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Our Story

Our Vision

To be the organization in our community that celebrates the power of the written word by connecting writers and readers in conversations that inspire, engage, and change our worldview.

Our Mission

To foster the artistic development of individual writers of all ages, promote literary expression and develop and grow an audience for the literary arts.

Our Values

We value:

  • The cultural wellbeing of our community, particularly a vibrant, inclusive artistic community
  • Literary expression in all forms
  • Engaged writers and appreciative audiences
  • Young people as they explore and develop an appreciation for the literary arts
  • Creative writing skills in people of all ages
  • The support of our volunteers, sponsors, donors and community partners

Our Goals & Artistic Objectives

  • To expand the local and regional audience for local, national, and international authors
  • To nurture literary expression in emerging and established writers of all genres
  • To foster literacy and creative writing skills in people of all ages, interests, and backgrounds
  • To promote literacy and appreciation of the literary arts among young people and children
  • To forge a vibrant and integrated cultural community through outreach to educational institutions and arts organizations
  • To reinforce Kingston’s place on Canada’s literary map

Our History

Kingston is arguably Canada’s most literary town. Embedded in the foundation of Kingston Penitentiary lies a copy of the first novel printed and published in Canada –St. Ursula’s Convent, or The Nun of Canada, written by Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart, who visited an aunt in Kingston in 1820. She stayed on to marry a bookbinder who, in 1824, issued her novel. The first Canadian cookbook, The Cook Not Mad, was published here, too.

Among the authors associated with the city are Robertson Davies and Grant Allen (who completed one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, thus producing the first Canadian detective novel), Matt Cohen, David Helwig, Tom Wayman, Tom Marshall, Bronwen Wallace, Gérard Besette, and Stan Dragland. Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Kate Stearns have all set novels here. Judith Thompson made the city famous with her play The Crackwalker. Some 300 published authors live in the region, and several writers of international stature make their homes here now.

Kingston is a city that not only writes, it reads. The metropolitan area supports a major chain bookstore and half a dozen independent or specialist booksellers as well as three antiquarian retailers. There are scores of book clubs: the public library alone services 166.

Into this vibrant literary environment, Kingston WritersFest was launched in 2006 by a core group of dedicated and hardworking volunteers under the auspices of Kingston Frontenac Public Library and Kingston Literacy.

In 2009, under the direction of a new team headed by Merilyn Simonds, Kingston WritersFest was professionalized, moving to its home at the Holiday Inn Kingston Waterfront and expanding to include dozens of writers in every genre.  Over the next five years, WritersFest developed outreach programs that touch thousands of local children and youth: Festival Field Trips for high-school students, Authors@School for elementary students, Kids on Sunday for families, and free rush seats for Queen’s and St. Lawrence students. Barbara Bell stepped into the role of Artistic Director in 2014.

Still lovingly organized by a dedicated staff and a corps of book-loving volunteers committed to fostering a love of literature, the festival now welcomes an audience of 6,000 to more than 50 events featuring some 70 authors from around the world, across the country, and down the street. Hailed as one of the best festivals in the country, it is renowned for its unique programming and the intimate atmosphere within which this community of readers and writers continues to grow.

Meet our Board of Directors

Board members on the 2018 Kingston WritersFest Author Sponsor Cruise

Discover Who We Are

Festival Staff

Artistic Director
Barbara Bell

Operations Manager
Aara Macauley

Festival Contractors

Administrative Assistant
Lin Young

Education Manager
Ying Lee

Director of Marketing
Tricia Knowles

Production Manager
Bill Penner

Volunteer Manager
Moira Demorest

Festival Coordinators

Ad Sales Manager
Mike Sheppard

Author Patron Manager
Kimberly Clarke

Assistant Author Patron Manager
Ute Wilkinson

Box Office Services Manager
Amanda di Vito

Assistant Box Office Manager
Jeremy St-Onge

Hospitality Manager
Gayle Johnson

Library Liaison
Kimberly Sutherland Mills

Newsletter Editor
Lindy Mechefske

Profile Writer
Melanie Dugan

Program Guide Editor
Ben Charland

Program Guide Proofreaders
Sean Fenlon
Gayle Johnson
Ute Wilkinson
Lin Young

Programming Advisors
Ben Charland
Jason Heroux
Ying Lee

Programming Consultants
Ben Charland
Jenny Sullivan
Lin Young

Festival Affiliates

Creative Director
Tracy John Creative

Graphic Designer
Faraz Ahmad


Curious You Production

Festival Service Providers

Baker Tilly – Brent Wilson

Michael MacDonald CPA

Novel Idea – Oscar and Joanna Malan

Legal Counsel
Jennifer Foster

Gilmore Reproductions

Sound and Lights
Kingston Sound Works

Our Team


Barbara Bell (Artistic Director) has extensive experience in programming, management, and event planning and production, including several years as Events Coordinator with Chapters Bookstore. She has produced numerous stage plays, several independent short films, including the award-winning “Digging Up Plato”, and a feature film. Barbara is also an award-winning actor and playwright and a freelance editor, and for two seasons programmed, produced, and hosted a monthly television book club –Page Turners – for TVCogeco in Kingston. Barbara sits on the Community Arts Advisory Committee for the City of Kingston, as well as on the Arts Advocacy Committee of Kingston Arts Council.

Aara Macauley (Operations Manager) has a B.A.H in Classical Studies and an M.A. in Latin Literature from Queen’s University. She has been involved with Kingston WritersFest in various capacities – from a patron, to archivist to box office coordinator since 2011, and joined the staff in an administrative role in 2014. For four years she owned and operated a boutique selling primarily local, Canadian and independently created art, clothing and jewellery. Aara has been involved in the fundraising, event planning and promotion committees for various local cabaret, film and arts festivals. She is past Chairperson on the Reelout Arts Project Board of Directors and champions greater access to and awareness of our community’s diversity through the arts.

Contractors and Lead Volunteers

Ben Charland (Program Guide Editor) is a writer, podcaster and creative consultant currently based in Kingston, Ontario. Ben’s work is informed by the many hats he’s worn over the years: playwright, theatre director, artistic director, tour guide, actor, political hack, traveler, teacher, government worker, blogger, speechwriter, manager and (yes) traffic coordinator for a paper shredding company. He’s lived in four continents and has been lucky to visit over 50 countries, but the common thread for Ben is unrelenting curiosity. Ben has a BFA from the University of Calgary and an MA from the University of London (UK), and is engaged to the woman of his dreams, Shelaine. Tune in to his podcast What On Earth is Going On!

Kimberly Clarke (Author Patron Manager) is a Kingston native, Queen’s grad (English ’85) and recent returnee after 30 years abroad. A life-long book fiend, she’s been an editor and writer in international development for the last 28 years, working freelance from Lyme Regis (UK), Nicaragua, and now Kingston. Kimberly volunteered at KWF ’15 a month after arriving, and knew she’d found her spiritual home. After helping on the Stewardship team part-time in 2016, and being Author Patron Assistant last year, in 2018 Kimberly takes on the Author Patron Coordinator role, with help from long-time volunteer Lorna Lutz.

Moira Demorest (Volunteer Manager) is a musician, concert promoter, event organizer, and educator. As an event facilitator, Moira has worked with the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, Wolfe Island Music Festival, and JUNOFest, and co-operates a local concert production company, KPP Concerts.
A passionate musician and educator, Moira co-funded the RAD (Renaissance Artistic Development) for inspiring young musicians. Moira continues to produce and perform local theatre with various volunteer organizations.


Amanda Di Vito (Box Office Services Manager) is a Toronto native but moved to Kingston as a teen. She started with the festival as a volunteer in 2012 and has been excitedly coming back every year since. She has over 10 years of customer service and cash handling experience in various jobs in retail and working with children. An extremely avid reader, Amanda used to like to hold books (usually upside down) before she could even read because liked to imagine that she already knew how.

Melanie Dugan

Melanie Dugan (Profile Editor) has authored four novels, numerous short stories and book reviews, and has spent much of her career in publishing houses, bookstores, and libraries–including the Kingston Frontenac Public Library, where she works. Melanie is a former Associate Publisher at Quarry Press, and has been Managing Editor for Poetry Canada Review, Canadian Fiction, and Quarry Magazine.


Gayle Johnson (Hospitality Manager) is an avid reader, who enjoys exposing members of her two book clubs to WritersFest books! As an educator at Napanee District Secondary School, her love of literature directed her from a career in phys ed. to English and Library. For many years she shared her love of theatre by taking more than 60 school trips to Stratford and Toronto theatres. As well as encouraging creative writing in her classes and through organizing many creative writing contests she also supervised production of the school yearbook and newspaper for ten years.

Knowles, Tricia

Tricia Knowles (Director of Marketing) is a promotions and marketing professional with 20 years of experience working in media. She has held marketing, writing and on-air positions with many prominent broadcasters before launching a successful freelance career as a promoter, producer, and programmer of events and festivals that encourage sustainable development of the arts and culture. Tricia holds a certificate in Cultural Planning and Development with UBC and an adoration for how festivals can be incorporated into improving the quality of life for a city’s residents. She has worked with The Kick & Push Theatre Festival, Fort Fright (Fort Henry), Kingston WritersFest, Music and Beyond (Ottawa), Pan Am Cultural Festival, and Skeleton Park Arts; she is the co-founder of the Limestone Tattoo and Arts Festival and creator of the decade running event Kingston Unplugged, an off-grid music and arts event, which ran for a decade, in support of the World Wildlife Fund. She sits on the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous selection committee with Downtown Kingston! and the Belle Park Visioning Committee with the City of Kingston. As a stilt walker, body painter, and lover of circus, she is the also the founder and ring-master of Calliope, a not-for-profit arts collective dedicated to cultivating a sense of wonder by producing experiential theatrical events, which provide a platform for underrepresented arts and enforce industry standards of remuneration.

Y.S. (Ying) Lee

Ying Lee (Education Manager) was born in Singapore, raised in Vancouver and Toronto, and lived for a spell in England. She is an award-winning author of young adult fiction. Ying earned a Ph.D. in Victorian literature and culture from Queen’s University.

Lindy Mechefske

Lindy Mechefske (Newsletter Editor) is a former scientific copy editor turned freelance writer. Lindy is the author of Sir John’s Table and A Taste of Wintergreen. You can find her blogging about her adventures in the kitchen at

Bill Penner thinks, cr. George Forsyth

Bill Penner (Production Manager) has been working in presenting theatre and technical production for more than 35 years; creating events, running venues, and working in both the not-for-profit and the commercial theatre sectors. In 2010 , he acted as Director of Production for Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto before moving back to Kingston to work on planning the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, a City of Kingston initiative that is now open and very busy. Bill is also involved with Theatre Kingston and The Kick and Push Festival.

Mike Sheppard (Ad Sales Manager) has been a member of the Kingston Arts Community since he founded Blue Canoe Productions when he was 19. He also has worked in that time for The Kingston Arts Council, The Cultural Services Department of the City of Kingston and Theatre Kingston where he co-founded The Kick And Push Festival. After 10 years of running a youth theatre company and founding one of only 2 youth arts festivals in all of Canada (The Juvenis Festival), Mike spent 2 years with the Students Commission of Canada continuing his work in the youth field. In 2018 Mike passed off Blue Canoe Productions and left the Students Commission of Canada to start working in Marketing and Public Relations. Now he manages a company he co-founded called The Social Schmoes, helping to manage social media for businesses in Kingston, while also working with CFRC Radio and Kingston WritersFest in ad sales.

Jeremy St-Onge (Assistant Box Office Manager) wasted his youth daydreaming, watching cartoons, reading books and playing with toys. Today, he calls that career research. With an education in film and a specialization in Children’s Media, Jeremy has spent most of his adult life working on, thinking about or writing children’s television & books. Jeremy has volunteered with a diverse range of organizations including Kingston WritersFest, the Regent Park Film Festival, and the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Professionally, Jeremy has written through his company, Just Ducky, for clients such as CBC Kids, Radical Sheep, and 2D Labs. Jeremy lives and writes in Kingston, along with his wife and adorable cockapoo.

Kimberly Sutherland Mills

Kimberly Sutherland Mills (Library Liaison) is the Manager of Programming and Outreach at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library.  A graduate of the Master of Library of Information Science program at Western University, Kimberly has more than 20 years of program and special event experience, and has served as a juror for both the Canadian Library Association’s Young Adult Book Award and the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction.  This is her second year as liaison with Kingston WritersFest.

Lin Young (Administrative Assistant) is a PhD student in the English Department at Queen’s University who specializes in Victorian literature. She splits her time between reviewing theatre in Toronto for Mooney on Theatre, publishing academic articles on ghost fiction in the 19th century, and writing short stories and comics for a variety of small press publishers and anthologies. Lin has been a volunteer with the festival for the past three years, serving various roles both on-site and behind the scenes.

Associate Member Bios

Bernard Clark

Bernard Clark (Festival Photographer) is a graduate of the St. Lawrence College Fine Arts program, and works as a Commercial/Fine Art Photographer. He has taken portraits of some of the most creative & powerful people of our time, ranging from rock stars to prime ministers. His fine art photography has been exhibited in several solo & group exhibitions in Kingston and Toronto. His commercial work has been published in over 300 magazines in Canada, USA, Mexico and Europe.

Tracy John

Ahmad, Faraz

Tracy John (Creative Director) is the creative director and owner of Tracy John Creative Communications, an integrated marketing communications company in Kingston Ontario, For ten years prior she was the creative director and founding partner of SmallWorld Marketing Inc; where one of her favourite projects was the re-branding of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library. During her 18 year career in Toronto she worked on the Ontario Tourism, Canada Post & Hudson Bay accounts at Fuel Advertising and was the art director of Homemakers Magazine where she won numerous awards and worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies. She has always been an avid reader.

Faraz Ahmad (Graphic Designer)


Michael Macdonald (Bookkeeper) is a CPA, CGA with over 10 years of accounting experience. The majority of his professional career has been spent in public practice at both a national and a mid-size CPA firm. He has extensive experience working with entrepreneurs, small andmedium-sizedd businesses and individuals providing accounting and tax services. Michael holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, a Diploma in Business Administration – Accounting and is a Chartered Professional Accountant.

Oscar Malan

 Oscar Malan (Festival Bookseller) is the owner of Kingston, Ontario’s celebrated independent bookstore, Novel Idea. He was granted Honourary Membership in the League of Canadian Poets in 2012.


Carol Tomalty (Festival Web Design) has combined life-long passions for visual communication and technology in her web design business, CarricDesign ( In 2007, one of her websites was featured in the international publication Practical Web Design, for design, usability, accessibility and content display. Carol has been involved with the design, development and maintenance of Kingston WritersFest since 2010.