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 26, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Abby Saul, Tina Schwartz:   Agent Hunting 101

           

    Two of OCWW’s most popular agents conduct a workshop on how to woo and win the right agent for your work. Abby Saul specializes in literary and commercial fiction, while Tina Schwartz’s focus includes YA, women’s literature, and non-fiction. They will describe today’s market and talk about the qualities of a query letter and opening chapter that grab a busy agent’s attention. Both Abby Saul and Tina Schwartz will accept 1 page query letters to critique for $15; they're also inviting submission of query letters for inclusion in the handouts.Tina will accept the first ten pages of your manuscript for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details. 

    Tina P. Schwartz is a writer of ten traditionally published books. She is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor's degree in Marketing Communication with an Advertising emphasis. After spending many years in advertising, Schwartz gave up a career in media sales to pursue her true passion of selling manuscripts when she opened The Purcell Agency, LLC in July of 2012. She enjoys spending time with family, playing games and sports. She is a huge movie lover and a self-proclaimed tomboy. You can find out more about her at www.tinaPschwartz.com or www.ThePurcellAgency.com

    Agent Abby Saul founded The Lark Group after a decade in publishing at John Wiley & Sons, Sourcebooks, and Browne & Miller Literary Associates. She’s worked with and edited bestselling and award-winning authors as well as major brands. Abby also has helped to establish ebook standards, led company-wide forums to explore new digital possibilities for books, and created and managed numerous digital initiatives.

    As an agent, Abby is looking for great and engrossing adult commercial and literary fiction. A magna cum laude graduate of Wellesley College, Abby spends her weekends—when she’s not reading—cooking and hiking with her husband. 

    9-9:30 AM registration and socializing

    9:30-12 PM program

    • May 03, 2018
    • 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Jac Jemc

    Haunting as Narrative Driver and Resonance Builder - Special Evening Event

    From the absences of Sappho to the ghosts of Henry James to the longing-fueled chases driving Laura van den Berg's stories, the idea of haunting presents itself in many forms throughout literature. In this session we'll explore haunting as narrative driver and resonance builder by reading examples of different modes of haunting and appropriating their forms. Whether you're interested in building a traditional ghost story, a tale of unrequited love or lingering grief, or playing with erasures of source materials, this course can help anyone looking for ways of building theme and image-based collateral in a variety of genres. Jac will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.

    Jac Jemc lives in Chicago. Her novel The Grip of It is forthcoming from FSG Originals (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) in August 2017.  Jemc is also the author of My Only Wife (Dzanc Books), From the absences of Sappho to the ghosts of Henry James to the longing-fueled chases driving named a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award;  A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books), named one of Amazon's Best Story Collections of 2014; and a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She'd Invited In (Greying Ghost Press).  

    Jac's nonfiction has been featured on the long list for Best American Essays and her story "Women in Wells" was featured in the 2010 Best of the Web anthology. Jac received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has completed residencies at the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Hald: The Danish Center for Writers and Translators, Ragdale, the Vermont Studio Center, Thicket, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has been the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grants, and was named as one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex and one of New City's Lit 50 in Chicago. She's taught English and Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame, Northeastern Illinois University, Loyola University Chicago, Lake Forest College, Illinois Wesleyan University, Story Studio Chicago, and The Loft Literary Center. She currently serves as a web nonfiction editor for Hobart.

    6:00-6:30 Registration and Socializing

    6:30-8:30 Program

    • May 10, 2018
    • 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
    • Wilmette Community Recreation Center - 3000 Glenview Road, Wilmette, IL
    Register

    Sarah Terez Rosenblum - Writing Sex - Special Off-Site Evening Event 

    Good writing is like good sex. It takes practice. And writing about sex? That takes practice too!

    Join novelist, teacher, and freelance writer Sarah Terez Rosenblum in a dynamic discussion about writing a literarily relevant sex scene. You'll get tips, guidelines, and a chance to read and share work.

    Sarah Terez Rosenblum’s debut novel, "Herself When She's Missing,” was called “poetic and heartrending" by Booklist. She writes for publications and sites including Salon, The Chicago Sun Times, XOJane, afterellen.com, Curve Magazine and Pop Matters. Her fiction has appeared in literary magazines such as kill author and Underground Voices, and she was a 2011 recipient of Carve Magazine's Esoteric Fiction Award and the 2015 1st runner up for Midwestern Gothic's Lake Prize as well as a finalist for Washington Square Review’s 2016 Flash Fiction Award. In addition, she was shortlisted for Zoetrope All Story’s 2016 Short Fiction Contest, receiving an honorable mention. In 2014, she founded the Truth or Lie Live Lit Series. Sarah teaches Creative Writing at Story Studio, and The University of Chicago Graham school.

    Follow her on Twitter or on Facebook or visit www. sarahterezrosenblum.com

    6:00-6:30 Registration and Socialization

    6:30-8:30 Program

    • May 17, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    David W. Berner — 

    Writing Great Beginnings

    Many of us can recite the most famous first lines of great literature, but how can we learn from the masters so that our own beginnings have lasting impressions? In this lecture and workshop, award-winning author, memoirist, and journalist David W Berner focuses on what makes a great beginning, how the first line could make or break a story, how introducing your main character right away can hook a reader, and how foreshadowing can keep a reader engaged. 

        Attendees are invited to submit their first paragraph beginnings in advance for possible inclusion in David’s discussion handout. Email your first paragraph by May 11 to rjames.author@gmail.com. You can also bring material to the session to be read aloud and shared with the group if time permits.

    9:00-9:30 Registration and Socializing

    9:30-12 Program

    • May 24, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register
    Keir Graff

    Book Reviews and the Library Market

    Keir Graff will speak to authors from his perspective,  both as an oft-reviewed author and as executive editor of Booklist, the American Library Association’s book-review journal for public libraries. In addition to sharing Booklist’s inner workings, he will discuss the business of book reviewing, the current publishing landscape, the importance of the library market, and dos and don’ts of submitting books for review.

    Keir Graff is the author of two middle-grade novels (including The Matchstick Castle), and four novels for adults (most recently the thriller The Price of Liberty), with two more books slated for publication in 2018. He is also coeditor of one short-fiction anthology, Montana Noir (2017), and is currently editing a second. Since 2011, he has been cohost of Publishing Cocktails, an occasional literary gathering in Chicago. By day, he is the executive editor of Booklist. You can find him on Twitter (@KeirGraff, @Booklist_Keir), Facebook (Keir.Graff.Author), and at www.keirgraff.com.

    9:00-9:30 Registration and Socializing

    9:30-12 Program

    • May 31, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register


    Kelly McNees

    Writing Great Endings
    Endings are important. Some of the agents and editors and reviewers to whom you submit your book will decide whether or not to read it by first reading the opening and closing chapters. Do you know how to write a powerful ending? In this session, Kelly McNees returns to outline the elements of a great ending and discuss how we can implement these ideas in our own work. 

    Kelly O'Connor McNees began her editorial career at Harper Collins and the University of Michigan Press. She launched Word Bird Editorial Services in 2008, and has helped writers of all stripes—including a CIA agent, a musician, a New York City bartender, a newspaper columnist, a dentist, an organic farmer, an art house cinema owner, and many, many others—improve their writing and pursue their publication goals. Kelly is the author of Undiscovered Country (coming in 2018), The Lost Summer of Louisa May AlcottIn Need of a Good Wife, and The Island of Doves. She is passionate about coaching writers and troubleshooting manuscripts to help them succeed. 

    Bonus Feature: We celebrate the end of our 2017-2018 program year with a member-participation session. The last 30 minutes of the session will be set aside for members to read aloud the last 100 words of their novels or short stories (published or work-in-progress) and hear feedback from Kelly and our colleagues. See https://ocwwinfo for details.


    9-9:30 AM registration and socializing
    9:30-12 PM program


Past events

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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