About The School

Welcome to Story Is a State of Mind. I’m Sarah Selecky, founder & creator, writer, and your guide throughout this website.



Story Is a State of Mind is an online creative writing school that approaches writing as an art, and also as a contemplative practice. We believe that skill comes from study, that inspiration comes from love, and that both are necessary.

We train writers in all the elements of craft, as well as teach them to elevate their awareness, so they can deal with anxiety, resistance, and other unnecessary suffering to get out of their own way. We call this unique hybrid of craft and process a “holistically intelligent” approach. It’s not soulful journalling, and it’s not pointy criticism. It’s extremely thorough writing study—including deep reading—that’s laced with kindness and consciousness.

And it happens within a peer-based community that’s built on shared intellect, a spirit of generosity, and mutual respect.
You already love writing (you’re a natural)—and reading too. You don’t necessarily want to quit your day job to become a writer.

It’s not about money or fame. It’s about taking the time to sink energy back into your right brain and doing the creative work you long to do. It’s about the kind of self-care that comes from reserving that chunk of time to follow your heart.

It’s about craft and the embodied, unexplainable phenomena of magic.

And you need fellow travellers—like-minded bright beings who’ve already carved out part of the path for you, as well as others to walk with. To talk about writing with, inside and out.

You don’t know what’ll happen when you give yourself full permission to access your creative self. In fact, we believe that’s the place that great stories come from.

The Story

I ran my first creative writing class out of my living room in 2001. While I taught, I was also a student. I did my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. I went to the Humber School for Writers and The Banff Centre. I studied with exceptional teachers, including Natalie Goldberg, Lynda Barry, and Zsuzsi Gartner.

Still, when I was writing my first book, I struggled with writer’s block. It was bad. I sank into a depression that took me years to repair. I went to a lot of writing workshops during those years. A lot.

I was trying so hard to get my writing back—that beautiful state of mind that existed when I was writing easily, and with pleasure. I finally learned how to repair my relationship with writing through teaching writing as a contemplative practice (physician heal thyself).

I don’t believe in writer’s block anymore. Resistance never goes away forever—but you can work with it. I’ve learned how to work with creativity as I’d work with an intimate friend: with respect, curiosity, and love.

And I’ve made it my work to teach writers how to do this for themselves.

The school started in 2011 with one downloadable course called Story Is a State of Mind. It holds the heart of what I teach. Story Is a State of Mind has now evolved into a larger community—a school—and that first program is now called The Story Course. Writers can advance their study by taking two more writing programs that are guided by that same foundation course: The Story Intensive and The Story Workshop.

The programs all illustrate the concept of craft through fiction writing and in particular short story writing. Smart writers use what they learn and apply it to any kind of writing.

The methods used by Story Is a State of Mind are the exact methods that helped me repair my relationship with writing. Remember that book I was struggling with? The same year the school launched, my book This Cake Is for the Party was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book in Canada and the Caribbean. In other words, the methods worked.

Moving my teaching online was a big move. I was worried about losing intimacy and specialness, but I needn’t have been. The school went from my cozy living room to magic classrooms in which students from anywhere in the world could materialize and take part (without having to be too tech savvy).There’s been even more chemistry and accountability!

The digital medium actually helps students listen and reflect more deeply. Without the limits of geography, workshop groupings can also be arranged in especially compatible ways that they can’t be in person. We continue to learn together, retaining the school’s peer-to-peer model—our grand in-it togetherness.

Where We Are Now

In five years, over 500 students have enrolled in The Story Course (compare that to an average of 24 students per year in an MFA program).

Since 2013 when The Story Intensive began, there have been 85 students a year enrolled in the program—and they’ve got to do master classes with world-class guest contributors like Margaret Atwood and George Saunders.

This year we began offering The Story Workshop so students could develop their work even further.

As well, we’ve always offered Special Programs to fill certain niches for hundreds of other students. Our bright and shiny alumni are finishing and publishing books. They also self-publish and win awards and get accepted into prestigious MFA programs. More than a dozen of them have become our teachers. The Little Bird Writing Contest has resulted in six story anthologies, as well as thousands of dollars distributed to winners (and donated to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory).

Our subscriber list has over 11,000 people on it from over a dozen different countries who read my letters and take advantage of free teaching and writing exercises. Nearly a third of that list are doing our Daily Writing Prompts. Our private Facebook group for students has over 500 members. Many of those members have become writing buddies and set up groups of their own. There are another 1,500+ members in our public Facebook group.

There is so much to be proud of.

We’re proud that our students come out happier than when they went in—that they recover from old creative wounds and change how they think about writing. That they learn that writing stories requires a certain state of mind—a state of mind in which you lose self-consciousness and become the consciousness of the story.

A regular writing practice, which we encourage, is not about productivity, it’s about being able to move more easily in and out of that state of mind.

Above all, we’re proud that students become better writers and develop their own independent, ever-deepening, and healthy writing practice. That they come to care more about their relationship with writing than the outcome.

MFA VS SSM

In all honesty, Story Is a State of Mind was created, in part, as an alternative to MFA programs. We approach craft with the same rigour that you might find in academia, but our programs don’t require years of crippling debt. The Story Course, for example, costs about the same amount as it does to apply to a MFA program at a place like Columbia University in the States.

Our programs also don’t require the same time commitment, yet you’ll still get the instruction that you deeply desire and need.

Plus, you’ll be in a non-institutional environment where customer service is considered an art form (universities don’t encourage the idea of customer service, even when you’ve paid a hefty sum).

You’ll also be connected to a network of like-minded writers in a community that’s very consciously built on a foundation of generosity and respect.

Story Is a State of Mind is a robust creative writing school through which you can do a lot of good and gratifying work. However, if after exploring creative writing here, an MFA is still something you want, having taken our programs is only going to make your portfolio stand out more when you apply. As much as Story Is a State of Mind is an alternative to MFA programs, it’s also a really smart way to prepare to enter one.


Join Us

You can join our amazing community too. The best way to start is by opting-in to read my letters; that way you’ll have access to free teaching and become part of our community right away. You’ll also always be up-to-date on our Core Programs, Special Programs, Daily Writing Prompts, Little Bird Writing Contest, and more.

If you're reading this and feel like our school is already where you belong, then you do! We're going to love working together.


“I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing— turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

– Anne Lamott