Winter & spring workshops at a glance (updated!)

Listed below are all remaining winter & spring 2024 workshops with open registration.

View all ongoing & upcoming workshops, including those with open waitlists, on our our main Workshops page.

If the registration fee would make it difficult or impossible for you to participate in a particular workshop, we encourage you to contact Andy at communications@writers.ns.ca to arrange a fee alternative.

Sound & Silence in Poetry (virtual) with Nanci Lee

Tuesdays, Feb 20 to Mar 5, 2024 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Poetry is an oral form—and this workshop will play with both sound and silence in poetry, using ancestors and song lines as a springboard. Nanci's poetry works with space and fragments, not as a break from words, but where space brings its own atmosphere and plays with the unknown and unconscious. We'll engage in an exercise related to I Ching and yarrow sticks as well as spoken word poetry and a few old recordings. We'll also play with the roots of words, concrete forms, oral exercises, and creative uses of space for movement and resonance. Participants will workshop their own poems-in-progress, including the practice of recording and listening.

From First Ideas to Finished Fiction (virtual) with Adam Foulds

Tuesdays, Mar 5 to Mar 26, 2024 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

After the first flurry of ideas and excitement, writing fiction can become daunting—with characters to develop and plots to engineer. This workshop will help you finish that first short story or novel draft with sessions and tutorials on plot, character, and point-of-view; sharpening your descriptions and writing action; crafting scenes; and creating distinctive, persuasive voices and dialogue. Together we can get there.

Fiction Masterclass: Turn to Page One (virtual) with Jessica Scott-Kerrin

Wednesdays, Mar 13 to Apr 3, 2024 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

What’s a good opening sentence? Simple. It compels the reader to read the next sentence. And so on. By launching the reader in the right direction, a compelling first sentence is even more critical when sending out manuscripts to agents and editors who often ask to see only the first few pages before rendering a decision. In this masterclass, we’ll explore various opening techniques that are available to authors as well as identify common errors to tackle. An evaluation “first page” template will be shared and further developed during the sessions.

Write What Scares You: Crafting a Screenplay for the Horror Genre (virtual) with Josh MacDonald

Mondays, Mar 18 to Apr 22 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

From Rod Serling and Richard Matheson to Jordan Peele and Issa López, great horror movies always begin with a great story told on the page. But how do you format a proper screenplay to imply either a slow-building suspense sequence, or a shocking jump-scare? How do you guide the camera—using words alone—to suggest that menace is hiding behind a creaky door, or that it’s bursting into full view? Horror movies are often predicated on pop psychology—what is it that truly scares us?—so how do you write subtext as text, within the confines of a screenplay’s rigid blueprint? Horror fan and horror writer Josh MacDonald will answer these questions and more, while guiding participants through weekly assignments leading to the creation of their very own short and scary screenplays.

Writing with Tarot: Symbols, Archetypes, and the Creative Journey (virtual) with Tiffany Morris

Wednesdays, Mar 20 to Apr 10 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Archetypes—the shared language of symbols that exists across cultures—help shape our stories on conscious and unconscious levels. From the Fool’s Journey to the Hero’s Journey, the 78 cards of the Tarot provide a multitude of archetypal symbols that can guide our creative process. These Tarot symbols are drawn from diverse sources, ranging from Arthurian legend and astrology to early 20th century mysticism, providing an exciting framework for personal and creative exploration. In this four-session workshop for writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, the first half of each session will teach the basics of Tarot symbolism in the standard Rider-Waite system. In the second half of each session, we will write and explore how these symbols can generate ideas for plot and character in fiction, as well ideas for poetic devices and nonfiction storytelling structures.

Solarpunk: Writing Futures with Resiliency (virtual) with seeley quest

Tuesdays, Apr 2 to Apr 16 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Interest is growing in futurist fiction that engages with current ecological and geopolitical instability by imagining sustainable story-worlds. Dystopian climate-centred fictions can command attention dramatically but suggest desirable or livable futures are less possible. This workshop will introduce participants to “solarpunk,” an emergent 21st-century speculative subgenre with a goal to inspire and to represent achievable near or far futures that we can feel good about next generations inhabiting. Any fictional format can be an outlet for “utopian” climate narratives (including poetry, songwriting, audio-fiction, tabletop and video games), and this workshop will consider examples from recent UK- and US-published collections. We’ll discuss the range of political angles and aesthetic approaches under the solarpunk umbrella, explore ways to serve each writer’s goals by illustrating scenes of resilience, and imagine human and other-than-human characters negotiating challenges of ecological and social repair.

Writing Grief: A Poetry Workshop (virtual) with Ben Gallagher

Tuesdays, Apr 2 to 23 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

This workshop is focused on the topic of grief, and how difficult losses are expressed through poetry. As we read poets who have expressed their own grief, we will also explore questions such as: how do formal or technical poetic concerns relate to our emotional landscapes? What does it mean to share our private losses publicly through poetry? What are the limitations or inadequacies of poetry when it comes to expressing loss? What is gained from writing poems about grief, and how is this different than other forms of therapy or relief? This workshop will necessarily bring up challenging feelings and subjects, and participants should come with a willingness to support each other and take care of themselves. But it is also a poetry workshop, and so participants should also come expecting to both read and write a number of poems across the workshop sessions.

Investigative Techniques: Researching the Narrative Nonfiction Book (virtual) with Sherri Aikenhead

Wednesdays, Apr 3 to Apr 17 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

If you are planning to write a true story—whether it be true crime, a biography, or a memoir—join this three-session interactive workshop. Long before you start your book, you will want to dive into research that will ensure your story will be accurate and credible. Learn investigative techniques that will help you successfully research your non-fiction book before you’ve written a word. This workshop will help identify what research you need to verify the facts of someone’s life beyond faded memories. Find out where to go and what records to ask for so you can recreate compelling scenes from the past. Some of the methods we will cover include tips on how to file information requests with government and other public bodies, such as the court system, for historical files. Participants will discuss how to get the most detail out of interviewing people to evoke detail to help recreate in scenes of your book. Once you have the reams of information, we will examine how to weave your research through your book and pull it together.

From Fandom to Nonfiction: Writing about Pop Culture (virtual) with Peter Counter

Mondays, April 8 to 29 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

That music stuck in your head, that video game you can’t put down, that movie you keep quoting in casual conversation—modern entertainment culture is a powerful influence on our lives. It affects our language, builds communities, and holds up a mirror to our collective experience. With a thoughtful approach and the right tools, writers can channel these media into their nonfiction. This workshop will help writers engage deeply with a cultural text of their choice—be it a book, movie, play, song, TV show, or video game—and produce an original piece of written criticism. Participants will discuss traditional and experimental forms of pop culture writing, experiment with critical writing tools, and discover new ways to engage with entertainment media that can enrich their writing and research.

Fiction Intensive: The Short Story (virtual) with Sharon English

Wednesdays, Apr 10 to May 8 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

You've written a story, yet you're unsure whether it's ready to meet the world. Or you've sent out several stories, yet publication has been elusive or rare. Both situations are common for writers, no matter how experienced, because as Francine Prose reminds us, "a story creates its own world." A story drawing too much on familiar tropes feels predictable, cliché, yet an inventive story needs enough coherence and polish to make it sing. In this workshop, you'll learn strategies for balancing familiarity and novelty by developing your work through revision, which focuses on larger narrative issues, and through editing at the sentence level. By exchanging your stories with other participants, you'll learn to hone your self-editing skills, to work with feedback from readers, and to offer—and receive—supportive, practical responses to works-in-progress. Writing communities and groups are essential for these reasons and more. We'll also spend time discussing paths to publication, including where and how to submit your fiction.

A Speculative Fiction Expedition (virtual) with Sherry D. Ramsey

Tuesdays, May 7 to June 4 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Journey through the landscape of science fiction and fantasy, stopping to explore what makes a story or poem ‘speculative,’ tropes and expectations of the genres, and the best ways to build engaging story worlds. We’ll scout out what makes strong speculative fiction writing that feels fresh and offers something new, and we’ll consider new and developing sub-genres and trends. We’ll discover how and where to find inspiration for speculative fiction ideas in the ‘real world,’ discuss the various publication routes we might take with these stories, and look at where the market is headed. Each session, we’ll also spend some time writing to explore these ideas.

GriefNotes StoryNotes: A Fiction Workshop (virtual) with Christy Ann Conlin

Thursdays, May 9 to 30 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

This workshop is designed for writers of fiction who want to craft stories which explore the subject of grief / loss and grieving / mourning. Writers should bring a work-in-progress or an idea for a story/novel in which grief / loss plays a central role. We will discuss the grieving brain, neuroplasticity, contemporary grief theory, and how grief shapes behaviour, emotion, and personal expression. We will consider excerpts from published fiction that tell stories through the lens of grief, using these as prompts to contemplate how we shape and craft our own stories. How do loss and grief impact a character and drive the action of the story? How do conflict and tension arise when grief refuses to conform to dominant social norms? What is the interplay between devastating loss, relationships, and personhood? How do we create a story that embodies the paradox of holding happiness and sorrow simultaneously? What is the role of humour in the grief process? What does it mean to be grief literate?

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that each workshop’s participants share a level or range of writing / publication experience. This is to ensure that each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their current writing priorities.

To this end, the “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions developed by WFNS:

  • New writers: those with no professional publications (yet!) or a few short professional publications (i.e., poems, stories, or essays in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with numerous professional publications and/or one book-length publication.
  • Established writers/authors: those with two book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short publications.
  • Professional authors: those with more than two book-length publications.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for participant-to-participant feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed.

For all other workshops, the recommended experience level is just that—a recommendation—and we encourage potential participants to follow their own judgment when registering.

If you’re uncertain of your experience level with regard to any particular workshop, please feel free to contact us at communications@writers.ns.ca