“To call forth the mind and heart of others, one’s own work has to be from the mind and heart. You must be willing to ask real questions: What are the issues? What are the possibilities? What do you feel? What local stories do you have to tell?” — Jean Houston, A Mythic Life
New online class: WRITING FROM PAIN TO POWER
When revealing the truth behind family secrets or toxic and traumatic events, writing compelling creative nonfiction takes tremendous courage and resilience. How do you transform raw pain into a story with universal themes while facing possible legal fallout, re-victimization, isolating stigma, and relationship breaks?
This course will offer storytelling tips and techniques with in-class exercises, along with practical steps on how to manage self-care and emotional vulnerability while writing. Within a safe and supportive atmosphere, students will be encouraged to share their most challenging stories. They will learn how to handle any detractors or deniers, whether family members, a social group, work authorities or those who cling to “official” historical accounts. Trust, confidentiality, non-judgment, cultural inclusiveness, and lively discussions will be emphasized.
This eight-week, online course, offered through the UNIVERSITY OF KING’S COLLEGE in Halifax, NS, starts Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, 6:30-9 pm Atlantic time, 3:30 to 6 pm PST. CLICK HERE to register.
“You have created such a warm, safe, honest place for people to share their pain — it really is remarkable. I am going to be sad when this workshop is over — I feel like I’ve come alive within it! It’s the best part of my week.” – Iris
“I really like your workshop and am learning a lot from it.” — Germaine
How do I differ from other writing instructors?
- I bring a high degree of emotional intelligence to my work, seeking the deepest, most authentic voice a student can muster.
- I encourage students to share their pain on the page, fuelled by the healing power of my own past traumas and growth.
- I view every student holistically, addressing not just their intellect but their emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual (if applicable) self.
- I am not limited to one specialty area, but draw on expertise in many fields, from creative nonfiction and screenwriting to journalism, fiction, editing, oral history, public relations, and communications.
- I bring a respectful, inclusive approach to my work and strive to confront systemic racism and colonialist beliefs and uncover any of my own hidden biases. This is an ongoing learning process as I support the goals of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I can design workshops to meet the themes and content needs of diverse groups in the following areas:
- Nonfiction and creative nonfiction
- Creative writing
- Personal transformation (Journalling, Dream work, Healing and Recovery, etc.)
- Travel writing
- Writing for children
Nicola Enright-Morin says in June 2022: “You lead a very engaging and inspiring session. Bravo. This class has been a genuine beacon of fun in my busy realm.”
Deborah White, a City of Port moody student and participant in my online workshop Wild Mind: Freeing the Writer Within in April 2021: “Thanks for an excellent workshop. Very inspiring.”
Says Jacki Mameli, a 2018 student in my City of Port Moody creative writing class:
“You were an excellent facilitator and I really valued your expertise and input each class. Thanks for the time you spend with us amateur writers.”
Rosa Reid, an editing student for more than a year, says:
“I was fortunate to find such an accomplished mentor to share her editing skills and practical knowledge with me. Heather set up weekly sessions that included hands-on editing and homework. These one-hour sessions were followed up with review and advice.
“Her lessons were concise and helpful, and questions were encouraged. I enjoyed learning in a one-on-one environment that was mindful of my goals and abilities.”
Eager to learn more about writing on your own or in a group? Check out my varied offerings below. For private, one-one-one sessions, see Coaching.
For my current and upcoming Writing Workshops, please see News/Events
For my SoulCollage workshops, please click on Workshops
Workshops and coaching available for
- Creative nonfiction (memoir; essay; first-person narrative, etc): I work with clients at any stage of a project, from concept to completion
- Journalism (books, articles, opinion pieces, etc)
- Fiction (short fiction, picture books)
- Workplace writing (blog posts, reports, brochures, booklets, etc)
- Personal writing & journalling (hands-on exercises and feedback on any content from spiritual and inspirational to recovery and trauma issues)
- Mental health clients (group and individual)
- Screenwriting (short films, short docs, features, treatments)
I offer writing workshops on writing as a spiritual practice, and other topics by request. I have taught throughout Vancouver, on the Sunshine Coast, in the B.C. interior, and online.
I have taught travel writing in Continuing Education at Capilano University in Sechelt, BC. This covered practical tips, like writing a query and generating story ideas, to different styles of travel writing, both online and in print media.
I have taught creative writing at numerous venues, from the Vancouver School Board to Powell River Digital Film School. I taught creative writing to adults with mental illness for five years through Vancouver Coastal Health, also in Sechelt. Teaching gives me great satisfaction; there is always more to learn from my students.
I have taught professional writing full-time at Selkirk College in Castlegar, BC and Introduction to Journalism at the Kootenay School of Writing in Vancouver. While at Selkirk College in Castlegar, B.C., I taught all forms of professional or Applied Writing in the Graphic Communications Department from features and news to public relations, humor, and screenwriting. My students did hands-on projects with students in the Department’s three other program areas: Graphic Design, Photography, and Electronic Publishing.
“[R]ecognizing people’s hidden potentials and involving them in nontraditional teaching-learning communities is the best way to foster personal and social transformation.”
— Jean Houston, A Mythic Life
INSPIRATIONAL & PERSONAL WRITING: For individuals & small groups
As a writing instructor and coach, I help people to reveal and reaffirm their vibrant inner voice as a writer with fun, spontaneous exercises and timed writings. I provide a safe, supportive atmosphere that invites students to write and share personal stories and stream-of-consciousness musings. In my workshops, I strive to help students gain self-acceptance and to write with greater trust and confidence.
A favorite focus is inspiring students to use writing as a tool in personal transformation. I have offered the latter type of courses through the Vancouver School Board, Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre, and in private workshops. The works of Natalie Goldberg (Wild Mind) and Deena Metzger (Writing for Your Life) have provided much rich material for my curriculum.
I offer inspirational writing workshops, private tutorials, and small group seminars.
I coach writers and emerging writers in person and online, and tailor each session to an individual’s unique needs. Clients range from business owners and consultants to fiction and nonfiction writers. For more information, see Writing Coaching
Maya Angelou: She is one of the most inspirational talents I have ever seen, an accomplished author, poet, actor, singer and much more. When I heard her speak in Vancouver, BC, she spontaneously flowed from reciting poetry to singing to laughing and talking, using no notes. I had never seen anyone, let alone an incest survivor, exude such self-assurance and powerful radiance.
SOME OF MY TEACHING EMPLOYERS AND VENUES (past and present):
Capilano University (Sechelt, BC)
City of Port Moody
Coast Arts Building School & Centre Society (Gibsons, BC)
Kootenay School of Writing (Vancouver, BC)
Powell River Digital Film School
Pull Focus Film School (Vancouver, BC)
Royal City Literary Arts Society (New Westminster, BC)
Selkirk College (Castlegar, BC)
Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre, Continuing Education
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (Sechelt, BC)
Vancouver School Board
I graduated with an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College, Maryland in the summer of 2009. I was runner-up for the Chris White Award for best memoir excerpt of the graduating class. Decades ago, I received my bachelor of arts degree, with a major in History and minor in English, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Before that, I attended Neuchatel Junior College in Neuchatel, Switzerland and Mimico High School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Want to keep up-to-date on my teaching workshops and offerings? Click here: Keep me informed
COURSES I HAVE TAUGHT: Click here to see details
The Wisdom of Memory: Name, Reframe, and Gain
This workshop, presented at a Sagewise conference in Abbotsford, BC, was designed to address content provided by the host. It incorporated aspects of the Age-ing to Saging movement, based on the ideas of Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.
Sharing Your Story: Writing Memoir
This inspirational one-day workshop introduces students to diverse types of memoir and various aspects of related craft from point of view to structure, chronology, and theme. Filled with many practical tips, it includes writing exercises, published examples of various aspects of craft, and an extensive bibliography. Students, beginner or intermediate, or encouraged to bring a work-in-progress for discussion and constructive analysis.
Here is some feedback that I received for this course:
“Man oh man, I really enjoyed your class! It exceeded my wildest expectations . . . I really appreciate all the materials you introduced to us, with books to follow up on. I got that shot in the arm I was needing to get back to it. I look forward to another workshop. The time went by so fast.”
“Thanks for the information, which will be very helpful to me down the road. I am thrilled about writing, and freshly invigorated, thanks to you and your workshop. Your transparency and perspective were like a fresh wind that blew open the unlatched, swaying door of my passion to write. I was elated with my experience.”
“Learned a lot in a short session. I liked the interaction between the participants and the visual aids. Well presented. Positive.”
“Great tips. Well-structured presentation. Great overview of steps. I really like your manner of presentation: relaxed and informative.”
Prose on the Road: The Art of Travel Writing
Do you spin tales of your global adventures but never write them down? This fun workshop helps you move your passion for travel from the road to the page. Through in-class exercises and lively discussion, you learn techniques of top writers in this field and read published samples of what works and what does not. Discover the different types of travel writing and gain helpful tips and resources on potential markets.
Saturday, October 3, 1 to 5 p.m., Sechelt, BC Campus of Capilano University
Saturday, April 18, 1 to 5 p.m., Sechelt, BC campus of Capilano University
“I sure would recommend people taking the course [Prose on the Road] with you because not only do you know your stuff but you have a simple style of teaching it. The four hours flew by.”
— Powell River author Barb Rees
“Thanks for a great workshop. It was illuminating and a sobering reality check. The handout materials worked well and you have provided excellent “must-reads.”
— Richard Till
“Heather knew her stuff . . .Excellent material , good timing . . .Great extra resources. Good pacing . . . Well organized.”
WRITING COURSES THAT I HAVE OFFERED IN THE LAST DECADE:
(more information available upon request):
FREE THE WRITER WITHIN: Introductory Creative Writing Course
CELEBRATE YOUR STORY
This stimulating, four-week course encourages students to record special moments and significant events that have shaped their life and writer’s voice. You’ll learn the basics of story-telling, how to honour your personal stories, and the role of larger cultural stories such as myths and archetypal tales.
A LIFE JOURNEY: WRITING YOUR WAY HOME
Using life stages from birth to the “golden years” as metaphors, this creative writing course provides a framework to celebrate and share the victories of each student’s process of self-discovery and healing. It helps students to further their skills in self-editing and rewriting and deepen their commitment to their writing process.
SEASONS OF THE SELF
This course introduces the basics of the writing craft (structure, themes etc) through a cycle-of-life metaphor of the four seasons.
WORDS ON A WELCOME MAT: WRITING YOUR WAY HOME
Where do we feel at home? How do we create home beyond us? As writers, how do we share our sense of home with others?; Through timed writing exercises, we examine the sense of an inner and outer home, playing with the metaphors from a welcome mat/doormat to a magic carpet and red carpet. From Virginia Woolf’s concept of “a room of one’s own” to feeling at peace with our body, we explore what makes us feel safe and comforted vs. fearful and out of place.
What do schools say?
“The course was an instant attraction and has consistently been over enrolled. Feedback has been extremely positive, complimenting both the course and the personal style of Ms. Conn as an instructor.”
– Career and Community Education Services, Vancouver School Board
“Heather consistently generates enormous enthusiasm and achievement on the part of her students. . .She has been a dedicated and outstanding practitioner of the literary arts in all their dimensions.”
– Tom Wayman, Associate Professor of English, University of Calgary
What do writing students say?
“Heather has an amazing talent and gift.”
“I found Heather to be an outstanding teacher, drawing from her students what they hardly knew they knew.”
“You’re a real inspiration to me.”
“Memorable experience. One of the best classes I’ve taken.”
“We have built up a very special connection within the class. It’s been a great experience.”
“Thanks for being such a great (fantastic) teacher. I really enjoy your creative writing courses.”
Discover the FUN and INSIGHTS of the SoulCollage® process
For more information and to register, contact me at 604-886-6520 or 1-800-601-5611. Visit my website www.sunshinecoastsoulcollage.ca. See www.soulcollage.com for more general information about this technique.
What is SoulCollage®?
SoulCollage® is an intuitive process whereby you create self-reflective cards that reflect your inner and outer self and honour the beings who have influenced your life. Each card holds deep personal meaning and will help you with life’s questions and challenges.
In Canada’s Pacific Northwest, where I work, the shíshálh and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people have stewarded the land known today as the Sunshine Coast for thousands of years. It remains their unceded, traditional territory.
Today’s Vancouver is part of the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. I thank them all for their stewardship and generous sharing of their land, culture, and resources.