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Bring your writing into focus this fall!

Register for intimate master classes with top authors.

About the TIFA x School for Writers Partnership

The TIFA/Humber Creative Writing Master Class Series is a partnership between the Humber School for Writers and The Toronto International Festival of Authors. Launching in the Fall of 2020 as part of the festival's digital slate, the series will provide an exclusive array of virtual writing master classes for the festival's audience. Classes will be led by renowned Humber School for Writers mentors.

Each master class will be 90-minutes long and address a specific aspect of writing craft and life. Classes will be held via one of Humber College’s virtual platforms, with a group of up to 40 students. The master classes are open to all levels of writers, and will take place daily during TIFA.

Master class sessions supported by the Humber Centre for Creative Business Innovation.

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About TIFA

The Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA), Canada’s largest and longest-running festival of words and ideas, returns for its 41st edition in a brand new virtual format that will be primarily free and accessible from around the world. The Festival has expanded its programming this year, introducing new events and initiatives including a weekend of family-friendly activities with TIFA Kids!, a range of multilingual events, innovative digital apps and activities, and newly commissioned works that respond to our current experiences with COVID-19 and explore the unique character of the city of Toronto.

From October 22 to November 1, 2020, TIFA will bring together over 200 authors alongside musicians, artists and performers through live-streamed conversations, readings, performances, workshops and more, connecting communities and diving into important discussions relevant to these unprecedented times.

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Master Class Series

David Bergen

Entering a Story without Knocking
With David Bergen

Nabokov wrote that Chekhov enters his story “Lady with Lapdog” ‘without knocking.’ By this he meant that the story begins in the middle, with no preamble or setting up of scene.

He jumps in, and we jump in with him. In this ninety-minute session, Master class facilitator David Bergen will have you look at what works in the best short stories: title, dialogue, point of view, clear writing, character. We will look at the rules and discuss how brilliant stories break those same rules. The class will follow this format: A story. A lecture. A story. The first is Chekhov’s story: Lady with the dog; The second is Nabokov’s lecture on Chekhov’s story. The third is a story called Bedtime Story by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. Discussion. Thinking. Questions. All will be part of the class. About the Instructor: David Bergen has published nine novels and two collections of short stories, the most recent of which is long listed for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize. His novels have been shortlisted for the IMPAC Literary Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award. In 2005 he won the Giller Prize for The Time in Between. He attempts to write five hundred words a day in a small office in the Exchange District in downtown Winnipeg. Learn more about David Bergen and his work here.

About the Instructor: David Bergen has published nine novels and two collections of short stories, the most recent of which is long listed for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize. His novels have been shortlisted for the IMPAC Literary Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award. In 2005 he won the Giller Prize for The Time in Between. He attempts to write five hundred words a day in a small office in the Exchange District in downtown Winnipeg.

Learn more about David Bergen and his work here.

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Date: October 23, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST


What We Talk About When We Talk About Dialogue 
With David Bezmozgis

We talk all the time, so nothing should be easier than writing dialogue. And yet most writers find it hard to do convincingly.

The ones who can do it, are said to have an “ear” for it.
Showing examples from other writers and from his own work, award-winning novelist, short story writer and screenwriter, David Bezmozgis, invites you to examine together how dialogue is used, and what separates the good from the awful.

About the Instructor: 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.

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Date: October 30, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Elizabeth de Mariaffi

Beginning, Middle, End: Story Architecture
With Elisabeth de Mariaffi

How does a story move? Is a detailed outline really necessary? How much do you need to know before you sit down to write?

This 90-minute workshop with Giller nominee Elisabeth de Mariaffi covers plot, pacing, and story propulsion. Avoid the dreaded mid-novel slump! Bring your questions. Whether you’re at the basic premise stage, or have a complete first draft, this workshop is for you.

About the Instructor: Elisabeth de Mariaffi is the critically acclaimed author of three books: the Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated short story collection How to Get Along with Women (Invisible Publishing, 2012), the literary thriller The Devil You Know (Harper Collins Canada, Simon and Schuster USA, 2015), and the brand-new Hysteria (Harper Collins Canada, Titan UK, 2018), released in March, 2018.

Both a Globe and Mail Best Book and lucky number 13 on the NP100, the year end list at the National Post, The Devil You Know was also shortlisted for the prestigious Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.

De Mariaffi’s poetry and short fiction have been widely published and praised in Canada, and have been shortlisted for the National Magazine Award.

Born and raised in Toronto, de Mariaffi now makes her home in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Find out more about Elisabeth on her website.

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Date: October 25, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Omar El Akkad

Substructure – Plotting, Planning and Organizing a Novel-length Project
With Omar El Akkad

The business of putting a story together varies greatly from writer to writer, and for every Jack Kerouac who sits down and pulls off a novel in a single sitting, there are a hundred other writers

who spend years researching and meticulously detailing their project before they ever write a single sentence. In this workshop, facilitated by Omar El Akkad, we explore some of the methods by which writers form the foundations of their novel-length projects.

About the Instructor: Omar El Akkad is an author and journalist. He was born in Egypt, grew up in Qatar, moved to Canada as a teenager and now lives in the United States. The start of his journalism career coincided with the start of the war on terror, and over the following decade he reported from Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and many other locations around the world. His work earned a National Newspaper Award for Investigative Journalism and the Goff Penny Award for young journalists. His fiction and non-fiction writing has appeared in The Guardian, Le Monde, Guernica, GQ and many other newspapers and magazines. His debut novel, American War, is an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages. It won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, the Oregon Book Award for fiction, the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and has been nominated for more than ten other awards. It was listed as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, Washington Post, GQ, NPR, Esquire and was selected by the BBC as one of 100 novels that changed our world. His short story “Government Slots” was selected for the Best Canadian Stories 2020 anthology. His new novel is forthcoming from Knopf.

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Date: October 31, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Marina Endicott

Inners & Outers: Character Work from the Actor's Training
With Marina Endicott

From her early work in theatre, master class facilitator Marina Endicott offers practical techniques for realizing and deepening character.

Bring a character you're working on already, or create one from scratch to see how exploring and defining psychological, physical and emotional traits can turn a paper sketch into a living human, alive to circumstance and consequence. 

About the Instructor: 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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Date: October 24, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Sheila Heti

Collaborating with People and Things
With Sheila Heti

This class will discuss ways of expanding one's writing and project beyond the closed space of the mind and the imagination of the person writing it.

How to ask for feedback and help? How to use outside texts to explode and expand what you're writing about? There are so many ways to bring the flux of time and the strangeness of every day into the moment of writing in a way that leads to new discoveries. We will do exercises in the class that can be brought into your process in the future.

About the Instructor: Sheila Heti is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the novels Ticknor,Motherhood, and How Should a Person Be? and the story collection The Middle Stories. The New York Times book critics named her one of "The New Vanguard,” a list of fifteen women writers from around the world who are "shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century." Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages. Her most recent novel, Motherhood, was chosen by the book critics at the New York Times as one of their top books of 2018, and New York magazine chose it as their top book of the year. She is the former Interviews Editor at The Believer magazine.  

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Date: October 22, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Colin McAdam

It’s Only Words
With Colin McAdam

A writer should know her words as a painter knows her paints. Sometimes the elements that make up every story are the most overlooked: the marks on the page that conjure worlds.
In this master class, Colin McAdam talks about dictionaries, decorum, and how chimpanzees taught him to find the right word.

About the Instructor: 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, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in the U.K. His second novel, Fall, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize. A Beautiful Truth, his third novel, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. 

His new novel, Black Dove, is due out from Hamish Hamilton in the fall of 2021

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Date: October 29, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Naben Ruthnum

Shifting Modes: Writing Across Genres
With Naben Ruthnum

Shifting Modes: Writing Across Genres is an experience-based presentation on the benefits of being an unpredictable writer. Naben Ruthnum's career started in short stories, but his first published book was a long essay on food and literary culture--
followed by two thrillers under his pseudonym, Nathan Ripley. A screenwriter as well, Ruthnum's master class is geared toward writers who are interested in the fun and challenge of writing across forms, and also for those who are curious about the possibilities of making a living as a working writer.

About the Instructor: 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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Date: October 26, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Olive Senior

Prose or Poetry? Writing Outside the Box
With Olive Senior

Many writers start in one genre and stick to it, afraid to try something new. Maybe your limp short story is really dying to be a poem. Your strident poetic lines want more room to talk story.

Nobody owns the territory of writing. So let's try a bit of genre-bending, border crossing. Talk and Q&A. Maybe some sampling. Might get to be habit-forming.

About the Instructor: Olive Senior writes and publishes in all genres because nobody told her she couldn't. She is the prize-winning author of 18 books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature. Her poetry book Over the Roofs of the World was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award and Gardening in the Tropics was on both the International Baccalaureate syllabus and the CAPE syllabus for Caribbean schools. Her work has been translated into several languages, most recently Arabic (Gardening in the Tropics) and Spanish (Shell). Olive Senior is the recipient of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Matt Cohen Lifetime Achievement Award from The Writers Trust, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the West Indies, among other honours. She has lectured and conducted writing workshops internationally and is a long-time mentor for Diaspora Dialogues and The Humber School for Writers.

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Date: October 28, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Cordelia Strube

Building Narrative: Revisiting the Elementals
With Cordelia Strube

Fiction is a vicarious immersion into the lives of others, a fundamental way of making sense of our world.

Through exploring a protagonist’s desires, and the potential antagonists and obstacles in their path to attaining those desires, participants will experience first-hand how character and incidence spin a narrative into motion.

About the Instructor: Cordelia Strube is an accomplished playwright and the author of 11 critically acclaimed novels including Alex & Zee, Teaching Pigs to Sing and Lemon. Winner of the CBC literary competition and a Toronto Arts Foundation Award, she has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Trillium, the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Prix Italia, and long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. A two-time finalist for ACTRA’s Nellie Award celebrating excellence in Canadian broadcasting, Strube is also a three-time nominee for the ReLit Award. Her novel On The Shores Of Darkness, There Is Light won the 2016 City of Toronto Book Award.

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Date: October 27, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST

Alissa York

What You (Need to) Know: The Art of Literary Research
With Alissa York

Write what you know? Sure. But there's more than one way to know something.

Award-winning author Alissa York has written from the point of view of a taxidermist, a polygamous horse rancher, a raccoon and more. Join her for a master class on finding out what you need to know.

About the Instructor: Alissa York’s 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, she now makes her home in Toronto, where she teaches at the Humber School for Writers.

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Date: November 1, 2020
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Cost: $45 + HST