What happens when you give some kids a pencil and paper and tell them to create any story they want? Well, they’ll come up with cool protagonists like a genderless enchanter, or fantastic places like Bubba World, home of orcs, warriors and kings.
The stories that emerge from Story Planet are bountiful in creativity, imagination and delightful strangeness. The non-profit centre provides free or low-cost writing and arts workshops for young people ages eight to 16. The centre is located on Bloor Street West, just beyond Dufferin Street, though those who aren't in the know are unlikely to find it. Story Planet is tucked behind the portal of the Intergalactic Travel Authority, an ultra-fun, space-themed café and gift shop that serves as the writing centre’s storefront and social enterprise, where proceeds pour back to the program.
Liz Haines founded Story Planet in 2009 after being inspired by author Dave Eggers’ successful 826 National children’s writing organization, launched in 2002 in San Francisco. When she travelled to the flagship location, she was struck by the charity’s storefront: it was a pirate supply store selling everything from treasure chests to eye patches. “It was so magical,” says Liz. “It was nothing like any other writing centre or homework support place because it had this wacky front. I was determined to open one like it in Toronto.”