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Creative Writing

KWF 2022

Kingston Writer’s Fest 2022

Professor Asha Varadharajan sits down with 2022 Giller Prize finalist Tsering Yangzom Lama to discuss her novel We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies 

Alumni Publications

Alumni Publications

Read about our Creative Writing alumni and their publications in our featured alumni section.

The Lamp Journal

The Lamp

Collections of greaduate student writing

Lake Effect 10

Lake Effect 10

Collections of undergraduate student writing

Professor Armand Ruffo

Poetry Reading

Creative Writing professor and esteemed creative writer, Armand Garnett Ruffo, giving a reading of his poetry

A Brief History of Creative Writing at Queen’s

Professor Carolyn Smart has nurtured young writing talent at Queen’s for over 20 years, while championing the creative arts throughout the Kingston community and beyond. During this time, she has mentored over 1,000 aspiring authors—many of whom have gone on to acclaimed writing careers—led countless writing workshops, and generated numerous opportunities for students to publish and present their writing on well-recognized platforms.

Professor Smart initiated and has edited each edition of the Lake Effect anthology as the capstone of our Creative Writing curriculum. Students in CWRI 496 participate in an intensive seminar on writing for publication, culminating in a class-produced anthology and public reading. Lake Effect 10, published in 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the Lake Effect project.

The Writer in Residence program would not be possible without Professor Smart’s drive, along with the support of successive Heads of the Department. The Writer in Residence program welcomes a renowned writer to the Queen’s community each year to participate in a range of literary events and offer advice and mentorship to Creative Writing students.

In 2009, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Queen’s hosted Kingston novelist and poet Helen Humphreys as Writer in Residence. In 2021, the Department of English is proud to welcome Professor Humphreys as an instructor for CWRI 295.

Read more about Carolyn Smart’s powerful legacy at Queen’s in the Queen’s University Alumni Review.

Creative Writing at Queen’s Now and in the Future

The Creative Writing program continues to expand and has been woven into the heart of the English Department’s identity and mission. Esteemed Anishinaabe poet, screenwriter, critic, and creative non-fiction writer Armand Garnet Ruffo joined the program in 2013.

Today we offer a scaffolded Creative Writing curriculum that builds student skill in a variety of genres and mediums. We also offer hybrid Creative Writing courses with both critical and creative components. Furthermore, in-class learning opportunities are supplemented by special events like the:

Learn more about our Creative Writing events.

Additionaly, Creative Writing courses count toward all English Plans, but students do not have to be registered in an English Plan to take these courses. Because most of our creative writing courses take an intensive workshop approach, they are limited-enrolment courses. Admission to some courses is by permission of the department, based on an assessment of a portfolio of samples of creative work.

Exciting developments to the Creative Writing program include:

Featured Alumni

Iain Reid

Iain Reid

Class of
Author of International Bestseller, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2016)

Iain Reid’s novel was:

  • An international bestseller
  • Adapted into a Netflix original film in 2020.
  • Selected by National Public Radio as one of the best books of 2021
  • A finalist in the 2016 Shirley Jackson Award and appeared on the 2017 Ottawa Independent Writers Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Authors longlist

Did you know…

I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid

Iain Reid studied history and philosophy at Queen’s, but after taking a writing course with Queen’s English Professor Carolyn Smart, he decided to postpone grad school and move to Toronto for a year to give writing a shot.

Read more about Reid’s writing career in the Queen’s Alumni Review.

Liselle Sambury

Liselle Sambury

Class of
Author of, Blood Like Magic (2021)

Sambury works in the the marketing industry as a video content creator and has also signed a two-book deal for a science fiction series.

Sambury’s novel was the:

  • Amazon Editor’s Pick Best Young Adult Books of June
  • Kobo June 2021 Best of The Month (Young Adult)
  • Indigo’s Most Anticipated Young Adult Books of 2021
  • Indigo Teen Staff Pick of the Month for July


Did you know…

Liselle Sambury, Blood Like Magic

Carolyn Smart’s Advanced Creative Writing class was the first time Liselle Sambury, ArtSci ’13, had her work published.

Read more about Sambury’s Creative Writing journey and two-book series deal in the Queen’s Journal.  



Omar El Akkad

Omar El Akkad

Class of
Author of International Bestselling novel American War (2017)

Omar El Akkad, former Creative Writing student with the Department of English at Queen’s University, is an acclaimed author and a journalist. He will be joining us this year as our Writer in Residence.

“On a whim, Akkad applied to the Advanced Creative Writing course, ran by Professor Carolyn Smart. When Akkad logged into his student portal and discovered he had been admitted it was ‘the happiest day of my life.’”

Read the entire story on the Queen’s Alumni Review.

    Did you know…

    Omar El Akkad, American War

    For me personally, and a lot of others in the class, it was the first time we had ever been published in a book.

    Omar El Akkad’s novel was:

    • An International Bestseller
    • Winner of the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, and the Oregon Book Award
    • Selected as one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other publications
    • Chosen by the BBC as one of 100 novels that changed our world

    Omar El Akkad published in the first ever Lake Effect anthology.

    Read more about Akkad’s journey through Queen’s Creative Writing.

    Anna Maxymiw

    Anna Maxymiw

    Class of
    English and Psychology
    Author of Dirty Work (2019)

    Maxymiw is an award-winning writer, with works published in The Globe and Mail, Hazlitt Magazine, Maclean’s, and The Washington Post.

    Anna Maxymiw’s book was:

    • Winner of the Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Award for Nonfiction



    Did you know…

    Anna Maxymiw, Dirty Work

    Carolyn was and is still the patron saint of undergrad writers.

    Anna Maxymiw was a student in Carolyn Smart’s creative writing course at Queen’s University.

    Read Anna Maxymiw’s full quote and other student testimonies.

    Andrew Westoll

    Andrew Westoll

    Class of
    Author of National Bestseller, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary (2011)

    Andrew Westoll is an award-winning author and professor based in Toronto.

    Andrew Westoll’s book was:

    • A National Bestseller
    • 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
    • Finalist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
    • A Globe and Mail “Book of the Year”
    • An “Book of the Year”

    Did you know…

    Andrew Westoll, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary

    Westoll got his start in writing with the help of Carolyn Smart, a creative writing professor at Queen’s.

    Andrew Westoll did not do a degree in English, and started his career as a writer through the Creative Writing courses at Queen’s.

    Read more about Westoll’s writing journey with his award-winning book in the Queen’s Journal.

    Department of English, Queen's University

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    Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.