2021 Presenter Bios

2021 CNFC Conference

Presenter Bios

Registration open now!

IAN BROWN is an acclaimed feature writer for the Globe and Mail. He is equally well-known for his work on TVO and CBC Radio, where he was moderator of Talking Books for more than a decade, and hosted Sunday Morning and Later the Same Day. He is the author of four books, including Sixty, which was shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize, and The Boy in the Moon, which won it and the B.C. National Book Award, and was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2011. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Johanna Schneller.


JOHANNA SCHNELLER is a leading freelance journalist specializing in entertainment features. She’s profiled the most prominent actors of our time, with cover stories appearing in Premiere, Vanity Fair, and Ladies Home Journal, among others. She hosts CBC’s The Filmmakers, interviewing directors and film experts about classic Canadian films, and previously hosted TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies. She conducts on-stage interviews for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Toronto Library and co-wrote Uncontrollable, about Toronto’s notorious mayor, Rob Ford, and Woman Enough: How a Boy Became a Woman and Changed the World of Sport. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Ian Brown, and their two children.


SONJA BOON is an award-winning researcher, writer, teacher, and flutist. Professor of Gender Studies at Memorial University and co-editor of the Life Writing Series at Wilfrid Laurier University Press, her creative non-fiction essays appear in published anthologies as well as in Geist, The Ethnic Aisle, and ROOM, among others. For six years, she was principal flutist with the Portland Baroque Orchestra. What the Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home (2019), a memoir that traverses five continents and spans more than two centuries, is her fourth book. 


CARRIE SNYDER is the author of Girl Runner, a finalist for the Rogers Writers Trust Prize for Fiction, which was published internationally and translated into multiple languages. Carrie’s non-fiction has been nominated for a National Magazine Award and she has published two books for children. She blogs and cartoons about art, spirituality and the writing life at carriesnyder.com.


ELIZABETH MACLEOD is an award-winning author of more than 70 nonfiction books for children. Dinosaurs, royal murder, horses that changed history, forensic science — Liz has written about them all. She’s also worked in-house as an editor at OWL Magazine and Kids Can Press books and has been a freelance editor for many other children’s publishers. Thanks to her special interest in biographies, Liz has written a lot of them, for various age groups and with an emphasis on great Canadians. Her most recent books include Canadian Women Now + ThenMeet Thérèse Casgrain and How to Become an Accidental Activist.


GILLIAN O’REILLY has been interested in words ever since she ate the dust jacket off the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary when she was 11 months old. She edited Canadian Children’s Book News for 20 years, covering many amazing books created by Canadian writers and she is the recipient of the 2016 Claude Aubry Award for distinguished contribution to Canadian children’s literature. Gillian has written two books for young readers: Slangalicious: Where We Got That Crazy Lingo and The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places, co-written with Cora Lee.


DEBBY DE GROOT started in publishing in 1982 at HarperCollins, and had a small business representing publishers in outlying areas and sub-Saharan Africa before immigrating to Canada in 1997. She worked at Key Porter Books and Penguin Group (Canada) as Director of Publicity and Marketing until 2006, when she left to form her own book PR consultancy MDG + Associates. De Groot will join House of Anansi Press in the role of Publicity Director in June.  


SAM HIYATE worked at the literary magazines Blood & Aphorisms and The Quarterly in the 90s. He ran the edgy micropublisher, Gutter Press, from 1993 to 2002, as publisher, and launched the literary division of The Lavin Agency in 2003, building a client list and completing his first deals. Sam’s projects for The Rights Factory include memoir, literary and commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, health and lifestyle, self-improvement and graphic novels. He looks for works with distinct and compelling voices and he loves humour. He’s keen to discover and help new writers prepare their works for market, and to help them build lasting careers with their talent.


JENNIE WRIGHT is an Online Marketing Strategist, List Builder, and Lead Generation Expert. Leveraging over 15 years of marketing, communications and branding experience for her clients, Jennie firmly believes that if you live your life with passion and transparency, you will create life-long success. She is a firm believer in organic, authentic list building techniques for her clients, which include many writers and authors. Jennie is dedicated to helping writers around the world develop intelligent and authentic marketing, branding, and list building strategies that help them establish their brand, and connect with their target audiences and potential readers. 


KEN MCGOOGAN is the award-winning author of fifteen books, among them Fatal Passage, Lady Franklin’s Revenge, Dead Reckoning, and Flight of the Highlanders. Before turning mainly to books, Ken worked as a journalist for two decades (Toronto Star, Montreal StarCalgary Herald). He has served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission and is a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Wolfson College, Cambridge. Ken teaches Creative Nonfiction at University of Toronto (where he won an award for teaching excellence) and in the MFA program at University of King’s College in Halifax.


SYLVIA NICKERSON is a comics artist, writer and illustrator who lives in Hamilton, Canada. Her illustrations have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post. Her graphic novel Creation, her first published book, won a Doug Wright Award in 2020. She is currently artist in residence at Art Gallery of Hamilton where she is working on a speculative graphic novel about artificial intelligence.


SUSAN OLDING is the author of Big Reader: Essays, and Pathologies: A Life in Essays, selected by 49th Shelf and Amazon.ca as one of 100 Canadian books to read in a lifetime. Her award-winning essays, fiction, and poetry have appeared widely in literary journals and magazines throughout Canada and the U.S. As a teacher and mentor, she has worked with writers at all stages of development. Currently, she’s affiliated with the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. She lives in the traditional territory of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ nations, in Victoria, British Columbia. 


MARION AGNEW’s collection of personal essays, Reverberations: A Daughter’s Meditations on Alzheimer’s, was shortlisted for the Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Award for nonfiction. Her fiction and essays have appeared in literary journals in the U.S. and Canada and have been supported by grants from the Ontario Arts Council. A science writer and editor, she moved from the US to Canada in 2004 and is now a dual citizen. She lives in Shuniah, Ontario, on Anishinabewaki and Michif Piyii traditional territory, and looks at Lake Superior every day.


HAROLD R. JOHNSON is the author of a memoir, Clifford, several other works of nonfiction, and five novels. Born and raised in northern Saskatchewan, he had a career in law before focusing on writing.  He is a member of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation and lived on his family territory with his wife Joan before their recent move to Gabriola Island, B.C. Among his forthcoming works is one entitled The Power of Story.