Story is a State of Mind is blessed with an abundance of guest contributors from the literary world—and beyond! Every year, a new author comes to The Story Intensive to talk to students about the writing life. I ask guest authors specifically about their pitfalls, and how they got out of them, so students can learn from their experiences. In the Master Classes, authors talk directly to Story Intensive students.
Students learn how the authors they love—like Margaret Atwood and George Saunders—have achieved their dreams, where they struggled, and exactly what they learned from the process.
Then there are the authors who are asked to judge The Little Bird Writing Contest. Authors like Neil Smith and Rebecca Lee who not only select the winning stories, but also record a salon session with me for students about what inspires them, the process of writing, what they think of revision, and more.
Guest contributors are also involved with our special programs. They might be authors—like Zsuzsi Gartner and Matthew Trafford—teaching guest courses, or they could be people like Jennifer Schramm and Michael Stone who’ve co-taught writing workshops with me to include horses (yes, horses!) or yoga.
You can browse below to read about all of these wonderful humans who play a huge role in the Story Is a State of Mind community.
The Story Intensive: Master Class (2013)
Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Her latest work is a book of short stories called Stone Mattress: Nine Tales (2014). Her newest novel, MaddAddam (2013), is the final volume in a three-book series that began with the Man-Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake (2003) and continued with The Year of the Flood (2009). The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short fiction) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, a collection of non-fiction essays appeared in 2011. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth was adapted for the screen in 2012. Her work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian.
FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK
The Story Intensive: Master Class (2015)
Francesca Lia Block is the author of more than twenty-five books of fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. She received the Spectrum Award, the Phoenix Award, the ALA Rainbow Award and the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as other citations from the American Library Association and from the New York Times Book Review, School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. Her work has been translated into Italian, French, German Japanese, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Portuguese. Francesca has also published stories, poems, essays and interviews in The Los Angeles Times, The L.A. Review of Books, Spin, Nylon, Black Clock and Rattle among others. In addition to writing, she teaches fiction workshops at UCLA Extension, Antioch University, Writing Pad and privately in Los Angeles where she was born, raised and currently still lives.
Special Program: Waiter, There’s a Movie in My Short Story: Screenwriting & Short Fiction (2012)
Sioux Browning works as a screenwriter. Her produced work includes episodes from the documentary series Weird Homes and Weird Wheels, the sci-fi series Alienated and the critically acclaimed series Robson Arms. Her credits have aired on the Life Network, the Comedy Network, Space, CTV and CHUM. She story edited the feature film The Score (adapted from a play by Vancouver’s innovative Electric Company Theatre) which premiered in 2005 at the Vancouver International Film Festival and aired on the CBC. As a writer/editor for hire, she has worked with production companies and writers across the country in a wide variety of genres and on everything from story notes to treatments to bibles to completed features. One of her personal projects, the historical feature Her Proper Place, received BC Film funding and placed high in two major US screenplay contests, the Nicholl Fellowship and the Chesterfield Fellowship. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and followed it up with a stint at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. In her spare time, she also works as a poet: her work has appeared in a variety of literary journals and in the notable anthology Breathing Fire: Canada’s New Poets.
Little Bird Contest Judge and Little Bird Salon Guest Author (2017)
Esi Edugyan’s second novel, Half Blood Blues, won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Fiction, as well as the Ethel Wilson Award, the US’s Hurston-Wright Legacy Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Prize for Fiction. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Women’s Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Writing, the Governor-General’s Award, and the Rogers Writers Trust Prize. She has read her work in festivals all over the world, from South Africa to China, and has attended residencies in Scotland, Iceland, Budapest, Germany, and Belgium. In 2014 she published her first nonfiction book, Dreaming of Elsewhere, a meditation on the relationship between home and belonging. She has taught in universities across Canada, and is at work on her next novel, Washington Black, which will be published in September 2017. She lives in British Columbia with her family.
KAREN JOY FOWLER
The Story Intensive: Master Class (2014)
Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. The Jane Austen Book Club spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, as was her second novel, The Sweetheart Season. In addition, Sarah Canary won the Commonwealth medal for best first novel by a Californian, and was listed for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize as well as the Bay Area Book Reviewers Prize. Her short story collection Black Glass won the World Fantasy Award in 1999, and her collection What I Didn’t See won the World Fantasy Award in 2011. She and her husband, who have two grown children and five grandchildren, live in Santa Cruz, California.
Special Program: The DNA of Short Fiction (2014)
Little Bird Contest Judge and Little Bird Salon Guest Author (2012)
Zsuzsi Gartner is the author of the short fiction collections Better Living Through Plastic Explosives and All the Anxious Girls on Earth, the editor of Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow, and the creative director of Vancouver Review’s Blueprint BC Fiction Series. Her stories have been widely anthologized, and broadcast on CBC and NPR’s Selected Shorts. Better Living Through Plastic Explosives was shortlisted for the 2011 Giller Prize. She is a long-time contributing reviewer for The Globe & Mail, and has appeared on CBC’s Canada Reads. A former senior editor at the now-defunct Saturday Night, she has received numerous nominations and awards for her magazine journalism, and a 2007 National Magazine Award for fiction. She has been on faculty for the Banff Centre’s Literary Arts Programs and has been an adjunct faculty member for UBC’s Optional Residency MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in Vancouver.
The Story Intensive: Master Class (2013)
Samantha Haywood is a Director, Partner & Toronto-based literary agent at Transatlantic Agency, where she represents primarily Canadian authors at home and abroad. She specializes in international publishing and has over 15 years’ experience selling authors at home and abroad for volume publication and film/TV representation. She represents a diverse and vibrant client list, ranging from quality upmarket and commercial fiction (novels and stories) to narrative nonfiction writers (investigative journalists and memoirs). She has a passion for graphic novels and also handles foreign rights for independent publishers such as Drawn & Quarterly.
Special Program: Breathe In, Write Out (2011 & 2012)
Ronit Jinich is the Educational Programs Advisor & Senior Facilitator for Mindfulness Without Borders, which offers educational programs in mindfulness-based social and emotional learning that help individuals to flourish socially, emotionally, academically and professionally. Her academic background includes psychology, performing arts and Gestalt therapy. In 2008, she completed the teacher training at The Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado with Richard Freeman.
Little Bird Contest Judge & Little Bird Salon Guest Author (2014)
Rebecca Lee is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The City Is a Rising Tide and the story collection Bobcat and Other Stories (a finalist for The 2014 Story Prize). She has been published in The Atlantic and Zoetrope, and in 2001 she received a National Magazine Award for her short fiction. Originally from Saskatchewan, she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is now a professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
The Story Intensive Master Class (2013)
Special Program: Found In Translation (2012)
Peter Levitt’s ten poetry books include Within Within, One Hundred Butterflies and Bright Root, Dark Root. In addition, he has published Fingerpainting on the Moon: Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom, and, with Kazuaki Tanahashi, he cotranslated A Flock of Fools: Ancient Buddhist Tales of Wisdom and Laughter. In addition, he has published fiction and literary translations from Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. Legendary poet, Robert Creeley, wrote that Peter Levitt’s poetry “sounds the honor of our common dance,” and, in 1989 Peter received the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry. A longtime student of Zen, he edited Thich Nhat Hanh’s classic, The Heart of Understanding, and recently he served as Associate Editor of The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi (Shambhala Publications, 2010). He was born in New York City and lives with his family on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.
Little Bird Contest Judge & Little Bird Salon Guest Author (2016)
Lisa Moore is the acclaimed author of February, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, selected as one of The New Yorker’s Best Books of the Year, was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book and winner of Canada Reads 2013. Her short story collection Open was a finalist for the Giller Prize, as was her first novel Alligator, which went on to win the Commonwealth Fiction Prize for Canada and the Caribbean, and was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Little Bird Contest Judge & Little Bird Salon Guest Author (2013)
Alix Ohlin’s novel Inside (Knopf) and her story collection Signs and Wonders (Vintage) were both published on June 5, 2012. She is also the author of The Missing Person, a novel, and Babylon and Other Stories. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best New American Voices, and on public radio’s Selected Shorts. Born and raised in Montreal, she currently lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, and teaches at Lafayette College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.
The Story Intensive: Master Class (2016)
Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. Her first two novels, My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003), have been translated into 11 languages and published in 14 countries. Her most recent work, A Tale for the Time-Being (2013), won the LA Times Book Prize, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and has been published in over thirty countries. Ruth’s documentary and dramatic independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been shown on PBS, at the Sundance Film Festival, and at colleges and universities across the country. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City, and is currently the Elizabeth Drew Professor of Creative Writing at Smith College.
Special Program: Summer School (2012)
The Story Intensive: Master Class (2012)
Frances Phillips is the author of “No Street Called Crow”, the winning story in Little Bird Stories, Vol. II, and her story “Bay Rhum” is forthcoming in Masters Review. Her collection, Cover My Eyes During the Scary Parts, is ready for a publisher. Frances Phillips is the co-creator of The Story Intensive and the original teacher for the program.
The Story Intensive: Master Class (2013)
George Saunders is an American writer of short stories, essays, novellas, and children’s books, including Pastoralia, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, and The Braindead Megaphone. The most recent of his many literary prizes is the 2013 Story Prize for Tenth of December, and he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
Special Program: Horses and Writing Workshop (2014)
Jennifer Schramm is a Registered Counsellor, Life Coach and Certified Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning Practitioner. She is passionate about horses and devoted to personal discovery. She has an amazing retreat centre near Toronto called Unbridled Experience. Her mission is simple: To help you stop living in your head, and start living in your heart.
Little Bird Contest Judge & Little Bird Salon Guest Author (2015)
The Story Intensive: Master Class (2014)
Neil Smith is a French translator and the author of the critically acclaimed books Bang Crunch and Boo. He has been nominated for the Hugh McLennan Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best First Book (Canada), as well as the Journey Prize three times. He has also won the First Book Prize from the Quebec Writers’ Federation. He lives in Montreal.
Special Programs: Yoga & Writing (2010)
Shôken Michael Stone illuminates the ancient teachings and practices of Vipassana meditation, yoga and Mahayana Buddhism for a postmillennial age. Internationally recognized as a transformative visionary, teacher and agent of social change, his work manifests the fusion of committed spiritual practice and social action. Michael is a Fellow in Residence at the University of British Columbia.
MATTHEW J. TRAFFORD
Special Programs: Introducing The Workshop by Correspondence (2012),
Short Fiction (2011), and The Grounded Fantastic (2012)Little Bird Contest Judge (2011)
Matthew J. Trafford was awarded an Honour of Distinction from the Dayne Ogilvie Prize in 2011. A graduate of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia, he published his debut short story collection The Divinity Gene in 2011. He also won the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction in 2007 for his short story “Past Perfect”, and has had work nominated for both the National Magazine Awards and the CBC Literary Awards. His short stories have been anthologized in Darwin’s Bastards and Best Gay Stories 2012. He is based in Toronto, Ontario.
Little Bird Contest Judge (2011)
Jessica Westhead’s fiction has appeared in major literary magazines, including Room, Maisonneuve, Matrix, Geist, The New Quarterly, and Indiana Review. Her chapbook Those Girls was published by Greenboathouse Books in 2006. Her novel Pulpy & Midge, published by Coach House Books in 2007, was nominated for a ReLit Award. She was shortlisted for the 2009 CBC Literary Awards, one of her stories was nominated for for a National Magazine Award and another was selected for The Journey Prize Stories 23. Her short story collection And Also Sharks, published by Cormorant Books in 2011, was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book, a nominee for the CBC Bookie Awards and a ReLit Award, and a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Short Fiction Prize. CBC Books has called her one of the “10 Canadian women writers you need to read now.” She also works as a freelance editor and lives in Toronto.