Oliver-Craig Black Writers' Retreat

The Oliver-Craig Black Writers’ Retreat (two weeks in length) is open only to permanent residents of Nova Scotia. Successful applicants are provided with free residence, an honorarium of $500, and the instruction, mentorship, and advice of a distinguished Black or African Nova Scotian author.

This retreat aims to amplify the voices of Black and African Nova Scotian writers, who have been and are marginalized by systemic inequality, particularly within Canadian publishing.

Held at Jampolis Cottage in Avonport, NS, each retreat offers two or three emerging Black or African Nova Scotian writers some of the best elements of a writing residency, a writing workshop, and a writing mentorship:

  • Two weeks of free residence at Jampolis Cottage in Avonport, NS; a $500 honorarium; and plenty of unstructured time to focus on writing and to connect with fellow writers
  • 10 group workshop sessions led by the retreat mentor
  • 3 one-on-one feedback and advisory sessions with the retreat mentor

Catered lunches on weekdays encourage interaction among the retreat mentor and participants in a more casual mode. A fully-stocked and -equipped pantry, fridge, and kitchen ensure that retreat participants have the freedom to make breakfasts, dinners, and snacks either together or for themselves.

The Oliver-Craig Black Writers’ Retreat is a tribute to the friendship between the Oliver and Craig families and is generously funded by the Honourable Don Oliver (CM, ONS, KC) and The Craig Foundation, founded by Joan and Jack Craig. In its inaugural year, the retreat was realized with additional investment from RBC Emerging Artists.

The 2023 mentor for the Oliver-Craig Black Writers’ Retreat is Sylvia D. Hamilton, a writer, poet, artist, and filmmaker. Her work explores the lives and experiences of people of African descent, with a special focus on African Nova Scotians, especially women.

Applications will be accepted from emerging writers working in all genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

To be considered for the Oliver-Craig Black Writers’ Retreat, the applying writer must meet the following criteria.

  • You must identify as Black, African Nova Scotia, or African Canadian.
  • You must be an emerging writer, having not traditionally published or self-published more than two book-length literary projects.
  • You must be a permanent resident of Nova Scotia (i.e., you have lived in Nova Scotia permanently for at least one year and you file your taxes here). Out-of-province college/university students and seasonal residents are ineligible.
  • You must be 19 years of age of older by the current program deadline.

Oliver-Craig Retreat application packages must contain all components listed below and must be submitted by the application deadline. Each application package must be submitted as a single digital document (in .doc or .pdf format) with a file name as follows: FirstName LastName – Oliver-Craig Retreat (where “FirstName” is your given name and “LastName” is your family name or chosen surname). Incomplete, late, non-digital, or misnamed application packages are ineligible.

A. ‘Cover letter’—that is, personal responses up to 2 pages total (single-spaced; in 12-pt Times New Roman or Arial font) to the following questions. All questions must be answered within these 2 pages, but the length of any particular response is up to you. Please start a new paragraph for each response.

  1. How long have you been writing creatively?
  2. Summarize your creative writing activity for the past twelve months.
  3. Describe the work(s)-in-progress that you would like to continue, complete, revise, or otherwise develop during the retreat (including number of pages drafted). If describing a single work-in-progress, it should be long-form fiction, nonfiction, or poetry (i.e., a book-length manuscript or collection). If describing short-form fiction, nonfiction, or poetic works-in-progress, please include a number appropriate to the retreat’s length.
  4. Outline the next steps for your work(s)-in-progress.
  5. How do you prioritize creative writing in your life?
  6. What do you hope to gain from this writers’ retreat?

B. Writing sample from the work(s)-in-progress of 10 to 15 pages (double-spaced for prose; single-spaced for poetry; in 12-pt Times New Roman or Arial font). Poetry samples may use others fonts only if typeface is integral to the project.

If you require assistance in completing or submitting an application (whether technical, accessibility-related, or otherwise), please contact communications@writers.ns.ca as early as possible in your application process. Such assistance may extend up to one week after the application deadline has passed, but the initial request for assistance must be received by the application deadline.

All applicants will be notified of results within three weeks of the application deadline.

After application packages have been processed to ensure they are complete and eligible, they will be shared with a peer assessment jury (composed of three professional authors contracted by the WFNS). If your application is successful, your application package will then be shared with the retreat mentor.

All application packages will be assessed based on the following criteria, weighted equally:

  • the merit of the writing sample,
  • the applicant’s commitment to their writing, as determined by the cover letter, and
  • the applicant’s capacity to benefit from the retreat, as determined by the writing sample and cover letter.

Applications are accepted only through the form at the bottom of this page. Please note that completing the application form is the final step in our recommended application checklist:

Ensure your eligibility.

Ensure your application package is complete and correct. In the event of an error, please contact our office to explain the issue before submitting a revised application package. No application package or revised application package can be accepted after the program deadline, so we encourage you to apply early.

Pay the $21 Sponsored Retreat application fee. This fee covers some of the administrative and assessment costs for each application. As such, this fee cannot be refunded under any circumstance, including incomplete, ineligible, or unsuccessful applications. The application fee is $14 for WFNS members. If you are a member in good standing, please ensure you log in to your member account before checkout to apply your member discount. WFNS General Membership is open to anyone who writes, regardless of writing experience or place of residence.

To pay fee by phone, call us between 9am and 4pm on weekdays at 902 423 8116 with your credit card details.

To pay fee by mail, send a cheque (payable to “Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia”) post-dated for no later than the application deadline.

Complete and submit the online application form, visible at the bottom of this page when applications are being accepted. After clicking the “Submit application” button, please wait until the green confirmation message appears (confirming that your form has been successfully submitted) before exiting this page.

If the application fee presents a barrier, please contact communications@writers.ns.ca before applying. Funds are available to help underwaged writers with application fees.

2023 Applications Closed on June 2

Application form

If it is discovered that any of these declarations is false, your application will be ineligible.
Click or drag a file to this area to upload.
Your application package must
- be a single digital file (.doc or .pdf format) containing all components identified in the above section "2. Application Package."
- use a file name as follows: FirstName LastName – Oliver-Craig Retreat (where “FirstName” is your given name and “LastName” is your family name or chosen surname).
Any incomplete, misnamed, or file-unreadable application package will be ineligible.
We recognize that students, the underwaged, and those on fixed incomes may require additional assistance—above the $250/week stipend—to defray the expense of travelling to/from Jampolis Cottage. Consideration for this fund will not be divulged to the peer assessment jury and will in no way impact the assessment of your application.
Indicate the method by which you paid the Sponsored Retreat application fee, details of which are given in the above section "4. How to Apply." Fee payment must be sent before you submit your application.
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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 that 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 with no professional publications (yet!) or a few short professional publications (i.e., poems, stories, or essays in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with numerous professional publications and/or one book-length publication.
  • Established writers/authors: those with two book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short publications.
  • Professional authors: those with more than two book-length publications.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for 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