Visual Literature Prize

paint brush

The Ellemeno Visual Literature Prize is an annual celebration of creative cross-pollination between the literary arts and the visual arts.

The winning writer or artist receives a cash prize ($250) along with digital publication and a featured interview on the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia website.

Established in 2023, the Ellemeno Visual Literature Prize recognizes creativity that bridges the formal divide between contemporary literary arts and visual arts in Nova Scotia, accepting both literary submissions (that respond to, incorporate, or creatively ‘translate’ visual artworks) and visual submissions (that respond to, incorporate, or creatively ‘translate’ literary works).

The Ellemeno Prize was established in recognition of textile artist Marilyn Smulders, who made significant contributions to Nova Scotia’s literary landscape during her tenure as Executive Director of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) from 2017 to 2023.

The prize is named for Marilyn’s screenprinting and quilting moniker, Ellemeno.

Assessment of all eligible submissions is conducted by volunteer jurors drawn from WFNS’s staff, board, and Writers’ Council as well as other Creative Federations of Nova Scotia. Jurors are selected for their expertise in creating, evaluating, and/or publishing both literary and visual artworks.

Uniquely among WFNS programs and awards, eligibility for the Ellemeno Prize is thematic:

  • Eligible literary submissions (fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry) are those that respond to, incorporate, or creatively ‘translate’ one or more visual works created by an artist who is not the submitting writer (e.g., a short story depicting the creation of a film, a personal essay whose central metaphor is a quilt created by a family member, or a series of poems exploring a painting).
  • Eligible visual submissions (craft, drawing, illustration, installation, painting, photography, printmaking, sculptural / plastic art, textile art, or video art) are those that respond to, incorporate, or creatively ‘translate’ one or more literary works created by a writer who is not the submitting artist (e.g., a photograph staged to represent a passage from a novel, a series of illustrations added beside or overtop of printed text, or a sculpture formed by folding or cutting a book).

The terms ‘response,’ ‘incorporation,’ and ‘translation’ should be understood as expansive and inclusive. For instance, interactive artworks that perform real-time ‘translation’ of a participant’s input (from textual to visual or from visual to textual) are also welcome. Please contact us (at communications@writers.ns.ca) if uncertain whether your particular literary or visual work would meet the prize’s theme.

Shannon Webb-Campbell

2024 Ellemeno Visual Literature Prize

Read "Her Eros Restored" & our interview with Shannon Webb-Campbell

Shannon Webb-Campbell is of Mi’kmaq and settler heritage. She is a member of Flat Bay First Nation. Her books include Re: Wild Her (Book*hug, forthcoming 2025), Lunar Tides (2022), I Am a Body of Land (2019), and Still No Word (2015), which was the recipient of Egale Canada’s Out in Print Award. Shannon is a PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick and the editor of Visual Arts News Magazine.

Of Shannon's winning poem, "Her Eros Restored," prize jurors Sue MacLeod, Jessica Scott Kerrin, and Carol Shillibeer had this to say: "'Her Eros Restored' loosens a too-tight corset—each of its poetic sections responding to Les Chiffons de La Châtre — Corsets roses [Rags of the Castle — Pink Corsets] (1960) by Gérard Deschamps. It does so by reclaiming small moments of feminine autonomy. From the first section's 'catapulting through moonlight… on the equinox' to the last section's 'tangle like root vegetables,' the poem perceives a world in which a person of mixed heritage, devalued within the dominant culture, can both fly above its restrictions and simultaneously dance with the earth and sea—so that life feels as if a new story is being born—a story of power, energy, love, and authenticity. No mean achievement. This is a thing of beauty."

2024 finalists:
     Hilary Briar for The Garden of Love (multiflora rose thorns and wood glue), which translates the final line of William Blake’s poem “The Garden of Love” (1794) — that is, “…binding with briars my joys and desires….” — into binary code, representing each ‘0’ or ‘1’ with a locally foraged rose thorn curving either downward (for ‘0’) or upward (for ‘1’).
     Darryl Whetter for “When Silence Isn’t So Accurate” (nonfiction), which responds to the architectural work Rothko Chapel (1971), designed by Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone, and Eugene Aubry and housing site-specific paintings by Mark Rothko. The essay weaves memoir and art history into a reflection on love.

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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