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Frequently asked questions and answers

Why should I choose the Humber Summer Creative Writing workshop?

It is a prominent writing workshop with an excellent track record.

You will spend five intense mornings in class with colleagues and your teacher poring over your work and the work of others. You will spend five afternoons hearing from writers and publishing professionals about how they achieved their goals and how the publishing world works. 

It is a very busy week of writing and literature.

While all the above is exciting, we also realize that the most important progress in writing is artistic progress. We aim to provide insight into the craft of writing and help you hone your skills.

Who teaches in the workshop?

Over the last 28 years, the HSW workshop has been taught by some of the most talented national and international writers in the world. Our teachers have included Margaret Atwood, Mavis Gallant, Francine Prose, Martin Amis, Anne Beattie, Peter Carey, two-time Booker Prize winner; Tim O'Brien, National Book Award Winner in the USA; Alistair MacLeod, winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; Edward Albee, legendary playwright and many others.

Prominence is not the only quality we look for in our instructors. All of our faculty have considerable knowledge about the craft of writing and will help you to improve your work.

What will the workshop do to advance my writing goals?

In the long run, we want you to succeed and will do the best we can to help you achieve your goals. If you are published in book form, we will add the cover of your work to our "wall of fame" and may ask you to read or speak for us. Some of our faculty are former students.

In the short run, your teacher and your classmates will look carefully at 15 pages of your work as well as the work of your colleagues. Your teacher will advise you on the best strategies to improve your writing.

What happens during the summer workshop?

You spend five mornings in class with a small group of students. In that time, each of you reads and comments on the work of the others under the guidance of your writing instructor. You will also have a short private meeting with your instructor. Each instructor addresses the entire student group at least once, so you will hear from every teacher on our roster this season. Former students who have published in previous years tell how they went from aspiring to published. Top professionals in editing and agenting say what they are looking for and how to achieve success.

We do a “Flash Assessment”, an optional activity in which publishers and editors react to the first page of your work.

The large group first gets together on Sunday afternoon to socialize and meet the faculty. The workshop ends with a farewell reception on Friday afternoon.

Are there any other benefits?

The workshop is both intense and inspiring; participants can expect to be exhausted and exhilarated by the end of the workshop.

You may also find that your colleagues become a useful support group. Some years ago, four alumni formed a writing circle and vowed to stay together until all had been published. The last they were heard from, three had.

Each student will receive a certificate of participation at the end of the workshop.

When will I find out whether I have been admitted to the workshop?

We endeavor to tell students whether they have been accepted approximately 2 to 3 weeks after they have submitted their completed applications. After the early bird deadline, students will be further informed which mentor they have been matched with. Decisions about scholarships will be made after the final deadline.

How much of my text will my instructor look at?

Student work for consideration is limited to 15 pages, which must be prepared according to professional standards: double-spaced and with name, title, and page number on each page.

If you are accepted, the fifteen pages will be forwarded to your teacher. Please do not make any changes to the manuscript between the time you submit it to us and the time you arrive. You will also receive electronic copies of the writing samples of all class members before the workshop begins.

The insights provided on the pages you submit are intended to help you through the rest of your work.

Those who have a book-length manuscript might consider taking the Correspondence Program in Creative Writing in order to go over a larger body of work with a writing mentor.

What writing level is expected?

In the summer workshop we have had true beginners as well as those who have published books. However, we do not always have suitable teachers for certain types of work. We are especially good at literary fiction, contemporary poetry, and creative non-fiction.

Who will be in my class?

The range of applicants changes with every session. We try to keep most groups the same, but you may be a prose writer with an occasional poet or memoirist in the class.

Where does the workshop take place and what is it like?

The workshop takes place at Humber's beautiful Lakeshore Campus.

Where can I eat lunch?

There are a number of options along Lakeshore Boulevard and the Humber cafeteria is open on weekdays.

How much does it cost?

The 2020 fee is $599 plus HST. Included in your fee are online lectures, group workshop sessions, and one virtual one-on-one session with your mentor.

Can I bring along a spouse or a friend?

Daytime events are for workshop participants only, but a spouse or a friend may choose to attend optional evening events.

 How do I know who my writing instructor will be?

When you apply, you list your top three choices of instructor in order of preference. The placement committee tries to give you the instructor you choose, but reserves the right to make the best match possible. The placement committee takes into consideration availability, class size, writing style, and other concerns. You will be informed of instructor placement before arrival.

 Can I change writing instructor once the week begins or have more than one instructor?

Unfortunately not.

 Should I read the work of my instructor?

The more familiar you are with your instructor's work, the better. Books by speakers and instructors will be available for sale in the bookstore.

How do I apply for scholarships and what are my chances?

Scholarships are awarded on a combination of writing ability, as demonstrated in the writing sample, and need. Many more students apply than funds can cover. Students must declare their request for a scholarship in their cover letter and the form, and supply documentation of financial need. Documentation might include a photocopy of the last page of last year's tax return, a copy of receipt of social assistance, a copy showing student debt, or some equivalent. The scholarship amount, if awarded, will be paid by cheque after the workshop. Decisions about scholarships are made shortly after the final deadline, so no late applicants will be considered for scholarships.

Scholarships apply only to particular groups (see below). If you would like to apply for one of these, you should name it in your cover letter, using a sentence such as this: "Please consider me for the XX scholarship, for which I qualify."

The available scholarships are:

  • The KOBZAR Writer’s Scholarship ($849) *
  • The Wayson Choy Scholarship ($849) *

*The KOBZAR and Wayson Choy scholarships are aimed at the following specific groups:

  • Kobzar Writer’s Scholarship: ($849) is offered by the Shevchenko Foundation and awarded annually to a Canadian writer with an advanced manuscript on a Ukrainian-Canadian theme. This full tuition scholarship is intended to assist the writer in completing his/her work for publication. The theme can be presented in one of several categories: poetry, young readers’ fiction, fiction, plays or non-fiction.
  • Wayson Choy Scholarship: ($849) is intended for emerging gay writers of Asian origin writing on any theme.

What should I bring?

Everything we send to you in the registration package, which should include map and agenda, etc. Participants must walk between buildings, so an umbrella is useful. A laptop is convenient, but not required: pens and paper are. The days can be long, so dress casually and comfortably.

How big are the classes?

Classrooms are limited to ten students, though they frequently contain seven or eight. Lectures and panels usually have seating for 60-70 people.

What time, exactly, does each day begin and end?

The schedule of the 2020 online workshop will be announced soon.

Should I stay nearby even though I live in Toronto or have friends who can put me up?

Some students choose to stay in the school residence because the days can be very long, especially if you take part in many evening events. This can be a good strategy, but nobody should feel obligated to stay in res. Typically, about a third of our students do.

What is the neighbourhood like?

Etobicoke sits on the shores of Lake Ontario. The area around Humber's Lakeshore Campus is largely residential, with some fast food options along Lakeshore Boulevard West.

How far apart are the various venues?

Everything takes place at Humber's Lakeshore Campus. The various buildings are - at most - a few hundred metres apart.

What accommodation do you have for special needs?

Most places are wheelchair accessible. Some classrooms are not. Please let us know if you have mobility issues.