Evelyn Richardson
Non-Fiction Award

One prize ($2,000) is awarded each year for a book of creative non-fiction that was written by a full-time resident of Nova Scotia and published or distributed for the first time in Canada in the year prior to the submission deadline. Creative non-fiction includes narrative non-fiction, collected essays, biography, memoir, and long-form academic publication that offers a complex and reflective narrative about original research. Additional finalists each receive $250.

The Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award was established in 1977 to honour the work of non-fiction writers in Nova Scotia. It is named for Evelyn Richardson (1902 – 1976), who won the 1945 Governor General’s Non-Fiction Award for We Keep A Light, her memoir of life in a family of lighthousekeepers on Bon Portage Island, Shelburne County.

2024 Shortlist

Sherri Aikenhead
Mommy Don’t: From Mother to Murderer: The True Story of Penny and Karissa Boudreau
(Nimbus Publishing)

Karen Pinchin
Kings of Their Own Ocean: Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our Seas
(Knopf Canada)

Kelly Thompson
Still, I Cannot Save You: A Memoir of Sisterhood, Love, and Letting Go
(McClelland & Stewart)

Past Recipients

2023 Winner

El Jones, Abolitionist Intimacies (Fernwood Publishing)

2023 Finalists

Kate Beaton, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Drawn & Quarterly)

Toufah Jallow with Kim Pittaway, Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #MeToo Movement (Penguin Random House)

Meet Evelyn Richardson

Evelyn Richardson was born Evelyn May Fox in 1902. Her first island home was Emerald Isle, also known as Stoddart Island, on the southern coast of Nova Scotia. She attended high school at Halifax Academy and later studied at Dalhousie University, earning a BA and becoming a teacher. In 1926, she married Morrill Richardson.

In her award-winning memoir, We Keep a Light she describes how she and her husband bought tiny Bon Portage Island and built a happy life there for themselves and their three children. Although their main responsibility was tending the lighthouse, they kept a garden and raised sheep and a few cows.

This memoir is known for its gentle humour, colourful stories and interesting personalities. According to The Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, We Keep a Light is “an unsentimental, optimistic memoir of a simple lifestyle that suited the post-war mood and anticipated 1960s environmentalism.”

The Richardsons lived as lightkeepers on Bon Portage Island for 35 years. When they retired in 1964, the light was mechanized and the island acquired by Acadia University for its ecology and wildlife management programs.

Evelyn Richardson wrote several other books, including My Other Islands (1960)—“Mum’s best book,” says daughter Elizabeth Smith—and the historical novel Desired Haven (1953), set during the heyday of the Banks fishery. Where My Roots Go Deep, a collection of essays demonstrating her interest in local history, was published by Nimbus in 1996.

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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