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Meet the inaugural Elizabeth Venart Prize recipient

Emerging writer Trina Warner from Chester, NS, has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Elizabeth Venart Prize. The prize comes with a $1,000 cheque from the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS), free registration for a WFNS creative writing workshop, and advice from a professional author through WFNS’s Coffee Chats program.

A speech-language pathologist, Trina has worked on the South Shore of Nova Scotia for past 20 years. From an early age, she found adventure, friendship, solace, and guidance in libraries and books. For just as long, she has written privately as a means of self-discovery and self-expression, but the bulk of her writing has been for academic or professional purposes.

It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that she decided to explore writing creative non-fiction. Her submission to the Elizabeth Venart Prize was the product of writing workshops she’s taken through the University of King’s College and the WFNS. She plans to use the Elizabeth Venart Prize to foster her creative writing practice.

Trina lives with her husband, young daughter, and excitable six-month-old golden retriever, Rosie. Beyond books, Trina believes in the transformative power of stories and the courage it takes to tell them.

Introduced earlier this year, the Elizabeth Venart Prize was created by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia board to support emerging writers whose work-in-progress shows promise and career-advancing merit. The prize aims to help finance the time, space, and professional development required to write, to revise and edit, and/or to submit work for publication. Submissions will be open on an annual basis to women and writers of other marginalized genders.

The prize is named for Elizabeth Venart (1937-2008), a wife and mother. She began writing seriously only later in her life, and finding the time to do so was difficult while raising a family and running a farm.

Sarah Venart, daughter of Elizabeth and herself a poet, remembers her mother being “most satisfied and content when she was producing words in her writing room with her chosen view of apple blossoms and the sipping hummingbirds.”

The Elizabeth Venart Prize endowment was built through donations by the Venart family, contributions from the WFNS, and the generosity of WFNS members.

In aiming to make the prize sustainable, WFNS has continued fundraiser efforts—most recently through the sale of Promptly: a miscellany of writing tips & tales from Nova Scotian authors and through Promptly: the workshop, to be held virtually from November 23 through December 14 and led by several contributors to the Promptly book.

Beautifully designed and printed by Gaspereau Press, Promptly is available through the online WFNS Gift Shop and at independent bookstores in Halifax & Dartmouth (Bookmark, King’s College Bookstore, Trident Books, Venus Envy, and Dartmouth Book Exchange), on the South Shore (LaHave River Books, Block Shop Books, Lunenburg Bound, and Otis and Clementine’s), and in Sydney (On Paper Books).

Postcard Story Contest winners

Congratulations to the winners of our second annual Postcard Story Contest!

1st: “How to Separate an Egg” by Elizabeth Collis

Elizabeth Collis (she/her) writes short fiction and creative non-fiction from her base in Kjipuktuk/Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her recent short stories and flash fiction have been published online in Flash Fiction Magazine, Understorey Magazine, and CommuterLit. In her personal essay blog, Nestless and Restless, she chronicles her journeys to explore her two homelands of Canada and England. Before concentrating on writing, Elizabeth worked as a language teacher, as a small business owner, and for a non-profit supporting entrepreneurship. She has lived on three continents and in many different countries but is happiest when she is in, on, or beside the Atlantic Ocean.

Runner-up: “Neetha” by Nayani Jensen

Nayani Jensen grew up in Halifax, NS, and most of her writing has the ocean in it. She writes short stories, novels, and poems. She was a winner of the Atlantic Writing Competition in 2014, and her poetry has been published in the ASH Oxford student journal (2019, 2020). When not writing, she studies the intersection of science and literature, and she has recently completed her MSc in History of Science at Oxford University.

Runner-up: “Alongside” by Gina O’Leary

Gina O’Leary is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who cares for children with cardiac disease. Originally from New Brunswick, she lives in Halifax with her husband and two dogs.

Congrats also to the remaining finalists: Carmen Dunn, Monica Ebsary, Jamie Farquhar, Geraldine Glodek, Monica Graham, Jill Martin, and Ian Sifton.

Poetry in Motion Celebration

Join us (virtually) on Tuesday, Nov 16, at 7:30pm as we celebrate the third edition of Poetry in Motion.

Poetry in Motion is a public poetry program which puts poems by 10 Nova Scotian writers on more than 120 Metro Transit buses. This year, the selected poems—on the theme of “connection”—have also been printed on postcards and will be delivered weekly to more than 400 recipients of Meals on Wheels programs in Halifax, Dartmouth, Sackville, and Bedford.

“Spring 202” by Brian Bartlett
“Spring Arrival” by Deborah Banks
“Roots” by Joanne Bealy
“Light & Darkness” by Martha Mutale
“Open” by Anna Elmira
“Used Envelopes” by Leanne Schneider
“Blaze” by Carole Glasser Langille
“And Yet” by Christina McRae
“Clematis” by Susan Drain
“One Bite” by Robin Metcalfe

Each of the 10 poets of Poetry in Motion 2021 will read their selected poem along with one or two additional short poems.

Investors and Partners

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is grateful to Arts Nova Scotia for their investment in Poetry in Motion. We are also grateful to Halifax Public Libraries, the Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Meals on Wheels, Dartmouth Meals on Wheels, and Sackville-Bedford Meals on Wheels for their partnership in realizing the 2021 Poetry in Motion program.

Winter & Spring Workshops at a Glance (Updated)

We’re very pleased to announce our winter & spring schedule! With winter weather, public health, and accessibility in mind, we’re presenting an all-virtual slate of workshops, with each conducted via Zoom.

Listed below are all workshops with seats still available. This post will be updated as more workshops open for registration and as workshop seats sell out. To view all ongoing & upcoming workshops, including those with open waitlists, please visit our main Workshops page.

At this time, registration for most workshops is restricted to current WFNS members. However, membership is open to all who write or have an interest in writing. (Find out how to join or renew.)

If registration fees 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 for alternative payment.

Becoming an Illustrator of Books for Children (virtual)
with Emma FitzGerald

Thursday, Jan 13, 7pm – 9pm

Author/illustrator Emma FitzGerald (Hand Drawn Halifax) will focus on how to become an illustrator for children’s books and what to expect from a contract with a publisher. Practical tips and opportunity for questions will make for a session grounded in opening your eyes to the traditional publishing scene in Canada. The session will include a short creative exercise on trusting instincts when responding to an author’s text. This offering is focused on helping yet-to-be-published illustrators but may be helpful to those who are relatively new to the profession.

Dream, Animal, Ghost, Dance: A Poetry Workshop (Virtual)
With Anne Simpson

Mondays, Jan 17 – Feb 7, 7pm – 9pm

How do certain words shape us? What alternate realities do they allow us to inhabit? Each week, we will investigate one of these words—dream, animal, ghost, or dance—consider a poem by another writer who takes this word as inspiration, and experiment with a new form that comes out of paying close attention to this word. Could a call-and-response form give your poem more power? Could you write a poem as series of postcards to someone no longer living? We will revel in the ways a poem can mean new things according to the form in which you choose to write it. This will be a playful four-week workshop, full of discoveries about what poetry can do.

The Presence of the Past: Writing Historical Fiction (virtual)
with Michelle Butler Hallett

Tuesdays, Jan 18 – Feb 8, 7pm – 9pm

In this workshop, participants will explore various aspects of writing historical fiction through presentation and discussion of ideas and practical writing exercises. Week 1 focuses on conflict on both macro and micro levels. Week 2 examines the possibilities of considering character and plot as a Janus-head (or two sides of the same coin) and explores how each can drive the other, especially in historical fiction. Week 3 dives into setting and sense, while week 4 returns to plot by exploring the connections and differences between plot and story. Expect a lively and vigorous experience!

Next Step: Fiction Workshop for Youth (virtual)
with Sylvia Gunnery

Saturdays, Jan 29 – Mar 12, 10:30am – 11:45am

This workshop is for young writers aged 13 and up.

You’re writing, right? And you want to write more and learn more and develop your own writer’s voice and meet other young writers and share your writing. Right. This 6-session fiction workshop is your chance to do all these things. Make the commitment: it’s your next step as a writer.

Podcast Storytelling (virtual)
with Carmel Mikol

Wednesdays, Feb 2 – Feb 23, 7pm – 9pm

Are you looking for new mediums for your storytelling? Exploring ways to grow your readership? Whether you’re already podcasting or are just exploring ideas, this four-part workshop series will help you leverage your core skills as a writer and translate the fundamental principles of good storytelling into unique opportunities in audio formats. At the end of the workshop, you’ll know how to research and prepare for interviews, write audio scripts, and edit your material into an engaging listening experience. You’ll be equipped to start writing a podcast that stands out from the crowd and represents the topics, conversations, and stories you’re passionate about.

Writing for Younger Children (virtual)
with Janet McNaughton

Wednesdays, Feb 2 – Feb 23, 7pm – 9pm

This workshop will focus on the genres specific to younger children, picture book texts and chapter books, taking a hands-on approach with writing exercises in each class. People who don’t write them often assume anyone can toss off a picture book text. In fact, picture books require the skills of a poet, the brevity of a journalist, and the psychological constitution of a good parent, who can place the work in the hands of others and step back from the final process. Nonfiction picture books present their own unique challenges. Chapter books are crucial in helping children to transition from listeners to active readers, so strong writing and a good concept are important. We will also touch on the vital components of silliness and fun.

Creative Writing for Newcomers (virtual)
with Anne C. Kelly

Saturday, Feb 5 – Feb 26, 9:30am – 11:30am

This low-cost workshop is open to Newcomers to Canada (including new & past immigrants, new residents, and international students) and is designed for writers who are learning EAL (English as an additional language).

Are you a newcomer to Canada with a story you want to share? Do you want to develop and strengthen your creative writing skills? Join Anne C. Kelly for this four-week course to build basic writing skills and explore the principles of creative writing. The course will include writing exercises, sharing with other learners, and a chance to create and edit the story you want to tell.

Your First Novel (virtual)
with Sarah Mian

Mondays, Feb 14 – Mar 7, 7pm – 9pm

Writing a novel takes discipline, but it can be the most transformative and rewarding work of your life. In this four-week workshop, award-winning author Sarah Mian breaks the process down into manageable steps, offering a practical guide that will steer your story onto a clear and focused path. Along the way, she’ll debunk myths about the writing life, share wisdom from her own journey, and offer valuable tips for getting published.

Wayfinding through Creative Nonfiction (virtual)
with AnnMarie MacKinnon

Tuesdays, Feb 15 – Mar 8, 7pm – 9pm

What does it take to write a true story in a way that’s just as compelling as the most absorbing novel? In this multifaceted creative nonfiction workshop, we’ll delve into telling true narrative. Through discussions, writing exercises and workshop sessions, we’ll explore form, voice, structure and self-editing. We’ll talk about the elements of good narrative and look at how a piece of creative nonfiction works, from the sentence and paragraph level to its overall structure. And we’ll talk about what to do when we can’t get a piece of writing to work (as well as how to proceed when we’re ready to submit to editors).

Masterclass on Revision (virtual)
with Carol Bruneau

Wednesdays, Mar 2 – Mar 23, 7pm – 9pm

Fear and dread of revising can stand in the way of stories becoming their strongest selves. Often, revising means revisiting and falling in love (again) with a story’s inspiration and potential. In this workshop, we’ll focus on fine-tuning key elements—character development, plot and structure, dialogue and setting—to best convey the story’s truest meaning and keep a reader hooked. We’ll work on strengthening scenes, improving pacing, and deciding when to cut and when to add information—all to create a cohesive, propulsive read that’s satisfying from beginning to end. In other words, we’ll explore ways to make your long or short fiction the very best it can be.

Spoken Word Intensive (virtual)
with Andre Fenton & Rebecca Thomas

Mondays, Mar 14 – Mar 28, 7pm – 9pm

This workshop offers significantly reduced registration fees for BIPOC writers/artists.

This dynamic workshop will delve into the art of poetry with big hearts and open minds. Participants will address themes spanning from joy to activism and will explore the creative process, dedication, and responsibility of poets who use their voices. Alongside the bigger picture, there be tips and tricks for participants to turn their poem on the page into a complete performance, with a focus on stage presence, body language, and communication. The Spoken Word Intensive will be an inclusive space where participants can share their work, ask for advice, and spend time developing their craft.

Myth, Magic, Mystery, & Meditation (virtual)
with Sheree Fitch

Mondays, Mar 14 – Apr 4, 7pm – 9pm

Whether writing for adults or a younger audience, whether comedy or tragedy, the elements of myth, magic and mystery in poems and stories enhance and deepen the work. Using examples from many literary genres, we will write, share and explore. What do we consider mythic? What are our personal myths? How do our beliefs enter our work? What do we mean by mystery and the mysterious? And what happens when we approach writing through meditation?

The Question and the Answer: Writing Mysteries (virtual)
with Tom Ryan

Tuesdays, Mar 15 – Apr 5, 7pm – 9pm

WEEK ONE: The Question. After a general introduction and discussion of the history and evolution of mysteries and mystery sub-genres, we will jump right into getting started with a killer premise. WEEK TWO: The Investigation. We will examine the mechanics and structural considerations of the mystery genre, while delving into setting, atmosphere, and subtext. WEEK THREE: The Detective. We will focus on characters—witnesses, suspects, victims and villains alike—with special attention on creating a compelling protagonist. WEEK FOUR: The Answer. We will discuss working backward from the big reveal, with special attention paid to misdirection, planting clues, and delivering on the promise of your premise.

Raising the Dead: Bringing Facts to Life in Creative Nonfiction (virtual)
with Tyler LeBlanc

Wednesdays, Apr 6 – Apr 27, 7pm – 9pm

How do you turn your months, years, even decades of careful research into a compelling story? How do you translate those facts that you find so riveting and integral to your story into vivid scenes and illuminating passages? How do you make the facts work for you? In this workshop we’ll explore creative ways to find, process, and reimagine the very bedrock of nonfiction—the truth. Through discussions, writing exercises, and workshop sessions, we’ll dig into research techniques, scene creation, structure, and how you fit into it all. We’ll talk about how to research and write your way out of a dead-end, and how to extend your creativity into your fact-finding missions.

Staying in Scene: Assembling the Building Blocks of Fiction (virtual)
with Jeff Miller

Wednesdays, Apr 6 – Apr 27, 7pm – 9pm

Dramatizing action, conflict, and relationships, the scene is where fiction comes alive. But for new and emerging fiction writers, differentiating scene from exposition—and knowing when to use each—can be a challenge. This workshop will clear your confusion and help you, as a writer, “stay in scene.” Through craft lessons, discussions, writing prompts, and workshopping, we will explore the key elements of scene, including emotion and concrete sensory detail. We will place a particular emphasis on writing effective dialogue—one of the best ways of revealing character. We will also look at scene design, explore various types of scenes, how to know when a scene is necessary, and how to use memory and backstory without bringing the forward-motion of the story to a halt.

Landscape as Muse: A Poetry Workshop (virtual)
with Margo Wheaton

Saturdays, Apr 23 - May 7, 10am – noon

In this 3-session workshop, participants will be invited to explore and deepen their own artistic relationship to a landscape that inspires and impassions them. Through a blend of targeted group discussions, short required readings, and focused writing exercises—including plein air exercises outdoors—participants will discover the richness and particularities of writing about a landscape as a living, breathing, and changing entity. Each workshop will also feature a 30-minute Q&A session with an invited guest writer who will share specific writing strategies based on their practice of landscape-based writing. As an integral part of learning how to engage with a particular landscape artistically and consciously, an ecological lens will be employed throughout.

Foundations of Fiction (virtual)
with Paula Altenburg, Dave Beynon, & Becca Babcock

Wednesdays, May 4 - June 29, 7pm - 9pm

Foundations of Fiction presents three different approaches to the craft of fiction, coordinated to ensure new writers⁠—and those who've already published a few stories—are equipped with tested techniques. Weeks 1 - 3 (led by Paula Altenburg) focus on structure, plotting, and outlining; weeks 4 - 6 (led by Dave Beynon) examine scene, character, and dialogue; and weeks 7 - 9 (led by Becca Babcock) consider theme, imagery, and revision.

Additional winter and spring workshops will be added
as they open for registration.

Celebrating 30 years of Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature

More than three decades ago, a Nova Scotia teacher helped lay the groundwork for a thriving children’s literature scene in Atlantic Canada. Alongside Liz and Brian Crocker, Ann Connor Brimer co-founded Canada’s oldest children’s bookstore—Woozles, “A Place For and About Children”—back in 1978.

Then, to encourage writers of children’s books and recognize their excellence, the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature was established. To celebrate the award’s 30th anniversary, Ann’s son Gavin is increasing the prize money to $5,000 a year.

“She wanted to create an award that would keep writers writing,” says Gavin Brimer. “This award really crystalized her vision.”

Ann died in 1988, before the first award was given out. Named in her memory, the inaugural award went to the late Joyce Barkhouse for her book, Pit Pony, in 1991.

“I think what’s notable is that she always encouraged Atlantic Canadian writers—before there was even a community,” said Kathleen Martin, author of six non-fiction books for children. “She thought it was so important to write from this place.”

The award, one of the oldest for children’s literature in Canada, is unique in that it recognizes both books for children, and, in alternate years, books for young adult (YA) readers. The most recent winner of the award is Nova Scotia writer Tom Ryan for the YA thriller Keep This to Yourself.

Providing encouragement to writers is exactly what the award has done. Winners of the award say getting nominated was a major milestone in their careers and foundational to regarding themselves as writers.

For example, Lisa Harrington, who won the award for her book Live to Tell in 2013, distinctly recalls the phone call informing her she was nominated. It was the day she felt confident enough to call herself a writer.

“It was a Friday evening, and I was cleaning the bathroom. I answered the phone in rubber gloves, holding a toilet brush,” she says. “I just couldn’t believe it…. It was like the first time I ever thought, ‘Wow, maybe I can do this. Maybe I can be a writer.'”

Her writing group commemorated the moment by giving her a sequin-bedazzled toilet brush, she adds with a laugh.

Newfoundland writer Kevin Major says the award gave him the confidence to carry on. He too has won the award three times—each time for a book that was initially rejected by publishers.

“It was only perseverance and a personal belief in the merit of what I had written that saw me through to the books finally being accepted for publication,” says Major, who won for Aunt Olga’s Christmas Postcards in 2006, The House of Wooden Santas in 1998, and Eating Between the Lines in 1992. “Then, having these same books judged to be exceptional by juries for the Ann Connor Brimer Award became an absolute cause for celebration. And an injection of confidence to keep challenging myself as a writer and taking my books for young people in new and different directions.”

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia has administered the literary award since 2019. Submissions for the 2022 award recently closed (Nov. 1, 2021). The next winner will be announced during the Atlantic Book Awards Gala in June 2022. 

Quotable quotes:

“Winning this award for my book, The Painting, in 2018 was a milestone in my career. Although my books had received awards before, this was my first Atlantic Canada award and it meant so much to me to have recognition from my peers in the place I have chosen to call home. I felt a sense of acceptance and belonging to a larger community than the one I am part of in Newfoundland, a feeling that I had somehow “arrived,” both professionally and personally, and that my work had resonance for people who live here. Writing is such a solitary and insecure profession, and I have often felt lost in the larger scheme of things across Canada, but this award kindled a warm fire inside me that my work was appreciated and that I was not invisible after all. It inspired me to keep writing even when it’s the hardest thing to do.”

—Charis Cotter is a 2018 winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award for her book The Painting (Tundra Books)

“Winning the Brimer Award gave me just the boost I needed at a critical point in my writing career and set me on a course to write many more books for young people. It was much appreciated.”

—Prolific writer Lesley Choyce won the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature for Into the Wasteland in 2017, Shoulder to the Sky in 2003, and Good Idea Gone Bad in 1994.

“The Ann Connor Brimer Award does so much to help support and promote works for young people by Atlantic Canadians. As an award that has gained recognition across the country, it strengthens and elevates the Maritime’s voice of children’s literature.”

—Valerie Sherrard won the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature for The Glory Wind in 2011.

“I certainly regard being an Ann Connor Brimer winner among my proudest accomplishments. As an elementary school teacher I read many excellent books to my students by Atlantic Canadian authors and Joyce Barkhouse’s Pit Pony was among them. I acknowledged her 1991 win when I accepted my 2012 award.”

—New Brunswick writer Susan White won the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Literature for The Year Mrs. Montague Cried in 2012. A second book, The Memory Chair, was shortlisted for the award in 2018.

“Encouragement and validation were the words that came to mind after my first two middle-grade novels, The Nine Lives of Travis Keating and The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy, won the Ann Connor Brimer Award in successive years: my best efforts of imagination and craft had been more than rewarded. Somehow I’d stumbled across a path that was taking me places I wanted to go, and despite boots getting stuck in the mud or the path wandering too close to the cliff-edge, the sheer doggedness required to write and revise a novel had also been honoured.
     “When Nix Minus One won the award in 2014, I was, quite simply, delighted because this free verse novel is, of all my books, the one closest to my heart. My warm thanks to Gavin Brimer for his enduring generosity, and my deep gratitude also to all those who work so hard behind the scenes for an award that spurs Atlantic Canadian writers for young people to keep to the solitary, joyful trail of words.”

—Jill MacLean is a three-time winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award for The Nine Lives of Travis Keating in 2009, The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy in 2010, and Nix Minus One in 2014.

“Writing is often an isolating vocation. Winning the Brimer Award near the beginning of my career made it possible for me to imagine my work was reaching readers and subsequent wins helped me to believe I was doing something worthwhile.”

—Janet McNaughton won the Ann Connor Brimer Award for The Secret Under My Skin in 2001, Make or Break Spring in 1999, and To Dance at the Palais Royal in 1997.

A who’s who of Atlantic Canadian children’s literature:

  • 2021 – Tom Ryan, Keep This to Yourself
  • 2020 – Sheree Fitch, Everybody’s Different on EveryBody Street
  • 2019 – Susan Sinnott, Catching the Light
  • 2018 – Charis Cotter, The Painting
  • 2017 — Lesley Choyce, Into the Wasteland
  • 2016 – Sharon E. McKay, Prison Boy
  • 2015 – Sharon E. McKay, The End of the Line
  • 2014 – Jill MacLean, Nix Minus One
  • 2013 – Lisa Harrington, Live to Tell
  • 2012 – Susan White, The Year Mrs. Montague Cried
  • 2011 – Valerie Sherrard, The Glory Wind
  • 2010 – Jill MacLean, The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy
  • 2009 – Jill MacLean, The Nine Lives of Travis Keating
  • 2008 – K.V. Johansen, Nightwalker
  • 2007 – Budge Wilson, Friendships
  • 2006 – Kevin Major, Aunt Olga’s Christmas Postcards
  • 2005 – Alice Walsh, Pomiuk, Prince of the North
  • 2004 – Don Aker, The First Stone
  • 2003 – Lesley Choyce, Shoulder the Sky
  • 2002 – Francis Wolfe, Where I Live
  • 2001 – Janet McNaughton, The Secret Under My Skin
  • 2000 – David Weale, The True Meaning of Crumbfest
  • 1999 – Janet McNaughton, Make or Break Spring
  • 1998 – Kevin Major, The House of the Wooden Santas
  • 1997 – Janet McNaughton, To Dance at the Palais Royale
  • 1996 – Don Aker, Of Things Not Seen
  • 1995 – Sheree Fitch, Mable Murple
  • 1994 – Lesley Choyce, Good Idea Gone Bad
  • 1993 – Budge Wilson, Oliver’s War
  • 1992 – Kevin Major, Eating Between the Lines
  • 1991 – Joyce Barkhouse, Pit Pony. 

Foundations of Fiction (virtual) with Altenburg, Beynon, & Babcock

Foundations of Fiction presents three different approaches to the craft of fiction, coordinated to ensure new writers⁠—and those who’ve already published a few stories—are equipped with tried-and-tested techniques.

  • Weeks 1 – 3 (led by Paula Altenburg): This three-part “Structuring your Story through Plot” section will focus on the basics of story structure for commercial fiction and make comparisons between popular methods of plotting within the industry. Participants will complete these weeks with a viable, point-form story outline in hand to carry them forward into the next two workshops in the Foundations of Fiction series.
  • Weeks 4 – 6 (led by Dave Beynon): “Setting the Scene” will examine the elements of a scene toward build a realistic, tangible, convincing setting. “Fleshing Out Characters” will consider how to make engaging and memorable heroes, villains, and background players. “The Importance of Dialogue” will borrow techniques from theatre, teaching participants to convey important information through dialogue in a way that is disbelief-suspending, full of cadence, and natural.
  • Weeks 7 – 9 (led by Becca Babcock): In week 7, participants will consider how theme helps shape the story, and how to use subtext to reveal the theme, as well as the characters’ conflicts and motivations. Week 8 will involve an exploration of language and imagery; participants will focus on making key moments of their stories more vivid and evocative through concrete imagery and memorable figurative language. Finally, in week 9, participants will closely consider the revision and editing process as they develop skills to assess and revise their own work, understand and evaluate editors’ feedback, and offer feedback to other writers.

About the instructors:

  • USA Today-bestselling author Paula Altenburg grew up in rural Nova Scotia knowing that, at some point in her life, she was likely to be a fiction writer. Swapping Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey books with her father guaranteed she wasn’t going to be the next Jane Austen, much to the dismay of her English teacher mother. A degree in Social Anthropology from the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia confirmed that writing fiction and building worlds was the most logical career path for her. As well as writing commercial fiction, she’s worked in technical publications, holds certification in proposal management, and writes articles for international trade publications.
  • Originally from Britain, Dave Beynon moved to Canada as an infant, grew up on a farm northwest of Toronto, and worked as a cow-milker, short order cook, waiter, YMCA residence manager, factory worker, and purveyor of fine corrugated packaging and displays. He now lives on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies and periodicals, online, and in podcasts. In 2011, his novel The Platinum Ticket was shortlisted for the inaugural Terry Pratchett Prize. Dave has also co-hosted a local cable TV show called Turning Pages, an in-depth interview show that highlights authors, writing and publishing.
  • Becca Babcock grew up in Alberta, but since 2005, she’s lived just outside of Halifax with her husband Trent, and now with their five-year-old son, Thorin. Becca is a writer, writing instructor, and sometimes actor and filmmaker. She teaches writing and English at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and occasionally at other universities in the region. Her second book (and first novel), One Who Has Been Here Before, was published by Vagrant Press earlier this year.

Recommended experience level: New and emerging writers

Location: Zoom

Dates of 9-week workshop: Wednesdays, May 4, May 11, May 18 + May 25, June 1, June 8 + June 15, June 22, June 29, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm)

Price: At this time, registration for this workshop is restricted to current WFNS members. However, membership is open to all who write or have an interest in writing. (Find out how to join or renew.)

Member Price: $204

Landscape as Muse: A Poetry Workshop (virtual) with Margo Wheaton

In this 3-session workshop, participants will be invited to explore and deepen their own artistic relationship to a landscape that inspires and impassions them. Through a blend of targeted group discussions, short required readings, and focused writing exercises—including plein air exercises outdoors—participants will discover the richness and particularities of writing about a landscape as a living, breathing, and changing entity.
     Each workshop will also feature a 30-minute Q&A session with an invited guest writer who will share specific writing strategies based on their practice of landscape-based writing.
     As an integral part of learning how to engage with a particular landscape artistically and consciously, an ecological lens will be employed throughout.

About the instructor: Margo Wheaton lives in Kjipuktuk/Halifax and holds a Master’s degree In English and a Certificate in Adult Education, both from Dalhousie University. Her debut poetry collection, The Unlit Path Behind the House, won the Canadian Authors’ Association’s Fred Kerner Award for best book of the year and was shortlisted for the J.M. Abraham Award, The Gerald Lampert Award, the Fred Cogswell Award, and the Relit Award. She recently published Wild Green Light with author David Adams Richards. Rags of Night in Our Mouths, her next poetry collection, is forthcoming in spring of 2022 from McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Recommended experience level: Writers at all levels and stages are warmly invited to attend

Location: Zoom

Dates of 3-week workshop: Saturdays, Apr 23 + Apr 3 + May 7, 2022 (10:00am to 12:00pm Atlantic)

Price: At this time, registration for this workshop is restricted to current WFNS members. However, membership is open to all who write or have an interest in writing. (Find out how to join or renew.)

Member Price: $149

Staying in Scene: Assembling the Building Blocks of Fiction (virtual) with Jeff Miller

Dramatizing action, conflict, and relationships, the scene is where fiction comes alive. But for new and emerging fiction writers, differentiating scene from exposition—and knowing when to use each—can be a challenge. This workshop will clear your confusion and help you, as a writer, “stay in scene.” Through craft lessons, discussions, writing prompts, and workshopping, we will explore the key elements of scene, including emotion and concrete sensory detail. We will place a particular emphasis on writing effective dialogue—one of the best ways of revealing character. We will also look at scene design, explore various types of scenes, how to know when a scene is necessary, and how to use memory and backstory without bringing the forward-motion of the story to a halt.
     Scenes are the building blocks of story and make fiction feel ‘real’ to the reader. Scenes are where drama happens, and learning to “stay in scene” will benefit writers of novels, short fiction, and flash fiction.

About the instructor: Jeff Miller is the author of the award-winning creative nonfiction collection Ghost Pine: All Stories True (Invisible Publishing). His stories have appeared in several anthologies and he frequently publishes criticism. He holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia. As a creative writing educator, he has lead workshops in Montreal, Halifax, and Calgary, and worked as a high-school writing mentor and university teaching assistant. He lives on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia.

Recommended experience level: New and emerging writers

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Wednesdays, Apr 6 + Apr 13 + Apr 20 + Apr 27, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Price: At this time, registration for this workshop is restricted to current WFNS members. However, membership is open to all who write or have an interest in writing. (Find out how to join or renew.)

Member Price: $149

Raising the Dead: Bringing Facts to Life in Creative Nonfiction (virtual) with Tyler LeBlanc

How do you turn your months, years, even decades of careful research into a compelling story? How do you translate those facts that you find so riveting and integral to your story into vivid scenes and illuminating passages? How do you make the facts work for you? In this workshop we’ll explore creative ways to find, process, and reimagine the very bedrock of nonfiction – the truth. Through discussions, writing exercises, and workshop sessions, we’ll dig into research techniques, scene creation, structure, and how you fit into it all. We’ll talk about how to research and write your way out of a dead-end, and how to extend your creativity into your fact-finding missions. Participants are encouraged to bring an idea for a piece of creative nonfiction to develop or a work-in-progress to workshop with the group.

About the instructor: Tyler LeBlanc’s debut book, Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion, won the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award and the Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing and was a finalist for the Dartmouth Book Award for Non-Fiction and the Margaret and John Savage Award for Best First Book (Non-Fiction). Tyler lives in Lunenburg and splits his time between writing, editing, and building barns.

Recommended experience level: New and emerging nonfiction writers, including more establish authors who are new to nonfiction forms

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Wednesdays, Apr 6 + Apr 13 + Apr 20 + Apr 27, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Price: At this time, registration for this workshop is restricted to current WFNS members. However, membership is open to all who write or have an interest in writing. (Find out how to join or renew.)

Member Price: $149

The Question and the Answer: Writing Mysteries (virtual) with Tom Ryan

WEEK ONE: The Question. After a general introduction and discussion of the history and evolution of mysteries and mystery sub-genres, we will jump right into getting started with a killer premise. WEEK TWO: The Investigation. We will examine the mechanics and structural considerations of the mystery genre, while delving into setting, atmosphere, and subtext. WEEK THREE: The Detective. We will focus on characters – witnesses, suspects, victims and villains alike – with special attention on creating a compelling protagonist. WEEK FOUR: The Answer. We will discuss working backward from the big reveal, with special attention paid to misdirection, planting clues, and delivering on the promise of your premise. PLEASE NOTE: this workshop will be a mixture of instruction, discussion and critique. Participants should be prepared to share and discuss their work. Participants are asked to bring a premise or ‘elevator pitch’ to the first class. Examples will be provided in advance of the workshop.

About the instructor: Tom Ryan is the award-winning author of several acclaimed books for young readers. His YA mystery Keep This to Yourself was the winner of the 2020 ITW Thriller Award for Best YA Thriller, the 2020 Arthur Ellis Award for Best YA Crime Book, and the 2021 Ann Connor Brimer Award and was nominated for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award and the John Spray Mystery Award. His follow-up mystery, I Hope You’re Listening, was the recipient of the 2021 Lambda Literary (‘Lammy’) Award for best LGBTQ Mystery and was nominated for the Arthur Ellis award. Tom and his husband and dog divide their time between Halifax and a probably haunted farmhouse in Cape Breton.

Recommended experience level: Emerging and established writers who have drafted at least one fiction project

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Tuesdays, Mar 15 + Mar 22 + Mar 29 + Apr 5, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Price: At this time, registration for this workshop is restricted to current WFNS members. However, membership is open to all who write or have an interest in writing. (Find out how to join or renew.)

Member Price: $149

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