2017 Speakers

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm is Anishinaabek from the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, Saugeen Ojibway Nation. She and her sons live in their community at Neyaashiinigmiing. Kateri is an internationally acclaimed writer, spoken word poet, Indigenous arts activist and publisher. She has published two books of poetry, a collection of short stories and two CDs of spoken word poetry. Her A Constellation of Bones soundtrack was nominated for an Aboriginal Music Award. Kateri is the founder and managing editor of Kegedonce Press, an award-winning Indigenous publisher. Her collection of short stories, The Stone Collection, was recently shortlisted for a Sarton Literary Award.


Shireen Ahmed is a writer, public speaker and Sports Activist focusing on Muslim women, and the intersections of racism and misogyny in sports. Her passion for sports, women’s issues and politics often collides. Her work has been featured and discussed in The Guardian, The Establishment, The Shadow League, Bitch Media, FanSided, Sports Illustrated, Racialicious, VICE Sports, Islamic Monthly, A Football Report, Huffington Post, Chatelaine, The National Post, Best Health Magazine, espnW, Globe and Mail, Media Diversified and CBC radio. She is working on her first book and drinks a lot of coffee. Shireen lives in Mississauga with her family and her two amazing cats.


Steve Bellamy is dean of the Humber School of Creative & Performing Arts, which hosts programs in writing, publishing, acting, comedy, music, theatre, and arts administration and cultural management. A recording engineer and music producer, Steve has engineered more than 200 albums, several of which have won JUNO Awards and nominations. A researcher in auditory perception and psychoacoustics for virtual audio environments, Steve has served on faculty at McGill University, the University of Hartford and The Banff Centre. At Humber, he is committed to industry partnership development and Indigenous arts programming and is especially interested in sustainable business models for the creative industries.


Diane Davy is the president of Castledale Inc., a consulting company for the business of the cultural sector. She serves as the part-time executive director of WorkInCulture, a not-for-profit organization specializing in business skills training for the arts and culture sector in Ontario. Diane also teaches the Business of Book Publishing course in the Humber College Creative Book Publishing program.


Cherie Dimaline is a writer and editor who was named the 2014 Ontario Premier’s Award for Emerging Artist of the Year and was the first Writer in Residence – Aboriginal Experience at the Toronto Public Library. She held the position of Writer in Residence for First Nations House at the University of Toronto. She sits on numerous literary and arts boards and councils and continues to advocate for Indigenous literature and writers globally. Cherie lives in Toronto, where she runs First Canadian Health; coordinates the Indigenous Writers’ Gathering; is building a national Indigenous literary organization, The RIEL Centre; and is at work on her next book, The Marrow Thieves.


Deborah Dundas became the books editor at the Toronto Star after having reviewed books for the paper for more than 15 years. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years, including stints as books editor at Canada AM and producer at TVO, interviewing emerging artists, popular writers and literary powerhouses or producing shows on them. She was the one-time coordinator of Canada Book Day. She feels that the books beat is the perfect marriage of her interest in business, literature and politics and her experience covering them.


Stephanie Fysh, chair of the Book and Periodical Council, is a freelance editor of fiction and non-fiction to publishers large and small and to independent authors. She is also a former coordinator of and instructor in the Ryerson Publishing program and a fine arts photographer.


Rachel Giese is editor-at-large of Chatelaine magazine and a regular contributor to CBC Radio. Her award-winning writing has appeared in The Walrus, The Globe and Mail, Today’s Parent, The Hairpin, Real Life and NewYorker.com. Her first book, Boy: Becoming a Man in the 21st Century, will be published in 2018.


Cynthia Good is the former director of the Creative Book Publishing program at Humber College. She founded the publishing program at Humber after 20 years with Penguin Books, where she was editorial director and then president and publisher.


Louise Bernice Halfe – Sky Dancer was raised on Saddle Lake Reserve and attended Blue Quills Residential School. Louise is married and has two adult children and three grandsons. She graduated with a Bachelor of social work from the University of Regina. She also completed two years of Nechi Training in St. Albert’s Nechi Institute where she also facilitated the program. She served as Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate for two years. Her books, Bear Bones and Feathers, Blue Marrow, The Crooked Good, and Burning In This Midnight Dream have all received numerous accolades and awards. Louise was also award an honorary degree from Wilfred Laurier University.


Joseph Heath is a professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto. A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Trudeau Foundation, Joseph is the author of several books, both popular and academic. His most recent book, Morality, Competition and the Firm, is a collection of articles on business ethics and the normative foundations of market economies. He is also the author of Enlightenment 2.0, which won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing in 2015.


Chris Jackson is the publisher and editor-in-chief of One World, a just relaunched imprint of Random House. Previously, Chris was an executive editor at Spiegel & Grau from its founding in 2006, where he edited prize-winning and bestselling authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bryan Stevenson, Eddie Huang, Jill Leovy, Matt Taibbi, Victor LaValle, Trevor Noah and Jay Z. The One World list includes Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Alex Wagner, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Molly Crabapple, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Joe Tone, Marwan Hisham and Jean Guerrero. Chris has written for TheAtlantic.com, The Paris Review and Callaloo, among others. He is a native of New York, where he currently resides.


Martha Kanya-Forstner is Editor-in-Chief of both Doubleday Canada and McClelland and Stewart. She has edited some of Canada’s most celebrated authors, including Wayson Choy, Michael Crummey, Camilla Gibb, Kyo Maclear, Nino Ricci, M.G. Vassanji, and doctors Vincent Lam, James Maskalyk, and James Orbinski. Books she has edited have won some of Canada’s most prestigious prizes, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for both fiction and nonfiction. Forthcoming books include important investigative work into unsolved cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women from Jessica McDiarmid; perspective-shifting work about race in Canada from Desmond Cole; and exciting fiction from David Chariandy, Michael Redhill, and Linda Spalding.


Manisha Krishnan is VICE.com Canada’s senior writer, reporting on subjects such as the cannabis industry, systemic racism and sexual violence against women. She has hosted a VICE documentary about Canadian gun culture and her enterprise reporting on vigilante pedophile hunting was the inspiration for Age of Consent, a feature-length VICE documentary that screened at Toronto’s Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. She has previously written for the Toronto Star, Maclean’s magazine, the Calgary Herald and many other publications. Manisha grew up in Vancouver, but she moved to Toronto in 2013 to pursue her career. She prefers bars over nature, so it all worked out for the best.


Seung-yoon (SY) Lee is the CEO and co-founder of Radish and previously ran Byline, the largest English-language crowd-funded journalism platform. He is taking Byline’s original mission – of helping writers live through writing – from journalism to creative writing with Radish. For his commitment to media innovation, Seung-yoon was recognized by Forbes in the inaugural list of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia. He was the first East Asian president of the Oxford Union, the world’s most famous debating society, and is a contributing editor to The WorldPost, a joint venture of The Huffington Post and the Berggruen Institute.


Chris Lynch is the president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio. A 27-year veteran of the audio publishing industry, Chris has overall responsibility for acquisition, production, sales, marketing and licensing activities on behalf of the division’s many titles and product lines, including the company’s fast-growing Pimsleur language programs. He has published numerous bestselling and award-winning audiobooks, including Born to Run, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, All the Light You Cannot See, Steve Jobs, The Kite Runner and The Secret. An advocate of original audio publishing, he has championed bestselling original audiobooks from authors such as Jimmy Carter, Joel Osteen and Stephen King.


Nathan Maharaj is a lifelong bookseller. As a teenager, he worked at his local Chapters bookstore in Mississauga, Ontario, later taking on category management roles at Indigo’s head office. Today, he is the senior director of merchandising for Kobo, where he manages a globe-spanning team of e-booksellers.


Meg Masters has worked in the publishing industry for thirty years. She spent over ten years at Penguin Books Canada as an acquisitions editor and has been a freelance editor and writer since 1999. She has edited fiction and non-fiction for both children and adults, working with such authors as Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Bill Richardson, Stephanie Nolan, Roy Macgregor, Charlotte Gray, Denise Chong, Carolyn Abraham and Guy Gavriel Kay. She was the story producer for Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio and has ghost-written eight books, in a variety of genres. Meg is currently a faculty member of The Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber College in Toronto.


Anne McClelland is executive director of the Book and Periodical Council (BPC). Prior to joining the BPC in 2001, Anne was both executive and administrative director of The Writers’ Development Trust. She began her publishing career in sales and marketing with McClelland & Stewart.


Mark Medley is The Globe and Mail’s books editor. He previously spent almost eight years at the National Post, where he served as books editor and wrote about arts and culture. A graduate of Queen’s University and Ryerson University, his work has appeared in publications across Canada, including The Walrus and Toronto Life. He currently lives in Toronto with his wife, his son and an evil cat.


Valerie Merians is co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House, an award-winning independent publishing house in Brooklyn, New York, and London, England. Valerie started Melville House in 2001 with her husband, Dennis Johnson, a fiction writer and journalist. Their first book, Poetry After 9/11, became a surprise hit. Melville House has gone on to publish many groundbreaking books, including the bestselling Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, by Bernard-Henri Lévy, about the first journalist to report on Pakistan’s trading of nuclear technology; Torture Taxi, the first book on the CIA’s rendition program; the international bestsellers Every Man Dies Alone, by Hans Fallada, and Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by David Graeber; and, more recently, The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s Report on Torture and The Making of Donald Trump, by David Cay Johnston.


Arif Noorani is the executive producer of CBC Radio’s New Programs and Original Podcast unit. The unit has created and launched over a dozen series including Someone Knows Something, Love Me, Sleepover, Because News, Out in the Open and Podcast Playlist. He’s co-founded or led multiple flagship programs including The Current, Q and Day 6 and helped grow new audiences at the CBC through creating compelling multi-platform storytelling on radio, podcasting, television and digital.


Candy Palmater is a recovered lawyer turned feminist comic. She is an, actor, writer, columnist, international speaker, activist, comedian and award-winning TV and radio personality, and has executive produced three films on Mi’kmaw culture. Candy is the creator and star of her own multiple award-winning TV series, The Candy Show (APTN). She has also appeared as an actor on other TV shows, and has received a Screen Nova Scotia nomination. On CBC Radio One Candy has hosted or appeared on Q, DNTO and Because News, among others. She was a panelist on Canada Reads 2017. Before pursuing entertainment full time, Candy was the Director of the Mi’Kmaq Liason Office in the Department of Education for the Province of Nova Scotia.


Shilpa Raikar is a creative writer, blogger and advertising professional with Blink Advertising. She believes in the power of words, creativity and telling an engaging story, whether it be through modern or traditional media.


Laura Repas worked in book publishing for nearly 18 years, briefly at Macmillan Canada, at General Publishing and, most recently, as publicity director at House of Anansi Press. She is currently communications director at Canopy, the environmental not-for-profit most famous for “greening” the Harry Potter book series. Laura has a BA in Theatre from York University and studied Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College.


Itah Sadu is an award-winning storyteller, author and co-owner of A Different Booklist bookstore in Toronto, specializing in African and Caribbean literature and diverse resources from around the world. Itah is a former vice president of the Black Business and Professional Association and a former board member of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. She is currently a Harry Jerome Scholarship Trustee and a board member of The Watah School.


Susan Safyan has been the in-house editor at Arsenal Pulp Press since 2008. She has edited a range of fiction, poetry, graphic novels and non-fiction for the press – more than 135 titles – including the controversial Governor General’s Award winner When Everything Feels Like the Movies, by Raziel Reid; BC Book Prize winners (Ashley Little’s Anatomy of a Girl Gang and Aaron Chapman’s Live at the Commodore); and two City of Vancouver Book Award winners (Wayde Compton’s The Outer Harbour and Amber Dawn’s How Poetry Saved My Life). Susan’s book, All Roads Lead to Wells: Stories of the Hippie Days, was published in 2012. She is also the bibliographer for BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly.


Paul Seesequasis is a writer, editor, cultural activist and journalist. He was a founding editor of the award-winning Aboriginal Voices magazine, and the recipient of a MacLean-Hunter journalist award. He was a program officer for a number of years at the Canada Council for the Arts. His short stories and feature writings have been published in Canada and abroad. His novel, Tobacco Wars, was published in 2010 and he is urgently working on a new book inspired by archival photographs of Indigenous communities, that will be published 2018. He currently resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and is Willow Cree and an urban band member of Beardy’s and Okemasis.


Ken Setterington has been a librarian for more than 30 years and is retired from the position of Children and Youth Advocate at the Toronto Public Library, a position created for him. He is well known as a passionate promoter of Canadian children’s literature and has been part of the Children’s Book Panel on CBC Radio for the last 25 years. He is a storyteller and has told stories internationally. He is also a writer of numerous books, including the prize-winning Branded by the Pink Triangle. He has received several awards, including the Toronto Arts Award, Librarian of the Year and, most recently, the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General.


Shelley Tanaka is the fiction editor at Groundwood Books. She is also a translator and the author of two dozen books for young readers. She teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts, in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.