towards a more theatrical and movement based approach. They will also collaborate with fellow poets to create mini performances, to experience the creative work that goes into the collaborative pieces that they will create if they make the team. By the end of the workshop participants will leave with some additional ideas for how poems can be conceived and performed.

AND MORE! Aside from all of these brilliant artists, Flip the Script! is about young poets building with one another. This is a non-competitive space for everyone to have fun, sharpen their skills, and build community through art. Once again, poets between 13-19 years old can register here, for free.

A few images from last year’s conference:

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It is Time to Be Heard – Register Now for the 5th Annual MN Youth Poetry Slam Series!

3b946b1d-70c1-43ba-8f7c-759bf3d9b83aRegistration for the 5th Annual Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series is Now Open!

For the past five years, TruArtSpeaks’ Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series has provided a platform for hundreds of youth poets to tell their stories and speak their truths to big, energetic audiences. As the country—and the state—head into uncertain times, it is more important than ever to hear these stories and listen to these perspectives.

Through a series of eight poetry slams, Be Heard seeks to identify six youth poets who will both represent Minnesota at the annual international Brave New Voices youth poetry slam and festival in San Francisco in summer 2017, and serve as the #BeHeard17 cohort for the duration of the year, receiving mentorship in writing, performing, and arts leadership.

While the competition element of the series represents an incredible opportunity for the top six poets, the series itself is set up as a space for everyone—from youth slam veterans, to first-timers, to the audience itself—to build community through art, present counter-narratives, and call into being the world in which we want to live.

The full schedule is below; interested poets (who must be between 13 and 19 years old, and have a Minnesota address) can register at All bouts begin at 7pm and are open to the public.

  • Preliminary bouts:
    • January 14 at the Black Dog Café in Saint Paul
    • January 21 at the American Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth
    • January 28 at the SteppingStone Theater in Saint Paul
    • February 4 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis
    • February 11 at the New Century Theater (Hennepin County Theater Trust) in Minneapolis
  • Semifinal bouts:
    • March 4 at Macalester College’s Kagin Commons Hill Ballroom in Saint Paul
    • March 11 at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis
  • Finals:
    • March 25 at the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater in Minneapolis

To register for the slam, click here. For additional inquiries, please contact

Poets, prepare your pen and person for 912x912-write-to-be-heard-v2-tas-01#BeHeard17 with this series of FREE writing & performance centered workshops at the Minneapolis Central Library. This is your chance to work on concrete description, imagery, writing for social change, writing for performance, form, device and more with some of the Twin Cities’ most recognized slam poets!

No registration or sign up required. Just save the date, show up and be ready to BUST!

912x912-flip-the-script-digital-flyer-v2-tasSave the Date/Register Now: Flip the Script! is an annual writing and performance conference where poets between the ages of 13 and 19 engage with professional artists and arts organizers through workshops, panel discussions, community-building, and more. Presented by TruArtSpeaks, and co-sponsored by the Loft Literary Center, the conference’s third installment will be held on Sunday, February 19, 2017.

#FTS3 will feature leading voices in the national spoken word movement, including Danez Smith, Zhalarina Sanders, Donte Collins, Ed Bok Lee, Andrea Jenkins, Ollie Schminkey, R. Vincent Moniz Jr., Jake Virden, and Khary Jackson, as well as dozens of youth poets sharing their stories and sharpening each other’s skills. Register here!

Interested in supporting MN youth poets img_8962during #BeHeard17 by serving as a volunteer during one of the events? Email with your availability and join us as we power youth voice in Minnesota!

Judges, Time Keepers, Greeters and more are needed to make this series vibrant each year and we welcome you all to the cypher! Thank you in advance for helping us power the slam series – can’t wait to hear from each of you!

#ReVerbOpenMic is back up and running this week with a writing workshop to kick things off at Golden Thyme Cafe in Saint Paul! Be sure to stop by and share your creative genius with us before the end of 2016!

Our work would not be possible without the support of generous and committed arts, social justice and youth advocates like yourself. Thank you for all you do to support this movement. To continue support our work, #BeHeard17, #FTS3, or more, click here.

Be sure to stay connected with us via social media – @truartspeaks – on all platforms; See you all soon!

#BeHeard16 Semifinals and Finals Are Here! Plus A Recap of Flip the Script!

photo by Uche Iroegbu

photo by Uche Iroegbu

We’ve talked to judges, volunteers, community supporters and poets, and everyone agrees: January and February 2016 have been two of the most incredible months for youth poetry that Minnesota has ever seen. At five packed #BeHeard16 prelims, the weekly #ReVerb open mic, and the Flip the Script! conference, we’ve been honored to witness the passion, dedication, and talent of so many young poets. We are just getting started!

SEMIFINALS ON MARCH 5 AND MARCH 12: The top six poets at each prelim are moving on to semifinals! Come witness some of the best performance poetry–youth or otherwise– in Minnesota, on two big stages:
be heard semis

GET YOUR TICKETS FOR THE #BEHEARD16 FINALS BOUT NOW: Finals is consistently one of the biggest and most unforgettable events of the year, and 2016 promises to be something very special. This year, the big show is Saturday, March 26 at the Walker Art Center at 7pm. Get your tickets here!

MN YOUTH FLIP THE SCRIPT AT ONE-DAY CONFERENCE: The annual Flip the Script! Youth Writing and Performance Conference took place on February 21 at the Loft Literary Center. It was an entire day of intensive collaborative work– youth poets and mentors, first-timers and established vets– all building together. A few moments, courtesy of photographer Uche Iroegbu:

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Finally, don’t forget about the Re-Verb Open Mic every Thursday! As we’ve been saying at every slam, performing in Be Heard and/or going to Brave New Voices aren’t the only ways to get involved. Come build community, share some work, maybe give some feedback to another artist, and have fun. Re-Verb is every Thursday, 6-8pm, at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul. It’s also free, and all ages are welcome!
Re-Verb Q1 2016

Remember to check us out on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Tumblr!

For more information, please contact; to support the work, click here!

2nd Annual Flip the Script! Youth Writing & Performance Conference

Its that time again! The 2nd annual Flip the Script! Youth Writing & Performance Conference is back, bigger and better! A one day, spoken word writing & performance-intensive conference presented by TruArtSpeaks and The Loft Literary Center, Flip theScript! offers young people between the ages of 13-19 an opportunity to engage with professional spoken word artists via workshops, performances and panel discussions. Featuring two time National Poetry Slam Champion Khary Jackson (aka 6 is 9), Hip Hop phenom Desdamona, and more!

Come to be challenged, to grow, to be in community, and to bust! Register here!

Here are a few pictures from last year’s event!

#BeHeard16, Flip the Script! + More!


photo by Uche Iroegbu

#BeHeard16 preliminaries have BLOWN us away! Since January 15th we have been presented with courageous stories and outstanding performances from Minnesota youth interested in joining the 2016 Be Heard team traveling to Brave New Voices in Washington D.C. this summer! Huge thanks to the broader Minnesota community for coming out to support these young poets; their voices merit audience, support and platform.

This Friday evening at Roosevelt High School will be the conclusion of the #BeHeard16 preliminary rounds! There are still a few spaces open for participating poets, if you haven’t registered yet or are interested in registering, click here!

truartspeaks_flipthescript_2016Its that time again! The 2nd annual Flip the Script! Youth Writing & Performance Conference is back, bigger and better! A one day, spoken word writing & performance-intensive conference presented by TruArtSpeaks and The Loft Literary Center, Flip theScript! offers young people between the ages of 13-19 an opportunity to engage with professional spoken word artists via workshops, performances and panel discussions. Featuring two time National Poetry Slam Champion Khary Jackson (aka 6 is 9), Hip Hop phenom Desdamona, and more!

Come to be challenged, to grow, to be in community, and to bust! Register here!

Re-Verb Open Mic is STILL oneRe-Verb Q1 2016 of the best places in the Twin Cities to bust, build and break bread, so stop by. We are in full effect every Thursday from 6-8p and we would love to hear your stories. Hosted by Desdamona, Re-Verb is a dialogical space designed to provide each artist with constructive feedback for their artistic development. Oh! And don’t forget about the FREE writing workshop that happens every First Thursday from 4-5:30p. Always a different theme or guest, always a good time. See you there!

Here is a little video to give you some insight into all of the fuss around #BeHeard16 – this is powerful space. Get here.


Remember to check us out on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Tumblr for regular access to the fun stuff!

For more information, please contact and to support the work please click here!

You(th) Lead the Charge!

Anders Billund-PhibbsYou(th) Lead the Charge!

Your voice, your leadership, your council – TruArtSpeaks is looking for a dedicated group of critical thinkers and leaders to guide us into the future. As a member of the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) you will advise, organize, and promote the organization and its vision. Because TruArtSpeaks is an organization founded on principles of shared power and youth voice, the YAB is an essential component of the work that we do, providing a clear pathway from spectator to participant to organizer to leader. All applicants must be between the ages of 16-24 years old.

Click Here to Apply! The Application period has been extended and will close on March 15th, 2015 at 11:59p.

Semi-Final Flier - Hi ResBe Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series Semi-Final Bouts are among us! It is time to for youth voice to reign, ring and reverberate all throughout the Twin Cities as we continue our journey to identify six brilliant young poets to represent MN at Brave New Voices 2015.

Semi-final bout #1 will take place on March 6th, 2015 at 6:00p at Intermedia Arts.

Semi-final bout #2 will take place on March 14th, 2015 at 6:00p at the Rarig Center Theater at the U of M – TC Campus.

Head this way for more info!


Flip the Script! was a page turning, mind blowing, heart gripping day full of YOUR GENIUS! Thank you for sharing it with us – we are honored to witness your intellect. Can’t wait for next year! Thank you again to The Loft Literary Center and David Mura for all of their support and generosity. Here is a photographic recap of the days events!!!

Flip the Script! A Youth Writing & Performance Conference

Flip the Script!Flip the Script! A Youth Writing & Performance Conference will take place at the Loft Literary Center on Sunday, February 21st, 2015 from 12-5p. Young writers between the ages of 13-19 will have an opportunity to work with Minnesota’s premiere arts educators, writers and performers while also receiving valuable information about college opportunities and professional development in the arts field. Register here and see below for a detailed agenda for the day.

Flip the Script! A Youth Writing & Performance Conference comes jam packed with food, performances, a panel discussion, workshops and more! Choose from one of two tracks as your learning community for the day and prepare to have your mind blown!

Flip the Script!

12:00p – Registration & Light Refreshments

12:15p – Welcome from TruArtSpeaks & the Loft Literary Center

12:25p – Performances & Panel Discussion // “Slam Poetry: What’s the Point?” moderated by Tish Jones

  • Featuring: Laresa Avent, Hieu Minh Nguyen and Saymoukda Vongsay

1:25p – Breakout for Workshops

1:30p – Workshops:

  • Writing & Performance Track // “Spoken Word & the Ancient Art of Storytelling: Finding Yourself In and Through Your Poems” – with See More Perspective
  • Professional Development Track // “Spoken Word Outside of Slam: Building and Managing Your Career” – with Guante

2:30p – Break

2:45p – Workshops

  • Writing & Performance Track // “Getting Elemental: Breaking Down the Separate Elements of Performance” – with Khary Jackson aka 6 is 9
  • Professional Development Track // “Life After Be Heard and BNV” with Danez Smith & Tish Jones

3:45p – Break

4:00p – Closing Seminar

4:30p – Dinner, Community Building and Reflection

5:00p -Conference Close

Laresa HeadshotLaresa Avent is a two time Be Heard MN slam team winner and avid writer. Her work has been published in two chapbooks, Future Calls (TruArtSpeaks 2014) and For Closure (TruArtSpeaks 2014). Graduate of Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Avent is a natural born leader who helped the Southwest Spoken Word club blossom into the student led model of critical self expression that it is today. A singer, model and dedicated member of her community, Laresa is a poet on the rise – look out.


PC: Michelle Tacheny

PC: Michelle Tacheny

 Hieu Minh Nguyen is a poet, author, and performer. He was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, by a single, Vietnamese-American, mother. He is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow, a recipient of the VERVE grant from Intermedia Arts, and a recipient of the Minnesota Emerging Writers’ Grant from The Loft Literary Center. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as The Journal, PANK, Anti-, Muzzle, decomP, Indiana Review, and other journals. He also works at a haberdashery.





Saymoukda Vongsay I’m a poet, playwright, and creative fiction writer who enjoys miscombinations. I believe in doing everything a little abnormally and dislike to be placed in tiny boxes. In 1981 I was born in a Thai refugee camp to the daughter of a Lao provincial governor and the son of a hard-working farmer. The nurse that delivered me was rocking out on her walkman the entire time. Maybe that’s why all of my favorite memories are triggered by songs. I’ve been a poet since I can remember. My composition notebooks were my confessionals. Sometimes I recite my poetry from memory with flair and people tell me I’m a spoken word poet. Truth-telling time: my hands sweat every time I approach the mic.   

In 2009 I co founded The Unit Collective of Emerging Playwrights of Color. As part of the collective’s monthly Madness Series, 8 of my flash plays had stage readings at The Playwrights’ Center and Yellowtail Sashimi (a flash play about “asianphilia” and “sisterhood”) was featured as part of the collective’s production at the 2010 MN Fringe Theater Festival. I co wrote The Cooking Show con Karimi and Comrades that premiered at the Asian Artist Initiative in Philadelphia (2012). My first full-length play, Kung Fu Zombies vs Cannibals (KFZ), as part of the Jerome Foundation/Mu Performing Arts’ New Performance Program had a world premiere in October 2013 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. It debuted to high acclaim and was named “Best Production of 2013” by L’Etoile Magazine. 

That’s dope, right?

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