Liz is a children’s media producer who’s developed a variety of award-winning series for TVO, CBC, and Sinking Ship Entertainment. In 2009, she wanted to explore ways to help kids get their stories heard, rather than having adults tell kids stories. And that’s when she discovered 826, an amazing writing program started by author, Dave Eggers in the US. Liz went for a visit and fell in love with the work they were doing – empowering and inspiring kids through writing and art. Determined to start a similar program in Canada, Liz headed home and Story Planet was born. Story Planet became a charity in 2011 and Liz continues to learn and grow through all the work it does!
Operations Director and Volunteer Coordinator
A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Lisa is a writer and freelance manuscript editor. Her short fiction has appeared in the Colorado Review and Miracle Monocle, and she is forever working on a novel. She loves being involved with Story Planet, which reminds her daily of all the wonder and excitement of creating stories.
Tracy is a graduate of Western University’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program and has worked in strategic planning at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP). A lifelong learner, in 2017, she returned to school to study community work at George Brown College. Through her work at Story Planet she is able to bring together her two passions — storytelling and community-building. Her writing has appeared in the Toronto Star. Tracy grew up in rural Southwestern Ontario, but now calls Toronto home.
A resident of Toronto, Aaron is a writer and longtime sci-fi enthusiast. He was a contributor and eventual co-editor of the Toronto Comics Anthology, and his work can be found in various books and anthologies, including Strange Romance and Hogtown Horror. More recently, Aaron has written the superhero series Northguard for Chapterhouse Comics, and has been spending lockdown finishing his first novel. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Windsor and is thrilled to be working for Story Planet!
Alejandra is a Colombian writer and community artist with experience working on arts-based social justice initiatives. Trained as a visual artist and as a journalist, with a postgraduate degree in Publishing, Alejandra worked in New York for seven years and moved to Toronto in 2018. She is an artist-in-residence at Sanctuary Ministries where she facilitates a community arts program for people struggling with addiction, mental illness, and homelessness. Alejandra is writing her first non-fiction novel and is a volunteer for the Toronto Writers Collective.
Augusto Bitter is a Venezuelan-born, Dora Award-winning performer, writer, and facilitator based in Toronto. He is a Resident Artist at Aluna Theatre, and has also been in-residence at Canadian Stage, hub14, and Theatre Passe Muraille. He has trained with Teatro delle Radici, Manifesto Poetico, Canada’s National Voice Intensive, Aluna Theatre’s Interpretation Lab, and the University of Toronto. He is a youth educator with Soulpepper and Story Planet. His one person amazing play, CHICHO, has been adapted into a short film with Pencil Kit Productions, now in post-production.
“Not everyone likes Beyoncé.” – Makambe K. Simamba
Bilal Baig is a queer muslim playwright, actor and workshop facilitator. Their first play, Acha Bacha, had its world premiere at Theatre Passe Muraille in association with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in February 2018. As an actor, they have worked with Factory Theatre, Theatre Centre, and Tarragon Theatre. Bilal is also part of a collective that creates in-person hangout spaces for queer and trans south asians as well as an online space to connect called A Colour Deep. Bilal is also the creator, co-writer and star of the fabulous CBC series, Sort Of!
Carina is a former two-time Story Planet placement student who started back in 2017. Since then, she has officially joined the team as a facilitator, earned a Social Service Work diploma from Sheridan College, and a Bachelor of Social Work from Toronto Metropolitan University. She is a hobbyist artist, writer, and podcaster, and loves taking care of her many plants. Outside of Story Planet she teaches swimming to children in her town and plans to complete a Masters of Social Work in the near future.
Cedric Lary | Story Data Analyst
Cedric Lary graduated with a degree in Biology and Education. After graduating, he worked as a tutor, helping students prepare for high school admissions. One of his lifelong goals is to provide academic resources for students in underserved communities.
Christopher Green, also known as “MUMBLETHIEF,” is a cartoonist and fictional character who comes from the Alaskan wilderness. His professional work includes comics, illustration, animation, and children’s books for clients such as Carousel Magazine, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Take Action Films, and the band Black Kids. Since landing on the Story Planet, he has taken great pleasure in cataloging with pen and paper an astonishing variety of flora and fauna discovered by the planet’s many young explorers.
He also serves as resident cartoonist aboard the Turtle Library, where he chronicles the adventures of everyone’s favorite gigantic turtle with a library in its belly and the group of young librarians who live in its shell.
Clau Souza is a Brazilian illustrator based in Toronto since 2016. She’s been professionally drawing for around 15 years for a variety of clients, especially for kid’s books and games. Since 2019 she’s been represented by the one-and-only Bright Agency, a place where she has been working with clients all over the world with all kinds of fun projects. Living in Canada, she had a chance to accept that she’ll never get used to the winter, had a bitter-sweet experience studying 3D Animation, and falling in love with Arts Education & Community Engagement at Centennial College. As part of the program, she had the joy to meet the amazing Story Planet team through working on the Alien Art Market, and since then she’s been obsessed with their work, but playing it cool so they keep working with her.
Favourite quote: “Recuar, resistir, avançar.” – Paulo Tiefenthaler
(English translation: retreat, resist, move forward)
Her portfolio is here: https://www.behance.net/claudiasouza
Dave has been a Story Wizard at Story Planet since 2017, he lives and works in the east end of Toronto.
Elena is a graphic designer, artist, and passionate typesetter with a few exhibitions under her belt. She is always on the lookout for great new projects, mostly orbiting the publishing or creative industry.
With her background in setting up community spaces and her affinity for numbers, she helped conceptualize, organize, and set up the Alien Art Market and Gallery here in Toronto.
She helps create books and graphics for Story Planet and contributes to workshops as well. In her words: “I appreciate the opportunities Story Planet provides to young artists and authors. This community is remarkable and gives people tons of support and space to explore, experiment, and grow.”
Elena is grateful to have found this eclectic group of talented, engaged, and diverse people who all strive to make the world a little bit better.
Jessica Westhead is a Toronto-based author and editor who has been teaching creative writing and working with aspiring writers since 2005, and she was thrilled to join the Story Planet team as a workshop facilitator in 2021. When she was a kid, Jessica sold homemade books to her neighbours instead of lemonade, and now she writes literary fiction for grown-ups. Her short stories have been published across Canada and in the US and the UK, and her work has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, selected for the Journey Prize anthology, and nominated for a National Magazine Award. She is the author of the novel Pulpy & Midge (Coach House Books) and the critically acclaimed short-story collections And Also Sharks and Things Not to Do (Cormorant Books). Her latest novel Worry (HarperCollins Canada) was a CBC Books Best Book of the Year and was longlisted for CBC Canada Reads. Jessica’s online home is: www.jessicawesthead.com
Josh spent most of his childhood either (a) drawing or (b) running in circles and making explosion noises while inventing more things to draw. As a professional cartoonist and illustrator, not much has changed (though the explosion noises have lessened). He has a BA in Comparative Literature and an MFA in making comics from the Center for Cartoon Studies. As a freelance artist he has had work featured through Slate Magazine, Carousel Magazine and the University of Iowa, among others, and his debut graphic novel “The Good Fight” with author Ted Staunton released through Scholastic Canada in 2021. He relishes the work he does with Story Planet, where he can share his love of telling stories through pictures with kids of all ages.
Joyce is a student at the University of Toronto and is currently completing a double major in Equity Studies and Environmental Studies. Joyce grew up in Guelph and still considers it home but is currently living (and loving) Toronto. She joined Story Planet in 2019 as a volunteer and fell in love with everything we do. She is now a facilitator and loves being more involved with the kids. Working with Story Planet is always the highlight of her week. Her favourite part is hearing about the characters and their backstories that the kids come up with. Story Planet has inspired Joyce to continue working in these communities and to hopefully plan a future around it.
Fairly new to the Toronto arts scene, Bahamian born creator/storyteller KayGeni aims to continue building genuine connections with her community through her work. A strong message of self-love and acceptance within her music and artistic expression is fuelled by her own recent life-altering journey of having to undergo an emergency Mastectomy. KayGeni shares her personal experiences through an honest and vulnerable approach to performance, writing and visual arts. She attributes her eclectic style within her work, and artistic influences to her Bahamian heritage.
Kseniya is a community-engaged visual artist originally from Uzbekistan. Her favourite way to tell stories is through colourful murals, but she also enjoys drawing comics occasionally.
She still feels quite new to Toronto, and is currently on the mission to make more friends. Say hi to her on her Instagram here: www.instagram.com/al.fergani
Lina Wu (BDes OCAD U) is a multi-disciplinary artist and illustrator based in Tkaronto (Toronto). Her work explores self-perception, mythology, femininity, and adolescence through a diverse range of media, narrative, and image-making practices. Her work has been published with Hand Eye Society, Looseleaf Magazine, Half a Grapefruit, and others; her art has been featured at galleries such as Xpace Cultural Centre and Gallery 44; and she has facilitated workshops with organizations including Tea Base, Insomniac Film Festival, and Canada Comics Open Library. Lina is interested in fusing highbrow with lowbrow, darkness with sweet, softness with strength.
Linh is a Vietnamese-Canadian immigrant and writer who specializes in children’s literature and creative non-fiction. Her work centres on the idea of homecoming, with short stories and personal essays published in Living Hyphen Magazine, The Soap Box Press, Sticky Rice Magazine, and more. She is represented by Emmy Nordstrom Higdon of Westwood Creative Artists. Her debut middle-grade fantasy novel has been acquired for publication (details to come!). Linh holds an H.B.A. in English from the University of Toronto and is pursuing her Masters degree this fall at the University of Cambridge, in the Arts, Creativity, and Education program.
Lis is a Chinese-Canadian illustrator based in Toronto. Her published work includes the children’s book, When Molly Drew Dogs (Owlkids Books) and the comic, WYD (Perfectly Acceptable). Past illustration clients include The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, Reebok, and Sorry Coffee Co. She is a member of the Doug Wright Awards-nominated comics collective Wavering Line Collective.
Makambe K Simamba
Makambe K Simamba is a Dora Award winning playwright and actor for her solo work, Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers (b current performing arts). She recently co-directed inVISIBLE (Too) at the University of Lethbridge. Selected acting credits include Winners and Losers (Chromatic Theatre), A Chitenge Story (Handsome Alice), GIANT (Ghost River Theatre), Bea (Sage Theatre), SIA (Pyretic Productions), inVISIBLE (Handsome Alice), Burn Your Maps (Cinelou Films), Grand Army (Netflix), and Young Drunk Punk (Citytv). Makambe is a national award winning playwright whose work includes Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers, A Chitenge Story, Makambe Speaks, MUD and The Drum Major Instinct. She is 2020/21 Urjo Kareda Artist in Residence at the Tarragon Theatre. Makambe is a proud Zambian whose intention is to be of service through her ability to tell stories.
“Making art cool, Making art is great, I wanna make art ’til I’m 98!” – Makambe K Simamba
Marel Alemany is a Singer-songwriter and film director from the Dominican Republic. He is the son of educator Pura Sanchez and creativity has been at the root of his formation and passion since he was born. A singer from an early age, in 2003 he released his debut single, “Palabras en el Aire” and started making music professionally. He has released two albums (“De Papel” in 2006 and “Carne” in 2009) and several singles, including (“Tu Guerra y la M a,” 2017, and “Navegar ” 2019). He has also composed numerous advertising jingles and two songs for the children’s books, “Super Niños” and “Tun Tun,” both written by storyteller Anya Damiron. Alongside his career as a musician, he’s worked for more than 15 years as a film director of commercials, short films, and music videos. He majored in Advertising at Seville University and later studied filmmaking before returning to his hometown of Santo Domingo in 2002. He is in the process of completing the post-graduate Children’s Media Program at Centennial College in Toronto.
Masooma Raza is a Pakistani visual designer and illustrator now based in Kitchener-Waterloo. She has a bachelors in Communication Design and a PG certificate in Children’s Media. While making art, she is often distracted by all the fun that’s happening in creative learning spaces for kids and in the process, has ended up working for a few including Rahnuma, THEMUSEUM, and now Story Planet. She loves connecting random dots in her brain and ideating, and often accompanies the process with a background score of casual humming or baking.
Some of her work can be found here: behance.net/masoomaraza
Among her favorite pieces of writing is Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘If’.
Natalie Wee | Social Media Coordinator
Natalie Wee is a queer creator. She wrote two poetry collections, Our Bodies & Other Fine Machines (San Press, 2021) and Beast At Every Threshold (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022). Natalie’s work explores themes of race, gender, queerness, and nationhood, and is deeply informed by grassroots communities as well as her experiences of living without permanent status in “Canada.” Born in Singapore to Malaysian parents, Natalie is currently a settler in Tkaronto.
Pranavi Suthagar is an Eelam Tamil Toronto based artist and designer and OCAD U graduate. Her works center around identity, community futures and self-actualization. She developed an illustration series under the alias Not Sari, which has connected her artwork with both the Tamil and South Asian community at large. She aims to utilize her work as a catalyst for representation for her community, and to connect with Tamil womxn through shared experiences, traumas and self exploration. Her work has been featured on platforms such as the BBC, Refinery29 and Times of India.
Suthagar aims to continue to create work that serves both her community and personal artistic practice.
Robbie Ahmed (he/him) is a singer-songwriter, writer and arts educator. He writes & sings on intersections of self-love immigration, mental health, spirituality and trans representation in the media. His work has been featured in Pride Toronto, Sketch, Gaylaxy magazine, Elephant journal, These Pills Don’t Come in My Skin Tone, Rest4Resistence, Kros magazine, Nuance, the Living Hyphen, Naked Heart Festival (2019) and Toronto’s Storyteller festival (2019). In 2018, he was a subject of 10×10 project depicting 100 LGBTQ Canadian artists shot by Yann Gracia and was the recipient of 2020’s Buddies at Bad Times Emerging Artists Awards. Currently Robbie works as a musician, and a contributing writer for YOHOMO, Toronto’s LGBTQ arts and culture publication & as well as an organizer with WAYF (Where are you from collective), an arts activism program for pan-Asian youth running the “Decolonizing Gender” project.
Sabrina, also known as breetwo, is a Toronto based illustrator. She is a tea drinker, podcast listener and animal lover. Her work often features elements of nature and spirituality and she loves playing around with texture. Her love of art stems from a type of magic she felt from drawing during her own childhood, something she hopes to inspire in the young creatives she meets through Story Planet.
They love to play with colors and characters and stories.
They are Brown, disabled, queer, and trying their best!
Tee.Scott is a multifaceted creative and licensed medical aesthetician. You’ll almost always be meeting a new person because you won’t catch her in the same hairstyle. As an upcoming artist In a duo called Unlisted Negros she loves being a person POC can be inspired by. She’s currently living her dreams everyday, carefree and slaying.
Sophie Lyons is a writer who immigrated from the UK to Toronto in 2018. She’s been published in HelloGiggles, the BMJ, and LUMINA with writing related to health issues. She is the co-founder of Sick Stories, an online publication by and for writers living with chronic illness and disabilities. She’s working on her second book and dreams of living next to open water.
Vincy Lim is a Chinese-Canadian non-binary sapphic illustrator and cartoonist whose work revolves around the themes of self-love, queerness, disability, and abuse. Through graphic memoirs and fictional stories grounded in the realities of today’s marginalized groups, Vincy produces works that emphasize on loving yourself, healing, and the recovery process. Some of Vincy’s achievements include: third place in running long jump in fifth grade out of a total of 5 applicants; being attacked by 12 pre-school children while running at full speed; commanding a group of 30 birds to follow them for a short walk; and a particularly terrible conservation with a sassy duck.
Their artwork and comics are available to read here
Wenting dreamed of being a cat when she grew up, but instead she currently works as an illustrator. Her clients include The Walrus, The Globe & Mail, Annick Press, and the New York Times, and you can see her work here. She also spends time painting public murals, working on comics, and reading books past her bedtime. Her favourite Story Planet activities include sharing her sketchbook with kids & leading fantastical adventures via roleplay.
Wenting’s favourite poem can be found here.