Guest Contributors

W hen you join our school, you get to be part of a big, inspiring creative collective. 

One of the reasons our creative writing programs are so successful is because we connect writers to a wide network of writers, artists, teachers, healers, visionaries, and experts.  We believe in artistic cross-training: our creative writing benefits from the unexpected insights we receive through guidance, conversation, and experimentation with a variety of sources. 

Every year, a guest expert visits the Story Course Intensive to teach students about a special topic in a MindShare Session. I ask guests specifically about their pitfalls, and how they got out of them, so students can learn from their experiences. Our writers are advised by authors they love—like Eden Robinson, Margaret Atwood and George Saunders—as well as from leaders in other fields, like psychology, leadership, design, music, and humour.  

Then there are the authors who judged our Little Bird Writing Contest! Authors like Cherie Dimaline and Sheena Kamal, who not only selected winning stories for our published anthology, but also recorded a podcast with me, to talk about writing, revision, publishing, and more. Our contest ran for ten years, from 2011-2021, and you can listen to those audio sessions here.

Guest mentors also visit our members in Centered once a month to lead workshops, teach short courses, and give lectures on special topics. They might be professional advisors—like literary agent Chelene Knight and Enneagram consultant Chichi Agoram— or they could be artists working in the field, like poet Susan Buis and memoirist Jackie Kai Ellis.

Guest contributors also include people like Jennifer Schramm, who have co-taught writing workshops with me to include horses (yes, horses!), Annie Bray, who supports our writers with trauma-aware somatic practices and massage (when I do in-person retreats).

As you can see, our writing community is deeply embedded in a community of support and inspiration. 

Writing may be a solo pursuit, but at SSWS, you are never really alone.

Meet some of our inspiring guests from the literary world—and beyond!  



Chichi Agorom

Chichi-AgoromChichi Agorom’s work focuses on moving people towards wholeness and purpose, and for them to feel less alone and more known in the process. To that end, she is a both a teacher of the Enneagram, trained through The Narrative Tradition, and a Mental Health Therapist.

She is the author of the upcoming book, The Enneagram for Black Liberation.

She lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Margaret Atwood

Margaret_AtwoodMargaret Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Her latest work is a book of short stories called Stone Mattress: Nine Tales (2014). Her novel, MaddAddam (2013), is the final volume in a three-book series that began with the Man-Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake (2003) and continued with The Year of the Flood (2009). The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short fiction) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, a collection of non-fiction essays appeared in 2011. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth was adapted for the screen in 2012. Her work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian.

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Francesca Lia Block

Francesca_Lia_BlockFrancesca Lia Block is the author of more than twenty-five books of fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. She received the Spectrum Award, the Phoenix Award, the ALA Rainbow Award, and the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as other citations from the American Library Association and from the New York Times Book Review, School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. Her work has been translated into Italian, French, German Japanese, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Portuguese. Francesca has also published stories, poems, essays and interviews in The Los Angeles Times, The L.A. Review of Books, Spin, Nylon, Black Clock and Rattle, among others. In addition to writing, she teaches fiction workshops at UCLA Extension, Antioch University, Writing Pad and privately in Los Angeles where she was born, raised and currently still lives.

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Annie Bray

Annie-BrayAnnie Bray (she/her) is a trauma-informed Somatic Coach, Registered Massage Therapist, and Movement and Meditation Educator. Her work is offered through the lens of intersectional feminism, anti-racism, and body liberation with a focus on embodied resilience using movement, touch, somatic exploration, and supportive presence.

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Sioux Browning
  • Special Program: Waiter, There’s a Movie in My Short Story: Screenwriting & Short Fiction (2012)

Sioux_BrowningSioux Browning works as a screenwriter. Her produced work includes episodes from the documentary series Weird Homes and Weird Wheels, the sci-fi series Alienated and the critically acclaimed series Robson Arms. Her credits have aired on the Life Network, the Comedy Network, Space, CTV and CHUM. She story edited the feature film The Score (adapted from a play by Vancouver’s innovative Electric Company Theatre) which premiered in 2005 at the Vancouver International Film Festival and aired on the CBC. As a writer/editor for hire, she has worked with production companies and writers across the country in a wide variety of genres and on everything from story notes to treatments to bibles to completed features. One of her personal projects, the historical feature Her Proper Place, received BC Film funding and placed high in two major US screenplay contests, the Nicholl Fellowship and the Chesterfield Fellowship. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and followed it up with a stint at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. In her spare time, she also works as a poet: her work has appeared in a variety of literary journals and in the notable anthology Breathing Fire: Canada’s New Poets.

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Susan Buis
  • Centered: Creative in Residence (2021)

sue-buisSusan Buis resides on an acreage where the unceded lands of the Nlaka’pamux Nation, meets Secwepemcúlecw the traditional territory of the Secwépemc people, near Kamloops BC.  She also spends part of each year on the coast of Nova Scotia. The beauty of these lands inspires her life and writing, and for this she is most grateful. Her poems and nonfiction stories have been published in Canadian literary journals, including CV2, GrainEvent, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, and The Malahat Review. Her writing has won some awards and been longlisted for CBC Canada Writes several times. A chapbook Sugar for Shock, winner of the John Lent Prize, is available from Kalamalka Press, and the collection Gatecrasher from Invisible Publishing.  Her poems address the collapse of structures, both physical and ideological, through her perspective as a settler residing on unceded land.

After receiving her MFA in Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach, she was instructor at Thompson Rivers University delivering a wide range of courses in English, Communications, and Creative Writing. She recently stepped away from teaching to devote more time to her writing and love of walking.

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Gail Carriger


Gail Carriger writes comedies of manners mixed with steampunk and urban fantasy (plus sexy queer joy as G. L. Carriger).

Her numerous books include the Parasol Protectorate, Custard Protocol, Tinkered Stars, and San Andreas Shifter series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. Also nonfiction: The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture. 

She is published in many languages, has over a million books in print, over a dozen New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and Romantic Times.

She was once an archaeologist and is fond of shoes, cephalopods, and tea.

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Danielle Cohen


Danielle Cohen is a professional photographer, business mentor, and educator with a unique talent for helping others step into and offer their greatest work.

Spanning two decades, her career includes work as a doula, healer, teacher, business consultant, publisher, art director, mentor and photographer.

Known for her keen insights, potent intuition, truth telling, and her powerful approach to photography, Danielle’s work has been featured in magazines (Amulet MagazineLife Coach SchoolDigital Photography), on book covers (Milk + HoneyThe Art of MoneySex After Trauma), as well as in prominent websites, marketing campaigns, and e-courses all over the interwebs.

She has been honored to work with luminaries like Toi Smith, Alexandra Franzen, Bari Tessler, Robert Hartwell, Brooke Castillo, Carrie Ann Moss, Marybeth Bonfiglio, Theresa Reed, and more.

She works with soulful, social impact entrepreneurs who are changing their lives and the world.


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Christina Crook
  • Centered: Creative in Residence (2021)


Writers have a dilemma: we need a digital presence to promote our work, but using social media can hijack our writing time. What do we do about this?

Christina Crook is a visionary and leading voice in the field of digital well-being. She is the author of the best-selling book The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World, and Good Burdens: How to Live Joyfully in the Digital Age. She’s also the leader of the global #JOMO movement.

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Cherie Dimaline

cherie_dimalineCherie Dimaline is a Métis author and editor whose award-winning fiction has been published and anthologized internationally. Her first book, Red Rooms, was published in 2007, and her novel The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy was released in 2013. In 2014, she was named the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and became the first Aboriginal Writer in Residence for the Toronto Public Library. Her book A Gentle Habit was published in August 2016. Her lastest book, The Marrow Thieves, won the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Kirkus Prize; was a finalist for the White Pine Award, was named to the Globe and Mail Top 100, and was selected for CBC’s Canada Reads in 2018.

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Esi Edugyan

Esi EdugyanEsi Edugyan’s second novel, Half Blood Blues, won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Fiction, as well as the Ethel Wilson Award, the US’s Hurston-Wright Legacy Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Prize for Fiction. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Women’s Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Writing, the Governor-General’s Award, and the Rogers Writers Trust Prize. Her most recent novel, Washington Black, won the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Fiction, and was nominated for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize, the Carnegie Medal, and the Man Booker Prize. She has read her work in festivals all over the world, from South Africa to China, and has attended residencies in Scotland, Iceland, Budapest, Germany, and Belgium. In 2014 she published her first nonfiction book, Dreaming of Elsewhere, a meditation on the relationship between home and belonging. She has taught in universities across Canada and lives in British Columbia with her family.

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Jackie Kai Ellis


Jackie Kai Ellis is a multi-disciplinary creator. She’s a designer, bestselling author, pastry chef, entrepreneur, lifestyle writer, brand ambassador, advice columnist, and more.

In a world where we’re told that we must find and focus on one niche to succeed, her multi-passionate identity is inspiring and compelling. Here’s a slice of her story, and some of her career highlights:

After studying fine arts and design in Toronto and Vancouver, Jackie Kai Ellis became a creative director, and co-owner of a strategic branding firm.

Then she left design to pursue her passion for pastry, in Paris. She then founded the award-winning pâtisserie Beaucoup Bakery & Café in Vancouver – which has been featured Bon Appétit Magazine (and other media).

She wrote about this personal and professional journey in The Measure of My Powers: A memoir of food, misery and Paris. Published by Penguin Random House, her book became an instant bestseller.

Meanwhile, Jackie also designed and renovated her Paris apartment, which has since been featured on the cover of House & Home Magazine, in, and in many other aspirational publications.

She’s written about food, design and travel for various print and online publications. This naturally flowed into other forms of media, and she began appearing on TV, radio, online and print as an expert on living with passion.

#AskJKE is a monthly advice column for Vitruvi’s Magazine on relationships, work, and wellness, where Jackie mines her own life experiences to offer up curated musings for readers.

Jackie is the co-chair of the non-profit organization YES! Vancouver, a fundraising arm of Dress for Success. 

She lives in Paris & Vancouver.

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Elayne Fluker


Elayne Fluker has always been a passionate storyteller. And now, as host of the Support is Sexy podcast for women entrepreneurs and CEO of Chic Rebellion Media — which is a multimedia company that empowers women to control their own narratives — she is committed to creating spaces for other women to share their stories.

In 2012, Elayne founded Chic Rebellion TV, an online network that features videos and web series exploring the diverse perspectives of women of color. In 2015 Elayne launched her “Support is Sexy” movement with a mission of reminding women that having it all doesn’t mean doing it all alone. The podcast has been featured in the Philadelphia Tribune and in Essence magazine as a must-listen, transformational podcast.

She is also a public speaker discussing media, diversity, women and girls’ empowerment and entrepreneurship at global events, such as the United Nations World Diversity Leadership Summit, the Women of Power Summit, Mediabistro's Women in Publishing, the Essence Music Festival and the Cinequest Film Festival, and at institutions, including Columbia University, Howard University, New York University and Spelman College.

Elayne Fluker serves as an advisor, consultant and media coach for corporate brands, media outlets, entrepreneurs and public personalities. She also works with women entrepreneurs supporting them with personal development, brand storytelling, visioning and accountability as they launch new businesses and create lives they love!

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Carolyn Forde
  • Centered: Creative in Residence (2021)


Previous to joining Transatlantic Agency, where she is now a Partner, Senior Literary Agent and International Rights Director, Carolyn was a literary agent and International Rights Director at Westwood Creative Artists for 14 years.

In non-pandemic times, Carolyn travels regularly to both the London Book Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair and also on selling trips to New York and Los Angeles. 

She represents authors who have won or been nominated for many awards, including but not limited to the following: Governor General’s Award, Scotiabank Giller Prize, RBC Taylor Prize, Writers Trust Hilary Weston Award, Trillium Book Award, Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-fiction, BC National Book Award, Toronto Book Award, Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award, Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, Speakers Award, Toronto Heritage Book Award, Hugo Prix for Best Foreign Thriller (France), Kobo Emerging Writer Award, Arthur Ellis Awards, LAMDA Awards, as well as many national and international bestsellers.

Carolyn is an active member of the literary community, having been a speaker or mentor at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, Muskoka Literary Festival, DarkLit Literary Festival, Word on the Street, Writers Group of Durham, Ontario Writers’ Conference, Willamette Writers Conference, Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, Diaspora Dialogues and the Canadian Authors Association. She is a founding member and newly elected President of the Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents (PACLA). Carolyn is also a member of the Toronto International Festival of Authors’ International Visitor Committee. 

Carolyn has lived and worked in Japan, Mexico and the Czech Republic and is a dual citizen of Canada and the UK.

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Karen Joy Fowler

Karen_Joy_FowlerKaren Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. The Jane Austen Book Club spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction.

Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, as was her second novel, The Sweetheart Season. In addition, Sarah Canary won the Commonwealth medal for best first novel by a Californian, and was listed for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize as well as the Bay Area Book Reviewers Prize.

Her short story collection Black Glass won the World Fantasy Award in 1999, and her collection What I Didn’t See won the World Fantasy Award in 2011.

Her novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction and was short-listed for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. Her latest novel, Booth, was published in March 2022.

She and her husband, who have two grown children and seven grandchildren, live in Santa Cruz, California.

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Zsuzsi Gartner

Zsuzsi_GartnerZsuzsi Gartner is the author of the short fiction collections Better Living Through Plastic Explosives and All the Anxious Girls on Earth, the editor of Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow, and the creative director of Vancouver Review’s Blueprint BC Fiction Series. Her stories have been widely anthologized, and broadcast on CBC and NPR’s Selected Shorts. Better Living Through Plastic Explosives was shortlisted for the 2011 Giller Prize. She is a long-time contributing reviewer for The Globe & Mail, and has appeared on CBC’s Canada Reads. A former senior editor at the now-defunct Saturday Night, she has received numerous nominations and awards for her magazine journalism, and a 2007 National Magazine Award for fiction. She has been on faculty for the Banff Centre’s Literary Arts Programs and has been an adjunct faculty member for UBC’s Optional Residency MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in Vancouver.

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Samatha Haywood

Samantha_Haywood 2Samantha Haywood is a Director, Partner & Toronto-based literary agent at Transatlantic Agency, where she represents primarily Canadian authors at home and abroad. She specializes in international publishing and has over 15 years’ experience selling authors at home and abroad for volume publication and film/TV representation. She represents a diverse and vibrant client list, ranging from quality upmarket and commercial fiction (novels and stories) to narrative nonfiction writers (investigative journalists and memoirs). She has a passion for graphic novels and also handles foreign rights for independent publishers such as Drawn & Quarterly.

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Ronit Jinich
  • Special Program: Breathe In, Write Out (2011 & 2012)

RonitJinichRonit Jinich is a dharmatherapist in private practice working at the interface of Eastern and Western understandings and approaches to human psychology. Ronit benefits from a diverse academic background spanning from literature to performing arts and Gestalt Therapy. She holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from York University. Ronit is the founder of Dharma Praxis, home of The Living Room, a community dedicated to exploring the principles and practice of mindfulness in everyday life. From 2011-2021, Ronit served as the Manager of Education & Lead Facilitator for Mindfulness Without Borders, a leading provider of evidence-based programs on secular mindfulness and social-emotional intelligence to youth, educators, health and corporate professionals in communities around the world.

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Sheena Kamal

SheenaKamal-squareSheena Kamal's bestselling debut The Lost Ones won her a Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, a Strand Critics Award, and Macavity Award for Best First Novel. The sequel It All Falls Down has been called “a stunning, emotionally resonant thriller” in its Kirkus-starred review. Her new adult thriller No Going Back and her first YA novel Fight Like A Girl were released in 2020. 

Sheena holds an HBA in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness.

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Sophie Kohn
  • Centered: Creative in Residence (2022)

Sophie Kohn - squareSophie Kohn is a writer and writing instructor from Toronto. She is currently the head writer on "q" on CBC Radio, and her written work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, Chatelaine, Hazlitt, The Globe and Mail, Today's Parent, Outpost, and Reader's Digest. She was a 2018 finalist at the National Magazine Awards for her personal essay "A Body in Motion" about how a major spinal deformity derailed her dance career.

Sophie is a graduate of the Second City conservatory program and teaches satire writing for Second City Toronto and Los Angeles. Pre-pandemic, she performed stand-up comedy at local venues around the city. Sophie recently sold her first children's book to Owlkids Books, which is about a laughing hyena who laughs at the wrong times, and which will be published in 2024. She lives in Toronto with her partner Kevin, their son Cooper, and their cat Scout.

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Chelene Knight
  • Centered: Creative in Residence (2020)


Chelene Knight is the author of the poetry collection Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, winner of the 2018 Vancouver Book Award, and long-listed for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature. Her essays have appeared in multiple Canadian and American literary journals, plus The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, and The Toronto Star. Her work is anthologized in Making Room, Love Me True, Sustenance, The Summer Book, and Black Writers Matter, winner of the 2020 Saskatchewan Book Award.

The Toronto Star called Knight, “one of the storytellers we need most right now.” Knight was the previous managing editor at Room magazine, and the previous festival director for the Growing Room Festival in Vancouver. She is now CEO of her own literary studio, Breathing Space Creative and she works as an associate literary agent with Transatlantic Agency. Chelene often gives talks about home, belonging and belief, inclusivity, and community building through authentic storytelling. Chelene teaches part time at the University of Toronto.

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Rebecca Lee

Rebecca Lee 2Rebecca Lee is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The City Is a Rising Tide and the story collection Bobcat and Other Stories (a finalist for The 2014 Story Prize). She has been published in The Atlantic and Zoetrope, and in 2001 she received a National Magazine Award for her short fiction. Originally from Saskatchewan, she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is now a professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

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Peter Levitt

Peter Levitt 2

Peter Levitt’s ten poetry books include Within WithinOne Hundred Butterflies and Bright Root, Dark Root. In addition, he has published Fingerpainting on the Moon: Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom, and, with Kazuaki Tanahashi, he cotranslated A Flock of Fools: Ancient Buddhist Tales of Wisdom and Laughter.

In addition, he has published fiction and literary translations from Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. Legendary poet, Robert Creeley, wrote that Peter Levitt’s poetry “sounds the honor of our common dance,” and, in 1989 Peter received the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry. A longtime student of Zen, he edited Thich Nhat Hanh’s classic, The Heart of Understanding, and recently he served as Associate Editor of The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi (Shambhala Publications, 2010).

He was born in New York City and lives with his family on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.

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Henry Lien

Henry-LienHenry Lien is a 2012 graduate of Clarion West. He is the author of the Peasprout Chen middle grade fantasy series.

His short fiction has appeared in publications including Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF, and he is a four-time Nebula Award finalist. Henry also teaches writing for institutions including UCLA, the University of Iowa, and Clarion West and won the UCLA Extension Department of the Arts Outstanding Instructor of the Year Award.

Henry has previously worked as an attorney and fine art dealer. Born in Taiwan, Henry currently lives in Hollywood. Hobbies include writing and performing campy science fiction/fantasy anthems, and losing Nebula Awards.

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Lisa Moore

Lisa_MooreLisa Moore is the acclaimed author of February, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, selected as one of The New Yorker’s Best Books of the Year, was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book and winner of Canada Reads 2013. Her short story collection Open was a finalist for the Giller Prize, as was her first novel Alligator, which went on to win the Commonwealth Fiction Prize for Canada and the Caribbean, and was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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Stephen Nachmanoivtch

Stephen-NachmonovitchStephen Nachmanovitch performs and teaches internationally as an improvisational violinist, and at the intersections of music, dance, theater, and multimedia arts. He has taught and lectured widely in the United States and abroad on creativity and the spiritual underpinnings of art, and is the author of Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art (1990) and The Art of Is: Improvising as a Way of Life (2019). He has presented master classes and workshops in improvisation at Juilliard, the Yehudi Menuhin School, many conservatories and universities. He graduated in 1971 from Harvard and in 1975 from the University of California, and has developed programs melding art, music, literature, and computer technology. He performs on violin, viola, electric violin, and viola d'amore and lives with his family in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is currently performing, recording, teaching and writing.

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Alix Ohlin

Alex_Ohlin 2Alix Ohlin’s novel Inside (Knopf) and her story collection Signs and Wonders (Vintage) were both published on June 5, 2012. She is also the author of The Missing Person, a novel, and Babylon and Other Stories. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best New American Voices, and on public radio’s Selected Shorts. Born and raised in Montreal, she currently lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, and teaches at Lafayette College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

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Ruth Ozeki

Ruth Ozeki 2Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. Her first two novels, My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003), have been translated into 11 languages and published in 14 countries. Her most recent work, A Tale for the Time-Being (2013), won the LA Times Book Prize, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and has been published in over thirty countries. Ruth’s documentary and dramatic independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been shown on PBS, at the Sundance Film Festival, and at colleges and universities across the country. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City, and is currently the Elizabeth Drew Professor of Creative Writing at Smith College.

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Ann Patchett

Ann-Patchett-e1504908114125Ann Patchett is the author of seven novels — The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, State of Wonder, and Commonwealth — and has written three books of nonfiction: Truth & Beauty, What Now?, and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including England’s Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the American Bookseller’s Association’s Most Engaging Author Award, and the Women’s National Book Association’s Award. Her books have been both New York Times Notable Books and New York Times bestsellers. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

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Frances Phillips

Frances-PhillipsFrances Phillips is the author of “No Street Called Crow”, the winning story in Little Bird Stories, Vol. II, and her story “Bay Rhum” is forthcoming in Masters Review. Her collection, Cover My Eyes During the Scary Parts, is ready for a publisher. Frances Phillips is the co-creator of The Story Course Intensive and the original teacher for the program.

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Eden Robinson

edenrobinsonEden Robinson is an internationally acclaimed Haisla and Heiltsuk writer. Her collection of short stories, Traplines, won the Winifred Holtby Prize in the UK. Her novel Monkey Beach won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Her novel Son of a Trickster was also shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The next novel in the trilogy, Trickster Drift, was published in October 2018.

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Caroline Ryder
  • Centered: Creative in Residence (2021)


Caroline Ryder (she/her) is a Los Angeles-based ghostwriter, journalist, and screenwriter known for her work with the LA Weekly, Dazed, and the Los Angeles Times. She most recently collaborated with “Vanderpump Rules” star Lala Kent on her essay collection, “Give Them Lala”. She co-authored Dirty Rocker Boys, listed among the “50 greatest rock memoirs of all time” by Rolling Stone magazine. She co-authored the memoir of deaf motocross racer Ashley Fiolek (Kicking Up Dirt) which remains among the top-selling memoirs in motorsports and was optioned by Sony Studios.

A chronicler of popular culture, art/design, fashion and film for fifteen years, her writing has appeared in New York Magazine, T Magazine, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, The Face, AnOther, Huck, Monocle, Billboard, Cosmopolitan, Swindle, BULLETT, Rankin’s The Hunger and Flaunt. She regularly covered style and fashion for Variety, LA Times and LA Weekly, where she co-founded the publication's first blog, The Style Council.

She gained her M.F.A. in Screenwriting from USC's School of Cinematic Arts, and is a member of the Writers Guild of America (West). Her screenplays include an adaptation of proto-feminist novel “Odd Women”; a queer teenage vampire film set in the Mojave desert; a period drama based on the life of 16th century Irish pirate Grace O’Malley, a film adaptation of “The Legacy of Mark Rothko” written in collaboration with the artist’s daughter, Kate Rothko, and “Disdain”, a half-hour dark comedy about the friendship between a non-binary actor and a female writer.   

Her screenwriting accolades include Second Round, Sundance Lab 2015; Next 100, Academy Nicholl Fellowships competition, 2016 Hedgebrook Screenwriters Lab, Winner, Best Graduate Screenplay, Ivy Film Festival 2016, and Austin Film Festival Second Round.

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George Saunders

George_SaundersGeorge Saunders is the author of nine books, including the novel Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the Man Booker Prize, and the story collections Pastoralia and Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2006 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2013 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and was included in Time’s list of the one hundred most influential people in the world. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.

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Jennifer Schramm
  • Special Program: Horses and Writing Workshop (2014-2017)

Jennifer_Schramm 2Jennifer Schramm is a Registered Counsellor, Life Coach and Certified Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning Practitioner. She is passionate about horses and devoted to personal discovery. She has an amazing retreat centre near Toronto called Unbridled Experience. Her mission is simple: To help you stop living in your head, and start living in your heart.

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Neil Smith

Neil_Smith 2Neil Smith is a French translator and the author of the critically acclaimed books Bang Crunch and Boo. He has been nominated for the Hugh McLennan Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best First Book (Canada), as well as the Journey Prize three times. He has also won the First Book Prize from the Quebec Writers’ Federation. He lives in Montreal.

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Dr. Stacy Thomas

Dr-Stacy-ThomasDr. Stacy Thomas is a Clinical Psychologist and the CEO and Clinical Director of The Design Your Life Centre. Her work interweaves Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness Practices, Mental Skills for High Performance, and Clinical Hypnosis, with a keen understanding of the limiting life patterns that need to be broken in order for us to break free and truly show up as our authentic selves.

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Kelly S. Thompson
  • Centered: Creative in Residence (2020)


Kelly S. Thompson is an award-winning writer and editor based in Ontario, with a broad range of experience and education in the writing and editing field.

For nearly a decade, she served as a Logistics Officer in the Canadian Forces, specializing in human resources administration before being medically released due to an injury.

Her first book, Girls Need Not Apply, was an instant Globe and Mail bestseller on the week of its release in 2019. 

Kelly has a degree in Professional Writing from York and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. She teaches creative writing and nonfiction at several universities and colleges in Canada, including Trent University, Loyalist College, and Royal Roads University.

After an internship in a publishing house, her freelance career expanded to include writing for blogs, books, newspapers, and magazines including Chatelaine, the Tyee, Maclean’s, and Maisonneuve, as well as in various anthologies and collections.

Her essay “Basically Broken” appeared in the bestselling 2017 anthology Everyday Heroes. Her essays “We Are a (Military) Family” and “Strip, Reveal and Sex Appeal” won the 2013 and 2017 Barbara Novak Award for Excellence in Personal Essay. 

When not writing, Kelly is reading, knitting, singing badly, and taking photos of her dog, Pot Roast. She lives in North Bay, Ontario. 

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Matthew J. Trafford
  • Little Bird Contest Judge (2011)
  • Special Programs: Introducing The Workshop by Correspondence (2012); Short Fiction (2011); and The Grounded Fantastic (2012)

Matthew TraffordMatthew J. Trafford was awarded an Honour of Distinction from the Dayne Ogilvie Prize in 2011. A graduate of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia, he published his debut short story collection The Divinity Gene in 2011. He also won the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction in 2007 for his short story “Past Perfect”, and has had work nominated for both the National Magazine Awards and the CBC Literary Awards. His short stories have been anthologized in Darwin’s Bastards and Best Gay Stories 2012. He is based in Toronto, Ontario.

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Alan Watt


Alan Watt is an L.A. Times best-selling author and screenwriter as well as consultant to some of Hollywood's top writers and producers.

Alan first taught a summer screenwriting workshop at UCLA in 1998, and has been teaching and lecturing on the creative process in L.A. and at colleges around the country ever since. He spent three years teaching storytelling to inner city high school students through the non-profit arm of Spoken Interludes.

He founded L.A. Writers' Lab in 2002 as a place for writers to deepen their craft by learning to marry the wildness of their imaginations to the rigor of story structure. He has taught everyone from award-winning authors and A-list screenwriters, to journalists, poets, actors, professional athletes, war veterans, housewives, doctors, lawyers, television showrunners, and anyone else with a story to tell.

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Jessica Westhead

jessica-westheadJessica Westhead’s fiction has appeared in major literary magazines, including Room, Maisonneuve, Matrix, Geist, The New Quarterly, and Indiana Review. Her chapbook Those Girls was published by Greenboathouse Books in 2006. Her novel Pulpy & Midge, published by Coach House Books in 2007, was nominated for a ReLit Award. She was shortlisted for the 2009 CBC Literary Awards, one of her stories was nominated for for a National Magazine Award and another was selected for The Journey Prize Stories 23. Her short story collection And Also Sharks, published by Cormorant Books in 2011, was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book, a nominee for the CBC Bookie Awards and a ReLit Award, and a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Short Fiction Prize. CBC Books has called her one of the “10 Canadian women writers you need to read now.” She also works as a freelance editor and lives in Toronto.

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Michelle Winters

MichelleWintersMichelle Winters is a writer and painter from Saint John, N.B., living in Toronto. Her written and visual work embraces the absurd, explores the lushness of the industrial, and anthropomorphizes with gay abandon. Her stories have been published in THIS MagazineTaddle CreekDragnet, and Matrix, and she was nominated for the 2011 Journey Prize. Her debut novel, I Am A Truck, was shortlisted for the 2017 Giller Prize.

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Mckinley valentine

valentineMcKinley Valentine is a neurodivergent writer from Melbourne, Australia. Her cult-hit newsletter The Whippet has been going strong for over 5 years, as well as consulting on newsletters for authors and businesses. She is a researcher for the ABC television shows “Hard Quiz” and “WTFAQ”; do not challenge her to a trivia contest. 

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Write What You Want To Read

Discover more about the school, guest instructors, and special programs, plus get creative writing ideas, inspiration, resources, and news from me..