The 2021 Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship Program for Underrepresented Writers: Fiction

Please scroll down to see the selected writer for the 2021 Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship program.

Applications for the 2022 program will open in the fall of 2021. Please see below for information on eligibility and updates.

The Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship, which is a component of QWF’s Fresh Pages initiative, is designed to help an aspiring writer or playwright who is Indigenous, Black, or a person of colour to develop their literary writing.

The 2021 mentorship will go to a Quebec-based fiction writer who has already demonstrated an interest in literary writing. The selected writer will work with H. Nigel Thomas over the course of four months (February through May) and participate in a public reading in June.

The selected writer will also receive a free one-year membership in QWF.

Image courtesy of Sarsfield’s granddaughter, Zinzi de Silva

Mairuth Sarsfield (1925-2013) was born and raised in the Little Burgundy district of Montreal. She achieved distinction in every arena she entered: as a best-selling novelist and a journalist; working for Canada’s External Affairs Department at home and abroad; serving as press secretary for the Canadian delegation to the United Nations and as a senior information officer for the United Nations Environment Programme based in Nairobi, Kenya. She also served on the Board of Directors of the CBC. Among the many awards and honours she received are the Chevalier à l’Ordre National du Quebec, the National Congress of Black Women Foundation’s First Literary Award for her novel No Crystal Stair, and the declaration of “Mairuth Sarsfield Day” by the City of Cleveland for her work on the “For Every Child a Tree” environmental campaign, which led to thousands of tree-planting projects around the world.

These accomplishments were nothing short of remarkable for any woman in twentieth-century North America. The fact that Mairuth Sarsfield achieved them, and more, as a Black woman, ensures her role as an inspiration for all future generations of young people from marginalized communities. With this mentorship program, the Quebec Writers’ Federation is proud to shine a spotlight on Ms. Sarsfield’s life and contributions to her city, her country, and the world.


  • Applicants must live in Quebec and be Indigenous, Black, or a person of colour.
  • Applicants should have already demonstrated an interest in creative writing and have at least one or two literary works finished or in progress.
  • Applicants must be able to devote at least 10 hours a week to their writing during the months of February to May 2021.
  • There is no age or publication requirement.
  • Writers in a graduate writing program or already working with a professional editor or publisher are not eligible to apply.


  • Call for applications: October 2020
  • Deadline for applications: November 19, 2020
  • Notification of results: December 2020
  • Mentorship period: February to May 2021
  • Public reading: June 2021

The 2021 Mairuth Sarsfield Mentor:

H. Nigel Thomas is a retired professor of United States literature. He has published dozens of essays in literary journals and anthologies as well as eleven books that include five novels and three collections of short stories. His novel Spirits in the Dark was nominated for the QSPELL Hugh MacLennan Fiction Award; and No Safeguards, another novel, was nominated for QWF’s Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. His novel Easily Fooled will be published in 2021. He is the founder and English-language coordinator of Lectures Logos Readings.

The 2021 Mairuth Sarsfield Mentee:

Lynda Bailey is not your typical writer, but she has always had a passion for reading and writing and she has a wealth of life experiences to write about.  Of Caribbean origin, she has worked as a teacher and is now a nurse specializing in the field of mental health. Her current project is a novel dealing with mental illness. She hopes it will help to dispel the stigma and show that it is no respecter of persons, and that with appropriate medication, therapy, and emotional support, patients can live fulfilling and productive lives. Lynda lives in Montreal.


Photo Credit: Thomas Langdon

Oonya Kempadoo is a creative writer published and critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic and author of three novels. She has served as a juror for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and, most recently, the Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards; Alliance for Young Artists & Writers (USA).

Photo Credit: Alex Tran

Dimitri Nasrallah is the author of three novels, most recently 2018’s The Bleeds. His second novel, Niko, won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, and was nominated for CBC’s Canada Reads and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Since 2013, he has served as editor for Esplanade Books, Véhicule Press’s fiction imprint. 

Robert Edison Sandiford is the author of several books, among them The Tree of Youth, winner of Barbados’ Governor General’s Award of Excellence in Literary Arts; And Sometimes They Fly, recipient of a BMA “Brands of Barbados” Award; and Sand for Snow, shortlisted for the Frank Collymore Literary Award.  

2020 Program – Poetry