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:
- The Annual Page Lecture Event which brings a renowned Canadian writer to campus to reflect on literary craft,
- The Scotiabank Giller Prize Event,
- one-on-one mentorship with a visiting Writer in Residence,
- an annual series of readings with writers from across Canada.
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:
- Professor Juliane Okot Bitek author of 100 Days joins the department to teach and supervise in Creative Writing and Black Studies
- Writer in Residence Omar El Akkad wins the 2021 Giller Prize for his novel What Strange Paradise
- The development of a unique learning opportunity for graduating undergraduate students, culminating in an annual student-run Scotiabank Giller Prize Event.
- The Annual Readers’ Series, which brings writers to campus throughout the year
- Expansions to the Writer in Residence program, including the Welcome Reading Event
- The 10th publication of Lake Effect anthologies
- The publication of The Lamp journal’s 10th volume
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…
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.
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
Omar El Akkad
Omar El Akkad, former Creative Writing student with the Department of English at Queen’s University, is an acclaimed author and a journalist. We were proud to host Omar as our 2022 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…
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 first novel, American War, 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's second novel, What Strange Paradise, won the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Omar El Akkad published in the first ever Lake Effect anthology.
Read more about Akkad’s journey through Queen’s Creative Writing.
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…
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 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 Amazon.ca “Book of the Year”
Did you know…
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.