Guest Authors and Performers – 2021

SAMÏ BLANCO (SUNAÏRA/TEMPLE VOLANT) are a nonbinary multidisciplinary artist focusing on creating environmental audiovisual atmospheres crafted from ambient dance, abstract drip paintings, astral line drawings & liquid textured illustrations with cinematographies of nature’s microcosms as sound walkthroughs, reflective of an open-world adventure. Samï are currently collaborating with Ashley Daw (Puppy) on the av collage project (as) joined by Manu Armida (Le Trash Can) for the experimental noise pop band (Swimmers) & as an electronic dub techno duo (Miraj) with Harrison Roberts (Dj Flora). Sunaïra composes minimal chill out immersive soundtracks produced with live fm synthesis & wavetable groove machines within elements of dub techno & dream house improvised as intuitive creativity in syncopation to the rhythms of life being in the moment.

JAY BULCKAERT grew up in farm town Ontario and moved up North in 2001, where he carved out a career as a filmmaker with his company Artless Collective, and founded the mayhem that is the Dead North Film Festival. Originally written as a feature film, King Warrior is Jay’s first graphic novel. Jay lives, hunts and creates in Yellowknife with his wife and their two cats.

MIRANDA CURRIE is a northern indigenous multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Sombe K’e, more widely known, as Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, among the Dene people. She walks in two worlds, with one foot in her Swampy Cree heritage and the other foot in her Euro-Canadian ancestry. She has written three children’s books with a fourth on the way! Miranda loves storytelling and performing for live audiences – something she hasn’t been doing much of lately! Nominated for aboriginal singer-songwriter of the year by the Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2015 for Up In the Air, Miranda continued to hone her talents as a fiddle and guitar playing songstress while transitioning to the genre of children’s music and entertainment. Her second children’s album Tickling the Taiga will be released in the Fall of 2021! Miranda has been learning the Dene languages of Tli’cho and Wiilideh since 2016. Working in schools she uses music to help students learn their indigenous language and culture. In addition to being an author and musician, Currie is a film-maker, seamstress and is currently in development stages of a northern indigenous children’s television show. Miranda lives in a cozy shack on the shores of the Great Slave Lake with her two sled dogs, Niyanin and Ellesmere.

LANA DE BASTIANI was born and raised in Yellowknife, NWT. She released her first book, The Fox and my Boot in 2018 after a fox stole her Steger Mukluk while skating on Rat Lake. Lana was inspired to turn what happened to her into a relatable northern children’s book while working on her Master’s in Education. Lana has thoroughly enjoyed sharing her story with northern children and looks forward to returning to the NorthWord’s festival in 2021.

ISIS ESSERY is a Juno award-winning graphic designer, as well as a filmmaker, photographer, mama (and now author). Not possessing the ability to stop creating, Isis started writing her first book, I Love You More Than the North Is Vast when her new baby was just 6 weeks old. Isis loves learning new skills, eating excessive amounts of food, playing scrabble and, of course, reading.

LEELA GILDAY is a passionate singer/songwriter and soulful performer with a voice that comes straight from the heart. Confessing her stories to her audiences with a gutsy voice and open stage presence, Gilday weaves her experiences as a northerner, a member of the Dene Nation, and a traveler into a beautiful world that transports the listener. If you’re from the North, Leela Gilday’s music is home. If you’ve never been, it will take you there. Born and raised in the Northwest Territories, she writes about the people and the land that created her. The power in her voice conveys the depth of her feelings of love and life in a rugged environment and vibrant culture, as if it comes straight from that earth. Leela’s family is from Délįne on the shore of Great Bear Lake and her rich vocals dance across the rhythmic beats of traditional Dene drumming as smoothly as a bass line onstage the largest venues in the country. And she has played them all.

Photo by Pat Kane

MONIQUE GRAY SMITH is an award-winning, and best-selling author of books for children and youth, as well as adults. Her children’s books include; My Heart Fills with Happiness, You Hold Me Up, When We Are Kind. Her YA/Adult books include; Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience, Lucy and Lola and Speaking our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation which was a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Her recent novel, Tilly and the Crazy Eights was longlisted for Canada Reads 2021. She is a proud mom of teenage twins, and is Cree, Lakota and Scottish. Monique is well known for her storytelling, spirit of generosity and belief that love is medicine. She and her family are blessed to live on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen and WSÁNEĆ people, also known as Victoria, Canada.

LUCAS GREEN is a prairie-boy turned West Coast wanderer; as a freelance animator and illustrator, he creates fantastical worlds for film and TV. Usually drawing spaceships or painting traditional folktales, this is his first graphic novel. Lucas lives in Vancouver, BC with his wife and longboard. 

AMBER HENRY is a life long writer. Her claims to fame are bad poetry in highschool, plays and screenplays in University, a dating column for a BC humour paper and is now a regular contributor to a female forward blog called Empress Tea. Self published work includes A Ptarmigan in a Birch Tree, The Becoming (Pen name: Lilith Thorn.) and coming soon: Northern Princess.

FRAN HURCOMB is a Yellowknife-based writer and photographer. She has published many books, including “Going Places” (Orca Books 2008) and “Old Town” (Old Town Press 2013). She recently published a short story collection titled “Breaking Trail”. Fran is also the past-President of the Northwords NWT.

Photo by Arthur Boutillier

SÉRÉNA A. JENNA is a poet from the Northwest Territories. She started writing poetry at 11 years old and since then has been contributing to the French newspaper L’Aquilon. At 13 years old she was approached by Éditions Présences Francophone and 14 months later her first poetry collection EuphoriAE was published. Séréna was born in Yellowknife and has lived there all her life. She lives for reading and music. She finds her inspiration in the world around her, her experiences, and from Greek mythology.

KATŁĮÀ (CATHERINE) LAFFERTY is a trailblazing Dene and the first female novelist out of the Northwest Territories who specializes in intellectual property law with a focus on literary copyright to mitigate ongoing colonial cultural appropriation and Indigenous victimization in storytelling narratives. Her memoir Northern Wildflower (Fernwood/Roseway Publishing) published in 2018 was the top selling book in the Northwest Territories upon release and is used as a teaching tool in both secondary and post-secondary Indigenous studies across Turtle Island. Her recently released fictional novel Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a (Fernwood/Roseway Publishing) was added to the CBC’s Fall 2020 Reading List, placed on the Scotia Bank Giller Prize Craving Canlit list and is nominated for an Indigenous Voices Award.

ANTOINE MOUNTAIN is Dene, North American First Nations, originally from Rádeyı̨lı̨kóé (Fort Good Hope) in Northwest Territories. Antoine works as a painter, with acrylics on canvas, in a number of styles, the main one being Impressionism. Painting is a relatively new medium for any Dene Artist, so he is forging his own way with his visual practice. He believes Mother Nature herself is the single greatest Artist of them all. He was born on the land to see and live this for himself, as was his generation of Native Peoples and retains an abiding love for this country. This is at the root of all his artwork. Antoine also writes for magazines and newspapers and he recently published a memoir titled From Bear Rock Mountain: The Life and Times of a Dene Residential School Survivor. Antoine holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Ontario College of Arts and Design, and a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University. Find out more at

ERIKA NYYSSONEN grew up in Yellowknife and lives the magic of the Snowcastle every year. She began writing in 2009 when she created a child focused play for the annual Snow King Winter Festival. The cast were her friends and family, and the North and its animals were her inspiration. She has since written a new play each year, one of which has been published as a children’s book, “Gus and Pogo go to the Vet”.

WAUBGESHIG RICE is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation. He has written three fiction titles, and his short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies. His most recent novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was published in 2018 and became a national bestseller. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002, and spent most of his journalism career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a video journalist and radio host. He left CBC in 2020 to focus on his literary career. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario with his wife and two sons.

JACOB SCHEIER, a recent transplant from Toronto to Yellowknife, is the author of three full length poetry collections with ECW Press, including the Governor General’s Award winning More to Keep us Warm (2007) and his latest poetry book Is This Scary? (2021). He is also an essayist and journalist, and he has taught and facilitated creative writing classes and workshops for over a decade.

RICHARD VAN CAMP is a proud member of the Tłı̨chǫ Dene from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. He is the author of two children’s books with the Cree artist George Littlechild: A Man Called Raven and What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses? His novel, The Lesser Blessed, is now a feature film with First Generation Films; his collections of short fiction include Angel Wing Splash Pattern, The Moon of Letting Go and Other Stories, Godless but Loyal to Heaven and Night Moves. He is the author of four baby books: Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns; Nighty Night: A Bedtime Song for Babies and Little You (now translated into Cree, Dene and South Slavey!) and We Sang You Home, and he has two comic books out with the Healthy Aboriginal Network: Kiss Me Deadly and Path of the Warrior. His graphic novel, Three Feathers, is about restorative justice; his new novel, Whistle, is about mental health and asking for forgiveness and his graphic novel, The Blue Raven, is about mental health and the power of culture and friends. His Eisner nominated graphic novel, A Blanket of Butterflies, is about peacemaking where a grandmother is the hero of the story and his latest graphic novel, Spirit, is about suicide prevention. Cinematic adaptations of his work include: “Mohawk Midnight Runners”, by Zoe Hopkins based on Richard’s short story “Dogrib Midnight Runners” from The Moon of Letting Go, Kelvin Redver’s adaptation of “firebear called them faith healers”, and Jay Cardinal Villeneuve’s adaptation of “Hickey Gone Wrong”, based on Richard’s comic book with Chris Auchter and “Three Feathers”, which is available for viewing in Bush Cree, Dene and South Slavey as well as English, based on his graphic novel. His latest collection of short stories–his fifth collection–is “Moccasin Square Gardens”. You can visit Richard on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and at

JOSHUA WHITEHEAD (he/him) is a Two-Spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw member of Peguis First Nation (Treaty 1). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate, lecturer, and Killam scholar at the University of Calgary where he studies Indigenous literatures and cultures with a focus on gender and sexuality. He is the author of full-metal indigiqueer (Talonbooks 2017) which was shortlisted for the inaugural Indigenous Voices Award and the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry. He is also the author of Jonny Appleseed (Arsenal Pulp Press 2018) which was long listed for the Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, and won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction and the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction. Whitehead is currently working on a third manuscript titled, Making Love with the Land to be published with Knopf Canada, which explores the intersections of Indigeneity, queerness, and, most prominently, mental health through a nêhiyaw lens. Currently, he’s working as an editor for the forthcoming Love After the End: Two-Spirit Utopias and Dystopias to be released in 2019. You can find his work published widely in such venues as Prairie Fire, CV2, EVENT, Arc Poetry Magazine, The Fiddlehead, Grain, CNQ, Write, and Red Rising Magazine.

KAREN WRIGHT-FRASER is a member of the Gwich’in Nation. Originally from Inuvik, she’s been living in Yellowknife since 1985. A proud mother of 6 and Jijjuu to two adorable grandsons. Karen is an artist, a self taught seamstress and a storyteller. She is a member of Storytellers of Canada and she’s taken part in workshops with Around Town storytellers from Nanaimo, BC, and has completed three weeks at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Indigenous storytelling and spoken word residency. She loves to share about her rich and beautiful culture any chance she gets.

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