Executive Director

Jana O’Connor Jana brings decades of experience as an Edmonton artist, event producer, administrator, and communications professional to this role, including positions with the Edmonton Arts Council, NAIT, and the City of Edmonton. She is nationally-known for her contributions as a writer and performer on CBC Radio One. Jana is the recipient of a 2010 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award for her work as an emerging writer, and a 2015 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund award. She is a creative connector with deep roots in the city’s arts and festivals community, and is fuelled by a lifelong passion for words.

2023 Festival Team

Alexis De Villa (Associate Producer) (they/them) is a non-binary, queer-crip Filipino and Pangasinan immigrant/settler, transdisciplinary artist, and emerging community arts producer residing in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (so-called Edmonton). Alexis’ approach to arts producing is informed by a blend of activism through praxis, self-knowing, lived experience, and intergenerational knowledge. They believe that knowledge, access, and beauty is co-created through relationships with community and the Land, and that all art must be done with consent, love, compassion, honesty, and reciprocity. If it ain’t transformational, it ain’t it! Alexis has had the pleasure of working as an Assistant and Associate Producer with Nextfest, and Found Fest, and is ecstatic to be part of the LitFest Team! 

Elka Eisenzimmer (Communications Coordinator) This is Elka’s seventh year working with LitFest! Self-describing as having no artistic talent, except maybe managing a budget, she is passionate about enabling those who do! Her work experience includes coordinating volunteers, managing logistics and stakeholder engagement through her work at multiple festivals, including the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Country Thunder, and the Regina Folk Festival.

Brianne Jang (Front of House/Volunteer Coordinator) Brianne was born in Edmonton, Alberta and has been involved in the arts since she was young. After graduating from the Theatre Arts Program at Grant MacEwan University, Brianne has worked on-stage and behind-the-scenes for the past decade, finding her true passion for bringing art to audiences in all forms. She is the Managing Director of SkirtsAfire Festival, co-founder of Poiema Productions, and is also the co-founder of the photography company, BB Collective. She is thrilled to be joining the LitFest team!

Anna Marie Sewell (Guest Curator 2023) is the author of Urbane, (novel, Stonehouse Publishing 2023), Humane (novel, Stonehouse Publishing 2020), For the Changing Moon: Poems & Songs (Thistledown Press, 2018) and Fifth World Drum (poetry) Frontenac House, 2009). Notable collaborations include At First Light (2022), Journey Song (2020), By Heart (2019), Ancestors & Elders (2018), Reconciling Edmonton (2015) and her work as Edmonton’s 4th Poet Laureate. Raised pre-TRC in a defiantly mixed family – Polish/Mi’gmaq/Anishinaabe – Sewell is a member of Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation, who lives in Amiskwaciy/Edmonton and works globally. Connect with Anna Marie Sewell’s work via prairiepomes.com

Alberta Book Fair Society Board of Directors

Katherine Gibson (President) received her MLIS from McGill University in Montreal before working at the Richmond Public Library in British Columbia, Canada. After a year and half there she took up teaching English in Japan and finally settled down at the Edmonton Public Library in 2010. Katherine leads Capital City Press, EPL’s initiative to support local writers.

Russell Cobb is a writer, radio host, and teacher at the University of Alberta, where he is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts. His work examines repressed narratives of race, ethnicity, and religion. His work has appeared in Slate, NPR, The New York Times, and The Nation, among other places. His works include The Great Oklahoma Swindle: Race, Religion, and Lies in America’s Weirdest State (2020). His story, “Heretics,” for This American Life, became the Netflix film Come Sunday. He is launching a new radio show and podcast called History X. Russ’s next book, The Ghosts of Crook County, will be published by Beacon Press in 2024.

Danielle Paradis is an Indigenous (Métis) magazine writer, journalist, editor, educator, and podcaster who lives in Treaty 6 (Edmonton, Alberta). She has written for both local and international audiences. You can read (or hear) her work at Canadaland, Chatelaine, Toronto Star (Edmonton), Gig City, BUSTLE, Canadian True Crime Podcast, and The Sprawl. Danielle covers politics, arts and culture, and Indigenous Issues. Danielle loves a good FOIP story and studied investigative journalism, story-based inquiry method, at the Centre for Investigative Journalism out of the UK. She teaches journalism, focusing on advanced reporting and reporting on diverse communities at MacEwan University and Humber College. She also works for a non-profit, Indigenous Friends Association, that focuses on connecting traditional knowledge and digital technology for Indigenous youth. She also has a background as a literary editor for Other Voices, and in-depth media experience on both television and radio.

Christine Taylor is an American storytelling consultant, diversity expert, and writer who also carries a Dutch passport. An expert on story structure, she has partnered with academics, entrepreneurs, and international women to help them tell stories that communicate complex ideas to new audiences. A serial immigrant who grew up in the US, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland, Christine now lives in Edmonton. She’s nurturing ambitions to write and publish more, starting with an article on her deep dive into Asian literature in WGA’s WestWord.

Nermeen Youssef writes from right to left and from left to right. Her multilingual writing has appeared in literary magazines, anthologies, lesson plans, on city buses and on many, many scrunched up napkins. As a cinema enthusiast, Nermeen founded the Egyptian Film Festival in Edmonton and serves as a board member with the Broad View International Film Festival. After completing a PhD in Pharmacology at the University of Alberta, she leaned on her pharmacy background to help improve health policy in Alberta working as a public servant in the provincial government. She remains grateful to her strikingly contrasting home cities, Cairo and Edmonton, for giving her the eyes and ears of an expatriate.

Catalina Morales Velez is a creative non-fiction writer who lives and works in Edmonton, Alberta. A native of Colombia, she depicts in her work common places, situations and scenarios filled with magical elements and high-consciousness encounters.

Despite being all rooted in words, her creations come to life in other mediums like drawing, the 9th art–comics, and stop-motion, among others.

Catalina’s work has been featured in Colombia, Canada, and U.S.A. magazines, including Entrepreneur Magazine, Life As A Human Magazine, The Polyglot Magazine, and Revista Cronopio. She is a member of the Writer’s Guild of Alberta, has recently started serving as an editorial board member of The Polyglot Magazine and continuously supports literary initiatives worldwide.

Mishma Mukith is a thinker, feeler, (aspiring) writer, and community builder. She is a Canadian-born and Bengali-raised settler living and creating in Treaty 6 land. Mishma wears many hats- she is a community engagement educator, a non-profit co-founder (Converse and Cook), and importantly, she is a daughter, sister, friend, and partner to some very magical people.

In the wee hours of the night, you can find Mishma working on a novel that she will eventually finish writing.