Creative Writing Workshops

Donna teaching workshops

I teach creative writing online through Humber College in Toronto.

This coming January, 2023, I will be Writer in Residence at Sir Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, ON.

In the past I’ve taught creative writing at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and through numerous libraries and schools throughout the country.

Here’s how I will teach you:

You have a story to tell…

…you don’t know how to start. You need a kick to get started. And you need inspiration, motivation and some ideas of how to get this story on paper.

I will show you and I will give you milk n’ cookies along the way, plus opportunity to meet others JUST LIKE YOU. I am just like you. That’s why I teach: to inspire and motivate myself, and to meet others who slave over keyboards when they could be snacking/sunning/swimming/doing real work. But here we are.

Writing is tedious. It is tormented/taunting/tantalizing and simply too big to talk about. So, we simply do it. I like packing a bag and coming to you. Find a group of ten or more like-souls, email me, and we’ll book a time. Course, you gotta live in Atlantic Canada. Else, we’ll talk.

Here are the topics I cover and a little about them. Each workshop is five-hours.


Just what the heck qualifies as memoir and how do I tell my story truthfully when everyone in it is still alive?
Learn to:

  • Distinguish between the three types of memoir – book length, personal essay and narrative essay
  • Decide which one works best for your story(s)
  • Identify the main theme or ‘heart’ of your story
  • Learn how to focus and strengthen your story
  • Learn how to strengthen the heart to make a stronger story

Everyone has a story to tell. Our challenge is to bring that story to the page with words that live. Learn to:

  • To tap into poignant moments/events from one’s past
  • Identify the emotions connected to that moment
  • Combine truth with fiction to create short stories

Sometimes feelings go too deep for words and we need to reach for the stars to express ourselves. Learn to:

  • To use extended metaphor & simile to convey thought and/or enrich writing
  • To introduce unforgettable characters

Setting is a place that your reader can see, smell, touch, and use to muscle your story forward. Learn to

  • To advance story through setting
  • To reveal character through setting
  • Utilize setting to deepen sense of place/time
  • Setting in sci-fi and period pieces

The fairytale is still the most popular form of storytelling. Learn:

  • Non-fail model to shape your short story
  • Recognize where a story begins, ends, and build plot
  • Find the Heart of your story
  • Bring your story to life

Each scene is a mini short-story. Learn to:

  • The three components of a good scene
  • The three types of changes a scene must bring
  • When a scene is finished
  • How scenes move a story forward

Sometime we just gotta mess things up. Learn to:

  • Read critically and become your own mentor
  • To leave the comfort zone of nice, tidy sentences
  • The concept of modelling to express one’s self more creatively
  • Experiment with rhythm and repetition

Dialogue in writing is not about conversation. Learn to:

  • Write strong, story-advancing dialogue
  • Avoid the many many many pitfalls of dialogue
  • Use dialogue to reveal background information, attitude, and conflict

Emotion is our universal language. Learn to:

  • Connect both your reader and character to your story
  • Evoke emotional reactions from your character and your reader.
  • To create atmospheric scenes

Sometimes we show and sometimes we tell – the art is in ‘when?’ Learn to:

  • When to show and when to tell
  • Techniques for bringing backstory forward
  • Techniques for presenting history without turning your story into a history lesson
  • To show who your characters are (don’t tell)
  • How to bring forward your character’s emotions through: narrative, dialogue and associative thinking

A story without strong characters is a story quickly forgotten. Learn to:

  • how to introduce memorable characters
  • to show your characters through their actions, dialogue & environment
  • how to create authentic, rounded characters
  • a character’s learning arc
  • keeping continuity
  • the twelve archetypes that make up a personality
  • not to stereotype

It’s all in the telling! We need to connect with our voice and bring our stories to life. Voice is your personal presence, that elusive quality that makes your writing unique, conveying your attitude, personality, character, and point of view. Learn to:

  • Non-fail model to shape your short story
  • How to build Plot into your story
  • Recognize where a story begins, ends
  • Find the Heart of your story
  • Bring your story to life

Non-Writing Classes

Young woman leaning about Jungian archetypes


This workshop teaches leadership and communication skills by using the Jungian tools of Archetypes to gain unique insights into the constructs of personality with regards to co-workers, clients and self.

You will learn to recognize dominate archetypes in others, the gift each archetype brings, and when someone is caught in the shadow-side of an archetype

By doing so, we are better able to assess, judge, and become more effective with decision making in a leadership role, and/or with creating a healthier workplace which helps us advance our creativity, productivity.