Natasha Deen

Guyanese-Canadian author Natasha Deen and her family moved to Canada to escape Guyana’s growing political and racial violence. Natasha used her experiences growing up as a mixed-race person, often the only Person of Colour in the room, as inspiration with her writing. She’s published over forty works for kids, teens, and adults. Natasha’s been the recipient of multiple awards, including the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award and the Red Maple Honour Book, and her novels have been Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections, CCBC Best Picks for Kids and Teens, and included in the OLA’s Forest of Reading Lists. As well as teaching Introduction to Children’s Writing for the University of Toronto’s SCS Program, Natasha regularly visits with schools, festivals, and organizations. Her talks have been called “a Ted Talk meets stand-up comedy,” “inspirational,” and “dynamic.” Natasha’s presentations celebrate resilience, perseverance, and the triumph of imagination over reality. When she’s not writing or teaching, Natasha spends her time trying to convince her pets that she’s the boss of the



HUSH. LISTEN. HEAR. SPEAK: Using the Key of Nira GhaniNatasha shows how our experiences not only help us with writing stories but help us to make sense of ourselves and the world around us. The session helps students view themselves and those around them in a kinder, more positive light, encourages them to tell their stories, and to become listeners to the voices of those who are different than them.
Themes include: mental health, self-identity & self-image, own voices narratives
Writing Fundamentals: point of view, creative non-fiction, character voice

OF MICE AND MUTANTS: Using superheroes as a jumping point, Natasha explores what it means to be the person behind the mask, and how knowing the true arc of the superhero can help students unlock the superhero inside of themselves and those around them.
Themes include :resilience, perseverance, identity, kindness
Writing Fundamentals: Point of View, subtext, deduction


THE HERO’S JOURNEY: The hero’s journey doesn’t just live between the pages of a book but breathes and grows in our lives, as well. Natasha’s session shows students how having a hero’s mindset can help them meet their goals in school and life.
Themes include: persistence, strategy, inner power
Writing Fundamentals: plot, character, subtext

THERE IS YOU, THERE IS ME, THERE IS US, THERE IS WE: This session gets students talking about how heavy issues can be tempered with humour, how to find their inner strength, and how being aware of the world around also helps in the creation of fiction/non-fiction narratives.
Themes include: internal dialog, bullying, relationships
Writing Fundamentals: plot twists, writer’s block, who is your audience?


Storytelling and Children’s Literature: Self-Esteem, World View, and Identity
From teaching empathy, creating safe spaces, exploring complex emotions, and boosting immune systems, stories are not-so-secret powerhouses for helping children and teens with their world views and self-esteem (and they’re not too shabby with
helping adults, too!). But stories are more than words on a page or an image on the screen. They’re a life template and guide to helping people find their happy ending. Join Natasha for an exploration of how stories are a key to helping define identity and changing the world for the better.

Media Mayhem: Raising Readers in the Digital Age
From video games and social media to homework, sports, and band, there are a myriad of things pulling kids’ attention. Compared to other leisure activities, reading can feel downright dull in comparison. But the act of reading hides many secrets—like how it can
foster empathy, increase deductive and critical reasoning, and how it can empower kids in an age of dangerous Tik-Tok trends and harmful beauty standards. The other secret?
There are no “born” readers, but there are ways to excite readers at every age and skill level. Natasha’s session will offer practical, simple techniques to raising readers and helping kids ignite a life-long love of stories.

Live, Laugh, Be Different: Embracing the Power of The Other
Natasha grew up in the middle. Her household was Muslim-Christian until she was six. She was born Canadian, but spent the first part of her life in Guyana before moving to Calgary—leaving her living an immigrant experience in the country of her birth, and
she’s of mixed heritage, South Asian, Caribbean, African, and Chinese. For many years, living on the outskirts of categories and experiences was confusing and alienating. Then, it was illuminating. If knowledge is power, then the knowledge of being
the outsider empowers every person who’s ever been defined as “Other.” Throughout history, our past is full of stories of The Other, people who defied society and fulfilled their potential. Our future is wide open for those who claim agency and power in being who they are. How we navigate when we live in the intersections of identity, when we’re “too much” of one thing and “not enough” of another, calls us to be nimble, agile, and resilient. Most importantly, it’s a tuning fork, allowing us to decide who we are and what we can accomplish, no matter what the world may say. Natasha’s talk will explore past and present definitions and stories of identities, and how we can empower ourselves and those around us to take power and peace in who we are.

CTV Saskatoon – Saskatoon CTV News video
Globe and Mail

Edmonton Journal

Edmonton Journal


Patti Hone

About Patti Hone

Normally, I start my bio with “work” credentials but since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, having endured seven surgeries, I am now sharing my journey. I start my bio with Breast Cancer Fighter, Survivor and Speaker. I will take you and your audience through a very candid but humourous and “uplifting” journey from my diagnosis through surgery and recovery showing you that cancer is but a chapter in one’s life…it is not the whole story! will give you an insight into my journey of discovery, growth perseverance and success. Hope you can join me on this rollercoaster ride.With twenty-five years of advertising experience and a proven track record, Patti provides As You Like It’s clients with complete marketing and communication services.Patti began her career as a copywriter before undertaking the position of Marketing Director for a national chain of drug stores. On the agency side, Patti specializes in retail and franchise accounts, where her creative campaigns have won over eighty advertising and marketing awards for her clients.

In addition to managing and directing all agency projects, Patti is very involved in the Canadian Franchise Association, having served on the Board of Directors for eight years. Patti also has monthly columns in many industry magazines and newsletters. The recent publication Canada’s Guide to Franchising features Patti’s chapter on marketing and advertising for franchisees.

Patti is a popular speaker at conferences, trade shows and industry events speaking about branding, growth, customer service and loyalty and franchising. Her enthusiasm and real life experience translates into an entertaining and very informative program that has been sought out by companies across North America to bring their brands to life.


SPEAKING TOPICS—living with cancer

Ten Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone with Cancer….But you Did!

We’ve all been there. Faced with a situation or conversation that we are uncomfortable with. You try to say the “right” thing but find yourself with your foot
in your mouth. In this educational and humorous session, Patti addresses the elephant in the room….CANCER. Having survived breast cancer she shares her
experiences with the awkwardness she has encountered with friends, family and colleagues. Communication, tolerance and patience is key to dealing with anyone who is fighting cancer or any illness or life trauma. Attendees will learn, laugh and leave feeling better about themselves and each other.

Excuse Me…I Have What?
What do you do when out of the blue life throws you a curve ball and stops you dead in your tracks? How do you cope? How do you pull yourself out from under the bus that just hit you and not only survive….but THRIVE. Patti will share her journey with breast cancer with you. The ups and downs. The triumphs and failures and how she managed to turn a devastating illness and recovery into a life-changing inspirational journey. Attendees will leave feeling inspired, energized and focused on making their futures the best they can be.

We all Have a Wonder Woman Inside Us.
If you or someone you know has ever had to face an illness, a death or any kind of setback or trauma; you know that it can be hard to find the strength to push through. Patti Hone, having faced breast cancer, a double mastectomy and seven reconstructive surgeries will share how she found that inner light and the spark to keep her going on some very difficult days, weeks and months. “Wonder Woman for me is not a fictional character. She is a mindset.” Attendees will hear and see how Patti has not only survived but Thrived after cancer. her presentations are inspiring, energizing, humorous and real. Audiences will leave with the assurance that they too can conquer anything life throws at them because we all have a super hero inside us.

I’m Still ME…Aren’t I?
Patti Hone was a successful, award winning creative director, author and speaker. She was confident and self assured…until she was diagnosed with cancer. After a double mastectomy and seven reconstructive surgeries she felt she no longer knew who she was. Was she still the same woman or had cancer destroyed an integral part of her? In this session, Patti shares how she found herself again. How she overcame her fears and anxieties and rediscovered her “real” self. She shares tools and advice on how to find confidence and strength within ourselves to face any fear…whether it be public speaking, interviewing for a new job or even asking someone on a date. Funny, real and motivational, Patti makes everyone feel comfortable and confident to face any challenge.

Control Yourself. Alter Your Thinking. Delete Negativity
This is Patti Hone’s mantra. It’s what she strives to do everyday as she deals with the ramifications of a double mastectomy and seven reconstructive surgeries. We all face hurdles/traumas in our lives. No one goes through their entire life unscathed, but it is how we deal with these obstacles that matters. Patti speaks candidly about her journey with cancer; the physical, emotional and mental pain she had to endure. She shares real life experiences and the tools to help us all face whatever hurdles are put before us. We all have the ability and strength within us to battle on. Patti’s story and life experience is educational, relatable, inspirational and memorable.

SPEAKING TOPICS—marketing and branding


What’s Your Brand Really Worth?

Have you ever wondered what makes one business stand out from the rest? Why do customers choose one over another when so many offer the same things? The answer is branding. So what does it mean and how can you utilize it? In this presentation Patti will give you an inside look at how to create, implement and sustain a successful brand while inspiring all stakeholders to want to be part of that brand!

Service Please!

A well branded company typically relies on service as a way to promote and maintain their competitive edge. So what does service mean to you? And does everyone in your organization understand and feel the same way? In this presentation you will learn about the key elements that make up good SERVICE: Spirit; Enthusiasm; Responsibility: Visibility: Interest; Communication; Excellence. SERVICE and what it stands for are paramount to the success of your brand and ultimately your business.

Back to Basics: Marketing with a Human Touch

In this day and age of technology, smart phones, texting, Instagram, Facebook, etc., have we lost the art of face to face communication and customer service? Are we depending on technology too much and are we losing the art of personal service versus personalized messaging without human contact? In this presentation you will learn tips on building customer relationships, how to communicate with your customers so you meet and exceed their expectations and how to make them feel valued so they in turn will value and frequent your business.

Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em. Why Customers Don’t Come Back

You did your marketing well. You offered your customers great value for money, greeted them in a courteous manner, ensured they were well looked after and thanked them on the way out. You did everything right….right? There’s a difference between satisfaction and loyalty with customers. In this presentation you will not only learn the difference, you will learn how to identify customer’s needs, not only meet them BUT exceed them in order to create loyalty that lasts.

You Only Have One Chance to Make a First Impression…so it Better Be A Good One!

How are you representing yourself in business, school, in the community…in life? What impression are you making on others? Are you being perceived in a positive light? In this presentation you will learn the importance of personal branding. How to engage in meaningful conversations. How to feel confident and in control in every meeting and interaction with others. You will learn simple skills to help you connect on a more meaningful level with others and ensure that your meetings and more importantly YOU are memorable.

Samra Zafar

Samra Zafar is an award-winning, internationally renowned speaker, bestselling author, and educator for equity, mental health, and human rights. She has been recognized among the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, Top 25 Inspirational Women in Canada, and Top 25 Canadian Immigrants. Her book, A Good Wife: Escaping The Life I Never Chose, based on her journey of escaping an abusive child marriage to pursue her education and shed light on gender-based oppression, is a national bestseller, was one of CBC’s Best Books of 2019, and is being adapted to a premium TV series. She serves as a Governor at the University of Toronto, a Celebrated Ambassador for Plan International, and a board member for Women’s College Hospital Foundation. Her work has impacted millions and has been extensively featured in global media. Samra’s speaking portfolio includes three successful TED Talks, and many leading corporations, universities, and nonprofits around the world.

To find out more, please visit


How Vulnerability Inspires Collective Resilience, Authentic Leadership and Human Connections

Do you feel you’re hiding your true self in order to fit in? Do you find yourself stressing to present a perfect self? Do you suffer from impostor syndrome—discounting your accomplishments and focusing on your weaknesses? If so, what can you do to lessen the grip of perfectionism and other-centred focus in your life, to lean in to your authentic self, and to simply be? People often walk around in self-made prisons of judgment, with the key held by others from whom they seek validation and approval. However, by embracing our authenticity and allowing ourselves to be seen, we foster genuine trust, real connection, and collective resilience that enables us to unlock our true potential and to become leaders in our communities and our lives. Join Samra on a journey of resilience, leadership and personal discovery of the power of vulnerability.

Education for Empowerment

Education is a right – yet for many around the world, it is a privilege that is often denied. Join Samra as she shares her own heartbreaking and empowering story of being trapped in a forced, abusive marriage as a child bride, using education to escape and build a new life, and now advocating for change so that others don’t face the same obstacles to building a fulfilling, enriching life. Samra’s experiences illustrate how the power of continuous learning allows us to expand our minds, connect through mutual purpose and values, and unlock our individual and collective potential.

The Gift of Adversity

As a child forced into a marriage and being subjected to years of abuse, Samra moved forward from a place of no hope to creating a happy new life for herself and her daughters. As she shares her story of pain, despair, hopelessness, and subsequently freedom, happiness, and self-love, Samra talks about the gift of adversity and how it helps us cultivate a deep gratitude for life. “We have the power to let our experiences shape us into ‘bitter’ or ‘better’. The choice is ours to make.

The Culture of Honour

Breaking the silence around honour-based, structural abuse – a hidden reality that creates a vicious and complex cycle of mental, emotional, psychological, sexual, physical and societal violence. What can we do as leaders, individuals and community members to make a difference? Related Topics: Intersectionality of abuse and culture; Generational cycle of abuse; Family Violence and Children; Educating youth on Gender-based Violence.

Violence Against Women – What Can Workplaces Do to Make a Difference?

One in three women in North America are affected by intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. Every day, around the world, 137 women are killed by an intimate partner. Factoring in “invisible” violence, such as stalking and emotional and mental abuse, the number is much higher. Recent movements like “MeToo” and “Time’s Up” have demonstrated how women from all walks of life, educational backgrounds, professional achievements and financial status are affected by violence. Change starts with our surroundings – families, communities, schools, and workplaces. Often times, the workplace is the only place that a woman feels safe. However, fear of judgment, of being perceived as a “victim”, or of diminished career prospects makes a woman feel unsafe to come forward. With recent policy reforms like paid “off” days for a woman affected by violence and greater funding for this sector, it is more important than ever before for workplaces to play a role in supporting women affected by violence by building inclusive, non-judgmental work environments, so women feel safe to ask for that help. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do – because safe and supported employees mean productive employees.

(various topics including types of abuse, gaps in support mechanisms, importance of awareness, and how workplaces can play a role)

Samra’s talks can also cover themes of Authentic Leadership and Mentorship, as well as issues surrounding Gender Equality, Poverty and Community.

Previous keynotes and workshops:

• National Family Violence Conference keynote, “The Power of Mentorship” (Edmonton)
• Manulife Leadership Event keynote
• Schulich Business School career event keynote
• Ivey Business School – Women in Management Leadership Conference keynote
• Brilliant Minded Women Gala – receiving Self Development Award (Toronto)
• Presidents’ Circle featured speaker, “Education for Empowerment” (University of Toronto)
• Edmonton Public School Board keynote speech, “Resilience and Mental Health”
• Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (Chatham)
• Enbridge and Union Gas executive leadership conference keynote, “How Authenticity Inspires
• The Citizen’s Foundation keynote, “Education for Empowerment” (Montreal)
• Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society keynote, “Bringing Inspiration to the Workplace” (Montreal)
• Family Transition Place Shelter keynote, “The Gift of Hope” (Orangeville)
• Rexdale Women’s Centre 40th anniversary keynote
• Canada Pakistan Affiliated Chamber of Trade – official national spokesperson and winner of Malala
Yousafzai Women Empowerment Award
• Harper Collins National Sales Conference keynote
• United Nations Status of Women Commission (finalist nominee as Canadian delegate)
• Two TED Talks (selected as top 10 talks on gender equality)
• National Magazine Awards (nominated for Toronto Life article, “A Good Wife”)
• TVO International Women’s Day keynote (Ottawa)
• Women in Leadership and Business (Halifax)
• Women’s Presidents Organization (Halifax)
• Keynotes at universities: Yale, U of T, York, Ryerson, Schulich, Queen’s, Western, Florida, Humber,
Sheridan, and many other colleges and schools
• Toronto and Peel District school boards (keynotes)
• National Family Violence Conference (Edmonton)
• Northeast Support Services (Saskatchewan)
• Circles of Hope Shelter (Calgary)
• RBC Private Banking National Office International Women’s Day keynote (Toronto)
• University of Toronto Presidents’ Circle “Building a Better Tomorrow” featured speaker
• WE Day Atlantic Canada (Halifax)
• RBC Women’s Forum ERG event
• Peel Children’s Aid Foundation keynote and award recipient
• Women’s Business Network International Women’s Day Keynote
• WE Kenya (with Kisaruni school)
• Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs IWD keynote (Toronto)


• A Good Wife, to be published by Harper Collins in Canada in March 2019 to mark International Women’s Day
• International rights currently being sold in USA, UK, Europe, Australia, India


• RBC Global Citizen Award 2017
• Ascend Canada Mentor Of The Year Award 2018
• Malala Yousafzai Women Empowerment Award – Canada Pakistan Affiliated Chamber of Trade 2018
• Woman of Courage Awards – several organizations
• Spotlight Award – Canada Pakistan Professionals Association
• Brilliant Minded Woman Award 2018
• Pink Attitude Award 2018
• Proclamation by Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio 2017
• John H Moss Scholarship (University of Toronto)
• Gold Medalist in Economics (University of Toronto)


Toronto Life
Global News
CTV News
CBC Radio One, As It Happens 
TEDx Mississauga
WE Day

To book Samra Zafar, contact Rob Firing at

Kathy Kortes-Miller

Kathy Kortes-Miller is an unconventional educator, palliative care specialist, and researcher with a flair for talking about death and dying – and she talks about it a lot! A protector and advocate of people’s stories, Kathy combines years of teaching and research with empathy and personal experience to bring conversations about death and dying to the forefront, where they belong. In Kathy’s world, death and dying is not the “elephant in the room,” but is an integral part of life that deserves and demands acknowledgement, respect, and even a bit of lightheartedness (when called for).



Each topic can be customized for the audience and presented as a TED-style talk, keynote, workshop, training, or break out session.

Talking About Death Won’t Kill You
In this TED-style talk, Kathy infuses tenderness into a topic that is all too frequently charged with fear, approached with grim stoicism, or avoided at all costs. Using stories and research laced with her unique brand of compassion and humor, Kathy extends an engraved invitation to view death as not a taboo subject – but rather a shared life experience. Audience members walk away with shifted perspectives and a deep understanding that talking about death, without knowing or needing all the “answers”, actually brings us closer to our loved ones than we ever imagined possible.

Good Grief! Sometimes It’s Complicated
Every palliative care team member’s role includes grief support. This workshop examines what “good” grief support looks like, how it’s experienced, and includes a healthy (and necessary) debunking of myths and conceptions that pervade this complex topic. Using a facilitation style that is simultaneously irreverent and respectful, Kathy guides participants to discern the differences between grief support, grief counselling, and grief therapy. Participants walk away with a strong grasp of how to use the foundational principles of grief, mourning and bereavement to shape and influence the attitudes and values they bring to their work.

Taking Care Of Those Who Care
This candid workshop supports palliative care professionals to care for themselves while nurturing the profound sense of meaning they derive from their work. Kathy’s skillful facilitation style guides participants to extend empathy and compassion to themselves. Participants learn techniques to manage compassion fatigue, moral distress, and avoid burnout – while also celebrating the reward inherent in the unique personal reasons they choose to do this work. A must for any professional desiring to do palliative care work, and do it well, for the long term.

Stop, Look and Listen: Communicating Care
This talk advocates for strong, clear, caring communication by healthcare professionals. Combining personal stories with vast research and classroom experience, Kathy takes participants through the range of skills and interactions that underpin effective communication.
Participants walk away:

  • Understanding why timely communication is important (for them and the people they care for.
  • Knowing how to discern and manage barriers to effective communication.
  • With a deeper understanding of their own communication skills, strengths, and needs.
  • Healthcare providers who want to consistently communicate caring into the flow of their work, in a way that feels natural and benefits those under their care should attend this workshop.


  • Hospice Palliative Care Ontario
  • Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health Annual Conference Keynote
  • Matthew’s House Hospice
  • Hospice Northwest Die-alogues
  • Northern Ontario School of Medicine
  • New Connections and Community Practices: What’s Next for Public Health Palliative Care? with Kerrie Noonan (Australia)Ottawa, ON: Closing Plenary: International Public Health Palliative Care Conference,
  • EO Dubai, Dubai, UAE: Dying Matters
  • EO Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland: A Matter of Life in Death
  • Global Leadership Conference (GLC), Bangkok, Thailand, May 13-14: Talking About Death Won’t Kill You!
  • Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association Learning Institute. Banff, AB. June, 2016
  • International Public Health Palliative Care Conference, Bristol, England, May 15th, 2015: Talking About Death Won’t Kill You
  • Canadian Association for Palliative Care, Ottawa, ON, Oct, 2015: Challenge Panel with Dr. Denise Marshall: Palliative Care is Everyone’s Business
  • Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health, Thunder Bay, ON, Nov. 2015: Keynote, Nov. 2015


Interview on the Current CBC with Anna Maria Tremonti (April 2017)

Interview on CBC Superior North (March 2017)

Interview with CBC Superior North (June 2016)

TEDx Talk: Talking about Death Won’t Kill You (March, 2016)


“Kathy has so many qualities that make her one of our centre’s favourite, and most highly requested, public speakers ever. She is charismatic, engaging, knowledgeable, and always responsive to the needs of the group. She has a wonderful, contagious sense of humour, yet is also empathetic, sincere, and able to effectively deliver her intended message at the same time. I would highly recommend Kathy for any speaking engagement.”
– Stephanie Hendrickson, Lead Palliative Care Education Planner, Centre for Education and Research on Aging & Health (CERAH), Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON

“Kathy Kortes Miller has a unique style of engaging participants in her presentations. Her sharp wit becomes evident very quickly yet her message is a challenge to the assumptions and values of her audience, so one invariably finds that a subtle shift in perspective has happened. She has a powerful gift of being able to “read” the room and is able to monitor the responses of her listeners and work right along with them to deliver her message effectively. Kathy has fun with ideas and she infects the room with her vivacious approach to life and death.”
– Joan Williams, Executive Director, Hospice Northwest, Thunder Bay, ON

“Death and dying is not an easy subject to tackle. People often fear to talk about it. After all, losing someone dear to us can be excruciatingly painful. And painful is difficult to talk about.

I believe we need more conversations on emotions, including the most difficult ones, such as holding space for someone who is leaving the physical world.

Kathy tackles this tough subject with grace and eloquence. She combines her academic expertise with the purely vulnerable and human side of her. Having faced a scary diagnosis herself, Kathy shares not only her own experiences but the experiences of countless people who are facing death, and those who support them in the process; whether healthcare workers or family members.

When we let go of fearful thoughts, we can become fully present. And we can become present even in the most challenging moments. When we become fully present, we find peace within ourselves. When we find peace in ourselves, we offer the most valuable gift to the dying person; the gift of peace.

Kathy’s ability to talk about death and dying with honesty and sincerity, offers an invaluable gift to all of us.”
– Edita Atteck Coach, Art of Being Mentor, Speaker

“Kathy Kortes-Miller masterfully makes death and dying a subject you want to run away from to one you want to run towards. Channeling deep wisdom gleaned from her vast experience as a self-described “unconventional death educator”, academic and palliative care advocate, Kathy is transforming the way we speak about death. Through her accessible, at times wildly funny delivery style, Kathy provides a clear blueprint for how we can identify and articulate our desires for our final days, and how we can have transparent, heartfelt conversations about death in our families, workplaces and communities.”
– Alexia Vernon, Public Speaking and Leadership Speaker, Author, Coach, Trainer & Media Personality

“Kathy’s presentations reflect her creativity, humour, and straight forward refreshing approach to talking about death. Over the years I have been fortunate to attend several workshops and oral presentations that Kathy has given. She has a well-developed ability to adapt content and delivery to meet the unique needs of the group. Kathy is approachable, real, and personable… and her participants bask in that, and feel safe to grow and learn.”
– Kath Murray, Founder Life and Death Matters, Author Integrating a Palliative Approach: Essentials for Personal Support Workers, Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse, Thanatologist, Victoria, BC

To book Kathy Kortes-Miller, contact Rob Firing at

Uzma Jalaluddin

Uzma Jalaluddin grew up in a diverse suburb of Toronto, but her favourite place in the world is the nearest bookstore or library. She is the author of MUCH ADO ABOUT NADA (2023), a second-chance romance inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and THREE HOLIDAYS AND A WEDDING (2023), a multi-faith holiday romcom co-written with Marissa Stapley.

Her debut novel, AYESHA AT LAST (2019), was a Goodreads Choice Award Finalist, Cosmopolitan UK Book of the Year and Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2019. Her second novel, HANA KHAN CARRIES ON (2021) was an instant Canadian bestseller, and named a Best Romance Novel by the Washington Post. It is currently in development for film by Amazon Studios and Mindy Kaling.

Uzma is a former contributor to The Toronto Star, and has written for The Atlantic. She lives near Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two sons, where she also teaches high school.

Social media handles:
Instagram is @uzmajalaluddin
twitter is @uzmawrites


Raising “Woke” Kids in a Diverse City
Uzma Jalaluddin is a mother of two sons, and was born and raised in Toronto to South Asian immigrants. She writes “Samosas and Maple Syrup” a regular parenting column for the Toronto Star that explores the challenges and humorous triumphs of raising young people in a changing, diverse world. She is also a public high school teacher who has first hand experience with academic and emotional issues facing young people, including well being, health and identity. This talk would explore the fear of losing tradition and culture while embracing the new, and the toll this can take on families and communities. Her writing is full of fun anecdotes and humorous asides that invite a closer look at the dynamics of diverse communities inside the cultural mosaic that is modern day life.

Writing Joyful Diversity
Uzma Jalaluddin is the author of Ayesha At Last, a Pride and Prejudice inspired romantic comedy set in the Toronto Muslim community. The novel is fun, escapist fiction that also provides insight into a faith community and diverse neighbourhood often overlooked in mainstream fiction. This talk will delve into the how and why of writing diverse fiction, as well as advice and pitfalls for writers, educators, and readers. The talk will also discuss the burden and importance of representation, and how writing stories that appeal to all readers, regardless of background, is the first step to sharing and embracing the lived experiences of others.

Little Stories = Big Consequences
I grew up surrounded by storytellers; my favourite stories were the ones my mother and my aunts told me, about the strong women they knew in India. Like the wealthy widow who used her resources to educate neighbourhood women in her own home. Or the female servant who never kept quiet when she witnessed bad behaviour. I learned about the power of stories to combat the limiting narratives that are so often used to harm, diminish and control others. Today I tell stories in my job as a teacher, columnist and novelist. I do it not just to keep the old tales alive and for the pleasure of making up new stories, but also to remind myself, my children, my readers, who they are and where they come from, and how the stories we listen to influence our lives. This speech will focus on my own leadership journey, my inspiration from powerful women, and how involvement in the community – through volunteer work, active parenting, and local advocacy and allyship – can have a ripple effect through our intersecting worlds, lifting us all together.

To book Uzma Jalaluddin, contact Rob Firing at

Rachel Giese

Rachel Giese award-winning journalist and the editorial director of Xtra, Canada’s largest LGBTQ2 media organizations. In 2018, her book Boys: What it Means to Become a Man was one of The Globe and Mail’s 100 best books of year and one of The Walrus’s favourite reads.

Giese is a sought-after expert and speaker in the fields of gender, masculinity, sex and sexuality, LGBTQ2 rights, education, parenting and feminism. For four years, she wrote a weekly column on politics, pop culture and feminism for Chatelaine. She is regular guest host and commentator on CBC Radio shows, including Day 6The CurrentMetro Morning and The Sunday Edition. Her award-winning feature and opinion pieces have appeared in The Globe and MailThe WalrusToronto Life and She is frequent speaker, moderator and host for organizations such as the Toronto Public Library, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, Shelter Movers and the Movember Foundation.

Her critically-acclaimed Boys: What It Means to Become a Man is a vital and sweeping examination of today’s “boy crisis,” demonstrating the ways in which we raise boys into a culture of toxic masculinity and offering solutions that can liberate us all. Whether they’re being urged to “man up” or warned that “boys don’t cry,” young men are subjected to damaging messages about manliness: they must muzzle their emotions and never show weakness, dominate girls and compete with one another. But Giese provides ample evidence for a powerful counter-narrative: given space to explore their identities and a social structure that makes it safe to do, boys are happy to escape the “man box” of traditionally defined masculinity.

Giese can speak on a wide range of subjects related to gender, masculinity, feminism, sex and sexuality, including:
• How to help boys and young men break free from the “man box”
• Gender and the nature-vs-nurture debate
• Understanding and dismantling the roots of toxic masculinity
• The myths and realities of the boy crisis in education
• Beyond the birds and bees for better and more comprehensive sex education

Praise for Boys:

“An educated and empathetic non-fiction book that grapples with the damaging lessons that boys are taught about how to be ‘a man.’ It’s written with incisive reporting and personal experience that looks at every facet of how boys are taught to be in the world and how we can start to dismantle those expectations for everyone’s betterment. Plus, a book about gender norms that also looks at sexual orientation and race? Imagine!”
—Scaachi Koul, author of One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

Boys gives us hope that busting apart ‘The Man Box’ will ultimately lead to fuller, more rewarding lives not just for boys, but for all of us.” —Toronto Star

“A broad, readable take on the limits of modern-day masculinity, and how to push its boundaries to better serve our children and ourselves. It’s full of love but unsentimental, with new tidbits for scholars of gender, race and identify, and valuable insight for parents of little boys, like me.” —Denise Balkissoon, The Globe and Mail columnist

Boys is a multifaceted exploration of masculinity by one of Canada’s most talented journalists. Rachel Giese’s vision of boyhood — and therefore manhood —is an enlarging, humane one. This is a beautifully reasoned work that should be required reading for anyone interested in detoxifying masculinity.”
—Michael Redhill, author of the Giller-winning novel Bellevue Square

“Giese looks at the challenges she, her wife, and their son face, exploring (most satisfyingly) big questions like what it means to be a man and how we raise boys to conform or reject these ideals… She looks at masculinity with a surprisingly heartfelt curiosity.” —Literary Review of Canada

“Deeply researched, but also deeply considered, Boys is something quite rare in the pages of non-fiction, a page-turner. This is a must read for everyone who loves boys.”
—Tabatha Southey, author and Maclean’s columnist

“These are not good times to be or raise a boy. The toxic expectations of traditional masculinity block and distort healthy, humane development and communications, while many social institutions seem to go out of their way to help girls get ahead, not boys. But in this compassionately written, carefully researched book, Rachel Giese presents a critical but ultimately encouraging view of the possibilities for affirming change. It’s both hopeful and helpful.”
—Bruce Kidd, Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto

To book Rachel Giese, contact Rob Firing at

Kimberly Fraser

Dr. Kimberly Fraser, author and speaker, is a champion for family caregiving.  As a nursing professor she studies and writes about family caregiving, home care, case management, and related health policy. She has used innovative and arts-based approaches in her applied research. Kim is particularly interested in the types of knowledge used to inform policy decisions that lead to better outcomes for home care clients and their family caregivers. A former Associate Professor at the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, and Clinician Scientist-Home Care with Alberta Health Services, Kim is not a contract professor with the Faculty of Health Studies at Athabasca University and devotes most of her full time work to writing and community board work.

Dr. Fraser has extensive clinical practice and leadership in home care, community health, and outpost nursing. A nurse entrepreneur, Kim owned We Care Home Health Services (Edmonton), among other companies, with her husband Don for 22 years. Kim held board positions, often in executive roles, with organizations that support home care and family caregiving. She is the current Vice-President with Caregivers Alberta and board member with Alberta Writer’s Guild. Kim is an advocate for quality home care for all Canadians delivered in environments that are respectful, supportive, and safe for clients, family caregivers, and paid providers alike. Kimberley’s book, The Accidental Caregiver: Challenges and Triumphs of Intimate Family Caregivers, will be published by Sutherland House in 2022.


Family Caregiving 
Growing trends in family caregiving and the impact it is having on couples, children, families, communities and society have garnered my focused attention as well as the attention of researchers just like me. With the spotlight, the COVID Pandemic shone on continuing care and family caregiving, it’s time to bring what we know to audiences around the globe as we press for creative solutions to a growing societal issue. Family caregivers are resilient and resourceful in their caregiving, but there work is largely unsupported. Kim will provide an up close and personal look at the real life experience as shared with her by more than 75 family caregivers. She engages audiences in meaningful discussions as they consider what their own approach to family caregiving might look like.

Kim tailors her talks to any audience using a variety of interactive activities depending on the format and audience needs.

Caring and Compassionate Service Delivery

Identify what you need to change to develop your staff into an army of carers and develop your plan to make it happen. If you are an organization who services a client base of older persons or those with certain needs, Kim can help you make a difference in the lives of your clients or residents and the family caregivers who support them. With Kim’s experience of employing thousands of health care and support staff she can share tried and true measures that are cost-effective and implementable for you and meaningful to the people in your care.

Business and Entrepreneurship
Private enterprise within public systems: Not for the faint of heart

Stories from the Inside: Where values often meet but egos can collide.

Are you thinking about starting a health care business?

Kim can help! This session will enlighten the audience with realities of private enterprise within publicly funded health and education systems. Kim offers both entrepreneurs and socialpreneurs an opportunity to rethink their vision and question the feasibility, marketability, and profitability of their business ideas in order to make them work!

Sessions are perfect for folks who have a business concept that they can refine throughout Kim’s practical, hands-on offerings.

Nurse entrepreneurship
What makes nurses a great fit for business? How do you know business is for you? Kim will share her experiences as a nurse entrepreneur from the education and health sectors, growing two successful businesses as she leads you to consider what it takes for success in highly competitive market places.

Kim developed a unique approach to goal setting and creative visualization. Regardless of the topic, you will leave with a plan. Workshops are offered as half day or full day events. Perfect for a creative pre-conference activity within any sector!

  • Strategic planning and development sessions for small and medium sized private or not-for-profit organizations
  • Career Planning and Coaching for Nurses
  • Creative visioning for personal growth
  • Creative visioning for goal realization for yourself or your business
  • Creativity visioning and coaching for writers, bloggers, or art journalists

Paulette Bourgeois

Paulette Bourgeois is best known for creating Franklin the Turtle, the character who appears in bestselling picture books illustrated by Brenda Clark. The series has been translated into 38 languages. An animated television series, merchandise, DVDs and full-feature movies are based on the character. She is also the author of award-winning books for children including Oma’s Quilt which was developed as a short film by the NFB, and more than two dozen non-fiction science books. She is a member of the Order of Canada, received an honorary doctorate degree from Western University, an award of merit from the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and most recently graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Paulette frequently teaches and she has been the writer-in-residence at UBC, Whistler, B.C., and Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland. She has a picture book forthcoming with Scholastic Canada, and Professor Goose Presents: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, illustrated by Alex Griffiths, the first in a series, comes out with Tundra Books in 2022.

Keynote Talks and Workshops

As someone who has worked in health care as an Occupational Therapist, in television and print as a reporter, and finally, as a writer of picture books, novels and science books for children and young adults, I understand the need to expand and explore our creative energies and constantly develop new tools. I’ve been told my workshops are engaging, and life-changing. I hope so, but I know that they are a heck of a lot of fun…and informative.

This workshop explores how professionals can guide children, or themselves, to develop and nurture their creativity through storytelling, physical activity, music and meditation. The content can be adjusted to suit different developmental stages.

A step-by-step guide to the process of writing a book for children from concept to publication.

A workshop that explores how the structures of writing for film can be applied to writing books for middle-grade readers and writers. A step-by-step guide to help reluctant writers find a way to create stories.

A talk about the lessons I’ve learned about life, writing, and publishing after having co-created, with illustrator, Brenda Clark, one of the most popular, and enduring, characters in Canadian publishing history.

For Health Care Professionals

I have often spoken to Health Care Professionals about how my training as an Occupational Therapist has informed all of my creative work. I would be delighted to tailor a talk, or workshop, about listening for story in client interaction and applying what is learned to a treatment plan.

To book Paulette Bourgeois, contact Rob Firing at

Ralph Benmergui

Award winning broadcaster, stand-up comic, communications director, executive advisor to politicians and college presidents and ordained spiritual director. Ralph Benmergui is all of those things and now we can add author to the list with his new book, I Thought He Was Dead!

As a speaker, writer and workshop leader Ralph brings all his gifts to bear as he walks us through the autumn of his life with enthusiasm, passion and a healthy dollop of belly laughs. How do we move from age-ing to sage-ing? How do we renew our purpose at work and in life? What is the legacy we will leave our children? With insight and practical tools we can move from being seniors foraging for discounts to harvesting our wisdom and taking our rightful place in our families, society and work as elders.


Don’t Leave Your Zeppelin in the Parking Lot. Re-Imagining Work

No more leaving the best part of you in the parking lot, no more “death-by-meeting,” and as far as finally arriving at the dreaded send-off pizza party goes, that’s definitely out. Work is a huge part of our lives. It deserves your passion. Join Ralph for laughs, hopefully not too many tears and some real working wisdom.

From Age-ing to Sage-ing-The Wisdom Harvest

Today there are more people in the autumn of their lives than ever before. We live longer. The challenge is: do we live better. Are we valued for our wisdom? Can we find renewed purpose as we get closer to the end? Join Ralph, an award winning broadcaster, longtime executive advisor to cabinet ministers and college presidents, and now author of I Thought He Was Dead! mixing laughter, and yes, a few well-deserved tears. In an inspiring presentation, this master storyteller walks us through the social and spiritual journey of aging.

To book Ralph Benmergui, contact Rob Firing at