A Critically Acclaimed Author’s Advice to Young Writers

Posted On Thursday January 02, 2020
Photo provided by Jessica Westhead: Henry Street HS alumna and accomplished writer Jessica Westhead talks about her newest novel Worry.

Henry Street HS alumna Jessica Westhead shares helpful tips to develop a young writer’s talent and passion for literature

“I always hope that my writing entertains readers, that it makes them think, and most importantly it makes them feel,” says Jessica Westhead, an acclaimed Canadian writer and editor.

Westhead graduated from Henry Street High School in Whitby in 1993, and says that while she was there, she encountered many memorable educators. “My high school English teacher Victor Fuke was wonderfully encouraging of my creative writing. We’ve kept in touch over the years, ever since he surprised me by attending a local reading I did with my first novel,” enthuses Westhead.

She adds, “A huge highlight for me was when Mr. Fuke invited me to conduct a writing workshop at Henry Street HS after I launched my first collection of short stories, and I had so much fun doing that. It was surreal to step back into my old high school to do the job I’d always dreamed of doing when I was a student there.”


Westhead’s most recent novel, Worry, tells the story of a mother’s all-consuming worry for her young child while visiting an old friend in cottage country, especially after encountering a mysterious neighbour. The novel was published by HarperCollins Canada in Fall 2019. Before it was even released, it was listed on the CBC Books reading list 34 Works of Canadian Fiction to Watch for This Fall. This past December, Worry was also listed on the CBC Books reading list The Best Canadian Fiction of 2019.

Advice for Young Writers

Westhead shared a few tips that she swears by for developing and enhancing a person’s writing.

“If you want to be a writer, you need to read, read, read.” Westhead says it’s key to read fiction in and out of your comfort zone and preferred genre. She adds, “Read books written by writers with completely different backgrounds and personal experiences from yours. Read the fiction that compels and inspires you, and pay close attention to how the writer accomplished the things that excite you.”

Westhead also says if you’re feeling stuck on how to proceed with a writing project, try getting away from your computer and going outside, “It’s a deceptively simple thing, but it can be very effective.” She notes it’s important to bring a pen and notebook outside with you, and to move around without a specific destination in mind, with your mind wandering around your story.

Lastly, Westhead suggests writing by hand for a while, “There’s something more ‘alive’ about handwriting – your physical connection to the page with the pen – rather than typing words onto a screen. A notebook for writers is like a sketchbook for artists.”

Westhead concludes, “Above all: keep writing, and never lose faith in yourself.”

To find out more about Jessica Westhead’s body of work and the author herself visit http://www.jessicawesthead.com/.