Our Team

Mary B. Johnston, editor, writing coach, and personal historian

Across the last thirty years Mary has been helping people of all ages with their writing skills—as a freelance editor, writing coach, personal historian, and high school English teacher. After teaching English for fourteen years at various New England preparatory schools, she founded Wordworks in 1996. Eager to learn about and preserve people’s personal histories, Mary started a personal history service, Tell Your Stories, in 2009. She has helped hundreds of writers discover their voices and put their experiences and knowledge into words. Many of those writers have published their words—some in academic journals, others in books for family members and loved ones, and still others for the general public. Mary looks forward to helping you share what you know with your target audience.

Close-up of VallyVally Sharpe, Book Production Manager

For over eighteen years, Vally Sharpe has worked with over 750 independent and traditional publishers, providing a variety of pre-press services. For Tell Your Stories, she performs the final technical checks of files to be submitted for printing and manages the process from proof to delivery. Her primary goal is to find the best match of book manufacturer and publisher, balancing design, schedule, and budget to ensure a quality product that showcases the stories told.

Cassandra Pingree Foster, book designer

Cassandra provides the creative development for books and specializes in graphic-rich publications. Cassandra spent more than a decade working in higher education, including time at George Mason University, Emerson College, and College of Charleston. Before moving into the higher education field, Cassandra spent a decade in journalism and print design. She has had her work recognized by the Virginia Press Association. In addition to her career, Cassandra has volunteered her time to support church and community-based organizations to design print materials including ads, promotional announcements, event guides, small booklets, and more. She resides in Lancaster, PA, with her husband and three sons. She spends her weekends cheering at her boys’ soccer matches, and when not on the road for soccer, she enjoys visiting her family in the Carolinas and Lisbon, Portugal.

Nicole Borman, book designer

While working as a librarian for over a decade, Nicole began noticing the challenges of book design and how they could be improved. Having studied fashion during her undergraduate education, she eventually felt a need to bring creativity back into her life which led her back to school to study Advertising and Graphic Design. Nicole is a big-ideas person whose interests lie in all things design, photography, dogs, chocolatey baked goods, dreaming and learning. And it is with her passion to learn and grow that she is always open to adding more experience and skills to her backpack of knowledge. You may view some of her work at southernpeachstudios.com.


cj Madigan, book designer

cj Madigan reveres photographs: those magical pieces of chemically-processed paper that have no real market value but, to a particular audience, are priceless. And she positively swoons over books: the cover-bending, page-turning, paper-touching physical bookness of them. cj has been designing and producing print publications since the early days of what was then called “desktop publishing” and is now referred to as simply “the way we create books”. So she is never happier than when she is able to combine photos and text into beautifully designed privately-published heirloom books, which she has specialized in since 2007. To learn more about cj’s work, take a look at her website: http://shoebox-stories.com.

Close-up of SierraSierra Zardus, photo manager and typist

Sierra, a graduate of Utah State University, studied plant science. She currently works full time at The Clemson Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston, SC, where she assists in plant disease research. A beekeeper, a lover of rabbits and of capoeira, Sierra is gifted at identifying and solving problems in systematic and efficient ways. She brings these skills to Tell Your Stories as she scans, uploads, and organizes hundreds of photos at a time.

Caroline Gunter, photo consultant and organizer

Caroline Guntur, a Certified Photo Organizer and Personal Historian, specializes in digital organizing and family history. She is the owner of The Swedish Organizer, LLC, a company that provides customized family history solutions to clients all over the world. Caroline also hosts webinars, workshops, and creates online courses. A native of Ystad, Sweden, she has a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Communications from Hawaii Pacific University and a Masters Degree in Media Management from Columbia College Chicago. She currently divides her time between the United States and Sweden.

Caroline is responsible for setting up Mary on Freedcamp, a very helpful organizational system on which Tell Your Stories clients can upload and comment on the photos they want to include in their personal and family histories. She is also an indispensible photo advisor and cheerleader for Tell Your Stories clients. To learn more, please visit http://www.organizingphotos.net or email Caroline directly at caroline@theswedishorganizer.com.

RuthRuth Elkin, transcriber

Ruth has a B.A. from Colby College with majors in English and music. She has been copyediting, proofreading, and transcribing since 2000. Meticulous to the bone, Ruth enjoys creating style sheets and reading manuscripts carefully, often catching mistakes that writers and earlier editors did not. Memoirs are her favorite genre. Given her patience, curiosity, and knack for listening, her passion for people’s stories comes as no surprise. You can reach Ruth at 207-774-9378 and relki3@yahoo.com.

Cyrus R. Martin, writer, editor, and proofreader

Close-up of Cyrus

Cyrus is a seasoned writer, editor, and communicator, with more than ten years of professional experience with various nonprofit, for-profit, and government organizations. After receiving his B.A. in Philosophy from Roanoke College in 2011, Cyrus moved from South Carolina to Colorado to be closer to ‘Big Nature’ and help advance the missions of companies and organizations focused on environmental sustainability, conservation, education, and social justice. After nearly ten years in Denver, he and his Great Pyrenees, Kosmo, left the city life behind for more open space and fresh air in Fort Collins, Colorado. In early 2022, Cyrus established his own freelance writing and editing practice, Rhodes Editorial. As a wordsmith with a deep passion for storytelling, Cyrus is excited to help others craft, strengthen, and share their personal histories. Some of Cyrus’s published works can be found at Authory.com/CyrusMartin.

Rich Hillyard, editor and proofreader

Rich’s interest in writing and publishing started at an early age and included a broad scope of work on his high school newspaper. His professional writing career includes fifteen years as a technical writer at Novell, Inc., writing and editing computer software documentation. His work with Tell Your Stories began as a transcriber, writer, and editor for his own father’s history book. Since then, he has done extensive editing and proofreading for other Tell Your Stories projects, plus some graphic design and photographic restoration work, always with a sharp eye for detail. Rich looks forward to helping you with your projects. You can contact him at richhillyard@gmail.com.

Kimberly Jones, transcriber

Kimberly Jones began transcribing for Tell Your Stories in 2016 and is honored to be involved in the wonderful work of helping create personal histories. She has worked with her own father in writing a memoir of his military service and is currently heading up a project of childhood memories involving her three siblings. She lives in Charleston, SC with her husband and two sons.



Close-up of JennaJenna Zardus, graphic designer

Jenna Zardus, a graphic design major at the University of Utah, creates pen and ink/watercolor illustrations, including maps, for clients’ personal histories. She also creates PowerPoint presentations for Tell Your Stories to help get the word out about the value of recording personal histories. Jenna enjoys playing the viola, hiking, swimming, and spending time with her family and friends.


Stephanie Thiel, graphic designer

From a young age, Stephanie has enjoyed being creative and seeing her work impact others. In 2009 she began studying design and advertising at Brigham Young University and then went on to complete her education at the University of Hawaii Mānoa with a B.S. in Communications. She has work experience in advertising, from selling the ad space to creating the design at the KaLeo newspaper and Hawaii News Now media station. She continues to expand her skills as a freelance designer as she balances being a mother to the two cutest little boys and traveling the world.