U of G Launches Certificate Program in Creative Writing

MFA grads to teach, share writing experiences

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Novelist and poet Zoe Whittall earned a Guelph master’s degree in creative writing in 2009 and will now teach the introductory course in a new U of G certificate program for would-be writers.

Have a story to tell but need help in writing it down? A new certificate program in creative writing at the University of Guelph might help you find your inner narrator.

Beginning this semester, the Creative Writing at Guelph program aims to attract would-be writers in the Guelph area – and not just university students. “One of the strong impulses behind this is to create continuing education courses in creative writing that are accessible to people in the community,” says Catherine Bush, associate co-ordinator of Guelph’s MFA program in creative writing.

The new certificate program will be offered jointly by the School of English and Theatre Studies through the existing MFA program and by U of G’s Centre for Open Learning and Educational Support.

Who should apply?

Says Bush: “Anybody who has an interest in putting words on the page, is interested in telling a story or making up a story, or has a life story they want to tell – almost everybody does. That need to express ourselves in song, poetry and stories is just elemental to being human.”

MFA graduates and students will teach the eight-week-long certificate courses. Almost 100 students have graduated from the MFA program since it began six years ago at the University of Guelph-Humber. “Many are really eager for teaching opportunities. This was a way to facilitate that,” says Bush.

This semester, novelist and poet Zoe Whittall will teach an introductory creative writing class, and Kilby Smith-McGregor will lead a short story course. Both Toronto-based instructors have won Writers’ Trust of Canada awards.

Those courses begin today and will run until mid-November. Classes are capped at 12 students, but there may still be an opening. If interested, contact Marjory Gaouette, manager of program development in the open learning centre, at m.gaouette@uoguelph.ca.

Courses planned for the winter semester will cover reading and writing, novel-writing and poetry. Other instructors this year will be poet Paul Vermeersch, writer and film director Andrew Kaufman, and author Ayelet Tsabari.

Other planned courses include creative non-fiction, mystery writing, writing for kids and screenwriting.

Students may take single courses or pursue a certificate by completing six of the program’s 10 offerings. Weekly classes will take place in the MacKinnon Building. Each course costs $549. Students need no previous writing experience.

Students working toward a certificate must take the introductory course as well as “Creative Writing Through Reading,” and must complete a capstone writing project.

Organizers have marketed the program through Toronto-based publications such as Quill and Quire magazine, contacts with writers’ groups and through events such as the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival.

Would-be writers often benefit from meeting “like minds” and from a sense of healthy competition, says Meaghan Strimas, the new program’s academic co-ordinator and longtime administrative assistant of the MFA program.

A creative writing graduate from Concordia University, Strimas is a published poet and editor, and is now writing a novel and a new poetry collection. Recalling her own early writing workshops, she says, “I would have butterflies in my stomach every class, I just was on edge, I was so excited. For me it was getting to share work I’d been working on quietly.”

Students might use this new program as a stepping-stone to other studies, including the U of G MFA program, adds Gaouette. “If you’re looking to get into post-grad programs, this program would provide an opportunity to develop a portfolio as well as an opportunity to write.”

Bush says students might also use narrative and storytelling skills in seemingly unrelated areas from business to therapy to medicine.

For information, contact m.gaouette@uoguelph.ca or mstrimas@uoguelph.ca.