2024/25 Jampolis Cottage Writers-in-Residence

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2024/25 Sponsored Residencies at Jampolis Cottage and to the participants in the 2024 Oliver-Craig Black Writers’ Retreat at Jampolis Cottage!

Delmore “Buddy” Daye Residency:
Cory Lavender

William & Elizabeth Pope Residency:
Janelle Levesque

Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Residency:
K.R. Byggdin

Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Residency:
Asher Cookson

Oliver-Craig Black Writers’ Retreat:
Jesse Nervais Natasha Thomas

Learn more about these writers and their residency and retreat projects below.

Cory Lavender

Recipient of the Delmore "Buddy" Daye Residency,
sponsored by the Delmore "Buddy" Daye Learning Institute

Cory Lavender is a poet of African Nova Scotian and European descent living in Mi’kma’ki. His chapbooks are Lawson Roy’s Revelation (Gaspereau Press, 2018) and Ballad of Bernie "Bear" Roy (knife fork book, 2020). His work has appeared in journals such as Grain, Prairie Fire, Riddle Fence, and The Fiddlehead and in Watch Your Head: Writers and Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis (Coach House Press, 2020). A full-length collection of poems, Come One Thing Another, is forthcoming from Gaspereau Press in late 2024.

Cory will be continuing ongoing work on poems and exploring short-form creative nonfiction. As he wraps up his first full-length poetry collection, Cory sees how many more works he needs to write about himself and his family in relation the geography, ecology, culture, and history of Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia). In particular, he wants to continue discussing the Lavenders’ negotiation of their African Nova Scotianness and the impact of “passing” as white for some decades. Cory's potential topics range from Black Loyalist John Lavender’s petition for a land grant in the early 1800s, to how the Lavenders have been racially identified in census data through the years, to his uncle’s troublesome Facebook posts shortly after George Floyd’s murder.

Janelle Levesque

Recipient of the William & Elizabeth Pope Residency,
sponsored by the Robert Pope Foundation

Janelle Levesque is a writer currently based in Kjipuktuk. She has been working on her debut poetry chapbook, Salt Lick, as part of WFNS’s 2024 Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program. Janelle has worn many hats as a tree planter, a farmer, a barista, a photographer, and a sociologist. She is passionate about community, social justice, and mental health, as well as harnessing the potency of the written word in responding creatively to the political and environmental challenges we face in all three areas. Her poems have appeared in 7 Mondays, Open Heart Forgery, and The Ambler.

Janelle will be working on her first full-length collection of poetry, Woolgathering, which explores the many iterations and ineffable feelingscapes of grief—that depersonalizing experience not only occasioned by death but seeping from the pores of time itself. What does it mean to mourn the living—to grieve a symbolic death, such as a loved one with dementia? What does it mean to be widowed to oneself; to inhabit a body that refuses to house you? These are a few of the questions Woolgathering seeks to confront. Personifying and metaphorizing concepts such as time, memory, and grief, assembling tiny alters, and orbiting moment-sized burial plots, this collection is an elegy for each passing moment.

K.R. Byggdin

Recipient of a Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia Residency

K.R. Byggdin is the author of Wonder World (Enfield & Wizenty, 2022), a ReLit Award finalist and winner of the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. Their writing has also appeared in anthologies and journals across Canada, the UK, and New Zealand. Born and raised on the Prairies, they currently divide their time between Halifax and Toronto as an MFA candidate at the University of Guelph.

K.R. will be working on a new book-length fiction manuscript. This novel centres on a long-term couple in their thirties and explores the act of queer family making within the intersections of nonbinary identity, polyamory, infertility, and grief. It is set primarily in contemporary Halifax and Yarmouth.

Asher Cookson

Recipient of a Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia Residency

Asher Cookson is a writer born and living in Kjipuktuk/Halifax. He is currently in his final year of his BA in Creative Writing and English at the University of King’s College. Asher’s work focuses on confessional and experimental poetry exploring the queer experience, as well as environmental horror and the traditional gothic.

Asher will be working on their debut poetry collection, which will centre on the fear of decay and the horror of Earth reclaiming itself. This eco-gothic collection will be research-driven, exploring the worst-case scenarios of the climate crisis and imagining a post-anthropocene world from the perspective of the Earth itself. Its poems will depict both small- and large-scale horror, examining eco-horror on an individual and global level.

Jesse Nervais

Participant in the Oliver-Craig Black Writers' Retreat,
sponsored by Senator Don Oliver and the Craig Foundation

Photo description: Jesse holding Pride & Joy, by Kate Lum and Dr. Frank J. Sileo, at Blockshop Books, Lunenburg, 2023

Jesse Nervais is a motivational speaker, mentor, and writer currently based in Halifax. In 2021, he founded Dreadlocks & Kindness, an organization that seeks to empower others through inclusive, focused education, fundraising, and mentorship. From Rainbow Bagels to Rubik’s Cubes, Jesse has led several community collaborations throughout Atlantic Canada, tackling themes of self-love, anti-racism, mental health, and allyship. Known for his innovative style, passion, and unique approaches to problem solving, he is an active advocate for the diversity, inclusion, and wellness of others in life and on the page. Jesse is an alumnus of the University of Lethbridge and relocated to Nova Scotia in 2015.

Under the guidance of distinguished mentor Evelyn C. White, Jesse will be working on two projects: Happy, a YA novel-in-verse that follows two queer characters' grade-twelve experiences as they navigate coming-out journeys, learn to manage mental health, and transition into their authentic selves; and Ava in Wonderland, a theatrical reimagining of Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland through the lenses of an African Nova Scotian, 2SLGBTQ+, and Indigenous experience that is being written in collaboration with award-winning Indigenous and Black Scotian artist SAMQWAN.

Natasha Thomas

Participant in the Oliver-Craig Black Writers' Retreat,
sponsored by Senator Don Oliver and the Craig Foundation

Natasha Thomas is an African Nova Scotian of more than 10 generations' ascent and the Artistic Director of Beyond Imagination Puppet Crew. She also volunteers with Dartmouth Players Theatre Company as an Assistant Stage Manager. Natasha was the 2023 Chrysalis Director for Neptune Theatre's production of Billy Elliot; was commissioned by Eastern Front Theatre in 2021 to create the micro digital short film The Eyes of Nature; and was the 2020 artist-in-residence for Shipwright Theatre Company, where she developed the script In The Eyes of The Fire. A graduate of Nova Scotia Community College's Music Arts Program, Natasha combined her love of puppetry, music, and scriptwriting to curate the puppet cantata Freedom Runs, which has been live-streamed and viewed over 1,500 times on the Halifax Public Libraries website.

Under the guidance of distinguished mentor Evelyn C. White, Natasha will be working on the sequel to Freedom Runs, which depicts the hardships of those escaping chattel slavery through the Underground Railroad to Canada, particularly Nova Scotia. Created with the backing of the Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre (PARC), Freedom Runs 2 addresses what happened after arrival in Nova Scotia. Narrated by a grandmother and grandson, this puppet cantata incorporates vignettes of actual people and their heartaches and struggles as they find Canada not as free as they imagined.

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that participants in any given workshop have similar levels of creative writing and / or publication experience. This ensures that each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their career stage. The “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions used by WFNS.

  • New writers: those with less than two years’ creative writing experience and/or no short-form publications (e.g., short stories, personal essays, or poems in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with more than two years’ creative writing experience and/or numerous short-form publications.
  • Early-career authors: those with 1 or 2 book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short-form publications.
  • Established authors: those with 3 or 4 book-length publications.
  • Professional authors: those with 5 or more book-length publications.

Please keep in mind that each form of creative writing (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children and young adults) provides you with a unique set of experiences and skills, so you might consider yourself an ‘established author’ in one form but a ‘new writer’ in another.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed closely.

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