Sarah Selecky Writing School has been offering online creative writing programs since 2011. We approach writing as an art, and as a contemplative practice.
My method is a hybrid of literary and intuitive craft.
I believe that skill comes from practice and study, that inspiration comes from curiosity and presence, and that we are at our best when writing gives us genuine pleasure.
I created this school as a compassionate alternative to MFA programs, and for writers of all genres who want to write well.
We train writers in all elements of craft. We also teach them to elevate their awareness and regulate their nervous system, so they can manage anxiety, resistance, and strong emotional states.
We want writers to write what they want to read.
It's a unique blend of craft, play, and extremely thorough writing study—including deep reading—laced with kindness and consciousness.
And it happens within a peer-based community that’s built on shared intellect, a spirit of generosity, and mutual respect.
Iran my first creative writing class out of my living room in 2001. While I taught, I was also a student. I did my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. I went to the Humber School for Writers and The Banff Centre. I studied with exceptional teachers, including Natalie Goldberg, Lynda Barry, and Zsuzsi Gartner.
Still, when I was writing my first book, I struggled with writer’s block. It was bad. I sank into a depression that took me years to repair. I went to a lot of writing workshops during those years. A lot.
I was trying so hard to get my writing back—that beautiful state of mind that existed when I was writing easily, and with pleasure. After ten years, I finally learned how to repair my relationship with writing through teaching writing as a contemplative practice (physician heal thyself).
I created a writing school to teach writers how to do this for themselves.
It started in 2011 with one downloadable course called Story Is a State of Mind. Story Is a State of Mind has evolved into the Sarah Selecky Writing School, and that first self-paced program is now called the Story Course. It holds the heart of what I teach.
Writers learn faster when they take this foundation course with a small group, and receive personal attention and feedback: the Story Intensive. They can also strengthen their support system and share resources in our larger community, and become members of Centered.
Our two core programs—the Story Course and the Story Intensive—both illustrate the concept of craft mainly through fiction, and in particular short story writing. Smart writers use what they learn and apply it to any kind of writing.
The methods we use here are the exact methods that helped me repair my relationship with writing. Remember that book I was struggling with? The same year the school launched, my book This Cake Is for the Party was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book in Canada and the Caribbean. I went on to write my novel, Radiant Shimmering Light, and practiced writing with embodied pleasure and presence in every scene. RSL has been published in seven countries and optioned for a premium TV series. In other words, the methods worked.
Moving my teaching online was a big deal. The school went from my cozy living room to magic classrooms in which students from anywhere in the world could materialize and take part. In recent years, online classrooms have become the norm—but not all online writing classrooms are alike.
The way we use digital media helps people listen and reflect more deeply.
We're here for introverts who need accountability and extroverts who need solitude! Without the limits of geography, workshop groupings can be arranged in especially compatible ways that they can’t be in person. We use tech selectively, to enhance our human connection, so we can pay attention to what matters most. Magic happens when we write together.
All participants must complete an ethics agreement, and promise to protect our discussion forums so they are brave sharing and listening spaces. We trust each other, and continue to learn together, retaining the school’s peer-to-peer model—we are in this together.
Since 2011, over 2,000 students have enrolled in the Story Course (compare that to an average of 24 students per year in an MFA program).
Since 2013 when the Story Intensive began, an average of 65 students a year enroll in the program — and they’ve got to do master classes with world-class guest contributors like Gail Carriger, George Saunders, and Margaret Atwood.
We’ve always offered Special Programs to fill certain niches for hundreds of other students. Our bright and shiny alumni are finishing and publishing books. They also self-publish, win awards and get accepted into prestigious MFA programs. More than thirty of them have become our teachers. The Little Bird Writing Contest (2011-2021) published a story anthology every year for a decade, and we distributed thousands of dollars to winners (and donated to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory).
In 2020 we opened Centered, a space for our growing community of writers. Our members enjoy Daily Writing Prompts, monthly live calls, workshops with Guest Mentors, a book club, reading series, live co-writing sessions, and more.
Our subscriber list has tens of thousands of people on it from over a dozen different countries who read my letters and take advantage of free teaching and writing exercises.
We’re proud that our students come out happier than when they went in. They put writing in the centre of their life. They recover from old creative traumas and change how they think about writing. They learn that creative writing requires a rare state of mind—a state of mind in which you lose self-consciousness and become the consciousness of the story.
Above all, we’re proud that students become better writers and grow their own independent, ever-deepening, and magical-feeling writing careers. When writers love writing, they write great books and stories, and this changes our culture.
In all honesty, Sarah Selecky Writing School was created, in part, as an alternative to MFA programs. We approach craft with the same rigour that you might find in academia, but our programs don’t require years of crippling debt. A Centered membership, for example, costs about the same amount as it does to apply to a MFA program at a place like Columbia University in the States.
Plus, you’ll be in a non-institutional environment where customer service is considered an art form (universities certainly don’t encourage the idea of customer service, even when you’ve paid a hefty sum).
Sarah Selecky Writing School is a robust creative writing school through which you can do a lot of good and gratifying work. However, if an MFA is still something you want, taking our programs is only going to make your portfolio stand out more when you apply. As much as Sarah Selecky Writing School is an alternative to MFA programs, it’s also a really smart way to prepare to enter one.
Do you love writing and reading romance, sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, or cozy mysteries? Me too! I don't believe in "guilty pleasures"— I just stand for pleasure. The publishing and academic industries have separated literary from commercial fiction; this an arbitrary hierarchy, informed by forces of patriarchy and marketing more than creativity and connection. I dismiss this separation.
Sci-fi has always been the genre for visionaries, and romance has always been the genre for connection. Young writers who love Nancy Drew and the A Wrinkle in Time grow up to learn there's a whole section of society that believes mystery and fantasy series are less important than literary fiction. And they associate guilt with reading for pleasure.
You can find excellent instruction out there if you want to learn how to engineer a page-turner—it's important to understand plot and structure so you can craft a story that gives readers what they love.
Our programs give you next-level learning that will improve the quality of your writing.
I teach you how to infuse your writing with emotion, crackle, and fire. My programs don't focus on formulas: they teach you how to write scenes that feel so true, they lift off the page.
Combine your ongoing study of story structure and plot formulas with my method, and your writing will be incandescent.
If you're reading this and feel like our school is where you belong, then you probably do.
The best way to start is by opting-in to read my newsletters; that way you’ll have access to free teaching and can start writing right away. You’ll also always be up-to-date on our programs, guest mentors, special events, and more.