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July 24, 2018
The Word On The Street Festival in Toronto is only possible because of all of our small team’s work. Get to know the crew that is helping to put on our festival this year! Did you miss part one of our Meet The WOTS Team series? Go read it now!
David Alexander, Festival Director
Poet and nonprofit leader David Alexander comes to WOTS after ten years managing Toronto’s Veg Food Fest. Passionate about books and storytelling, David has contributed a chapter to The Edible City from Coach House Books and curated a history exhibit on Toronto’s vegetarians. His first poetry collection, After the Hatching Oven, was published by Nightwood Editions this spring.
Top 3 Books: Brother by David Chariandy, A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent by Stuart Ross, The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
Why You’re At WOTS: The Word On The Street has a unique and exciting mandate – to engage and inspire new readers, champion writers from where we live, and create a forum for vital new stories and ideas. We cater to readers of all ages and appetites so the festival offers a unique opportunity to explore a bit of everything – mysteries, beach reads, nonfiction, poetry, speculative fiction, young adult, children’s books… the list goes on and on. The festival also features a strong local focus. Our marketplace is a great place to learn about the amazing writers, artists, and cultural institutions that permeate this rich, diverse city. Our partnership with the City of Toronto through the Toronto Book Awards demonstrates this commitment to championing local stories and storytellers. But the festival brings in important voices from across the country, too. As Festival Director, I hope I can help bring new readers to the festival and break out of the festival weekend to bring a bit of The Word On The Street to people throughout the rest of the year, too.
What You Can’t Wait For This Year: What I’m most excited about is the new programming plans we have leading up to this year’s festival. My predecessor, Heather Kanabe, left a great plan for us to introduce a new day of discussion and debate and we’re hard at work bringing that to fruition, with the Toronto Public Library on board as a partner. We’re also looking at other partnership opportunities (like live podcasts) to bring the festival to life in new ways. For now, I’m most excited for the line-up of our new Saturday program – WOTSplus – which we’ll announce in the coming weeks!
Kerrie Seljak-Byrne, Marketing Manager
Kerrie Seljak-Byrne is a queer, autistic, and genderfluid writer, marketer, and editor. After dabbling in publishing and marketing agencies alike, they’re combining their love of books and strategy-based marketing at WOTS. Kerrie is the founder and Editor in Chief of Augur Magazine, and is occasionally published themselves.
Top 3 Books: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin, Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson, and Autobiography of Red by Ann Carson
Why You’re At WOTS: I came on board at WOTS this year because I’ve been waiting for a role where I can bring my marketing skill set to a book world. I’ve gotten a taste of that, running Augur Magazine and helping out at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival for the last five years. But being able to focus 100% on a job that makes you passionate is a special kind of wonderful. I love that I get to help get the word out (pun intended?) about all the fantastic books and stories and authors we have swirling around here, and I want to make sure that the way we market WOTS always has room for as many people as possible.
What You Can’t Wait For This Year: If I’m totally honest, I haven’t been to WOTS since I was a university student! I know, slap on the wrist there. But I have wonderful memories of wandering around the festival and just really breathing in how many people were there for books and storytelling. There are authors, stages, etc., that I’m looking forward to…but ultimately, I’m most excited to people watch, and enjoy a literary-centric space.
Mari Ramsawakh, Marketing Assistant
Mari is a disabled and non-binary writer, model, and podcaster. Their work has been published on Daily Xtra, Leafly, and Bitch Media. Their short fiction has been published in Hart House Review 2014. They also host a podcast called Sick Sad World about horror and true crime.
Top 3 Books: Happiness™ by Will Ferguson, The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, and Goodbye Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson.
Why You’re At WOTS: I’m at WOTS because I have always loved books and fiction, but at school I’m always surrounded by academic writing. Being at WOTS allows me to use my skills as a writer to stay involved in Canada’s literary and fiction scene. I get to talk about good books all day!
What You Can’t Wait For This Year: I’m excited about the diverse programming that’s going to be there. Like Lindsay Nixon on the Indigenous Voices stage (they were the winner of a writing contest I had entered!). Or Hana Shafi talk about her first book. I’ve gotten a sneak peek at some of the programs happening and – without too many spoilers – it’s going to be amazing.
Devon Serket, Graphic Designer
Devon Serket is an illustrator and graphic designer with a passion for combining art and creative writing. They love making comics, painting, and reading about biodiversity! They’re a diehard fan of podcasts, games and immersive storytelling. You likely won’t see them; they’re at home snuggling with their bearded dragon.
Top 3 Books: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, The Animators by Kayla Rae Witaker, and Through the Woods by Emily Carroll.
Why You’re At WOTS: I’m at WOTS because I love reading and I want to get involved in large events in Toronto. Word on the Street is exciting because it brings together so many different people from so many different worlds; authors, publishers and enthusiasts from different genres and walks of life! Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and that is reflected in all the fascinating people and stories that are drawn here.
What You Can’t Wait For This Year: I can’t wait to explore the festival and discover brand new books I haven’t heard of yet! I want to meet with people who share my interests and chat about what has us all excited. I’m also hoping to get lucky and get to see one of my favourite authors.