The 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.

cj Madigan, book designer

Madigancj 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:

Ruth Elkin, transcriber

RuthRuth 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

Maia Venning, editor and proofreader

Maia cannot remember a time in her childhood when she didn’t have a book or a pen in her hand. Reading and writing remain as oxygen for her. Maia was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, where storytelling (especially those about local ghosts) has a rich heritage. She holds a bachelor’s in English from the University of Georgia and a masters, also in English, from Clayton State University. Editing since 1997, Maia officially began her freelance editing business in 2018. Detail oriented and meticulous, she focuses on clarity and impact. She has taught English at the high school and college level and recently joined the education team at FranklinCovey.


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

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.

Lexi Stewart, business assistant

Lexi graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2018 and firmly believes in the magic of the written word. The modern age has brought more modern needs to the world of writing, and Lexi found herself able to marry her love of literature with her skills in personal assistantship in order to help book creators do their jobs more effectively. She is the go-to girl when it comes to website editing, managing communications, and performing whatever other tasks are needed to get the job done. She currently lives in Mount Pleasant, SC and has two rescue pups named Sirius and Hermione.