The Writing Workshop

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As the longest running Sister Writes program, The Writing Workshop is for women who love to write. Through the program, participants learn valuable literacy and writing skills, hone their voices as writers, share stories, and write about the realities of their lives. They also receive writing mentorship from professional women writers and collaborate with one another through the Outreach Program. The culmination of The Writing Workshop is the publication and public launch of Sister Writes, the program’s literary magazine.

The Writing Workshop is held three times per year, with each session running for 12-weeks at the Bloor/Gladstone Library in downtown Toronto. Author Lauren Kirshner facilitates the program, along with guest writers, including acclaimed poets, novelists, and journalists.

At each workshop, participants are introduced to a writing genre or technique and encouraged to explore different ways of telling their stories and expressing their voices. Every workshop includes free writing exercises, guided readings, writing time, discussion, feedback time, and a closing exercise. Snacks and supplies including books, notebooks, pens, and TTC tokens, are provided.

A key component of the Sister Writes Workshop is that participants are involved in the program at every stage. Participants collaborate on the planning and publication of the Sister Writes magazine, and work closely with the Sister Writes Managing Editor throughout the publication process. Through the Outreach Program, experienced participants design and facilitate workshops throughout Toronto, gaining leadership skills and experience.


Welcome to Sister Writes from Sister Writes on Vimeo.

Writing and Editorial Mentorship

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For writing support and mentorship, Sister Writes is the place to be. Participants receive mentorship from professional women writers and editors for the duration of The Writing Workshop program. Whether it’s through one-on-one feedback during Sister Writes editorial hours, or through the editorial process leading  to the publication of the Sister Writes magazine, participants’ creative journeys are supported and nurtured throughout the program. The Sister Writes lending library of creative writing books and our online resources page also provide valuable information and support.

Facilitation Mentorship

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Our Facilitation Mentorship Program provides an opportunity for experienced Sister Writes participants to become outreach workshop facilitators within the community. In an inclusive and co-creative environment, participants learn how to plan artistically relevant workshops that encourage inclusiveness and engagement. They also develop skills to engage participation and measure outcomes, and practice facilitating workshops within a supportive peer group. At the end of the Program, participants facilitate outreach workshops at women’s agencies throughout Toronto, and are paid as emerging artists, through the Sister Writes in the Community Program.

Sister Writes in the Community

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Sister Writes in the Community is an outreach program that delivers one-off creative writing workshops for women’s agencies throughout Toronto. Designed to provide women with an opportunity to tell their stories and practice creative writing and literacy skills, Sister Writes in the Community is a workshop series that fosters emerging women’s voices.

Outreach workshops take place in community centers, drop-in centers, shelters, and other community hubs, and engage high-risk women audiences in hands-on creative writing practice. We’ve delivered workshops for sex workers’ action organizations, employment centres serving women, and organizations for women escaping abuse. We’ve also delivered workshops in translation, including a recent series in Mandarin. All workshops are facilitated by professional authors and experienced Sister Writes participants and are 100% free to organizations and participants.

If your organization is interested in hosting a Sister Writes workshop, write to us at [email protected]. Tell us about your organization and how a Sister Writes workshop would benefit your clients.

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Sister Writes on the Road

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Sister Writes on the Road is our newest program, currently under development. The vision: to bring the skill-building, empowering and creative programs we’ve been offering in Toronto since 2010 all the way across Ontario. From Hamilton to Sioux Lookout, Bracebridge to Napanee, London to Cornwall, Sister Writes on the Road will visit 12 communities over eight months in 2017-2018 and work with women who love to write.

On the Road has three goals: 1) to provide artist-led mentorship and creative writing workshops for women who have experienced trauma; 2) to bring our acclaimed programming to women who live far away from city centres; 3) to create a network of creative women across the province through the craft and practice of storytelling. The stories produced through the program will be published in a special edition of Sister Writes and become the basis of a digital and oral history project that will one day be housed here on this website.

If your organization is interested in working with Sister Writes on the Road, write to [email protected] We would love to hear from you.

Neighbourhood Programs

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Our neighbourhood creative writing workshops, exhibitions and events offer the public – adults, seniors, and youth, men and women – with opportunities to experience, appreciate and participate in literary culture. Held at public libraries and in arts spaces, our public workshops have been facilitated by authors including Kate Cayley, Farzana Doctor, Hoa Nguyen and Lauren Kirshner.  Our 2016 conference for LGBTQ youth and allies, OUT LOUD, brought offered a full day of workshops by writers Ben Ladouceur, Vivek Shraya and Zoe Whittall. For more information on our upcoming neighbourhood programs, check our blog.



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Our flagship program is a 12-week workshop called The Writing Workshop. Workshop participants have access to supplementary facilitation, mentorship, and literary publishing programs as well. We also offer one- and two-day outreach workshops (for clients of women’s agencies) and one-off neighbourhood writing workshops (for the public).

Most participants are women who have experienced upheavals or significant transitions in their lives – homelessness, abuse, mental illness, addictions, and other traumas. They come for different reasons: to learn creative writing, to reflect on their experiences by putting them on paper, or to improve their creative writing and communication skills in English. What unites them is the desire to give voice in writing to the realities of their lives, in a warm, supportive environment.

Nothing. All our workshops and programs are free, and we provide all supplies (books, pens, notebooks) as well as snacks and TTC tokens.

You’ll write short creative pieces: stories, memoir, poems, articles, personal essays. You can choose to write from your personal experience, or from your imagination, or both.

Workshops are small, hands-on, and interactive. You’ll learn how to write fiction and memoir. You’ll write – a lot! You’ll take turns reading your work out loud and giving each other feedback. You’ll probably laugh a lot, maybe cry a little, but definitely learn a lot. You’ll receive direction, advice, and coaching from the facilitator and guest authors. If you are a participant in The Writing Workshop, you’ll also help edit, publish, and launch an issue of our literary magazine, Sister Writes.  For more details, read the Join page. To see and hear a real workshop in action, watch the video Welcome to Sister Writes.

Absolutely! Many of our participants are first-time writers. We’ve designed the workshops so that everyone – beginners, developing writers, and seasoned writers seeking to hone their skills – can learn and grow in their craft.

All aspiring writers are welcome. Our workshops are conducted conversationally and can be  understood by anyone with an intermediate level of English. Helping women improve their writing skills in English is an important part of our mandate. That’s why our workshops include tips and coaching on vocabulary, grammar, and usage. If you’re looking for an English as a second language specific course, you can contact us for recommendations to other programs.

The Writing Workshop meets for two hours each week, for 12 weeks. Because our program builds skills cumulatively towards the publication of our magazine, and involves lots of group work, we ask that you commit to attending the entire 12 week session. There is no homework per se, but participants typically spend anywhere from one hour to three hours writing outside of the workshop.

Sister Writes is not a job-training program, so you won’t receive a certificate or diploma. What you will gain are creative writing skills; a better grasp of the English language; experience publishing and launching a magazine issue; confidence speaking and working in a group; and, of course, the thrill of finding your voice as a writer!

Stories from each year’s sessions of The Writing Workshop are published in Sister Writes, the program’s literary magazine. You can read all past and current issues online in the Magazine Archive. If you’d like to receive a print copy of the magazine, write to us on our contact page.

Unfortunately not at this time.

New sessions of The Writing Workshop begin in September, January, and May. Each is 12 weeks long. For exact dates, you can watch for announcements in our blog, but registration generally opens six weeks before the workshop starts. We accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis. Before registering, please read the About and Join pages to make sure the workshop is a good fit for you. To register, contact us at [email protected] or 416-926-9762 x239. All workshops take place on Tuesday mornings at the Bloor/Gladstone Library, at Bloor and Dufferin streets.

We do. We offer creative writing workshops and other events for the public at libraries and arts spaces across the city. You can read more in the Neighbourhood Programs section of the Programs page. Upcoming events are always announced in our blog.

Absolutely. If your organization serves women and/or women-identified people in Toronto, we’d be happy to talk to you about hosting a one-time workshop through our outreach program. You can find details and contact information in the Sister Writes in the Community section of the Programs page.

We certainly do. Enthusiastic and committed volunteers help produce and launch the Sister Writes magazine, plan events, and more. We accept volunteer applications at the start of each session (September, January and May). For details on available positions and how to apply, see the Volunteer section of the About page.

Resources for Writers

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Brick, A Literary Journal: A journal of creative non-fiction that features literary essays, travelogues, interviews, memoirs, the occasional fiction piece or poem, and primarily focuses on writers and the writing life. Read excerpts from their archive and current issue online.

Broken Pencil: Published four times a year, this magazine of zine culture features reviews of zines and small press books, fiction, and commentary on the indie arts.

Elements of Style: Read this overview of the nuts and bolts of grammar, punctuation, and, of course, writing style.

GUTS: This biannual Canadian feminist magazine offers new perspectives on contemporary feminism, and features personal essays, reviews, memoirs, journalism, poetry and fiction, as well as creative interviews and conversation.

The Literary Renaissance of Trans Writers: A superb overview and discussion of some recent novels and memoirs by trans writers, from Bitch magazine.

Maisonneuve: Based in Montreal, this quarterly magazine has been called the “New Yorker of the North” and though it bears some resemblance, it is its own unique publication, featuring fresh and eclectic writing on arts, opinions, and ideas. Check out their current online articles and extensive archive on their blog.

The Moth Radio Hour: Founded in 1997, this organization celebrates both the raconteur and the storytelling novice. The Moth is a live storytelling event that takes place in cities across the USA, and results in an incredible free online podcast that assembles episodes of the most popular stories. Listen up!

The New Yorker, Fiction: Free online access to over one thousand pieces of fiction by some of the best contemporary authors, straight from the pages of The New Yorker!

Open Book Toronto: An excellent resource for the happenings in Toronto and Ontario’s literary scene that features interviews with authors, profiles of new books from Canadian independent publishers, a calendar of literary readings, launches, and festivals, and an incredible map of Ontario’s literary landmarks.

The Paris Review, The Art of Fiction: An archive of interviews with modern and contemporary authors, from the 1950’s to the present. Read authors discussing the art of their fiction and gain insight into the writing life.

PEN Canada: An organization of writers, which advocates for literature and defends the right to freedom of expression. They sponsor literary events across Canada, run campaigns to promote political awareness of violations of freedom of expression, and offer public programing that advances literary culture.

Places for Writers: A comprehensive resource for writers that lists online and print publications, publishers, calls for submissions, and literary contests.

Poetry Foundation: A literary organization that publishes Poetry magazine and is committed to bolstering the presence of poetry in our culture. Their website provides hours of browsing pleasure: poems, articles on poetry, interviews with poets, and audio and video recordings of poetry-readings.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab: An incredible and free resource on writing that offers quick answers to questions related to the writing process, rhetoric and logic, genre, style and language, and citations.

Shameless Magazine: A feminist magazine of news, culture, politics, and art directed at sassy young women and trans youth that invites writers of all ages to submit writing and artwork, as well as blog, volunteer, or organize. Read their articles, submit, or get involved!

The Toronto Public Library: North America’s largest library system and a partner of Sister Writes, there are 98 library branches located across the GTA. The TPL’s website provides full access to the catalogue, including access to digital resources such as e-books, e-magazines, video streaming, and music. You can also find listings for free library events as well as the variety of programs and classes. Of particular interest is the recent Writer-in-Residence initiative for aspiring writers. All programming is free and accessible.

Tin House, The Art of the Sentence: Tin House Magazine and Press invites writers to write about and dissect a single sentence from the work of a particular author to be featured on their blog. From Franz Kafka to Lorrie Moore—it is always amazing to see what an author can accomplish in a single sentence. Their podcast on literature and poetry is also worth a listen.