• 26 Apr 2024 3:42 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    The view of Tennants Cove

    A generation ago, when Franz and Anne Von Ziegesar (Zuh-gay-sar) of Connecticut sailed up the St. John (Wolastoq) River into Tennants Cove, they passed by an idyllic 175-acre farm near Kars, NB, and they just had to see if it was for sale.

    The owner was a 90-year-old widower with no children. He was a descendant of the original owners, first-generation loyalists named the Pickets, who first settled in Kingston, New Brunswick.

    American author (and WFNB member!) Peter Von Ziegesar was 12 when his parents bought the property, and afterward, the family travelled up to Kars every summer from their Connecticut home to enjoy the peace and quiet of this rural farming community.

    Peter Von Ziegesar

    Born in New York City and raised in Connecticut, Peter was originally trained as a sculptor. Ten years ago, he published a memoir (The Looking Glass Brother, St. Martin’s Press, 2014) which chronicled his problematic relationship with his stepbrother, also called Peter. His stepbrother was a violin prodigy but developed schizophrenia at the age of 20. 

    Peter is also a screenwriter, and several of his films are part of a collection belonging to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. “It’s been a huge part of our lives, and my children’s lives,” he says, of the farm. “They grew up with the people in the neighbourhood, and their kids – who are real farmers, you know. It’s been a real positive thing in our lives.”

    When Peter’s father died, he left the property to him, and he wondered what he ought to do with it next. (The acreage is now a Nature Trust of New Brunswick Conservation Easement, in which old fields, oak and cedar forests and 3.2 km of St. John River frontage are protected from development.)

    Since he always felt like it was a great place to get work done, Peter teamed up with his friend, novelist and screenwriter Melissa Scholes Young, to establish Tennants Cove Writers Retreat, a five-day intensive writing retreat with consultations for a maximum of six people. Born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri (Mark Twain’s hometown), Melissa is currently an associate professor in Literature at American University. The movie rights for one of her novels has just been optioned by Sony.

    Melissa Scholes Young

    Participants work with Peter and Melissa on their memoir, fiction, or screenwriting projects. Their five-day retreat is uniquely tailored to writers who are working on their first novel manuscript or memoir, and who may feel stuck. “I spent a lot of time as an editor. I’ve worked on a lot of other people’s work, and Melissa has spent a lot of time working with other fiction and nonfiction writers. Together, I think we have real expertise in helping people find out where they’re heading, evaluating their work, and to help them find a direction for the rest of their manuscript. Melissa is really good at structure.”

    Peter and Melissa have kept in touch with their authors and monitor their progress. He was gratified to say that one of the students from his first retreat has finally finished his novel, “one that he was really struggling over when he was with us two years ago. He’s from Toronto, and when he came to us, he was quite lost, but showed a lot of talent.”

    At a retreat, students arrive on Sunday and gather for dinner. By this time, all their works-in-progress have been read by Peter and Melissa. They proceed with one-on one-consultations, workshops and writing prompts, morning and afternoon. They cover whatever is needed, even if it’s grammar and sentence structure. The sessions are a bonding experience. “By the end of the second day,” Peter says, “everyone is exhausted. They’ve shared their souls and have dug deep to bring out the truths that need to be revealed."

    The retreat crew enjoying dinner

    On Day 3, Wednesday, the group takes a break from consultations or workshops and spend the day writing, catching up and implementing what they’ve learned. They take the time to enjoy the farm and the surrounding scenery. Wednesday night, they usually have a talent show. “Everybody has some weird talent,” Peter says, smiling.

    From songwriting to reading auras, to telling ghost stories, the talent show is a fun way to blow off energy from the hard work of the previous days.

    Peter’s son and daughter also participate in the Tennant’s Cove Retreat. “My son is a bartender and chef, as well as a great guitar player, and my daughter is working toward her PhD in Philosophy--- she makes great vegetarian salads! This event has become quite a family enterprise.”

    On Thursday and Friday, the participants take part in another round of one-on-one consultations, and people also start getting together for guided or spontaneous workshops. By Friday night, people are happy-exhausted, and hang out over homemade pizza. Even though they come from different places and perspectives and write about wildly different things, everyone bonds over the shared experience.

    “Most people in New York at least, they know Nova Scotia, but New Brunswick is kind of an unknown. I’ve known about it all my life, but it seems like a secret to the outside world. Where we are, it’s just a real quiet place—hardworking, good people there with farms. What we’re doing as writers, we’re not really blending into what’s happening around us, but it is a good setting for writing, I think.”

    Spaces are available for the next retreat on July 28 – August 3. The six-night, five-day gathering is $1500, including room, board, and consultations. They’ve never had a participant from NB before, and they would love a WFNB member to be the first. Check out for more details.

  • 13 Oct 2023 12:39 AM | Anonymous

    October 13, 2023 – Attention, New Brunswick writers: if you’ve been polishing that brilliant piece of writing to submit to the NB Writing Competition—which normally opens December 1—you now have more time to work at it.

    The Writers' Federation of New Brunswick (WFNB) has announced that its annual Writing Competition is changing its dates. Beginning this season and henceforth, the NB Writing Competition will open on January 1, and run until March 31.

    In previous years, the program ran from December 1, until the end of February the following year. The change is being made for two reasons. “Beginning in January instead of December means that the three-month competition is contained within one calendar year,” says Rhonda Bulmer, executive director. “This is much easier for administrative and reporting reasons.”

    Secondly, she adds, “the expansion to the end of March also makes participation more convenient for high school teachers around the province and their students, who may want to submit to the Sheree Fitch Prize for Teen Writers.” Curriculum scheduling before March break often interferes with the submission process.

    The program celebrates eight categories of unpublished writing in the genres of novel, short story, single poem, poetry manuscript, books for young people, and stories by teens, as well as unpublished short film script, and narrative non-fiction.

    The New Brunswick Writing Competition began in 1985, the same year as the WFNB's date of incorporation. It’s been held annually ever since, awarding thousands of dollars in prizes over the decades. Many past winners have since achieved national and international publishing fame.

  • 13 Sep 2023 11:39 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    By Thandiwe McCarthy

    On August 18th, 2023, I decided to attend my first writer’s retreat. The Writers Federation of New Brunswick was putting on a two-day retreat at the Villa Madonna in Rothesay. I thought this was a great time to get away from all the event planning and community politics and find out where I was as a writer. My goal was to toss my phone in my room and just spend as many hours as possible writing, talking about writing, and reading. Here’s a few things I took away from my two-night stay.


    Sometimes I find it hard to admit I’m a writer. Not just because I’m new to the practice, but also the fuzziness of the definition. Is a writer someone who keeps a gratitude journal? Do they need to sell books? Publish in magazines? Win literary awards?  As a Spoken Word poet who writes nonfiction essays and has self-published a novel, I am often at a loss for the single title that echoes back.

    Seems there are half a dozen yard sticks that measure when we are granted permission to yell out that we are writers. Thankfully all those haunting questions of identity were put to rest in just two evenings of conversations with my peers. Sharing stories of literary success and creative struggle did more than help me approach the blank page. It helped me be comfortable with the task at hand, regardless of what it was called. Of course, I still needed the motivation to write something. 


    I truly believe that writing is the anxiety Olympics. Every paragraph, sentence, and word are constantly competing for that perfect gold medal. But not just what we write, even our writing practices must be defended against friends, family, hunger, and boredom.  Yet here again I was helped by spending forty-eight hours with other writers.

    Several times a day in the common room we had a Word War. A 20-minute timer would start, and half a dozen people would write as many words as possible. There was something magic about hearing nothing but the mechanical pencils scratch, the ballpoint pens glide and the laptop keys being struck all with the shared goal. I could feel the weight of our collective focus. It really helped me. Then at the end we go around and share how many words each of us wrote. It felt like getting a jumpstart to my creative engine. And I credit those fun activities with boosting my writing drive almost a month after the retreat. Truly the best way to get over a writer’s block is collectively. But writing books won’t help you sell them.


    Business. Ugh. I know the exact price to ship out one of my books by Canada post is $4.31. For some reason if I use the envelopes with bubble wrap inside, then that price will double because it then becomes priced as a parcel instead of a letter.

    This is to say if your vision of being a successful writer has anything to do with money, you’re going to have to learn the industry. And there is no better way to learn about book business than being locked into a haunted mansion for two nights with a dozen writers. I got to hear about how much reviews matter to authors, the dangers of large bookstores, the benefits of consignment deals.  There was a whole nuanced conversation about the three great lessons for all writers.

    • 1.       Being a bestselling book doesn’t mean it is the most read.
    • 2.       The books everyone actually read won’t mean they are well written.
    • 3.       The best written books don’t guarantee sales.

    There are levels to the writer game you can only perceive by talking to other writers who’ve published dozens, sold thousands, and read hundreds of books.

    Over the course of this two-night retreat I learned so much. I feel more confident calling myself a writer. Inspired by Word Wars I’ve innovated my writing practice to keep things fresh. And I’m looking forward to experiencing the selling at a book table (I’m doing it this October!).

    I really believe no matter what stage you are at in your writing, you will benefit from investing in the next WFNB writers retreat. Bring your favorite pens, journals, books, and let yourself experience the joy of being a writer. Be inspired to take your creativity into whatever direction you want. And I promise you they’ll be someone equally as excited to help you out. Plus, you don’t have to cook, there is yoga, unlimited coffee, and all the writers can read work in a supportive environment.  I know I’ll be going back, if only just to spend time with people who share a deep love writing.

    Love and Respect

  • 12 May 2023 11:54 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    After five years of trial and error in the craft and business of writing, a writers’ group from Shediac has made the “dash” from writing to publishing.

    In the past five years since the Ice Dash writers’ group was formed (formerly known as the Ice Dash Dozen), their members have grown from 12 to 20, and out of those experiences, a core group of eight people have combined their financial resources, skills, and experience to form a full-service publishing company.

    “Our goal is to publish one book in 2023,” says Maria Gillespie, one of the founding shareholders of Merlin Star Press, (, based in Cocagne.

    For now, their focus will be to publish fiction that appeals to their readers, and preference will be given to writers from the Southeast region of New Brunswick, but eventually they want to encompass Atlantic Canada.

    For Maria, this seems like a natural progression for a group of people who learned about the process of writing—and afterward, the business side of writing—together, and from the ground up. Understanding the business of words is not just about creating characters, moving a story along with dialogue, and using colourful, evocative language.

    “Over the years, there’s been a real development in people’s skills. The publishing industry, as you well know, has changed a lot. Driven by economics and a variety of reasons, it’s really hard for people to realize their dream and get their work published. So, we felt we’d like to take the next step.”

    The idea formed among a group of three, including Maria, in 2022. They discussed their vision, what they wanted to accomplish, and they approached other small publishing companies who explained the pitfalls and difficulties they’ve faced.

    “We have Warren Redman, (pen name Zev Bagel) who’s a published author, has lots of experience with being rejected, and accepted, how to produce and print books, editing, cover design. Zev published previously under the name Merlin Star. “He graciously gave up the logo and title and let us take it on as our corporation name. The white cat on the logo is Nicole’s cat.”  Another ex-officio member is Allan Hudson, who has had both self-publishing and traditional publishing experiences.

    A retired lawyer from among their group led them through the incorporation and shareholding process, and for the manuscripts they take on, experienced local writers will serve as readers and editors.

    “We have skills and experiences in different areas, and we feel Merlin Star can do a lot of the work in-house. Editing can be very expensive, and we have some skilled editors in the group.”

    Merlin Star intends to be a full-service publisher. “We are going to offer these services at no up-front costs to the author,” the retired teacher and school principal adds. “We will do some of the jobs ourselves, except for printing, artwork and layout. Our company has shareholders who contributed money, and from that pool they will offer these services. We might not get rich, but we’d like to break even!”

    Maria says their purpose is to celebrate the creativity of local authors, and create beautiful, presentable, marketable products that they can get send out into the world. “The more I learn about other authors out there, read their work, and go to book launches, I’m sure there is a lot of unrecognized talent out there.”

    Currently, Merlin Starr does not have a brick-and-mortar location at this point in time. They gather in a public place for meetings. Maria’s home address is the official address of the publisher. “We’re still learning as we go…we’ll be more efficient when we’ve had this first experience and we can accept more submissions. One of the publishers told us they got 18, in the first year, and another said 128.”

    Merlin Star Press opened for submissions in April, and they will remain open until July 1. They will make a formal launch announcement of sorts to writers about this new venture at WordSpring in Saint John on June 2. In the meantime, Maria says that the dizzying amount of work in the process of book publishing isn’t so intimidating, because it’s not a solitary experience. “We’re together in this project. This is a wonderful experience that I’m having. “

  • 13 Apr 2023 9:57 AM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    By Roche Sappier

    Yes, it is my first book. I am however, writing and illustrating a series of new books based on the success of my first.

    My Writing Background

    I started writing in High School when I was the editor, writer and illustrator of the very first Aboriginal Community Newspaper/newsletter in the province of New Brunswick. It was called “NewSound News” and we were based at the Tobique First Nation, funded by the Secretary of State for three years running (From Grade 10-Graduation,1970-72). I employed five other high school students to report on items of interest, cultural, sports and news events on a weekly basis. I also contributed poetry and articles for our high school newsletter called “The Green & Gold.”)

    At eighteen, I became the first editor, writer and illustrator for the very first Aboriginal Newspaper in Atlantic Canada called “The Augnutemagen” (The Language in Maliseet) which was created and funded by the Union of New Brunswick Indians, which at the time was the main Aboriginal political organisation.

    At 22, I became the Communications Officer for the “Aboriginal Crime & Justice Commission” based in Ottawa and funded by the Solicitor General of Canada. For two years we travelled across Canada visiting 26 Federal Prisons and interviewing over 1000 Aboriginal inmates before writing and presenting our findings to the Federal Government. It was my first job at doing technical writing for the federal government.

    I went back to College at 24 to an all-Aboriginal College called Manitou in the province of Quebec. It was there I met many Aboriginal Elders and Storytellers who liked my writing and drawing style and it was there I began doing small scale full-coloured booklets on Aboriginal legends and stories from tribes such as the Montagnais, the Cree, the Mohawks and the Hurons.

    I began serious writing again in 1997 when I started doing draft illustrations for Aboriginal Education Groups and Literacy Organizations. It was then I did the original works for The Glooscap Tales & The Legends of Red E.A.R.T.H. as drafts.

    I returned to University and earned my BBA in 2010 and my BA in 2016, and worked on short term contracts writing for Aboriginal First Nations, organizations and education groups in New Brunswick. During this time, I wrote poetry, short stories, essays and two novels, as well as, research material and business plans for my companies.

    The Premise of the Book

    My grandfather, Dr. Peter Paul, or “White Pete” aka, was the very first Aboriginal person to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UNB for his work in history, archaeology, linguistics and research, as well as, his work with Harvard University and the Peabody Museum, taught us the Ancient History of the Maliseets. And through his renditions was able to give us an account of Aboriginal history that went far back into antiquity- perhaps even into the antediluvian epoch. He asserted that our history was tens of thousands of years old and that contemporary history books did not give a good accounting of our people, their achievements, technology, way of life, traditions, religion, ceremonies, where we really came from and who we really are. He maintained that our language is so old that at one time it was the language of commerce and trade with many other ancient cultures-including the Basque and the Norsemen. Our people, according to my Mo-Mo, (Grandfather in Maliseet) believed in the Great Spirit (Za-zeus) and in the brotherhood of Man. And he also taught us that to be truly Aboriginal all you had to be was a decent human being and to do unto others what you would have done to you. Friendship, loyalty and devotion served as a basis for Aboriginal culture many millennia ago. It was that friendship from Aboriginals which allowed for the survival of the European cultures since 1620 and augmented the proliferation of many peoples to this North American continent. Even after that, Aboriginal people are still portrayed in schools as mindless savages who live in the woods, are blood thirsty, backward, stupid, wage war continuously, and are foreigners who came across the “Bering Land Bridge” and are considered as those denizens whom God created to grub for food on the forest floor. Nothing could be farther from the truth according to Dr. Peter Paul, and he worked and devoted his whole life to change that perception. His stories and tales of long ago Aboriginal folklore and folk heroes were always inspirational, full of light and filled with magic and mysticism. And he told us all about our Aboriginal Culture right from our Spiritual Source and beginnings where there were gnomes, elves, sprites, fairies, little folk, giants in the earth, monsters, spirits, real elementals depicted, and real miracles happening. He painted glorious pictures of a time when we, as Aboriginal Peoples, were one with our creative spirit and one with all there is. And he related to us about a time (or golden era) when there really was true harmony with nature and with all of the flora and fauna and other living beings. My grandad knew that Aboriginals had forgotten this and so had the world. According to him a renaissance was in order and I wanted to be a part of that shifting paradigm.  

    My Motivation to Write the Book

    FYI, I have been drawing and illustrating since I was six years old. I used my art as a way to cope with the pain and trauma of Indian Day School. I drew and wrote my first comic book of Thor and the Tales of Asgard when I was ten, and since then I have completed all kinds of projects at many different levels over the past fifty years or so, including oil & acrylic paintings (over 300 in all) of Glooscap, landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes and animals and Indian Art- but for the most part graphic novels and comic books of my heroes. My work sells and it is appealing because I take a very soft approach in re-introducing my culture to other cultures. In this way I make my work highly attractive by using bright colours and I use generic figures and symbols which are easy to understand by everyone. Also, I use my work as a literacy tool to encourage people to look at the beautiful illustrations and match the words in the stories and to make an extra effort to find out for their own interest what my work is all about and the message (s) contained therein. And basically, my work is to reintroduce my culture to the many other cultures in NB and the world in a more interesting way- devoid of politics, racism, stigma, dogma and ill feelings. My introduction to the written word was done hand in hand with art and that is, and has been, my approach right from the beginning. You cannot make friends with other peoples by taking an adversarial approach. In educating those who are willing to listen to you with their hearts and minds, it is essential for me to bring an olive branch and an Eagle Feather at the same time. I believe by being friendly and partnering up with those who are like minded will we succeed in changing some of the negative perceptions about Aboriginal people in this province and country. Since reconciliation there has been an enhanced interest in Aboriginal people, culture and traditions by the government and the public at large and I want to put my best cultural foot forward with my book. (s)

    Why is “The Glooscap Tales & The Legends of Red E.A.R.T.H.” Important to Read.

    First, it is the only book written and illustrated by an Aboriginal of New Brunswick about creation Myths and Legends that have been passed down from generation to generation, by word of mouth, going back thousands of years. Second, the book depicts Aboriginal people in a very good light and is highly educational. Third, the book is appealing to the young and elder alike and everyone in between and it is written in English, French and Maliseet. Fourth, the book is well done, is of high quality and is endorsed by the ex Lieutenant Governor, Graydon Nicholas who is a champion of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal literacy and is currently the Chancellor of STU. Fifth, the book introduces material that had not been published previously. Sixth, the book is the first in a series of other beautiful books. Seventh, the book is included in the NB school curriculum for 2017-18. Eighth, the book will encourage people to emulate what I had done. Ninth, the book depicts a true Aboriginal perspective with regard to spirituality. Tenth, the book is priced fairly and is available online at and

    Nominations and Awards for My Book

    FYI, I have won many awards and competitions for my work over the years especially in the art and illustration sector. Currently, my book is on the suggested reading list for “Indigenous Reads” (see website) across Canada. Also, my book was used as the template for Atlantic Canadian Aboriginal Culture by the University of Kiev, in Ukraine.   

    A Brief Passage from The Book

    “The Land of the “Wabanaki” (or Red EARTH) as this is called, is the land nearest to the sunrise and to the “Eastern Gate” where the sun first touches the earth. This is where the name of “Wabanoag” or the “People of the Dawn” originates. These Eastern Woodland Tribes including the Mi’kmaqs, the Maliseet, the Penobscot and the Passamaquoddy dwell here and consider these lands holy and sacred”.

    Taken from the introduction: “Wabanaki Mythology & Legends of Creation -Glooscap and the Red E.A.R.T.H. Tales”. (Page iv)  

  • 13 Feb 2023 2:17 PM | Executive Director (Administrator)

    For Roche Sappier of Tobique First Nation, a love of continuing education, and learning by doing has been a natural way of life. The writer, visual artist and serial entrepreneur hopes that a new writing group he’s about to establish at the Perth-Andover Public Library will inspire others in his community to learn by doing, as well.

    On Thursday nights from 5 to 7 p.m., Roche invites WFNB members and friends in his region to participate in his writing group, which will be appropriately titled, “Chapter One.”

    Roche says the seed for the new writing group was planted at WordSpring 2022 at St. Thomas University, when he was asked to perform a smudge ceremony on opening night. “That room was filled with energy. Positive, you could almost swim in it. It was like jumping into a hot tub. Everyone was exuding an energy from a spirit. And that spirit was that they were writers, they were creators, they brought their tools with them. I was in the presence of writers and creators and that was the first time that had ever happened. Wow!”

    Through the Chapter One writing group, Roche wants to share that same creative energy in his region, hoping to inspire members of his community to appreciate and pursue literacy. ”My wife and daughter and I probably read 10 books per month. We want to reintroduce the love of reading,” Roche says. “It makes you a better human, a stronger human. My Grandfather had a room in his house so full of books there was only room for his desk. My living room is the same.”

    The legacy of Roche’s grandfather looms large. His grandfather was the first Indigenous person to earn a PhD (linguistics) from the University of New Brunswick and was a contemporary of Louis J. Robichaud. He set the standard high for his family. “I and all of my siblings have degrees or multiple degrees. We learned to work and thrive at a young age and to survive using the tools that were around us. And we were taught that the world is composed of all kinds of other cultures out there. We were encouraged to make friends with other cultures, other communities.”

    Roche would like to welcome writers to the group who have the same goals for personal growth, and who can produce that same creative energy that he felt at WordSpring. “For me, this is more of a spiritual transformation …I want people around the table that think like I do. We’re not all Margaret Atwood yet, but there’s a potential to be.”

    Roche self-published his first book in 2017 through his own company called Red Earth Publishing. His book, Glooscap Tales, was a collection of illustrated legends in French, English and Malecite, and was dedicated by former Lieutenant Governor Graydon Nicholas. Roche learned the stories from his grandfather, who taught him about Glooscap. “In our language, Glooscap means ‘a very good man.’”

    This book has done very well and is still available on Amazon and Indigo. In 2017, Roche and his daughter rented a kiosk at the Marco Polo terminal in Saint John and offered their book to people from all over the world visiting from the cruise ships. “One of them was a professor from the University of Kiev in Ukraine, and he bought 20 of our books. And he used that as a template for aboriginal history.”

    Roche intends to write more books and graphic novels that introduce readers to the ancient world his grandfather taught him about: a world full of mysticism, colour, and possibility, that recalls the magical history of his people and honours strength through dark times. It is this energy and spirit that he hopes will be shared by members of the Chapter One writing group.

    By creating the group, Roche feels he’s tossing a pebble into a still pond. “You don’t realize what you can do until you try. I want this group to be self-guiding. We want you to become you as a writer, a contributor to society, an artist. I’m casting a vision, and WFNB members are welcome to come along.”

    If you’re interested in participating, contact Tammy Wright, Head of the Perth Library. Her email is  and her telephone number is 506-273-2843. 

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