Coffee Chats advisor

Jane Baskwill

Jane Baskwill was born in Queens, New York, but has lived most of her adult life in rural Nova Scotia. There she has watched foxes steal pears from beneath the trees in her back yard, listened to red-tailed hawks argue over a recently caught meal, smelled the arrival of a family of skunks, and tasted the wild blackberries that grow in the fields and by the roadside.

Jane appreciates and respects the beauty of nature in all its forms and all its moments. She is a strong advocate for equity and social justice and works with schools to promote Peace and Environmental education. She shares this with her husband and three children, and with others through her teaching, writing and poetry.

She has authored many professional books and articles for teachers in addition to an award-winning video series. She has also authored a book of poetry for children and three picture books: Somewhere (1996), Touch the Earth (1999), and If Peace Is… (2003), (Mondo Publishing, New York). Her latest book, Together in Time (2012, InSync Books) a novel for children 8 to 12 years old, is set in the abandoned settlement of Roxbury in the Annapolis Valley.

She is a former teacher and principal and is currently on the Education Faculty at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax.

Jane is a six-time recipient of the Education Quality Award from the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union and received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Educational Press Association of America for her series of articles in Teaching K-8 Magazine.

During the 2007/08 school year Jane completed a school-wide writing project with Holland Road Elementary School that resulted in the publication of a picture book: A Kid’s Guide to Making and Being A Friend, used as a school fundraiser.

Jane also helps schools and communities start their own Family Literacy publishing house. Publish It! has produced over 500 non-fiction picture books written by children and their parents and illustrated with photos they have taken.

Paul Bennett

Paul W. Bennett, Ed.D. (OISE/Toronto) is a Halifax author, education consultant, and commentator. His latest book is The Last Stand: Schools, Communities and the Future of Rural Nova Scotia (2013)

Paul is founding Director of Schoolhouse Consulting, and Adjunct Professor of Education at Saint Mary’s University. Over a career spanning three decades in three different provinces, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, Dr. Bennett has written or co-authored eight books and many articles in both the popular media and the academic press.

As Director of Schoolhouse Consulting, Paul produces regular Opinion Columns and Book Reviews for The Chronicle Herald. He writes for Progress Magazine and produces major research studies on critical issues in contemporary P-12 education.

As a writer, Paul is best known across Canada as the author of three widely recognized Canadian history textbooks, Canada: A North American Nation (Toronto: McGraw Hill Ryerson, 1995), Years of Promise, 1896-1911 (Toronto: Grolier, 1986), and (with Cornelius J. Jaenen) Emerging Identities: Problems and Interpretations in Canadian History (Scarborough: Prentice Hall, 1986). His articles and commentaries have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Montreal Gazette, and numerous academic journals, including Acadiensis, the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Journal, Canadian Issues/Themes, and Historical Studies in Education.

Dr. Bennett is a widely recognized leader and commentator in Canadian education. From 1997 until 2009, Paul served as Headmaster of two of Canada’s leading independent coeducational day schools, Halifax Grammar School and Lower Canada College. He is currently Chair of the Board of the Halifax Public Libraries and President of the Halifax Branch of the Canadian International Council. 

Laura Best

Laura lives in East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia with her husband, Brian. A member of the Parkdale/Maplewood Museum Society, Laura has a strong interest in local history, and participates in the school group program at the museum. At the age of ten, she wrote her first play and she’s been writing ever since. She is also a member of CANSCAIP.

Laura’s first young adult novel, Bitter, Sweet, a story set in 1940’s rural Nova Scotia, was released by Nimbus Publishing in October 2009, and was short listed for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. It also made the “Best Books for Kids and Teen 2011” list. Her second young adult novel, “Flying With a Broken Wing,” was published in 2013. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines across Canada, such as The Antigonish Review, Room and Grain. She has also written non-fiction articles for CCNews and Our Times. In 2003 her short story, “Alexander the Great” was nominated for the Journey Prize. Her work has also appeared in three anthologies.

Jenni Blackmore

A new season just beginning! Definitely time to upgrade my bio; even though some things never change life’s experience continually morphs and expands. Have to love that 🙂

Part of me is still the kid from Manchester, England, who always wanted to be a writer, a painter and a farmer, living by the ocean, and much to my amazement, here I am, living my dream on a small island just east of Halifax. Of course I’m greatly influenced by the coastal environment and references to this locale have a way of sneaking into most of my work. I love my reality but I usually can’t resist adding a twist or two of magic to my work, especially my favorite genres of poetry, adult short fiction and childrens fiction.

As an illustrator and writer, I like to combine both these forms of expression, especially in my books for children. Recently, however the denizens of QuackaDoodle Farm, who take up a fair amount of my attention, have been demanding their space on the page and this has resulted in, Permaculture for the Rest of Us (New Society Publishing) a factual account of life here at QuackaDoodle,  my blog site and occassional posts on the Mother Earth News Site.

My latest book The Foodlovers’ Garden (New Society) is scheduled for release May 2017 and I was delighted to be able to illustrate this with thirty+ illustrations and forty digital images, all celebrating the wonders of homegrown food. Yum! And oh so colourful.

The second edition of Gully Goes to Halifax flew into my life recently. The story remains mostly unchanged but this edition has twice the page size and all the illustrations are in full colour, so I’m delighted about that.

I believe everyone is writer at heart because of course we all have things to say, ideas to share. This is one of the reasons why I particularly enjoy leading writing workshops for both children and adults but mostly, it’s about the stories that get shared. Surely story is the thread that binds us all together while, equally importantly, poetry tends to magnify and perhaps suggest a new way of seeing both the mundane and the magical.

Please visit me at: for sporadic but ongoing news of life down here on the farm

 Jenni has been mentioned in “Our Choice Book List” and “Outstanding Canadian Children’s Books” by the Children’s Book Centre, Toronto. Her recent novel Island of Dead Souls came first in the Atlantic Writing competition YA category.

Jo Treggiari

Jo Treggiari was born in London, England, and raised in Canada. She spent many years in Oakland, California and New York, where she trained as a boxer, wrote for a punk magazine, and owned a gangster rap/indie rock record label. Her novel Ashes, Ashes, a YA post-apocalyptic adventure published by Scholastic Press, was a multiple award nominee and bestseller. Her acclaimed novella Love You Like Suicide, appeared in the Fierce Ink Press anthology Becoming Fierce: Teen Stories IRL and as a limited edition of the long-running zine Cometbus. Her most recent YA novels are Blood Will Out, a psych-thriller, published by Penguin Teen (2018), and a second thriller, The Grey Sisters, (Penguin Teen 2019) which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary award and was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis award.

Ceilidh Michelle

Ceilidh Michelle has led a poetry workshop at Concordia University’s Aboriginal Student Resource Centre, and has been sought out by Montreal community centre to lead masterclasses. She is the author of coming-of-age novel Butterflies Zebras Moonbeams, which CBC added to their list of “34 Works of Canadian Fiction to Watch For,” and has a forthcoming travel memoir coming out Spring 2021 with Douglas & McIntyre.

She is graduating from Concordia University with a BA in Creative Writing, April 2020, and will be attending Edinburgh for graduate school in Fall 2020.


  • Spring 2021 – The One, a nonfiction travel memoir, Douglas & McIntyreFall 2019 – Butterflies Zebras Moonbeams, a novel, Palimpsest Press 


The One, a nonfiction travel memoir, Douglas&McIntyre

Butterflies Zebras Moonbeams, a novel, Palimpsest Press


  • Recipient of Explore and Create Canadian Council GrantRecipient of short novel grant from Conseil des arts et des lettres du QuebecTwo-time 1st place winner of Wampanoag Writers Scholarship for Cuttyhunk Island Writers Retreat

Chris Benjamin

Chris Benjamin is a freelance journalist and an author of fiction and non-fiction. He is currently the Managing Editor of Atlantic Books Today magazine. 

His collection of short stories, Boy With a Problem, is forthcoming in September 2020. His latest book is Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School. Released in August 2014, it won the Dave Greber Freelance Book Prize before being published.

His previous book, Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada, won the 2012 Best Atlantic-Published Book Award and was a finalist for the Richardson Non-Fiction Prize. A series of short video documentaries has been made based on the book.

Chris’ novel, Drive-by Saviours, won the H.R. Percy Prize, was longlisted for a ReLit Prize and made the Canada Reads Top Essential Books List.

Chris has written for a long list of magazines and newspapers in Canada and the United States. A few highlights include The Globe and Mail, Science Friday, Z Magazine, Saltscapes, Halifax Magazine, Progress Magazine, and The Coast.

Jackie Halsey

Jackie was born in London, England. After several globetrotting years she and her family discovered Nova Scotia and have lived here ever since.  She attended the West Sussex College of Art in England and as a mature student, graduated with honours from Mount Saint Vincent University. Before becoming a full-time writer, Jackie worked as a children’s programmer in the Youth Services department of Alderney Gate Library.  She has written six books. Her latest book Piperis a story about the brigantine Hector, that brought the first wave of Scottish immigrants to Nova Scotia.

Her first book, Peggy’s Letters, a short novel based on her Mother’s wartime stories, was a Canadian Children’s Book Center 2006, Our Choice starred selection. It was nominated for both the 2007 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award and the 2007 Rocky Mountain Children’s Book Award and was an Honour Book in the 2007 Silver Birch Express Award. Bluenose Adventure and Explosion Newsie are school-age picture books about child workers in Nova Scotia at the turn of the twentieth century. The Terrible Horrible Smelly Pirate, co-authored by Carrie Muller, is a rollicking piratical picture book which on local best seller lists for many weeks.

Jackie really enjoys being part of the Writers in the Schools program. She loves anything to do with the sea particularly, tall ships, beach walks, and whale watching. She and her husband live in a little old house overlooking Halifax Harbour. What better place to keep an eye out for Bluenose and rickerty-rackerty pirate ships.

Andre Fenton

Andre Fenton is an award-winning spoken word artist & filmmaker who has represented Halifax at 7 national poetry slams across Canada. He is currently on the board of directors of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia and a member at large on the board of Spoken Word Canada. He is an author of two books. Ode to Teen Angst and his new YA novel, Worthy of Love which was published by Formac. He is based in the Halifax area.

Pauline Dakin

I am a journalist who started my career in print with The Telegraph Journal in Saint John, NB and spent most of my journalism career as a health reporter with CBC National News and the host of the documentary program Atlantic Voice at CBC Nova Scotia. I now teach at the School of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax.

I have won awards for my journalism and documentaries from the CMA/CNA Awards, The Canadian Science Writers’ Association, the Washington-based National Press Foundation, The Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Atlantic Journalism Awards, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Radio Television Digital News Awards.

Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood (Viking/Penguin Random House Canada: 2017) is my first book. It was named one of the best 100 books of 2017 by The Globe and Mail, and was shortlisted for the BC Book Prize, the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award, the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award – Non-Fiction.

As part of the book tour to support the launch of Run, Hide, Repeat I was able to do readings across the country.

I am on Twitter at @paulinedakin and look forward to connecting!

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