Humber’s Creative Writing – Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry graduate certificate program helps you improve your writing from the comfort of your own home. You’ll work one-on-one with a professional writer-mentor to improve your short stories, poems, memoir, or novel-in-progress, learning how to develop plot, story, character, dialogue, pace and style through feedback on your own manuscript. The program is intended for students working on book-length projects, and graduates have the satisfaction of completing a large body of work which may include all or parts of a novel, a volume of short stories or a book of poetry.
Humber is noted for its exceptional creative writing mentors including authors of world stature. Past mentors include Martin Amis, Peter Carey, Miriam Toews, David Mitchell, Esi Edugyan, Nino Ricci, Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Hill, Anne Michaels, Edward Albee, Ha Jin and Alistair MacLeod. Recent international authors have included Jenny Offill, Nell Freudenberger, and Samantha Harvey.
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.
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May 2019 program:
We are still accepting applications. Apply as soon as possible in order to improve your chance of being paired with your preferred mentor.
Where to Follow
May 2019 Faculty
Application deadline: March 4, 2019 to improve your chance of being paired with your preferred mentor; April 2, 2019 final deadline.
Danila Botha is a fiction writer based in Toronto.
Trevor Cole has been called "one of the best young novelists in Canada" by The Globe and Mail, though, admittedly, "young" is getting to be a bit of a stretch. His first novel, Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life, published in 2004, garnered enormous acclaim.
Elisabeth de Mariaffi
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, the literary thriller The Devil You Know, and the brand-new Hysteria, released in March, 2018.
Omar El Akkad
Omar El Akkad is an Egyptian-Canadian author and journalist. He has reported from Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and numerous other locations around the world. His debut novel, American War, is an international bestseller and has been translated into a dozen languages.
Adam Foulds is a poet and novelist from London. He has been the recipient of a number of literary awards, including the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year.
Ashley Little is the author of three novels.
John Metcalf is a writer and editor. He directs editorially the Porcupine’s Quill Press and also edits the critical journal Canadian Notes and Queries.
Donna Morrissey publishes through Penguin Canada and has written six nationally best-selling novels. She has received awards in Canada, the U.S. and England.
Noah Richler is an author, journalist, cultural critic, occasional broadcaster, podcaster and former political candidate.
Richard Scarsbrook is the award-winning author of nine books. He has also published nearly one hundred short stories and poems in anthologies, magazines, and journals.
Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1965. He came to Canada with his family at the age of nineteen. He has studied creative writing and theatre and has a BFA from York University, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.
Olive Senior was born and brought up in Jamaica and educated in Jamaica and Canada. She started her career as a journalist with the Daily Gleaner and later entered the world of publishing.
Cordelia Strube is an accomplished playwright and the author of ten critically acclaimed novels, including Alex & Zee, Teaching Pigs to Sing, and Lemon.
Dianne Warren is the award-winning author of the novel Cool Water, which won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 2010.
September 2019 Faculty
Jami Attenberg has written about sex, technology, design, books, television, and urban life for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, Print, The Awl, The Hairpin, Elle, Real Simple, The Rumpus, and others.
David Bezmozgis, a writer and filmmaker, is the author of Natasha and Other Stories, The Free World, The Betrayers and Immigrant City, a story collection publishing in spring of 2019.
Dennis' books have been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Regional Best Book).
Marina Endicott’s last three novels have been listed for the Giller Prize. Her novel Good to a Fault won the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book, Canada/Caribbean in 2009. She teaches creative writing at the Banff Centre and at the University of Alberta.
Kim Fu is the author of the novel For Today I Am a Boy, which won the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction. Her writing has appeared in Granta, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Hazlitt, and the Times Literary Supplement. The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, a novel, is her most recent work.
Don Gillmor is an award-winning Canadian novelist, journalist and children's book author. His new novel Long Change examines the world of oil through the life and loves of one man; both stories are epic.
Isabel Huggan is a Canadian author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry who lives in France where she runs a writer’s retreat for individuals, returning every summer to Canada to renew her affiliations with family and friends
Joseph Kertes was born in Hungary but escaped with his family to Canada after the revolution of 1956. He studied English at York University and the University of Toronto, where he was encouraged in his writing by Irving Layton and Marshall McLuhan.
Alison Pick is the author of the novel FAR TO GO, longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize. FAR TO GO won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction, and was a Top 10 of 2010 Book at NOW magazine and The Toronto Star.
Robert took a nine-day writing course at Humber College and worked with two talented writers, David Bezmozgis and Michelle Berry that resulted in Old City Hall. He has since written three more books: The Guilty plea, Stray Bullets, and Stranglehold.
Diane Mavis Schoemperlen (born July 9, 1954) is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. She was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and educated at Lakehead University.
A classical version of Scrimger's biography would go something like this: "Richard Scrimger was born in the city of M--- in the province of Q---, the son of a product manager." But he is not a classical guy.
Sarah Sheard has published numerous works of fiction, personal essays, and three much admired novels, Almost Japanese, The Swing Era, and The Hypnotist.
Antanas Sileika was director of the Humber School for Writers for fifteen years. His latest book, the memoir The Barefoot Bingo Caller, was published by ECW Press in May 2017.
Sam Wiebe is the author of the Vancouver crime novels Cut You Down, Invisible Dead, and Last of the Independents, and the editor of the anthology Vancouver Noir.
Tim Wynne-Jones is an English–Canadian author of thirty-three books for kids of all ages from picture books to short story collections and novels. He has also written three adult novels, radio dramas, songs for the CBC/Jim Henson production Fraggle Rock, as well as a children's musical and an opera libretto.
“Humber School for Writers was one of my first experiences with writing workshops. I was amazed by how my work jumped to a new level in such a short period of time due to the generosity, experience, and intelligence of my peers and mentors. I said I’d do it again, and I did! Two summers in a row.”
- Madhur Anand, Author, A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes
Since 1992, the School for Writers has offered an immersive, focused workshop to jump start your creative writing. Mornings are spent in classes with one of Humber’s esteemed writing advisors, and afternoons are devoted to craft and industry talks by faculty, publishing experts and special guests. Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced writer, there’s something for you in this six-day workshop! In 2019, the Workshop in Creative Writing runs from July 7 to 12 at Humber's Lakeshore Campus.
Humber Creative Writing by Correspondence graduates can work towards a master’s degree from the comfort of their own homes! Thanks to a new arrangement, graduates are eligible for advanced standing in the highly regarded University of Gloucestershire (U.K.) distance MA Creative Writing program. Furthermore, this pathway may lead to a PhD for those who qualify.
All of our faculty has substantial industry experience.
The Creative Writing by Correspondence Program is a complement to the Humber Summer Workshop in Creative Writing, the two together comprising a flexible and affordable alternative to a standard low-residency MFA.
As of 2017, students who complete the Correspondence Program are eligible for a $300 rebate for the Summer Workshop and vice versa.
The rebate is valid for three calendar years; thus students who complete the Creative Writing by Correspondence program in 2019 will be able to apply their rebate for the Summer Workshop through July 2022.
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, Shari Lapena for The Couple Next Door and Eva Stachniak for The Chosen Maiden.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Upon successful completion of the program, you are invited to attend convocation in either June or November, depending on your date of completion. Attendance at this ceremony is optional. Your School for Writers certificate will be sent to you after the convocation ceremony that is closest to your program completion date. If you need proof of completion before that, you can request your transcript through MyHumber.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To help foster the emerging literary talent in this country, the Humber School for Writers offers a number of scholarships to students of exceptional promise who can demonstrate financial need.
* Available to all qualified applicants. Other scholarships are available to Canadian residents only, and Appel scholarships to Ontario residents only. If you wish to apply for a scholarship, you must include supporting documentation to demonstrate financial need. Those who do not include supporting documentation will not be considered. Financial documentation might include a copy of the last page of your tax return, a copy of student debt, or proof of social assistance. Please also include a short paragraph describing your life circumstance, dependents, and partner income, if any.
Scholarship documentation cannot be submitted via Slideroom. After your application has been submitted, the program assistant will contact you to request copies of your documentation if you have indicated that you are in financial need.
If a scholarship is awarded to you, payment will come some weeks after the program begins. You must make payment upfront and will be reimbursed later.
Students may also be eligible for tuition bursaries.
The Humber Creative Writing by Correspondence Advisory Committee helps us to ensure that the program is as current as possible.
|Anne Collins||Committee Chair, Publisher, Knopf/Random House Canada Publishing Group, Vice-President, Random House Canada|
|Patrick Crean||Patrick Crean Editions|
|Tendisai Cromwell||Executive Director, Regent Park Film Festival|
|Jack David||Publisher, ECW Press|
|Nick Garrison||Associate Publisher at Penguin Canada|
|Lynn Henry||Publishing Director, Doubleday Canada|
|Nita Pronovost||Editorial Director, Simon & Schuster Canada|
|Richard Scrimger||Author; Alumnus|
|Geoffrey Taylor||Director, Toronto International Festival of Authors|
|Iris Tupholme||Senior Vice President and Executive Publisher, HarperCollins Canada|
|Alana Wilcox||Editorial Director, Coach House Books|
Every attempt is made to ensure that information contained on 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.
On June 29, 2018, the Provincial Government of Ontario announced the renaming of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU). Both names may appear on this website.