Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaasen


Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen was born and raised on the prairies, where she learned, among other things, how to make relish and flapper pie. She studied literature at the University of Saskatchewan and since then has published two collections of poetry. Clay Birds, published by Coteau Books, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award and won the Saskatchewan Poetry Award in 1996. Ör, published by Brick Books, won a John V. Hicks manuscript prize and was shortlisted for the 2004 Pat Lowther Award. Her suite of poems titled August won a CBC Literary Award in 2004 and is published by Gaspereau Press in their Devil’s Whim Chapbook Series.

The 2010 Atlantic Poetry Prize was awarded to Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen for Lean-To (Gaspereau), with judges’ comments stating that “By the time I finished this carefully crafted book, I felt like I knew her.”

Tonja lives in Halifax with her husband and their three little boys.

“Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen’s poems seduce and trouble the readers. Syllable by syllable, synapse by synapse, the poems develop by association, laying down intricate tracks of sense and sound; they follow the archaic poetic logic of ‘jumping mind,’ of trance states and dreams. These poems fuse a rich imagery of bodily experience – birthing, illness, insomnia, sex – into a dense, insistent music. The reader learns to listen again, returning to the child’s earliest pleasures, to rhyme and singing sound.” – Hilary Clark, author of More Light and The Dwelling of Weather





Winner, Atlantic Poetry Prize 2010, ‘Lean-To’.


Winner of the 1996 Saskatchewan Book Award for Poetry; ‘Clay Birds’.


Shortlisted for the 1996 Gerald Lampert Award; ‘Clay Birds’.

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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