Sabrina Ramnanan: Writer

Working as a writer is probably the.

Working as a writer is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me, because it was my dream. I was able to realize that dream after taking the creative writing course at the University of Toronto.

I always wanted to be a writer, but I had the idea you couldn’t pay a mortgage that way. I loved reading and history, so as an undergraduate I did a double major at U of T in English and history, with a minor in classical studies. 

When I graduated, I didn’t have a plan, and it felt like my only options were law school or teacher’s college. I ended up in teacher’s college – everybody said that was the right thing to do because it was realistic. A year into teaching, I still wasn’t happy, so I went back to U of T to do creative writing.

The program provided me with a community of writers to bounce ideas off of. I didn’t have any writer friends, so this was a safe place to share my work. The instructors were so encouraging. The first course I took, the instructor said, “You should enter a short story contest,” and I ended up being published in an anthology.

I got a lot of feedback, and it wasn’t always good. I had to learn to edit, something I didn’t know how to do. Now I think of writing in its elements: the structure, the dialogue, the arc and the more technical things that I didn’t think of before.

I was exceptionally fortunate. I got a deal for my book, Nothing Like Love, through school in a way. At the end of the program you meet with your instructor, the program head and someone from the industry who has read your work, and they give you feedback. My instructor, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, believed in my manuscript and pushed to have the publishing director at Doubleday Canada on the panel. 

I got wonderful feedback and brazenly asked, “Would you like to see the manuscript when I’m finished with it?” The director actually said yes and slid her business card across the table.

It didn’t hit me at the time, but when I left the boardroom Kuitenbrouwer said, “Do you realize you just had your manuscript solicited and that this does not happen very often?” It just sank in. Oh my god. Crap. I have to finish this novel. I wrote madly for the next four or five months and submitted it back to the publisher. Before I knew it, I had a deal. I owe the program and the instructors for opening doors for me.

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