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Writers' Federation of New Brunswick

The Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick (WFNB) is an organization that promotes the interests of amateur and professional writers in New Brunswick by creating a community space within which to share ideas, develop the craft of writing, and find audiences for literary work. The organization assists writers at all ages and levels of development by promoting arts and literacy, providing educational services to schools and libraries, and promoting greater recognition of literature through public readings and networking events. WFNB also holds workshops for beginning writers that are taught by more experienced writers. The WFNB considers its most important role to be creating a writers’ community and facilitating camaraderie among its members.

The WFNB is a non-profit organization that is funded primarily by New Brunswick’s Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport, and by membership dues, donations, event registration fees, and occasional project grants.

The WFNB has been active since April 1982, when the province’s Cultural Affairs Director called together an advisory committee to form an association that would inform, support, and promote writers in New Brunswick. Taking its lead from poet Greg Cook, who had previous experience establishing the Nova Scotia Writers’ Federation, the advisory committee brought together known writers in a preliminary meeting at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. These writers were mostly New Brunswick participants from the Maritime Writers’ Workshop who all agreed to form “Writers of New Brunswick.” The first official meeting of this group was held in April 1983. At that meeting, Allan Cooper was elected president and Dr. Alfred G. Bailey was appointed honorary president.

When it became incorporated in 1984, the organization changed its name to the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick, expanded its board of directors, and appointed representatives for regional and cultural areas of the province. In 1987, a part-time project coordinator was hired (a role later changed to executive director); a part-time office in Fredericton was also opened in 1993.

The organization was in constant contact with its members with regard to choosing the direction of its funding and growth. Not only were there annual meetings, but there were also constitutional changes, organizational expansion, member surveys, and advocacy presentations made to provincial committees such as the Cultural Policy Task Force.

Over the years, several additions were made to the organization, namely the literary competition (1985), the newsletter New Brunswick Ink (1992), the WFNB website (1997), a member directory (2000), the Alden Nowlan Literary Festival (2001), a WFNB Day, and the Fall Fair (2006), which would later become WordsFall (2009). In addition, the Annual General Meeting was transformed into the WordSpring Festival (2009).

There are also several cross-organizational events the WFNB has participated in, such as the Northrop Frye Literary Festival, readings sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts, and the WFNB Community Branch Program. Young people are a favourite demographic of the WFNB, which organizes a night at WordSpring showcasing high-school-aged authors and musicians, a readers’ theatre for younger students, and the Writers in Schools Program, which was started by long-time and founding member Michael O. Nowlan. Another key area of activity is their promotion of literacy among adults. There was a very successful partnership with Laubach Literacy in 2009 which launched Breaking the Word Barrier: Stories of Adults Learning to Read, as well as a 6-city road show.

The WFNB has encountered budget limitations in recent years, during which time the Fredericton office was closed (2009) and the literary competition became a New Brunswick-only affair (2010). Nonetheless, in the past three years, the WFNB has expanded from 115 to 240 members and it aims to remain a strong organization for many years to come. Currently, the WFNB is in the first of a three-year plan that seeks to gain more funding in order to hire a full-time executive director and an assistant director, to re-open a full-time office, as well as to expand its membership base and develop a peer-mentorship program.

Jessica Davidson
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Thompson, Lee. “About: History.” WFNB website. 2011. 30 Sept. 2011 <http://www.wfnb.ca/about/history/>.

Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick. UNB Archives. Accessed 25 Nov. 2011.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Bauer, Nancy. Email interview. 9 Nov. 2011.

Thompson, Lee. Email interview. 3 Oct. 2011.