Your writing belongs
at the centre of your life.
You love writing. You’ve loved it forever. You know that it’s a practice, and you expect that with study and consistency, you would be finishing creative work that deeply satisfies your aspirations. And your soul.
You’re right. The problem is, putting writing at the centre of one’s life is so bold, a little controversial, and often challenging.
We live in a world where art is undervalued, culturally and economically. Losing oneself in story is seen as “escapist” or “lazy.” (It’s not!) And in the dominant paradigm, little of what makes us great writers is what makes us look productive.
Still, writers must write. (And read, read, read!) Because none of the other things we’re supposed to scramble to accomplish gives us the profound feeling of belonging we get from being understood by the page.
In the Story Intensive, you come out from under the heavy mantle of “aspiring writer” or “hobbyist” and show up for your writing with your whole being.
After our semester of deep work, you’ll have an unconditional bond with your creativity, and a dynamite first draft you’re proud to share and publish.
You finally see yourself as a real writer, and others see it too. You know that no matter what, your writing is worth it.
Stories are our witnesses, healers, protectors, and guides. They teach us how to get through crises. They hold us when our dilemma is unresolvable. They show us how to be human.
From Baba Yaga to Shakespeare to the Simpsons, stories are all around us. They’re like the mycelium network in our cultural soil, signalling what’s possible. What’s normal. What’s beautiful. What’s true.
There is power and potential in our stories. It’s the reason we want to hear them, get them down, and write them well. It’s the reason our output is so often constrained.
Our logical minds help us thrive as adults in the marketplace, but they can fray our relationship to the mystery of writing. The Story Intensive helps you reclaim and revalue that relationship for yourself.
You will unfasten your left brain so you can connect fluidly to source through the art of writing. Just being with your inner creator becomes its own reward.
At the same time, you’ll have the structure, support, and high-level training to turn your ideas into a finished, well-crafted story.
The Story Intensive gives you the intensity and intimacy of an MFA semester without the decades of debt and heartbreaking critique.
Instead, you are nurtured by an eclectic circle of talent. You meet writers in an inclusive professional network. You receive meaningful, directional feedback. And you have what you need to finish your story.
Our focus is on creative short fiction, however the container of the Intensive has been valuable to memoirists, novelists, and poets alike, while the creative techniques we teach are suitable to any genre.
Our Intensive writers are a diverse group: authors, communications professionals, lawyers, recovering academics. Some are published novelists, some haven’t written creatively for years, or ever.
Beginners, seasoned writers, and rusty artists all benefit from the Intensive’s holistic coursework. It’s extremely thorough writing study — including deep reading — that ratchets up your skills quickly.
I want your writing to be the love of your life. Unconditional. Reliable. Trustworthy. But still mysterious. Alive. Your writing knows you show up for it, and it rewards you with endless surprises.
Intensive stories are as unique as each writer. Study is rigorous, but rubrics are few. We simply want you to finish the story that teaches you something honest and leaps you forward on your artistic path. Those are our standards.
Wherever you’re at, we sharpen your toolset. Creative writing can be taught. You’ll have fun nerding-out, spotting technique in everything you read; and then, you’ll learn to let go and trust our new skills as pen meets page, without spoiling the mystery.
It’s not about productivity, it’s about meeting the portal. Your heart, body, and psyche are cared for in this program. You’ll get used to moving emotion through your body and onto the page, using all five senses, so the truth of what you write is deeply felt.
Every writer is different, but many of our struggles are the same. Solidarity with other writers is vital in this unreasonable life we choose. You’ll walk out of the Intensive knowing how to centre writing in your life, without it being an existential crisis.
You now belong to a writing family of 6-8 people. No bigger than when I first taught the Intensive in my living room! And unlike campus you will not be randomly shuffled.
Instead, I carefully pore over everyone’s intake forms. I put students and teachers together because I believe they will deeply benefit from each others’ interests, hopes, and experiences.
I want you to have writing kin. A circle where it’s safe to share the baby flames of your work, knowing your classmates will do a careful review and let you know what works and why.
One of the goals of this program is to take away barriers to learning and make it feel easeful and nourishing for you to share your experience. If you would like to be in a BIPOC-only or LGBTQ+-only class, let me know. With enough participants (6 per class), we can make this happen.
Our Teachers are all incredibly talented, working authors who bring their own brilliance to the coursework. They are here to make sure you are doing the exercises and trying out new techniques, while helping you develop your story, voice, and style.
Want to choose your teacher?
Join early to make sure your first or second choice still has room in their class!
Approximately every other week, your class comes together for a live Zoom call to check in and support each other. Every teacher may choose to lead their calls differently, but above all this is your opportunity to get to know your class, share your progress, and see where you need more support.
The Story Intensive requires time and commitment. That’s the intense part: it’s not a light and frothy course, and it does matter that you show up. The good news is you do the work when it works for you, in your timezone, in our beautiful, easy-to-use online platform.
TEN TO 15 HOURS PER WEEK
August 23 – December 10, 2021*
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays students spend one hour engaging in their classroom discussion forum, and one additional hour on reading and writing. You’re also expected to do 10-minute daily exercises (as often as you possibly can!) and have the opportunity to dive deeper into our treasure trove of course content.
This is the part where you take off work, shut down all distractions, and just write for a full week. Get your autoresponder ready. Finally, you have a good excuse. And, you’re bursting with creativity built up in all the training you’ve done thus far. You’re ready to get your story onto the page.
Bring me your curious characters, your tricky plot points, and all of your writing woes. I’m excited to meet you on Zoom, talk about your writing, and help you reframe anything that’s getting in your way. Let’s find what it looks like for you to put your writing at the centre of your life.
The Story Intensive is a committed, rigorous, and high-touch semester of working through my signature lesson plan, The Story Course.* It’s a powerful 7-lesson course full of skillful techniques and creative rituals you’ll use in your writing forever. In the Intensive, you’ll spend 1-2 weeks moving through each lesson with your class. At the end you’ll have a feeling of transformation and respect for the writer you’ve become.
A Series of Talks on Process & Mystery
Full Recording Library + One New Live Session
Francesca Lia Block, Eden Robinson, Karen Joy Fowler, George Saunders, and Ann Patchett are just a few of the writers who’ve taught Intensive students over the years. You’ll have access to the entire library of over a dozen deep dive conversations and interviews.
Skillful feedback is useful to both the giver and the receiver. For the first 14 weeks of the Intensive, we practice what I call Spark Catching. We focus only on what’s working for us — what sparkles — so that early ideas have the strength to grow into brilliant stories. Only towards the end do we consider constructive critique to tune up your story and make it sing.
It’s surprising how much magic can come from this small daily writing habit. It could be initially uncomfortable, but the more you unfasten your logical mind, the more you’ll learn to trust your intuition as you write. It only takes ten minutes a day to build up your connection with that inner creator, so you can write your first drafts better — the first time.
Go ahead. Bury your nose in your books. It’s for your Intensive! More importantly, it’s what writers do. As you move through the course’s Fiction Anthology Companion (ready to print at your local shop or view on any device) you’ll learn to read with a writer's eye and integrate your influences intentionally, without being derivative.
Receive one year of free access to our private writer’s forum, Centered, to enjoy as much as you wish. As a Centered member, you’re invited to attend a monthly Centered Conversation with me, office hours with our Creatives in Residence, co-working sessions, and guided reading in our quarterly Read Like a Writer Book Club.
Within this space, you also belong to a private group for Intensive and Story Course students — people as committed to the writing life as you are. That way you can stay in touch and continue to share your work long after the Intensive is complete.
(Value $240 USD)
Our team comes together to make sure this ecosystem stays healthy.
The other side of being a writer is being a human being. We need to be emotionally and mentally well-resourced to do our work consistently and wholeheartedly. That’s why we have Dr. Stacy Thomas as our Mental Health Consultant for the Story Intensive.
Dr. Thomas meets with our teachers before class so they have greater capacity to hold space for students. She also hosts a Schoolwide Mental Health Q&A Call where you can ask a question anonymously. Many walk out of this call every year feeling a sense of relief and restoration.
We live in a traumatizing world. It hasn’t always been safe for many of us to express freely, particularly if we have one or more marginalized identities. Somatic therapy can help us heal and regulate our nervous systems, so we can reclaim our creative ground.
I’ve brought in my friend and colleague, Trauma-Aware Somatic Coach Annie Bray to develop the guided audio practices you’ll find in each Story Course lesson. They’re here to help you feel more resourced as you write deep scenes.
Our Intensive teachers have support. They are resourced. And they have strong energetic leadership. Sonal Champsee is our Lead Teacher. She is coordinating behind the scenes, debriefing after lessons, and glueing us all together. As events unfold in our spaces and around the world, we’re privileged to have Sonal taking the temperature so we can all co-regulate together.
Ihelp writers heal and centre their relationship with writing so they can finish work at a high-level, without breaking themselves in the process.
I believe writing is both an art and a contemplative practice. I’ve learned how to partner with my creativity as I’d partner with an intimate friend: with respect, curiosity, and love.
I’ve made it my work to teach writers how to do the same.
I started teaching creative writing in my living room in 2001.
Ten years later in 2011, I brought my teaching online. Over the past two decades, the Story Course has deepened, evolved, and expanded the capacity of thousands of writers from more than 20 countries around the world.
My first “e-course” launched shortly after my debut short story collection, This Cake Is for the Party, was published. Much of it was written in an MFA program that left me deep in debt and overly self-critical.
But the real problem was, as a graduate student, writing was expected to be really hard work. Within the institution walls there was no discussion that writing could be playful, embodied or enchanted. And those were the qualities I longed to experience most.
I needed to write. But I needed writing to not be so hard. I was determined. I started studying with Natalie Goldberg and Lynda Barry. I began developing my own teaching method, based on my work with students and myself.
In the end, completing my first novel, Radiant Shimmering Light, felt like an act of resistance as well as a path to recovery. And somehow, it was fun.
I wanted to share what I had learned, to teach writers in a way that I was never taught. I wanted us to have affordable programs with high-quality training and well-paid teachers. To have structure and skill with a decidedly non-academic dose of love and mystery. To have rigour without all the dehumanizing habits that are so often normalized in institutional spaces.
I made the Story Intensive for writers like me: serious about craft, but not interested in accreditation. Smart, creative people who love to read widely, want to write and publish exciting new work, but who don’t exactly fit the academic mold.
I’m looking for writers who are brave enough to connect to the unknown and who are willing to approach their writing with curiosity and kindness.
If this sounds right for you, welcome to the Intensive.
My collection, This Cake Is for the Party, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.
My novel, Radiant Shimmering Light, was published in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the U.K., the U.S., and Poland. I’m thrilled to announce it has been optioned for television and will be a premium one-hour series.
“I was blown away by the characters and story I created. If you stick with it and focus on it you will get a lot out of this program.”
Entrepreneur / Coach
“I felt seen. I loved it, every single time, when I got feedback from my group and teachers. It felt amazing to have someone say something positive about my writing.”
“I am reminded of what Julia Child said about flipping an omelette–that to have success, you must have the courage of your convictions. I think about that with writing. I now have a big toolkit to help facilitate that. So again, thank you.”
“The Story Intensive far exceeded my expectations. This program is brilliant! It’s probably worth 3x as much as I paid for it (or more) and I am so grateful that I could learn as much as I did without having to enroll in an MFA program.”
Singer / Songwriter
“For years I read books about writing, took courses, and went to workshops and writing circles. What I learned was that there is no magic key to completing stories or novels. When I took the Story Course and the Story Intensive, it felt like finding the pick to jimmy the lock.”
You’re receiving the 10th anniversary edition of my flagship curriculum, the Story Course. Together with your Intensive class, you’ll work through all seven lessons over the course of 16 weeks, resulting in a finished first draft that vibrates with freshness.
You’ll learn why writing is one of the most difficult creative arts to master, and that struggling to write doesn’t mean you aren’t a talented writer — it’s challenging because of the way we’ve been conditioned to use language and meaning all our lives.
You’ll also learn how to start unlearning that conditioning.
You’ll look at your writing as a relationship, and learn how to nourish it. You’ll prepare for the upcoming lessons by setting up your space, establishing new habits and rituals, and creating a workflow that works for you.
This lesson sets the stage for the magic to begin.
You’ll learn the subtle art of moment to moment awareness and feel true presence while you write, so you can trust your intuition and write without judgment.
You’ll learn what “show don't tell” really means, and how to actually do it. You’ll have a chance to experience the flow state, write with more ease, and learn how to find and hold the energy in your line.
Learning how to access this powerful energy will be the foundation for all of your writing, no matter what genre.
Do you feel excited to write something new? Does a blank page make you anxious?
In this lesson you’ll learn how to feel confident when you create something from nothing. You’ll understand what makes an idea worth following, and learn techniques that show you how to write a powerful beginning.
You’ll learn how to trust what sparkles, and how to write it before it slips away from you. You’ll also learn about the key relationship between memory and imagination, and how to use this to your advantage in your writing.
You’ll feel surprised and liberated as you write compelling scenes with ease.
Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, I’ll teach you the art of writing characters who feel real and multi-faceted, and how to stay open and feel grounded while you do it.
You’ll practice writing composite characters, unlikeable characters, and characters who astonish you. You’ll understand how to move your reader’s heart, and how to make your characters a conduit for empathy.
You’ll learn how to connect to your characters with integrity, so you’ll avoid pitfalls like stereotypes, clichés, and unbelievable plot twists. Your stories will feel alive and the conflicts and transformations you write will feel real.
Alot of writers think they are bad at writing dialogue. I’ve been teaching this lesson for years, and it always turns people around! Writing compelling conversation is a learnable skill, and you are going to find out exactly how to do it.
You’ll understand subtext — what it is, and how to work with it — and learn practical, foolproof ways to weave gold threads of sparkling dialogue into your scenes. You’re going to crack your scenes open and let the light shine in.
You’ll explore a variety of scenes and stories to see how conversation can be sculpted in different ways, and learn levels of intimacy, voice, and subtext. You’ll practice balancing your dialogue with exposition, and you’ll learn how to avoid being too “on-point.”
This is a really fun lesson, with a lot of play and experimentation! Once you learn how to love writing dialogue, your writing practice really starts to feel joyful.
This is my favourite lesson! All of the tools and techniques you’ve learned in this course so far have prepared you for the unpredictable process of writing a plot. You’ll learn how to let go of story writing formulas that restrict your characters, and navigate the unknown with skill.
You’ll train yourself to trust what you don’t yet understand, so you can write a story intuitively, using first thoughts, deep noticing, interconnectedness, presence, and craft. This will feel delightful and mysterious, and your scenes will vibrate and glow with freshness.
In your practice, you’ll develop the skills you need to create a plot that feels organic, surprising, and so much better than you thought was possible.
They say point of view (POV) is the most important decision you make when you write, and in this lesson, I show you why that's true.
You’re going to look at a variety of different points of view, study good examples, and learn what POV can offer in different contexts, so you know how to use them deliberately, for effect and impact.
You’ll learn how to narrate your story in a way that makes sense for the story, so your writing feels purposeful, artful, and saturated with truth and power.
I will teach you a no-fail way to use your intuition with your technique. This is a dramatic shortcut to story writing that has astonished too many of us to count! I use this technique all the time — it changes everything.
Be prepared: you will create magic.
In this lesson, you’ll read for motivation and inspiration, and learn how to articulate what you learn from other writers.
You’ll be able to recognize and define your personal writing style, and I’ll give you a personalized list of authors and titles that will continue to support and deepen your own work.
You’ll learn what questions you should ask if you’re writing about cultures and people who are different from you, and how to check in with yourself to make sure you’re writing with empathy and respect, so your stories aren’t unintentionally oppressive or harmful.
Finally, this lesson teaches you how to make and protect your writing time. You’re going to create a writing retreat for yourself — either at home or away — to finish your final assignment!
“This class has been a game-changer for me. I had been working on improving my craft for a year and had seen some modest improvement in my writing. However, this class not only improved my craft but caused a shift from wishing to be an author to believing I can be an author. It was like magic.”
“The Story Intensive gave me permission to make writing a priority in my life and then encouraged me to keep growing my writing practice. The group of writers and the teacher I was grouped with were caring and supportive. I feel like I've been given the tools to continue successfully on my own.”
“Major Compliment to My Previous Studies”
“I went through a 2-year MFA program and [the Story Intensive] was comparable in so many ways, and was also a major compliment to my previous writing studies. The lessons, the structure, the feedback, the accountability. And the work I created in this course is actually some of my best ever. I’m surprising myself with the things I’m writing (and giving myself permission to write surprising things), and that feels amazing.”
“Invaluable Resources and Techniques”
“The Story Intensive was a great chance to focus on short stories for an extended amount of time with a small community that unites in the experience together. Sarah's teachings are heartfelt and purposeful while honoring the intuition of the individual writer. The resources and techniques are invaluable and are ones I return to again and again to increase my writing craft.”
“Pulled and pried the writer out of me”
“I started this class as a non-writer, nervous and prepared to be overwhelmed. This class pulled and pried the writer out of me! I'd never taken a writing class other than English requirements for my fine arts degree. What I had was a burning desire to get a story out of me in some form - a memoir possibly, I wasn't sure. Now I feel that I've slowly become a writer, I'm confident that I can write, that I have everything I need inside me. The course has given me the tools and confidence to continue to practice and grow.”
Alexis McDonald Seto
A Handpicked Class of 6-8. Work together closely over the course of four months. You can trust this group with your writing, your heart, your wackiest glimmers.
A Devoted Teacher Offers Feedback, Guidance, and Accountability. Our teachers are all published writers and often Intensive graduates, here to make sure you integrate the work.
Twelve Live Check-In Calls With Your Class and Teacher. Approximately every other week, get to know your class, share your progress and see where you need more support.
A Virtual Classroom Gives You Flexibility & Structure. Show up three days a week in our beautiful, easy-to-use online classroom for study and discussion. You do it on your time.
Two Group Mentoring Calls with Sarah Selecky. I’m excited to meet you on Zoom, talk about your writing together, and help reframe anything that’s getting in your way.
The Story Course Curriculum to Develop Your Craft. A powerful 8-Lesson Course full of artful techniques and creative rituals you’ll use in your writing forever.
Story Intensive Mindshare Sessions with Remarkable Writers. Karen Joy Fowler, Francesca Lia Block, Margaret Atwood, George Saunders, Eden Robinson, and Ann Patchett are just a few of the writers teaching in this library.
+ An Invite to the 2021 Mindshare Session with a special guest to be revealed soon!
Skillful Feedback that Builds You Up & Makes You Better. We practice skillful feedback focuses on what works, so that your early ideas have the strength to become brilliant stories.
Membership in Centered + the Story Intensive Private Forum. Receive one year of free access to our private writer’s forum, Centered, to enjoy as much as you wish.
Reading Assignments that Sharpen Your Writing. Move through the course’s Fiction Anthology Companion, beautifully typeset and ready to print at your local shop or view on any device.
Daily Exercises to Unfasten Your Logical Mind. The more you unfasten your logical mind, the more you’ll trust your intuition on the page. This small daily habit works magic into your everyday.
If you are a Story Course graduate, you receive a $475 discount on the Story Intensive. Please visit the order form to find your discount code.
If you are a returning graduate of the Story Intensive, you can also get an additional $1,000 off the tuition price. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“I’ve been a part of writing groups for years. I became good at starting things but not finishing them. The Story Intensive offered a supportive environment and the tools I needed to create a short story. More importantly, it has become a cornerstone in my writing practice and broadened my writing community.”
“This is life-changing stuff. Do it. You owe it to yourself, and to your writing. It’s been almost a year and I still tell everyone about this class . . . My first ever story is coming out in June with Little Fiction | Big Truths! And all because of Sarah’s class!”
“I have nothing but excitement for those students who’ll get to write this fall—you’ll warn them the experience can be life-changing, right?”
Author of Zolitude, longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and finalist for the Governor General's Award for Fiction
“I love the course, love it hugely. I am full of astonishment, gratitude and admiration for you. My mind is a little bit blown.”
Author of The Red Canoe
“I completed the Story Intensive last fall, and I’ve never had a better writing class. It was hard work, but I learned so much. And wrote so much.”
AS SEEN IN
It is intense! But it’s not inappropriate for beginners who are ready to commit to writing. You do not have to be familiar with the Story Course to register for the Story Intensive. In fact, the Story Intensive would be a beautiful way to introduce yourself to the Story Course: you’ll have a teacher guiding you through every lesson, and a dedicated class to support your practice. Read about the Story Course carefully before you decide if this is right for you; if the Story Course feels right, the Story Intensive will deepen your experience.
The Story Intensive emphasizes short story writing and reading. The curriculum is based entirely on the Story Course. But the course is designed to help all writers, including novelists, develop their writing practice by changing their writing habits (and their minds). Both of these programs will teach you how to write with immediacy, mindfulness, specificity, and integrity. You will learn how to be present as you write. You’re going to learn how to transfer an experience to a reader—and this is important for writers working in all genres.
The MindShare Sessions are made for graduates of the Story Intensive, and will only be available to them for the foreseeable future.
Intensive graduates are welcome to take the Story Intensive again with a $1000 discount (please contact us for your coupon code).
The curriculum has been recently revamped, but is based on the materials from previous years. We will have a new MindShare Session this year, additional live calls, and sessions with our mental health consultant. And of course the live calls and personalized feedback during the semester will help you finish a brand new story, using the scaffolding and practice you know and love already. In addition, we are giving one year of access to our membership community, Centered.
Each week of the Story Intensive is the equivalent of a three-hour class, but this class time is stretched over three days to accommodate different schedules and time zones. Give yourself at least an hour a day, for three days—sometime during Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday—to login to discuss the readings and lessons and to read and give feedback on other people’s assignments. The flexible part: you can login whenever you can fit an hour of focused discussion into those days. All students do not have to meet online at the same time for class discussion.
The Story Intensive is a bespoke writing program with a highly intuitive and personalized enrolment process. Unlike most other writing classes, ours are deeply interconnected: every change affects the whole cohort. This is what makes this program unique, and why it works as well as it does.
Your commitment to this program creates a mutual investment with your teachers and fellow writers. It is in that promise that the magic happens.
Of course, we understand that life happens, too: it can be unpredictable, even when we make a promise in good faith.
I help writers centre their relationship with writing so they can do the creative work they long to do. My debut collection, This Cake Is for the Party, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, and was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. My novel, Radiant Shimmering Light, was published in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the U.K., the U.S., and Poland. It has been optioned for television and will be a premium one-hour series.
Photo: Our 2017 teacher retreat.
e’ve been offering vibrant online creative writing programs since 2010. Our holistic approach teaches writers how to cultivate a trust in mystery as they learn their craft, so they can have a healthy and happy professional writing life.
We believe that skill comes from study and practice, that magic happens when we create, and that our writing thrives when we are part of a supportive community.
Our school welcomes people of all identities, races, abilities, and interests. We share an inclusive, generous, and heart-centered point of view, and are committed to cultivating a culture of empathy and insight.
Our headquarters are on the traditional territory of the Wendat, Anishnaabeg, and Haudenosaunee Peoples, adjacent to Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory.