2023 Halifax Conference Program

2023 Writing True: Riding the Waves


Registration Open Now!

Friday, May 26th (Atlantic time)

Master Classes 9:00 am – 12:00pm

Fee: $30 for CNFC members, $50 for non-members

Fiction to Nonfiction – Donna Morrissey

Writing creative nonfiction and fiction share many of the same techniques: scenes, dialogue, pacing and plot, but there are differences. Writer of six bestselling novels, Donna shares how she transitioned from writing fictional experiences about others to a deeply personal true story of her own in her memoir, Pluck, and how nonfiction became the only way to tell these stories.



Drill Down into Editing – Kathy Mac

Spend a few hours deepening your understanding of the editing process with the author of Wording Around with Editing: Getting Your First Draft Ready to Publish. Our time together will include a bit of lecture (with examples), some real-time editing exercises, and discussion. The first half introduces the whole process from substantive, through stylistic, to copy editing. In the second half we’ll focus on style, arguably the Cinderella of the editing sorority.



The Importance of Nonfiction Research in Writing Biography – Stephen Kimber & Jon Tattrie

Writing biography requires a variety of research sources beyond interviews: periodicals, photographs, maps, journal entries, even found objects like tickets or a menu. These two award-winning journalists share best practices on tried-and-true investigative tips, as well as new sources to consider, how to organize it all, and when you know it’s time to start writing.



Storytelling Alchemy / SOULO Theatre – Tracey Erin Smith

TV creator/host, playwright and award-winning educator Tracey Erin Smith developed her process ‘SOULO Theatre’ as an instructor at Toronto Metropolitan University. SOULO is an interactive program that helps transform raw material from our lives into powerful creative and non-fiction writing for the page or stage. Usually offered as a 10 week course, Tracey’s “Crash Master Class” offers tools and techniques for crafting personal narratives that are vivid, moving and entertaining.



Panel 1:30 – 3:00pm

Essay Writing for Literary Journals – Virginia Boudreau, AnnMarie MacKinnon, and Katherine Barrett

Publishing in a literary journal is an essential part of any creative nonfiction writer’s career. Besides adding those publication credits to your writing CV, you’ll gain experience, exposure and will build your reputation as a literary writer. But there are more writers than journals and competition can be fierce. Fear not! Our panelists share their tips on how to make your submission stand out.

Panel 3:30-5:00pm

Eco Writing and Memoir – Harry Thurston and Brian Bartlett

“I, on my side, require of every writer, first and last, a simple and true account of his own life,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in -Walden-. Poets and nature writers Brian Bartlett and Harry Thurston will talk about differences and similarities between memoir-writing and journal-keeping in their books grounded in the natural world. They will discuss time and memory, the diurnal and the seasonal, mosaics and -plein-air- experiments, lengthy reflection and improvisation. Conversation will be interwoven with readings of samples from the authors’ works.

Keynote 7:00-8:00pm

Donna Morrissey

Donna Morrissey was 40 when she started writing. With her beloved and ailing mother by her side, she sat for 7 months and wrote a novel that sold up to 200,000 copies. Since then, she’s written five more bestselling books and most recently a memoir titled, Pluck: a deeply personal account of love’s restorative ability as it leads her through mental illness, death, and despair to becoming the writer she is today. Donna shares her path to becoming that writer and how she used her own history and themes in her books.

Saturday, May 27th (Atlantic time)

Workshops 9:00-10:30am

Write with Authenticity for YA – Chad Lucas & Andre Fenton

Writing for young adults isn’t like writing for adults. Teens are astute readers and know when they’re being patronized or if a writer hasn’t done their research: it can be as simple as dialogue that uses the wrong lingo or outdated pop culture references, to not understanding the nuances of an issue for young people today. Two young adult authors share their strategies to research and write with authenticity for this popular genre.

Going pro. What to know about Promotion & PR – Jane Doucet & Janice Landry

Writing is an art form, but it’s also a business – or it can be. If you want to make a full- or a part time job from your work, you need a plan that includes promotion to position yourself for success. Doucet and Landry will share their best practices for building an author platform, using social media and converting “likes” into sales.

Workshops 10:30am-12:00pm

Vulnerability in Women’s Nonfiction – Michelle Doyle & Lana Hall

Exposing a secret, or an extremely personal part of your life can make for some of the most powerful nonfiction. In this workshop, hear from two writers whose work involves revealing traditionally “shameful” narratives, and learn tips and tools for transforming your own shame into powerful writing. Navigating this process can be personally transformative, while allowing a deeper connection with your readers. Lana and Michelle will share how their personal stories impacted their writing process, the challenges they faced, and how they transformed feelings of shame into empowerment.

Writing Crip and Mad Stories – Amy Panton & Laura MacGregor

In 2014 disability activist Stella Young coined the term “inspiration porn” to describe stories that portray disabled people or their caregivers as sources of inspiration. Often these stories uphold tropes and stereotypes that equate disability with tragedy. In this workshop we will discuss ways writers can avoid the inspiration porn trap when writing about people impacted by disability and/or mental distress. We will provide examples of non-fiction stories that veer into inspiration porn territory as well as writing that avoids inspiration porn. Finally, we will break into small groups to discuss how disability is portrayed in current writing projects.

Workshops 1:30-3:00pm

Honouring the past in storytelling – Susan MacLeod, Katie Ingram & Michelle Sylliboy

Susan MacLeod uses illustration in her graphic memoir on the reality of caring for an elderly parent. Katie Ingram uses newspaper reports to tell the story of the Halifax Explosion. Michelle Sylliboy incorporates komqwejwi’kasikl (suckerfish writing) to poetry and art on the residential school system and issues of the day. These three authors will share the process for deciding what medium to use to tell these stories, and the challenges and opportunities of each.

Writing about History, Culture, Social Justice – Dr. Afua Cooper & Wanda Taylor

When researching and writing about cultural history and social justice, the question always becomes history and justice according to whom? It is essential that we don’t simply take historic accounts at face value. Cultural stories have always been told by people outside that culture. It’s necessary to dig deeper to understand whose perspective a history is being told from, what narrative is being spun, and whose voices are missing from those accounts. A writer’s role in this important work involves mining for truth, where the origins of historical injustices often lie, unearthing hidden stories and restoring silenced voices. Authors, Dr. Afua Cooper and Wanda Taylor will discuss their experiences mining cultural history, and the urgent need for those who write about these issues to continue with this important work.


In Conversation 3:30-4:30pm

The Legacy and Impact of Environmental Racism – Dr. Ingrid Waldron & Deborah Carr

Conservation and nature writer Deborah Carr, author of Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka, speaks with Ingrid R. G. Waldron, author of There’s Something In The Water, which was subsequently made into a documentary film of the same name. Dr. Waldron examines the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Indigenous and Black communities in Canada; specifically, the disproportionate impact of environmental damage on Black and Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia and the grassroots resistance against the pollution and poisoning of their communities.

Dinner 6:00-8:00pm

CNFC/Humber Literary Review CNF Contest winner announced

Literary Cabaret 8:00-10:00pm

Conference attendee readings

Sunday, May 28th (Atlantic time)

Annual General Meeting 1:30-3:00pm

CNFC Board and all members welcome

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