Susan Tooke

Born in the farmlands of New Jersey, Susan was interested in art from an early age. She spent her time drawing the natural world around her, playing in the woods, and helping her mother and grandmother with farm chores, feeding the chickens, milking cows and collecting the eggs. She was fascinated with animals, and had a ring-necked pheasant for a pet.

She knew from about the age of 5 that she wanted to be an artist “when she grew up”, and after high school she studied art at Virginia Commonwealth University. After graduation, she taught art in Newark, New Jersey, while continuing her studies at the New School in New York City, in photography, and animation.

Susan moved to Canada in 1980. Her father’s family is Canadian, so she has dual citizenship, Canadian and American. This means she gets to vote A LOT.

Susan illustrated her first book in 2000. It was A Seaside Alphabet by Donna Grassby, published by Tundra. To create the illustrations, she traveled all over the East Coast, from Boston, Massachusetts to Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, finding the right setting and models for her paintings. Icebergs, puffins, all sorts of whales, bustling cities, quiet villages and dramatic landscapes – she was in heaven.

Her books have taken her to Sable Island through the photographs of Zoe Lucas, where she illustrated Jamie Bastedo’s story Free as the Wind: Saving the Horses of Sable Island. She has also toured the neighbouring province of New Brunswick, where she discovered more wonderful people and places (F is for Fiddlehead: A New Brunswick Alphabet, text by Marilyn Lohness).

Up Home, a poem by Shauntay Grant, was released in May 2008. Through Shauntay’s wonderful poem about growing up in the African-Nova Scotian community of North Preston, Susan got to know a generous people and had a great time painting a portrait of a childhood in a very special place. Up Home won the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Illustration and the Best Published Book Award at the 2009 Atlantic Book Awards.

B is for Bluenose: A Nova Scotia Alphabet, which Susan both wrote and illustrated. B is for Bluenose celebrates Nova Scotia through the alphabet, and takes the reader on a tour of the province including the Carboniferous Period of the Joggins fossils, the coal mines of Cape Breton, Pier 21 and the history of immigration.

At the 2014 Atlantic Book Awards, Susan won the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Awards for Excellence in Illustration for Lasso The Wind, Aurélia’s Verses and Other Poems.  She also won the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Full Moon Rising (2003), Up Home (2009) and The City Speaks in Drums (2011).

Susan lives in Halifax with her husband and fellow artist Richard Rudnicki where she works creating paintings, illustrations and multi-media collaborations.


Our Choice Award 2001; ‘A Seaside Alphabet’

Ann Connor Brimer Award, short list for Budge Wilson; ‘A Fiddle for Angus’

Atlantic Booksellers’ Choice Award, short list; ‘A Fiddle for Angus’

The Best Children’s Books of the Year, Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College in New York; ‘A Fiddle for Angus’

Our Choice Award, 2001, starred selection Canadian Children’s Book Centre; ‘A Fiddle for Angus’

CBC This Morning’s Childrens Book Panel, 2001, A Fiddle for Angus, selected book; ‘A Fiddle for Angus’

Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Book Illustration, Halifax Regional Municipality; ‘Full Moon Rising’

Ann Connor Brimer Award, short list for Joanne Taylor; ‘Full Moon Rising’

Lillian Sheppard Memorial Award for excellence in Illustration in Atlantic Canada; ‘Full Moon Rising’

Blue Spruce Award, short list; ‘Full Moon Rising’

Maclean’s Magazine, chosen as one of 12 top Canadian picture books for 2002; ‘Full Moon Rising’

Bruneau Family Children’s Literature Award, 2006, Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award; ‘Brave Jack and the Unicorn’

Silver Birch Award 2005 – shortlist; ‘Brave Jack and the Unicorn’

Alberta Children’s/Young Adult Book of the Year, 2008; ‘Free as the Wind’

Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s 2008 list of Best Books for Kids and Teens; ‘F is for Fiddlehead’

Beyond the Letters: A Retrospective of Canadian Alphabet Books. The National Library of Canada. Ottawa, A Seaside Alphabet, 2003.

This is Our Land, Images of America and the World in Original Illustrations from Children’s Books, touring exhibition of the United States and the World, Meridian International Center, Washington, D.C.

Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s 2008 list of Best Books for Kids and Teens; ‘F is for Fiddlehead’

Best Published Book Award, the Atlantic Book Awards 2009, ‘Up Home’.

Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration, Atlantic Book Awards, 2009, ’Up Home’.

Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration, Atlantic Book Awards, 2011, ‘The City Speaks in Drums’.

Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration, Atlantic Book Awards, 2014, ‘Lasso the Wind: Aurélia’s Verses and Other Poems’.

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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