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— OurTeachers —


We’re so pleased to introduce our teachers for the Story Intensive 2021.
(Subject to change.)


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

Candice May lives on a gulf island in British Columbia, Canada. Her short fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Pleiades, December, The Porter House Review, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. In 2020 she was a finalist for the SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction and was nominated for Sundress Publications’ ‘Best of the Net’. She is currently writing a collection of short stories. Find her at: candicemay.ca.

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Iam thrilled to be a part of this remarkable cohort of teachers at the Sarah Selecky Writing School. This is a space where I rediscovered and developed my writing voice, artistic confidence, and the courage to truly embrace the statement: "I am a writer.” While I always knew deep down that I was born to write, it was the supportive environment of this school that helped nurture the consistency, sustainability, and outright joy that I've found in my writing practice.

As a teacher, I consider myself an ally to writers in all stages of their practice. Whether you are just starting out, on a quest to reclaim your inner writer, or already have a dedicated writing practice, this is the place to find kindred spirits on the writing path. The exercises and assignments, lessons and structure, supportive feedback and genuine camaraderie all help to generate an enjoyable and fulfilling relationship with writing.

I have learned that having a writing community is invaluable. We don’t have to write alone. When we get stuck, feel daunted, or procrastinate, we can turn to our writing group for guidance and inspiration. Here, you will meet other writers who are encouraging and brave. Your writing will be treated with upmost respect. And we will dive deep into all aspects of craft—expert lessons on how to write better drafts.

I understand the motivation that brings writers to their work. There is often an irresistible urge to write, a gnawing at the soul. Together, we will practice accessing this part of ourselves so we can write from the most authentic place. There is plenty of un-learning and loosening up. Practice and play. We will discover our voice again and again, or for the first time.

Like a good piece of fiction or a riveting memoir, you will find yourself swept up on a journey of self-discovery and change. In the process, you will come to know yourself—and your writing—all the more deeply. This is magical, life-affirming stuff. I so look forward to meeting you and your writing!


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Fiona Raye Clarke

Fiona-Raye-ClarkeFiona Raye Clarke is a Trinidadian-Canadian writer and community engaged artist. Her writing has appeared in Broken Pencil Magazine, The Puritan Town Crier, and alt.theatre, her plays produced by the InspiraTO Festival and rock.paper.sistahz festival, and her co-created short film won the 2017 CineFAM Short Film Challenge and screened in Toronto and San Francisco. She is currently embarking on her biggest project yet, a co-created animated kids series supported by CBC/Radio-Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts Creation Accelerator. She is working on a novel in stories. Find her at fionarayeclarke.com.

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Ihave always wanted to be a writer, and have always written. But I was definitely not a top student in English class. Part of me still gripes at that. Being the product of West Indian parents, it was ingrained in me that I needed a profession. (I’m actually a very-prematurely-retired lawyer.) Through it all I’ve kept writing and when I found a writing community, others who let their muse free and were willing to follow their pen wherever it took them, something began happening. People started listening. My skills as a writer and my stories improved and my voice started to be recognized and heard. All from me listening to my pen and trusting what I had to say.

I’m a firm believer that a story doesn’t arrive in the world on its own – as some would have you think, perpetuating the myth of a writer’s staggering individual genius. This is how writing has continued to be gatekept: by making the average person feel like it’s just not within their reach to pen a beautiful poem or write a well-told story.

But writing belongs to everyone, whether you pursue it professionally, like myself, or are working on crafting a fierce and honest account of your life for your children. Writing is a practice that can be nurtured by anyone, just by freewriting. Paradoxically, the more we tap into community, the stronger our own voices become.

Spaces like the Story Intensive that work to uplift the voice and self-esteem of the writer, so that we, myself included, can be vulnerable and bring our best and most authentic self to the page, are a large part of the reason I continue to write. I’m excited to grow and discover in this work, together.


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Hajera Khaja

Hajera-Khaja2.jpegHajera Khaja’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, The Humber Literary Review, Pulp Literature, and elsewhere. She was longlisted for the 2019 Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. Hajera lives in Mississauga, Ontario, and is currently working on a short story collection. Learn more about her at hajerakhaja.com.

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When I first started writing fiction, I bought books about writing and took writing workshops. I learnt a lot, what to do and what not to do, and collected some feedback on my work. But I still felt stuck.

It was when I signed up for The Story Intensive that my relationship with my writing really changed. It was the first time that I submitted writing in a class environment, where the focus wasn’t on critique, wasn’t on telling you what you were doing wrong, but on what you were doing right and how you could continue to grow as a writer. Getting that kind of feedback from my instructor and my classmates was so nourishing.

It was in that environment where I unearthed the stories that I really wanted to tell, and where I first began to believe that perhaps I could get as good as the writers that I admired. And I’m humbled and honoured to be able to play a small part in that journey, to walk along with other writers as they blossom and grow in their own writing and become more confident in their identity as writers.

We do eventually get to the critique part in the Intensive. But by that time, you will trust yourself as a writer, as a story-teller with unique and meaningful ways of looking at the world. And instead of making you wilt, that critique will empower you to move forward with your writing in new directions.

I’ve taken more writing courses since finishing the Intensive but I have yet to find one that is as complete and wholesome as this course. My writing was transformed here and I know yours will be, too.

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KRISTIN OFFILER

Kristin-OffilerKristin Offiler completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University in 2011, and went on to work as a freelance writer and then in communications for a top internet company.  She's currently working on her second novel. Her short fiction has appeared in the Waccamaw Journal and The Bookends Review, and is also featured in the Bookends Review Best of 2020 print anthology. She’s a founding member of a long-running online writing group and is passionate about the magic created in The Story Intensive. You can find her at kristinoffiler.com.

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Everyone knows that writing is a solitary act, but magic can happen when writers come together. I never underestimate the power of genuine, compassionate support and feedback in my own writing life, and I love fostering that for other writers, too. I don’t think there’s a single creative person in the world whose writing life can’t benefit from being part of an encouraging community. 

I learned this firsthand as a student during the first Story Intensive back in 2012. After that, through the Story Course’s Facebook page, I met the members of my writing group, and we’ve workshopped online since 2012 (and have gotten together in person many times!) They've gotten me through rough patches in my writing, and have helped celebrate my wins. I aim to hold the same energy for you and your writing during the Story Intensive because every writer deserves to feel the joy of a writing community.

I believe most writers are essentially after the same thing: we want to tell a great story, connect to our shared humanity, and better understand this experience of life. It's an act of vulnerability to put pen to paper as you try to put your inner world into words, and I believe we all deserve to have our work read by thoughtful readers who respect the sacredness of reading another's writing. There are many ways to grow as a writer, and one of them is through a shared writing experience like the Story Intensive where you not only get to write but also learn to see your writing in a new way. I’m honored to nurture a space for you and your work to keep growing, wherever you may be in your writing process right now. 

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LINDSEY SMITH

Lindsey-SmithLindsey Smith is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. Her fiction has been published in Little Bird Stories Volume VI and her non-fiction in ENTROPY. She lives in
Houston, Texas with her husband and son. Find her at lindseynsmith.com.

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Iwas just a baby writer when I found the Story Course. I had written—or rather micromanaged into existence— two stories that I did not like, and I was actively looking
for answers. In Paris Review interviews. On the thirtieth page of a Google search. In SEO-laden copy from strangers promising me a fiction writing formula that would rock my socks. I remember it vividly. All that angst and fear calcified inside of my body. All that compulsive clicking. What I wanted was to know how people did it. How did everyone else will their stories into beautiful being?

But then I found the Story Course. When I slipped in my ear buds and pressed play on lesson one, something shifted. Sarah’s voice helped, I think. She was calm, knowing. And under her influence, I did my very first freewrite.

Freewriting changed everything. I unclenched my writing fist and started allowing for a little magic, a little mystery. Freewriting, for me, is the not-so-secret secret, the answer. It’s my meditation. It’s where I discover who I am and what obsesses me. It’s where all the juicy stuff comes from.

Sarah and her school demystified the act of writing for me, the very physical act of Being a Writing Writer. The Story Course and later the Story Intensive gave me a new family, a new language, and a new found respect for my subconscious mind. It helped me find and trust my own unique process for bringing stories into the world. That’s why I love this school and why it’s such an honor now to be part of the teaching staff.

I love being part of these full-scale paradigm shifts, these creative ahas. I love dissolving the idea that as writers we need permission to do what we do. Most of all, I love the writers I meet here.


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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.

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When I first found my way back to writing, I took a prescriptivist approach. If only I could learn all the rules, I would be a writer. I went to workshops, I joined a writing group, I dutifully collected feedback, I learned some rules. I bought books on writing, I read some of them, I learned more rules. I collected writing advice, I tried and failed to follow it, and learned more rules. Eventually, I enrolled in an MFA program, and did more workshops and got more feedback and more writing advice and learned more rules.

The rules I’d learned helped me become a better writer. But they also paralyzed me. I would start a story and The Rules would be looming over my head, telling me that you can’t do this, and make sure about that, and don’t forget about the other thing, and are you sure you’re innovative and original enough? I was afraid that I would forget a rule and my story would suck. I was afraid that there were rules I didn’t know, but everyone else knew them, and so people would discover that I was a fraud. I was afraid that I wrote stupid and boring things.

And so I wouldn’t write. And then I was afraid that I wasn’t really a writer because I wasn’t writing. I was afraid that I was kidding myself.

(I’m still a little afraid I’m kidding myself. That never totally goes away.)

But what did change is realizing that The Rules aren’t commandments from some Writing Deity who will one day grant you a place in yes-you-are-legitimately-a-writer-land. The Rules are just rules. They can be broken. They exist to serve the writer’s intuition and imagination, not the other way around.

I love the Story Intensive because it’s one of the few writing programs that asks you to take the brave step of trusting yourself instead of the rules. I love being an Intensive teacher because I love talking through writing fears. I love encouraging writers to take creative risks. I love that moment of empathy with my writing students, where we are all a little bit afraid but discover that in this space we can be brave together.

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SUSAN CARPENTER

Susan-Carpenter.jpgSusan Carpenter has been nominated for the Howard O’Hagan Award, the Journey Prize, was a finalist in the Writer’s Union of Canada Short Prose Competition, and won Eden Mills Writer’s Festival Fringe Contest. Her YA novel and collection of short stories are ‘complete’ and looking for a publisher. By day, Susan works in the investment industry in Calgary. By night, she co-parents five sons in various stages of higher learning and moving out, and a chocolate lab that refuses to launch.

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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.

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