Workshops

A Speculative Fiction Expedition (virtual) with Sherry D. Ramsey

In this workshop, we’ll journey through the landscape of science fiction and fantasy, stopping to explore what makes a story or poem ‘speculative,’ tropes and expectations of the genres, and the best ways to build engaging story worlds. We’ll scout out what makes strong speculative fiction writing that feels fresh and offers something new, and we’ll consider new and developing sub-genres and trends. We’ll discover how and where to find inspiration for speculative fiction ideas in the ‘real world,’ discuss the various publication routes we might take with these stories, and look at where the market is headed. Each session, we’ll also spend some time writing to explore these ideas.

About the instructor: Sherry D. Ramsey writes science fiction and fantasy, for both adults and young adults, and is one of the founding editors of Cape Breton’s Third Person Press. She has published over thirty short stories nationally and internationally, and her bestselling space opera Nearspace series is published by Edmonton’s Tyche Books. Her works for younger readers include the YA fantasy The Seventh Crow (Dreaming Robot Press, 2015), the middle grade science fiction adventure Planet Fleep (2018), and a collection of short fiction. The first novel-length work in her urban fantasy Olympia Investigations series was released in 2023. She’s currently completing a comic fantasy novel, as well as teaching English courses as a sessional instructor at Cape Breton University. She (rather obviously, if you’ve been paying attention) lives in Cape Breton, where she consumes far more coffee and chocolate than is likely good for her.

Recommended experience level: New and emerging writers, as well as early-career and established authors exploring speculative fiction and its subgenres (About recommended experience levels)

Participant cap: 12

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Tuesdays, May 7 + May 14 + May 28 + June 4, 2024 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)
Please note: there is no session on May 21.

Registration (for 2024 General Members & for nonmembers): $169

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 a fee alternative.

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Fiction Intensive: The Short Story (virtual) with Sharon English

Intensive workshops combine elements of WFNS’s traditional creative writing and professional development workshops with peer-to-peer feedback (facilitated by the instructor) to guide writers through the feedback, revision, and submission processes that form the path from completed draft to submitted manuscript.

Participants must have a completed draft before the workshop begins and must commit to reading other participants’ drafts between workshop sessions.

You’ve written a story, yet you’re unsure whether it’s ready to meet the world. Or you’ve sent out several stories, yet publication has been elusive or rare. Both situations are common for writers, no matter how experienced, because as Francine Prose reminds us, “a story creates its own world.” A story drawing too much on familiar tropes feels predictable, cliché, yet an inventive story needs enough coherence and polish to make it sing.

In this workshop you’ll learn strategies for balancing familiarity and novelty by developing your work through revision, which focuses on larger narrative issues, and through editing at the sentence level. By exchanging your stories with other participants, you’ll learn to hone your self-editing skills, to work with feedback from readers, and to offer—and receive—supportive, practical responses to works-in-progress. Writing communities and groups are essential for these reasons and more. We’ll also spend time discussing paths to publication, including where and how to submit your fiction.

Three of the five sessions will involve workshopping participants’ completed short stories drafts, as well as instruction. All genres of fiction are welcome and will enrich our discussions.

About the instructor: Sharon English is the author of three books of literary fiction and numerous essays and is a creative writing teacher, mentor, and editor. Her books include the recently released Night in the World (Freehand Books, May 2022), a first novel praised as “splendid and searing … pressed up against the tremours of our times” (Catherine Bush). Sharon’s previous books are two collections of short stories, Uncomfortably Numb (2002) and Zero Gravity (2006). Zero Gravity was longlisted for the Giller Prize, shortlisted for the ReLit Award, and named a Globe & Mail Best 100 title of the year. A translation into Serbian was published in 2020. Sharon has taught fiction and creative nonfiction for over 15 years. She’s currently a part-time Assistant Professor in the Writing & Rhetoric program at the University of Toronto. Since moving to Nova Scotia, Sharon’s been teaching creative writing at Dalhousie and through the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. She also edits and mentors writers privately, and offers writing workshops.

Recommended experience level: Emerging writers and early-career authors of fiction with at least two short story publications in magazines, journals, or anthologies—or with similar publication experience in another form or genre (About recommended experience levels)

Participant cap: 6

Location: Zoom

Dates of 5-week workshop: Wednesdays, Apr 10 + Apr 17 + Apr 24 + May 1 + May 8, 2024 (7:00pm to 9:00pm Atlantic)

Registration for 2024 General Members: $239

Registration for non-members: $304 (includes 2024 General Membership in WFNS)

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Writing Grief: A Poetry Workshop (virtual) with Ben Gallagher

This workshop is focused on the topic of grief, and how difficult losses are expressed through poetry. As we read poets who have expressed their own grief, we will also explore questions such as: how do formal or technical poetic concerns relate to our emotional landscapes? What does it mean to share our private losses publicly through poetry? What are the limitations or inadequacies of poetry when it comes to expressing loss? What is gained from writing poems about grief, and how is this different than other forms of therapy or relief? This workshop will necessarily bring up challenging feelings and subjects, and participants should come with a willingness to support each other and take care of themselves. But it is also a poetry workshop, and so participants should also come expecting to both read and write a number of poems across the workshop sessions.

About the instructor: Ben Gallagher lives in West Dublin, Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia), with his wife and two children. He is researching poetic practices in community poetry workshops for a PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Ben is a Zen practitioner with the Oak Tree in the Garden sangha. His first poetry collection, A Grief Cave (Frontenac House, 2022), explores the movement between mourning and joy, sudden loss and new life.

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

Participant cap: 12

Location: Zoom

Dates of 4-week workshop: Tuesdays, Apr 2 + Apr 9 + Apr 16 + Apr 23, 2024 (7pm to 9pm Atlantic)

Registration for 2024 General Members: $169

Registration for non-members: $234 (includes 2024 General Membership in WFNS)

Registration for this workshop is closed.

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that participants in any given workshop have similar levels of creative writing and / or publication experience. This ensures that each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their career stage. The “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions used by WFNS.

  • New writers: those with less than two years’ creative writing experience and/or no short-form publications (e.g., short stories, personal essays, or poems in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with more than two years’ creative writing experience and/or numerous short-form publications.
  • Early-career authors: those with 1 or 2 book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short-form publications.
  • Established authors: those with 3 or 4 book-length publications.
  • Professional authors: those with 5 or more book-length publications.

Please keep in mind that each form of creative writing (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children and young adults) provides you with a unique set of experiences and skills, so you might consider yourself an ‘established author’ in one form but a ‘new writer’ in another.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed closely.

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