I’m the author of This Cake Is for the Party and the founder of Story Is a State of Mind School.
I believe good writing needs heart, consciousness, skill, and presence.
When I’m not writing, I spend time thinking about how to connect to creativity. I help writers bring insight and innovation to their work by writing and speaking about creativity, mindfulness, and literature.
I’ve been teaching people how to write receptively since 2001, when I ran my first creative writing workshop out of my living room in Victoria, British Columbia. I started teaching because I wanted to talk about writing as a contemplative craft, and I couldn’t find a writing workshop anywhere that taught me everything that I wanted to learn.
My living room writing school grew too big for my living room, and I transformed it into an internationally celebrated online writing school in 2011. Two years later, I opened The Story Intensive, a creative writing and mentorship program that runs every fall, and includes guest lectures with Margaret Atwood, George Saunders, Ruth Ozeki, and other luminaries.
In 2015, I opened The Story Workshop for writers who want to learn how to work on their revisions with curiosity and openness, and love — because I believe these are the qualities at the heart of all good writing.
My method is a hybrid of literary craft and unapologetic love. I approach writing as an art, and also as a contemplative practice. I believe that skill comes from study, that inspiration comes from love, and that both are necessary.
I do more literary-based teaching than journalling and reflection, and more heart-and-spirit based coaching than pointy or intellectual criticism. I train writers in all the elements of craft, as well as teach them to elevate their awareness, so they can deal with anxiety, resistance, and other unnecessary suffering to get out of their own way and do their best writing.
Writing creatively demands a special kind of attention; it needs to be laced with kindness and benevolent boundaries.
I’ve studied with exceptional teachers, including Natalie Goldberg, Lynda Barry, Zsuzsi Gartner and Karen Joy Fowler, and I work under their influence. I am an alumna of Hedgebrook, the Humber School for Writers and The Banff Centre, and I graduated from the University of British Columbia with an MFA in Creative Writing.
My first book, This Cake Is for the Party, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book in Canada and the Carribean, and it was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor Prize. The New York Times called the stories “utterly fascinating.” You can find my writing in The Walrus, ELLE Canada, Geist, and a variety of newspapers and magazines.
For the past six years, I have been writing regularly here about creative life, work, and how to cultivate a healthy relationship to writing.
What I do:
1. I help writers who resist writing and then beat themselves up about it. Writers who aren’t writing aren’t happy and healthy. I try to bring inspiration, calm, excitement and success to writers who need supportive, honest, smart advice about their work. In addition to my online writing programs, I create writing prompts for daily practice and send my subscribers letters of support and instruction twice a month.
2. I reinforce the short fiction renaissance: may the form continue to be adored for its elegance and intelligence, and no longer viewed as an unmarketable warm up to novel writing. Every summer, I host The Little Bird Writing Contest, a celebration of short fiction that showcases emerging writers.
3. I challenge writers to trust their own reading, and not put too much faith in the binary system that tries to define what is “literary” and “popular” fiction. I want writers to brazenly go out and read anything and everything that catches their eye, so they can then go and write the books that they want to read.
3. I make writers work hard. I kick them out of their patterns and grooves, get them to take risks with style and content, help them recognize and eradicate their own clichés, stereotypical story lines, and other less-than-excellent habits. I encourage writers to find out what makes them unique, and teach them how to embrace it. I want to read stories and voices that I’ve never read before.
4. I write. I take time off regularly, go where nobody will find me, and focus on the one thing I love to do the most. And I advise you to do the same. Right now, I’m finishing my novel. It’s a bit too early to tell you the details, but I can tell you this: it’s about a character you may have met before in This Cake.
I am represented by Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Agency.
I’m a Virgo.
I love Fabriano paper, dark chocolate, and pink roses.
I live in a renovated barn in Prince Edward County, Ontario, with my husband, Ryan.
I love receiving handwritten letters in the mail. Please send here:
P.O. Box #6271, Picton, ON, K0K 2T0, Canada
Email: I often feel overwhelmed by my inbox. But if you have something important to ask or share with me, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll get a response from me or my assistant in a few business days.
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