Welcome to YouthWrite River Valley Experience 2017

for ages 8-11: July 2-6, 2017


Prepare your application documents - Info Sheet

Registration deadline is June 23 (but we usually fill up before then!)


For ages 15-19, please see our Peak Experience 2018


for our adult program, please see JustWrite 2018


 Never been to the Bennett Centre? Visit this page for the address and a link to Google Maps.



$525 for day camp

$625 for overnight camp


(Price includes: tuition, supplies, meals, snacks, accommodation, and entertainment.)



YouthWrite River Valley Experience:

Our Fabulous Instructors and Courses



Natasha Deen family moved from Guyana, South America to Canada to escape the country’s growing racial and political violence. She loved growing up in a country of snow and flannel, but sometimes, being the only mixed-race kid in class meant feeling out of place. Thank goodness for stories and books that showed her being different could also mean being awesome. Natasha's recent books include the ARCA award-nominated Gatekeeper, Across the Floor, and Lark Holds the Key.


The Liar with a Thousand Faces - Create characters readers love (or love to hate).
Your character has secrets and fears and hopes and dreams. All of these things are going to make or break them. Get the tips and tricks for creating realistic characters that will stay with your readers long after they reach THE END.


 Angela Flatekval - Do you know anyone who is simply always singing and dancing and telling story after story? I do. It’s me! I was lead to YouthWrite via a vast and varied creative life. I’ve been a dancer of dances, a singer of songs and a player of parts. Developing and re-inventing a creative voice is a lifelong process. it is an honour and an incredible joy to be a part of your journey.


Characters: Alive & Kicking - Bring life to the characters you write and play – and figure out what instincts kick-in when their circumstances change, through the unsung hero of all stories: the verbs.  Have you ever noticed that Frankenstein stomps, but not the mouse or the princess? The mouse scurries and the princess glides. The way each character moves tells you a lot about who they are. But, wait! What if the princess DID stomp? What if the mouse was gliding and Frankenstein was scurrying? What would that tell you about how they were reacting to the situation in their story? Find out how movement and drama shape what makes your characters tick… and what makes them kick. Or stomp. Or glide.


Laurence Miall is a Montreal-based author and communications expert. He lived in Edmonton from 1989 to 2007, and his first novel, Blind Spot (NeWest Press, 2014), takes place in Alberta’s capital city. His shorter fiction and nonfiction has appeared in The Edmonton Journal, Avenue Magazine, and Cosmonauts Avenue. For three years, he was the editor-in-chief and fiction editor of carte blanche, the online magazine of the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and he remains a contributing editor. 

Is your story BIG, ENORMOUS, OR GIGANTIC? Everyone knows an entire world—or even the universe—can fit into a story. This means your story could potentially be infinite in size. But wait! No one has time to read an infinite story, and no publisher would be willing to cut down all the trees of the world—and then some—to print a story so big. Join Laurence to find out just how big YOUR story is and find out how to fit it into a form that will satisfy readers of all appetites.

Tololwa M Mollel writes books and stories for the young and the not so young. He’s author of over twenty titles in English and Swahili, the national language of Tanzania where he was born. Presently Tololwa is writing his life story, a book for adults that will be titled Why We Have Two Ears and Only One Mouth: A Tanzanian Memoir. When he isn’t writing (or reading or listening to them), Tololwa is telling stories. Or performing them in theatre. By himself, or with other performers and artists.

Gift of Story Celebrate the challenge and fun of story making through writing, drama, narrative, performance and play. Make use of your pen and words, and -- as much as you're comfortable -- your body, hands, voices, and your face, to bring to life a story you will create on your own, or with others.

Jason Lee Norman is a writer with a beard. He is the author of three flash fiction collections: Americas, Beautiful Girls & Famous Men, and Help, a collection of tiny stories posing as Yelp reviews. Jason is also behind Edmonton’s smallest publishing houses, Wufniks Press and Monto Books which published the 40 Below anthologies of winter writing featuring 100 Alberta writers, and the comic collection End of the Earth and the upcoming travel memoir Confederation Drive, respectively. When he is not publishing books, Jason is publishing tiny stories by local writers and printing them on coffee cup sleeves and distributing them in cafes across Edmonton. Next stop: world domination.


Flash Fiction and Tiny Stories - The smallest stories can pack the biggest punch and can fit almost anywhere. A matchbook, a postcard, even a coffee cup sleeve can house a tiny story with the impact of an entire novel. Look at all the possibilities that open up when you write flash fiction (stories under 1000 words) and they really are endless. Write about anything you want with flash fiction, as long as it’s short. Work on unlocking the potential of the tiny story and experiment with different lengths and styles. Think of it as yoga for your writing brain.  



 Jana O’Connor is an Edmonton-born performer, improvisor, theatre instructor and playwright. She is also a cast member/writer on the national CBC Radio sketch comedy show, The Irrelevant Show. She adores improv - in performance, as a teacher, and as a catalyst for her writing. This summer, her first full-length comedy, Going, Going, Gone will premiere as part of Teatro la Quindicina’s 2017 season at the Varscona Theatre!

Eye Say! - Calling all intrepid YouthWriters for a rollicking week of immersive improv and writing in character! Relish in the joy of exploring your character’s voice, and playing your role to the hilt! Do you dare? Heck yeah, you do!





“Auntie” Elsa Robinson started working as a self-taught artist in 2004. In 2013, she returned to the University of Alberta to complete the Bachelor of Arts with a major in Art and Design. Since 2006, her acrylic paintings, mixed media collage and sculptures have been featured in numerous exhibitions. Her work addresses themes of identity, family, history and spirituality. Elsa is a recipient of the City of Edmonton Cultural Diversity in the Arts Award, the Fil Fraser Award for Outstanding Work in Visual Arts National Black Coalition of Canada. Elsa is a highly experienced teacher who has worked successfully with students aged from 3 to 83 years old and from a number of cultures.

Colour & Cut and Paste + Paint my Words

You have a piece of writing

Brimming with sharp words and ideas that

STRIKE the readers as they pass by

Focus on those words

Focus on those images

And use the element of collage to let them SCREAM even louder!


Anna Marie Sewell writes and performs poetry, theatre, stories and songs.  Born in Mi’kmaki, raised on a northern Alberta farm, and a long time Edmontonian, she’s been our Poet Laureate, met royalty and collaborated with some amazing artistes. Anna Marie has been blessed to live and work in many strange and wonderful places, where the great song of life has never failed to find her.

All My Relations Have Songs! - So, how much can we learn about poetry from books? Let’s see how much more we can learn and create by considering the songs of our fellow travellers, be they animal, plant or mineral. This class is about using reflection, discussion and walking (do you dare to go silent? barefoot? blind?) to tune our senses in to the songs around us, and then write our connection to our own place in the circle of beings.

Thomas Trofimuk is an Edmonton writer who writes poetry, short-fiction, and novels. He has published three novels The 52nd Poem, Doubting Yourself to the Bone, and Waiting for Columbus. His books have garnered critical praise and he has won some literary awards. A fourth novel, This is All a Lie, will be published in the fall of 2017. If you want to meet him, he’s that funny looking guy over there, at the edge of the party, dancing (badly) by himself.

Happily NEVER after… Do you have a favourite fairy tale? Cinderella? Rumpelstiltskin? Sleeping Beauty? This small course will look at a few classic fairy tales and it will encourage you to pick one and turn it “happily NEVER after.” We will mock the phrase “happily ever after” with a ruthless abandon (and why not?). We will dissect, mutilate and modernize your story. We will make bad things happen to decent people. Small rodents may die (metaphorically). We will workshop your new fairy tales over the course of the week.


Victoria Vilaivan has been an active yoga practitioner for over 20 years. Founder of seek yoga - a colourful kids yoga practice, she has worked with a focus on bringing the positive benefits of yoga to children and adults, in addition to socially conscious concerns such as youth in distress/dealing with trauma via the OM for Youth, Instructor Certification (2011). Previously a nurse and overseas school teacher, Victoria embraces a wholeness approach to practice yoga within the framework of 'sustainable movement’.



Finding hOMe - Find the tools to reconnect with the world around you, each other and to find your inner light through a simple and effective practice. Find your path to self-regulation, self-realization and body awareness. Focus on getting closer to others, finding a sense of calm, and managing stresses present in day-to-day life. Clear your writers' block: bring vigour and vitality to your mind, body and writing. Yoga and writing are a wonderful namaste experience!


Brandon Wint is an Edmonton-based writer, poet and spoken word artist best known for his ability to meaningfully articulate the mysteries of love, romance and kindness in his poetry.  He uses the potential of writing and speaking to articulate the beauties of the world, and where possible, the silver-linings that underscore the ugliness an​​d struggle inherent to the human condition. His writing has garnered attention across Canada, in England and Australia, where his life and work have been showcased on radio and in print. He is a two-time national slam champion, the author of one collection of poetry,Love, Our Master and the recently-released album, The Long Walk Home.


Poetry From Everyday Life -  Explore how and where to find poetry using the substance of your everyday lives. Through a combination of writing prompts, association exercises, and experimental poetic forms, make new, vivid, and strange connections that turn every moment into a moment for poetry. We will also explore the basics of speaking poetry aloud, and practice speaking your poetry in authentic, emotionally satisfying ways.  Unleash your inner wild poetic self!


Spyder Yardley-Jones bears the mark of a spider on his forehead and is an internationally recognized visual artist.  Illustrator of the graphic novel, Jamie’s Got a Gun, and the picture book, In the Graveyard, Spyder also spins his web as an assistant art preparator, installing shows at the Art Gallery of Alberta.  He teaches the art of cartooning and illustration in elementary, junior and senior high schools in an artist in residency program sponsored by the Edmonton St. David’s Welsh Society.

Dr. Bartholomew's Curious Shop of the Bizarre: Join Spyder for a multi-media sculpting of strange and bizarre specimens from the darkest realm of your imagination. Draw. Sculpt. Document. Dare to enter the curiosity shop of your own brain!  Learn what dwells there - oh what stories you could tell.





Our Fantastic Guest Presenter - Hailey Benedict!

Hot off her heels performing her original song for Keith Urban and 20,000 fans at Rogers arena, Hailey Benedict continues to make her mark as a rising talent in the country music industry. Recognized as a five-time North America Country Music Association International Award youth winner and youngest winner of the Association of Country Music Alberta Fan’s Choice Award, Hailey was also honoured as one of the youngest ever Global Woman of Vision award recipients. 






The Amazing River Valley Supers:


Elena Belyea is thrilled to be returning for her fourth summer at YouthWrite! Elena is a queer performer, producer, arts educator and graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada’s Playwriting program. She is Artistic Director of Tiny Bear Jaws, a little theatre company with teeth, and a co-founder of the Common Ground Arts Society’s annual Found Festival in Edmonton, a showcase of multidisciplinary arts events that take place in non-traditional venues. Little known (but utterly unsurprising) fact: She's gaga for Gail!









 Anna Cooley is a film writer-producer-director based in Calgary. Her multi-award winning feature documentary A Sauropod Abroad is currently making its way around the international festival circuit. Her short narrative film Sleepwalker, made with the support YouthWrite and its talented supervisors, premiered in February 2017. Her production company Erratic Pictures creates projects that explore different styles of storytelling through film, collaborating with artists in many disciplines and experimenting with new technologies like virtual reality. Recently, Anna developed and taught the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers’ 2017 Spring Break Movie Camp, a one-week intensive film lab for teens. She is thrilled to be back at YouthWrite for her 7th year as a Super and to be working with beloved Gail!


Cole Feth, who considers himself to be Gail’s most prized university student, is a new recruit to the YouthWrite team. As such, he asks you be gentle, kind and, of course, play as many practical jokes on him as possible. Cole asks that you do not, however, use his love for sports against him as he has recently discovered he was merely a nerd trapped in an athlete's body. He loves to write, tell jokes (almost entirely of the sarcastic nature) and is really hoping to make your experience at YouthWrite a memorable one.  He does not yet fully comprehend how much he adores Gail.






Miranda Martini is a musician and writer based in Calgary. She studied English literature and creative writing at UBC and recently completed a master’s degree in songwriting at Bath Spa University. Her writing has appeared in several local and national publications, including Alberta Views Magazine and Reader's Digest, and her article, "Women in Charge" (2014), won a Western Magazine Award for Best Emerging Writer. She recently performed in and co-wrote music for Cheryl Foggo's play John Ware Reimagined, which will be remounted in Edmonton this fall. Miranda attended YouthWrite as a camper from 2001 to 2005, and she's so excited to be back as a supervisor because she loves Gail the most!




Morgan Moffatt is extremely excited to be returning for her fifth year at YouthWrite! Having discovered the joy of the fine arts while attending high school, Morgan pursued a Bachelor’s of Education, minoring in fine arts, from the University of Alberta. After graduation, Morgan began her teaching career at the same school where Gail worked! She therefore loves Gail the most out of any other super. Morgan is currently calling Vancouver home, enjoying life as a substitute teacher. When she isn’t molding the minds of tomorrow, she enjoys reading, bird watching and long walks on the beach.





Peter Takach is a writer and teacher whose works have surfaced in some of the nation’s finest magazines, literary festivals, and recycling bins. Banished from his hometown for crimes against humanities, he can be found teaching high school English or perched on driftwood staring out at great Neptune's ocean. A proud alumnus of YouthWrite and the Spoken Word Youth Choir, Peter is thrilled to once again be working with the beautiful and talented Gail.









Noel Taylor is very excited to be back as a Super yet again, for what is going to be an awesome YouthWrite! This marks Noel's ninth summer as a YouthWrite Super! Noel currently teaches high school drama and runs the theatre program at WP Wagner. This year Noel's student improv team won first place in the Canadian Improv Games Alberta Regionals and were invited to perform in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre. Noel is one of the founding members and performers with Hey Ladies! at the Roxy Theatre in Edmonton Alberta and an improviser with Rapid Fire Theatre at the Citadel Theatre. Noel originally met Gail at a hardware store (it is a great story) and also had the pleasure of being taught by Gail at the U of A when he completed his Bachelor's of Education in Drama and Social Studies. Noel knew then and knows now that he is, in fact, Gail's favourite super.


Lester Thomas is an aspiring professional hip hop dancer & actor living in Vancouver, BC. Though he has a background in personal training, he has been pursuing his passion for the arts for 3 years now & has been loving every moment. He has worked on shows such as the 100, izombie, arrow, unreal & more. Lester likes to think that he is the brown sugar to the cake that is YouthWrite & thus is very excited to be back for his 3rd summer to work with all of the familiar/ new campers, supers & teachers, and especially Gail who is his white sugar!






YouthWrite Coordinator:

Gail Sidonie Sobat  is a multi-award-winning teacher and author, with eleven books for children, teens and adults, and a number of educational and academic articles. She is the YouthWrite creator/ coordinator, an international presenter, an instructor in the professional writing program at MacEwan University and in the Faculty of Education at U of A, is The Writers' Union of Canada Regional Representative for Alberta, NWT and Nunavut, and was writer in residence with the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries (2015). Gail is a 2016-2017 Global News Woman of Vision. She has moved thirty-two times in her life from Badlands to Siksika Nation Reserve to hideous suburbs to Istanbul to the Sunshine Coast to her writer’s garret in a century-old temperamental house. She adores all of her Supers equally, and loves YouthWrite madly!