Nova Reads

Nova Reads is an occasional series of relaxed evening socials featuring the reading of passages by some of our province’s major literary contributors.

On February 7, 2024, local drag artist Anna Mona-Pia, NDP MLA Lisa Lachance, meteorologist Cindy Day, and CBC’s Portia Clarke shone a light on Nova Scotian authors of romance fiction, readings passages from

  • Donna Alward’s The House on Blackberry Hill,
  • Katerina Bakolias’s Luscious Love,
  • Renee Field’s The Heart of the Family,
  • Deanna Foster’s Post Mortem Management,
  • Cathryn Fox’s Kilt Trip,
  • Deborah Hale’s The Bonny Bride,
  • Michelle Helliwell’s A Captivating Caper,
  • and Nicole Northwood’s The Devil You Know.

Romance trope bingo and door prizes were provided by Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada. Book sales were provided by Dartmouth Book Exchange.

Held at The Carleton (1685 Argyle St, Halifax), this ticketed event raised funds for WFNS programming.


The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is grateful to Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, The Carleton, and Dartmouth Book Exchange for their partnership in realizing Nova Swoons.

On January 17, 2023, Annick MacAskill and five fellow Nova Scotian poets (Nanci Lee, Samantha Sternberg, Tiffany Morris, Anna Quon, and Jaime Forsythe) read from Shadow Blight (Gaspereau Press, 2022), MacAskill’s third, Governor General Award-winning collection. This in-person event was free to attend and was co-presented by Halifax Public Libraries.

Shadow Blight considers the pain and isolation of pregnancy loss through the lens of classical myth. Drawing on the stories of Niobe—whose monumental suffering at the loss of her children literally turned her to stone—and others, this collection explores the experience of being swept away by grief and silenced by the world. Skirting the tropes (“o how beautiful / the poets make our catastrophes”), MacAskill interweaves the ancient with the contemporary in a way that opens possibilities and offers a new language for those “shut up in stillness.”

Annick MacAskill is a poet from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who won the Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry at the 2022 Governor General’s Awards for her collection Shadow Blight. Her other books, also published by Gaspereau Press, are Murmurations and No Meeting Without Body.

On May 19, 2021, remembrances of the late Charles Saunders and passages from his fiction and non-fiction works will be shared by David Woods (multidisciplinary artist and arts organization leader), George Elliott Clarke (Canada’s 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate), Judy Kavanagh (editor and Saunders’s Daily News colleague), Bill Turpin (managing editor of The Daily News), Milton Davis (author of 19 books of Black fantastic fiction), and Taaq Kirksey (television producer and developer of Saunders’s Imaro novel series for screen). Hosted by journalist Jon Tattrie (author of Peace by Chocolate) and held virtually via Zoom, this edition of Nova Reads was free to attend and was co-presented by Halifax Public Libraries and the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute.

Charles Saunders (1946 – 2020) was an African-American author and journalist who moved to Ontario in 1969 and then Nova Scotia in 1985. While a copyeditor and writer at Halifax’s The Daily News, where he worked for nearly two decades, Saunders penned numerous columns grappling with difficult racial issues, contributed to The Spirit of Africville (1992), and authored the book-length community profile Black and Bluenose (1999). Saunders also pioneered the “sword and soul” literary genre through his Imaro series of fantasy novels, begun in 1981. His fiction was groundbreaking not merely for its anti-colonial reimagining of figures like Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian but also for its worldbuilding centered on Black characters and cultures.

On April 14, 2021, favourite passages from the work of Elizabeth Bishop were read by Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia members, including Brian Bartlett (prolific poet, essayist, nature writer, and editor); Virginia Konchan (author of three poetry collections, including Any God Will Do); Annick MacAskill (author of two collections, including Murmurations); Sam Sternberg (poet, librarian, and alum of the WFNS Poetry in Motion program); Margo Wheaton (author of The Unlit Path Behind the House and a poetry editor at The Dalhousie Review); and Rita Wilson (author of A Pocket of Time: The Poetic Childhood of Elizabeth Bishop). Held virtually via Zoom, the event was free to attend.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911 – 1979) was an American-born poet who discovered her capacious gift while growing up in Great Village, Nova Scotia. Although her work eschews the confessionalism of her contemporaries, her time in this province — and her queerness, long ignored by critics — inform much of her poetic mythology and how we understand it today.

On April 9, 2019, favourite passages from the work of Budge Wilson were read by Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia members, including Budge Wilson herself. Award-winning author Jill MacLean (The Nine Lives of Travis Keating; Nix Minus One; The Beauty of Red) provided an introduction to Wilson’s work. Other readers include Lorri Neilsen Glenn (Following the River: Traces of Red River Women), Carol Mcdougall (director of the Read to Me program at the IWK Health Centre), Sarah Emsley (Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues), and Don Aker (The First Stone; The Fifth Rule; Running on Empty). Held at The Watch That Ends the Night, a Dartmouth restaurant and cocktail bar named after a novel by Hugh MacLennan, the event was free to attend.

Budge Wilson was born and educated in Nova Scotia, but spent many years in Ontario, returning home in 1989. She began writing later in life, after teaching and working as a commercial artist, as a photographer, and for over 20 years as a fitness instructor. Her first book appeared in 1984, and she has now published more than 33 (with 27 foreign editions in 14 languages) and appeared in more than 90 anthologies. Her most recent book, After Swissair (2016), is a poetry collection chronicling the aftermath of the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia on September 2, 1998. Her books have been frequently read and dramatized on CBC, American, and Danish Radio. Wilson’s The Leaving received the ALA’s Notable Book Award and was listed among its Best Books for Young Adults; it was also named a Horn Book Fanfare Book, a School Library Journal’s Best Book (1992), one of the Library of Congress’s 100 Noteworthy Children’s Books (1992), a National Council of Teachers of English Notable Children’s Book (1993), one of NYPL’s Books for the Teen Age (1993), and one of ALA’s 75 Best Children’s Books of the Last 25 Years (1994). Wilson’s Before Green Gables has appeared in 11 countries and seven languages, been animated in Japanese, been recognized by Quill & Quire as one of the Best Books of 2008, and earned Budge Wilson the Atlantic Independent Booksellers’ Choice Award (2009).

On February 20, 2018, favourite passages from the work of Hugh MacLennan (1907-1990) were read by Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia members. Alexander MacLeod, writer and professor of English and Atlantic Canadian Studies at Saint Mary’s University, provided an introduction to MacLennan’s work. Held at The Watch That Ends the Night, a Dartmouth restaurant and cocktail bar named after a novel by MacLennan, the event was free to attend.

A novelist, essayist, and professor, the Glace Bay-born MacLennan is perhaps best known as “the first major English-speaking writer to attempt a portrayal of Canada’s national character,” according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. His books include Barometer Rising (1941), Two Solitudes (1945), Each Man’s Son (1951), The Watch That Ends the Night (1959), and Return of the Sphinx (1967), among others. A Rhodes scholar, MacLennan was recognized for his work with five Governor General’s Literary Awards, three for fiction and two for fiction. The Tragically Hip’s song “Courage” references MacLennan’s The Watch That Ends the Night: the song’s final verse paraphrases the novel’s closing lines.

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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