Meet the storytellers, musicians, and organizers of the next Out of The Loop

A whole new show, with a whole new batch of brave, moving, relatable stories about life in Tyler and East Texas.

A whole new show, with a whole new batch of brave, moving, relatable stories about life in Tyler and East Texas. On November 8th and 9th at Liberty Hall (tickets here!), nine storytellers, a high school choir, and a local violin-and-bass-driven folk-rock group take the stage at Liberty Hall. You can read more about them below, along with the many talented professionals who make this show happen behind the scenes.

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John Bucher, storyteller

Courtesy John Bucher

John Bucher lives in Los Angeles, California and moved to Tyler in the 4th grade from Denison, Texas, where he was born. He is the author of six books, multiple films, comics, and more. He has worked with HBO, DC Comics, and The History Channel, and teaches at Studio School in Los Angeles and the L.A. Film Center. John has a Ph.D. in Mythology and Depth Psychology. He is returning to Tyler for the first time in nearly 20 years to share his story about growing up in our region.

Karina Caywood, storyteller

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Karina Caywood was born in Ecuador, lived in Venezuela, graduated in computer programming, and immigrated to Texas in 2004. She has lived in Tyler for about seven years. She is an entrepreneur who works in personal financial advising and loves to read, though she wishes she had more time to read these days! She lives with her husband and her son in Tyler.

Maria Fajardo, storyteller

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Maria Fajardo retired after working in education for nearly 30 years with West Rusk ISD and Henderson ISD. She was born in Mexico and lives in Henderson, and attended Laneville ISD and Kilgore Junior College. Maria loves gardening and spending a lot of time with her two grandchildren. Thanks to her grandson, she is now a football and soccer fan.

Michael Guinn, storyteller

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Michael Guinn is a native of Jacksonville. He works as a full-time social worker, and part-time as a motivational speaker and poet. He holds a master’s degree in social work from Stephen F. Austin State University. Michael volunteers with organizations that provide services for youth living with mental illness, and for women who have experienced human trafficking and domestic violence.

Shruti Patil, storyteller

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Shruti Patil is a data analyst with the City of Tyler. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s in electronics and computer science in Hyderabad, India, and attended U.T. Tyler. She is member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and the assistant area director for Toastmasters Area 14. She loves to cook, do yoga and tai chi, and lives in Tyler with her husband.

Joshua Silva, storyteller

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Joshua Silva is a senior at Robert E. Lee High School and is currently applying to leading Texas colleges. Joshua was born in California and loves to play saxophone and piano. He is passionate about special education and inclusion as a leader of his school’s Best Buddies International chapter. He dedicates his performance to his beloved sister, Alyssa, who passed away in 2018 and inspired Joshua’s dedication to Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities communities.

Jennifer Toon, storyteller

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Jennifer Toon was born in Longview and raised in Kilgore. Jennifer is a freelance writer and works at Goodwill Industries. She attended Kilgore High School and U.T. Tyler, and studied journalism at the University of Houston. She volunteers with Truth Be Told, a trauma-focused therapeutic nonprofit organization that works with incarcerated women looking to share their stories.

La’Tashiana Wade, storyteller

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

La’Tashiana Wade is a community health worker at Christus Mother Frances Hospital. She attended John Tyler High School, Tyler Junior College, and Texas A&M. Next year, she will be attending the University of Tyler at Texas majoring in Health Science. She volunteers with the Nurse Family Partnership, and joined the Preeclampsia Foundation to raise awareness of this condition. She loves to write poetry, read, and spend time with friends and loved ones.

Josh Brock, musician

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Josh Brock provides musical accompaniment to our storytellers onstage. He performs guitar and vocals with the bands Chris Oliver & Company and Johnny & The Nightcrawlers. Josh is the IT Director for Henderson County, based out of Athens. He attended Mabank High School and Texas State Technical College. 

Gypsum & the Travelers, musicians

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Gypsum & the Travelers describes themselves as a “folk-punk band from Tyler, Texas. Why folk-punk? Well, as the band Alabama says, ‘If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band,’ so we did just that!”

The band, led by founder and violinist Jewel Rena’e Kirkendoll, will perform their original song “Tailor” for Out of the Loop.

John Tyler High School Choir members, musicians

The John Tyler Choir is a group of students who devote their time and talents to their love of music. The J.T. choir sings for different events in the community as well as programs for neighboring schools. The choir is currently in the rebuilding stages and hopes to return to U.I.L. competitions in the near future.

Jane Neal, Storytelling Director, Out of the Loop

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Jane Neal is the storytelling director of Out of the Loop. She also works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and Tyler Public Library, and tutors in French. Jane is training to be certified in interfaith spiritual guidance. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former teacher of French at Robert E. Lee High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.

Jane notes that “the best part of working on Out of the Loop has been the privilege of spending time with Tylerites and East Texans who, otherwise, would not be in my orbit of acquaintances. Hearing their stories never gets old. I am amazed at what treasures people hold and what surprises they bring.”

Tasneem Raja, storyteller and Executive Editor, The Tyler Loop

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Tasneem Raja is the Executive Editor and co-founder of The Tyler Loop, a nonprofit journalism and storytelling platform for Tyler, Texas. Prior to founding The Loop, Raja reported for NPR, The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Mother Jones, and other national outlets. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and serves on the board of Leadership Tyler. She lives in Tyler with her husband, her stepson, and two imperious terriers.

Leah Moser Wansley, Audio Producer, Out of the Loop

Leah Moser Wansley is a business and marketing consultant, Chief Brand Pilot for First iZ, and the Audio Director of Out of the Loop. She is the former president of the Leadership Tyler and Discovery Science Place boards of directors, a member of the executive committee of Leadership Tyler Catalyst 100, and a member of the Dayspring Live Broadcast team. Leah graduated from Whitehouse High School, Tyler Junior College, and the University of North Texas in Communication Design.

Clayton Nail, Lighting Director, Out of the Loop

Clayton Nail is a teacher at Robert E. Lee High School and in his first year of the University of Idaho’s MFA program in Directing. He is a graduate of Whitehouse High School and East Texas Baptist University.

Jamie Maldonado, Photo Director, Out of the Loop

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

An East Texas native, Jamie Maldonado has worked as a visual journalist and copy editor for the Longview News-Journal, The Denver Post, and other publications. He serves as the campus photographer and graphic designer at Kilgore College, and moonlights as a fine art photographer (complete with a master’s degree).

Brian Brandt and Neal Franklin, Performance Coaches, Out of the Loop

Portrait by Jamie Maldonado
Portrait by Jamie Maldonado

Brian Brandt has spent his life supporting the transformation of individuals and organizations. In his three decades of leadership experience, he has served in such roles as a C.E.O., public relations director, national sales director, executive pastor, and college tennis coach. He regularly speaks on leadership topics including: blind spots, leadership, effective communication, non-profit issues, and how to bring a vision to fruition. He recently coauthored Blind Spots: What you don’t know CAN hurt you, with Ashley Kutach.

Neal Franklin has enjoyed an extensive leadership career in public safety in such roles as Fire Chief, Emergency Management Coordinator, and EMS General Manager. By sharing his professional and personal life experiences, Neal has the ability to connect with current and aspiring leaders of all ages. Whether training an individual, business or nonprofit, Neal always strives to share his heart while providing practical principles and tips.

Neal and Brian, through Core Insights, provide employee and leadership training, strategic planning, executive coaching, a speakers’ bureau, as well as Dale Carnegie training programs.

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Tasneem Raja is the Editor-in-Chief of The Oaklandside. A pioneer in data journalism and local nonprofit news startups, she co-founded The Tyler Loop, a nationally recognized community news platform in East Texas. She was a senior editor at NPR's Code Switch and at Mother Jones, where the team she led helped built the first-ever database of mass shootings in America. She started her career as features reporter at The Chicago Reader and The Philadelphia Weekly, and lives in Oakland with her husband and two imperious terriers.