Sage Hill Writing authors homegrown success story 

Written by Ryan Flaherty for Sask Lotteries 

When the Saskatchewan School of the Arts closed its doors in 1989, it left a void in the province’s creative landscape, but thanks to a dedicated group of writers the spirit of that artistic hub lives on through Sage Hill Writing, which marks its 35th anniversary this year. 

Sage Hill’s mission is simple: to provide opportunities for writers of all experience levels to hone their craft with the help of other writers through an assortment of retreats, programs and other events. 

What began as a mere five days of courses in 1990 has since grown into a full slate of programming, drawing writers not only from Saskatchewan but across Canada. Some are just setting out on their writing journey while others come seeking inspiration, feedback and support for their work from fellow members of the writing community. 

“Writing is often a solitary action. Through Sage Hill, writers form life-long community bonds and often return to work on new projects.”

Tara Dawn Solheim, Executive Director

A typical Sage Hill course includes three main elements: group sessions for sharing ideas and techniques, one-on-one feedback with instructors, and personal writing time. There are also publishing workshops, tips on grant writing and even sessions dedicated to mental and physical health. The courses are led by experienced writers, with literary heavyweights like Jane Urquhart, Lorna Crozier and Guy Vanderhaeghe among those who have served on the faculty over the years. 

The proof of concept is on the bookshelves. Roughly 850 works have been published by writers after they participated in a Sage Hill retreat, and the list of notable alumni includes best-selling novelist Lisa Moore, Griffin Prize-winning poet Sylvia Legris and several Saskatchewan Book Award winners. 

But Sage Hill isn’t just focused on getting things published. It’s also intent on helping the next generation of writers find their voice through an assortment of youth workshops. Thanks to the support of funding partners like Sask Lotteries, these workshops are available free of charge, reducing barriers to participation and providing opportunities for young writers from a diversity of backgrounds to find a community. In recent years, the addition of online programs has allowed for even greater accessibility. 

“It has been amazing to watch the community blossom with the mix of virtual and in-person programming,” Solheim said. 

And while the writers themselves enjoy the direct benefits of enrolling in a Sage Hill program or workshop, the ripple effects extend well beyond that. 

“Sage Hill’s programs provide a supportive and educational environment to help writers find and trust in their own voices. The voices of these writers in turn contribute to the cultural vibrancy of our Saskatchewan community,” Solheim said. 

It’s a homegrown success story with many chapters yet to be written.