British writing school to open this fall in Toronto
London — Globe and Mail Update

Faber & Faber, the prestigious independent British literary house, best known for publishing the works of T.S. Eliot, is planning to set up a creative writing school in Canada.

The Faber Academy Toronto, slated to open in October, will offer a selection of long and short fiction and poetry courses and employ notable Canadian writers as instructors. Giller prize nominee Miriam Toews (The Flying Troutmans), who is published by Faber in the UK, will be “involved in an essential way,” confirmed Academy head, Patrick Keogh.

Having recently returned home to the UK after a two-week fact-finding mission in Toronto, Keogh said he was struck by the city’s tight-knit and thriving arts community. “I’d been to Toronto once before and was really impressed by its curious creative energy. There is something very organic about the way a literary culture has come together. There’s an interesting community of writers and an interested group of people who have aspirations to be writers. I felt that we could readily access those people more easily than we could in the United States. In this sense it seemed to naturally tie into what we were already doing in Europe.”

The Faber Academy, a successful offshoot of Faber’s core publishing business, was launched 18 months ago in Paris, with a course taught at the legendary English language bookstore Shakespeare and Company, by novelist Jeanette Winterson.

Since then, the school has expanded to included short and long courses in London, Dublin and Geneva, with an expansion to Edinburgh and Glasgow planned for later this year. Instructors have included Tracy Chevalier, Anne Enright, Paul Auster, Kazuo Ishiguro and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.

Erica Wagner, literary editor of The Times and author of the critically acclaimed novel Seizure, is currently teaching a course entitled “Perspiration and Inspiration: Getting Started,” at publisher’s headquarters in Bloomsbury. She says the courses, with their hefty tuition of $820 to $5,700, are good value for money.

“The instructors involved work very hard to make the courses stimulating,” she said in a phone interview. “Participants need to be willing to take criticism, work hard and carry on working afterward.”

But will the literary talent pool be deep enough to keep the creative juices flowing in Toronto? Keogh certainly thinks so. After taking a series of meetings with writers including Margaret Atwood, Anne Michaels, Michael Redhill, Madeleine Thien, Michael Helm, Andrew Pyper and Ken Babstock, Keogh says he is so confident the Toronto school will be a success, Faber is already looking into plans to expand the model to Montreal and Vancouver.

Faber hasn’t yet confirmed either avenue or course list for Toronto, but Keogh said they plan to keep to the European tradition of offering “unique literary experiences in inspired, independent settings.” The Faber Academy will join other creative writing classes in the city, such as the popular programs at Humber College and the University of Toronto

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