storyintensive-logo-white

— Our Teachers —

These are the incredible writer-teachers who guide students through The Story Intensive. They facilitate thoughtful discussions, keep students on track, push gently when needed, read assignments, and support students throughout the program.

Every one of these writers knows how to teach the craft of writing, and each one brings her own archive of knowledge and experience to the class. Each of them is a Sarah Selecky Writing School alumnus, which means that they’re not just teachers, but also particularly empathetic peers. They’ve been there.

We’re so pleased to introduce our teachers for the Story Intensive 2022.
(Subject to change.)

Please click on the teachers to read more about them and their intentions for their Intensive class this semester.

Lead Teacher:

Sonal Champsee
Sonal_1

Teachers:

jamilah malika abu-bakare
(Teacher Assistant)
Joy Ding
(Teacher Assistant)
Kathy Martens
(Teacher Assistant)
Michelle Flythe
(Teacher Assistant)
SONAL CHAMPSEE
(Lead Teacher)

jamilah malika abu-bakare

jamilah malika abu-bakare headshot4jamilah malika abu-bakare is a writer and artist. She completed an MFA in Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2019 and previously studied with d'bi young anitafrika, Lillian Allen, Faith Adiele and Emily Pohl-Weary. Her writing most recently appeared in Active Cultures Digest, CBC Arts and Canadian Art Magazine. Her art has played or shown from Sweden to LA, and widely across Canada, including Contemporary Field Gallery (Vancouver,) Circuit Gallery (Toronto), and Artscape (Peterborough). Visit auralalterities.com to experience her curatorial debut.

_____

Ihope to create a safer space for students by reading carefully, listening deeply and providing thoughtful feedback . I am especially excited to introduce folks to BIPoC writers and writing styles they may not be familiar with. As a former student of this program, I look forward to co-creating the mindful, intentional learning style Sarah facilitates. I am open to difficult conversations about writing, race and ethics.

Back to top


Joy Ding

Joy DingJoy Ding is a queer Chinese-American writer and artist living in Philadelphia. She earned her masters in creative writing from UC Davis, where she also studied acting. She is an alum of Kearny Street Workshop's Interdisciplinary Writing Lab and her work was recently published in IWL's chapbook, "Into the Country of Our Kitchen". Her work explores complicated mother-daughter relationships, sacrifice, monstrosity, wonder, and hope. She is currently writing a YA fantasy novel about fae and immigration.

_____

Isigned up for the Story Intensive on the basis of one word: enchantment. I thought: If this Sarah Selecky person says writing can be enchanting...and it actually can be…that would be worth everything.

At the time, I was two years out of a Masters in Creative Writing, burnt out by a grinding thesis revision process and unsure if writing was what I wanted to do anymore. Why commit so much time and effort to something I felt bad before, during, and after doing it? And it wasn’t like I had any publications to show for that pain either. Every time I hit an obstacle while writing (which was all the time), it felt like a sign saying: this is why I’m not cut out to be a writer. I have ADHD. I’m disorganized. My thoughts run all over the place and I can come up with five hundred tangents in five minutes. I can’t make decisions. I never finish anything. I barely start anything. I’m: too weird/not weird enough. Too queer/not queer enough. Too Asian/not immigrant enough. Why am I wasting my time while friends advanced in their lives and careers? I should become a doctor/hypnotist/animal rehabilitator/pastry chef/acrobat.  

I knew that I would quit eventually if writing continued to feel this way. I didn’t want to quit — if I did, I would never achieve my Ursula Le Guin/Tamora Pierce/Octavia Butler dreams of being a prolific writer over my lifetime. Besides, I always returned to writing in the end. I needed to do something differently, and despite the skepticism I felt, I took a leap of faith — and signed up for the Story Intensive.

It was so much more than I thought it could be. It taught me what I needed to know and hadn’t learned yet, despite the fact that I could write you a full 2 page resume of all the writing classes, workshops, and retreats I’ve taken. I learned what actually happens after your butt is in the chair (common advice I never really understood.) I started to enjoy what happens when I write. I learned to slow down and let the connections happen. I started to appreciate the way that my mind works, and that there was nothing wrong — and in fact, many things right — with how I write. And with my cohort of other writers, we healed together. 

I entered the Story Intensive unhappy and tight with anxiety. Writing felt like squeezing words out of an empty tube. A year later, my relationship with writing has totally changed. I am no longer writing to prove that I should be allowed to write. And that is what has freed me to actually create. Now, I write to explore. To know. To move myself with my own words. Because it’s fun — something I never thought I’d say.

Writing can be enchanting. Writing can be fun. Writing can be sustaining, and nourishing, and support your life, not drain from it. And in this course, we will practice that. We will build stronger foundations of appreciation and love for the ways that we all write, gain more steadiness, and settle into ourselves. In community with each other and the authenticity of our lives and desires, we will name our thoughts so that they can settle down and allow us to connect with that wild joyful greenness inside all of us that is constantly reaching and unfurling.

I welcome you into a space where you can safely be, and show up, and write, and share, where multiple learning and writing styles can live and be supported. As a writing teacher, I help students find their voices, trust themselves, and lean into what makes them uniquely themselves. Like others have done for me, I hold and support my students on their writing journeys with the knowledge that we will make it to the other side, even if there isn’t an obvious end in sight. If you are worrying, like I did, that you are not cut out for writing, I promise, you are. You belong. Welcome home.

Back to top


KATHY MARTENS

Kathy Martens

Kathy Martens is a writer of short stories, memoir, and creative nonfiction. She is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles, and the Sarah Selecky Writing School Story Intensive. Her memoir Born Again, Again: That time I fell down a rabbit hole and spent twenty-two years as a Bible thumping, tongue speaking, Gospel preaching Born Again Christian. And then I woke up was a finalist in both the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the 15th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards. Kathy lives where the mountains soar to meet the blue in the Far Northern Hinterlands of California where she spends her time hanging out with her bff (aka hubby of 39 years), creating with curiosity and courage, being routinely gobsmacked by the beauty of nature, and imagining a more kind and just world.

Some of her other bloggy musings can be found at her website: kathymartens.com.

_____

You write some words. You think maybe you’ve got something. Sometimes it’s just a tiny pulsing glow in a pile of ash, but sometimes it’s a shower of bright sparks that pop and sparkle. Where’d that come from? Did I write that?

Wouldn’t it be fun to regularly unearth those shiny treasures? To find a way to trust they’ll show up? When you experience the Story Intensive you’ll learn how to breathe into that glow, how to nurture the sparks so something surprising can burst into light.

Curiosity and Courage. Oh yes, and Permission: love child of Curiosity and Courage. These are the magical friends that joined my life when I stumbled into the brilliant world of Sarah Selecky. Boy howdy, when this little family adopts you, it’s truly a homecoming for the wound-too-tightly creative soul. Exhale. You’re safe now.

Sarah brings a beautiful finesse to pairing the rigors of skill honing with the wonder of following the lights. Her love-centered approach permeates everything the Writing School offers. Turns out, you don’t have to intimidate, scare, or beat people into excellence. It can actually be brought forth in a much kinder and gentler way, without sacrificing craft or precision. This worldview is gathered spectacularly in the faculty, staff, and writers that call this school home. And the community that gathers around that energy: a rare find.

Back to top


Michelle Flythe

Michelle FlytheMichelle Flythe is a writer and freelance editor. Her short fiction has appeared in The Masters Review. She is currently preparing to publish her first story collection. Michelle has worked as an editor of fiction and nonfiction for Algonquin, Little A, Hachette, and Penguin Random House. She has also completed writing workshops with Cinelle Barnes, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Lisa Ko, Hannah Tinti, Helen Phillips, and Molly Wizenberg. She graduated from the Sarah Selecky Writing School Story Intensive in May 2022 and is still basking in the glow.

_____

I’ll read your work with genuine interest and respect, provide precise and encouraging feedback, and ace my Zoom settings, so it doesn’t look like I’m in a witness protection program. I could list one hundred ways in which I’ll support your journey during the Story Intensive, but I have one goal that outshines the rest: I want to help you love your writing.

I believe that when we love what we write and how we write, our perfectionism falls away leaving room for adventurous improvement and painless consistency. The Story Intensive changed me, my writing, and my writing life for the better. I’m bringing all my skills and heart to this singular magical program in the hope that your experience is as good (or even better) than mine.


Back to top


SONAL CHAMPSEE

Sonal_1.jpgSonal Champsee’s short fiction and essays have been published in anthologies and magazines such as The New Quarterly, Ricepaper, and Today’s Parent. She was a finalist for the Writer’s Union of Canada’s 2017 Emerging Writers Short Prose contest, and has had a play produced in Seattle. She served on the PRISM International Editorial Board for five years, and has been a creative writing instructor for Sarah Selecky’s Writing School since its inception. Sonal lives in Toronto and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC.

_____

As a writing teacher, I’m known for my honesty, my humour, and my penchant for swearing.

The thing I enjoy most about teaching is helping writers get out of their way. You see, everyone has a reason—often multiple reasons—why they aren’t really a writer. Some common ones are:

    • I don’t write every day
    • My writing is not good enough
    • I don’t know anything about craft
    • I write little things here and there, but that doesn’t count because of [reasons]
    • I’m haven’t tried to publish anything
    • I keep getting rejected
    • I don’t think I can make it as a writer and so it’s really just a hobby and therefore I am not really a real writer

And it becomes self-perpetuating. If I am not a real writer, then how can I justify putting any time and effort into writing? There are so many things I legitimately have to do. Work. Take care of my family. Catch up on my Netflix. What is the point?

The point is writing.

Every writer has reasons why they couldn’t possibly be a writer, and yet none of them have entirely given up on writing. There is still something that calls them back, that says, yes, you are meant to write, even if it feels uncomfortable and pretentious to admit to that. (“I am meant to write.” “Can I read your book?” “Uh….”)

The something that calls you back is what makes you a writer. All the other ideas in your head about why you are not legitimately a writer are bullshit.

That something that insists that you are meant to write is your voice, your instincts as a writer. The thing that gets overshadowed by all the other ideas in your head about what writing is supposed to be. My work with you is to help you trust that voice, and to find a way to put its best self on a page.

That is where the Story Intensive comes in. There are many ways to get feedback and learn craft—we do a lot of that in the Intensive. But we do all of this through the lens of that something that says you should write.

Back to top


SUSAN CARPENTER

Susan-Carpenter.jpgWith an Honours English BA from Western University and The Humber School for Writers’ Certificate in Creative Writing, Susan has short stories published in Canadian literary magazines (Humber Literary Review, Prairie Journal nominated her for Howard O’Hagan and Journey Prize competitions), anthologies (Fresh Pearls, Little Birds, TapPressRead), and chap books (Loft 112, Eden Mills Fringe). She came runner up in The Writers Union of Canada short prose contest and won the Fringe contest to read at Eden Mills Writers Festival. Susan’s short script that she acted in and filmed last summer (thanks to an AFA grant) is in post-production (compliments of a Canada Council grant) to screen at film festivals in 2023. Her YA novel Theia was a top 5% of 700 entrants finalist in Screencraft’s Cinematic Book Contest. Susan teaches her own memoir course through Sarah Selecky’s Writing School, in addition to the Story Intensive. By day Susan works in Calgary as an associate investment advisor and by night co-parents a blended family of five boys in various stages of launching.  They recently adopted a two-year-old Golden Mountain Dog, so Rebel Rose is their new teenager. In her spare time, Susan is a contest reader for Prism Magazine, and is currently editing her domestic thriller and a Pandemic love story.

_____

Before Sarah’s course, I had stories published, completed a degree and a certificate in writing and still felt that I didn’t know the formula for success. I considered taking my MFA to get the rubber stamp of approval that says ‘you are a writer’. Then I discovered Sarah’s online world and put myself through creativity bootcamp. I discovered I was a writer in need of a reliable, repeatable method to wrangle my unruly muse without shackling it. And, I needed a supportive community of kindred spirits.

The Story Intensive feels like an MFA because it’s dedicated practice, access to master storytellers, feedback from instructors and peers, and a safe space for your art to grow. Sarah’s course changed the way I write, giving me the building blocks to consciously engage with my craft. It gives you permission to dream, then wakes you to transcribe those dreams. By giving our muse supportive boundaries, we become mindful through practice.

Instead of writing feeling like a wrestling match with my muse, it now feels like a restorative yoga practice. As a teacher, I’m here to keep you between the ditches on your pilgrimage along the Intensive’s carefully mapped out road. I’m here to say ‘strap on your seatbelt’ because this journey is transformative. Think of me as your partner in crime.

I’ve always loved the first draft. I enjoy the abandon of the freewrite because it’s heady and laden with possibilities like falling in love. I struggled with a longer term relationship with my writing because it involved work and compromise. Boring! But Sarah’s method helped me trick myself into working by letting myself play first. I’ve learned to help my inner romantic shape all that squishy first draft emotion into something more than the sum of its parts. In the Story Intensive, we are also more than the sum of our parts; we’re a team.

I know you will come out the other end of this adventure like I did: dazed from all you learned, invigorated by the assignments and friendships, and more curious and confident in your partnership with your writing.

As a motivational side note, my final Intensive assignment won the Fringe Contest allowing me to read at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. And, Sarah’s daily prompts earned me the first runner up title in the Little Bird Stories Contest.

You’ve come to the right and the write place. You are a writer. Let’s practice dreamy mindfulness together. Your muse will thank you.

Back to top


TAMMY BREITWEISER

Tammy_BreitweiserTammy L. Breitweiser writes, walks, inspires, and teaches. She is the conjurer of everyday magic with her concise stories. Her fiction has been published in Gone Lawn, Cabinets of Heed, Spelk, Five on the Fifth, Clover and White, Fiction Berlin Kitchen, and Elephants Never. You can often find her on Instagram at @inspiretammyb.

_____

The label of writer does not always adhere easily even if you have been writing since childhood. As an adult, I established a daily writing practice but desired a community to thrive and flourish in as an artist.

The summer of 2019 was pivotal when I purchased the Story Course as a birthday present for myself. I devoured each week’s lessons and wrote furiously. I lived that summer as a writer, and I loved it, but I was still alone. After the desire for an MFA kept recurring in my Morning Pages over the next several months I decided to make the commitment to the Story Intensive. I also made the commitment to self-impose a 100 rejections challenge at the start of 2020 and started my publishing journey in a more robust way. I also needed to change the way I felt about rejection.

For me, writing is about the magic. It is about the surprise of what comes out of the pen when I am freewriting or the idea that grabs me when I am walking in nature. It is about following the drift of the ideas to see where they lead. My writing takes on a surreal quality most of the time.

The Intensive provided rich relationships with writers and the other teachers. The Story Intensive is an immersive way to grow with incredible support and dynamic resources no matter if you have an established writing practice or you are just beginning. It allows you to be the writer you are in the best possible writing container.


Back to top

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..