Workshops

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

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

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

About the instructors:

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

Recommended experience level: New and emerging writers

Location: Zoom

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

Non-member price: $284 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $219

Writing Sci-Fi & Fantasy Short Stories (Virtual) with Julian Mortimer Smith

In this 4-week workshop, students will learn how to craft speculative fiction (SF) short stories—with a focus on the elements that are specific to speculative fiction: setting and worldbuilding, suspension-of-disbelief, introducing readers to unfamiliar concepts, and the unique challenges of characterization in SF stories. The workshop will also include an overview of SF markets and offer tips on publishing sci-fi and fantasy stories.

About the instructor: Julian Mortimer Smith (julianmortimersmith.com) is a writer of speculative fiction. His short stories have appeared in many of the world’s top science fiction and fantasy publications, including Asimov’s, Lightspeed, Terraform, and Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. His first book, The World of Dew and Other Stories, was published by Indiana University Press and won the 2020 Blue Light Books prize. He lives in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Recommended experience level: New and emerging writers

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Wednesdays, May 4 + May 11 + May 18 + May 25, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $149

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

In this 3-session workshop, participants will be invited to explore and deepen their own artistic relationship to a landscape that inspires and impassions them. Through a blend of targeted group discussions, short required readings, and focused writing exercises—including plein air exercises outdoors—participants will discover the richness and particularities of writing about a landscape as a living, breathing, and changing entity.

Each workshop will also feature a 30-minute Q&A session with an invited guest writer who will share specific writing strategies based on their practice of landscape-based writing. Guest writers include Brian Bartlett, Allan Cooper, and Basma Kavanagh.

As an integral part of learning how to engage with a particular landscape artistically and consciously, an ecological lens will be employed throughout.

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

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

Location: Zoom

Dates of 3-week workshop: Saturdays, Apr 23 + Apr 30 + May 7, 2022 (10:00am to 12:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $149

Promptly: The Workshop (virtual)

Looking for inspiration to kickstart your writing? You needn’t look any further than Promptly: a miscellany of writing tips and tales by 24 Nova Scotian authors, published by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and designed & printed by Gaspereau Press.

But if you do want to look a bit further, consider the second edition of Promptly: the workshop! This workshop features a different Promptly contributor each week—an experienced writer who will share a writing prompt; talk about how, when, and why they’ve used it; and invite participants to give it a whirl. Prepare to have fun, write, and share your work.

About the instructors:

  • Apr 12: Anna Quon (member of the WFNS Board of Directors and an organizer behind Promptly) is a novelist and poet who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has published a poetry chapbook, Body Parts (2021) with Gaspereau Press and two novels with Invisible Publishing, Migration Songs (2009) and Low (2013). Her third novel, Where the Silver River Ends, will be released in March, 2022. Facebook and salt and vinegar chips are together her predilection, addiction, and affliction.
  • Apr 19: Jacqueline Dumas enjoys observing the woods and critters outside her window. Because she is the non-owner of either pets or houseplants, she likes to pack her writing materials, lock the door behind her, and set off on a spur-of-the-moment road trip. Her latest novel is The Heart Begins Here, which was a finalist for the 2019 Golden Crown Literary Award.
  • Apr 26: Andre Fenton is an author and spoken word poet. He has written two novels and is working on a third. His is also double jointed and can twist his arms backwards without even noticing.
  • May 3: Christy Ann Conlin is a middle-aged mermaid who writes by the sea. She lives the sandwich generation life with her sprawling family of children and elders. Conlin was once the Berwick Fire Prevention Queen and Nova Scotia provincial square dance champion. She still loves nothing better than to shoot the star the promenade all around.

Recommended experience level: New writers and seasoned scribes alike

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Tuesdays, Apr 12 + Apr 19 + Apr 26 + May 3 (7:00pm to 8:00pm Atlantic)

Registration fee + a copy of Promptly (shipping included): $120

Registration fee only: $100

Proceeds from Promptly: the workshop—like those from Promptly the book—will support the endowment for the Elizabeth Venart Prize, which recognizes the unique barriers to literary creation faced by women and other marginalized genders and supports these writers as they advance works-in-progress.

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

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

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

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

Location: Zoom

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

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $149

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

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

Scenes are the building blocks of story and make fiction feel ‘real’ to the reader. Scenes are where drama happens, and learning to “stay in scene” will benefit writers of novels, short fiction, and flash fiction.

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

Recommended experience level: New and emerging writers

Location: Zoom

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

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $149

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

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

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

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

Location: Zoom

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

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $149

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

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

About the co-instructors: Andre Fenton is an award-winning spoken word artist & filmmaker who has represented Halifax at 7 national poetry slams across Canada. He is an author of three books, Ode to Teen Angst (2016), Worthy of Love (Formac, 2018), and ANNAKA (Nimbus, 2019). He is based in the Halifax area. Rebecca Thomas is an award-winning Mi’kmaw poet. She is Halifax’s former Poet Laureate (2016 – 2018) and has coordinated the Halifax Slam Poetry team (2014 – 2017). She is also the author of the children’s book I’m Finding My Talk (Globe & Mail Top 100 Pick of 2019; CBC Best Picture Book of 2019; and multi-award nominee) and the collection of adult poetry I place you into the fire (CBC Best Canadian Poetry pick of 2020).

Recommended experience level: New and emerging writers

Location: Zoom

Dates of 3-week workshop: Mondays, Mar 14 + Mar 21 + Mar 28, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm)

Nonmember/member price: $149

Price for BIPOC writers/artists: $49

If the registration fee would make it difficult or impossible for you to participate in this workshop, we encourage you to contact Andy at communications@writers.ns.ca to arrange for a partial or complete fee wavier.

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

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

Instructor Sheree Fitch is currently at work on a mythical, magical, mysterious work (for adults) and hopes to share some of her recent discoveries. She will use brief guided meditation and offer exercises to spark new work or to inspire and integrate fresh ideas into a current work in progress.

About the instructor: Sheree Fitch’s first two books, Toes in My Nose (1987) and Sleeping Dragons All Around (1989), launched her career as a poet, rhymester, and a “kind of Canadian female Dr. Seuss.” Since then, she has won almost every major award for Canadian children’s literature, including the Vicky Metcalfe Award for a Body of Work Inspirational to Canadian Children. She has more than 25 books to her credit, including her latest book for children, Summer Feet, and a collection of moments, You Won’t Always Be This Sad.

Recommended experience level: Emerging and established writers

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Mondays, Mar 14 + Mar 21 + Mar 28 + Apr 4, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Non-member price: $214 (includes 2022 General Membership in WFNS)

2022 member price: $149

Yikes! I’m a writer? (virtual) with Lesley Crewe (March)

This is a fiction workshop for innocent folks who think they’d like to be a writer. But do your eyes glaze over when you hear words like “plot,” “structure,” and “point of view?” Does your anxiety level rise when someone discusses, “narrative voice,” or “dramatic effect”? Then this is the workshop for you!

Lesley Crewe likes ‘simple’ and wants to give you some hints about what helped her to write 13 books in 16 years. She never meant to be a writer, and she’s an expert in absolutely nothing, but she has learned a thing or two on this journey. Like what to do when your characters refuse to cooperate. Simple. Kill them off.

There is nothing academic about this—just stuff that can make life easier while writing book after book. Prepare to moan about writing from the comfort of your own home!

About the instructor: Lesley Crewe is the author of 11 novels, including Relative Happiness (Nimbus Publishing, 2005), which has been adapted as a major motion picture; Mary Mary (Nimbus Publishing, 2016); and Beholden (Nimbus Publishing, 2018).

Recommended experience level: New and emerging fiction writers

Location: Zoom

Date of workshop: Thursday, Mar 10, 2022 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Nonmember/member price: $39

Registration for this workshop is now closed.

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