Skip to content

July 9 - 14, 2017

Since 1992, the Humber School for Writers (HSW) has been providing jet fuel for the literary mind and developing a literary coterie to assist in take-off. The experience has always been intense and exhilarating, and this year will be no different. 

“One of the best programs of its kind in North America.”
~ The Globe and Mail

Early on, the HSW distinguished itself as a leading centre for the study of creative writing. Our track record speaks for itself: well over 330 of our alumni have published over 1000 books, including Eva Stachniak (The Winter Palace), Roberta Rich (The Midwife of Venice), Cathy Marie Buchanan (The Painted Girls) and Robert Rotenberg (The Guilty Plea). Several have been nominated for literary awards, and some have gone on to win.

“ . . . a course not only highly regarded in this town, but praised on the world literary stage.”
~ Toronto Life

The workshop consists of a Sunday afternoon reception, five weekday classes from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, a lunch break, and afternoon lectures. For those who apply by June 2, 2017, the workshop costs $849, plus HST. The fee for those applying after June 2 is $919, plus HST.

David Bezmozgis

David Bezmozgis

David Bezmozgis, a writer and filmmaker, is incoming Director of the Humber School for Writers. He is the author of Natasha and Other Stories, The Free World and The Betrayers. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope All-Story, and Best American Short Stories. He has been twice nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, 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. Most recently, David was on the writing staff of the television series Orphan Black.


Jennifer Gordon

Jennifer Gordon is the business manager of the School of Creative and Performing Arts. An advocate for sustainable growth in the Canadian arts and cultural sectors, Jennifer has held roles in business development and training, arts administration, and consulting. She previously served as the administrative director for the Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP).

Hillary Higgins

Hilary Higgins

Hilary Higgins is the program assistant to the Humber School for Writers, where she has managed submissions and inquiries for the last 15 years. She has extensive experience at Humber College, having previously assisted both the Theatre Performance and Travel & Tourism programs.


Scholarship applicants will automatically be considered for all available scholarships. To apply for these, please state your wish to apply prominently in your cover letter and check the box on the form. Because competition for scholarships is keen, applicants must provide:

  • a statement explaining their financial situation and that of any partner
  • some proof of need, such as the last page of a tax return or a statement of student debt

The scholarship amount, if awarded, will be paid by cheque after the workshop.

Scholarships include:

  • The KOBZAR Writer’s Scholarship ($849) *
  • The Wayson Choy Scholarship ($849) *
  • The Jean-Marc Iammatteo Scholarship ($500) *
  • The James Appel Scholarship ($600 x 2)
  • The Avie Bennett Scholarship ($500 x 4)

*The KOBZAR, Wayson Choy, and Jean-Marc Iammatteo scholarships are aimed at the following specific groups:

  • Jean-Marc Iammatteo Memorial Scholarship: ($500) is offered to a writer under forty in memory of a young man who wanted to be a writer, but whose life ended tragically.
  • Kobzar Writer’s Scholarship: ($849) offered by the Shevchenko Foundation to a Canadian writer whose narrative develops with a Canadian Ukrainian theme.
  • Wayson Choy Scholarship: ($849) is intended for emerging gay writers of Asian origin writing on any theme.

For details, contact Hilary Higgins at or 416-675-6622 ext. 3449.

Late applicants may find that scholarship funds have been exhausted. Scholarship cheques, if awarded, will be sent some weeks after the deadline and may arrive after the workshop is over.

Nell Freudenberger

Nell Freudenberger

Nell Freudenberger is the Timothy Findley Visiting Chair in Creative Writing for 2017. Awarded to a faculty member of international reputation, this position honours the memory of the distinguished Canadian author, playwright and School for Writers faculty member who died in 2002. Past chairs include Edward Albee and Tim O’Brien. Nell is the author of the novels The Newlyweds and The Dissident, and the PEN/Malamud Award-winning story collection Lucky Girls. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship from the New York Public Library, she was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists and one of the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review and the New York Times. She lives in Brooklyn.

Joe Kertes

Joseph Kertes

Joseph Kertes was born in Hungary, but escaped with his family to Canada after the revolution of 1956. He founded Humber College's creative writing and comedy programs. His first novel, Winter Tulips, won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Boardwalk, his second novel, and two children's books, The Gift and The Red Corduroy Shirt, met with critical acclaim. His novel Gratitude won a Canadian National Jewish Book Award and the U.S. National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His latest novel, The Afterlife of Stars, was an Editor’s Choice book by the New York Times Book Review.

Colin McAdam

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, 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.

Nino Ricci

Nino Ricci

Nino Ricci’s first novel, Lives of the Saints, garnered international acclaim, appearing in seventeen countries and winning a host of awards, including the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. It formed the first volume of a trilogy that was adapted as a miniseries starring Sophia Loren. Ricci is also the author of Testament, winner of the Trillium Award, and of The Origin of Species, which earned him his second Governor General’s Literary Award. His most recent novel is Sleep, winner of the Canadian Authors’ Award for Fiction and a national bestseller.

Olive Senor

Olive Senior

Olive Senior is the author of 17 books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature. Her short story collection Summer Lightning won the inaugural Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and her latest, The Pain Tree, was the recipient of the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. Her poetry book Over the Roofs of the World was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award and Gardening in the Tropics is on the CAPE syllabus for Caribbean schools. Her other work has been longlisted twice for the International Dublin Literary Award, and shortlisted for many other awards, including the First Novel Award and the Kirkus Prize. She has been on the Humber School for Writers faculty for many years and conducts writing workshops internationally.

Alissa Yorke

Alissa York

Alissa York’s internationally acclaimed novels include Mercy, Effigy (shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize), Fauna and, most recently, The Naturalist. Stories from her short fiction collection, Any Given Power, won the Journey Prize and the Bronwen Wallace Award. Her award-winning essays and articles have appeared in The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, Brick magazine and elsewhere. In 1998, Alissa co-founded Cyclops Press, an independent publishing company specializing in literary multimedia titles. She has been teaching and mentoring writers for a decade. Having lived all over Canada, she now makes her home in Toronto.

Authors who have taught in the program:

Elizabeth Abbott, Edward Albee, Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Joan Barfoot, Kevin Barry, Richard Bausch, Ann Beattie, Jonathan Bennett, Constance Beresford-Howe, David Bergen, Michelle Berry, David Bezmozgis, Sandra Birdsell, Neil Bissoondath, H.S. Bhabra, Francesca Lia Block, Dennis Bock, Joseph Boyden, Dionne Brand, Bonnie Burnard, Catherine Bush, Barry Callaghan, Stevie Cameron, Peter Carey, Hayden Carruth, Wayson Choy, Eliza Clark, Trevor Cole, Karen Connelly, Douglas Cooper, Sally Cooper, Carole Corbeil, Michael Coren, Alan Cumyn, Robyn Davidson, Lauren B. Davis, Anthony De Sa, David Donnell, Roddy Doyle, Elizabeth Duncan, Esi Edugyan, Howard Engel, Timothy Findley, Richard Ford, Cecil Foster, Bruce Jay Friedman, Mary Gaitskill, Mavis Gallant, Camilla Gibb, Graeme Gibson, Julia Glass, Samantha Harvey, Elisabeth Harvor, Michael Helm, Aleksandar Hemon, Lawrence Hill, Miranda Hill, Nalo Hopkinson, Isabel Huggan, Helen Humphreys, Ha Jin, Diane Keating, Joseph Kertes, Janice Kulyk Keefer, Hari Kunzru, Rachel Kushner, Shaena Lambert, Carole Langille, Andrea Levy, Mark Leyner, Annabel Lyon, Jake MacDonald, Alistair MacLeod, Rabindranath Maharaj, Valerie Martin, John Bentley Mays, John Metcalf, Anne Michaels, David Mitchell, Christopher Moore, Lisa Moore, Kim Moritsugu, Donna Morrissey, Sylvia Mulholland, Dan Needles, Howard Norman, Tim O’Brien, Caryl Phillips, Alison Pick, Bruce Powe, Francine Prose, Paul Quarrington, Michael Redhill, David Adams Richards, Nino Ricci, Daniel Richler, Mordecai Richler, Robert Rotenberg, Elizabeth Ruth, Robert J. Sawyer, Richard Scarsbrook, Richard Scrimger, Shyam Selvadurai, Olive Senior, Sarah Sheard, Carol Shields, Antanas Sileika, Joseph Skibell, Johanna Skibsrud, Marsha Skrypuch, Linda Spalding, Josef Skvorecky, Susan Swan, D. M. Thomas, Miriam Toews, Barry Unsworth, Jane Urquhart, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Erika de Vasconcelos, M.G. Vassanji, Marianne Wiggins, Frieda Wishinsky, Meg Wolitzer, Eric Wright, Richard B. Wright, Tim Wynne-Jones

Making a Bestseller: The Story Behind The Book of Negroes
Iris Tupholme, Senior Vice President and Executive Publisher of HarperCollins Publishers

Point People: How Publicists and Editors Work Together
Rob Firing, Senior Director, Publicity, Communications, and Speaker’s Bureau HarperCollins Publishers; Jennifer Lambert, Editorial Director, HarperCollins Publishers

Bearing Witness: Writing a Memoir of the Holocaust at Age 85
Max Eisner, author of 2017 RBC Taylor Prize-nominated, By Chance Alone, talks about writing and publishing a first book late in life.

What You (Need To) Know: The Art of Literary Research
Alissa York, Summer Workshop Faculty

Family Fiction: Choosing Fiction Over Memoir
Summer Workshop Faculty, Joseph Kertes and Nino Ricci in Conversation

Check back for a full list of panels. 

Email the following documents to by June 2, 2017:

  • a cover letter describing yourself and your writing project
  • the Registration Form (or equivalent information on a separate page) - available in Word or PDF format
  • no more than 15 pages of an excerpt from your novel, work of non-fiction, short story, or poetry for assessment. If you are accepted, this copy will be forwarded to your instructor and used in the classroom.

Please make sure that pages are numbered, double-spaced in 12-point font, and that your name appears on each page.

For application inquiries, please contact Hilary Higgins at 416-675-6622, ext. 3449 or

“A very good writing school.”
David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas

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 26 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.

Please check the "Faculty" tab for the list of instructors for the current session.

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. On Sunday evening, there is an optional streetcar ride and walking tour of literary Toronto. 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.

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. Other types of work that have proved problematic in the past might be academic work or writing that consists of intense emotionscapes, often having to do with abuse or revenge.

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?

For those who apply by June 2, the 2017 fee is $849, plus HST. The cost of the workshop for those applying after June 2 is $919, plus HST. Included in your fee are lectures, in-class time, and welcome and farewell receptions (cash bar).

What if I am coming from out of town?

Rooms are available in Humber's residence. For accommodations, rates, and other relevant information, please visit Humber's Conference Services website.

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.

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. No late applicants will be considered for scholarships, as these are awarded shortly after deadline. 

Most general scholarships are open to all applicants. However, a certain number of specific 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 all general scholarships, and the X scholarship, for which I qualify."

Scholarships include:

  • The KOBZAR Writer’s Scholarship ($849) *
  • The Wayson Choy Scholarship ($849) *
  • The Jean-Marc Iammatteo Scholarship ($500) *
  • The James Appel Scholarship ($600 x 2)
  • The Avie Bennett Scholarship ($500 x 4)

*The KOBZAR, Wayson Choy, and Jean-Marc Iammatteo scholarships are aimed at the following specific groups:

  • Jean-Marc Iammatteo Memorial Scholarship: ($500) is offered to a writer under forty in memory of a young man who wanted to be a writer, but whose life ended tragically.
  • 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 twelve students, though they frequently contain seven or eight. Lectures and panels usually have seating for 40-60 people.

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

Weekday classes begin at 9:30 am. Most days should end by 5:00 pm, excluding optional late afternoon and evening events. If you have the energy, you can probably go out every single evening. The Friday closing reception should be over by 4:00 pm.

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.

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.