Workshops

Telling Your Story (virtual) with Joanne Gallant

Memoirs have the ability to turn deeply personal experiences into ones that are universally felt and understood by readers.

In this workshop, you’ll learn how to find the story you want to tell—the one that will draw your readers closer to you—and how to set expectations for what you wish to achieve. You will walk away with tools to help guide you throughout the process of writing your memoir, including how to write with truth when memory is fallible; how to identify whether a piece is yours to share (or not); and how to use each of your senses creatively to support your practice. We will also discuss the ethics of writing about people in your life and how memoir writing is an endeavour that requires writers to take care of themselves (as well as those around you). Writing prompts will provide the opportunity to write and share your work during each session.

About the instructor: Joanne Gallant is a writer and nurse whose debut book, A Womb in the Shape of a Heart: My Story of Miscarriage and Motherhood, won the 2022 John and Margaret Savage First Book Award. Her pieces have been published in Oh Reader Magazine and Mutha Magazine, and her book reviews have been featured in The Miramichi Reader. She was a reader for the 2022 CBC nonfiction prize and the judge for the Nova Writes H.R. (Bill) Percy Creative Non-fiction prize. She lives in Halifax with her family, where she works and writes in her house by the sea.

Recommended experience level: New and emerging memoir writers (About recommended experience levels)

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Tuesdays, Mar 21 + Mar 28 + Apr 4 + Apr 11, 2023 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2023 General Membership in WFNS)

2023 member price: $149

Voice and Perspective in Poetry (virtual) with Annick MacAskill

How can an analysis of voice and perspective shift our understanding of poetry and our own writing practice?

In this workshop, we will consider the interactions among perspective, point of view, voice, and style in poetry. Our time will be filled with discussion, readings, and writing exercises. Participants should bring two or three fully or partially drafted poems that they’re not quite happy with—and they can expect to come away with new strategies for their poetry and a few new drafts.

About the instructor: Annick MacAskill is the author of the poetry collections Shadow Blight (Gaspereau, 2022), winner of the 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language poetry; Murmurations (Gaspereau, 2020); and No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau, 2018), a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the JM Abraham Award. Her poems have appeared in journals across Canada and abroad and in the Best Canadian Poetry anthology series. She lives in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), on the traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq.

Recommended experience level: All writers, from new to established (About recommended experience levels)

Location: Zoom

Dates of 3-week workshop: Tuesdays, Mar 21 + Mar 28 + Apr 4, 2023 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $174 (includes 2023 General Membership in WFNS)

2023 member price: $109

Swords, Spaceships, Spectres, & Stanzas: Writing Genre Poetry (virtual) with Tiffany Morris

What makes a poem about dragons different from a poem with dragons in it? How do you write from the perspective of bones? What does a cyborg have to do with a sonnet?

From Poe’s “The Raven” to Franny Choi’s Soft Science, poetry and the speculative genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror have worked together to explore and convey the uncanny, the strange, and the fantastical. In this workshop, participants will read, discuss, and write genre poetry in sessions devoted to the history and creation of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

About the instructor: Tiffany Morris is a Mi’kmaw/settler writer of speculative fiction and poetry from Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Nova Scotia. She is the author of the horror poetry collection Elegies of Rotting Stars (Nictitating Books, 20220. Her work has appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, and Apex Magazine, among others. She has an MA in English with a focus on Indigenous Futurisms, is a member of the Speculative Fiction Poetry Association and the Horror Writers Association, and has had work nominated for Elgin, Rhysling, and Aurora Awards.

Recommended experience level: All writers, from new to established (About recommended experience levels)

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Mondays, Feb 20 + Feb 27 + Mar 6 + Mar 13, 2023 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Member/non-member price: $149

Elements as Allies: Land-based Fiction & Nonfiction (virtual) with Sharon English

We’re used to thinking about the elements of writing and language, yet natural elements can also be powerful allies and teachers on our creative paths. How might a river call you to write its story? What happens when you follow the wind, or light a winter fire? In this 4-part workshop, we work in place to deepen our relationship with the terrains that support us, focusing on water, air, earth and fire. Through activities, writing shares, suggested readings and lively discussions, writers will see how working with elements as creative agents—giving the land centrality—can generate new perspectives, both crucial and revealing in our work as writers.

About the instructor: As a writing teacher, Sharon English has taught courses in fiction and creative nonfiction at the University of Toronto since 2008 and at Dalhousie. Her books include the newly released Night in the World (2022), described as “a splendid and searing novel, pressed up against the tremours of our times.” She’s also published two collections of short stories, Uncomfortably Numb and Zero Gravity, which was longlisted for the Giller Prize, shortlisted for the ReLit Award, a Globe & Mail Best 100 title of the year, and recently translated into Serbian. She was guest co-editor of the Winter 2020 special issue of CNQ, “Writing in an Age of Unravelling,” which featured writing that addresses ecological crisis. Her work has also appeared in numerous journals, including Best Canadian Stories, Dark Matter: Women Witnessing, and Dark Mountain in Britain. Originally from London, ON, and a long-time resident of Toronto, she now lives with her husband in rural Nova Scotia.

Recommended experience level: All writers, from new to established (About recommended experience levels)

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Mondays, Feb 6 + Feb 13 + Feb 27 + Mar 6, 2023 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)
[Please note: there is no workshop session on Feb 20]

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2023 General Membership in WFNS)

2023 member price: $149

Fiction Masterclass: Revision (virtual) with Carol Bruneau

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

About the instructor: Carol Bruneau is the author of nine books: three short fiction collections and six novels, including Brighten the Corner Where You Are (2020) and A Circle on the Surface (2018.) Her first novel, Purple for Sky, won the 2001 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and the Dartmouth Book Award.

Required experience level: Established writers and professional authors (About recommended experience levels)

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Wednesdays, Jan 18 + Jan 25 + Feb 1 + Feb 8, 2023 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2023 General Membership in WFNS)

2023 member price: $149

Poetry about Places: How to Avoid Being a Tourist (virtual) with John Wall Barger

It’s tricky to write about the places we visit. Travel poems come with a flood of unfortunate expectations: sentimentality, clichés, souvenirs, and so on. How can we refrain from being tourists in our own poems? How can we allow a place to be “real” and “authentic” without projecting our expectations onto it? How, for example, could Paris be anything other than romantic, city of love, beautiful, historical… ? How can we convey, through poems, the complicated, nuanced, wild, deeply personal experience of standing on a street in another city? In this workshop, you’ll learn some skills that will help you approach this much-trodden road with freshness and innovation.

About the instructor: John Wall Barger’s poems and critical writing have appeared in American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review Online, ZYZZYVA, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Best of the Best Canadian Poetry. His sixth book of poems, Smog Mother, came out with Palimpsest Press in fall of 2022. He is a contract editor for Frontenac House and teaches in the BFA Program for Creative Writing at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Recommended experience level: All writers, from new to established (About recommended experience levels)

Location: Zoom

Dates of 3-week workshop: Mondays, Jan 16 + Jan 23 + Jan 30, 2023 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $174 (includes 2023 General Membership in WFNS)

2023 member price: $109

Poetry Intensive (virtual) with Margo Wheaton

The goal of WFNS’s new “intensive” workshops is to guide writers through the feedback, revision, and submission processes that form the path from completed draft to submitted manuscript. Each “intensive” combines elements of WFNS’s traditional creative writing workshops and professional development sessions with the peer-to-peer feedback (facilitated by the instructor) that makes informal writing groups so valuable. Participants must have a completed draft before the workshop begins and must commit to reading other participants’ drafts between workshop sessions.

"From a Batch of Poems to a Unified Whole:
The Art of Crafting a Chapbook "

The magical process by which a poet transforms a bunch of seemingly unconnected poems into a unified manuscript, one ready to enter the world as a chapbook, can seem mysterious and fraught. How do you know when your poems are ready? Which poems should you use and which should you rewrite or discard? And what’s a chapbook, anyway?

A poetry chapbook is frequently the first volume a poet ever publishes. Although opinions vary, chapbooks are frequently about 10 – 20 pages in length. Doing the thoughtful work that is required to turn a batch of individual poems into a chapbook manuscript, one that’s ready to send to a publisher, enables you to develop the same skills that are required to create a full-length book of poems.

In this five-part workshop series, writers will discover the synergy that exists in a selection of their own poems and explore the innate structure and scaffolding upon which to build a polished chapbook manuscript. Through a combination of peer workshopping, group discussion, and facilitator-led presentations, participants will receive the feedback, knowledge, and skills that will enable them to move their own chapbook manuscripts from draft stage to final version. By the end of this workshop intensive, participants will know what sequencing is and have strategies to find their poems’ best order. They will have discerned their manuscript’s unique narrative arc and be able to check for consistency and flow. Participants will also identify the main subjects, themes and stylistic forms upon which they will focus their manuscripts. This will help them gain clarity about which poems to discard, as well as a sense of what new pieces they may need to write in order to create a strong chapbook manuscript. In the final session, participants will learn about the mechanics of preparing and submitting a chapbook manuscript for publication and explores options for submitting it.

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

Recommended experience level: Emerging and established poetry writers with at least two publications in magazines, journals, or anthologies—or with similar publication experience in another form or genre (About recommended experience levels)

Location: Zoom

Dates of 5-week workshop: Tuesdays, Nov 15 + Nov 22 + Nov 29 + Dec 6 + Dec 13, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $254 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $189

Fiction Intensive (virtual) with Stephanie Domet

The goal of WFNS’s new “intensive” workshops is to guide writers through the feedback, revision, and submission processes that form the path from completed draft to submitted manuscript. Each “intensive” combines elements of WFNS’s traditional creative writing workshops and professional development sessions with the peer-to-peer feedback (facilitated by the instructor) that makes informal writing groups so valuable. Participants must have a completed draft before the workshop begins and must commit to reading other participants’ drafts between workshop sessions.

The Novel

There are many paths to publication, and most of them start with a polished draft. In this fiction intensive, you’ll learn strategies and techniques for revision including self-editing and editing with peer feedback. You’ll also learn the basic best practices of preparing your polished manuscript for submission: writing a synopsis, writing query letters, and preparing for self-promotion/publicity—not to mention managing the feelings that arise at every stage.

No matter what path you take to publication, one of the most vital tools in a writer’s kit can be their peer relationships: a writers’ group can be a supportive atmosphere for ongoing professional development, so we’ll also focus on building and navigating writers’ group relationships, including guidance on how to develop feedback for peers and work with feedback from peers.

Participants should have at least a messy first draft of their novel in order to benefit fully from this workshop—but those with a messy first draft of a short story and a desire to learn about the novel are equally welcome.

About the instructor: Stephanie Domet is a writer and editor who lives in Kjipuktuk. She is the author of two novels for adults—Homing and Fallsy Downsies—and a book for middle grade readers called Amazing Atlantic Canadian Women. She is the co-founder and co-executive director of AfterWords Literary Festival, and she is probably wearing something she sewed.

Recommended experience level: Emerging and established fiction writers with at least one traditionally or self-published novel OR two publications in magazines, journals, or anthologies—or with similar publication experience in another form or genre (About recommended experience levels)

Location: Zoom

Dates of 5-week workshop: Mondays, Nov 7 + Nov 14 + Nov 21 + Nov 28 + Dec 5, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $254 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $189

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Recommended Experience Levels

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

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

  • New writers: those who have been writing creatively for less than two years and/or have not yet been published in any form.
  • Emerging writers: those who have been writing creatively for less than five years and/or have some short publications (poems, stories, or essays) in literary magazines, journals, or anthologies.
  • Established writers/authors: those with numerous publications in magazines, journals, or anthologies and/or a full-length book publication.
  • Professional authors: those with two or more full-length book publications.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer (that is, participant-to-participant) feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed.

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

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