I’ve been teaching writing courses of various kinds since 1987.


I am part of the faculty of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program, offered jointly by the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies. The only Creative Nonfiction MFA degree offered in Canada, it’s a limited residency program so over two years, students combine short, intense residencies (in Halifax, Toronto and New York) with living and working wherever they choose while having ongoing, one-on-one communication with their “mentor/advisors” (professional nonfiction writer-instructors). I’ve been one of the mentor/advisors since the program launched in 2013, working with MFA students on their book projects.


My mentoring philosophy is to try to understand a student’s overall goals for their project and help them achieve them. An MFA mentor isn’t an editor at a publishing house who must meet the expectations of the publisher and push the book inevitably toward publication. A mentor is a colleague, a fellow writer, albeit one who has had more experience coping with the challenges and frustrations of writing books so can offer advice and support. I’m mainly interested in how the writers I work with are growing and improving, and in providing some constructive suggestions about the structure of the book, including developing themes (for the book, overall, as well as individual chapters). Although a mentor’s role is not to be a copy editor, I usually offer some technical advice on issues like pacing, character development, and even structure at the paragraph or sentence level, if I think it will be helpful.  

Here’s a link to information about the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program:

And a video that captures the spirit:

Immersion: Once Inside (Conover)



For 15 years I taught part-time — and latterly as an assistant professor on faculty — in Ryerson University’s School of Journalism in Toronto. From 2003 until 2019, I taught Advanced Feature Writing in the Magazine Publishing program of Ryerson’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.


Angela Boyd, Advanced Feature Writing, Spring 2017
I enrolled in  David Hayes’ course on the recommendation of several friends. They said he was interesting, informative, a bit demanding but enthusiastic and fair. He was all of that. But I also found that his course influenced me in unexpected ways. I now read more widely and better; I have come to appreciate and identify structure in feature pieces; I listen for “voice” and try to clarify my own, and I have learned to target and craft a pitch. He also brought in speakers who had left his course to move into appealing jobs in the field and supplied a steady stream of suggestions, connections and concrete examples of how to write and get paid for it. He made me feel I could do it too. But most of all I appreciate his enthusiasm, unfailing confidence in our abilities and his hard work that was so evident every week. This was one of the best courses I have taken.

Marina Kamalova, Advanced Feature Writing, Fall 2015 
I took David’s class in the fall of 2015 and now feel so much more confident about my writing and researching, especially on longer pieces. The classes were engaging and spurred lots of discussion so I always looked forward to going. David also invited guest speakers who work in the industry, giving us exposure to experts in their field, like interview expert Paul McLaughlin and editors at local publications. David was always very quick to reply to questions and gave feedback right away. He even met with me for coffee on a weekend to give me specific feedback on my feature article and personal essay. I would recommend this class to anyone looking to develop their writing, whether seasoned writers or those who are new to journalism, like I was.

Nancy Fornasiero, Advanced Feature Writing,  Winter 2015
I almost didn’t enroll in David Hayes’ Feature Writing Course at Ryerson because the tuition was a bit outside my budget, but am I ever happy that I did. Thanks to David’s coaching and edits, my classroom assignments turned out to be ready to publish. I sold all three of them, allowing me to recover all of my tuition fees, plus the cost of my commute every week from the ‘burbs. The best part is that I established relationships with a number of magazine editors with whom I’ve been doing ongoing work ever since. Frankly, though, even without all that, the course was worth every penny. I highly recommend it to anyone serious about improving their writing.

Jennifer Lee, Advanced Feature Writing, Winter 2014 
David Hayes’ course, Advanced Feature Writing, is probably the best course I’ve taken at Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education. He takes a nice approach by using a variety of writing examples–from iconic articles to published stories by his former students. I used to think that the magazine industry would be very hard to break into, but within a few months of taking his class, I was able to publish pieces in magazines and newspapers. Even after the course ended, David provided encouragement and advice to help me get my pieces across the finish line. He is honest, open-minded and willing to share his ideas and opinions. The freelance writing market (and journalism in general) is very competitive at the moment and it’s refreshing to work with someone like David.

Sue Bowness, Advanced Feature Writing, Winter 2013
I’d already been freelancing for several years when I took Advanced Feature Writing, but I had heard good things about it and also had an intriguing personal story (about my mother’s adoption and reunion with her birth family in her late 60s) that I’d wanted to write my way rather than immediately pitching to an editor. I took the course and now the feature’s scheduled to be published this fall. So that can be another reason to take it, to force you to work on that special feature in the bottom drawer.


On Writing Well: William Zinsser (Harper & Row)
Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Narrative Nonfiction: Jack Hart (U of Chicago Press)
Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction: Brenda Miller & Suzanne Paola (McGraw Hill)
Draft No. 4: John McPhee (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Art of Memoir: Mary Karr
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century: Steven Pinker (Viking)
The Elements of Style: William Strunk & E.B. White (Macmillan)
Asking Questions: The Art of the Media Interview: Paul McLaughlin (Available at Ryerson University’s bookstore in Toronto or at http://paulmclaughlin.ca/books/asking-questions/.)
The Bigger Picture: Elements of Feature Writing: Edited by Ivor Shapiro
The Business of Being a Writer: Jane Friedman


I also give workshops and lectures, as well as appear at conferences and panels.