Alistair MacLeod
Mentorship Program

The Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program was made possible by the late Alistair MacLeod, who generously donated the protégé portion of his 2001 Portia White Prize to the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia to ensure the continuation of its mentorship pilot program. Alistair MacLeod's passing on April 20, 2014, was mourned by the Atlantic literary community, but we continue to lean on and grow from his books, his teaching, his steadfast friendships, and his commitment to his home province.

Since 2001, the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program has supported the development of emerging writers in Nova Scotia who are on the cusp of professional publication and who are committed to their writing and creative development. It is a disciplined, focused, and supportive one-on-one apprenticeship program through which writers expand and hone their craft.

Through this program, WFNS pairs professionally published writers with emerging writers, taking care through an assessment process to match established writers’ experience and craft with emerging writers’ project goals and draft manuscripts. Writers from across Nova Scotia — with projects in all forms and genres of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry — are welcome to apply. (We cannot offer mentorships for picture book or graphic novel authors at this time.)

The program helps emerging writers overcome barriers to their growth and development, provides professional writers with an opportunity to refine their mentoring and instructional skills, and reaffirms the creative conviction of everyone involved. In so doing, the program helps fulfill WFNS’s mission to foster creative writing and the profession of writing; to provide advice and assistance to writers at all stages of their careers; to encourage greater public recognition of writers and their achievements; and to enhance the literary arts in our regional and national culture.

Mentors and apprentice writers work together over a five-month period, from January through May, meeting in person or via video chat every two weeks (for 8 to 10 sessions total) and conducting follow-up exchanges via email.

In addition, mentors and apprentice writers participate in three (3) virtual group meetings: the first in early December (to review program details, build a supportive writing group, and prepare to begin work in January), the second in late February (to check in at the program’s mid-point and share individual challenges and successes), and the third in late April (to prepare for public readings and address any last questions). The program concludes in early June with in-person and video readings by apprentice writers, performed and screened as part of WFNS’s annual public Celebration of Emerging Writers in Halifax. WFNS promotes this reading and the mentorship participants widely in order to encourage public engagement with new writers and showcase the program’s role in building capacity in Nova Scotia’s writing community.

The WFNS provides an honorarium to each mentor. There is no cost to apprentice writers beyond WFNS General Membership dues, the program application fee, and any necessary travel costs to attend the public reading — but the benefit of sustained work with a professional writer provides value long after the program has ended.

Hear about the impact of the MacLeod Mentorship Program first-hand.

Carmel Mikol (host of Hyacinth Podcast) interviews 2016 participants Carol Bruneau (mentor) and Nicola Davison (apprentice) about the benefits of the program and how it helped them write two award-winning novels.

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The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts for its ongoing investment in the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program.

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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