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Immerse yourself in a creative writing workshop this summer!

The 2021 workshop is scheduled to run online from July 11-16, 2021

About the workshop:

Since 1992, the Humber School for Writers (HSW) has offered an immersive, focused workshop to jump start your creative writing. The effects of the COVID-19 outbreak have underscored the value of community, so to support the ongoing health of our community of writers, the 2021 creative writing workshop will be offered virtually. You’ll have a real time mentor-led workshop experience from the comfort of home, and attend online panels and craft talks given by top industry professionals and Humber workshop faculty. You’ll connect with peers, and build your literary support network. Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced writer, there’s something for you in our July writing workshop! During the Summer 2021 workshop, Noor Naga will lead a poetry-only workshop.

David Bezmozgis, Creative Director - Humber School for Writers

David Bezmozgis

David Bezmozgis, a writer and filmmaker, is the author of Natasha and Other Stories, The Free World, The Betrayers and Immigrant City. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope All-Story, and Best American Short Stories. He has been nominated three times for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, twice for the Governor General’s Literary Award and has received the First Novel Award among other prizes. In 2010, he was one of The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40. David has written and directed two feature films, Victoria Day and Natasha, each nominated in the writing category at the Canadian Screen Awards. He was on the writing staff for the fifth and final season of the television series Orphan Black.

Creative Director's Message

July 2021 witnesses the 30th edition of the Humber School for Writers Summer Workshop in Creative Writing. Much has changed over the past three decades when Joe Kertes, prize-winning novelist and former dean, launched the workshop. Under his stewardship and that of fellow-novelist Antanas Sileika, the workshop became one of best of its kind in North America. The list of those who have taught in it includes some of the most respected and beloved contemporary poets, novelists, memoirists, story writers and playwrights. Last year, for the first time, for reasons that require no explanation, we offered the workshop in a virtual format. I worried that much would be lost if students and instructors wouldn’t be able to gather together in the same physical space, but was pleased to find that for all that was lost, quite a lot was gained. The virtual experience made the workshop accessible to students who otherwise couldn’t have traveled to Toronto and it allowed for an engagement and intimacy different from—and maybe in some ways even superior to—the kind that is formed in a traditional workshop setting. As often happens, necessity bred discovery. We now know that there is more than one way to provide a gratifying experience to our students and instructors.

For 2021, Marina Endicott, Colin McAdam, Naben Ruthum, Michael Redhill and Alissa York, veterans from last year, join us again. Kyo Maclear, novelist, memoirist and children’s book author, who has taught multiple times in the traditional workshop, also returns. And new to Humber is the talented rising poet and novelist Noor Naga, who will lead our dedicated poetry section.

As we embark on the next edition of the workshop, and are obliged to offer it again in a virtual format, we approach it not with trepidation but with enthusiasm and confidence. One day soon we’ll bring students and instructors together as in the past, but I believe we’ll also continue to offer the workshop experience virtually—taking advantage of what we’ve learned and all the new possibilities available to us.

David Bezmozgis
Creative Director and Faculty, Humber School for Writers
Summer Workshop in Creative Writing
Humber Faculty of Media & Creative Arts

Faculty Bios

Marina Endicott

Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and CBC Radio’s Canada Reads, and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best
Book, Canada and Caribbean. Her next novel, The Little Shadows, was short-listed for the Governor General’s award and long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, as was Close to Hugh. She also writes for theatre and film. Her latest novel is The Difference.

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Kyo Maclear

Kyo Maclear is an essayist, novelist and children’s author.

Her books have been translated into fifteen languages, published in over twenty countries, and garnered nominations from the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the TD Canadian Children's Literature Awards, the First Novel Award, and the National Magazine Awards.

Her writing on contemporary culture has appeared in LitHub, The Millions, The Guardian, Brick, Prefix Photo, The Volta, The Globe and Mail, among other publications. She has been a national arts reviewer for Canadian Art and a monthly arts columnist for Toronto Life.

Her most recent book is the hybrid memoir Birds Art Life (2017). 

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Colin McAdam

Colin McAdam has a PhD in English from Cambridge University. He has mentored writers at the Banff Centre and the University of Guelph-Humber.
His first novel, Some Great Thing, won the Amazon/Books in Canada Best First Novel Award.

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Noor Naga

Noor Naga is an Alexandrian writer who was born in Philadelphia, raised in Dubai, studied in Toronto, and now lives in Cairo.
Her verse-novel Washes, Prays is out with McClelland & Stewart. She is the winner of the 2017 Bronwen Wallace Award, the 2019 RBC/PEN Canada Award, the 2019 Disquiet Fiction Prize, and the 2019 Graywolf Press Africa Prize. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in April 2022.

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Naben Ruthnum

Naben Ruthnum is a Toronto-based novelist, critic, and screenwriter. He is the author of the 2017 book Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race about
the ways in which South Asian identity in the West is often received. Ruthnum's fiction has been published in magazines ranging from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine to Granta, and he is a winner of Canada’s Journey Prize for short fiction. His first two thrillers, Find You In The Dark and Your Life Is Mine, were published in North America by Atria / Simon and Schuster. Both have been optioned and are in development for television. Ruthnum and his frequent screenwriting partner Kris Bertin currently have projects in development at Oddfellows Entertainment.

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Alissa York

Alissa York has been mentoring writers for over a decade, and has been full-time faculty at the Humber School for Writers since 2017.
Her internationally acclaimed novels include Effigy (shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize), Fauna and, most recently, The Naturalist (winner of the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction). Stories from Alissa's short fiction collection, Any Given Power, have won the Journey Prize and the Bronwen Wallace Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, Brick magazine and elsewhere. In 2018, she won the Writers' Trust Engel Findley Award for a Writer in Mid-Career. Having lived all over Canada, Alissa now makes her home in Toronto.

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Content and Format

You should attend if

  • you want to learn to write short stories, novels, poetry, memoir, creative non-fiction, Y/A (young adult) or children’s literature
  • you’re already working on a book but would like to improve your writing with feedback from established writers and your peers
  • you’d like to know how to find someone to publish your work
  • you’d like to expand your own writing community by meeting like-minded aspiring writers
  • you’d like to build your professional network through meeting top authors, agents, editors, publishers, and publishing professionals

The workshop runs from July 11 to 16, 2021 and consists of orientation programming, five three-hour workshop classes, numerous craft talks and industry lectures, and one one-on-one feedback session with your mentor.

The deadline to register is July 2, 2021, and the fee is $850 plus HST. Students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible in order to improve their chance of being paired with their preferred mentor.

panel image 1
Sarah Maclachlan (left) discusses the state of Canadian publishing with Nita Pronovost, Emily M. Keeler, and David Bezmozgis during the 2018 Summer Workshop.

Panel 3
During the 2018 workshop, mentor Kyo Maclear leads an afternoon session on the visual storytelling of picture books.

Panel 2
Jenny Offill, 2018 workshop mentor, discusses a student’s work.

student listening
A 2018 workshop student listens during an afternoon panel.

In 2021, afternoon panels include the following:

Mentor Talks

Character in Relationship
Creating vivid character relationships reveals the interconnected net of past and present lives within the work. In opposition or alliance, relationships are the circulatory system of fiction.  
Marina Endicott

Object Lessons
In this visually-driven craft talk, we will discuss the anchoring presence of objects in our narratives and the stories and forms they might inspire.
Kyo Maclear

Handcuffs & Humility
This talk will explore the potential of constraints to humble and liberate. Through a combination of exercises and close-readings, we will reimagine creation as an act of curiosity and problem-solving.
Noor Naga

Show and Tell, What the H###?
Unpacking the complex, often confusing truth at the heart of creative writing's best-loved maxim.
Alissa York   

Choosing the Right Word
Understanding words as physical phenomena. The talk will look at ways to find the perfect words, and at the rhetorical idea of decorum. How to see your words as tools, extensions of your hands that will lead your readers to the places you want to take them.
Colin McAdam

What Happens Next?: Creating Suspense
More than a cheap plot device, suspense is fundamental to all forms of storytelling. In this talk, we'll explore and challenge conventional notions of suspense in genre and literary fiction. 
Naben Ruthnum

Industry Panels

What Agents Want 
Sam Hiyate
, Founder and CEO, The Rights Factory

Samantha Haywood, President, Transatlantic Agency

Flash Assessments 
Ben George
Senior Editor, Little, Brown USA
Deborah Sun de la Cruz
, Editor Penguin Random House Canada

Ask the Publisher 
Bruce Walsh
, Publisher of House of Anansi Press


Over 330 of our alumni have published over 1000 books!

Notable alumni authors include

  • Eva Stachniak (The Winter Palace)
  • Roberta Rich (The Midwife of Venice)
  • Cathy Marie Buchanan (The Painted Girls)
  • Robert Rotenberg (The Guilty Plea)
  • Shari Lapeña (The Couple Next Door)

Course Mentors
The team of 2018 workshop mentors gathers for a group photo at Gabekanaang-ziibi ("mouth of the river"), the first stop in the Courtyard Trail of Indigenous Cultural Markers at Humber Lakeshore. The team is, from left to right, Jenny Offill, Tracey Lindberg, Adam Foulds, Alissa York, Colin McAdam, Kyo Maclear, and David Bezmozgis.

Panel 4

A 2018 student workshops a story with his colleagues and mentor, Alissa York.


“I’m truly happy Humber is exploring creative ways to continue with the workshop this summer. When I attended in 2018, we learned the finer points of craft in smaller classes, as well as the broader side of the business through talks and panel discussions--all things that can, thankfully, be taught virtually. The information presented not only enriched my short story and novel writing but helped prepare me for the day when I’m ready to send out my manuscript. It’s a relief to know that in these uncertain times, there’s still an opportunity for writers to dig deeper on a creative level, connect with other writers and learn to better express themselves as they give back to the world through their work.”

- Angie Ellis, 2018 Workshop Participant

"The Humber School for Writers provided the most valuable thing to me as an emerging writer— an audience. Readers. It’s a creative digital forum where keen and sensitive readers treat your writing with close consideration, and lend their most thoughtful feedback. What’s gained in having your work read with serious attention is that you, the writer, begin to take your writing seriously. With sharpened instincts, you learn to work with an eye to mastery. Critical feedback opens a well to more vivid and impactful stories. Working in a collaborative virtual community, among mentors and likeminded participants, you find your footing as a writer, you see where you are exactly, and form a better understanding of where you may want to go."

- Andrew Morris, 2018 Workshop Participant

"I’m getting so much out of the Humber School for Writers correspondence program. The format is ideally suited to the work – instead of attending theoretical lectures and struggling to apply them to my writing, I get thoughtful, personalized instruction on every piece I submit. My teacher and I have built a meaningful rapport and although she never pushes me, I know she’s waiting, so not producing is not an option. In the hands of these distance learning experts, the weeklong Humber Writers Workshop, which I attended last summer, will not lose any of its lustre. Don’t miss the opportunity."

- Bonny Reichert, 2019 Workshop Participant

Opportunities for Further Study

The Correspondence program

The Humber Summer Workshop in Creative Writing is a complement to the Creative Writing by Correspondence Program, the two together comprising a flexible and affordable alternative to a standard low-residency MFA. The Correspondence Program, formally known as the Creative Writing - Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry program, is a 28-week distance studio program offering aspiring writers the exceptional opportunity to complete book-length projects with guidance from a distinguished mentor. You’ll work from the comfort of home and receive extensive feedback via either regular or electronic mail. The program is customized to address the particular needs of your novel, collection of short stories, volume of poetry, or piece of creative non-fiction. It may include assessments of your handling of plot, story, character, dialogue, pace and style with the goal of improving your manuscript and refining your craft. Writers looking for an affordable alternative to a low-residency MFA program will find this program especially helpful following the Summer Workshop in Creative Writing.

smiling woman writing with a pencil