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.

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.


Past Recipients

2022 Winner

Stephen Kimber, Alexa! Changing the Face of Canadian Politics by Tyler LeBlanc (Goose Lane Editions)

2022 Finalists

Susan MacLeod, Dying for Attention: A Graphic Memoir of Nursing Home Care (Conundrum Press)

Donna Morrisey, Pluck: A Memoir of a Newfoundland Childhood and the Raucous, Terrible, Amazing Journey to Becoming a Novelist (Penguin Random House Canada)


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 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 communications@writers.ns.ca