Spring Workshop Round-up

Our busiest workshop schedule ever continues with workshops we can officially call “spring.” Those highlighted below are still open for registration. Click a workshop title or instructor photo for more details—or to register online.

All spring workshops will be held via Zoom. You do not need a Zoom account to attend. If you are unfamiliar with Zoom and would like a preliminary introduction, here’s an overview of the platform.

Writing YA Mysteries and Thrillers (with Jo Treggiari)

4-week workshop: Mondays, Mar 29, Apr 5, Apr 12, Apr 19 (7:00pm to 9:00pm)
Learn how to craft page-turning mysteries and thrillers for the young adult audience using techniques like plotting backwards, building suspense, giving your characters agency, motives and motivation, utilizing red herrings, plot twists, clues and reveals for maximum impact, and incorporating an emotional or coming-of-age change in your main character's arc.

Storytelling (with shalan joudry)

Free workshop open to Indigenous participants.
4-week workshop: Tuesdays, Apr 6, Apr 13, Apr 20, Apr 27 (6:30pm to 8:30pm)

In a time when so many of us are working to reclaim our Indigenous methodologies, shalan joudry feels that it’s imperative that we practice oral storytelling and deep listening to oral story. Through this 4-week workshop series, she will work with Indigenous writers, storytellers, poets and other narrative crafters to share about her experiences, tips, tools, and philosophy about storytelling. Shalan will share her background in this art form, why and how she turned to oral storytelling, but also discuss the importance and role of written work. Weaving between conversation and times for activities/exercises, participants are also encouraged to bring paper and a pencil to the sessions.

NEW: Extreme Constraints (with Andy Verboom)

4-week workshop: Tuesdays, Apr 6, Apr 13, Apr 20, Apr 27 (7:00pm to 9:00pm)
Ever tried writing with handcuffs on? After spinning in a circle twenty times? No?! Well, get on over here and take a tour of writerly self-torture devices—figuratively speaking (mostly)—from the formal (rhyme & pattern) to the conceptual (restriction & found text) to those in the weird between (misheard lyrics & algorithmic poetry). This workshop combines easy-to-understand poetic theory, extremely difficult writing exercises, and reflections on the pain of writing (artistic ethics, writing beyond the ego, etc.). You’ll leave with new tools & techniques for creativity, with tactics for combatting writer’s block, and with a new appreciation for the phrase “can’t punch your way out of a paper bag.” New and experienced poets welcome.

NEW: The Pivotal Moment: Memoir Writing (with Cooper Lee Bombardier)

4-week workshop: Thursdays, Apr 15, Apr 22, Apr 29, May 6 (6:00pm to 8:00pm)
In this four-week memoir-writing workshop, you’ll take a singular, transformative moment from your life and unpack it using the literary tools of creative nonfiction to discover the deeper meaning and creative possibilities to be found in reflecting upon one’s life events. This workshop is suitable for writers of all levels and experience.

The Plot Thickens: Crafting a Compelling Romance (with Paula Altenburg)

5-week workshop: Mondays, Apr 26, May 3, May 10, May 17, May 31 (7:00pm to 9:00pm)
In this five-week workshop, we’ll explore the romance genre and the tools required to finish a viable story. There will be an introduction to basic writing tools and techniques you’ll need to get started, as well as an overview on the three-act structure. A bibliography of the resources used by the instructor will be included.

Creative Writing for Newcomers (with Vanessa Lent)

Free workshop open to Newcomers to Canada.
6-week workshop: Tuesdays, May 4, May 11, May 18, May 25, June 1, June 8 (7:00pm to 9:00pm)

Join us for a free creative writing workshop for newcomers to Canada: explore different kinds of creative writing and try out new forms of expression. Creative writing not only builds English writing skills, it also provides a fun and stress-free opportunity to deepen understanding of both self and language. This course offers 6 self-contained mini-workshops on creative forms, including writing exercises and a chance to share and collaborate with other learners. Attending all workshop dates is not required, but participants who attend at least 4 of the 6 lessons will get the most out of the experience. Participants will be sent a schedule of the topics in advance.

NEW: Poetic Possibilities (with Shannon Webb-Campbell)

4-week workshop: Thursdays, May 6, May 13, May 20, May 27 (7:00pm to 9:00pm)
Does poetry help us discover the world or discover ourselves? What does/can poetry do? In a time when so many of us are feeling trapped, insular, and perhaps withdrawn from the world, it’s important to practice poetry to inspire new ways of being, recalibrate and encourage poetic possibilities. Open to emerging and established poets, this workshop will explore experiences, tips, tools and philosophy about poetry through the work of Billy-Ray Belcourt, Lee Maracle, Liz Howard, Kaie Kellough, Dionne Brand, Ben Lerner, Susan Musgrave, and others who delve in the poetic.

NEW: Developing Your Writing Practice (with Nolan Natasha)

Free workshop open to Two-Spirit, LGBTQIA+, non-binary, and other rainbow writers.
3-week workshop: Mondays, May 10, May 17, May 31 (7:00pm to 9:00pm)

This workshop will focus on developing a specific and intentional writing practice. We'll address writer's block, building good writing habits, figuring out what works for you, finding your voice, and other topics. Writing exercises will be included, so come prepared to write! The exercises will focus primarily on poetry and flash fiction but will be useful for writers in any genre. Although geared toward newer writers, this workshop is open to writers at any career stage who are just beginning to develop an intentional writing practice.

Inside the Writers’ Room

It’s been almost a year of toilet paper shortages, dots six feet apart, and directional arrows in grocery store aisles. Not to mention no concerts, no plays, no dinner parties, no hugs. Couldn’t you use a laugh right now?

Join us for Inside the Writers’ Room, an evening with four writers from This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Heidi Brander, Adam Christie, Aisha Brown, and Jordan Foisey will talk about how they mined comedy gold from such hilarious subjects as the worldwide pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 American election/insurrection. Easy peasy.

Not only do the folks at home need entertainment in the biggest way right now, these writers also have a legacy of laughter to uphold. (Now in its 28th season, 22 Minutes is the longest-running comedy in Canadian history!) Heidi, Adam, Aisha, and Jordan will share clips from their favorite 22 sketches and give us a behind-the-scenes look at writing for a hit show while working from home.

The Writers’ Fed of Nova Scotia first presented this event—live and in-person—two years ago. Our faces hurt so much from laughing that we knew we’d like to try it again—except online this time via Zoom. Trevor Murphy—musician, publicist, and radio host—will be the moderator.

Inside the Writers’ Room is free and takes place Friday, March 12, at 8 pm, in your living room (or dining room or storm-chip-encrusted bed).

Register in advance to attend:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Zoom webinar.

This Hour Has 22 Minutes airs Tuesdays at 8:30 pm on CBC-TV and anytime on CBC Gem.

Lesley Choyce Double-Launch

On March 18, 7pm, join the WFNS in celebrating the double-launch of In Praise of Small Mistakes (Ekstasis Editions) & The Trouble With Everything (Pottersfield Press x Brussels Street Studios)—the newest poetry collection and the newest poetry album (in collaboration Doug Barron) by Nova Scotia’s most prolific author, Lesley Choyce.

We learn from our mistakes more often than from our success. This concept sets the stage for an unlikely and engaging examination of the minor and major events of a life. The events are perhaps down to earth, but Choyce comes at them from curious angles and presents his own singular interpretation of what the world offers up to an engaging mind. The geography is home on the coast of Nova Scotia but also on the streets of England, France, Italy, Greece, and Germany. Wandering through these landscapes, Choyce provides a virtual tour of the real and the imagined through the lens of a language equal parts perplexity and awe.

Lesley Choyce is the author of 100 books of literary fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and young adult novels. He runs Pottersfield Press and has worked as editor with a wide range of Canadian authors. Choyce has been teaching English and Creative Writing at Dalhousie and other universities for over thirty years. He has won the Dartmouth Book Award, the Atlantic Poetry Prize, and the Ann Connor Brimer Award and has been short-listed for the Governor General’s Award. He surfs year round in the North Atlantic.

The event is free and will be held by Zoom webinar. Register in advance to attend. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Zoom webinar.

This event is possible thanks to support from The Writers’ Union of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Unmute Your Mic

Remember “open mic nights”? When you’d screw up your courage, approach the mic stand, maybe perch uncomfortably on a high stool, and then recite your latest piece of writing? Glancing up from the page, you’d look out at… what’s that? An audience?! Real people looking back at you?

Well, we’re bringing back the feel of that old-timey writers’ salon — with a twist!

Abena Beloved Green will host three Unmute Your Mic events (held through Zoom), inviting you to “unmute your mic” and to share your work-in-progress.

Photo by Patrick Shannon
Abena Beloved Green is a poet, writer, and dancer who seeks to create, engage, and elevate through her artistic work. She was a two-time member of the Halifax Slam Team, competing in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. She is also the 2016 winner of the Atlantic Writing Competition’s Poetry Prize (now Nova Writes’ Rita Joe Poetry Prize) and the 3rd place finalist in the 2017 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam (Vancouver, British Columbia). Abena is a Canadian of Ghanaian heritage who lived in Nova Scotia most of her life and recently moved to Eastern Ontario. She is passionate about sustainability, creativity, and connection between living beings. Her first book of poetry is The Way We Hold On (Pottersfield Press, 2018), and her newest release is Ode to the Unpraised (Pottersfield Press, 2020).

The twist? A member of the WFNS Writers’ Council will join each event and offer feedback to the participating writers (by email and after the event).

Poetry & Spoken Word
with feedback provided by Halifax Poet Laureate Sue Goyette
Friday, February 12, 8:00pm to 9:30pm

Fiction & Storytelling
with feedback provided by novelist Donna Morrissey
Date change: Friday, March 19, 8:00pm to 9:30pm

Nonfiction & Storytelling
Friday, April 9, 8:00pm to 9:30pm

Unmute Your Mic events are free, and all are welcome to attend and to perform.

To attend as an audience member:

Pre-register once to attend any or all of the events by clicking the button below. 

To attend and perform:

Sign up to share your work by pre-registering to attend (using the button below) AND THEN filling out the form below. If we do not receive your sign-up form, we won’t know you’d like to perform.

Performance slots are limited (10 per event at 5 minutes each) and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you sign up for an event that’s already full, we’ll let you know and add you to the waitlist.

Unmute Your Mic sign-up form
(Signup for the Poetry & Spoken Word event is now closed.)

New poetry award honours Maxine Tynes

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) is naming its new literary award in honour of the late writer Maxine Tynes.

The Maxine Tynes Nova Scotia Poetry Award will be awarded every other year for the best book of poetry written by a Nova Scotian writer. The inaugural award will be presented this year during the Atlantic Book Awards virtual gala on May 13.

Fundraising for the new award started in 2020, with $1,800 received by an anonymous donor. More than 75 individual WFNS members also contributed to the endowment fund for the award. When Dr. Afua Cooper won the Portia White Prize in November, she named the WFNS her protégé, boosting the fund by $7,000. Additional donations were received from the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute and the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union.

“I am thrilled to be part of the initiative established to recognize Maxine Tynes,” says Dr. Cooper. “This pioneering Nova Scotian poet, over several decades, delighted us with stories of thunder, rain, formidable women, moonshine, windswept shores, Black Africans arriving from the sea, and making life on rocky land and swampy soil, and of sweet love in the afternoon. Maxine Tynes is our own people’s poet, and we celebrate her.”

Maxine was a celebrated poet, teacher, and lifelong resident of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. A descendant of Black Loyalists, she drew on their rich and enduring heritage in her writing. Her poems explored her Blackness, feminism, and physical disability. Maxine contracted polio as a child, and complications brought on by the disease led to her death in 2011 at the age of 62.

She wrote four books of poetry, all published by Pottersfield Press. Her first, Borrowed Beauty (1987), announced her as a major new talent and received the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award, recognizing her as a People’s Poet of Canada. Her later books include Woman Talking Woman (1990) and The Door of My Heart (1993), as well as a collection of poetry for children, Save the World For Me (1991).

Maxine championed the search for Black Nova Scotian identity and community. “We are constantly looking for who we are,” she wrote in Borrowed Beauty. “So many signals have been lost historically and culturally along the way.” She was also known as a beloved English teacher at Cole Harbour High and Auburn Drive High schools, where she worked for a combined 31 years. For excellence in teaching, she received a Canada Medal from the Governor General in 1993.

The new Maxine Tynes Nova Scotia Poetry Award joins the four other literary awards administered by the WFNS, including the $25,000 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, the J.M. Abraham Atlantic Poetry Award, the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award, and the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature.

Photo of Maxine Tynes by Albert Lee.

Taking Care of Business: A Professional Development Series

Like writers everywhere, our members are at many different levels of experience. We’re offering this four-session professional development series at one very low price, allowing you to focus on the areas where you need the most help. Simply register for one session, and you can drop in on any — or all — of them!

All sessions will be held via Zoom Webinar, and you must pre-register before the first session you wish to attend. You do not need a Zoom account to attend. If you are unfamiliar with Zoom and would like a preliminary introduction, here’s an overview of the platform.

Each session will start at 7:00pm (Atlantic Time) and will run for 1 to 1½ hours. Time will be set aside for participants to ask questions of the presenters.

Sign on the Dotted Line: Agents and Contracts

(Took place on Feb. 9)
What can you expect from an agent? How can you evaluate a publishing agreement? Join award-winning writer Vicki Grant and senior agent Fiona Kenshole (Transatlantic) as they discuss their author-agent relationship. Then stick around as lawyer Jillian Kean (McInnes Cooper) examines the fine print in publishing contracts.

Grant Writing

(Took place on Feb. 16)
Maybe you’d like some dedicated time to write. Or maybe you need to travel to do research. Maybe you’d like to do a writer’s residency and could use some support. Join us as writer Kate Inglis gives her tips for successful grant writing. Providing additional details on programs available to writers will be Enrique Ferreol (Program Officer, Arts Nova Scotia) and Andrew Steinmetz (Program Officer, Canada Council for the Arts).

Super Fans: Building an Engaged Social Media Community

(Took place on Feb. 23)
When you’ve spent two years with your head in a manuscript, jumping into social media doesn’t always feel like a natural transition. Yet with traditional book coverage at an all-time low, that’s exactly what prospective publishers expect you to do. In this PD session, author and communications specialist Sarah Sawler will give you the tools you need to build an engaged and supportive social community.

The Name of the Game: Finding a Publisher for your Book

(Took place on March 2)
Prolific author and publisher Lesley Choyce will unravel the mysteries around finding a publisher for your book manuscript. Because publishing is an ever-changing business — and it is just that, a business — creativity is not enough. For first time authors and for those with a publishing record, Lesley will illuminate the dark corners, give you a map through this maze, and discuss the process from both sides — that of a writer and that of a publisher.

Help us build the Second-Wave Relief Fund

So we’re all indoors once again — limiting our contact by staying home, waving hello to the computer at Zoom meetings, and planning for a quiet holiday season. COVID-19 and its lockdowns have been bearable for many of us but — as we all know — much more difficult for some of our fellow writers. Publishing dates have been delayed. Part-time jobs have dried up. And money for living expenses is running short.

This Giving Tuesday, the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is asking for help with our Second-Wave Relief Fund — newly established to help writers in precarious financial circumstances with immediate, non-deferrable living expenses, such as utility and phone bills, housing costs, groceries, and fuel. Beginning in January, 2021, the fund will provide applying writers with one-time disbursements of up to $250.

We have set aside some funds in the WFNS budget for this relief program — as well as for an annual assistance fund, which is still in development. We hope, with your donations, we can collectively help as many writers in need as possible. If you feel able at this time, please consider directly supporting our efforts. Whether $100, $50, or $20 — any amount will help, and any gift of $10 or more will qualify you for a charitable tax receipt.

If you are a writer in need of financial assistance, please keep an eye out for the launch of the Second-Wave Relief Fund in early January.

Yours Truly,

Lorri Neilsen Glenn
Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia 

Marilyn Smulders
Executive Director
Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia

Halifax Welcomes New Poet Laureate

On the morning of Tuesday, April 24, 2018, politicians, press, and arts organizers gathered at City Hall to welcome Halifax’s new poet laureate, Dr. Afua Cooper, a widely published author and the current James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University.

It was “a bittersweet day,” noted Elizabeth Taylor, Manager of Culture & Events for the Halifax Regional Municipality, as the crowd was gathered not just to welcome Dr. Cooper, but also to say good-bye to outgoing Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas, who had served in the role from 2016-2018.

After opening remarks from Taylor, Mayor Mike Savage greeted the crowd with a few words of his own. Poetry, he reflected, is intended “not necessarily to please, but to take a stand,” a principle exemplified by previous HRM Poet Laureates such as Rebecca Thomas and El Jones.

The ceremony proceeded with words from Dr. Cooper, who thanked her family, as well as the members of the local Jamaican community, for their support. Dr. Cooper also referenced her grandmother’s influence on her life and career. Her grandmother, she shared, was not so interested in telling her grandchildren folktales, but in public history, “the factual things”, and was the inspiration for her career as a historian.

Before closing her remarks with a recitation of her poem “Negro Cemeteries,” Dr. Cooper also thanked her African ancestors. “They were not meant to survive,” she reflected, referencing the history of the slave trade in the Americas, “but here I am.”

The ceremony closed with a reading from Rebecca Thomas, who shared her poem “Footnotes,” which she said shared the hope “for all the things I care about.”

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is happy to share that later that day, Dr. Cooper stopped by our offices to renew her membership with the WFNS.

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