Apply for a Mentorship

To be considered for the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program, writers must meet the following criteria.

  • You must be a current General Member of WFNS. General membership is open to anyone who writes.
  • You must be a permanent resident of Nova Scotia, meaning that you have lived in Nova Scotia full-time for at least the past twelve (12) months and that you file your personal income taxes in Nova Scotia. (Out-of-province post-secondary students and seasonal residents are ineligible.)
  • You must be an emerging writer in the form of writing for which you seek mentorship, meaning that you have not published a book-length literary project within that form, including all genres and sub-genres within that form and including traditionally published, partner- or hybrid-published, and self-published projects.
    • In the context of the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program, WFNS considers there to be four primary literary forms: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children or young adults.
    • WFNS reserves the right to determine whether you will benefit from mentorship given your non-book-length (e.g., periodical or anthology) publications and other experience in the form for which you seek mentorship. If you are uncertain of your eligibility, please contact us.
    • If you have published any number of book-length literary projects in forms other than the form for which you seek mentorship, you remain eligible.
  • You must be 19 years of age or older by the current application deadline.
  • You must submit only one application to the current application deadline.

In addition to the above criteria, you must be available to participate in the program’s three virtual group meetings (conducted by video chat in early December, late February, and late April, with each running 60 to 90 minutes) and the program’s capstone in-person public reading (the annual Celebration of Emerging Writers conducted in Halifax in early June and running 120 minutes). Any participant unable to attend the in-person public reading will be required to submit a pre-recorded video reading in advance.

2023-2024 Mentorship Program dates: Virtual group meetings will be conducted via Zoom at 10am on Dec 7, 2023; Feb 29, 2024; and Apr 25, 2024. The Celebration of Emerging Writers will be held in person in Halifax (with video participation possible) on the evening of June 4, 2024.

Application packages must contain all components listed below and must be submitted by the program deadline. Each application package must be submitted as a single digital document (in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format) with a file name as follows: FirstName LastName – Mentorship (where “FirstName” is your given name and “LastName” is your family name or chosen surname). Incomplete, late, non-digital, or misnamed application packages are ineligible.

A. ‘Cover letter’—that is, personal responses to the following questions—of up to 2 pages (single-spaced; in 12-pt Times New Roman or Arial font). All questions must be answered within these 2 pages, but the length of any particular response is up to you. For each response, please start a new paragraph and include the question number.

  1. How long have you been writing creatively?
  2. Summarize your creative writing activity for the past twelve months.
  3. Describe the work you’ll have available for the mentorship period (e.g., number of pages or poems completed of your prose or poetry manuscript).
  4. Outline what you propose to work on during the mentorship period.
  5. What goals have you set yourself to achieve during the five-month mentorship period? Be specific.
  6. How will you prioritize writing during the mentorship period, and how will the mentorship fit into your schedule?

B. Writing sample of the work-in-progress of up to 10 pages (double-spaced for prose, or single-spaced for poetry; in 12-pt Times New Roman or Arial font). Shorter samples are accepted, but we recommend taking advantage of the full 10 pages. Poetry samples may use others fonts only if typeface is integral to the project.

All applicants will be notified of their applications results by late November. Due to the volume of applications anticipated, we ask that you not query the office about the status of your application prior to that time.

After applications packages have been processed to ensure they are complete and eligible, they will be shared with a peer assessment jury of three professional writers contracted by the WFNS. The jury will assess application packages based on 

  • the merit of the writing sample,
  • the merit of the proposed writing project, and
  • the applicant’s commitment to the proposed writing project.

The jury selects apprentice writers from the applicants received and recommends a mentor for each successful applicant from a list of writers submitted Expressions of Interest to serve as mentors. The jury’s selection of apprentice writers will be final. In order to accommodate availability and other logistical factors, the final selection of a mentor for each successful applicant will be made by WFNS staff.

Applications are accepted only through the form at the bottom of this page. Please note that completing the application form is the final step in our recommended application checklist:

Ensure your eligibility.

Ensure your application package is complete and correct. In the event of an error, please contact our office to explain the issue before submitting a revised application package. No application package or revised application package can be accepted after the program deadline, so we encourage you to apply early.

Pay the $34 application fee. Please ensure you log in to your member account before attempting to pay the application fee online. This fee covers most but not all of the administrative and assessment costs for each application. As such, a refund of this fee will be considered only if an applicant is deemed ineligible due to too much experience in the form of writing in which they wish to apprentice. This fee cannot be refunded under any other circumstance, including incomplete, ineligible, or unsuccessful applications.

To pay fee by phone, call us between 9am and 4pm on weekdays at 902 423 8116 with your credit card details.

To pay fee by mail, send a cheque (payable to “Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia”) post-dated for no later than the application deadline.

Complete and submit the online application form, visible at the bottom of this page when applications are being accepted. After clicking the “Submit application” button, please wait until the green confirmation message appears (confirming that your form has been successfully submitted) before exiting this page.

If the application fee and/or membership dues present a barrier, please contact communications@writers.ns.ca before applying. Funds are available to help underwaged writers with application fees and membership dues.

Applicants to the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program must submit a ‘cover letter’ (i.e., personal responses to six questions about their writing) and a writing sample. Beyond submitting both of the necessary documents on time, what can writers do to strengthen their applications?

WFNS staff interviewed some key program participants, whose advice converged in the following five tips.

WFNS’s Program Manager (Arts Education), Linda Hudson, who administers the MacLeod Mentorship Program, emphasized that mentorships are intended for unpublished writers who are ready to make a serious commitment. “The program is for any writer who is working on a manuscript that they would like to take to the next level. The program is very intensive and will require devoting hours to researching, re-writing, editing, and creating new content for their manuscript.”

We also talked to some former peer assessors about what kind of candidate they looked for when assessing applications. Peer assessor Monica Graham summed up the ideal candidate as “a writer with a future who needs guidance.”

Sal Sawler, another former peer assessor, echoed Monica’s remarks, saying that they looked for an applicant’s “dedication to their craft,” for whether “they’ll be willing/able to take constructive criticism,” and for manageable goals. “Once the jury had our shortlist, we narrowed it down more with a few other factors, like whether the person has made room in their life for the mentorship program.”

Sal stressed that apprentice writers should also have room to grow: “Someone who has been through another program and wants to go through the mentorship program just to polish their final draft might have less of a chance [of being accepted] than someone with a rougher draft who hasn’t already had the opportunity to work on it in an established program.”

Bretten Hannam, who participated in the program as an apprentice writer, stressed the importance of setting aside enough time for the application process. He told us he produced “multiple drafts” of his writing sample before the deadline.

Starting the application well before the deadline also gives participants the chance to ask questions about the program. Program Manager Linda Hudson, said that applicants should feel free to get in touch but that they should do so as early as possible. “Don’t leave your questions for the eleventh hour,” she warned, “or they might not get answered.”

Speaking of time management, many respondents agreed that taking time to revise the writing sample multiple times was essential for ensuring its strength. “Quality of writing” was the first thing peer assessor Sal Sawler said they looked for when going over the applications. “For me,” they explained, “a standout application shows that the applicant is taking writing seriously—that they’ve made room in their life for it somehow, and are invested in developing their craft.”

According to peer assessor Monica Graham, “simple writing that says a lot in a few well-chosen words” can help an application stand out. “If someone can read it and internalize the concept or story without having to move their lips or notice individual words, then it may be spot on—depending on the reader!” She qualified this comment: “As you can tell, it’s partly subjective. However, without strong writing skills, there is nothing to be subjective about.”

While it’s important to focus on the bigger picture, our experts also brought up the importance of detail in the application process. Apprentice writer Bretten Hannam advised applicants “to have a very specific goal and timeline [for your project] when submitting. Something that’s ambitious but not outside of the realm of your abilities.” 

Similarly, Program Manager Linda Hudson suggested that applicants take advantage of the cover letter to show how they take their writing seriously, which means providing a detailed plan for the mentorship. “The impression made through the cover letter informs the committee and staff on the individual’s personality and level of commitment. The more individuals can let us know about their plans for the manuscript, how much time they plan to devote to the program, and how they would handle being challenged by their mentor, the better.”

Peer assessor Monica Graham recommended setting aside time to double-check details and proofread the application. “Touch on all the points requested in the application,” she said. “Make the spelling and grammar as perfect as possible. The odd typo is just a typo, but consistently poor skills make me cringe.”

Almost everyone we spoke with advised applicants to let their personalities come through. Peer assessor Monica Graham mentioned that she enjoyed reading “something unique” in a writing sample, whether that be “point of view, protagonist, plot twist, style, or genre.”

“When you write your application don’t forget to add something of yourself,” appentice writer Bretten Hannam advised. “Some heart. It’s easy to answer with proper words and things people might want to hear. But it’s better to speak to who you are. Why this is important to you. What you’re sharing with the world through your own words.”

Applications for 2024 Closed on October 26, 2023

Application form

You must be a General Member to participate in this program. General Membership is open to anyone who writes.

If it is discovered that any of these declarations is false, your application will be ineligible.
The virtual group meetings and in-person / video public reading are critical components of the Mentorship Program. If you are unable to commit to all of these dates, your application will be ineligible for consideration. 2023-2024 MacLeod Mentorship Program dates: Virtual group meetings will be conducted via Zoom at 10am on Dec 7, 2023; Feb 29, 2024; and Apr 25, 2024. The Celebration of Emerging Writers will be held in person in Halifax (with video participation possible) on the evening of June 4, 2024.
If the name you commonly use or publish under differs from your legal name, please include your legal name in parentheses—i.e., "Common Name (Legal Name)." If you perform at the Celebration of Emerging Writers, your legal name will be required for honorarium payment.
WFNS reserves at least two mentorships each year for writers from communities that are marginalized on the basis of ability, disability, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. Your willingness to disclose can help WFNS offer mentorships in a more equitable way. Any information entered in this field will be viewed only by WFNS staff and will not be disclosed to peer assessors.
Click or drag a file to this area to upload.
Your application package must
- be a single digital file (.doc or .pdf format) that is no longer than 12 pages and that contains all components identified in the above section "2. Application Package."
- have a file name as follows: [Your Name] - MacLeod Mentorship.
Incomplete, misnamed, or file-unreadable application packages will be ineligible.
If the form of your work-in-progress is not listed above, please contact wits@writers.ns.ca to ensure its suitability for the program.
Indicate the method by which you paid the Mentorship Program application fee, details of which are given in the above section "4. How to Apply." Fee payment must be sent before you submit your application.

For questions or further information, please contact us. Due to the volume of applications anticipated, we advise that you contact us at least two weeks before the application deadline.

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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 communications@writers.ns.ca