Welcome to Off Campus Writers Workshop (OCWW), the oldest continuously running writing workshop in the country. 

Established in 1946, OCWW continues to serve writers of all genres in the greater metropolitan Chicago area. Each Thursday morning between September and May, OCWW speakers address writers on topics ranging from craft to publishing options to the business of writing. Many of our speakers offer professional manuscript critiques for a reasonable fee. Achieve your individual writing goals while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow writers. Join us.

More questions? Email us.

Become a Member
Membership to OCWW is just $35 per year. While you do not need to be a member to attend season programs, OCWW membership offers outstanding privileges.

 

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Become a Speaker

OCWW speakers offer programs and workshops on a wide variety of topics related to writing of all kinds, from craft to markets to publishing. Contact us if you are an expert and would like to present at OCWW. 


Upcoming events

    • April 25, 2019
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka IL
    Register

     

    Writers read. It's a platitude: we all know this. But how do you look at a text you admire for its craft elements? From grammar and syntax to sense and clarity, voice, mood, and tone to character and metaphor—as well as narrative strategies it can be helpful to understand how to analyze a literary text for these elements to use in turn in your own writing. Drawing from the French tradition of explication de texte (textual analysis), this talk will show you how to read for writing craft, as well as demonstrate exercises for drafting and revision based on this close reading technique. 

    Jennifer Solheim is a writer, freelance editor, literary translator, and teacher. She has a PhD in French from the University of Michigan and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is the author of The Performance of Listening in Postcolonial Francophone Culture (2018, Liverpool University Press) and a Contributing Editor at Fiction Writers Review. Her short stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the Bellevue Literary Review, Confrontation, The Pinch, and Poets & Writers, among others. More about her work www.jennifersolheim.com.

    Jennifer will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines on our website.

    9-9:30 Socializing 

    9:30-12 Program 



    • May 02, 2019
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House , 620 Lincoln, Winnetka, IL
    Register

    By revisiting our stories, we re-enter our imaginations to discover more about our characters’ inner lives. When we open ourselves to this process, we become the writers we need to be to write the stories we need to write, to bring our characters to life on the page so that they may live in the hearts of our readers.

    Sharon Darrow will talk about emotional resonance, why it is necessary, what we need to achieve it, what obstacles we might encounter, and some practical technical steps to achieve it in revision. This session will include writing exercises, sharing our results, discussion and Sharon will take questions at the end of the session.(Appropriate content for writers of all genres)

    Sharon Darrow was a member of the faculty of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts, from 1997 to 2018. She also taught at Columbia College Chicago in the English department from 1996 to 2003. She is the author of Picture Books (Old Thunder and Miss Raney, art by Kathryn Brown; Yafi’s Family, co-author Linda Pettit, art by Jan Spivey Gilchrist; Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, art by Angela Barrett) and Young Adult novels (The Painters of Lexieville and TRASH). Her poetry for young people has been included in Home to Me: Poems Across America, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and her poems, short stories, interviews, and personal essays for adults have appeared in literary journals Rhino, Folio, Whetstone, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine), Columbia Poetry Review, Great River Review, Other Voices, The Writer’s Chronicle, and in the anthology, In the Middle of the Middle West, edited by Becky Bradway. Her most recent book for adults is Worlds within Words: Writing and the Writing Life.

    The Darrow Lecture Series, named in her honor, is held annually in Montpelier, Vermont, with lectures delivered by distinguished authors who are graduates of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

    9-9:30 Socializing 

    9:30-12 Program 



    • May 09, 2019
    • 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
    • The Mallinckrodt Community Center - Senior Center 1041A Ridge Road Wilmette, Illinois 60091 (parking on left side of building)
    Register

     In this session, we'll discuss how to use dialogue effectively in both adult and young adult novels. We'll talk about how to make characters' voices distinct, how to make dialogue do more than one thing at once, and how to avoid common dialogue-related issues. We'll read some sample dialogue and discuss it together, and we can also talk about your own writing.

     Michelle Falkoff is the author of PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD, PUSHING PERFECT, and QUESTIONS I WANT TO ASK YOU. Her fiction and reviews have been published in ZYZZYVA, DoubleTake, and the Harvard Review, among other places.  She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and serves as Director of Communication and Legal Reasoning at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

    6:00-6:30 Socializing 

    6:30-8:30 Program 



    • May 16, 2019
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka IL
    Register


                Andrea Hall             Emily Clark Victorson             Anna Michels

     Albert Whitman and Company         Allium Press                       Sourcebooks

    Three of Chicago's premier book editors share their thoughts about today's market for fiction and non-fiction, and insights into the editorial review process of queries and manuscript submissions. Panelists include Emily Victorson, editor and publisher of Allium Press, a cutting-edge small press publisher of adult fiction;  Andrea Hall, an associate editor at Albert Whitman & Company who specializes in children's picture books; and Anna Michels, Senior Editor at Sourcebooks acquiring adult fiction and nonfiction.

    Andrea Hall is an Associate Editor at Albert Whitman & Company where she focuses primarily on picture books. She is particularly drawn to stories that have layers of meaning and diversity. Some of the titles she’s acquired include Far Apart, Close in HeartChester Nez and the Unbreakable Code, and Finding Christmas. Andrea started her publishing career at Pearson Education and is a former ARA of the Central and Southern Ohio Chapter of SCBWI.

    Emily Clark Victorson is the publisher/editor of Allium Press of Chicago. After receiving degrees from Oberlin College and the University of Michigan she moved to the Chicago area. Prior to starting Allium Press she worked as a librarian, historian, and book designer for such organizations as the Newberry Library, the Chicago History Museum, and History Works, Inc.

    Anna Michels is a Senior Editor at Sourcebooks, acquiring adult fiction and nonfiction. Anna is looking for a wide variety of books under the mystery/suspense/thriller umbrella, including psychological suspense, cozy mysteries, and contemporary crime fiction in the vein of Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis; book club fiction that hits the sweet spot between commercial and literary; and memoir by writers who connect the events of their lives to readers through incredible storytelling, as well as a wide variety of prescriptive and narrative nonfiction on both historical and contemporary topics.

    9-9:30 Socializing 

    9:30-12 Program 



    • May 23, 2019
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka IL
    Register

    You can’t tell a great story without great scenes, but this basic unit of storytelling often gets glossed over.  What clever tricks can you use to juice your scenes with more impact and emotion?  In the first half, Matt will work through his Scene Work checklist, then in the second half, he’ll move on to Theme.  What’s the difference between theme and moral?  How can you use ironic dilemmas to magnify the meaning of your story?  Matt will bring lots of examples and some new videos.    

    Matt will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.

    Matthew Bird has an MFA from Columbia University, but a lot of the advice he hands out now is the opposite of what he was taught there.  He is the author of the bestselling writing guide “The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers”, published in 2016 by Writer’s Digest Press.  He lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife and two adorable children. Matt can be reached on his website: www.secretsofstory.com

    9-9:30 Socializing 

    9:30-12 Program 



    • May 30, 2019
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka IL
    Register

    All great literary thrillers have a few things in common: a streamlined plot, unrelenting tension, and complex characters. In this class, award-winning author Abby Geni will share her insights about how to write a page-turner, covering everything from plot architecture to unreliable narrators to red herrings. We will focus on infusing your work with tension through pacing, point of view, dialogue, description, characterization, and even setting. The literary thriller has something to teach writers working in any genre. We will talk about how to create a powerful inciting incident, how to deepen and strengthen your plot, and how to arrive at a satisfying ending.

    Abby Geni is the Chicago-based author of The Wildlands (September 2018), The Lightkeepers, winner of the 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction and the Chicago Review of Books Awards for Best Fiction, and The Last Animal, an Indies Introduce Debut Writers Selection and finalist for the Orion Book Award. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Iowa Fellowship. Her website is www.abbygeni.com    

    9-9:30 Socializing 

    9:30-12 Program 



Past events

April 18, 2019 Jay Rehak- Publishing Cohort-Written Fiction: Putting it Together
April 11, 2019 Mary Anne Mohanraj- Writing the Taboo
April 04, 2019 Kelly McNees- Create Conflict that Propels your Plot
March 28, 2019 Eric Rampson-An Arc of Arcs or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Story Structure
March 21, 2019 Abby Saul and Tina Schwartz-The Agent Challenge
March 14, 2019 Joseph Scapellato-Finding Shape and “Stepping Up”: Practical Alternatives to Plotting Fiction
March 07, 2019 Mary Robinette Kowal - Conceptualizing the Modern Short Story
February 28, 2019 Rachel Swearingen - The Magic and Mechanics of Imagery
February 21, 2019 Jay Bonansinga - Storytelling Fundamentals for the Digital Era
February 14, 2019 John S. Green - Book Readings That Sell Your Book
February 07, 2019 Rebecca Makkai - We Need To Talk
January 24, 2019 Stuart Dybek- Closure
January 17, 2019 Richard Thomas - Writing Short Stories: The Art, The Structure, and Why You Should
January 10, 2019 Sara Connell - 21 Ways to Get Published
January 03, 2019 Jay Rehak -Team-Writing an Episodic Novel
December 27, 2018 Rebekah Frumkin - Writing Humor
December 20, 2018 Jane Hertenstein - Holiday Flash
December 13, 2018 Emily Tedrowe– Taking Character Development to the Next Level
December 06, 2018 Mary Ruth Clark - Writing Cinematic Scenes
November 29, 2018 Patricia McNair - Is it Hot in Here or Is It Just My Writing? How to Handle Sex on the Page
November 15, 2018 Steven Trumpeter - Radical Revision
November 08, 2018 Goldie Goldbloom - When All the World Was Green: the Deep Mystery of Gorgeous Fiction
November 01, 2018 Rebecca Johns - Diving Deep into Three Act Structure
October 25, 2018 Vu Tran - What Movies Can Teach Us As Writers
October 18, 2018 Kelly McNees - Muscle Up a Sagging Middle:How to Build and Sustain Page-Turning Momentum
October 11, 2018 Hannah Gamble - Resistance in Writing
October 04, 2018 Amanda Goldblatt - Associative Structures: Making Relationships & Resonance
September 27, 2018 Fred Shafer- The Music of Sentences #4
September 20, 2018 Fred Shafer- The Music of Sentences #3
September 13, 2018 Fred Shafer- The Music of Sentences #2
September 06, 2018 Fred Shafer-The Music of Sentences 4 Pack 2018-2019 Members Only
September 06, 2018 Fred Shafer- The Music of Sentences #1
May 31, 2018 Kelly McNees- Writing Great Endings
May 24, 2018 Keir Graff - Book Reviews and the Library Market
May 17, 2018 David W. Berner — Writing Great Beginnings
May 10, 2018 Sarah Terez Rosenblum - Writing Sex - Off-Site Evening Event
May 03, 2018 Jac Jemc — Haunting as Narrative Driver and Resonance Builder - Evening Event
April 26, 2018 Abby Saul & Tina P. Schwartz - Agent Hunting 101
April 19, 2018 Mary Anne Mohanraj - Writing Complex Identities
April 12, 2018 Barbara Barnett and Richard Davidson - The Path to Publishing Success
April 05, 2018 Amy Hassinger - What is Creative Non-Fiction and Why is it the Next Big Thing in Your Writing Life?
March 29, 2018 Abby Geni - Making Revision Manageable
March 22, 2018 Peter Ferry - Never Give Up: The Writing, Resting, Shopping, Despairing, Evolution and Redemption of a Short Story
March 15, 2018 Matt Bird - Writing for Strangers
March 08, 2018 Susanna Calkins - Bringing in Research While Telling a Compelling Tale
March 01, 2018 Nadine Kenney Johnstone - Make Your Story Meaningful
February 22, 2018 Mary Ruth Clarke-Adapting Fiction for the Performing Arts: Is It a Play? TV Show? Movie?
February 15, 2018 Jay Bonansinga - Writing the Modern Page-Turner
February 08, 2018 Stuart Dybek - Rewriting Is Telling Yourself The Story Again and Again and Again
February 01, 2018 Natasha Tarpley - Writing For and About Children of Color
January 25, 2018 Goldie Goldbloom - Meet Your Conflicts Head On!
January 18, 2018 Hannah Gamble - "Moves" to Spice Up Your Writing: Using the Absurd to Convey Emotional Truths
January 11, 2018 Richard Thomas - What Editors Look for in Short Fiction: Key Elements Paired with Your Unique Voice
January 04, 2018 Amy Jo Cousins - Hot Romance on a Cold Winter Day
December 14, 2017 Jennifer Solheim - Shake Up your Thinking with the Tools of Oulipo: Generate New Work or Reenvision Character, Scene, Plot and More in Works-in Progress
December 07, 2017 Eric Rampson - Go Do The Voodoo That You Do So Well: Finding (and Using) the Fun in Your Writing
November 30, 2017 Zoe Zolbrod - Using Your Personal Life to Enrich Your Writing
November 16, 2017 Kelly McNees - Five Elements Essential to Snagging an Editor's Interest
November 09, 2017 Esther Hershenhorn - Children’s Book Writing Group 101: The WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY AND HOW!
November 02, 2017 Rebecca Johns - Creating Characters- Off-Site Evening Event
October 26, 2017 Christine Sneed - The Writer's Voice
October 19, 2017 Jamie Freveletti - Tips from an International Best-Selling Author
October 12, 2017 Rebecca Makkai - I'm Stuck
October 05, 2017 Lori Rader-Day - Point of View, Your Story's Foundation
September 28, 2017 Fred Shafer 30th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon
September 28, 2017 Fred Shafer - Showing vs Telling Revisited Session 4
September 21, 2017 Fred Shafer - Showing vs Telling Revisited Session 3
September 14, 2017 Fred Shafer - Showing vs Telling Revisited Session 2
September 07, 2017 Fred Shafer - Showing vs Telling Revisited Member 4 Pack
September 07, 2017 Fred Shafer - Showing vs Telling Revisited
May 25, 2017 Rebecca Makkai - Making a Scene
May 18, 2017 Abby Geni - Setting & Description
May 11, 2017 Lori Rader Day - Using Mystery Tools for Any Story
May 04, 2017 Christine Sneed - Breaking Into the Literary Fiction Market
April 27, 2017 Ellen T. McKnight - Best of Both: Plot and Pace with Depth
April 20, 2017 Ellen T. McKnight - Best of Both: Depth and Artistry with Plot
April 13, 2017 Ellen Blum Barish - Identifying Your Writer’s Voice
April 06, 2017 Frances De Pontes Peebles - Keeping The Pace
March 30, 2017 Jamie Freveletti - Writing Action and Conflict
March 23, 2017 Mary Robinette Kowal - The Rest of the Cast
March 16, 2017 Abby Saul - Copy that Sells Your Book
March 09, 2017 Mare Swallow - Building Your Literary Community
March 02, 2017 Zoe Zolbrod - Strategies for Structuring Memoir and Long Narratives
February 23, 2017 Randy Richardson - The Art of Self-Promotion *SPECIAL EVENT*
February 16, 2017 Patricia McNair - The Writer's Road Trip
February 09, 2017 Rachel Harvith - Make Your Dialogue Work
February 02, 2017 Sarah Hammond - The Big Idea
January 26, 2017 Susanna Calkins - Critiquing and Being Critiqued
January 19, 2017 Shawn Shiflett - Building Characters From Real People
January 12, 2017 Christine Maul Rice - How to develop your unique voice on the page
January 05, 2017 Eric Rampson - Creating and Using Humor
December 15, 2016 Richard Thomas - Neo Noir and the Fiction of Darkness
December 08, 2016 Peter Ferry - Character Devolpment
December 01, 2016 Samantha Hoffman - The Art of Revision
November 17, 2016 Christine Sneed - Conflict in Genre v. Literary Fiction
November 10, 2016 Dana Kaye - Launch Your Own Publicity Campaign
November 03, 2016 Jennifer Day - Reading, Writing and the Value of Literary Criticism *SPECIAL EVENT*
October 27, 2016 Rebecca Johns - Structuring Your Novel *Special Event*
October 20, 2016 Jane Hertenstein - Flash Memoir
October 13, 2016 Jennifer Rupp - Book Readings That Sell Your Book
October 06, 2016 Rebecca Makkai - Build It Up
September 29, 2016 9/29 Fred Shafer - The Role of Questions in Fiction Writing
September 22, 2016 9/22 Fred Shafer - The Role of Questions in Fiction Writing
September 15, 2016 9/15 Fred Shafer - The Role of Questions in Fiction Writing
September 08, 2016 Fred Shafer - The Role of Questions in Fiction Writing
August 25, 2016 OCWW Summer Prompt Session
May 26, 2016 Rebecca Makkai — Ending It All
May 19, 2016 David Michael Kaplan — Revising Prose For Power and Punch
May 12, 2016 Stuart Dybek — How To Write Stories That Are Smarter Than You Are
May 05, 2016 James Sherman — Playwrighting
April 28, 2016 Neil Tesser — Seeing The Music
April 21, 2016 Kelly James-Enger—Six-Figure Freelancing
April 14, 2016 Scott Onak — Free Your Writing
April 07, 2016 Ellen T. McKnight—Orchestrating Tension
March 31, 2016 Andy Nathan—Blogging for Your Business
March 24, 2016 Tina Schwartz—Top Five Questions Writers Most Frequently Ask
March 17, 2016 Paul McComas—Stories in the Spotlight
March 10, 2016 Meade Palidofsky — Memoir Theatre
March 03, 2016 Jill Pollack — The Science of Stories
February 25, 2016 Wendy McClure — Craft & Revision
February 18, 2016 Richard Chwedyk—Why Science Fiction Matters
February 11, 2016 Scott Whitehair — Presentation Styles
February 04, 2016 Cheryl Besnjak - Copyright Law
January 28, 2016 Andy Nathan - Internet Marketing
January 14, 2016 Pitch to Your Peers
December 17, 2015 OCWW Holiday Party
December 10, 2015 Esther Hershenhorn: Writing for Children
December 03, 2015 Rick Watkins on Character: The True Essence of Story
November 26, 2015 Thanksgiving
November 19, 2015 Writing the Next Chapter
November 12, 2015 Allie Pleiter: Dynamic Dialogue
November 05, 2015 Jody Nye: Structuring Your Novel
October 29, 2015 Paul McComas: Beginning Hooks
October 22, 2015 Paul McComas: Meaningful Memoir
October 18, 2015 OCWW Meet & Greet

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620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL 60093

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