Fiona Raye Clarke is a Trinidadian-Canadian writer and community engaged artist. Her writing has appeared in Broken Pencil Magazine, The Puritan Town Crier, and alt.theatre, her plays produced by the InspiraTO Festival and rock.paper.sistahz festival, and her co-created short film won the 2017 CineFAM Short Film Challenge and screened in Toronto and San Francisco. She is currently embarking on her biggest project yet, a co-created animated kids series supported by CBC/Radio-Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts Creation Accelerator. She is working on a novel in stories. Find her at fionarayeclarke.com.
Ihave always wanted to be a writer, and have always written. But I was definitely not a top student in English class. Part of me still gripes at that. Being the product of West Indian parents, it was ingrained in me that I needed a profession. (I’m actually a very-prematurely-retired lawyer.) Through it all I’ve kept writing and when I found a writing community, others who let their muse free and were willing to follow their pen wherever it took them, something began happening. People started listening. My skills as a writer and my stories improved and my voice started to be recognized and heard. All from me listening to my pen and trusting what I had to say.
I’m a firm believer that a story doesn’t arrive in the world on its own – as some would have you think, perpetuating the myth of a writer’s staggering individual genius. This is how writing has continued to be gatekept: by making the average person feel like it’s just not within their reach to pen a beautiful poem or write a well-told story.
But writing belongs to everyone, whether you pursue it professionally, like myself, or are working on crafting a fierce and honest account of your life for your children. Writing is a practice that can be nurtured by anyone, just by freewriting. Paradoxically, the more we tap into community, the stronger our own voices become.
Spaces like the Story Intensive that work to uplift the voice and self-esteem of the writer, so that we, myself included, can be vulnerable and bring our best and most authentic self to the page, are a large part of the reason I continue to write. I’m excited to grow and discover in this work, together.
Hajera Khaja’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, The Humber Literary Review, Pulp Literature, and elsewhere. She was longlisted for the 2019 Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. Hajera lives in Mississauga, Ontario, and is currently working on a short story collection. Learn more about her at hajerakhaja.com.
When I first started writing fiction, I bought books about writing and took writing workshops. I learnt a lot, what to do and what not to do, and collected some feedback on my work. But I still felt stuck.
It was when I signed up for The Story Intensive that my relationship with my writing really changed. It was the first time that I submitted writing in a class environment, where the focus wasn’t on critique, wasn’t on telling you what you were doing wrong, but on what you were doing right and how you could continue to grow as a writer. Getting that kind of feedback from my instructor and my classmates was so nourishing.
It was in that environment where I unearthed the stories that I really wanted to tell, and where I first began to believe that perhaps I could get as good as the writers that I admired. And I’m humbled and honoured to be able to play a small part in that journey, to walk along with other writers as they blossom and grow in their own writing and become more confident in their identity as writers.
We do eventually get to the critique part in the Intensive. But by that time, you will trust yourself as a writer, as a story-teller with unique and meaningful ways of looking at the world. And instead of making you wilt, that critique will empower you to move forward with your writing in new directions.
I’ve taken more writing courses since finishing the Intensive but I have yet to find one that is as complete and wholesome as this course. My writing was transformed here and I know yours will be, too.
Kathy Martens is a writer of memoir, creative non-fiction, and short stories. She is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles, and the Sarah Selecky Writing School Story Course and Story Intensive. Her recently published memoir Born Again, Again: That time I fell down a rabbit hole and spent twenty-two years as a Bible thumping, tongue speaking, Gospel preaching Born Again Christian. And then I woke up was a #1 New Release on Amazon and a finalist in both the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the 15th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards. Kathy lives where the mountains soar to meet the blue in the Far Northern Hinterlands of California where she spends her time hanging out with her bff (aka hubby of 38 years), creating with curiosity and courage, being routinely gobsmacked by the beauty of nature, and imagining a kinder, more just world. Some of her other bloggy musings can be found at her website: kathymartens.com.
You write some words. You think maybe you’ve got something. Sometimes it’s just a wee glow in a pile of ash, but sometimes it’s a shower of bright sparks that pop and sparkle. Where’d that come from? Did I write that?
Wouldn’t it be fun to regularly unearth those shiny treasures? To find a way to trust they’ll show up? When you experience the Story Intensive you’ll learn how to breathe into that glow, how to nurture the sparks so something surprising can burst into light.
Curiosity and Courage. Oh yes, and Permission: love child of Curiosity and Courage. These are the magical friends that joined my life when I stumbled into the brilliant world of Sarah Selecky. Boy howdy, when this little family adopts you, it’s truly a homecoming for the wound-too-tightly creative soul. Exhale. You’re safe now.
Sarah brings a beautiful finesse to pairing the rigors of skill honing with the wonder of following the lights. Her love-centered approach permeates everything the Writing School offers. Turns out, you don’t have to intimidate, scare, or beat people into excellence. It can actually be brought forth in a much kinder and gentler way, without sacrificing craft or precision. This worldview is gathered spectacularly in the faculty, staff, and writers that call this school home. And the community that gathers around that energy: a rare find.
When you entrust your vulnerability to the teachers and the process here, you too will get acquainted with Curiosity, Courage, and Permission. Can’t wait for you to meet my family; you’re gonna love ‘em.
Kristin Offiler completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University in 2011, and went on to work as a freelance writer and then in communications for a top internet company. She's currently working on her second novel. Her short fiction has appeared in the Waccamaw Journal and The Bookends Review, and is also featured in the Bookends Review Best of 2020 print anthology. She’s a founding member of a long-running online writing group and is passionate about the magic created in The Story Intensive. You can find her at kristinoffiler.com.
Everyone knows that writing is a solitary act, but magic can happen when writers come together. I never underestimate the power of genuine, compassionate support and feedback in my own writing life, and I love fostering that for other writers, too. I don’t think there’s a single creative person in the world whose writing life can’t benefit from being part of an encouraging community.
I learned this firsthand as a student during the first Story Intensive back in 2012. After that, through the Story Course’s Facebook page, I met the members of my writing group, and we’ve workshopped online since 2012 (and have gotten together in person many times!) They've gotten me through rough patches in my writing, and have helped celebrate my wins. I aim to hold the same energy for you and your writing during the Story Intensive because every writer deserves to feel the joy of a writing community.
I believe most writers are essentially after the same thing: we want to tell a great story, connect to our shared humanity, and better understand this experience of life. It's an act of vulnerability to put pen to paper as you try to put your inner world into words, and I believe we all deserve to have our work read by thoughtful readers who respect the sacredness of reading another's writing. There are many ways to grow as a writer, and one of them is through a shared writing experience like the Story Intensive where you not only get to write but also learn to see your writing in a new way. I’m honored to nurture a space for you and your work to keep growing, wherever you may be in your writing process right now.
Lindsey Smith is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. Her fiction has been published in Little Bird Stories Volume VI and her non-fiction in ENTROPY. She lives in
Houston, Texas with her husband and son. Find her at lindseynsmith.com.
Iwas just a baby writer when I found the Story Course. I had written—or rather micromanaged into existence— two stories that I did not like, and I was actively looking
for answers. In Paris Review interviews. On the thirtieth page of a Google search. In SEO-laden copy from strangers promising me a fiction writing formula that would rock my socks. I remember it vividly. All that angst and fear calcified inside of my body. All that compulsive clicking. What I wanted was to know how people did it. How did everyone else will their stories into beautiful being?
But then I found the Story Course. When I slipped in my ear buds and pressed play on lesson one, something shifted. Sarah’s voice helped, I think. She was calm, knowing. And under her influence, I did my very first freewrite.
Freewriting changed everything. I unclenched my writing fist and started allowing for a little magic, a little mystery. Freewriting, for me, is the not-so-secret secret, the answer. It’s my meditation. It’s where I discover who I am and what obsesses me. It’s where all the juicy stuff comes from.
Sarah and her school demystified the act of writing for me, the very physical act of Being a Writing Writer. The Story Course and later the Story Intensive gave me a new family, a new language, and a new found respect for my subconscious mind. It helped me find and trust my own unique process for bringing stories into the world. That’s why I love this school and why it’s such an honor now to be part of the teaching staff.
I love being part of these full-scale paradigm shifts, these creative ahas. I love dissolving the idea that as writers we need permission to do what we do. Most of all, I love the writers I meet here.
Sonal Champsee’s short fiction and essays have been published in anthologies and magazines such as The New Quarterly, Ricepaper, and Today’s Parent. She was a finalist for the Writer’s Union of Canada’s 2017 Emerging Writers Short Prose contest, and has had a play produced in Seattle. She served on the PRISM International Editorial Board for five years, and has been a creative writing instructor for Sarah Selecky’s Writing School since its inception. Sonal lives in Toronto and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC.
As a writing teacher, I’m known for my honesty, my humour, and my penchant for swearing.
The thing I enjoy most about teaching is helping writers get out of their way. You see, everyone has a reason—often multiple reasons—why they aren’t really a writer. Some common ones are:
And it becomes self-perpetuating. If I am not a real writer, then how can I justify putting any time and effort into writing? There are so many things I legitimately have to do. Work. Take care of my family. Catch up on my Netflix. What is the point?
The point is writing.
Every writer has reasons why they couldn’t possibly be a writer, and yet none of them have entirely given up on writing. There is still something that calls them back, that says, yes, you are meant to write, even if it feels uncomfortable and pretentious to admit to that. (“I am meant to write.” “Can I read your book?” “Uh….”)
The something that calls you back is what makes you a writer. All the other ideas in your head about why you are not legitimately a writer are bullshit.
That something that insists that you are meant to write is your voice, your instincts as a writer. The thing that gets overshadowed by all the other ideas in your head about what writing is supposed to be. My work with you is to help you trust that voice, and to find a way to put its best self on a page.
That is where the Story Intensive comes in. There are many ways to get feedback and learn craft—we do a lot of that in the Intensive. But we do all of this through the lens of that something that says you should write.
Sonia Ruyts is a former pastry chef and yarn shop owner who has returned to her first love: writing. She writes creative nonfiction and essays, as well as short and long fiction. Sonia explores themes of identity, loss, and transformation in her writing and is currently at work on her first novel. You can find her creative nonfiction in VIDA, The Maine Review, peculiar, and elsewhere. Sonia lives with her wife and two children—and their ever-expanding collection of pets—in the Pacific Northwest. You can find her at soniaruyts.com.
There’s this little voice inside of you telling you to write. Sometimes it’s a whisper, sometimes it’s a roar. Most of the time it’s simply there, humming along beneath the activities of the day, background noise, something you can choose to focus on or ignore. Something is calling you in this season to tune into that voice. That tug is there in the pit of your stomach reminding you that you have something to say. You may not know what it is yet, or how it will take shape. That’s okay. What’s important is that you get quiet and listen, feel that pull. That’s when the magic happens.
It took me a long time to understand that the deep yearning I had to write could not be satisfied by other creative pursuits. In 2017 I was on the precipice of a breakup with my creativity altogether when I was gifted the opportunity to go on a creative retreat. It was on that solo trip that I heard my inner writer’s voice clearly for the first time in years. I understood that all I had to do was listen. Listen and take the next step forward in the direction that honored what I heard. This listening rebuilt my trust in my own intuition, and allowed me to begin writing regularly again.
I took the Story Intensive during one of the most challenging seasons of my life, alongside running a business and parenting two young children. There were so many reasons not to take the Intensive, but I knew it was the next step toward living the life I was craving. I worked on the class materials and wrote in the margins of my life and when it was all over I knew that things would never be the same. If you’ve been feeling the yearning to get back to writing, or to move it front and center in your life, it’s time.
As an instructor, I aim to create a safe, encouraging space for writers of all backgrounds to explore their untold stories. We need your words out in the world! Having a supportive community as a writer is also key, and I will do all I can to help foster connection among the writers in my cohort. Being a witness to a writer’s unfolding is a true honor and one I don’t take lightly.
Tammy L. Breitweiser writes, walks, inspires, and teaches. She is the conjurer of everyday magic with her concise stories. Her fiction has been published in Gone Lawn, Cabinets of Heed, Spelk, Five on the Fifth, Clover and White, Fiction Berlin Kitchen, and Elephants Never. You can often find her on Instagram at @inspiretammyb.
The label of writer does not always adhere easily. I had been a solo writer since childhood. As an adult, I established a daily writing practice but was having difficulty finding communities to thrive and flourish within as an artist.
The summer of 2019 became pivotal when I purchased the Story Course as a birthday present for myself. I devoured each week’s lessons and wrote furiously. I lived that summer as a writer, and I loved it, but I was still alone.
When I joined an Artist’s Way book club later that year a writing program to sink my pen into kept reoccurring in my Morning Pages and the weekly exercises. I decided to make the commitment to the Story Intensive and find a tribe of writers. Strong friendships and writing partners have continued to inspire me after the Intensive ended. Many of our interactions are scribbled in my notebooks.
I believe there is immense inspiration around us. We need to tell our stories and a community helps us refine, connect to other kindred souls, and better understand ourselves and our purpose for this life. Communities remind us to pay attention to the sparkle that comes through in our writing.
A writer’s need for growth is tremendous. I am always engaged in a class, conversation, or craft book. I crave deep conversation that is a consequence of this type of input. Knowledge is meant to be shared. The Story Intensive allows immersion with mentors and other writers in a more dynamic way than any other experience. A community of like-minded people to have an intellectual discussion about words is a welcome part of the process. The Story Intensive is an immersive way to grow with incredible support and dynamic resources no matter if you have an established writing practice or you are just beginning. It allows you to be the writer you are in the best possible writing container.