Joan Baxter


Joan Baxter is a Nova Scotian author, journalist, development researcher/writer and anthropologist who now divides her time between Canada and Africa. Her 2017 book, The Mill – Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest, won the 2018 Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing, and was shortlisted for three other awards. It also topped the Nova Scotia Chapters Indigo bestseller list for three months.

Her 2008 book, Dust From Our Eyes – an unblinkered look at Africa, was shortlisted for the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in the United States, and a second edition was released in 2010. Her 2001 book, A Serious Pair of Shoes: An African Journal, won the Evelyn Richardson Award for non-fiction at the 2001 Atlantic Writing Awards. The late Peter Gzowski included her letters to CBC Morningside in his series of Morningside Letters books, and described Joan’s first non-fiction work, Graveyard for Dreamers: One Woman’s Odyssey in Africa, as “a magical book”. In addition to hundreds of news reports and features for BBC World Service, her short fiction has also been aired on this worldwide radio service in several languages. She has lived and worked in Mexico, Guatemala, Niger, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mali and Sierra Leone, and is multi-lingual.

For more than two decades Joan lived with her family in Africa, reporting for the BBC World Service, CBC Radio and the Associated Press. Her writing has also appeared in Le Monde Diplomatique, The Toronto Star, Pambazuka News, The Scotsman, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, and The Chronicle Herald. She also worked as a Senior Science Writer at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. In 2006 and 2007, she served as Executive Director for the international non-governmental organization, the Nova Scotia – Gambia Association, working in The Gambia and Sierra Leone on development education for youth and marginalized groups. While there, she produced two films showing positive images and messages from West Africa. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the international NGO, USC Canada / Seeds of Survival.

Over the years she has met, interviewed and profiled a host of African presidents, dignitaries, writers, intellectuals, thinkers and artists, including the late and much-loved President Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, the late great Miriam Makeba of South Africa and Ali Farka Toure of Mali, the sensational Malian duo Amadu & Mariam, the late Francis Bebey of Cameroon, and many more. She is a frequent public speaker on African issues and does consulting and voluntary work in development. She specializes in development issues as they relate to social and environmental justice, climate change, human rights, sustainable agriculture, food and seed and land sovereignty.


  • Shortlisted for the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for ‘Dust From Our Eyes’
  • Short-listed for the Booksellers’ Choice Award at the 2006 Atlantic Book Awards for ‘The Hermit of Gully Lake’
  • Winner of the 2001 Evelyn Richardson Award for ‘A Serious Pair of Shoes’

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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