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Nova Writes Competition shortlists

Congratulations to the writers shortlisted in the 2022 Nova Writes Competition for Unpublished Manuscripts!

Budge Wilson Short Fiction Prize

“Slit” by Amy Donovan
“ClockWatch” by Lindsey Harrington
“Blackfriars Bridge” by Briony Merritt
“The Carer” by Scott L. Neilson
“Genuine” by Andrea Reynolds

Rita Joe Poetry Prize

“Moss Meditations” by Jan Fancy Hull
“Method of Loci” by Cynthia Germain Bazinet
“Rat King” by Sophia Godsoe
“Endangered” by Teresa Killbride
“Revelations” by Louise Piper

H.R. (Bill) Percy Short Creative Non-Fiction Prize

“Becoming Elisabeth” by Elizabeth Collis
“Junkyard Romance” by Lois Ann Dort
“Foundations” by Monika Dutt
“Anthony from Brooklyn Says Thank You for Lunch” by Jessica Marsh
“Scrubbed Swan Song” by Tiffany Mosher

Joyce Barkhouse Young Adult Fiction Prize

“Seventh Son” by Libby Broadbent
“The Deck” by Claire MacDonell
“Games” by Andrea Reynolds

Postcard Poem Contest winners

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

1st: “Mariupol” by Anthony Purdy

Anthony Purdy lives on the South Shore. His poems and stories can be found in recent issues of The Dalhousie Review, The Fiddlehead, FreeFall, Fresh Voices, The Goose, Poetry Pause, Prairie Fire, and Queen’s Quarterly. His poem “mornings” received an honourable mention in the League of Canadian Poets’ 2021 Very Short Verse contest; “bakery” was shortlisted for the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia 2021 Postcard Poem Contest; “The Annex” was longlisted for the 2021 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize; and “Jigsaw” has been nominated by Queen’s Quarterly for a 2022 National Magazines Award.

Runner-up: “Glimpsing Mom” by Charlene Boyce

Charlene Boyce is a writer, poet and artist living in Kjipuktuk. Recently, she placed first in a Reedsy challenge with a creative nonfiction piece called “Flour and Fire.” She is a values-driven communications professional, writer, designer, facilitator, and environmentalist currently working with a systems change organization in Nova Scotia. This spring, she completed a Master of Arts in Atlantic Canada Studies. Her thesis delves into questions of cultural identity in Halifax through the history of a cabaret.

Runner-up: “Nightfall” by Christina McRae

Christina McRae lives in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Her recent work appears in Arc, The New Quarterly, Windsor Review, and Understorey Magazine. Her first full-length collection, Next to Nothing, was published by Wolsak and Wynn in 2009.

Congrats also to the remaining finalists: Susan Drain, Katie Feltmate, Melanie Hobbs, Beth Ann Knowles, Anne Lévesque, Allison MacDonald, and Shepherd Moorhead.

Nova Scotia & Atlantic Book Awards 2022 shortlists

Shortlists for the 2022 Nova Scotia Book Awards and Atlantic Book Awards have been announced! Congratulations to all of the shortlisted authors — and, in particular, to the 12 authors shortlisted for WFNS’s four book award categories. The four shortlists below boast a number of acclaimed WFNS members. Click on a book cover for more details and to order directly from the publisher.

The shortlists were announced on April 22, but there’s still a lot to look forward to—including the new Nova Scotia Book Awards Gala (June 6), to be held at Halifax City Hall.

This year’s Atlantic Book Awards Festival (June 2 – 9) will feature a combination of in-person and virtual events and culminate in the Atlantic Book Awards Gala (June 9), held at Paul O’Regan Hall, Halifax Central Library, and live-streamed online. Also presented at the gala will be the Atlantic Legacy Award, honouring an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the advancement and encouragement of the literary arts in Atlantic Canada.

For the full list of award shortlists and festival details, visit the Atlantic Book Awards Society.

J. M. Abraham Atlantic Poetry Award

Poisonous If Eaten Raw by Alyda Faber (Goose Lane Editions)

Myself a Paperclip by Triny Finlay (Goose Lane Editions)

Sulphurtongue by Rebecca Salazar (Penguin Random House)

Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children's Literature

The Train by Jodie Callaghan (Second Story Press)

Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (Amulet Books)

Swift Fox All Along by Rebecca Thomas (Annick Press)

Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award

Constant Nobody by Michelle Butler Hallett (Goose Lane Editions)

Chemical Valley by David Huebert (Biblioasis)
     — also shortlisted for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction

Jude and Diana by Sharon Robart-Johnson (Fernwood Publishing)
     — also shortlisted for the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award (Fiction)

Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award (Nova Scotia)

Alexa!: Changing the Face of Canadian Politics by Stephen Kimber (Goose Lane Editions)
     — also shortlisted for the George Borden Writing for Change Award and the APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award

Dying for Attention: A Graphic Memoir of Nursing Home Care by Susan MacLeod (Conundrum Press)
     — also shortlisted for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award (Non-Fiction)

Pluck: A Memoir of a Newfoundland Childhood and the Raucous, Terrible, Amazing Journey to Becoming a Novelist by Donna Morrissey (Penguin Random House Canada)

Gift Giv’er donor campaign

For two years before the pandemic, the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia’s signature fundraising event, the Writing Relay/Rumble—a fun writing competition with writers raising money through sponsorships—earned more than $10,000 in support of WFNS programming. That’s a lot of money for a nonprofit charity like us!

Alas, gathering restrictions make staging a 2022 Writing Rumble difficult—so instead we are announcing the fundraiser Gift Giv’er.

Gift Giv'er

Everyone who donates $20 or more to WFNS by Sunday, June 19, will be entered to win one of eleven amazing prizes! A new prize was revealed each week from February 10 to April 21. The value of prizes totals $2,000. See the prizes >>

Donations of any size are welcome and appreciated. Every $20 donated will get your name in the running once. (E.g., a $60 donation will get your name entered three times.) All donors of $10 or more will receive a charitable tax receipt for the full amount of their donation.

Donations will support Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia programming, including subsidized workshops for writers from marginalized communities (such as Creative Writing for Newcomers), literary awards (such as the Maxine Tynes Nova Scotia Poetry Award), and endowment-funded programs (such as the Elizabeth Venart Prize).

Donate by clicking on the button below or through the e-transfer, phone, or mail options outlined on our Donate page.

Prize draws will take place live during our Annual General Meeting on Monday, June 20, 2022. Prize winners will be responsible for claiming their prizes after the draw.


Prize 1:

Copy of the handmade, limited-edition book Lagomorph, signed by author Alexander MacLeod and Gaspereau Press's Andrew Steeves

Prize 2:
Soji Haworth office chair

Reliable, lumbar-supporting and writing-marathon-supporting chair (valued at $600) donated by Office Interiors

giv'er painting - Qwerty

Prize 3:

Original painting (acrylic on canvas, 20" x 16") by novelist and poet Anna Quon celebrating the "qwerty" keyboard layout

Gift Giv'er Davison headshots

Prize 4:
1-hour portrait session

Session with photographer and writer Nicola Davison, resulting in six retouched images suitable for book jacket, website, and social media

Prize 5:
Crystal Bowl

Collector's item (out of production since the closing of NovaScotian Crystal last year) donated by Carole MacDougall

Prize 6:
Donna Morrissey Bundle

Four novels and memoir Pluck (donated by Penguin Random House) + print donated by Sheila Morrison

Promptly-inspired book bundle

Prize 7:
Promptly-inspired bundle

Six books by Promptly contributors: The Speed of Mercy (Christy Ann Conlin), You Won't Always Be this Sad (Sheree Fitch), I Hope You're Listening (Tom Ryan), Pluck (Donna Morrissey), Murmurations (Annick MacAskill), Anthesis (Sue Goyette)

Collusion Books bundle

Prize 8:
Collusion Books bundle

Six newest chapbooks from Collusion Books, featuring collaborative poetry by 27 poets, including the Yoko’s Dogs collective (Jan Conn, Mary di Michele, Susan Gillis, and Griffin Poetry Prize-winner Jane Munro)

gift giv'er audiobook bundle unbound

Prize 9:
Unbound Bundle

Four audiobooks from the first season of Unbound ("Nova Scotia books read by Nova Scotian actors"): The Leaving (Budge Wilson), We Keep a Light (Evelyn Richardson), The Door of My Heart and Other Poems (Maxine Tynes), Lagomorph (Alexander MacLeod)

gift giver kids bundle

Prize 10:
Young Readers Bundle

Nine Atlantic-authored and -illustrated titles, including 3 picture books (by Riel Nason, Sydney Smith, & Heather Smith) and 6 middle-grade books (by Charis Cotter, Chad Lucas, Jill MacLean, Clare O'Connor, Sherry D. Ramsey, & Wade White)

gift giver quilt

Prize 11:
Star of Bethlehem Quilt

Hand-quilted by WFNS Executive Director Marilyn Smulders, this traditional design is known as the Star of Bethlehem, the Lone Star, or the Mathematical Star. The eight-pointed star motif (symbolic of the sun) is also important in Mi'kmaq culture. Suitable for hanging from a wall or cuddling under on the couch.

Black Writers – A Reading List

On February 3, 2022, Afua Cooper, Habiba Cooper Diallo, Asha Jeffers, Chad Lucas, Sylvia Parris, and Evelyn C. White shared their top picks of books or other media by Black writers to read, enjoy, and learn from. The 60 recommendations included fiction, non-fiction, poetry, YA and children's literature, and other genres and media.

The Black Writers to Read Right Now panel was free to attend. It was co-presented with Delmore "Buddy" Daye Learning Institute and with the support of Halifax Public Libraries.

Click on a genre above to jump to those recommendations.
Click on a cover to find out more or to order the recommended title directly from its publisher/distributor.
If you prefer to order through a local bookshop, check out our database of Nova Scotia Independent Bookshops.


Daniel Black - Perfect Peace

Perfect Peace (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011)

By Daniel Black

The heartbreaking portrait of a large, rural southern family’s attempt to grapple with their mother's desperate decision to make her newborn son into the daughter she will never have.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

David Chariandy - Soucouyant

Soucouyant (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007)

By David Chariandy

A soucouyant is an evil spirit in Caribbean folklore, and a symbol here of the distant and dimly remembered legacies that continue to haunt the Americas. This extraordinary first novel set in Ontario, in a house near the Scarborough Bluffs, focuses on a Canadian-born son who despairingly abandons his Caribbean-born mother suffering from dementia.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Alyssa Cole - An Extraordinary Union

An Extraordinary Union: An Epic Love Story of the Civil War (Kensington Books, 2017)

By Alyssa Cole

romance fiction

In this historical romance, a courageous pair of spies—former slave Elle Burns and Pinkerton’s detective Malcom McCall—plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Tsitsi Dangarembga - Nervous Conditions

Nervous Conditions (originally published 1988)

By Tsitsi Dangarembga

The groundbreaking first novel in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s award-winning trilogy, Nervous Conditions won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and has been “hailed as one of the 20th century’s most significant works of African literature” (The New York Times). Two decades before Zimbabwe would win independence and ended white minority rule, thirteen-year-old Tambudzai Sigauke embarks on her education. On her shoulders rest the economic hopes of her parents, siblings, and extended family, and within her burns the desire for independence. She yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village and thinks she’s found her way out when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her schooling. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Esi Edugyan - Half-Blood Blues

Half-Blood Blues (HarperCollins, 2019)

By Esi Edugyan

From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, the narrator of Half-Blood Blues, musician Sid Griffiths, leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world and into the heart of his own guilty conscience. The bestselling, award-winning Half-Blood Blues is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves—and demand of others—in the name of art.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Jasmine Guillory - Royal Holiday

Royal Holiday (Berkley, 2020)

By Jasmine Guillory

romance fiction

A spontaneous holiday vacation turns into an unforgettable romance.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Bessie Head - A Question of Power

A Question of Power (Pearson, 1986)

By Bessie Head

In this fast-paced, semi-autobiographical novel, Head exposes the complicated life of Elizabeth, whose reality is intermingled with nightmarish dreams and hallucinations. Like the author, Elizabeth was conceived out-of-wedlock; her mother was white and her father black—a union outlawed in apartheid South Africa. Elizabeth eventually leaves with her young son to live in Botswana, a country less oppressed by colonial domination, where she finds stability for herself and her son by working on an experimental farm.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Langston Hughes - The Ways of White Folks

The Ways of White Folks (Knopf Doubleday, 1990)

By Langston Hughes

short fiction collection

A collection of vibrant and incisive short stories depicting the sometimes humorous, but more often tragic interactions between Black people and white people in America in the 1920s and ’30s.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim - Season-of-Crimson-Blossoms

Season of Crimson Blossoms (Cassava Republic Press, 2017)

By Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

The story of an illicit affair between a 25-year-old street gang leader, Hassan Reza, and a devout 55-year-old widow and grandmother, Binta Zubairu, who yearns for intimacy after the sexual repression of her marriage and the pain of losing her first son.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Yejide Kilanko - Daughters Who Walk This Path

Daughters Who Walk This Path (Penguin Canada, 2012) [Out of Print]

By Yejide Kilanko

Spirited and intelligent, Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and family in busy, modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria. An adoring little sister, their traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo’s home their own. So there’s nothing unusual about her charming but troubled cousin Bros T moving in with the family. At first Morayo and her sister are delighted, but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Phaswane Mpe - Welcome to Our Hillbrow

Welcome to Our Hillbrow (Ohio University Press, 2011)

By Phaswane Mpe

An exhilarating and disturbing ride through the chaotic and hyper-real zone of Hillbrow—microcosm of all that is contradictory, alluring, and painful in the postapartheid South African psyche.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Jambula Tree and Other Stories

Jambula Tree and other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing (Jacana Media, 2008)

By Monica Arac de Nyeko

short fiction collection

The Caine Prize (http://www.caineprize.com/) for African Writing is Africa’s leading literary prize and is awarded to a short story by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere. Each year, the full shortlist and 12 other stories are collected and published in one volume. This year’s winner is Monica Arac de Nyeko for “Jambula Tree,” described as “a witty and touching portrait of a community which is affected forever by a love which blossoms between two adolescents.”

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

Zalinka Reid-Benta - Frying Plantain

Frying Plantain (House of Anansi, 2019)

By Zalika Reid-Benta

Set in the neighbourhood of "Little Jamaica," Frying Plantain follows a girl from elementary school to high school graduation as she navigates the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation immigrants experiencing first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity in a predominantly white society.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Sahle Selassie - Warrior King

Warrior King (Heinemann Educational, 1974) [out of print]

By Sahle Selassie

The exciting and fast-moving story of the rise of Kassa Hailu to become Emperor Teowodros II, or Theodore as he has been called. Sahle Sellassie has drawn on the full richness of 19th century Ethiopian history to show a strong man reuniting the provinces of the Empire. The epic story is given human proportions by being introduced through the eyes of a peasant boy, Gebreye.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Ousmane Sembene - God's Bits of Wood corrected

God’s Bits of Wood (Knopf Doubleday Publishing, 1970) [out of print]

By Ousmane Sembene

God's Bits of Wood is a 1960 novel by the Senegalese author Ousmane Sembène that concerns a railroad strike in colonial Senegal of the 1940s. It was written in French under the title Les bouts de bois de Dieu.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Vamba Sherif - Bound to Secrecy

Bound to Secrecy (HopeRoad, 2015)

By Vamba Sherif

A mixture of African tradition, classic crime fiction and the supernatural, Bound to Secrecy is a captivating tale, an account of the complexities of Liberian society and an transporting exploration of the differences and inevitable clash between modern life and ancient cultures.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Zadie Smith - White Teeth

White Teeth (Hamish Hamilton, 2000)

By Zadie Smith

Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Colson Whitehead - Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle (Doubleday, 2021)

By Colson Whitehead

A gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s. To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home. Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Colson Whitehead - The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad (Doubleday, 2016)

By Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him. In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)


Michael Arceneaux - i-cant-date-jesus

I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé (Atria Books, 2018)

By Michael Arceneaux

With the characteristic wit and candor that have made him one of today’s boldest writers on social issues, I Can’t Date Jesus is Michael Arceneaux’s impassioned, forthright, and refreshing look at minority life in today’s America. Leaving no bigoted or ignorant stone unturned, he describes his journey in learning to embrace his identity when the world told him to do the opposite.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

GE Clarke - Portia White - A Portrait in Words

Portia White: A Portrait in Words (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)

By George Elliott Clarke

In his unique brand of spoken word, Africadian poetry, the incomparable George Elliott Clarke explores a personal subject: his great-aunt Portia White. The result is a stirring, epic poem vibrating with energy and music that spans White’s birth in 1911, a coming of age amidst the backdrop of two World Wars, and her life-long love affair with music—from singing in to directing the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church choir to her bel canto tutlege at the Halifax Conservatory of Music to her final, command performance before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1964. A stunning testament to the first African Canadian to become an international star. Features vibrant illustrations by contemporary artist Lara Martina.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

GE Clarke - Where Beauty Survived

Where Beauty Survived: An Africadian Memoir (Knopf Canada, 2021)

By George Elliott Clarke

A vibrant, revealing memoir about the cultural and familial pressures that shaped George Elliott Clarke’s early life in the Black Canadian community that he calls Africadia, centred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Habiba Cooper Diallo - Blackinschool

#BlackinSchool (University of Regina Press, 2021)

By Habiba Cooper Diallo

A young Black woman documents the systemic racism in her high school diary and calls for justice and educational reform.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Mayann Francis - An Honourable Life

Mayann Francis: An Honourable Life (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)

By Mayann Francis

When Mayann Francis was named Nova Scotia’s first Black lieutenant-governor, she wondered if the community would accept her. Francis was born just three months after businesswoman Viola Desmond was arrested for sitting in a whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. Had enough changed? In this candid memoir, Francis describes her journey from humble beginnings in Whitney Pier, the daughter of immigrants, to the vice-regal office. She explains how her religious faith and her family’s belief in education equipped her for life’s challenges, including the loss of much of her vision.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

Saidiya Hartman - Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (WW Norton, 2020)

By Sadiya Hartman

Saidiya Hartman examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. Free love, common-law and transient marriages, serial partners, cohabitation outside of wedlock, queer relations, and single motherhood were among the sweeping changes that altered the character of everyday life and challenged traditional Victorian beliefs about courtship, love, and marriage.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Wangari Maathai - Unbowed - A Memoir

Unbowed: A Memoir (Knopf, 2006)

By Wangari Maathai

In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Valerie Mason-John - Afrikan Wisdom

Afrikan Wisdom: New Voices Talk Black Liberation, Buddhism, and Beyond (North Atlantic Books, 2021)

Edited by Valerie Mason-John

A spiritual, political, and interdisciplinary anthology of wisdom stories from Black liberation leaders and teachers.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Nega Mezlekia - Notes from the Hyena's Belly

Notes from the Hyena’s Belly (Penguin Books Canada, 2000)

By Nega Mezlekia

Part autobiography and part social history, Nega Mezlekia's Notes from the Hyena's Belly offers an unforgettable portrait of Ethiopia, and of Africa, during the 1970s and '80s, an era of civil war, widespread famine, and mass execution. Winner of the Governor General’s Award.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Trevor Noah - Born a Crime

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Penguin Random House, 2019)

By Trevor Noah

The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Viola Parsons - My-Grandmothers-Days

My Grandmother’s Days (Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, 2020)

By Viola Parsons

Mrs. Viola L. Parsons did a great thing in writing My Grandmother’s Days in 1987. She became one of the few Scotians – African Nova Scotians or Africadians – to tell younger people how our culture developed and of what it consisted.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

Lindsay Ruck - Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians

Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Achievement (Nimbus Publishing, 2020)

By Lindsay Ruck

This fascinating, full-colour illustrated book features over 50 amazing Black people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, sharing their incredible stories and accomplishments, past and present.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

Assata Shakur - Assata - An Autobiography

Assata: An Autobiography (Lawrence Hill Books, 1988)

By Assata Shakur

On May 2, 1973, Black Panther Assata Shakur (aka JoAnne Chesimard) lay in a hospital, close to death, handcuffed to her bed, while local, state, and federal police attempted to question her about the shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike that had claimed the life of a white state trooper. Long a target of J. Edgar Hoover''s campaign to defame, infiltrate, and criminalize Black nationalist organizations and their leaders, Shakur was incarcerated for four years prior to her conviction on flimsy evidence in 1977 as an accomplice to murder. This intensely personal and political autobiography belies the fearsome image of JoAnne Chesimard long projected by the media and the state. With wit and candor, Assata Shakur recounts the experiences that led her to a life of activism and portrays the strengths, weaknesses, and eventual demise of Black and White revolutionary groups at the hand of government officials.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute - Black History

Black History: Africa, The Caribbean and The Americas (Delmore "Buddy" Daye Learning Institute, 2021)

By Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute

Black History: Africa, The Caribbean, and The Americas explores early African history, including Africa as the birthplace of humanity and early African civilizations. The resource scrutinises the oppression and resistance of Blacks in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America on their march to freedom. Particular attention is given to the history of African Canadians since the second World War and includes a section on the history of African Nova Scotians. The textbook concludes by examining Africa Today.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

David Wisniewski - Sundiata - Lion King of Mali

Sundiata: Lion King of Mali (HarperCollins, 1999)

By David Wisniewski

In the 13th century, Sundiata overcame physical handicaps, social disgrace, and strong opposition to rule the West African trading empire of Mali.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)


Lucille Clifton

The Poetry of Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton was born in 1936 in DePew, New York, and grew up in Buffalo. She studied at Howard University, before transferring to SUNY Fredonia, near her hometown. She was discovered as a poet by Langston Hughes (via friend Ishmael Reed, who shared her poems), and Hughes published Clifton's poetry in his highly influential anthology, The Poetry of the Negro (1970). A prolific and widely respected poet, Lucille Clifton’s work emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life. Awarding the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize to Clifton in 2007, the judges remarked that “One always feels the looming humaneness around Lucille Clifton’s poems—it is a moral quality that some poets have and some don’t.”

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Afua Cooper - Black Matters

Black Matters: Poetry and Photography in Dialogue (Fernwood Publishing, 2020)

By Afua Cooper and Wilfried Raussert

Halifax’s Poet Laureate Afua Cooper and photographer Wilfried Raussert collaborate in this book of poems and photographs focused on everyday Black experiences. The result is a jambalaya—a dialogue between image and text. Cooper translates Raussert?s photos into poetry, painting a profound image of what disembodied historical facts might look like when they are embodied in contemporary characters.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

A Gregory Frankson - africanthology

AfriCANthology: Perspectives of Black Canadian Poets (Renaissance Press, 2022)

Edited by A. Gregory Frankson

AfriCANthology: Perspectives of Black Canadian Poets brings together some of Canada's most influential dub, page, and spoken word poetic voices and gives them space to speak freely about their personal journeys in piercing verse and unapologetic prose. Just as individual experiences of Blackness are diverse across Canada, each contributor recounts aspects of navigating their unique personal, professional, and artistic paths in Black skin with fearless candour and audacious forthrightness. Featuring essays by Evelyn C. White and Afua Cooper.

(Recommended by Evelyn White and Afua Cooper)

Honoree Fanonne Jeffers - The Age of Phillis

The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press, 2020)

By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

In 1773, a young, African American woman named Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry that challenged Western prejudices about African and female intellectual capabilities. Based on fifteen years of archival research,The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley's "age"—the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Grace Nichols - I is a Long Memoried Woman

I is a Long Memoried Woman (Karnak House, 1983)

By Grace Nichols

First published in 1983 to gain the distinction of being the first book of poetry written by a Caribbean woman to have won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, it has since become a modern classic. Rightly proclaimed a significant narrative of the African Caribbean woman in proclaiming the recovery of her memory, the book celebrates and evokes memories of the triangular trade in enslavement from the African continent to the cane plantations of the Caribbean through the voice of an unnamed African woman.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Danez Smith - Homie

Homie (Graywolf Press, 2020)

By Danez Smith

Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family—blood and chosen—arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez’s friends and for you and for yours.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Clint Smith III - Counting Descent

Counting Dissent (Write Bloody Publishing, 2016)

Clint Smith

Clint Smith's debut poetry collection is a coming of age story that seeks to complicate our conception of lineage and tradition. Smith explores the cognitive dissonance that results from belonging to a community that unapologetically celebrates black humanity while living in a world that often renders blackness a caricature of fear. His poems move fluidly across personal and political histories, all the while reflecting on the social construction of our lived experiences. Smith brings the reader on a powerful journey forcing us to reflect on all that we learn growing up, and all that we seek to unlearn moving forward.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

A Van Jordan - MACNOLIA

MACNOLIA (WW Norton, 2005)

By A. Van Jordan

In 1936, teenager MacNolia Cox became the first African American finalist in the National Spelling Bee Competition. Supposedly prevented from winning, the precocious child who dreamed of becoming a doctor was changed irrevocably. Her story, told in a poignant nonlinear narrative, illustrates the power of a pivotal moment in a life.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

YA & Children's Literature

Damon Roker - Gavin Roker - Q-is-for-quarantine

Q is for Quarantine: The ABCs of COVID (Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, 2021)

By Damon Roker and Gavin Roker

for middle grade readers

"When we learned that summer camps were cancelled, we decided to take the boys to Nova Scotia for several weeks. We had no idea just how challenging it would be to manage through quarantine. The idea of this book came while we were on the fourteen days quarantine in Nova Scotia. Every day we would spend some time talking about all the things we could do to get through COVID. There was no road map to help families get through these challenging times, but we managed. Writing about what we did actually helped us to look back as we moved through quarantine, and this book is the result. We hope you enjoy our ABCs of COVID."

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

Akwaeke Emezi - Pet

Pet (Make Me a World, 2019)

By Akwaeke Emezi

for YA readers

Set in a post-revolutionary world, Pet is a fascinating, inventive tale about monsters (real and metaphorical), justice, and the stories we choose to tell or bury.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Andre Fenton - The Summer Between Us

The Summer Between Us (Formac Publishing, 2022)

By Andre Fenton

for YA readers

The latest novel from Halifax’s Andre Fenton, due out this spring, follows Adrian and Mel as they navigate the end of high school and the beginning of adulthood. It resonates as a joyful love letter to Black and racialized kids carving their paths and finding their voices.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Chrystal D Giles - Take Back the Block

Take Back the Block (Penguin Random House, 2021)

By Chrystal D. Giles

for middle grade readers

Wes would rather be playing NBA 2K than attending neighbourhood protests, but when a new development threatens to change the character of his historic neighbourhood, he rallies with his friends to take a stand. Giles makes a complex topic like gentrification accessible to middle-grade readers, with a lot of humour and heart along the way.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Lynn Jones - R is for Reparations

R Is for Reparations (Roseway Publishing, 2019)

By Global Afrikan Congress - Nova Scotia Chapter

for young readers

R Is for Reparations invites readers to listen to the voices of young activists as they share their hopes and dreams about the global demand for redress, compensation and restitution for the horrors of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Jessica Lewis - Bad Witch Burning

Bad Witch Burning (Penguin Random House, 2021)

By Jessica Lewis

for YA readers

Katrell figures out her newfound ability to raise the dead is a profitable way to escape poverty and a rough home life—but her gift comes with a terrible price. Black girl magic meets riveting horror in this spooky, thrilling book.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Janae Marks - From the Desk of Zoe Washington

From the Desk of Zoe Washington (Katherine Tegen Books, 2020)

By Janae Marks

for middle grade readers

After receiving a letter from her incarcerated father on her twelfth birthday, budding baker Zoe sets out to discover if he was wrongfully imprisoned. A sensitive, thoughtful exploration of racism and the justice system.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Kwame Mbalia - Black Boy Joy

Black Boy Joy (Penguin Random House, 2021)

Edited by Kwame Mbalia

for middle grade readers

From the first day of school to adventures in space, this anthology celebrates the many facets of Black boyhood.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Robtel Neajai Pailey - GBAGBA

Gbagba (One Moore Book, 2013)

By Robtel Neajai Pailey

for young readers

Sundaymah and Sundaygar are two siblings who live in Grand Bassa County in Liberia. On the way to visit their Auntie Mardie's house in Monrovia, they encounter various characters in the big city and have an experience that introduces them to a very important word.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Ben Philippe - Charming as a Verb

Charming as a Verb (HarperCollins, 2020)

By Ben Philippe

for YA readers

This clever YA novel from Haitian-born, Montreal-raised author Ben Philippe is part romantic comedy, part nuanced exploration of the ways Black teenagers adapt to fit a world not built for them, and entirely hilarious.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Ben Philippe - The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager (HarperCollins, 2020)

By Ben Philippe

for YA readers

A hilarious YA contemporary realistic novel about a witty Black French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, Texas, and experiences the joys, clichés, and awkward humiliations of the American high school experience—including falling in love.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Jason Reynolds - Look Both Ways

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2019)

By Jason Reynolds

for middle grade readers

Reynolds is an award-winning master of middle grade and YA fiction, and this collection of connected stories captures the magic in the everyday with compassion and humour.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Other Media

Thirst Aid Kit

Thirst Aid Kit (BuzzFeed, 2017 – 2019; Slate, 2019 – 2020)

Hosted by Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins

podcast series

Digging deep into the various ways women express their thirst, asking: Why do we desire who we desire?

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

A Man Named Pearl

A Man Named Pearl (Tentmakers Entertainment, 2006)

Directed by Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson

documentary film

A Man Named Pearl tells the inspiring story of self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar. It offers a message that speaks to respect for both self and others, and shows what one person can achieve when he allows himself to share the full expression of his humanity.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

Andrew Moodie - Riot

Riot (Scirocco Drama, 1997)

By Andrew Moodie

theatrical script

A dramatic and often humorous look at six black Canadians of diverse backgrounds who share a Toronto house. Their lives unfold against the backdrop of civil unrest, which erupted when the Los Angeles police officers on trial for the beating of Rodney King are acquitted. The fracas outside keeps intruding as characters clash, collide, and swap jokes about everything from racism to the status of Quebec as a distinct society, from Malcolm X to The Road to Avonlea.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

High on the Hog

High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America (Netflix, 2021)

Starring Stephen Satterfield, Gabrielle E.W. Carter, and Jessica B. Harris

documentary series

Black food is American food. Chef and writer Stephen Satterfield traces the delicious, moving throughlines from Africa to Texas in this docuseries.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)


Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Onyx, 2021)

Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

documentary film

This documentary examines the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was held at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem and lasted for six weeks. Despite having a large attendance and performers such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Blinky Williams, Sly and the Family Stone and the Chambers Brothers, the festival was seen as obscure in pop culture, something that the documentarians investigate.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Stevie Wonder - Talking_Book

Talking Book (Universal Music, 1972)

By Stevie Wonder


Stevie Wonder was just 22 years old when he released Talking Book, considered to be his first masterpiece. Singles include “Superstition,” “You and I,” and “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever).”

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

Meet your 2022 Mentorship Program participants

Congratulations to the four apprentice writers selected for this year’s Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program, and thank you to each of the authors who will mentor them!


M.V. Feehan (apprentice) has published work in Canadian, American, and European journals. She was the 2018 recipient of WFNS’s Budge Wilson Short Fiction Prize. In recent years, she received the Hedy Zimra scholarship from Frequency Writers of Rhode Island as well as the fiction award from Elizabeth Bishop’s Centenarian Festival. She spent years as a reader and editor for Room Magazine. She completed her Masters of Philosophy in Creative Writing at Trinity College Dublin in May of 2021 and currently resides on Cape Breton Island with her husband and son.

Chris Benjamin (mentor) is the author of four award-winning books. His most recent is Boy With A Problem, which was shortlisted for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction. He is also a freelance features writer and magazine editor.


Susan LeBlanc (apprentice) grew up mostly in Halifax, though spent grade four moving between three provinces and attended half of high school in Toronto. She has a BA in English from the University of King’s College/Dalhousie University and a journalism degree from King’s. She studied French for a year at Laval University, where she wished for warmer boots. She worked in Halifax as a newspaper and magazine journalist for twenty years, sharing in two Atlantic Journalism Awards with Chronicle-Herald colleagues. She has edited a few nonfiction manuscripts for a regional publisher and, for six years, worked as a writing/reporting tutor at the King’s School of Journalism. She then enrolled in fiction workshops and classes and learned it’s okay to make things up. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Budge Wilson Short Story Prize. She lives in Dartmouth with her family and her cat.

Becca Babcock (mentor) grew up in Alberta, but since 2005, she’s lived just outside of Halifax with her husband Trent, and now with their almost-five-year-old son, Thorin. Becca's first book, Every Second Weekend (a short story cycle) was published by Blaurock Press in 2012; her first novel, One Who Has Been Here Before, was published this year by Vagrant Press, and her next novel, also with Vagrant Press, is set for release in 2023. Becca is a writer, writing instructor, and sometimes an actor and a filmmaker, as well. She teaches writing and English at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and occasionally at other universities in the region.


Born in Barbados, Claudette Bouman (apprentice) arrived in Canada as a student in 1986. After successfully completing graduate studies at UNB and then UBC in Educational Administration, she lived in Saskatchewan. In the late 1990s, she relocated with her family to Nova Scotia. She is married and has two adult children.

Cooper Lee Bombardier (mentor) is the author of the memoir-in-essays Pass With Care, a finalist for the 2021 Firecracker Award in Nonfiction. His writing appears in The Kenyon Review, The Malahat Review, Ninth Letter, CutBank, Nailed Magazine, Longreads, Narratively, BOMB, and The Rumpus and in 19 anthologies, including the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology, The Remedy–Essays on Queer Health Issues and the Lambda-nominated anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Speculative Fiction From Transgender Writers, which won a 2018 American Library Association Stonewall Book Award. He teaches in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program at University of King’s College and in women and gender studies at Saint Mary’s University.

YA Fiction

Nayani Jensen (apprentice) 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.

Jo Treggiari (mentor) is the multi-award nominated author of five books for children. Her most recent YA novel, The Grey Sisters (Penguin Teen 2019), was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, for the Arthur Ellis Mystery Award, and for the Ann Connor Brimer Children’s Literature Award.

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.

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 on Thursday, June 9, 2022. 

Quotable quotes:

“It is no exaggeration that the Ann Connor Brimer Award played a significant role in the success I’ve enjoyed as a YA author. I began writing in 1988 and, while I published a few short pieces in the following years, it wasn’t until my first novel, Of Things Not Seen, won the Brimer in 1996 that editors became eager to see my work. Receiving the award a second time in 2004 for my novel The First Stone solidified my reputation as an award-winning author, enabling me to publish more than 20 books and numerous shorter pieces. There is, quite simply, no more important award for Atlantic Canadian writers of children’s and young adult literature than the Brimer, and I will always be grateful not only for the acknowledgement that this prize has afforded my work but also for the sense of validation and encouragement it brought me in the early years of my career.”

—Don Aker is a two-time winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award, for Of Things Not Seen in 1996 and The First Stone in 2004

“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. 
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