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, promote literary expression and develop an audience for the literary arts.

Our Mandate

Kingston WritersFest, a charitable cultural organization, brings the best of contemporary writers to Kingston to interact with audiences and other artists for mutual inspiration, education, and the exchange of ideas that literature provokes.

Through readings, performance, onstage discussion and master classes, Kingston WritersFest fosters intellectual and emotional growth on a personal and community level and raises the profile of reading and literary expression in our community.

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.

2016–2017 Board of Directors

Our Team

2017 Festival Staff

Artistic Director
Barbara Bell

Administrative Coordinator
Aara Macauley

Education Manager
Ann-Maureen Owens

Marketing Manager
Tricia Knowles

Production Manager
Bill Penner

Volunteer Manager
Ashleigh Forsyth

Festival Coordinators

Author Patron Coordinator
Jan Walter

Author Patron Assistant
Kimberly Clarke

Kathy Cunningham

Box Office Services Coordinator
Amanda di Vito

Box Office Manager
Kate Archibald-Cross

Hospitality Manager
Gayle Johnson

Hospitality In-Kind Solicitation
Sandy Pemberton

Library Liaison
Kimberly Sutherland Mills

Newsletter Editor
Lindy Mechefske

Profile Editors
Shelley Tanaka

Profile Writers
Ian Coutts
Melanie Dugan

Program Guide Editor
Kristina Fennell

Programming Advisors
Ann-Maureen Owens
Mark Sinnett
Iain Reid

Junior Programming Advisors
Lucian Mussells
Willa Sinnett-Mussells

Lorna Lutz

TeensWrite! Conference Coordinator
Angela Saxe

TeensWrite! Contest
Gayle Johnson

Volunteer Technical Support
Alison Clark

Festival Affiliates

Creative Director
Tracy John Creative

Fund Development Consultant
Tye Consulting – Paul Tye

Graphic Designer

Faraz Ahmad


Curious You Production

2017 Festival Service Providers

Collins Barrow – Brent Wilson

Novel Idea – Oscar and Joanna Malan

Legal Counsel
Jennifer Foster

Gilmore Reproductions

Sound and Lights
Kingston Sound Works