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Firefly Creative Writing rides the groundswell of Toronto’s vibrant urban creative scene

Firefly Creative Writing rides the groundswell of Toronto’s vibrant urban creative scene

Posted by PanamericanWorld on August 09, 2016

Chris Kay Fraser can pinpoint the exact moment she became what she calls “the worst dinner party guest ever.” She took a pair of breaks – one weeklong retreat and another a month – from her waitressing job in Vancouver to join a group of creatives on the Gulf Islands.

“I looked around the campfire one night at a logging camp out in the forest – and I was like this is the most healing experience of my entire life” recalls Chris. Sure, she’d joined writer workshops and wrestled with the feelings of competition and self-consciousness but this felt different. “Suddenly I (became aware of) this other model where we are all big, we all feel excited and we all want each other to succeed.”

It became all she talked about.

“I just started wanting to facilitate creative activities everywhere I went,” she says with a laugh.“ Like, hey, it’s going to take us a couple hours to get to this camping spot, let’ s all make a collective poem about being on the highway.”

Shortly thereafter she swapped coasts, heading to Toronto to pursue a Masters in adult education, analyzing the essence of what makes writer’ s groups tick. After graduating, Chris put up flyers around Toronto advertising a writing class that was to be the culmination of all the insight she’ d gathered surrounding her Masters.

“I never considered myself a small business owner or an entrepreneur, I just had his burning desire to create spaces so people could tell their stories and write their stories and feel excited about that,” she says. The class quickly overflowed into two and now, a decade on, Firefly Creative Writing offers a myriad of classes, workshops and retreats, with a staff of four working with 400 writers a year.

A good deal of that success she credits to Toronto and, to put it simply, the lack of mountains and islands to escape to.

“When I lived in Vancouver, people did lots of cool stuff but it was almost always around hitting the slope and getting out to the island, it was always about exiting the city so there wasn’t a really vibrant urban culture,” she says. “When I moved to Toronto, I was like ‘wow.’”

Chris says she can’t think of many cities where you can put up a handwritten sign saying you’re running a creative writing workshop in your living room and get twenty calls. While the handwritten signs have switched to social media pages and a website, that same spirit of openness continues to propel the business forward.

“I see there being this real groundswell of awareness about the importance of supporting small businesses and really thinking about where our money is going,” says Chris. Although she’s seen small businesses struggle to weather the past decade’s tough economic times and rising real estate prices, she points to the unexpected energy flowing from the startup ecosystem and support community in Toronto

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