Festival Staff

Jana O’Connor (Executive Director) 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.

Karly Coleman (Production Coordinator) Karly grew up in small towns located in northeastern Saskatchewan and central Brasil, giving her an eye for exposing the taken-for-granted in people’s lives. She seamlessly blends practicality with humour and so returned to university to pursue her Ph.D. in 2015. She’s travelled across Canada by bicycle, wrote and performed poetry during Edmonton’s stint as the Cultural Capital of Canada, and for over a decade helped organize month-long celebrations of bike culture. She’s interested in bikes, cats, cozy murder, and history. When she’s not writing about bike lanes, life in general, and her life specifically, she’s renovating her home, quelling cat fights, or performing random acts of gardening.

Elka Eisenzimmer (Communications Coordinator) This is Elka’s sixth year working with LitFest! As of June 2022, after almost a decade of post-secondary – a certificate in Business Planning, a diploma in Arts and Cultural Management and a degree in Professional Communication – Elka is thrilled to have some free time and to not be preparing for the upcoming fall semester! She is the Comptroller for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and is currently searching for a hobby.

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!

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.

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.

Luciana Erregue-Sacchi is an Argentinian-Canadian art historian, poet, translator, editor, and award winning publisher (Laberinto Press) from amiskwaciwâskahikan (Treaty Six). Her creative-non-fiction has been longlisted for the Susan Crean Award. Her work has been published in Humber Literary Review, the Literary Review of Canada, The Selkie, Agni Magazine, and others. Luciana is a Banff Centre Literary Arts Alumni, 2019 Edmonton Arts Council Artist in Residence, and the WGA’s Horizons Writers Circle coordinator. Her debut chapbook titled Of Mothers and Madonnas will be out in April 2023 through Polyglot. Luciana loves walking everywhere, especially the Edmonton River Valley with her family and friends.

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.

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.