TWS Urban Writer's Retreat: Summer 2019

Would you like to dedicate a week to your writing this summer?

The Writer's Studio is pleased to host an Urban Writer's Retreat, which is an opportunity to spend four distraction-free days on your writing. Intended for emerging and established writers looking to start or develop a writing project, this retreat will allow you to learn from published authors, participate in structured writing time, work in a supportive community of writers and participate in optional social events (see below for schedule). Plus, you don't have to worry about packing a lunch; we'll provide that as well. This is an opportunity for you to take time off work and dedicate it to your writing.

Currently not available for registration.

About the facilitator

Eileen Cook

Eileen Cook is a published author with HMH, Simon and Schuster, and HarperCollins. Her novels, which include The Almost Truth, Unraveling Isobel and You Owe Me a Murder, have been published in eight different languages and optioned for both film and TV. Her young-adult novel With Malice was called "a seriously creepy thriller” by Entertainment Weekly. Her novel The Hanging Girl/One Lie Too Many won the John Spray Award in 2018 for best mystery in Canada. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else, or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. 

Guest hosts

Each guest will join the retreat for part of the day, offering a lecture and some writing prompts, followed by the opportunity for informal discussion and brief one-on-one consultations. 

Tetsuro Shigematsu

Tetsuro Shigematsu will open the retreat with thoughts on process and offer some prompts and techniques for getting started on a larger writing project. 

A former writer for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Tetsuro’s voice is already familiar to many Canadians from his days hosting The Roundup on CBC Radio. On TV, Tetsuro can be seen on the reality show, The Deadliest Warrior, where he talks smack and kills Vikings. His one-man show Empire of the Son had an extended and completely sold-out run, and was named the best theatre show of 2015 by the Vancouver Sun. This year it will have its third tour across Canada, before playing internationally.

Robyn Harding

In this workshop, Robin Harding will draw on her experience as both a screenwriter and novelist to discuss how you can use the beat structure from screenwriting to assist you with writing stories and novels.

Robyn Harding is the internationally bestselling author of Her Pretty Face and The Party, finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian crime novel. She has written and executive produced an independent film that premiered at TIFF and was the closing gala film at the Miami International Film Festival. Her new novel, The Arrangement, will be out in August.

Susin Nielsen

How do you write authentically about the experiences of a young protagonist? In this workshop, Susin Nielsen will talk briefly about the YA market, then share some tips, tricks and exercises to “release your inner ’tween or teen.”  

Susin Nielsen is the award-winning author of Word Nerd, Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My MomThe Reluctant Journal of Henry K. LarsenWe Are All Made of Molecules, Optimists Die First and No Fixed Address. She got her start writing for the original hit TV series Degrassi Junior High, and has written for over 20 Canadian TV series. Her books have won critical acclaim and multiple awards both at home and around the world, including the Governor General’s Literary Award, and they’ve been translated into many languages. She’s been described as “the John Green of Canada,” and had a dream once that John Green was described as “the Susin Nielsen of the U.S.” She lives in Vancouver with her family and two naughty cats.  

Kevin Spenst

No matter how quiet, every good poem has a gregarious underside where it kvetches, confers and canoodles with a great many others. As writers, we benefit from writing our way into this conversation. In this talk and workshop, poet Kevin Spenst will help you explore and write in response to poems packed with promptability.

Kevin Spenst, a Pushcart Poetry nominee, is the author of IgniteJabbering with Bing Bong (both with Anvil Press), and over a dozen chapbooks including Pray Goodbye (the Alfred Gustav Press), Ward Notes (the serif of nottingham), Flip Flop Faces and Unexpurgated Lives (JackPine Press), and most recently Upend (Frog Hollow Press). His work has won the Lush Triumphant Award for Poetry, been nominated for both the Alfred G. Bailey Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and has appeared in dozens of publications including Event, the Malahat Review, subTerrain magazine, Prairie Fire, CV2, the Rusty Toque, BafterC, Lemon Hound, Poetry is Dead, and the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2019. He co-hosts at Wax Poetic on Vancouver Co-op Radio, co-organizes the Dead Poets Reading Series, and teaches creative writing at Vancouver Community College. He lives on unceded Coast Salish territory with the love of his life, Shauna Kaendo.   

Retreat schedule

Lunch is provided on each day of the retreat.

  • Tuesday, July 23, 7pm - 9pm | TWS Graduation & Reunion (optional)
  • Wednesday, July 24, 10:00am - 4:30pm | Day 1 of Retreat
  • Thursday, July 25, 10am - 4:30pm | Day 2 of Retreat
  • Thursday, July 25, 7pm - 10pm | Evening social event (optional)
  • Friday, July 26, 10am - 4:30pm | Day 3 of Retreat
  • Saturday, July 27, 10am - 4:30pm | Day 4 of Retreat

Download a detailed retreat schedule. 


Summer brings out the best in Vancouver. From the mountains to the beaches, it's the perfect location for inspiration and creativity. You can spend your evenings writing, visiting local restaurants in Gastown, walking around the Seawall at Stanley Park, or viewing the fireworks at the Celebration of Light in English Bay.

Whether you're local or visiting from out of town, there's plenty to do. For inspiration on things to do in Vancouver, both literary and otherwise, we recommend the following links:

Retreat venue

Classes and lectures will take place at the Segal Graduate School of Business. Located in the heart of downtown, the Segal is a Vancouver Heritage building with inspiring architecture and generous natural light that will help stimulate ideas and discussion.

Accommodations (optional)

For retreat participants who want to stay in downtown Vancouver, we have secured a block of rooms at the Delta Hotels Vancouver Downtown Suites, one block away from the Segal Graduate School of Business. 

Delta will offer a special room rate to retreat participants who book by Thursday, May 23, 2019. A room booking code is needed to receive the discounted rate and is available upon enrollment. Please be aware that cost of accommodations is not included in the retreat registration and participants are required to book their own rooms. 


How will I learn?

  • Lectures 
  • Class discussions
  • Small-group in-class exercises/workshops
  • Working on your own writing
  • Option to receive individual feedback from instructor or TA

How will I be evaluated?

The focus of the retreat is for you to generate writing. There will be opportunites to receive feedback on your writing from instructors and fellow students.

Textbooks and learning materials

Please bring your own writing materials. All learning materials will be provided.

Related program(s)

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