Jessica Ruano is a writer of press releases, newsletters, newspaper articles, romantic emails, blog entries, brochures, academic papers, and – occasionally – of short stories and poetry. Over the past year, she has featured at Voices of Venus, the NewStalgica Series, the Dusty Owl Reading Series, the Spoken Word Plot, the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and Ottawa Pride. She was the publicist for the 2010 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Ottawa and has recently been announced as VERSe Ottawa’s Co-Chair. In her spare time, she enjoys tree climbing, pancake making, and spontaneous kissing. And she has a soft spot for haikus.


Alan Neal is host of Ottawa’s favourite drive home show All in a Day, on CBC Radio One, 91.5 FM. Alan is known to CBC Radio One listeners in Ottawa as the former host of Bandwidth and Ontario Today on CBC Radio One. During his stint on the noon show, he traded thoughts and quips with musicians including Blue Rodeo, Barenaked Ladies, The Arcade Fire, Feist, Hawksley Workman, Sarah Harmer, K’Naan, Sarah Slean, Metric, Emm Gryner, Most Serene Republic, Divine Brown and many more. (He actually feels a twinge of guilt making lists because he panics that people will feel left out. Then he remembers nobody reads these things. Which then makes him wonder why he’s typing this. And talking about himself in the third person. But anyway.) He’s been at CBC for 10 years now, massive amounts of that being as a casual associate producer and syndicated columnist (his TRENDS column was syndicated across the country), filling in as host of shows including THE ROUNDUP, OTTAWA MORNING and ALL IN A DAY, and launching a national summer show THE OTHER STORY. While his own musical career has not extended beyond singing songs about Canadian Idol and Dallas on the radio, he has had some success as a playwright, something he hopes to get back to once he figures out these shows.

Widely-recognized as a storyteller who touches her audiences with the depth and power of her work, Jan Andrews has traveled extensively, telling stories at festivals and in concerts across Canada, in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. A committed member of the Canadian storytelling community, she was the first president of Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada and founded the organization’s StorySave project. She also served as Artistic Director of two long-running Ottawa storytelling series (one at the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Centre). Previous collaborations with Jennifer include founding an arts education organization and producing and performing in complete tellings of The Iliad, The Odyssey and The Mahabharata. Jan tells everything from folktales to literary stories, from epic to personal tales. She is also the author of classic books for young people. Always a groundbreaker, she was the first Storyteller/Writer in Residence at the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture at the University of Manitoba.

Colin Henein has been hosting the CKCU radio program Music from the Glen since September 2005. He is the director of research and development at Parliant Corporation, a writer,  a singer (of folk songs in harmony), and a photographer.

Nadine Thornhill is an award winning playwright and actor.  She honed her theatre  skills amongst the freaks and geeks at the University of Waterloo.  Upon graduating, she moved to Canada’s capital where she has been living, loving and working ever since.   By day, she is the Program Co-ordinator for Planned Parenthood’s Insight Theatre.  She occasionally poses as a poet at various open mics around the city and trains as a doddering multi-sport athlete.   In her spare time, Nadine enjoys blogging, the antics of her husband son and dog, and referring to herself in the third person.

Message from the MAD:

As the first Managing Artistic Director of Ottawa Storytellers, I’ve had the privilege of being deeply involved in planning the 21st Ottawa Storytelling Festival. One of my jobs was choosing our featured guests, with the help of my fantastic Programming Committee. While it’s easy to see the appeal of these artists from reading their bios, I thought I’d share with you my personal reasons for being so excited to welcome them:

Anita Best can safely be called one of the great voices of Newfoundland. I knew of her by reputation only until I had the privilege of visiting Newfoundland this past summer as a participant at the Storytellers of Canada Annual Conference. Anita was an integral part of the Conference, and even though I was expecting her to be great based on her reputation, I was not prepared for the pure beauty of her voice and the depth of her understanding of the folk material of the island. I attended a workshop she offered, and heard her talk about why ballads are important and enduring. She told a story from her childhood, wherein she overheard her mother and another village woman compare a local girl’s circumstances to the tragic ballad “The Cruel Mother.”  That story emphasized the power of ballads in a way that I had never experienced before – and I’ve always loved ballads! That experience made me very pleased that we had already invited her to the Festival! She is the feature of the concert “Stories and Songs of Newfoundland” and will also perform in the cabaret event “Vernacular Spectacular!”

Ivan Coyote is no stranger to Ottawa, having been a writer in residence at Carleton University in 2007. The first time I heard her tell, I was deeply impressed by the way that she combined strength and vulnerability to create a real powerhouse of personal narrative. Ivan travels all over the country and the English speaking world telling stories and working with tellers of many different ages and backgrounds – from Anchorage to Amsterdam, as her bio says! She is a subtle activist, encouraging her listeners to examine stereotypes and challenge their judgments through the frame of storytelling. She’ll present a program entitled “You are Here” as our opening concert on Thursday night, kicking off the Festival with a poignant and funny examination of home and place, accompanied by musician Rae Spoon. Ivan will also be featured at “Vernacular Spectacular” and will offer a morning workshop.

Ben Haggarty is truly one of the famous names of storytelling in Britain and the rest of the English speaking world. He has spearheaded numerous storytelling festivals and initiatives, and was named the first official “city storyteller” in Britain (Gloucester was the city and 1999 was the year – right around the time OST was beginning our 4th Stage Series). He is well respected in the theatre community as well as the storytelling community, and was the official storyteller of Yo Yo Ma’s famous “Silk Road Ensemble.” I have never heard Ben perform, but with such a reputation, I wouldn’t miss it! His interpretation of “Frankenstein” is sure to be daring and entertaining as it showcases an in-depth musical collaboration with a well known tale to create a very theatrical storytelling experience. For those excited by more traditional storytelling, be sure to check out his late night concert “The Blacksmith at the Bridge of Bones” – wondertales are his specialty, so it’s sure to be a treat! Ben will also be teaching a morning workshop and a day long Masterclass on Monday, Nov. 22.

Tim Tingle is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and his grandfather walked the Trail of Tears in 1835. With such a harrowing family epic in his roots, it is no wonder that Tim has become a renowned storyteller and author who combines history and folklore in his performances. He was a huge hit at the Vancouver Storytelling Festival, and comes very highly recommended. I’m very excited to hear him tell the story of Clarence Carnes, the youngest inmate to ever be incarcerated at Alcatraz, in his feature concert “Rolling Way the Rock”. You can also hear Tim tell traditional Native tales at the late concert on Saturday night, and be sure to check out his morning workshop.


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