Retired Teacher Finds New Passion with Creative Writing

Posted on Tuesday April 12, 2022
Colleen McKee
Colleen McKee

After retiring, a common thought is often, “what's next?” For Creative Writing Certificate graduate Colleen McKee, the answer to that was a blank page full of possibilities.

“When I retired from teaching, I wanted to enroll in a course, something to keep my brain sharp,” says McKee. “I was pleased to discover that the University of Guelph offered the Creative Writing Certificate program and, after trying one course, I never looked back.”

The workshopping course format and welcoming classes provide students with a unique environment to thoughtfully critique others’ work, receive feedback in return, and share their own stories.

“Every student had a story,” says McKee. “A teenage girl embarked on a fantasy adventure. A senior explored the world by sailboat. We travelled back in time to a First Nations community in Canada. I was energized and inspired by the talent in the room.”

One of the many advantages of the program is that each course is taught by a published writer, giving students direct industry insight into the world of publishing. For McKee, completing the certificate was a life-changing experience that empowered her to believe in herself and her storytelling skills.

But new adventures are not without challenges, and McKee faced her fair share.

“I can write a persuasive cover letter and, based on my experience, I was confident in my command of the written word,” recalls McKee. “To my surprise, this writing ability didn’t translate to creative writing, and my initial attempts at fiction and creative non-fiction were abysmal. After thorough workshopping of my work with the instructor and my classmates, I made necessary changes to my techniques, and each course I took made my writing a little stronger.”

While each course helped McKee grow as a writer, one, in particular, stood out above the rest.

“From a practical standpoint, I would say that Writing Dialogue was my favourite,” notes McKee. “Like many people, my writing experience consisted of academic essays and formal business-style prose for work; this writing style suited the workplace but not the world of fiction. This course taught me the casual cadence of authentic dialogue where grammar rules don’t always apply.”

And McKee has put her learning to good use as she embarks on a writing journey of her own.

“I decided that I would write a book when I retired from teaching,” says McKee. “The creative writing instructors unlocked the tools and techniques that were vital components to my fiction novel; I couldn’t have done it without them. I would encourage students to attend the University of Guelph for the Creative Writing Certificate. It’s a game-changer.”

Creative Writing Certificate summer courses are now open for registration.