Rita Joe Indigenous Writers' Retreat

The Rita Joe Indigenous Writers’ Retreat (1 week in length) is open only to permanent residents of Nova Scotia. Successful applicants are provided with free residence, an honorarium of $250, and the instruction, mentorship, and advice of a distinguished Mi’kmaw or Indigenous Nova Scotian author or storyteller.

This retreat aims to amplify the voices of Mi’kmaw and other Indigenous writers and storytellers, who have been and are marginalized by systemic inequality, particularly within Canadian publishing.

Held at Jampolis Cottage in Avonport, NS, the 2024 retreat (running Jan 21 – 27) offers two writers or storytellers some of the best elements of a writing residency, a writing workshop, and a writing mentorship:

  • One week of free residence at Jampolis Cottage in Avonport, NS; a $250 honorarium; and plenty of unstructured time to focus on writing and connecting with fellow writers and storytellers
  • 4 group workshop sessions led by the retreat mentor
  • 2 one-on-one feedback and advisory sessions with the retreat mentor

A catered dinner on the first evening allows retreat participants to socialized more casually—and a fully-stocked pantry, fridge, and kitchen ensure that retreat participants have the freedom to make meals either together or for themselves.

The Rita Joe Indigenous Writers’ Retreat is funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage through its investments in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and AfterWords Literary Festival programming to celebrate Rita Joe, the Nova Scotia Heritage Day 2023 honoree.

The 2024 mentor for the Rita Joe Indigenous Writers’ Retreat is shalan joudry, a Mi’kmaw poet and oral storyteller. shalan is the author of two books of poetry, Generations Re-merging (Gaspereau Press, 2014) and Waking Ground (Gaspereau Press, 2020), as well as the play Elapultiek (Pottersfield Press, 2019). Waking Ground was nominated for multiple literary awards. Using her theatrical background, shalan has been bringing Mi’kmaw and personal stories to a new generation of listeners for over two decades. Her most recent play, KOQM, won the 2023 Nova Scotia Merritt Theatre Award for Best New Play. She lives in her home territory of Kespukwitk (southwest Nova Scotia) with her family in their community of L’sətkuk (Bear River First Nation).

On two days of the retreat, shalan will be joined by guest mentor Amanda Peters, Mi’kmaw/Settler author of The Berry Pickers (HarperCollins, 2023).

Applications will be accepted from writers and storytellers working in poetry and short fiction, whether written or oral.

To be considered for the Rita Joe Indigenous Writers’ Retreat, the applying writer must meet the following criteria.

  • You must identify as Mi’kmaw and/or as Indigenous.
  • You must have at least 2 – 3 years’ experience writing / storytelling and sharing your work with others, whether through traditional publications (e.g., books or literary magazines), self-publication, formal public performances, or small private performances.
  • 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.

Rita Joe Retreat application packages must contain all components listed below and must be submitted by the application deadline. Except for any audio or video sample, each application package must be submitted as a single digital document (in .doc or .pdf format) with a file name as follows: FirstName LastName – Rita Joe 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 or storytelling creatively? How long have you been sharing your work with others?
  2. Summarize your creative writing or storytelling 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 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 or storytelling in your life?
  6. What do you hope to gain from this writers’ retreat?

B. If submitting non-oral work(s)-in-progress, a writing sample from the work(s) 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 submitting oral work(s)-in-progress, you may instead include an audio or video sample from the work(s) of 10 to 15 minutes in length, either as a uploaded file or as a link to a file hosted elsewhere.

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

Applications Closed on September 20, 2023

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 – Rita Joe Retreat (where “FirstName” is your given name and “LastName” is your family name or chosen surname).
Incomplete, misnamed, or unreadable application packages will be ineligible.
Your answer 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.
Scroll to Top

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