The Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship Program for Underrepresented Writers

Call for Applications: 2020 Program – Poetry

The Quebec Writers’ Federation is delighted to announce the call for applications for the inaugural Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship. The 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 2020 mentorship will go to a Quebec-based poet who has already demonstrated an interest in literary writing and who has at least ten poems completed or in progress (Other genres will be addressed in subsequent years, should funding allow.) The selected writer will work with their mentor over the course of four months (March through June, 2020) and participate in a public reading in June 2020. Applicants should be prepared to dedicate at least 10 hours per week to their writing during that period.

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

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 ten poems finished or in progress.
  • Applicants must be able to devote at least 10 hours a week to their writing during the months of March to June 2020.
  • 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.

How to Apply

Prepare the following documents:

  • a cover letter describing the writing you’ve done so far and how the mentorship would make a difference in your writing life (maximum one page);
  • a sample of your poetry: a maximum of three poems with no more than 60 lines for each poem submitted or the equivalent (for example, two poems of up to 90 lines each).
  • a short statement about your background and writing experience, including the reason you are eligible for this initiative.
  • Remember to provide your full name and a way to contact you.

Email the documents to or send them to the QWF office.

Mairuth Sarsfield Mentorship

Quebec Writers’ Federation

1200 Atwater Ave., Suite 3

Westmount, QC  H3Z 1X4


  • Deadline for applications: November 14, 2019
  • Notification of results: early December 2019
  • Mentorship period: March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020
  • Public reading: June 2020

The 2020 Mairuth Sarsfield Mentor: Gillian Sze

Photo credit: Christian Lee

Gillian Sze is the author of multiple poetry collections including Peeling Rambutan, Redrafting Winter, and Panicle, which were finalists for the QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. She studied Creative Writing and English Literature and received a Ph.D. in Études anglaises from Université de Montréal. Originally from Winnipeg, she now resides in Montreal, where she teaches creative writing and literature.

Jury: Tanya Evanson, Kaie Kellough, and Nigel Thomas.

Photo credit: Temmuz Arsiray

Tanya Evanson is an Antiguan-Canadian poet, performer, producer, arts educator and director of Banff Centre Spoken Word. She tours internationally and has published six artist books, four studio albums and two videopoems. In 2013 she received the Golden Beret Award and was Poet of Honour at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Bothism (Ekstasis 2017) is her first published poetry collection followed by Nouveau Griot (Frontenac 2018). She lives in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal and moonlights as a whirling dervish.

A man wearing glasses
Photo credit: Melissa-Anne Cobbler

Kaie Kellough is a poet, novelist, and sound performer. His most recent book is Magnetic Equator (McClelland and Stewart, 2019). He is the author of two sound-poetry recordings, two earlier books of poetry, and the novel Accordéon, nominated for the Amazon First Novel Award. Kaie’s upcoming work is Dominoes at the Crossroads (Véhicule, 2020), fiction that leaps time and latitude, and divides its consciousness between North America and the Caribbean.

Photo credit: Rufo Valencia

H. Nigel Thomas is a retired professor of United States literature. His published works include five novels and three collections of Short stories. His novel Spirits in the Dark was nominated for the QSPELL Hugh MacLennan Fiction Prize; and No Safeguards, another novel, was nominated for the Paragraphe Quebec Writers’ Federation Hugh MacLennan Fiction Prize. He is the founder and English-language coordinator of Lectures Logos Readings.