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Creative Writing - Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry

Credential: Ontario Graduate Certificate Program Code: 12231 Length: 2 semesters

Programs Starting Between:

To be eligible for admission, you must possess the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree, diploma or advanced diploma

All applicants whose first language is not English must meet Humber’s English Language Proficiency Policy.

Selection Includes Secondary Requirements:

Admission selection is based on the academic criteria indicated and the result of the evaluation of additional secondary requirements. Secondary requirements may include a portfolio, audition, letter of intent, references, etc., and vary by program. Meeting minimum eligibility requirements does not guarantee an offer of admission.

Date Location Availability International Student Availability
January 2017OnlineOpenOpen
May 2017OnlineOpenOpen
September 2017OnlineOpenOpen
January 2018OnlineOpenOpen
May 2018OnlineOpenOpen

The 2016/2017 fee for two semesters was:

  • domestic $3,240.27
  • international $3,615.27.

Amounts listed were the total of tuition, lab and material fees, student service and auxiliary fees for the first two semesters of the 2016/2017 academic year. Fees are subject to change.

Fees by Semester >


Humber offers a variety of scholarships each year.

Learn more >

Program Contact(s)

Hilary Higgins
Program Assistant
416.675.6622 ext. 3449



International Students

Phone 1-416-675-5067

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Apply to Humber

Applications to Humber are made through Be sure to submit your application by the equal consideration deadline of February 1. You may apply after February 1, however, post-February 1 applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis depending on the availability of the space in the program. To check program availability refer to the Campus/Availability listing on Humber's program pages or

Admission Road Map >

Apply through Ontario Colleges >

International Students

If you’re an international student, you can apply directly to Humber via our International Centre.

Apply through the International Centre >

In order to continue with your application for Creative Writing – Fiction, Creative NonFiction, Poetry, you must complete this step in the application process. Applicant selection is based on academic criteria and results of these secondary requirements. This contains all information to prepare and submit secondary requirements for consideration. If you have any questions, please contact Admissions.

Secondary Requirements

Applicants are required to submit their work-in-progress, a writing sample of no more than 15 pages, and a cover letter.

i. Work-in-Progress Form
Applicants must submit their work-in-progress form.

ii. Writing Sample
Applicants must submit a sample of their writing that is no more than 15 pages in length.  The manuscript must be prepared according to professional standards: double-spaced, and with name, title, and page number on each page.

iii. Cover Letter
Applicants must submit a cover letter describing their project and writing experience, as well as any relevant life experience.

Submission Instructions

Applicants must submit the work-in-progress form, writing sample and cover letter through SlideRoom. SlideRoom is a secure site where secondary requirements are collected, scored and stored. Log-in to and create your free account. There will be additional instructions once your account has been created.

Applicants must meet both academic and secondary requirements in order to meet minimum program eligibility. Meeting minimum eligibility does not guarantee an offer of admission.

All secondary requirements will be evaluated and a score will be calculated by the academic school.

Admission decisions will be available via MyHumber, or by email and mail. Admission decisions will not be released by phone.

Fees by Semester

Semester 1 Domestic Fee International Fee*
Total $2,940.27 $2,940.27
Tuition $2,436.76 $2,436.76
Mandatory Non-Tuition $503.51 $503.51
Lab/Materials $0.00 $0.00


Semester 2 Domestic Fee International Fee*
Total $300.00 $300.00
Tuition $300.00 $300.00
Mandatory Non-Tuition    
Lab/Materials $0.00 $0.00

*Plus Mandatory Health Insurance fee once per academic year: Fall start - $375 Winter start - $250 Summer start - $125

Our Program

Humber’s Creative Writing – Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry graduate certificate program is a distance studio program offering aspiring writers the exceptional opportunity to work at home. There are no formal classes on site. Individual courses are offered in a non-traditional way with a distinguished faculty member critiquing your work of creative non-fiction, fiction, book of short stories or volume of poetry. The program is intended for students working on book-length projects. The program is customized to address the particular needs of your manuscript and may include assessments of your handling of plot, story, character, dialogue, pace and style, or may focus on the particular needs of the manuscript as determined by the writing advisor. Graduates have the satisfaction of completing a large body of work which may include all or parts of a novel, volume of short stories or a book of poetry. Students are also referred to writing competitions. 

Humber is noted for its exceptional faculty including authors of world stature. This faculty list has included Edward Albee, Martin Amis, Peter Carey, Miriam Toews, David Mitchell, Nino Ricci, David Adams Richards, the late Timothy Findley, Paul Quarrington, the late Carol Shields and Alistair MacLeod. Forthcoming international authors include Samantha Harvey and Tim O’Brien.

A virtual café exists through Blackboard, Humber’s online learning system, to encourage writing students to interact and build a sense of community.

Courses Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, a graduate will:

  • Analyze personal and recognized works of fiction and creative non-fiction for form and structure and delineate story features such as conflict, crisis and resolution. Students should be able to differentiate between story and plot and compare various types of conflict used in story writing. Students will explore various methods of plotting a work of fiction such as working backward from the climax, working forward from the initial interaction or borrowing from tradition.

  • Distinguish the qualities of short stories versus novels.

  • Evaluate personal and recognized works of fiction for the inclusion of techniques used in creative writing for making narrative an emotional experience. These techniques include the use of significant detail, active voice, and strategies for establishing cadence, rhythm and prose. In addition, students will be expected to be masters of the mechanics of writing and demonstrate the correct use of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

  • Assess personal and recognized works of fiction for characterization and the techniques used for establishing character credibility and complexity. Students will explore how character motivation is revealed and how characters are presented both directly and indirectly.

  • Outline and compare personal and recognized methods for establishing setting and atmosphere in stories as well as techniques used for adjusting narrative time.

  • Critique and manipulate the point of view in personal and recognized stories. In their development of point of view, students will develop strategies for deciding who is speaking in their stories and whom they are addressing. In addition, they will determine which techniques best convey the story and determine the best distance between the reader, author and characters. An analysis of point of view also includes the use of spatial and temporal distance and how to include unreliable speakers in the story.

  • Evaluate the methods used for developing the theme in personal and recognized stories. They will explore how theme helps dictate the selection and organization of details, style, voice and other elements of the work.

  • Evaluate personal and recognized works of fiction and creative non-fiction for unity of effect.

  • Recognize and revise weak spots in their writing. They will explore common errors and the technical questions writers should ask themselves as they review and revise their work and apply them to an analysis of plot, characterization, style, setting, narration, dialogue, point of view, structure, clarity, length and originality.

  • Conduct the required research to authenticate their story and make it come alive. They will be able to select and use a variety of research methods such as the internet, the library, interviews and site visits.

  • Evaluate personal and recognized works of poetry for the poetic tools used to shape and focus ideas and feelings and to create texture and vividness in a poem. These techniques include: devise for rhythm; devices for sound; stanza and poem forms; and imagery and figures of speech.

  • Develop a plan for marketing their creative writing and handling the business requirements of being a writer. This will include researching the needs and demands of the market, preparing query letters and/or book proposals, identifying suitable publishers for their work, finding and working with agents, negotiating a contract, submitting their work in suitable formats, setting fees where appropriate, and keeping appropriate records. In addition, they will explore some of the legal aspects of being a writer such as copyright and libel. Students will also develop an awareness of writing awards and competitions as well as writer support programs.

  • Identify opportunities to publish freelance works of fiction and creative non-fiction to local, national and international magazines, newspapers, television, film, textbooks, and the Internet. This will include the analysis of the research and publication requirements of a variety of publishers, strategies for introducing ideas and personal works to various media and a thorough understanding of the features of freelance contracts. Students will prepare, review and submit works for freelance submissions.

  • Evaluate the elements of successful professional writing careers and develop methods for promoting personal works and developing personal relationships with media contacts. This will include exploring ways to make public appearances and provide public readings of personal works. How to manage interviews and participate in a variety of media events will be examined. Public appearances and public speaking.



Please read the following FAQs carefully.

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What to Expect When You're Enrolled

Please read this information carefully. It will help you before and during your course.

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*Applications are still being accepted for the winter term & some scholarships are still available.

What does this writing program offer? 

This program is intended to help you complete a draft of a book-length project. Most writing courses function on technique using small sections of text. This program focuses on a large section of text. If you are working through a draft of a novel, a collection of poetry, a collection of stories, or a book-length non-fiction project, you are in the right place.

What is the track record of this program?

The Humber School for Writers Correspondence Program has been in existence for over 20 years, employs some of the best English language writers from around the world (Giller prize winners, Booker prize winners, National Book Award winners and many, many others), and has had over 300 students go on to publish books. Some alumni have built whole careers on writing and others, such as Dr. Vincent Lam, have become very prominent in the field. These statistics don't begin to address the countless stories, articles, and poems published by our grads. As well, many grads have gone on to self-publish. While intended for writers who hope to achieve publication, the program focuses on artistic achievement through helping writers hone their craft and polish their texts through writing and rewriting.

Who is the ideal candidate?

A writer who wants to do a book-length manuscript.

This is preferably someone who has taken some writing courses before and has either a draft of a manuscript, a partial manuscript, or a very strong idea coupled with the motivation to complete a large project. The prospective student should be proactive because one must be able to work without a face-to-face writing advisor or a class full of people.

Blackboard is a closed web site, a notice board devoted to the program, so students speak to one another about their experience, and often read each other's work. Sometimes students will organize themselves to meet in cafes if enough students are located in their part of the country (or abroad).

The program focuses on the student's text and provides a structure in which one can produce much more than is ordinarily possible in a live classroom setting. The program is also useful for Creative Writing MFA grads who wish to continue work on their manuscripts.

How long is the program?

Thirty weeks, which constitute two back-to-back semesters, or about 7 months.

When does it start?

There are three start dates each year: the beginning of January, the beginning of May, and the beginning of September. Application deadlines are three months earlier. You should receive your first commentary from your writing advisor approximately three weeks after starting the program. The last submission should be made by around the middle of the final month.

What does it mean to say the session is post degree certificate program?

The applicant should have a BA or better.

Applicants who have not completed a degree but who have a combination of post-secondary education and work experience may be considered for admission on an exceptional basis.

May I e-mail in my writing sample?

No, the material must be submitted to the Humber School for Writers via a delivery system called Slideroom. To do so, please go to

How does the program work?

This is a studio program. There is an assigned text (Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction for prose writers and The Making of a Poem for poets. Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer is highly recommended) but in essence, the student submits work to a professional writer who comments upon it and either asks for rewrites or for new material up to a limit of 300 double-spaced pages (about 85,000 written or rewritten words). Some advisors work by email, a few by snail mail, and others by a blend. There are no formal classroom sessions or face-to-face meetings with the faculty.

What if my manuscript exceeds the limit?

The writing advisor will comment on the pages up to 300, and the student should employ the lessons learned on the balance of the manuscript.

What is the point of the program?

To coach the student writer, to advisor the student writer in order to achieve artistic progress toward writing more vivid prose, more arresting poetry, more intriguing memoir and non-fiction. Since the student writer intends to write a large body of work, the writing advisor focuses on the text, trying to make it as good as possible. The writing advisor serves the text with professional, direct commentary, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses. Unavoidably, most commentary points to weaknesses and provides direction for improvement.

As Antanas Sileika, the director, says,

"Your friends and family are good readers, but most of them love you more than they love your text, or they have limited experience. The correspondence program gives you a professional writer who loves good text above all else, and will try to help you write a good book."

May I take time off during the thirty weeks and return later?

All such arrangements have to be made before the fact and with the express agreement of both parties: the student and the advisor. It is the responsibility of students who fall ill to notify their advisor and the director as soon as possible. If a writing advisor falls ill or becomes incapacitated, the student will be reassigned by the director. The program runs for thirty weeks or three hundred pages, whichever comes first. If three hundred pages are completed before the end of thirty weeks, the program ends. If three hundred pages have not been completed within thirty weeks, the program still ends.

Can I take this program if I work full time?

Most student writers do. However, the student should be prepared to write or rewrite about ten pages a week to reach the limit of 300 pages.

Are students eligible for Ontario Student Assistance?

Yes, but it is the responsibility of the prospective student to apply.

When is the deadline for application?

About three months before the session begins.

What do I need to submit to apply?

Applicants must submit up to 15 pages of the piece they hope to work on, a cover letter, and a "work in progress" form with contact information. Scholarship applicants should look below. The pages sent for application will, on acceptance, be forwarded to the assigned writing advisor and constitute the first assignment. All applicants must also complete the Ontario Colleges Application System once they have been accepted into a class. OCAS is obligatory and charges a non-refundable fee of approximately $100.

How do I know who my writing advisor will be?

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

Who will be teaching in the upcoming sessions?

  1. The First Exchange: Please be a little patient at first. Your advisors have received the writing of all their students at once and are mulling them over in order to determine the best plan of action for each of you. You should hear from your advisor in approximately three weeks.

  2. Blackboard: Blackboard is a private web site devoted to you and other students in the program. It was created to provide an electronic hearth for all the students all around the world.

  3. Email, Snail Mail, Blackboard and Blends: Some of you will be working by post, some by e-mail, perhaps some by Blackboard and some by a blend.
    Many advisors prefer the post because, as Ezra Pound once said, "Literature is news that stays news." A regular exchange by post is useful because the advisor has a hard copy he/she can mark up. The advisor will be treating you as he/she is treated by editors, who may mark up the manuscript in the margins or give notes. E-mail occasionally takes on the characteristics of chat rooms, in which the exchange is fast and furious but the form is poor. Literary writing is very much about form, so you should be producing clean, well thought-out drafts.

  4. Program Beginning and End: The program begins in early January, May, or September, depending on which session you entered. At that point, your instructor begins to mull over your work.The program ends about end of July, November, or March, after a total of 30 weeks. Please be aware that advisors may ask for final submissions no later than early July, early November, or early March in order to get your last submissions back by the end of the month. Sometimes, students disappear from the program for a number of weeks or months, and then return, wanting to extend the program by the number of weeks they have been away. This cannot be done. Advisors are generally working on busy writing schedules and have allotted a certain time for the program. Therefore, it is up to you to be regular and methodical in your exchanges with your advisor. It is not good to throw 200 pages at the advisor right up front, or expect the advisor to read a large chunk of text right at the end of the program. Occasionally, either an advisor or a student might need to be away for a certain portion of the program. If this is so, with advance notice, the advisor and student need to come to a mutual arrangement to make up the missed time. In all cases, this arrangement needs to be made before the fact and not after it, and the understanding must be explicit and mutual.

  5. How Much the Advisors Will Do: The advisors expect up to 200 -- 300 double-spaced pages of prose in 12 point font over a 30-week period (up to about 85,000 words) but the time and the number work in this way: about 85,000 words or 30 weeks, whichever comes first. In other words, if you send off 300 pages in ten weeks, you will have finished the program. Alternatively, if 30 weeks run out and you have done fewer pages, the program still ends. Poetry pages will be fewer, in the range of 50 - 100 pages.

  6. Please be Regular and Systematic. You Must be Proactive: Typically, a successful outcome of this program means you have a complete draft of a manuscript together with a complete set of editorial remarks from your advisor. However, many manuscripts require several drafts. This program is intended to take you through a complete draft of an average novel, memoir, or collection of poetry or short stories.

  7. Texts: Many advisors do not use texts and stick with editorial commentary. Some advisors recommend texts that are appropriate to your work. One text I require all prose writers to read is the following: Writing Fiction subtitled A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway, published by Longman. Poets should consider The Making of a Poem, a Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, by Strand and Boland, from Norton. Karen Connelly, a poetry instructor, has told me this is the best book for poets. You should own a good grammar book. Most publishers and editors love the language, and expect you to use it correctly. Even pros make mistakes, though, so please have a grammar handbook around for reference purposes.

  8. The Nature of Professional Commentary: Some student writers are not accustomed to the directness and honesty of professional writers, who tend to speak in a forthright, frank, business-like manner. The value of a professional writing advisor is that he or she will tell you what he or she sees, and what you can do about it. Please do not be insulted by professional assessment. The advisor will make suggestions. Listen carefully to the message being sent to you. Take the comments seriously. Many other writing programs focus on nurturing the writer's ego. We want to nurture you too, but believe this is best done by focusing on the text in order to aim toward writing that achieves, or comes very close to, professional standards. We assume you want to get published, and we try to take you as close to your goal as possible. It is in the nature of editorial commentary that your advisor will remark more often on what does not work than on what does. Don't be discouraged.

  9. The Point of the Program: This program does not guarantee a job or success of a manuscript. We hope that you will be a better writer after you have completed thirty weeks with a professional writer. That should be your goal, and we wish you the very best. It is normal to want to be published as soon as possible, but one must develop artistically to reach that point. Aim first for improving the writing as much as possible.

The Humber Advantage

Fall Workshop in Creative Writing

The Toronto International Festival of Authors and the Humber School for Writers have joined forces and the literary hothouse just got hotter.

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. The Fall Workshop in Creative Writing takes place October 23-28, 2016.

Your Career

Canadians still love a good read. They spend 14 percent of their leisure time reading, half of which is spent reading books. The main goal of the program is to improve your writing and publication is a possibility for some. Graduates of this program may use their writing and editing skills in a wide variety of careers and professions in addition to writing books. Some of our graduates write for newspapers, magazines, television and other media. More than 300 Humber School for Writers alumni have published books of fiction or poetry and Dr. Vincent Lam, who won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his literary debut Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, is just one of our distinguished former students. Other alumni have also been on the bestseller lists in Canada: Suzanne Desrochers for Bride of New France, Cathy Marie Buchanan for The Painted Girls and Eva Stachniak for Empress of the Night.

Advisory Committee

The Humber Creative Writing by Correspondence Advisory Committee helps us to ensure that the program is as current as possible.

Advisory Committee

Sue Carter Editor, Quill & Quire
Anne Collins Committee Chair, Publisher, Knopf/Random House Canada Publishing Group, Vice-President, Random House Canada
Patrick Crean Patrick Crean Editions
Jack David Publisher, ECW Press
Nick Garrison Associate Publisher at Penguin Canada
Lynn Henry Publishing Director, Doubleday Canada
Mark Medley Books Editor, Globe and Mail
Kim Moritsugu Author; Alumna
Richard Scrimger Author; Alumnus
Geoffrey Taylor Director, International Festival of Authors
Iris Tupholme Senior Vice President and Executive Publisher, HarperCollins Canada
Alana Wilcox Editorial Director of Coach House Books


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Every attempt is made to ensure that information contained in this website is current and accurate. Humber reserves the right to correct any error or omission, modify or cancel any course, program, fee, timetable or campus location at any time without prior notice or liability to users or any other Person.