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Please join us in welcoming our wonderful Defenders! Each Library chooses a defender who presents their favourite Canadian titles to debate at our Georgian Bay Reads evening.

And the 2022 Defenders Are…

Clearview Public Library

Stephen Colwell

Stephen Colwell has traveled the spiritual path for over fifty years, meditating and studying the wisdom of world-renowned spiritual teachers including: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Yogi Bhajan, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Paramahansa Yogananda, and Dr. and Master Zhi Gang Sha. In 2008, Stephen’s soul urged to him to leave the corporate world and pursue his spiritual journey full-time. He then retired from a highly successful 25-year career at Fidelity Investments, where he designed and programmed IT systems for Fidelity’s global trading desks and launched several international businesses as Vice President of New Business Development. In 2009, Stephen became a Self-Realization Fellowship Disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda. 

In 2016, Stephen became a Master Teacher of Master Zhi Gang Sha’s Tao Academy. He and his wife Avi established Tao Happiness Joy, a soul healing business in Ontario, Canada.  They offer soul journey workshops, consultations and blessings to people suffering from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges.

Stephen Colwell is the author of two novels and one non-fiction publication: 

  • The Ivory Monkeys (Rock Publishing, 2009)
  • Kissing Carmen (Front Porch Publishing, 2012)
  • Flying With Dragons (Waterside Productions, 2016)

Stephen Colwell is a graduate of: 

  • University of Massachusetts, 1975 (Psychology, Philosophy)
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology, 1979 (Computer Science)

Collingwood Public Library

Annie Schiefer

Annie Schiefer has been a member of the Collingwood Public Library Board for the past 4 years and her passion for both books and governance has served our library community well.

Prior to retiring, Annie worked for over twenty years in communications and project management in print media, politics and government. She also taught special education and civics for 8 years in Toronto.

Hiking the Camino de Santiago in 2015 over six weeks, Annie has a unique perspective on the physical and emotional toll of a pilgrimage. This experience, she felt, makes her an ideal defender of On Foot to Canterbury by Ken Haigh. “The distance travelled is less important than the experience gained.”

Meaford Public Library

Leslie Ransome

Springwater Township Public Library

Katie Moore

A lover of books from an early age, Katie’s passion for libraries began when her elementary school librarian allowed her to take home some extra book cards so Katie could put them in her own books to play ‘library’ at home. Nowadays, Katie works at the Springwater Public Library and is delighted that she gets to spend her days helping people find their next great read. When she is not at the library, Katie is at home with her two young kids entertaining them with story after story after story… (It thrills her to pieces to hear ‘just one more story’)

Wasaga Beach Library

Connie Cook

Connie is a semi-retired social worker, now employed at the Wasaga Beach Public Library on a casual basis. She enjoys writing, bike riding and reading. She is working on her first novel set in the Grey County area. Connie has 3 children and 5 grandchildren. She enjoys travel and has set her sights on a trip to the Canadian prairies this year.


Kieron Rupke

Kieron Rupke is the Champion from the 2021 Georgian Bay Reads and she will be moderating this year.


Meaford Public Library

Ashley Trusler

I’m a Library Assistant at the Meaford Public Library, and I’ve been working here for 5 years. I love being able to share my passion for books with others through my work. I have a degree from Guelph University in English & Anthropology; a Certificate of Publishing from Ryerson University, and I’m currently enrolled in the Library and Information Technician Program through Mohawk College.

My mom instilled my passion for reading and books at a young age, and I grew up reading all the time. To challenge myself, I set a personal goal every year to read a set number of books before the years over; this year I’m striving to read 75 books! I used to read a lot of literary fiction, especially during my University days. Now I tend to gravitate towards psychological thrillers, fantasy, YA fiction, and junior fiction. I am a big supporter of adults reading Young Adult and junior titles; there are so many valuable lessons to learn from these genres, for each and every one of us.

As a mother, I’m encouraging my son to grow and nurture a passion for reading as well, and so far he is just as much of a little bookworm as I am. We can easily sit and read 10 books at one time together and he will still ask for more. We are participating in the “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” reading program through the Meaford Public Library, with our own personal goal of reading 1,000 different books, and we are almost halfway to the 500 mark!

The book I am defending, Birds Art Life was a book I first picked up several years ago, and it had the ability then to cause me to pause, contemplate, and revaluate the world around me. Now, more than ever, I feel this book speaks a message that we as humans all need to hear right now.

On a personal note, I’m a single mom to a fantastic little boy (I may be a bit biased!), and I run a small business in my ‘spare’ time. I love the summertime, coffee, and relaxing in a hot bath.

Collingwood Public Library

Suzanne McLean

Suzanne grew up in Penetanguishene, and now lives with her family in Collingwood.  After studying political science at The University of Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier University, she taught Police Studies at Georgian College for several years before taking a break to stay home with her two young children.  When her youngest entered junior kindergarten, she began working at the Collingwood Public Library as a Public Services Clerk.  Suzanne fell in love with library work and is now halfway through her master’s degree in Library Science.   

Suzanne is defending Missing from the Village by Justin Ling. 

Wasaga Beach Public Library

Ali Elder

I spent early family life with two boys and husband as a teacher in the secondary panels of Etobicoke, London and Halton, in English, French and media studies. After my career as an educator, I moved from Oakville to Wasaga Beach with my husband, leaving our two sons and their families behind “in the south”. The 17 years we have lived here have afforded us all we could have hoped for: clean air, clear skies and outside activities for all seasons. Biking and golf are our current favourites. Domestic and international travel continue to please us equally.

I am an enthusiastic participant in two book clubs in Wasaga Beach. I frequent our library9 and am so impressed with the programs on offer. Through these covid months, the Zoom offerings have been varied and wonderful: speakers have presented the history of the SS Keewatin, the black porters of Canada’s rail system and the vanishing barns of Ontario.

As I have enjoyed these programs, I am now happy to take my turn to entertain viewers. My husband and I have attended every Georgian Bay Reads since he saw the ad for the first one and suggested we attend. What fun! I look forward to an evening of debate and to my convincing everyone that A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson is the book we should all read this year, of all years. See you there!

Springwater Public Library

Donna Kenwell

Clearview Public Library

Kieran Rupke

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”

Muriel Rukeyser

My name is Kieron Rupke and I have been a resident of Creemore for 12 years. Having lived most of my life out in the country, I believe that one of the best things about living in a town is having a public library, a universe of stories, a short walk away. I am currently enrolled at Mohawk College working towards a diploma in Library and Information Technology and I am honoured to be Clearview Public Library’s representative for Georgian Bay Reads 2021.

I have chosen to defend the New York Times bestseller Heartberries by Terese Marie Mailhot. Terese is an MFA graduate from the Institute of American Indian Arts and teaches creative writing at Perdue University and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A Salish First Nations woman who grew up on the Seabird Island reserve in British Columbia, Terese chronicles her journey to build solid ground beneath her as she explores the dark corners of her experience, as an indigenous woman struggling with ancestral trauma, mental illness, and what it means to love.

I have chosen this book because I feel it is important for dedicated readers to search out stories from writers whose voices have for so long been silenced, as Terese explains, “Indian girls can be forgotten so well they forget themselves.” Heartberries is Terese’s brave and generous gift to the world, revealing the power of story as a means of survival.

Heartberries was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General Literary Award for non-fiction, selected by Emma Watson’s Shared Shelf Book Club, selected by PBS Newshour: Now Read This Book Club and listed as a best book of the year by NPR, The Library Journal and New York and Chicago Public Libraries.

If you are interested in being a Defender, please contact your library.