Conference & AGM

AGM & OnWords 2019: May 30 – June 1, 2019
Four Points by Sheraton Halifax, 1496 Hollis St, Halifax

Halifax is a hotbed of creative talent, where writers pen award-winning works, slam poetry thrives, and students hone their craft at creative writing programs across the city. It’s the perfect locale to dig into the craft and business of writing!

Join us at OnWords 2019: Write. Earn. Repeat. for a weekend of workshops, panel discussions, and literary networking. There will be plenty of opportunities to connect and exchange ideas with your fellow writers, meet with industry professionals, develop your skills, and have a good time. Scroll down for the full OnWords program.

Registration Fee:
    $205 for members of TWUC, PEIWG, and WFNS
    $230 for non-members


Registration deadline: April 26, 2019

TWUC members are encouraged to attend the Union's Annual General Meeting on May 31. The AGM is free for members — just let us know you're coming. If you plan to attend the AGM but are not registered for OnWords, please email us at by April 26, 2019.

Discover Halifax

Halifax was named as one of the Top 10 Global Destinations on the Rise by TripAdvisor. Join us at OnWords and discover what all the buzz is about!

There’s plenty to see and do in Halifax when you’re not sharpening your skills in craft and business and hearing about the latest industry trends. Whether you like to browse bookstores, discover museums, stroll through gardens, tour the harbour, or test out the local breweries, you’ll find something to interest you in Halifax. Check out these things to do in Halifax.

PLUS: OnWords attendees get access to exclusive offers at businesses and attractions around Halifax. Browse the list of Show Your Badge participating businesses and start your Halifax to-do list. 

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OnWords 2019: Write. Earn. Repeat.
Conference Program

> Thursday, May 30

Poets Laureate in Conversation: Creating for the Community
7:00 – 8:15 p.m. Reception to follow.

Dr. Afua Cooper, El Jones, and Rebecca Thomas come together to share their work and talk creative process. Listen in as these multi-talented poets discuss how their writing has been shaped by working with and for the community, what it means to be the cultural voice for your city, and what upcoming projects they have in store. 

This event is free and open to the public.

Halifax logoPresenting Partner: Halifax Regional Municipality

> Friday, May 31

For details about the Union's AGM on May 31, scroll down or jump to that section

Margaret Laurence Lecture: Olive Senior
7:30 – 8:30 p.m., Halifax Central Library, Paul O'Regan Hall. Reception to follow.

Each year since 1987, Canada’s most prominent authors have shared insights into their work and the profession of writing in a lecture on the topic of “A Writer’s Life.” Olive Senior, award-winning writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, will deliver the 33rd annual Margaret Laurence Lecture in Halifax. 

This event is free and open to the public. Can't make it? Watch the live stream on the Writers' Trust of Canada's Facebook page. Find event and live stream details here

Presented by the Writers' Trust of Canada

Photo of Olive Senior

> Saturday, June 1

Trending Now
9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

Get the latest insights into trends in Canadian book buying, reading, and consumer habits. Get answers to all the questions you didn't know you had in this chart-friendly presentation.

Presented by Noah Genner, CEO & President of BookNet Canada

Photo of Noah Genner

Reaching Readers: From Tried & True to Brand New
10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Literary festivals. Readings. Magazines. Self-publishing. Social media. Crowdfunding. There are more ways than ever to put your writing out into the world. But when it comes to getting people to read that writing, what works? This panel promises fresh perspectives on creative promotion and marketing tactics. Learn what works – and what doesn’t – as three up-and-coming writers discuss their strategies for building a readership.

With Kris Bertin, Andre Fenton, and Arielle Twist. Moderated by Gail Sidonie Sobat.
Photo of Kris Bertin, Andre Fenton, Arielle Twist, and Gail Sidonie Sobat

Making Believe
10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Looking for tips to improve your craft? Join this workshop to learn how to make an interesting fiction out of the facts of one’s life. 

Presented by Michael Winter

Sponsored by University of Guelph's Creative Writing MFA program and the Humber School for Writers. 

Photo of Michael Winter

Lunch 'n' Learn: Thinking About Your Archives?
12:15 – 1:15 p.m.

It’s never too early to start thinking about the future of your past. At this lunch hour presentation, Library and Archives Canada literary archivist Sarah Hillier will introduce basic archival principles and cover what’s important to keep, how to maintain and organize your files, how to think about your email and digital files, how to negotiate the donation or sale of your archives, and more. 

Please note: Attendees are invited to enjoy their take-out or home-packed lunches during this session. Lunch will not be provided. 

Presented by Sarah Hillier, Literary Archivist, Library and Archives Canada

Photo of Sarah Hillier

Writing Your Region
1:30 – 2:45 p.m.

The saying goes “write what you know,” but writing about your region presents a host of challenging questions. How do you bring familiar surroundings to life on the page? What assumptions exist about your city, province, or territory, and how do they influence what you write? How do you sell your work beyond the borders of your region? Explore these questions and more with a panel of authors whose writing is firmly rooted in Atlantic Canada. 

With Shauntay Grant, Theresa Meuse, and Donna Morrissey. Moderated by Sarah Sawler.

Photo of Shauntay Grant, Theresa Meuse, Donna Morrissey, and Sarah Sawler
Shauntay Grant Photo: Shyronn Smardon; Sarah Sawler Photo: Nicola Davison

The Unexpected Memoir
1:30 – 2:45 p.m.

Bring back to life stale or near-forgotten memories at this session designed to help writers transform their personal stories into compelling nonfiction narratives. Through a worksheet exercise, participants will capture vital memories that may elude them. This session features writing with simple step-by-step techniques to aid in general recall, scene setting, dialogue development, and creating appropriate psychological distance for the writer. 

Please note: This workshop focusses on recall, memories, and writing, which may be triggering to some. 

Presented by JJ Lee

Photo of JJ Lee

The Art of Present-ing
3:00 – 4:15 p.m.

What makes a great author presentation? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, what does work every time is authentic presence and connection with the audience. With 30 years’ experience delivering presentations around the world for audiences young and old, Sheree Fitch will share strategies to overcome stage fright and give practical suggestions about getting in tune with your audience. Join this fun, hands-on workshop and come away more confident in your author presentations. 

Presented by Sheree Fitch

Photo of Sheree Fitch
Photo: Keith Minchin

First Page Challenge
3:00 – 4:15 p.m.

Hear from a panel of judges as they share their on-the-spot expertise reviewing the first pages of submitted manuscripts. Participants submit the first page of a fiction or nonfiction piece. Submissions are read aloud, and the judges share their impressions of strengths and weaknesses. This is your risk-free chance to see why editors put down manuscripts and why they read on, what agents look for in a potential client’s work, and what creative instructors really like.

Click here to submit a first page. Submissions must be received by April 26, 2019. All submissions are anonymous — if your work is evaluated during the session, you will not be identified. 

With Shaun Bradley, Alexander MacLeod, and Whitney Moran. Moderated by JJ Lee.

Photo of Shaun Bradley, Alexander Macleod, Whitney Moran, and JJ Lee

Speed Networking
Morning: 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Afternoon: 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.

Speed Networking is your chance to meet one-on-one with an industry professional. Remember, these are quick-fire informational interviews (not pitch sessions) so come prepared with your best questions! Speed Networkers include:

  • Stephanie Azoulay, Literature Program Officer, Explore and Create, Canada Council for the Arts
  • Shaun Bradley, Literary Agent, Transatlantic Agency
  • Lesley Choyce, Publisher, Pottersfield Press
  • Sarah Hillier, Literary Archivist, Library and Archives Canada
  • Nancy Malek, Marketing Manager, Fernwood Publishing
  • Lauren Williams, Outreach Officer, Arts Nova Scotia

Sponsored by Access Copyright

Waubgeshig Rice in Conversation with Shelagh Plunkett
4:30 – 5:15 p.m


Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation. His first short story collection, Midnight Sweatlodge, was inspired by his experiences growing up in an Anishinaabe community, and won an Independent Publishers Book Award in 2012. His debut novel, Legacy, followed in 2014, and he received the Anishinabek Nation’s Debwewin Citation for excellence in First Nation Storytelling that year. A French translation was published in 2017. His latest novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was released last fall. He currently works as a multi-platform journalist for CBC News in Sudbury, where he lives with his wife and son. 

Discover what drives Waubgeshig's dedication to writing in this wide-ranging conversation with author Shelagh Plunkett

Photo of Waubgeshig Rice and Shelagh Plunkett

Dayne Ogilvie Prize Presentation
5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

The Writers' Trust of Canada invites you to celebrate the announcement of the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers. This prize is presented to an emerging Canadian writer from the LGBTQ community who demonstrates great promise in the early stages of their career through a body of work of exceptional quality.

This event is free and open to the public. Can't make it? Watch the live stream on the Writers' Trust of Canada's Facebook page. Find event and live stream details here. 

Presented by the Writers' Trust of Canada

Birthday Bash
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

After a long day of honing your craft and business skills, it’s time to celebrate. The Writers’ Union of Canada is celebrating 45 years of supporting writers, and we’re having a party! We’ll mark our birthday and announce the winners of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the Short Prose Competition for Emerging Writers. Join us for drinks, nibbles, music, and cake.

Want to bring a guest who isn't registered for OnWords? Tickets for the Birthday Bash are available for $30. Click the button below to see your registration and Birthday Bash ticket options.

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Annual General Meeting

> Friday, May 31

Plenary Sessions
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Help shape the direction of the Union for the coming year. This is the day for motions, minutes, discussion, and debate. Business doesn’t mean boring in these sessions. One member told us, “The business meeting blew me away — who knew such a thing could be so open, honest, serious, articulate, and even entertaining?”

If you are attending the Plenary Sessions, please note the April 1 deadline in the Notice of Motions.

Regional Meetings and the Children's Writers Meeting will also take place on Friday, May 31.

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A block of rooms has been reserved at the Four Points by Sheraton for OnWords and AGM attendees at the discount rate of $184 per night. These rooms have now sold out.

A limited number of rooms are available for attendees at the nearby Westin Nova Scotian (1181 Hollis St, approx. 850 metres from the Four Points by Sheraton). Rooms are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve, call 1-888-627-8553 and request the block of rooms for The Writers' Union of Canada. The discounted rate of $219/night will be available until April 30, but the block will fill up before then, so be sure to book soon. 

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Book Table

The volunteer-run OnWords Book Table gets more popular every year. This is your chance to show off your latest books and check out the work of your fellow writers. 

The Book Table operates on Saturday, June 1, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Learn more about the Book Table.

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Ways to Save

The Writers’ Union of Canada encourages members to attend the AGM each year but we recognize that finances can provide a barrier to attendance. There are a few measures in place to assist in making attendance more affordable.

Plenary Sessions

The Plenary Sessions of the Annual General Meeting are free and open to all TWUC members.

AGM Travel Reimbursement Fund

For those members who must travel to attend the AGM there is an AGM Travel Reimbursement Fund. Funds are set aside to assist members with travel costs to the AGM. Members must pay the first $150 of their travel. They are then reimbursed a percentage of the rest of their eligible expenses. The percentage reimbursed depends on the number of people who apply to the pool and the total amount spent.

Reminder: Members wishing to use the AGM Travel Reimbursement Fund must attend the AGM. Reimbursement forms will be distributed at the AGM plenary meetings. 

Learn more about the AGM Travel Reimbursement Fund.

Reimbursement for Person-Care

There is reimbursement for person-care for up to $100 per person or couple, for members attending the annual general meetings with a receipt from a care worker.

Learn more about reimbursement for person-care.


Each year, staff recruits a member volunteer to coordinate billeting arrangements for TWUC members in the city of the AGM. This year’s Billeting Coordinator is Susan White.

If you are a friendly writer in Halifax who can open your home to a fellow writer, or a friendly writer from outside Halifax who would like to stay with a friendly writer in Halifax, fill out the Billet Form. The Billeting Coordinator will put you in touch with one another. After that, it’s up to you to work out the details.

The Billeting Coordinator will try as far as possible to find an appropriate billet for every member requesting one but cannot guarantee that each billet arrangement will be a match made in heaven. We’ve set an early deadline so if a billet can’t be found there will still be time to make other arrangements. 

Download the Billet FormDeadline to return the Billet Form: March 29, 2019.

AGM Waiver Lottery

For TWUC members who could not otherwise afford to attend the AGM, there is an annual lottery for one member from each region to win accommodation and registration for OnWords, which takes place the day after the Annual General Meeting. Winners pay their own travel expenses but can apply to the AGM Travel Reimbursement Fund described above. You can only receive the AGM Waiver Lottery once. Any members wishing to put their name into the AGM Waiver Lottery can apply in confidence to Valerie Laws at

Deadline to apply to the AGM Waiver Lottery: March 26, 2019.

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The Writers' Union of Canada would like to thank the companies and organizations whose generous support helps us provide writers with vital opportunities to learn from industry leaders, develop professional skills, and — most importantly — connect with one another. If you are interested in supporting OnWords 2019, please contact Gaeby Abrahams at or 416-703-8982 ext 233.

          Kindle                                                                      Penguin Random House Canada                    Canadian Publishers' Council                    Association of Canadian Publishers                                        

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See you in Halifax!