The Writer's Studio at Simon Fraser University (SFU) went online last year, offering a one-year, part-time certificate in its creative writing program.
For its second year, starting this fall, they are bringing Whistler into the equation — enlisting novelist and Whistler Writers Festival executive director Stella Harvey as a mentor.
"We were getting through the first cycle of the writer's studio online and I noticed we had nobody in Whistler take the program," says The Writer's Studio director Wayde Compton.
"We had people from the Lower Mainland, the Sunshine Coast and some from quite far away — New Zealand, the States. We remembered that one of our alumni, Stella Harvey, lives there."
Now starting fall 2016, workshops in Whistler will allow students to complete coursework online, and also meet classmates and Harvey in person on a regular basis.
The cost for the 10-month program is roughly $5,000.
Harvey's second novel, The Brink of Freedom, came out in 2015.
"It's a perfect fit," says Compton. "We wanted to do a blended thing, with the best of both parts of the program."
All other mentors have been available to students through video conferencing up until this point, he adds.
The course is very broad in ambition, offering courses and support for fiction and nonfiction writers, and poets.
The first year of the online program has 25 students, Compton says.
"With online, in particular, it's flexible. It's with continuing studies, so we shape things around an average work week," he says.
"Only the workshopping is synchronous, meaning you have to be there at a particular time."
The program started to answer the needs of writers living some distance from the Vancouver and Burnaby campuses. It has also proved flexible for writers whose day jobs make it impossible to attend university and proved popular for people with mobility issues.
"I've been the director for four years and I am stunned at how well our students have done. We've just had three graduates from the program be nominated for B.C. Book Awards in three different categories, and two of them won," Compton says.
Harvey says she took the same program in 2004.
"I was going down to Vancouver for course work as well as mentoring, my mentor at the time was (Vancouver novelist) Caroline Adderon," Harvey says.
"With me, the mentoring will now be in Whistler. We're hoping between six and nine people will register and meet every two weeks with me."
Harvey will work through the writers' manuscripts and provide feedback.
"When I think about the days I was trying to grow the writers festival and grow opportunities for writers here, and to now have this come our way, it's just a great opportunity for our community," she says.
For more information visit continuing education at www.sfu.ca.
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