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, not least of all within Canadian publishing.

Held at Jampolis Cottage in Avonport, NS, each retreat offers two emerging or early-career 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 and groceries at Jampolis Cottage in Avonport, NS
  • An honorarium of $500
  • 10 group workshop sessions led by the retreat mentor
  • 3 one-on-one feedback and advisory sessions with the retreat mentor
  • Plenty of unstructured time to focus on writing and to connect with fellow writers

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.

2024 Oliver-Craig Retreat mentor: journalist, author, and editor Evelyn C. White.

Evelyn C. White is the author of Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone: A Photo Narrative of Black Heritage on Salt Spring Island (Dancing Crow Press, 2009).  She is also the author of the acclaimed biography Alice Walker: A Life (WW Norton, 2004) and Chain Chain Change: For Black Women in Abusive Relationships (Seal Press, 1994). She is the editor of The Black Women’s Health Book: Speaking For Ourselves (Seal Press, 1994) and a co-author of the photography book The African Americans (Viking Penguin, 1993). 

A former reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle, her articles, essays and reviews have also appeared in such publications as The Globe and Mail, The Halifax Examiner, Atlantic Books Today, The Vancouver Sun, Metro News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Arizona Republic, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Essence, Canadian Immigrant, Herizons, Room, Our Times, and Smithsonian magazines. 

Ms. White is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was honoured for her Master’s thesis, “The Racial Development of Blind Black Children.” She was also commended by the Society of Professional Journalists for “The Black Nun from Detroit Whose Story You Don’t Know.” Published in Canada and the US, this 2017 magazine article chronicled the life of a Michigan-born nun in a New Brunswick convent whose tragic death changed railroad safety regulations in the province.

Ms. White holds additional degrees from Harvard University and Wellesley College. She lives in Halifax where she has worked as a tutor for Nova Scotia Community College.

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

  • You must be Black, African Nova Scotia, and/or African Canadian.
  • You must be a permanent resident of Nova Scotia, meaning that you have lived in Nova Scotia full-time for at least the past twelve (12) months and that you file your personal income taxes in Nova Scotia. (Out-of-province post-secondary students and seasonal residents are ineligible.)
  • You must be an emerging or early-career writer who has not published more than two (2) book-length literary projects. having not traditionally published or self-published more than two book-length literary projects,including traditionally published, partner- or hybrid-published, and self-published projects.
  • You must be 19 years of age of older by the current application deadline.

(At this time, we are not accepting applications from participants of past Oliver-Craig Retreats. If you attended the retreat in a previous year, we strongly encourage you to apply instead for a Sponsored Residency at Jampolis Cottage.)

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.

2024 Applications Closed on February 29

The 2024 Oliver-Craig Retreat will run August 18 to 31

Applications accepted from writers working in all genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry

Application form

If it is discovered that any of these declarations is false, your application will be ineligible.
If the name you commonly use or publish under differs from your legal name, please include your legal name in parentheses—i.e., "Common Name (Legal Name)." If you are selected to participate in the retreat, your legal name will be required for honorarium payment.
Click or drag a file to this area to upload.
• Your application package must be a single digital file (.doc or .pdf format) that contains all components identified in the above section "2. Application Package."
• Your application package must use a file name as follows: [Your Name] – Oliver-Craig Retreat.
• Any incomplete, misnamed, or file-unreadable application package may be deemed ineligible.
We recognize that students, the underwaged, and those on fixed incomes may require additional assistance—above the $500 honorarium—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. Application Checklist & Fee." Fee payment must be sent before you submit your application.
Scroll to Top

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