Celebrated author Pasha Malla believes that with all good writing, the person most surprised by it should be the author.

Malla, 31, is a winner of the Ontario government’s prestigious Trillium Book Award for his collection of stories titled The Withdrawal Method and this January will be on hand at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies to teach a short story writing course titled Writing Short Fiction: Introduction. Despite getting to sit behind the instructor’s desk, Malla prefers to think of himself as a guide rather than a lecturer.

“I’ve always loved teaching though I don’t really think of myself as a teacher — I feel like more of a facilitator. I’d like to tailor the class towards what interests students rather than what interests me,” Malla said.

While Malla plans to include both traditional and non-traditional short fiction elements in the course to help students gain an appreciation for the form, he says the ultimate goal is to inspire students to stretch themselves to reach places in their writing they might never have strayed to before.

“Ideally I’d like people to surprise themselves. That’s the most exciting thing for me about writing, when you surprise yourself with your own creativity. I’d like people to come out hungry to do more writing,” Malla said.

Getting writers out of their comfort zone starts with getting them comfortable in their own writing, Malla says.

“Getting people over any doubt about their own creativity is the first step. The craft of writing comes through practice and you can’t practice if you’re not writing. I try to encourage the atmosphere where anything is welcome,” he said.

With the prevalence of entertainment on the Internet and television, Malla says the need for great stories has never been healthier.

“Technology is more conducive to getting a story disseminated because there’s amazing accessibility right now. I think short fiction is so open-ended and people are continuing to push what a short story can be,” Malla said.

Writing Short Fiction: Introduction runs at U of T’s St. George Campus in 10 sessions from Jan. 23-Apr. 10. For more information, visit learn.utoronto.ca.

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