Toronto Writing Workshop

Creative Non-Fiction Writing for Academics

Toronto Writing Workshop at JHIAcademics have few opportunities to learn how to make their humanities and social sciences research writing more engaging for a broader public. The Toronto Writing Workshop is an annual, week-long intensive workshop held every May and is designed for post-PhD scholars who want to reach non-academic audiences. Participants learn how to write for different audiences and how to disseminate their work through non-academic channels.

Applications for the next workshop will be announced in Spring 2020.

May 2019 Workshop

This year’s workshop was planned and led by Professors Eva-Lynn Jagoe and Gretchen Bakke, two scholars committed to engaging non-academic audiences with their research and writing. Fifteen scholars participated in the 2019 workshop - their research areas ranged across the humanities, with a few faculty from the social sciences.

Eva-Lynn JagoeEva-Lynn Jagoe is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Take Her, She’s Yours, a forthcoming nonfiction memoir. She teaches courses on critical and creative nonfiction. She has been co-organizer of this workshop, as well as of the Banff Research in Culture.

Gretchen BakkeGretchen Bakke is a professional editor and writer with extensive experience writing for both academic and non-academic readership. Author of The Grid: The Fraying Wires between Americans and our Energy Future (a 2016 Bill Gates pick) Bakke is a Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Workshop Topics

The themes covered included:

  • Identifying narrative elements and relationships such as topics, themes, scenes, data, commentary, reflection, metaphors, units
  • Understanding the narrator (voice/persona)
  • The situation vs. the story
  • Narrative arc and engine
  • Essay and book structure
  • Style and syntax
  • The abstract and the concrete
  • Research and imagination
  • Revision process

Each topic included in-class writing exercises, as well as animated discussions.

Participant Feedback

“I got more excited about writing that I have been in quite a while and it really expanded how I am thinking about the goals I have and the craft I want to develop.”

“This workshop was the best thing I did all year! [...] Nothing we did was not productive.”

[The workshop] "exceeded my expectations because I am leaving excited to write and work on this new project."

“This workshop is a fine example of JHI’s mandate to ‘enable humanities research to reach outside the university walls and engage with the wider public.’ By supporting 15 scholars in their efforts of public engagement not only do you increase the chances of our individual projects reaching the wider public but also we will be bringing our learning back to our home departments and universities so that we can spread the learning to others. THANK YOU!”

“It was transformative and eye-opening.”