MEET THE TEAM
Lisa Stephens Rahn grew up in Ozark, Alabama, and graduated from Houston Academy in Dothan, Alabama. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a creative writing emphasis from Mercer University and her master’s in journalism and mass communication from University of Georgia. Rahn previously worked as a newspaper reporter and a senior technical communicator. When she’s not writing, she’s completing long-distance walks, riding bicycles with her husband, spending time near or in the Gulf of Mexico, practicing yoga, dancing with her family or hanging out with her dogs and cats.
Michelle Buhr began her professional life as a certified public accountant but quickly realized that planning and organizing parties and events was her true passion. She operated an event-planning business for several years before moving into the fundraising field. As a long-time writer for the Southern Hospitality column, Buhr has developed an appreciation for letting go of perfection, instead focusing on the traditions, etiquette and events that enrich the lives of family and friends. In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her husband, hosting wine-tasting parties, going to the beach, reading, collecting cookbooks and walking her rescue dogs.
Madelyn Knowles has spent the majority of her life in Geneva County, Alabama, and learned to cook as a child, helping her parents in the kitchen. Her philosophy is, “If you can read, you can cook.” She loves to entertain, and is known around the area for her recipes, which have been showcased in Wiregrass Living Magazine since the second edition of the publication. Knowles says she wakes up in the morning looking for something to cook. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s traveling or spending time with her grandchildren.
Jessica Barefield, a native of Dothan, Alabama, hopes she never has to leave the Wiregrass. She majored in journalism at Auburn University, where she wrote for the Glomerata— the university yearbook, and the athletic department’s media relations team. Her true love is cooking; to support this habit, she works in public relations, marketing and human resources. When she’s not becoming an expert on health, she likes learning traditional Southern arts like sewing, making jelly and pickles, canning and crocheting.
Ann Varnum received her bachelor’s degree in speech and English from Huntingdon College and completed her graduate work at Auburn University. For 37 years, she hosted a TV talk show on WTVY. She now hosts Moms Every Day at the station and acts as hostess for WTVY vacations. Varnum is a published author and an inspirational speaker, and has worked as a high-school English teacher, yearbook sponsor and theater coordinator.
After years in television, Varnum feels that writing is a different avenue to introduce the wonderful people who live in the Wiregrass. When she isn’t working, she loves to read, travel, visit with old friends and spend time with her husband, three children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Laura Stakelum is a cum laude graduate of the University of South Alabama, and has worked in communication fields for the past 12 years, starting her career with PMT Publishing in Mobile, Alabama. She now handles public relations for Healthy You and Landmark Park in Dothan, Alabama, in addition to freelance writing. Laura has one dog and one cat, and enjoys reading, playing musical instruments and knitting.
Lee Ann Taylor graduated from Troy University with a bachelor’s degree in English. She believes life is best lived outdoors, and she can often be found digging in her garden, running local trails or park-hopping with her husband and two children. The Gardening Guru column allows her to marry two lifelong passions: writing and gardening.
A Dothan, Alabama, native, Kacy Green says there aren’t many things that challenge her more than communicating. She has a strong desire to cultivate an awareness that allows her to genuinely contemplate the position of others. In this regard, she finds deeply rooted compassion, which she believes is the best space from which to communicate.
While writing is her truest love, she is a hairdresser by trade—a trade she shares with another true love, her husband. As with those she interviews, she feels a strong connection to her clients, noting that it is a privilege to know she is trusted with the deepest part of a person.
Aside from work, Green volunteers as a tutor in the Adult Literacy Program at Wallace Community College. A lover of country life, she lives in Wicksburg, Alabama, with her husband, kids and six dogs.
Born in Ashburn, Georgia, Dianne Herring grew up in Dothan, but it wasn’t until adulthood that she truly got interested in cooking. “When our son, Brent, was 6 years old, I realized that—to create memories for him and my husband—I would need to learn to cook like my mother, Peggy Wilford, and my mother-in-law, Othell Herring,” she tells. “It became a desire of my heart to be a good cook.” Now, nearly 30 years later, Herring is a seasoned home chef who shares her experience at www.mycookingmemories.com in hopes her recipes will inspire cooks to make memories for their families as well.
She lives with her husband of 40 years, Phillip, near Cottonwood, Alabama, where they have a flourishing produce garden and fruit orchard. She sells her homemade jellies at The Market at Dothan Nurseries, and enjoys sitting on her front porch and relishing her son’s family’s visit.
Amanda Smith has a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications and a minor in journalism and theater from Auburn University. She has worked in TV, newspaper and marketing, and as a writing tutor for local college students. She has a love for gardening, cooking and singing in her church choir. With two active teenagers, a husband, two cats and a crazy dog, spare moments are rare, but are spent curled up with a good book.
Gail Dwyer has always laughed at her own jokes. Her conviction that she is funny, along with her love of writing, led to her penning our Tributes & Legends column. Born in Massachusetts, Dwyer graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1981 with the second class of women. She served five years active duty and is retired from the Army Reserves. She wrote and published a memoir of her experiences at West Point, and has done technical writing, editing and feature writing for numerous publications.
With a master’s in education from Troy University, Dwyer has also taught and coached, and has served as a representative for West Point admissions for more than 25 years. Along with her husband, a retired Army aviator, she has four adult children and five grandchildren. The family spent more than six years at Fort Rucker, and is glad to call the Wiregrass home. Though proud of her Boston roots, she happily orders sweet tea and grits and never visits family up north between October and April.