Speaker Biographies and Sessions Information

Writing Strategies Sessions Art Sessions Adult Sessions

Writing Strategies Sessions

Let's Play God - How to Create the Coolest Characters Ever!

Presenter: Jamie Bastedo
Session #1

Workshop: Creating people out of thin air sounds like a job for the gods! But you too can "play God" every time you think up a new character for your stories. No magic wands or divine powers are needed. Only your imagination and a few solid tips and tricks on how to create the coolest characters ever. That’s what Jamie will serve up in this fun workshop.

Biography: Jamie Bastedo is a biologist turned author who writes crazy outdoor adventure stories. His latest novel, CUT OFF, about a “screenager” whose social media addiction almost kills him, won a Best Teen Fiction award. Jamie loves creating weird and wonderful characters, from magic polar bears and dyslexic birds, to eco-warriors & guitar heroes!

Put a Person in a Pickle!

Presenter: Bill Bunn
Session #2

Workshop: What's a story? A story is just a person in a pickle. We'll pick a person. We'll pick a pickle. We'll put the person in the pickle and see if we can find a story we want to write!

Biography: Bill Bunn writes for young people! He writes for young adults, and children. (And adults, but, shhhhh, it’s a secret). He has published three young adult novels, the most recent one came out in February 2018, called "Out on the Drink." He is currently writing two pages a day to generate the rough draft of his next novel.

Fright Night

Presenter: Marty Chan
Session #3

Workshop: Ever wanted to scare your friends? Marty Chan shares the secrets of writing suspense stories that will keep your readers on the edge of their seats.

Biography: Marty Chan writes books for kids and plays for adults. He has delighted elementary students with his Marty Chan Mystery Series and terrified young readers with his Keepers of the Vault series.

Developing Your Story Ideas and Hooking Your Readers from Page One (Gr 6-8)

Presenter: Katherine Dell
Session #4

Workshop: Ever had an idea for a story, but couldn’t figure out all the elements to make it engaging? Or, been ready to write, but can’t decide how the story starts? In this session, we’ll discuss idea generation strategies and types of story beginnings. There will be time for writing exercises, discussion on famous story first lines, and time to share work.

Biography: Katherine Dell is a young adult fiction author fascinated by supernatural stories. She began her writing endeavours in 2011 when she wanted to reinvent herself from her previous career as an event planner. In 2017, she published Harmless; the first book in a Young Adult Thriller series. She lives with her husband and two boys in Calgary, AB.

She Tamed a Dragon: An Adventure in Self-Publishing

Presenter: Mieka DiLouie
Session #5

Workshop: When Mieka DiLouie's dad (a published author) challenged her that if she wrote a story, he would publish it, she spent most of fifth grade producing SHE TAMED A DRAGON. This seminar provides an inside look at Mieka's writing process and her dad's publishing process , which resulted in a positive learning experience and a strong love of writing.

Biography: Sixth-grader Mieka DiLouie is the author of SHE TAMED A DRAGON. Dad Craig DiLouie is a professional fiction and technical writer.

A Random Time Travel

Presenter: Lois Donovan
Session #6

Workshop: Stories are everywhere! They sometimes lurk in the strangest places, just waiting to be found. In this session you will explore how a random artifact can hurtle you into a different time, spark your imagination and ignite a story. Be prepared for a random adventure and pick up some writing tips along the way!

Biography: Lois Donovan was born in Montreal, Quebec, after which she moved to a variety of random places across Canada, before settling in Calgary, Alberta. Lois is the author of two time-travel, historical novels: Winds of L’Acadie, and The Journal. When she is not writing, she enjoys walking her shelties or playing with her baby granddaughter.

Plotting a Mystery Through Drama

Presenter: Susan Forest
Session #7

Workshop: The plot of a mystery or thriller is based on the opposite desires of the hero and villain. Come to this workshop ready to plan a mystery story, and enact the roles of the hero and the villain in order to construct your own story. The workshop will finish with an opportunity to write and to share.

Biography: Three-time Aurora Award finalist, Susan writes SF, fantasy and horror. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s and Analog, among others. Her YA Novel, The Dragon Prince, won the Children's Book Choice Award, and her next fantasy, Bursts of Fire, will be out this summer from Laksa Media. Website: speculative-fiction.ca.

The Organized & Creative Young Writer

Presenter: Barbori Garnet
Session #8

Workshop: This session will include and have students:

  • identifying and organizing their writing goals;
  • practice creating their own rhyming poem(s);
  • drafting a query letter; and
  • drawing a front and back cover to a book they would like to publish one day

Biography: Barbori Garnet is a Creative Arts Professional - writer, artist and musician - based in Calgary, AB. She finds lots of inspiration from and enjoys being in her family's fruit, vegetable and perennial garden and likes to spend time in the mountains.

Do You Want to Make Stuff Up?

Presenter: Janet Gurtler
Session #9

Workshop: Let's spend time creating an imaginary character of your choice! By the end of this workshop you’ll be amazed by the details your know and how real your character feels! It can also help you with a story or character you’re already working on, or help you get unstuck! Bring a pencil and paper, because you’re going to write!

Biography: Janet Gurtler is the author of over twenty books, including bestselling, I’M NOT HER, and a series about mermaids called Mermaid Kingdom. She spends a lot of time making stuff up. Janet lives in Okotoks with her husband, son and a fat Chihuahua named Bruce who only eats human food. Check out Janet’s webpage at www.janet-gurtler.com

Rhyme, Just in Time!

Presenter: Susanne Heaton
Session #10

Workshop: Do you want to have some fun? Feel like your number "1"? Come out and hang with me, and write some poetry!

Biography: Susanne Alexander-Heaton wrote the children's book, The ABC Field Guide to Faeries, which received the USA Best Book Award for Inspirational Poetry

Howdy Doodle Doo

Presenter: Stephanie Hrehirchuk
Session #11

Workshop: No art experience necessary! You will enjoy a fun exercise to help you doodle a masterpiece and then write a poem about it.

Biography: Stephanie Hrehirchuk is the author of Anna and the Earth Angel, Anna and the Tree Fort, Anna and the Food Forest and the most recent, Anna and the Christmas Tree. Stephanie has a tree planted for every print copy sold of the Anna books.

SEEING is Believing

Presenter: Kathy Jessup
Session #12

Workshop: Whatever you're writing, being able to clearly SEE your ideas helps fire up the imagination and makes it easier for words to flow. In this workshop, participants use storyboards to capture images created by brain power and use them to fuel writing projects!

Biography: Writer/Storyteller Kathy Jessup performs in schools, libraries, concerts and festivals across Canada & internationally. Her work is published in various literary venues and her CD “LISTEN UP!" is recommended by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Kathy’s workshops consistently receive great reviews. www.kathyjessup.com

The Power of Weird

Presenter: Tory Kokol
Session #13

Workshop: We're all different...and that's awesome! Learn about the power of YOUR story!

Biography: Troy Kokol is a music producer, engineer, singer, songwriter and artist manager. He's a SOCAN award winner and 2-time CCMA Songwriter of the Year nominee. As an artist, his 2nd studio album, Lonely Ghost, was nominated for the 2018 CBC Indigenous Music Awards - Best Folk Album and also won him Songwriter of the Year at the 2018 YYC Music Awards.

Creating Cursive Characters

Presenter: Maraya Loza Koxahn
Session #14

Workshop: Create a crazy character out of your own name, or a creature out of a made-up word. Once your characters are ready, let them help you write their story. There will be some art and cursive writing included in this writing workshop.

Biography: Maraya Loza Koxahn is one of The Book Babas - nurturing you through the process from writer to author. She has published three books of poetry. Maraya teaches writing to adults and children at the Alexandra Writers Centre, and art to adults and children at Aliki's Art House. She's a freelance editor.

Well, That's Mysterious!

Presenter: Jan Markley
Session #15

Workshop: Do you love a good whodunit? We'll uncover the secrets to writing a mystery story, and use our new skills to craft a head scratching tale of puzzlement. Bring your sleuthing abilities, curiosity, and ideas!

Biography: Dead Frog on the Porch (Gumboot Books 2009) is Jan Markley's debut novel for middle grade readers. It is a comedic mystery adventure and the first in the Megabyte Mystery Series. Dead Bird through the Cat Door is the second in the series (Gumboot Books 2010). Growing up she was a voracious reader of Nancy Drew Mysteries.

The Secret of the Triple Z

Presenter: Michele Martin Bossley
Session #16

Workshop: The ZZZ Theory — is that a total snooze (no sleeping in class!) or a way to make your writing better? Learn how to use the three Zs in writing— put zip into your story by writing what you feel, zap your characters to life and zoom into the action of the story! We’ll talk about getting ideas and how to create a story.

Biography: Michele Martin Bossley has written twenty-one novels for young people. Many of Michele’s books focus on different sports. A former competitive swimmer, she has also coached young swimmers, in addition to coaching her sons’ soccer and hockey teams, and draws on much of that experience for her books. She also loves mysteries!

Real Mysteries - on Air, Land and Sea!

Presenter: Shirlee Smith Matheson
Session #17

Workshop: Newspaper & Internet articles provide basic facts of mysterious stories. Air: The Haunted Flight Path. Land: Where's Johnny? Sea: Underwater Phantoms! We'll learn how to uncover exciting details by "interviewing" the people involved; discover startling facts behind basic stories; and write opening paragraphs for stories that are "amazing and true".

Biography: True tales are related in Shirlee's nonfiction books - Amazing Flights & Flyers; & Lost! Unsolved Mysteries of Canadian Aviation. Young adult novels include Flying Ghosts; Fastback Beach; and Jailbird Kid. Shirlee regularly presents writing workshops, with upcoming tours scheduled in BC and Alberta for her new book, This Was Our Valley.

Write On! Writing Rules!

Presenter: Paula Matikainen
Session #18

Workshop: Do you love playing with words? Do you like to create vivid images for your readers? If so, this is the session for you! Join Paula and Sheryl for an interactive journey where you can learn amazing writing strategies that will wow your readers, teachers, family and friends!

Biography: Sheryl and Paula have worked with the Calgary Board of Education since 1989. They met at the University of Lethbridge while completing their Masters Degrees in Education. They share a passion for literacy. They have presented at teachers’ conventions, including the 2014 Special Education Conference, and the 2014 ELL Conference.

Play a Game: Write a Story!

Presenter: Lorna Nicholson
Session #19

Workshop: Let's play a game and write a story! Writing fiction is about description, plots, setting and dialogue. Plus, we can’t forget that every good fiction story has some sort of gripping conflict. But let's make this fun! Lorna Schultz Nicholson will play a game first to get your creative juices going... so you can write a fantastic story.

Biography: Lorna Schultz Nicholson has published children’s picture books, MG fiction, YA fiction and non-fiction. Her latest titles include a non-fiction book about Hayley Wickenheiser, and a novel titled A Time To Run. Lorna lives in Edmonton with her husband and two dogs, a whiny bichon shih tzu, and a sort-of-naughty puppy she rescued from Mexico.

Finding that Voice

Presenter: Carolyn Pogue
Session #20

Workshop: The power in our pens can help our planet breathe again! Through writing, we'll explore how nonhuman beings love us, help us, and teach us. This workshop invites you to see the world with new eyes.

Biography: Carolyn Pogue teaches at YouthWrite, a camp in the Rockies for kids who love to write. She is the author of 14 books, including Hilwie's Bread, Gwen and West Wind Calling. She loves the wild world.

On Your Mark, Get Set.... GET WRITING!

Presenter: Irene Punt
Session #21

Workshop: How do you create funny picture books and cool junior novels? GET WRITING! How do you become a published author? KEEP WRITING! NEVER GIVE UP! Make your everyday adventures extraordinary stories! Irene Punt will share her writing secrets with you. The written exercise will provide a fun and useful tool to plot your stories.

Biography: Irene Punt loves to travel, ski, power-walk, and play with her computer. Her eight junior novels about the Glenlake Hawks Hockey team are a combination of humour, action. irony and friendship. "Hat Trick" is a best sellers. "Hockey Timeout" is the most recent. Many of the story details are taken from the days of being a hockey mom.

Rhythm And Poetry

Presenter: Robey Sabo Stothart
Session #22

Workshop: Explore creative writing through creating hip hop rhythms and poetry.

Biography: Sabo Forte is a hip hop artist and co-facilitator of 6social.org, an online professional development program for educators.

What the Who is Poetry?

Presenter: Anne Sorbie
Session #23

Workshop: Enjoy a session where you can explore and choose words that smell, taste, see, hear, talk, and make magic.

Biography: Anne Sorbie a poet, storyteller, and editor. She has published, essays, articles, short stories, and poetry. Her third book, a collection of poetry called Falling Backwards Into Mirrors is due out in the fall from Inanna Publications.

Capturing Writing with Imagery!

Presenter: Carrie Stanton
Session #24

Workshop: This workshop will focus on the use of Imagery. We will capture the senses of you, the writer, and focus on delighting your readers with the dancing, galloping, spine-tingling and oozing use of imagery which will bump your writing up to the outer-spheres of your imagination.

Biography: Carrie Stanton enjoys writing stories that allow imaginations to blossom. She loves how words can grow wings and transport readers great distances, to worlds where anything is possible. Her books, Emmie and the Fierce Dragon and The Jewel, are both Calgary Number One Bestsellers and are popular with students, teachers, parents and kids everywhere!

Writing and Publishing YOUR Short Story

Presenter: Harrison & Tom Szutu
Session #25

Workshop: Techniques to get by writers block and write a creative short story. Using mad lib and picture prompt we'll create a short story from scratch and on the spot. Attendees will then write their own short stories using the same method. All individual stories may be submitted to us and compiled as a single book to be published 6 weeks after the workshop.

Biography: 12 year old Harrison is a Gr. 7 student at Colonel Irvine. He published his first book, Ninja Mice of Wall Street with his Dad, Tom, when he was 10 years old. Harrison and Tom also recently published Young Writers Conference YWC2018, a compilation book of short stories written by their conference attendees last year.

Spellcrafting for Young Witches and Wizards

Presenter: Emily Ursuliak
Session #26

Workshop: While there may not be a real-life school for witchcraft and wizardry to go to, that doesn’t meant we can’t learn to use words in magical ways. In this workshop you’ll learn how to craft and cast your own spells for a variety of different uses.

Biography: Emily Ursuliak is the author of Throwing the Diamond Hitch, a poetic re-telling of her grandmother’s adventures from 1951. Throwing the Diamond Hitch is her first collection of poetry and won the High Plains Book Award for Poetry. When she isn’t writing, Emily works as a librarian for the Calgary Public Library.

Painting Pictures With the Written Word

Presenter: Suzy Vadori
Session #27

Workshop: Reading can paint pictures in our minds - fantastic, vivid scenes that make us feel like we're really there. In this exciting workshop, we'll explore the world around us as well as make up new environments, all while practicing describing everything we imagine in the most interesting way possible.

Biography: Suzy is the Calgary Bestselling, of two time Aurora Finalist The Fountain Series. She lives in Calgary, Canada with her husband and three children and is the Program Manager, Young Adult/Children’s Programming for When Words Collide (WWC), the Founder of WriteIt! creative writing programs in schools, and an instructor of youth programs at AWCS.

Fun With fact, Fantasy, and Fiction

Presenter: Valerie Walker
Session #28

Workshop: How to have fun with your writing by combining fact with fiction, history with time travel, and letting your imagination soar.

Biography: Valerie has written five books about an adventure seeking Hedgehog named Hedley, for children 5 - 9. Two time-travel books for juveniles, and an ad venture novel for young adults. She was born in England, but has made her home in Calgary for 60 years.

Art Sessions

Paint, Write and Create Your Story

Presenter: Michelle Austen
Session A

Workshop: Developing a sketchbook habit and the process of turning your artwork into a book.

Biography: Michelle Austen is a fulltime Calgary artist. She has recently written, illustrated and self-published her first childrens book, "Adventures of Wilde - A Sense of Wonder". She enjoys sharing her artistic inspiration and enthusiasm with youth and adults in her community each year.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Presenter: Carol Bondoroff
Session B

Workshop: Have fun with "Plasticine" in this hands-on poetry/art workshop. Learn about colour mixing, composition and lettering, while illustrating a poem, and making it come alive with plasticine.

Biography: Carole Bondaroff is a Calgary Artist and Art Educator. She teaches art classes throughout the province and makes etchings at the Heart Studio in Calgary. She has worked as an Artist in Residence in Québec, Newfoundland, Mexico, Spain and Greece. Her recent "Artist Book" is on permanent display at the new Calgary Public Library.

Scriptwriting for Graphic Novels

Presenter: James Davidge
Session C

Workshop: Do you have an amazing idea for a comic book or want to learn how graphic novels are made? In this session you will learn the basics of comic book scriptwriting including key vocabulary and storytelling techniques. You will get a chance to develop an idea of yours and work to script your very own comic.

Biography: James Davidge is the author or numerous prose novels and graphic novels. His titles include The Driftwood Saga, Mathemagick, The Duchess Ranch of Old John Ware and the newly released 1st Legion of Utopia. James is a teacher at the Willow Park School for Arts-Centred Learning and lives just outside of Calgary with his wife and daughter.

Writing & Illustrating for Children

Presenter: Tamara Hackett
Session D

Workshop: If you have ever had an idea for a book for children - I will show you how to bring it to life. From forming your idea all the way to publishing your first book. I will show you how you can communicate feeling through imagery (even if you feel like you can't draw), what you need to know before you start and give you the resources you need.

Biography: Tamara Hackett is an author/illustrator of two best-selling children's books and journals - notably Mindful ABCs and Mindful 1,2,3. Tamara is the owner and founder of Sweet Clover Studios - a publishing company that produces unique and inspiring water-colour books, art and design.

Visual Character Design for Video Games, Comics and Cartoons

Presenter: Lydia Lees
Session E

Workshop: Visual storytelling uses a medium which allows the story to be told with images, such as comic books, video games and cartoons. Creating unique looking characters for such stories is a fun and challenging task. Learn how to create a character that will wow the viewer and enhance your tale.

Biography: Lydia Lees is a graduate of the Alberta College of Art and Design and uses her artistic passion in the video game industry. Working at Trajectory IQ she has the opportunity to create art and characters for many web and mobile app games. She has been an avid video game player herself since she was 5 years old.

Bending the Features

Presenter: Chester Lees
Session F

Workshop: Learn the easy way to create a standard portrait and then "bend" the features to create your Hero or Villain. Delve deep into your character and bring them alive!

Biography: Chester Lees, ASA, is a professional artist and has worked in many schools over the last 20 years providing Artist in Residence programs. She has provided many PD and lectures at Arts Commons, The Science Centre, Creative Kids Museum and Glenbow Museum. She is a recipient of the Global television "Woman of Vision" Award.

Printmaking and Poetry

Presenter: Jahan Monast
Session G

Workshop: Flex your creative muscle, making a print and exploring printmaking. Take home your own art work and learn a new technique.

Biography: Jahan is a teacher and artist. She travels the world finding inspiration, learning new things and having new experiences.

Enter Laughing

Presenter: Stan Phelps
Session H

Workshop: Heroes and Villains hiding in your kitchen. Aliens and extraterrestrials stuffed in the junk drawer. Take a journey into your imagination, create your own comic book heroes and send them to the dark side of the moon. Explore cartooning techniques with an emphasis on developing an idea from concept to finished composition.

Biography: Stan Phelps is a Calgary Artist who brings his own twist to the cartooning universe, launching students out of their normal orbit. His workshops challenge and inspire young artists.

Characters with Spark!

Presenter: Jennifer Stables
Session I

Workshop: Illustrate a character that is full of spark! Author and illustrator, Jennifer Stables, will guide participants as they create their own character with accessories. Learn how to use body language and facial expression to bring your characters to life, whether it's a person, animal or object!

Biography: Jennifer Stables is an author and artist living in Okotoks, Alberta, and the owner and artist of Jenny Dale Designs. She has written and/or illustrated nine published books including Greenie the Wheat King, Robots, Rubber Boots and Red Balloons, and To the Moon and Back. Her most recent book is Bolts, which was released this spring.

Let's Make Comics

Presenter: Kelly Tindall
Session J

Workshop: In Let's Make Comics, cartoonist Kelly Tindall will give a rollicking history of the creation of comics. From generating creative characters to writing satisfying stories, no narrative stone will be left unturned in this high-energy workshop.

Biography: Kelly Tindall is the Shuster Award-nominated creator of STRANGEBEARD and THE ADVENTURERS and the artist of the upcoming historical biography comics SHOW ME HISTORY. The first two volumes detail the lives of Amelia Earhart (PIONEER OF THE SKY!) and Alexander Hamilton (THE FIGHTING FOUNDING FATHER!). He lives in Edmonton with his wonderful family.

Letting Earth Speak Through Us - for grades 4,5 and 6.

Presenter: Suzanne Vandenberg
Session K

Workshop: If Earth could speak, what would it say to us? If it could draw, what picture would it create? If it could write, what letter would it send us? In this workshop we will explore these thoughts and become the Earth's hands and heart, through creating poetry and illustrations.

Biography: Suzanne Lamontagne is an author, an artist and a teacher. Her books, The Treasure and , I Have a Dream... Do You Have One Too? have found their way into the hands and hearts of teachers and children around the world. Suzanne is a visionary who dreams of helping to create love and peace on earth, by inspiring hope, courage and action.

Illustration Station

Presenter: Debra Ward
Session L

Workshop:Imagine a word or poem to inspire; create a book cover for you to admire! Use snippets of text, glue to affix, with brush or with pen, get illustrating. Layer with pencil, marker or stencil, rip up old maps, then paint and stamp. Fun to discover creating with colour!

Biography: Well-known artist and illustrator, Debra Ward has painted her way through Canada from coast to coast. Her illustrations have graced the Governor General Awarded book Empire of the Beetle When not busy in the studio she loves to share her skills with budding writer-artists of all ages.

Adult Session

Poetry Palooza - for Teachers!


  • Sheri-D Wilson, the current Poet Laureate for the City of Calgary
  • Kris Demeanour, the first Poet Laureate for the City of Calgary
  • Richard Harrison, the Governor General Award for Poetry, 2017

Session One for participating teachers will be a group presentation for all teachers featuring three celebrated poets! Each of our distinguished poets will present a brief overview of their work and their approach to writing/teaching/introducing poetry. This will be followed by Session 2 - a Question and Answer time with the poets.

Register for your spot now! Sign up