Staff

Leslie Hurtig

Artistic Director

Leslie was born into a house of books and has made her career from various points within Canada’s book industry. She has worked for some of Canada’s best bookstores, acted as a sales representative and publicist for some of North America’s great publishers, and worked as a foreign rights and contracts manager at Raincoast Books. Leslie sat on the Board of Directors for the Vancouver Writers Fest before taking on this role as Artistic Director; a role which she says is her dream job come true.

Kaile Shilling

Executive Director

Kaile has spent the last two decades working for nonprofits focused on supporting young people and the power of stories and creativity to foster change. She graduated from Harvard University, where she focused on the role of the arts as a means of expressing and shifting social values, and has a Master of Theological Studies from Loyola Marymount University. She lives in Vancouver with her journalist husband and their two awesome little bookworms (aka kids)!

Chelsee Damen

Operations Manager

Chelsee has a philosophy BA from VIU. She founded the Nanaimo Fringe, where she was GM 2011-16. Chelsee then covered a series of leave replacements at Vancouver Fringe 2016-17 as Managing Director and Executive Director, before joining the Writers Fest in 2018. Her interests include neurodiversity, resilience, resurgence, music, and the way words bridge the gap.

Chelsee is a second generation Canadian and grew up in Calgary. She also studied child development, worked as a preschool educator, and spent four summers mentoring young feminists at the original Girls Rock Camp in Portland.

Zoe Grams

Marketing Director, ZG Stories

Zoe is Principal of the marketing agency ZG Stories. Following an MA in Philosophy, Zoe began her career at a trend-marketing agency in London, UK, before moving to Canada where she worked with some of Vancouver’s top PR firms, followed by D&M Publishers.

She has conceived and executed marketing campaigns for award-winning authors, publishers and charities across North America and writes regularly for publications on both sides of the Atlantic. Zoe is former Co-Chair and Director of The KidSafe Project and a current Director of WISH Drop-In Centre Society. When she is not immersed in books, Zoe travels, walks, and seeks out new varieties of pungent cheese. 

Ariel Hudnall

Marketing & Publicity Manager, ZG Stories

Ariel holds a Masters of Publishing from Simon Fraser University. She has been a traveler for most of her life, born in the bayous of Louisiana and raised along the coast of California, before heading east for Asia.

During a six-year stint in Japan, Ariel worked extensively with award-winning culture magazine Kyoto Journal as a consultant and designer, helping the team navigate shifting publishing landscapes. She has also worked as a workshop facilitator, teaching authors how to build up their online presence, community manager and marketer for an independent self-publishing community and is currently also the Communications Manager at ZG Stories.

Lauren Dembicky-Polivka

Development Manager

Lauren initially moved to Vancouver from Toronto to complete her Master of Publishing at SFU and ended up staying for the ocean, mountains, and craft beer. Working at literary magazines—The New Quarterly and Geist—gave her a passion for short stories and emerging writers.

When not binging Bob’s Burgers, she can be found balancing her ever-growing book collection with garden gnomes of every size, shape, and colour.

Leena Desai

Outreach Coordinator

Leena is a recent graduate of the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University. She earned her degree in 2018. She has worked on magazines since 2011, with a two-year stint at Architectural Digest with Condé Nast India. Her work experience before that includes several film and television projects in her hometown of Mumbai.

Leena is a cinephile and devours the fantasy and sci-fi genre in both books and movies.

Sarah Wang

Programming Coordinator

Sarah has a BA in international relations and history of art, and a graduate certificate in museum studies. Having initially worked in government research in Canada and Europe, she found herself gravitating more toward the arts, working for the Vancouver Art Gallery and serving on the Board(s) of the Roedde House Museum, CARFAC BC, SEARA Fund and researching for museum institutions in the United States and South America.

She comes to the Vancouver Writers Fest as a “born again” reader of fiction, particularly literature in translation from Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe. Outside of work, her interests include eating charcuterie, watching boxing and making some of the best unintentionally lopsided ceramics in the city.

Matt Ros

Operations & Admin Coordinator

Matt has a BA in Computer Science and a minor in Italian Studies from Duke University. Before returning to his hometown here in Vancouver, he did three years of technical training in New York City, working in operations and software roles for two start-ups.

In good weather, Matt enjoys riding his commuter bike to get around town. He also likes to visit independent movie theatres, where he first started to realize the power of art, ideas, and storytelling.

Joyce Wan

Marketing & Digital Production Coordinator

Joyce has a BA in English Literature from UBC, with a minor in human geography. After graduating, she taught English and worked as a freelance travel and culture writer for two years in Hokkaido, Japan. She has worked for the BC Alliance for Arts + Culture and served on the board of the Car Free Vancouver Society, overseeing the Vancouver Car Free Day festivals, where she developed a passion for arts festivals.
Joyce enjoys books, bike rides, travelling, and basically anything else that could be described as magical.

Kathryn Fowler

Volunteer Manager

Kathryn loves the Vancouver Writers Fest, its celebration of words, the discoveries it offers and the communities forged anew every year. A VWF volunteer for 11 years beginning in the mid-90s, she also oversaw volunteers for The Playhouse for three seasons before joining the festival staff in 2006.

Kathryn reads, walks and sings and is always keen to renew friendships from festivals past and to take on challenges of the next. 

Eduardo Ottoni

Production Manager

Passionate about arts and culture, and building community through live events, Eduardo has over 25 years of experience in the production industry.   It’s no secret that the Writers Fest was the first festival in the city to hire him as a Production Manager way back in 2003, and he has worked with us ever since!

Is it his love for fiction, the great crew and volunteers he gets to work with, or maybe it’s because he gets to set up his desk next to Kathryn Fowler every year? All we know is that he calls the Writers Fest his family.