Hackmatack Virtual Festival of Reading

We had grand plans for our very first Festival of Reading – but the pandemic had other plans.

While the third wave had a significant impact on many arts organizations and events, we’re thrilled to present our annual awards presentation, and two very special events: the Hackmatack Future Voices Showcase, with nine BIPOC artists who write and illustrate children’s books, and Future Voices Mentors, with a stellar panel who will share their experience and advice.

Friday, May 28

Future Voices Showcase
Free admission – no registration required
5:30 – 6:30pm ADT

We’re thrilled to introduce you to up-and-coming BIPOC children’s writers and illustrators. 

Tune in on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Future Voices Mentors
Free admission
7:00 – 8:00pm ADT

Join Hatem Aly, Andre Fenton, and Rebecca Thomas as they share their experience and advice for up-and-coming BIPOC creators.

Sponsored by the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute

Sunday, May 30

Hackmatack Awards Presentation
No registration required

For everyone!
Sunday, May 30, 7:00pm ADT
Tune in on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Future Voices Showcase

Hackmatack is committed to selecting books that enable children to see themselves and the diversity in society at large. We know there are more artists creating than those we currently see in print, or who are already well-known to our readers. We’re excited to introduce you to just a few of the up-and-coming BIPOC artists who are writing and illustrating books for children.

Keyonté Beals
Letitia Fraser
Daniel Henriquez
Ava Jones
Aliyah Lailson
Natashia Moodie
Jack Wong
Kelly Zhang
Hui Zhou

Keonté Beals grew up in North Preston, Nova Scotia. He’s a singer-songwriter, producer, author and entrepreneur. Keonté is the winner of the African Nova Scotian Music Association’s Single of the Year award 2021 for his single “KING.” Keonté and his brother Antonio recently released I Am Perfectly Me, a colourful children’s book they wrote together and self-published through Keonté’s company KBeals Entertainment. They hope it will encourage children everywhere to be confident in themselves and feel empowered.
www.Kebe.ca | keontebeals.com

Letitia Fraser is an Interdisciplinary artist and a proud descendant of North Preston, Nova Scotia. She holds a BFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from NSCAD University. In 2011 she illustrated images for The Journey Continues; An Atlantic Canada Black Experience, written by Craig M. Smith. In 2018 Letitia had her artwork published in Understorey Magazines 12th issue dedicated to African Nova Scotian Women. Letitia has participated in solo and group exhibitions at the Anna Leonowens Gallery and Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery. Most recently, she was in the residency program at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design.

Daniel Henriquez is a Métis writer who began his writing career at the age of nine. Thirty-five years later he published his first book. Daniel has written everything from short stories and political blogs to theological theses, all while reading widely. He has always been a hands-on learner and believes that “there’s nothing more educational than a field trip.” Daniel loved growing up in Winnipeg, a city that greatly influences his writing. Hailing from a long line of world travelers, he spent his youth planning to see the world and carry on the family tradition. His first book, When Squirrels Fly, was inspired by his wife when she suggested that he write a story for their children. After many years of travel and fathering four children, this book became his message: “There’s more to life than nuts and trees!”

Ava Jones is a 13 year old artist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She enjoys drawing on paper and digitally and is exploring how to use her art in animation and game design. She is also a gifted writer whose love for animals is evident in her work. She enjoys video games, reading and spending time with her family and their dog, Zeke.

Aliyah Lailson grew up between Mexico and Canada. She was thirteen years old when she finished writing her award-winning novel, North Wind. Her number one goal was to be a professional author before she turned fourteen. “I was always a writer; I just wanted to turn it into a professional job. Like any other person, my writing will never be perfect. I have signed up to have a writing coach, and take online classes. As my writing gets better, I would like to publish many books, including some in Spanish. It is important for me to start my career as soon as possible, because I want to share my stories with the world. I want to make people smile as they enjoy reading my work, as much as I enjoyed writing it.”
Find North Wind at Woozles

Natashia Moodie is a Cree mother of 4 beautiful daughters and is from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba Canada. She is a Nurse specializing in Dialysis, and a singer/songwriter in the sister dou Moody x 2. Natashia is a former Miss Manitoba First Nations and an Award-Winning Manitobans for Human Rights Hero.
Natashia’s Amazon author page

Jack Wong was born in Hong Kong, raised in Vancouver, and now lives and works as a children’s author/illustrator in Kjipuktuk (Halifax, NS). A self-declared actual Jack-of-all-trades, Jack studied both bridge engineering and fine art, and has also tried his hand at teaching art, researching in psychology, and running his own bicycle repair shop – a real education for creating kids’ books, if you ask him! Jack’s stories are indelibly marked by a first-generation Asian Canadian experience, transposed upon the small-city living, natural beauty, and deeply rooted storytelling traditions of the Maritime east coast. He seeks to share all of this with young readers, so that they may embrace the unique amalgams of experiences that make up their own lives.

Kelly Zhang is a first-generation Chinese immigrant, physician, and children’s writer based in Ottawa, Canada. She writes prose and poetry in both English and Chinese. She also loves to draw and hopes one day to be able to illustrate her own books. She’s an active member of the SCBWI and a proud winner of the 2020 Kitlit Fall Writing Frenzy. She enjoys connecting with the global kitlit community via Twitter. When she’s not working or writing, she plays referee between a mischievous beagle and a spirited human child.
@KellyZhang_YL twitter

Hui Zhou was born in Beijing, China, and moved to Nova Scotia in 2005. She holds a Master’s degree in Entomology from Saint Mary’s University. She won a nonfiction writing contest in 1996 and has had a number of essays published since then. In 2016 Hui became a full-time writer. She published her children’s book about chickens Running Wild with Bossy Boy in 2018.

Future Voices Mentors

Join illustrator Hatem Aly and authors and poets Andre Fenton and Rebecca Thomas as they share their tips and experience especially for up-and-coming BIPOC authors and illustrators. Learn how to navigate the world of publishing, how to access the marketplace, and promote your work.

Illustrator Hatem Aly
Andre Fenton author
Rebecca Thomas photo by Hannah Jackson

Hatem Aly (left) is an Egyptian-born illustrator who currently lives in beautiful New Brunswick, Canada, with his wife, son, and more pets than people. He has illustrated many books for young people that earned multiple starred reviews and positions on the NYT bestsellers including The Proudest Blue with Ibtihaj Muhammad & S.K . Ali,  In My Mosque with M.O. Yuksel, the Newbery Honor winner The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, The Unicorn Rescue Society series also by Adam Gidwitz with several amazing co-authors, Meet Yasmin with Saadia Faruqi,  Raj’s Rule (For the Bathroom at School) with Lana Button, and How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller.

Hatem has more upcoming books and projects in the works. You can find him online @metahatem and metahatem.com

Andre Fenton (centre) is an award-winning author, spoken-word artist, and arts educator who has represented Halifax at seven national poetry festivals across Canada. He is an author of two YA novels, Worthy of Love from Formac Publishing, and ANNAKA from Nimbus Publishing. Through the lens of fiction and poetry, Andre has facilitated workshops at over 30 schools across Nova Scotia helping young writers and performers develop their craft.

He is currently working on his third novel, The Summer Between Us, as well as a feature screenplay. Andre is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Rebecca Thomas (right) is an award-winning Mi’kmaw poet. She is Halifax’s former Poet Laureate (2016-2018) and has been published in multiple journals and magazines. She coordinated the Halifax Slam Poetry team from 2014 to 2017, leading them to three national competitions with the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

Her first children’s book, I’m Finding My Talk, was a Globe & Mail Top 100 Pick of 2019, as well as a CBC Best Picture Book of 2019, and was nominated for both the 2019 Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature and the 2019 Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Best Atlantic-Published Book Award (with companion title I Lost My Talk). The book is a White Ravens 2020 selection, chosen by the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany, and has been nominated for First Nations Communities READ 2020. Thomas’s first adult collection of poetry, I place you into the fire, was a CBC Best Canadian Poetry pick of 2020.


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