Jill MacLean


Jill MacLean writes to stretch her limits and engage her curiosity. She writes to communicate, to be read. She writes because she loves being inhabited by characters and intertwining their stories in a balance of the intuitive and the rational, not always knowing where she’s going but steered by what feels true.

She has an honours degree in biology and is a keen naturalist. Her masters degree in theological studies, an agnostic’s search for answers, made her questions more sophisticated and encouraged her to write poetry. Her collection, The Brevity of Red (2003), was shortlisted for two awards. Poetry, she’s been told, requires the least number of best words, a good discipline for any writing.

While living in Prince Edward Island, she spent three years researching an 18th century French settlement. Her biography of Jean Pierre Roma, published by the PEI Heritage Foundation, was reissued in 2005.

Her grandson’s request that she write him a book led to three middle-grade novels and two young adult, four awards and numerous nominations, four of them international. Her YA novel, Home Truths, is on the Nova Scotia school curriculum.

She has participated in Writers in the Schools, Word on the Street, the Literacy for Life Conference, the TD Book Tour, Read by the Sea and a conference for the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) in London, England. She’s conducted workshops, school presentations and readings, many for the Canada Council, across the country.

She’s hiked the High Arctic tundra and the rainforests of St. Vincent, driven through a very long, one-way, unlit, water-dripping tunnel in the Faroe Islands, kayaked Johnstone Strait and been too close to a grizzly in the Mackenzie Mountains: a strong sense of adventure, in other words. Why else, after writing five contemporary novels for young readers, would she embark on a novel for adults set in 14th century England?

She was a palliative care volunteer for several years, and has been a dog walker for the Winnipeg Humane Society and the Nova Scotia SPCA. She can often be found in her perennial gardens, a pastime she likens to writing: you start with a rough plan, then nature takes over and you’re left to weed and transplant and weed some more, always with an eye out for interesting suprises.




Winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature, 2009, 2010, 2014

Winner of the Red Cedar Fiction Award, 2014/2015

Honour Book Silver Birch Award, 2009

Nominated for fifteen other Tree Awards across Canada

Certificate of Honour, International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY), 2012

Certificate of Honour, USBBY, 2010

Nominated for Josette Frank Award (NYC), 2010




Finalist for Canadian Library Association’s Best Children’s Book of the Year, 2009, 2010, 2014

Nominated for Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award, 2010

Honour List White Ravens, International Youth Library, Munich, 2014

Nominated for the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the Acorn-Plantos Award, 2004

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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 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 who have been writing creatively for less than two years and/or have not yet been published in any form.
  • Emerging writers: those who have been writing creatively for less than five years and/or have some short publications (poems, stories, or essays) in literary magazines, journals, or anthologies.
  • Established writers/authors: those with numerous publications in magazines, journals, or anthologies and/or a full-length book publication.
  • Professional authors: those with two or more full-length book publications.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer (that is, 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