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Postcard Story Contest finalists

Congratulations to the 10 finalists in our inaugural Postcard Story ContestAll entries were assessed under pen names, and the finalists were selected by members of WFNS’s staff and board of directors.

“A Fox Tale” by Barbara Darby
“The Wolfman” by Charles “Gus” Doiron
“The woman sitting beside me” by donalee Moulton
“Smile” by Fiona Chin-Yee
“A Supermarket Moment” by Jennifer Reichow
“Woman in a Bar” by Joanne Gallant
“Roots and Ropes” by Leanne Schneider
“Colour” by Rhian Irene Calcott
“Weedy Wedding Dress” by Rose Poirier
“War Bride” by Syr Ruus

Check back on November 25 to read the top stories and to celebrate the winner, chosen by judges Alison DeLory and Jessica Scott Kerrin.

Celebrating the 2020 graduates of the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program

In 2020, with pandemic conditions prohibiting the annual Celebration of Emerging Writers, we’re celebrating the graduates of the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program by sharing their work with you in video form, illustrated and animated by Nova Scotia visual artists. View all their videos here.

Bev Shaw reading “Undertow,” with animation by Anna Quon

Brad Donaldson reading “Away,” with illustration by Patrick McWade

Joanne Gallant reading an excerpt from her memoir, with videography by Catherine Bussiere

Angela Bowden reading “Black Boy Guilty” and “The Belly of the Beast,” with artwork by Doretta Groenendyk

Sandra Murdock reading “No is a Complete Sentence,” with illustration by Marijke Simons

Katie Cameron reading “Anticipatory Grief” and “Fences,” with animation by Paton Francis

Sue Murtagh reading “Lost Purse,” with illustration by Belle DeMont

Virtual Poetry in Motion Celebration

We’re proud to present our virtual Poetry in Motion Celebration for 2020 — on the theme “journeys” — featuring video readings of all ten selected poems by, of course, the poets themselves: Sue GoyetteAsha JeffersNanci LeeVanessa LentTiffany MorrisNolan NatashaLorri Neilsen GlennAnna QuonSamantha Sternberg, and Evelyn C. White.

You can also purchase all ten poems as a postcard set ($10 plus shipping). All proceeds from postcard sales will support the endowment for our new Nova Scotia Poetry Award.

Indigenous Writers – A Reading List

On October 28, 2020, Andrea Currie, Billy Lewis, Theresa Meuse, Shannon Webb-Campbell, and moderator Raymond Sewell shared their top picks of books by Indigenous writers to read, enjoy, and learn from. Recommendations included fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s literature, and other genres and media (ranging from historical documents to podcasts).

The Indigenous Writers to Read Right Now panel was free to attend. It was co-presented with the Elders in Residence Program at Dalhousie University.

Click on a genre above to jump to those recommendations.
Click on a book title or cover to purchase it from its publisher.

Fiction

YA fiction - The Marrow Thieves (Cherie Dimaline)

The Marrow Thieves (Cormorant Books, 2017)

by Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline's young adult novel is set in a dystopian future where Indigenous people are being hunted for their bone marrow.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Fiction - Empire of the Wild (Cherie Dimaline)

Empire of Wild (Random House of Canada, 2019)

by Cherie Dimaline

Inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou--a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Métis communities--Cherie Dimaline has created a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Fiction - Tracks (Louise Erdrich)

Tracks (HarperCollins, 1998)

by Louise Erdrich

Tracks is the third in a tetralogy of novels beginning with Love Medicine that explores the interrelated lives of four Anishinaabe families living on an Indian reservation near the fictional town of Argus, North Dakota.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Fiction - The Round House (Louise Erdrich)

The Round House (HarperCollins, 2012)

by Louise Erdrich

With The Round House, Erdrich transports readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Fiction - Indians on Vacation (Thomas King)

Indians on Vacation (HarperCollins, 2020)

by Thomas King

By turns witty, sly and poignant, this is the unforgettable tale of one couple's holiday trip to Europe, where their wanderings through its famous capitals reveal a complicated history, both personal and political.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Fiction - Thomas King

the novels of Thomas King

Thomas King is one of Canada’s premier Native public intellectuals and is the best-selling award-winning author of six novels, two collections of short stories and two non-fiction books. He won the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Literature for his novel, The Back of the Turtle (Harper Collins, 2014).

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Fiction - The Way to Rainy Mountain (N Scott Momaday)

The Way to Rainy Mountain (U of New Mexico Press, 1976)

by N. Scott Momaday

"The stories in The Way to Rainy Mountain are told in three voices. The first voice is the voice of my father, the ancestral voice, and the voice of the Kiowa oral tradition. The second is the voice of historical commentary. And the third is that of personal reminiscence, my own voice. There is a turning and returning of myth, history, and memoir throughout, a narrative wheel that is as sacred as language itself."

(Recommended by Raymond Sewell)

Fiction - Islands of Decolonial Love (Leanne Betasamosake Simpson)

Islands of Decolonial Love (ARP Books, 2013)

by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

In her debut collection of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love, renowned writer and activist Leanne Simpson vividly explores the lives of contemporary Indigenous Peoples and communities, especially those of her own Nishnaabeg nation. Found on reserves, in cities and small towns, in bars and curling rinks, canoes and community centres, doctor’s offices and pickup trucks, Simpson's characters confront the often heartbreaking challenge of pairing the desire to live loving and observant lives with a constant struggle to simply survive the historical and ongoing injustices of racism and colonialism.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Fiction - Johnny Appleseed (Joshua Whitehead)

Jonny Appleseed (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018)

by Joshua Whitehead

Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez"--and his former life--to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The seven days that follow are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny's life is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages--and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction

Non-fiction - The Reconciliation Manifesto (Arthur Manuel and Ronald Derrickson)

The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy (Lorimer, 2017)

by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson

Manuel and Derrickson show how governments are attempting to reconcile with Indigenous Peoples without touching the basic colonial structures that dominate and distort the relationship. They review the current state of land claims. They tackle the persistence of racism among non-Indigenous people and institutions. They celebrate Indigenous Rights Movements while decrying the role of government-funded organizations like the Assembly of First Nations. They document the federal government's disregard for the substance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while claiming to implement it. These circumstances amount to what they see as a false reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Non-fiction - Native Science (Gregory Cajete)

Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence (Clear Light Books, 1999) [out of print]

by Gregory Cajete

In Native Science, Gregory Cajete "tells the story" of Indigenous science as a way of understanding, experiencing, and feeling the natural world. He points to parallels and differences between the Indigenous science and Western science paradigms, with special emphasis on environmental / ecological studies. After discussing philosophical foundations, Cajete addresses such topics as history and myth, primal elements, social ecology, animals in myth and reality, plants and human health, and cosmology and astronomy.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Non-fiction - Halfbreed (Maria Campbell)

Halfbreed (McClelland & Stewart, 1973)

by Maria Campbell

An unflinchingly honest memoir of her experience as a Métis woman in Canada, Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed depicts the realities that she endured and, above all, overcame. Maria was born in Northern Saskatchewan, her father the grandson of a Scottish businessman and Métis woman–a niece of Gabriel Dumont whose family fought alongside Riel and Dumont in the 1885 Rebellion; her mother the daughter of a Cree woman and French-American man. This extraordinary account, originally published in 1973, bravely explores the poverty, oppression, alcoholism, addiction, and tragedy Maria endured throughout her childhood and into her early adult life, underscored by living in the margins of a country pervaded by hatred, discrimination, and mistrust.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Non-fiction - A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Alicia Elliott)

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Anchor Canada, 2020)

by Alicia Elliott

In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight into the ongoing legacy of colonialism.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction - Songs of Rita Joe - Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet (Rita Joe)

Songs of Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet (U of Nebraska Press, 1996)

by Rita Joe

The story of an esteemed and eloquent Mi’kmaq woman whose message of “gentle persuasion” has enriched the life of a nation.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Non-fiction - Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (Daniel Heath Justice)

Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2018)

by Daniel Heath Justice

This provocative volume challenges readers to critically consider and rethink their assumptions about Indigenous literature, history, and politics while never forgetting the emotional connections of our shared humanity and the power of story to effect personal and social change. Written with a generalist reader firmly in mind, but addressing issues of interest to specialists in the field, this book welcomes new audiences to Indigenous literary studies while offering more seasoned readers a renewed appreciation for these transformative literary traditions.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Non-fiction - The Inconvenient Indian (Thomas King)

The Inconvenient Indian (Penguin Random House, 2013)

by Thomas King

Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis and Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction - Out of the Depths (Isabelle Knockwood)

Out of the Depths: Experiences of Mi’kmaq Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia (Fernwood Publishing, 2015)

by Isabelle Knockwood

Residential school survivor Isabelle Knockwood offers the firsthand experiences of 42 survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. In the fourth edition of this book, Knockwood connects with 21 survivors of the Shubenacadie school following the apology by the Canadian government in 2008.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Non-fiction - Heart Berries (Terese Marie Mailhot)

Heart Berries (Doubleday Canada, 2018)

by Therese Marie Mailhot

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Terese Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father--an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist--who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Non-fiction - We Were Not the Savages (Daniel Paul)

We Were Not the Savages (Fernwood Publishing, 2008)

by Daniel Paul

An Indigenous perspective on the collision between European and Native American civilizations.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse and Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction - Black Water (David A Robertson)

Black Water (HarperCollins, 2020)

by David Robertson

Structured around a father-son journey to the northern trapline where Robertson and his father will reclaim their connection to the land, Black Water is the story of another journey: a young man seeking to understand his father's story, to come to terms with his lifelong experience with anxiety, and to finally piece together his own blood memory, the parts of his identity that are woven into the fabric of his DNA.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Non-fiction - The Language of this Land, Mi'kma'ki (Trudy Sable and Bernie Francis)

The Language of This Land, Mi’kma’ki (Cape Breton UP, 2012)

by Trudy Sable and Bernie Francis

An exploration of Mi’kmaw world view as expressed in language, legends, song and dance. Using imagery as codes, these include not only place names and geologic history, but act as maps of the landscape. Sable and Francis illustrate the fluid nature of reality inherent in its expression – its embodiment in networks of relationships with the landscape integral to the cultural psyche and spirituality of the Mi’kmaq.

(Recommended by Raymond Sewell)

Non-fiction - There's Something in the Water (Ingrid R B Waldron)

There’s Something in the Water (Fernwood Publishing, 2018)

by Ingrid R.G. Waldron

In “There’s Something In The Water”, Ingrid R. G. Waldron examines the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Indigenous and Black communities in Canada, using Nova Scotia as a case study, and the grassroots resistance activities by Indigenous and Black communities against the pollution and poisoning of their communities.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Non-fiction - The Book of Hopi (Frank Waters)

The Book of Hopi (Penguin Books, 1977) [out of print]

by Frank Waters; illustrated by Oswald White Bear Frederick

In this "strange and wonderful book," some thirty elders of the ancient Hopi tribe of Northern Arizona freely reveal for the first time in written form the Hopi world-view of life. The Hopis have kept this view a secret for countless generations, and this book was made possible only as a result of their desire to record for future generations the principles of their "Road of Life." The breaking of the Hopi silence is significant and fascinating because for the first time anthropologists, ethnologists, and everyone interested in the field of Indian study have been given rich material showing the Hopi legends, the meaning of their religious rituals and ceremonies, and the beauty of a conception of life within the natural world that is completely untouched by materialistic worlds.

(Recommended by Raymond Sewell)

Non-fiction - The Elements of Indigenous Style (by Gregory Younging)

The Elements of Indigenous Style (Brush Education, 2018)

by Gregory Younging

Elements of Indigenous Style offers Indigenous writers and editors—and everyone creating works about Indigenous Peoples—the first published guide to common questions and issues of style and process. Everyone working in words or other media needs to read this important new reference, and to keep it nearby while they’re working.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry

Poetry - The Wound is a World (Billy-Ray Belcourt)

This Wound is a World (Frontenac House, 2017)

by Billy-Ray Belcourt

Part manifesto, part memoir, This Wound is a World is an invitation to 'cut a hole in the sky to world inside.' Billy-Ray Belcourt issues a call to turn to love and sex to understand how Indigenous peoples shoulder sadness and pain like theirs without giving up on the future. His poems and essays upset genre and play with form, scavenging for a decolonial kind of heaven where 'everyone is at least a little gay.'”

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell and Andrea Currie)

Poetry - Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent (Liz Howard)

Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent (McClelland & Stewart, 2015)

by Liz Howard

In Liz Howard’s wild, scintillating debut, the mechanisms we use to make sense of our worlds – even our direct intimate experiences of it – come under constant scrutiny and a pressure that feels like love. What Howard can accomplish with language strikes us as electric, a kind of alchemy of perception and catastrophe, fidelity and apocalypse. The waters of Northern Ontario shield country are the toxic origin and an image of potential. A subject, a woman, a consumer, a polluter; an erotic force, a confused brilliance, a very necessary form of urgency – all are loosely tethered together and made somehow to resonate with our own devotions and fears; made “to be small and dreaming parallel / to ceremony and decay.” Liz Howard is what contemporary poetry needs right now.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Lnu and Indians We're Called (Rita Joe)

Lnu and Indians We’re Called (Women’s Press, 1991) [out of print]

by Rita Joe

With this collection, celebrated poet Rita Joe expands upon her desire to communicate gently with the Mi’kmaw people, and reach out to the wider community of Canadians.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Poetry - The Blind Man's Eyes (Rita Joe)

The Blind Man’s Eyes (Cape Breton Books, 2015)

by Rita Joe

A committed social activist, rooted in First Nation and Christian spirituality, Rita Joe’s efforts to represent and inspire have earned her honorary degrees, the Aboriginal Achievement Award, and the Order of Canada. Rita Joe’s role as a daring “gentle warrior” shines through the poetry of The Blind Man’s Eyes.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Poetry - Flint and Feather (E. Pauline Johnson)

Flint and Feather (first published in 1912)

by E. Pauline Johnson

This volume contains Johnson's collected poems, and it is doubtful if any other volume of Canadian poetry has ever had so glowing a reception or so widely sustained and continuous an appeal.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Generations Emerging (Shalan Joudry)

Generations Re-merging (Gaspereau Press, 2014)

by Shalan Joudry

A collection of poems which explores the complex tangle of intergenerational relationships and cultural issues encountered by a Mi’kmaw woman in the modern context, “where every moment / is the loss of something.”

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Poetry - Waking Ground (Shalan Joudry)

Waking Ground (Gaspereau Press, 2020)

by Shalan Joudry

Waking Ground connects the social and ecological challenges our communities face with the unresolved legacy of Canada’s settlement and its ongoing impact on the lives of Indigenous people. Attuned to language, landscape, and legacy, Shalan Joudry’s insightful and candid poems bring forward stories that speak to the resilience of Mi’kmaw culture and the collective work of healing and reconciliation that lies before us all.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Hope Matters (Maracle, Bobb, Carter)

Hope Matters (Book*hug Press, 2019)

by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter

The wide-ranging poems in Hope Matters focus on the journey of Indigenous peoples from colonial beginnings to reconciliation. But they also document a very personal journey—that of a mother and her two daughters. Written collaboratively, Hope Matters offers a blend of three distinct and exciting voices that come together in a shared song of hope and reconciliation.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Clay Pots and Bones (Lindsay Marshall)

Clay Pots and Bones (Cape Breton University Press, 2014)

by Lindsay Marshall

Poetry is Lindsay Marshall’s way of telling stories, of speaking with others about things that matter to him. His heritage. His people. His life as a Mi’kmaw. For the reader, Clay Pots and Bones is a colourful journey from early days, when the People of the Dawn understood, interacted with and roamed the land freely, to the turbulent present and the uncertain future where Marshall envisions a rebirth of the Mi’kmaq. The poetry challenges and enlightens. It will, most certainly, entertain.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

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Inquiries (Breakwater Books, 2019)

by Michelle Porter

In poems that risk the comingling of anger and elegy, poetry and documentation, humour and the dark spectre of poverty, Michelle Porter’s Inquiries oscillates at its edges, and amplifies the presence of human strength as it keeps company with our enigmatic and ever-present nemeses. This is a startling debut where the line between reality and reality television blurs, where a simple trip to the grocery store unifies mother and daughter in struggle, and where an economics of iniquity proves the existence of love as equality. With wit, poise, raw emotion, and versatility, Inquiries announces the emergence of an impressive new talent.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Noopiming - The Cure for White Ladies (Leanne Betasamosake Simpson)

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies (House of Anansi, 2020)

by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Award-winning Nishnaabeg writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson returns with a bold reimagining of the novel that combines narrative and poetic fragments through a careful and fierce reclamation of Anishinaabe aesthetics.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Poetry - Kiskajeyi - I Am Ready (Michelle Sylliboy)

Kiskajeyi — I Am Ready (Rebel Mountain Press, 2019)

by Michelle Sylliboy

This hieroglyphic poetry book is the first of its kind. Aboriginal artist and writer, Michelle Sylliboy blends her poetry, photography, and Mi'kmaq (L'nuk) hieroglyphic poetry in this unprecedented book.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Poetry - Disintegrate Dissociate (Arielle Twist)

Disintegrate/Dissociate (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019)

by Arielle Twist

In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Poetry - Crow Gulch (Douglas Walbourne-Gough)

Crow Gulch (Goose Lane, 2019)

by Douglas Walbourne-Gough

From the author: “I cannot let the story of Crow Gulch—the story of my family and, subsequently, my own story—go untold. This book is my attempt to resurrect dialogue and story, to honour who and where I come from, to remind Corner Brook of the glaring omission in its social history.”

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Children's Literature

Child lit - Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters (Harris, Marshall, and Marshall)

Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters (Cape Breton Books, 2011)

by Prune Harris, Lilian Marshall, Murdena Marshall; illustrated by Cheryl Bartlett

The story of Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters is a very old Mi'kmaw legend. It happens in the North Sky as the stars that show the story of Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters move around Tatapn, the North Star.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Child lit - How the Cougar Came to be Called the Ghost Cat (Michael James Isaac)

How the Cougar Came to be Called the Ghost Cat/Ta’n Petalu Telui’tut Skite’kmujewe (Roseway, 2010)

by Michael James Isaac

This is the tale of a young cougar, Ajig, who makes this sacrifice – and pays dearly. A curious and adventurous cougar, Ajig decides to build a new home in a strange forest. When he finds that all of the animals in the forest are afraid of him, Ajig agrees to stop behaving like a cougar so that he can make friends. But when Ajig tries to return to his birthplace, he learns that he is no longer welcome. Lost between two worlds, the young cougar becomes a “ghost cat.” This beautifully illustrated book, written in both Mi’kmaw and English, reflects the experiences of First Nations peoples’ assimilation into the Euro-Canadian school system, but speaks to everyone who is marginalized or at risk.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Child lit - For the Children (Rita Joe)

For the Children (Breton Books, 2008)

by Rita Joe

With the young person in mind, these strong, clear and encouraging poems from Rita Joe speak directly to all of us, a testament to her hope for a better world. Down-to-earth and often humorous, these poems tell stories of Mi'kmaw life, and of the concrete and spiritual world of this determined Eskasoni writer.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Child lit - I Lost My Talk (Rita Joe)

I Lost My Talk (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)

by Rita Joe

One of Rita Joe’s most influential poems, “I Lost My Talk” tells the revered Mi’kmaw Elder’s childhood story of losing her language while a resident of the residential school in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Child lit - The Sharing Circle (Theresa Meuse)

The Sharing Circle (Nimbus Publishing, 2003)

by Theresa Meuse

The Sharing Circle includes seven children's stories about First Nations culture and spirituality practices. All seven stories—The Eagle Feather, The Dream Catcher, The Sacred Herbs, The Talking Circle, The Medicine Wheel, The Drum, and The Medicine Pouch—explore First Nations cultural practices and teach children about Mi'kmaq beliefs and heritage.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Child lit - L’nuk, the Mi’kmaq of Atlantic Canada (Theresa Meuse)

L’nu'k: The People (Nimbus Publishing, 2016)

by Theresa Meuse

In L’nu'k: The People, Theresa Meuse traces the incredible lineage of today’s Mi’kmaq people, sharing the fascinating details behind their customs, traditions, and history. Discover the proper way to make Luski (Mi’kmaw bread), the technique required for intricate quillwork and canoe building, what happens at a powwow, and how North America earned its Aboriginal name, Turtle Island.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Child lit - I'm Finding My Talk (Rebecca Thomas)

I’m Finding My Talk (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)

by Rebecca Thomas

From sewing regalia to dancing at powow to learning traditional language, I'm Finding My Talk is about rediscovering community and finding culture. The book features stunning, vibrant illustrations by Mi'kmaw artist Pauline Young.

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Child lit - The Thundermaker (Alan Syliboy)

The Thundermaker (Nimbus Publishing, 2018)

by Alan Syliboy

Mi'kmaw artist Alan Syliboy's The Thundermaker is based on Alan's spectacular mixed-media exhibit of the same name. In the book, Big Thunder teaches his son, Little Thunder, about the important responsibility he has making thunder for his people. Little Thunder learns about his Mi'kmaw identity through his father's teachings and his mother's traditional stories.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Other Genres and Media

Other - Peace and Friendship Treaty

Peace and Friendship Treaty Between His Majesty the King and Jean Baptiste Cope (1752)

The Treaty of 1752, signed by Jean Baptiste Cope, described as the Chief Sachem of the Mi'kmaq inhabiting the eastern part of Nova Scotia, and Governor Hopson of Nova Scotia, made peace and promised hunting, fishing, and trading rights.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Other - translations of Robert Munsch books

Translations of Robert Munsch books into the Mi’kmaq language (2014) [out of print]

published by Eastern Woodland Publishing

An advisory committee of MK educators has translated seven Robert Munsch books into the Mi’kmaq language. The books were distributed to students in every Mi’kmaw community in 2014. The seven translated books are Thomas’ Snowsuit, Love You Forever, Mud Puddle, I Have To Go, I’m So Embarrassed, Andrew’s Loose Tooth, and A Promise is a Promise.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Ku’ku’kwes News

by Maureen Googoo

Ku’ku’kwes News is the only independent news website that covers Indigenous news in Atlantic Canada. It relies on monthly subscriptions to provide news coverage to readers.

(Recommended by WFNS President Lorri Neilsen Glenn)

Anthologies - The Mi'kmaq Anthology (Pottersfield)

The Mi’kmaq Anthology (Pottersfield Press, 1997)

edited by Rita Joe and Lesley Choyce

A varied and spiritual collection of work by the Mi'kmaq writers of Atlantic Canada. Both young and old stories and storytellers combine talents to produce short stories, poetry, and personal essays.

(Recommended by Theresa Meuse)

Other - Elapultiek (Shalan Joudry)

Elapultiek (Pottersfield Press, 2019)

by Shalan Joudry

Set in contemporary times, a young Mi’kmaw drum singer and a Euro-Nova Scotian biologist meet at dusk each day to count a population of endangered Chimney Swifts (kaktukopnji’jk). They quickly struggle with their differing views of the world. Through humour and story, the characters must come to terms with their own gifts and challenges as they dedicate efforts to the birds. Each “count night” reveals a deeper complexity of connection to land and history on a personal level.

(Recommended by Raymond Sewell)

Storytelling - The Truth About Stories (Thomas King)

The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative (House of Anansi, 2003)

by Thomas King

In his 2003 Massey lecture, award-winning author and scholar Thomas King looks at the breadth and depth of Native experience and imagination. Beginning with Native oral stories, King weaves his way through literature and history, religion and politics, popular culture and social protest, in an effort to make sense of North America's relationship with its Aboriginal peoples. An audio version of the lecture is available for free on the CBC Radio website.

(Recommended by Billy Lewis)

Graphic novel - On Loving Women (Diane Obomsawin)

On Loving Women (Drawn and Quarterly, 2014)

by Diane Obomsawin

On Loving Women is a new collection of stories about coming out, first love, and sexual identity by the animator Diane Obomsawin. With this work, Obomsawin brings her gaze to bear on subjects closer to home-her friends' and lovers' personal accounts of realizing they're gay or first finding love with another woman. Each story is a master class in reaching the emotional truth of a situation with the simplest means possible. Her stripped-down pages use the bare minimum of linework to expressively reveal heartbreak, joy, irritation, and fear.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Podcast - Kiwew (David Robertson)

Kiwew (CBC)

by David Robertson

Kīwew is a five-part podcast in which Governor General award-winning author David A. Robertson dives into his family's history and mysteries as he discovers and connects with his Cree identity.

(Recommended by Andrea Currie)

Other - The Healers, Mary Webb (David Roberston and Donovan Yaciuk)

The Healers: Mary Webb (Portage & Main Press, 2017) [out of print]

by David Robertson and Donovan Yaciuk; illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

Graphic novel

(Recommended by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Writers’ Panel: Historical Fiction – Breathing Life into History

Nov 26, 7 – 9pm >>

Join us for a lively discussion about historical fiction with novelists Carol Bruneau (A Circle on the Surface, Brighten the Corner Where You Are), Lesley Crewe (Beholden, The Spoon Stealer), Genevieve Graham (The Forgotten Home Child, Tides of Honour, Come From Away), Gloria Wesley (If This is Freedom, Chasing Freedom), Ami McKay (The Witches of New York, The Virgin Cure, The Birth House).

Location: Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (via Zoom Webinar)

Date: Thursday, November 26, 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Price: free for members & non-members

Partners

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is grateful to the Council of Nova Scotia Archives and its MemoryNS initiative for their partnership in presenting this writers’ panel. MemoryNS provides access to archival records from institutions across Nova Scotia.

Dancing Between Poetry and Story

Nov 24, 6:30 – 8:30pm >>

Some stories can be transferred in their fullest depth only by being told and animated in person—but some moments and thoughts need to be expressed with the nuance of poetry. shalan joudry will share her experiences, her philosophy, and the exercises she uses to choose between and to create within these two mediums. She will draw on her cultural teachings about the power of story as a tool, and she will also share what techniques in poetry offer her a different satisfaction. Participants are encouraged to bring listening skills to the workshop as well as paper and a pencil.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

shalan joudry is a mother and narrative artist working in many mediums. She is a poet, playwright, podcast producer, oral storyteller and actor, as well as a cultural interpreter. Her first and third books are poetry collections, both with Gaspereau Press: Generations Re-merging (2014) and Waking Ground (2020). She also has a published theatrical play, Elapultiek, through Pottersfield Press (2019). Elapultiek was produced by Two Planks and a Passion Theatre in August 2018 and October 2019. Shalan has shared her poetry, oral storytelling and drum singing with numerous stages, events, schools and organizations for the past decade. Shalan also runs a seasonal cultural retreat centre with her partner, facilitating cultural and ecological professional development workshops. She lives in her home territory of Kespukwitk (southwest Nova Scotia) with her family in their community of L’sitkuk (Bear River First Nation).

Location: Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (online with Zoom)

Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2020 – 6:30pm to 8:30pm

Price: $55.00

Member Price: $35.00

Author spotlight: Genevieve Graham

Genevieve Graham moved to Nova Scotia in 2008 and fell in love with the integral history woven into every aspect of this province. Using her love of historical fiction as a palette, she began in-depth research into the little-known, even forgotten history of Nova Scotia, then the rest of Canada, publishing five Canadian bestselling novels in five years, including the “instant #1 bestseller,” The Forgotten Home Child. Prolific and determined, Genevieve is proud to bring Canadian history to life through the popular, mainstream market of commercial historical fiction and plans a book a year for as long as she can keep up!

You mention on your website that you started writing when you were 40. What were you doing before? And what made you start writing?

I graduated from the University of Toronto in 1986 with a Bachelor in Music Performance (on the oboe), but my life changed direction when I developed an autoimmune disease called “Sjögrens Syndrome.” Unable to play anymore, I taught myself to type in a weekend and then embarked on a crazy but fascinating series of jobs in advertising, promotions, marketing, and fundraising in retail, media, and non-profits. I also taught piano in my home to dozens of local kids over the years. In 1998, I became a stay-at-home mom, and that was the busiest of all my jobs! When our daughters were about six and eight, my mother noticed that I spent very little time on myself, and she decided to change that by bringing me a book and insisting I sit down to read. That book was “Outlander,” and it turned my world upside down. I proceeded to read as much historical fiction as I could find, driving the local librarians nuts with my need for more. Then, one day, I decided to try my hand at writing something myself. I’d never written much more than a thank-you note. I remember Mothers Day 2007 fondly, because that was the day my husband bought me my very first laptop, all to encourage me on this new path. Well, it worked, and I’ve never looked back. I am self-taught — I joined writing communities online (I highly recommend Scribophile.com) but never paid for a single course, and while I worked on my first novel, I ran my own freelance editing business that taught me even more.

Your books are all set in the past. What is it about historical fiction that attracts you?

My love for history is only a few years older than my writing career. I will admit that I slept through history class in school, but well-written historical fiction (mostly about 18th century Scotland) awoke a need in me to learn about what and who had come before. It wasn’t until we moved from Calgary to Nova Scotia in 2008 that I began to recognize just how much history existed around me, and how little I knew about my own country. I decided to focus exclusively on Canadian history, and I left my Scottish research behind. 

For me, historical fiction is a very powerful tool. I had no interest in history before I discovered the genre. Now I understand that historical fiction has a huge responsibility: we must teach the mind but also touch the heart. History itself is in black and white. It feels far away and cold. Bringing the colour of fictional characters into a well-researched point in history, essentially breathing life back into the history, makes the past real. It’s much more difficult to forget a story if you care about the characters, and so history is remembered. I absolutely love reading reviews that start with “I had no idea about this history until I read Genevieve’s book …”

What kind of research do you do?

My first stop is always the library, where I take out every non-fiction book I can possibly find on the subject. It’s not exceptional for me to check out 20 books one week and go back for ten more the following week. I read through as much of the serious history as I can — though I’ve never been good at dry non-fiction — and I learn the basic background, the five Ws. 

Then I go online. My favourite resource is finding individuals who are passionate about a certain subject, like re-enactors. I remember once meeting a Scottish man wearing eight layers of thick wool (his kilt) in the heat of summer during a historical reenactment weekend. The history mattered so much to him, and that’s what I need: people who really care about the right information being shared. They are the most critical and determined sources I’ve ever come across. 

The third step is to go onto social media. You’d be amazed how many facebook groups have been created for specific historical research. For example, I once joined a facebook group made up of descendants of POWs in one particular German camp during WW2. I recently joined one completely made up of historical photos of Toronto. And when I was researching the British Home Children for The Forgotten Home Child, I joined a half dozen regional pages of the children’s descendants, as well as the main page at www.facebook.com/groups/Britishhomechildren. Those people were so enthusiastic about sharing the information about their ancestors that over 200 of them filled out surveys for me, detailing their ancestors’ usually heartbreaking stories. As a result of their responses, I was able to integrate actual experiences into my characters, making the book even closer to non-fiction, and much more compelling.

Most of your books are set in Nova Scotia. Why?

Growing up in Toronto, then living 18 years in Calgary, Nova Scotia had always seemed like a faraway, wild place. It wasn’t until we actually moved here (completely by choice) that I fell in love with it. And the history was so very real — actual hundred-year-old houses abandoned along the Eastern Shore (where I lived) had me questioning everything: who lived there? what had happened that forced them out of their house? I could frequently be found in cemeteries, intrigued by generations of families all living in the same area they’d always lived in, all buried there as well. Then, one day, I heard about the Halifax Explosion for the very first time. I was astounded that I’d never been taught about something so important in our country’s history. Despite going to school in NS, our daughters knew nothing about it either, and very few people out west had any idea of what I was talking about. So I decided to educate myself, and as soon as I started doing that, the storyline began to build. Tides of Honour came from that research. While it was in the process of being published, I learned about the Acadian Expulsion, and Promises to Keep was born. Then I heard about the Merchant Marines and the German U-Boats skulking along the Eastern Shore during WW2, about fifteen minutes from my house, and that evolved into Come From Away. At the Mountain’s Edge, the story of the Klondike Gold Rush and the early Mounties (NWMP) took me to the west coast, but the characters in The Forgotten Home Child all arrived via … you guessed it, Pier 21, right here in Halifax. How could I not write about such a history-rich province? Nova Scotia is a historical fiction author’s dream location!

What are some of the difficulties in setting things in the past? 

Research is obviously the most time-consuming part of the journey, but for me it’s also the most exciting part. Still, some facts can be elusive, and when I am unable to find them, I am forced to change direction. My characters are always fictional, but I will never try to “create” history. Other than that, I don’t find it difficult to write about history — I feel more comfortable writing about the past than the present, to be honest!

Can you tell me about your latest book, The Forgotten Home Child? What made you write this book?

My passion lies in discovering forgotten or little-known moments in Canada’s history, because I feel our history is so often in the shadows of other countries’ stories. In my search for “new” stories to pursue, I follow a lot of historical pages on social media. Back in 2017, one of those sites posted an article about the British Home Children (BHC) and I was intrigued since I’d never heard of them before. At first glance, I was taken aback by the fact that I’d never heard about tens of thousands of British children being placed into indentured service, but when I read on and discovered the children were shipped to Canada, well, I was hooked. What I do remember learning during history classes in high school are the basics: War of 1812, Plains of Abraham… but how was it possible that I had never been taught about the over 120,000 destitute children shipped from England to Canada to be used as a source of labour on thousands of Canadian farms and households? The more I dug into the story, the more my heart twisted with the need to get the truth into the hands of Canadians. And when I learned that over 12% of Canadians – more than 4,000,000 people – are descended from the children and most have no idea, well … how could I not write it?

What is it like releasing a book during the pandemic?

It’s been a roller coaster. Two weeks before bookstores locked their doors, I was flown into Toronto and Montreal where I was on four or five radio programmes, I was on TV, and I spoke to crowds. I learned that The Forgotten Home Child was an instant #1 bestseller while I waited to speak to an auditorium of students in Montreal. At the time, nobody could have imagined how the world was about to change.

But change it did, and it was like someone had turned off all the lights. It broke my heart, imagining that no one would ever see my book or read its important content. I wanted so badly for people to learn about the British Home Children. 

Fortunately, I’m stubborn, and I refused to go quietly into the night. I quickly learned that my computer’s camera was not actually my enemy, and I used it on Facebook live videos via Zoom with book clubs, book promoters on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, local newspapers, museums, and more. I did an interesting one with the British Home Children descendants as well. Then I expanded, creating “Historical Fiction Panels” on Zoom, inviting other authors to come onto my Facebook page and talk about their books. At one I had six of us, another had three, and I have another one coming up in November. Now I’ve added short videos about “Historical Fiction coming soon,” where authors come on my page and read Chapter 1 of their new novel. I find that one of the best and most thoughtful ways to promote yourself is by promoting someone else, and there were so many people out there going through the same thing as I was. We all helped each other.

It was a frantic, frustrating, but exciting time. While I was desperately promoting, the books sold out and replenishments were trapped across the closed border for weeks. Anyway, something I did must have worked, because even with the bookstores locked up tight, The Forgotten Home Child was on the Canadian Fiction bestseller list for 19 weeks, and 11 of those weeks it held the #1 position. 

I noticed that your website delcares you open to appearing at book clubs. What do you get out of book clubs? Isn’t it nerve-wracking?

Originally, before all this virtual stuff, I was terrified of going to book clubs. I’m not usually a social person (I prefer my quiet little desk!), and while I knew book clubs were important for sales and for reaching new readers, I was nervous about little things: what will they ask? what should I wear? what if they hate the book? 

It didn’t take long before I realized that book clubs are wonderful! I was there because they wanted me there, and what they really wanted was to listen. Ask anyone about their passion, and you’re liable to get a lot of answers, so we all enjoyed the meetings. Then everything moved to Zoom, and it all got so much better! I had offered FaceTime / Skype meetings before, but I hadn’t done very many. Suddenly groups were meeting up all over, getting comfortable with Zoom, and I was meeting with three or four clubs a week for a while, all over Canada and the US. 

I think book clubs are very important for authors to recognize. First, everyone in the club has to read your book, so there are sales up front. Second, and more important, those are serious readers who know other serious readers. If they liked the book – even better if they like you – they will be recommending it to other readers, helping to get your name spread far and wide. Third, I always send out a book list before the meeting, because if they enjoyed the book (and you!), they might just be motivated to buy from your backlist. Of course, if I am going to a live, physical book club, I always bring boxes of books to sell, along with bookmarks for everyone!

Your website also features the trailers for your books. Is this something you recommend for other writers? What other things do you do to promote your books that may be a little out of the ordinary?

I’m not sure why I love making book trailers so much, but I do. The thing is, they are a lot of work and really don’t amount to much, in my experience. But they are one more weapon in my arsenal, so to speak, and I believe in coming fully armed. 

Hmm. What else? I think I do what most people do, but just in case, here are a few suggestions:

I always carry bookmarks and business cards with me, and I leave dozens at bookstore tills when I’m visiting. Bookstores love free stuff! At one point, my publisher asked “why business cards?” I use them a lot — for e-books! I love to sell at farmers’ markets, and I hand out bookmarks to tons of “tire kickers.” Some of those people are interested, but they don’t want physical books. So I hand those out. I advise having both. Oh, and both my husband and my mother always have a stack of business cards. I know they’ve both brought me readers!

I’m quite active on Instagram and Facebook, and sort of active on Twitter. I have one big rule: I will never engage in any political discussions. That’s very, very important to me. No matter how correct you believe you are, there is always going to be someone who feels the opposite. I know some authors feel passionate about speaking up, but I don’t see the value in cutting off half your potential audience just to make a political statement — or worse, to argue about one.

In addition to my own news, I share other authors’ announcements on instagram and twitter whenever possible. Doing that makes friends and builds loyalty with other authors, and it gives your followers some recommendations to check out.

I have an e-newsletter, but I only send it out three or four times a year, and only when I have important things to share.

On my website, I post both Historical Information about the books AND deleted scenes/chapters.

What are some historical fiction books that you like and recommend?

The Outlander series will always be my favourite because it was the one that encouraged me to try writing. Other favourites are Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, Kate Quinn’s The Huntress, Paullina Simons The Bronze Horseman, and a recent favourite from close to home, Lesley Crewe’s The Spoon Stealer.

What are three things on your writing table — and what significance do they have to you?

I have a big, ugly paper blotter (I think it’s from an auto body shop?) under my laptop which is for scribbling phone conversations or notes on, as well as for sopping up all my spills. 

I have a pair of candles which I light whenever it’s cloudy. They’re kind of a zen thing, I suppose. I have a box of Kleenex always on hand, because I cry a lot while I’m writing. It’s true. I write some very sad things sometimes, both historically and fictionally. With The Forgotten Home Child, I made it even worse by listening to sad music (Ezio Bosso’s “The Rain in Your Black Eyes” over and over and over). I think it’s good to cry. We wouldn’t cry if we didn’t care, right?

– Questions by Marilyn Smulders

2020 Poetry in Motion: Featured Poets

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) is thrilled to announce the names of the ten poets who will have their writing featured as part of this year’s Poetry in Motion. This year, we received over 120 submissions from emerging and established writers across the province. The theme for this year’s Poetry in Motion is journeys.

The ten poets selected for this year’s project are

  • Lorri Neilsen Glenn
  • Sue Goyette
  • Asha Jeffers
  • Nanci Lee
  • Vanessa Lent
  • Tiffany Morris
  • Nolan Natasha
  • Anna Quon
  • Samantha Sternberg
  • Evelyn C. White

The final selection of poems was made by a jury consisting of two Nova Scotian poets, Jaime Forsythe and Sylvia D. Hamilton, and Karen Dahl from Halifax Public Libraries.

The WFNS thanks the jury for contributing their time and expertise to this selection. We would also like to thank all the writers who took the time to submit their work to this year’s project.

A public poetry art project, Poetry in Motion displays short poems (and excerpts from longer poems) on transit ads in buses throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is grateful to Arts Nova Scotia for their funding of Poetry in Motion and to the Halifax Regional Muncipality and Halifax Public Libraries for their partnership in realizing this project.

WFNS Statement of Solidarity and Support

The board and staff of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia stand in solidarity with all people seeking justice in the face of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, police brutality, and white supremacy. 

As an organization, we are listening to Black, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities who continue to remind us the crucial and difficult work of both confronting and overcoming racism and injustice is ongoing and requires active engagement.

We grieve every life taken by white supremacy, racism, and police and community violence. We acknowledge that systemic and institutional racism continues to be responsible for the subjugation of Indigenous people, including those in Mi’kma’ki, the traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. Systemic and institutional racism has also been responsible for the oppression and destruction of Black communities such as Africville. We acknowledge the writers in these communities whose artistic works and contributions to anti-oppressive practices continue to lay the ground for work to come. 

We understand that literature has long been privileged as the art form of ideology. It is partly through the pen and the press that racist and oppressive ideologies have been systematized, aggressively promoted, normalized, and subtly reinforced. We support literature as a tool for challenging and decentering such ideologies and for organizing communities around better ideals and actions. 

We support those who speak out and engage in action to bring an end to systemic racism and white supremacy. The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia has an active role to play in this critical process of creating a more equitable future. To this end, we have outlined some strategies for our organization to undertake now and in the near future. 

Right now, we will 

  • build and strengthen current relationships with Black and Indigenous writers and organizations (such as the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute, and more)
  • amplify the voices of BIPOC authors on our website, through our social media, and in our newsletters
  • continue to recruit writers from diverse communities to join our board of directors, to contribute to our award and program adjudication, and to lead our creative writing workshops and professional development sessions

Moving forward, we will

  • coordinate anti-oppression training opportunities for our staff and board members
  • review and update our policies and protocols to ensure they embody anti-oppressive and anti-racist practices within our organization
  • revise and finalize an inclusion statement for all WFNS programming
  • treat this statement as a working document to be developed and adapted for permanent inclusion on our website (alongside our publicly available mandate, mission statement, and core values) so that we might be held accountable in our commitment to learning more, doing more, and remaining transparent about our actions

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is committed to being a catalyst for positive change in Nova Scotia’s arts community and the province as a whole, all the while acknowledging we have much to do in that regard. We will listen and we will learn. We will continue to work to amplify and celebrate marginalized voices.

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