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

    • December 14, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Jennifer Solheim  

    Shake Up your Thinking with the Tools of Oulipo: Generate New Work or Re-envision Character, Scene, Plot and More in Works-in Progress

    Oulipo writers imposed constraints on their writing to challenge themselves and open new possibilities in their work. Major figures in the movement included Italo Calvino and Georges Perec (whose novel A Void was written without use of the letter e).

    Working with Oulipo practices can free us from our current literary conventions and be more inventive stylistically and in terms of narrative. These practices can also help shake up our ways of thinking about literary elements like plot, imagery, character, time, and place.

    In this workshop, we will begin with a history of the Oulipo movement and look at some examples of successful Oulipian works.  We will then turn to writing with constraints, generate and read aloud new works, and discuss how constraints can help generate characters and settings as well as work through writer’s block. You will come away with new writing practices and an understanding of a writing movement that is still vibrant today, in which we can all participate as writers. Manuscripts for critique will be accepted. Please see manuscript guidelines for details. 

    Jennifer Solheim holds a PhD in French from the University of Michigan and is an MFA candidate in fiction writing at the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has taught at University of Illinois—Chicago, Université de Paris VII, StoryStudio Chicago, and is the creative writing instructor at Academia Institute in Oak Park, Illinois. Jennifer is a Contributing Editor at Fiction Writers Review, and has been published in Akashic Books’ Mondays are Murder series, Conclave: A Journal of Character, Confrontation, Inside Higher Ed, and Poets & Writers. Her novel manuscript Another Paris was a semi-finalist for the 2013 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Award (Novel Category), and her current novel-in-progress, now entitled The Interruptions, was a semin-finalist in the 2015 James Jones First Novel Fellowship. You can learn more about her work at www.jennifersolheim.com.

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

    • January 04, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Amy Jo Cousins

    Hot Romance On a Cold Winter Day

    Romance is big business, and there's a reason the romance genre is a billion-dollar industry, selling more books than the next two largest genres combined. The search for love and the struggle to make a relationship work are core stories, engaging readers' hardwired need to learn what happens next on a character-driven level. Including strong romantic elements in your manuscript of any genre can strengthen your work, but a well-structured romance has its own story beats. We'll discuss braiding your romance arc into the external plot and theme, and how to engage readers' desire for emotionally satisfying endings.

    Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of sexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series again. Amy Jo is a hybrid author whose works have been published by Harlequin, Samhain, Dreamspinner and Riptide. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

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

    • January 11, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Richard Thomas

    What Editors Look For in Short Fiction: Key Elements Paired with Your Unique Voice

    Author, editor and lecturer Richard Thomas starts this lively session with a discussion of Freytag's Pyramid and the essential points he teaches in his Short Story Mechanics Class for university students, including exercises authors can do later on their own. In the second hour, Richard will talk about how editors evaluate short fiction and how you can improve your chances of publication.

    Richard Thomas is the author of three novels, three short story collections, a novella and more than 100 short stories. He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, and has received five Pushcart Prize nominations to date. He is also the editor of four anthologies: Exigencies (Shirley Jackson finalist) and The New Black (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk (finalist for the Bram Stoker Award). In his spare time he is a columnist at LitReactor and Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press. He has taught at LitReactor, the University of Iowa, StoryStudio Chicago, and in Transylvania. Richard's novels include Disintegration and Breaker (Random House Alibi), and Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications).

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

    • January 18, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Hannah Gamble

    "Moves" to Spice Up Your Writing: Using the Absurd to Convey Emotional Truths

    Q: How can absurdity lead our readers to genuine emotional experiences in our writing?

    A: Via various kinds of unpredictability, the Absurd is able to short-circuit the reader's defenses and ultimately bestow an experience of emotional truth. Absurdity employs methods such as sudden switches from maximalism to minimalism (as we'll see in a short story by Donald Barthelme and a poem by Thomas James); it vacillates between comedy and tragedy (exemplified in a creative memoir piece by Kelly Pearce); it rejects common uses of language (a poem by Jos Charles) and can move extremely slow (novella excerpts from Edward Mullany) to the point of using boredom as an altererd state.

    Join Hannah Gamble and the OCWW for a craft talk which will include short writing exercises throughout!

    Hannah Gamble is a poet, essayist, editor, and educator. Her first book, Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast, won the National Poetry Series in 2011. In 2014 she received a Ruth Lilly/ Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellowship from The Poetry Foundation. You can find her writing on the Poetry Foundation website, and in magazines such as The BelieverjubilatFanzine, and the American Poetry Review.

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

    • January 25, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Goldie Goldbloom - Meet Your Conflicts Head On!

    Award-winning author and lecturer, Goldie Goldbloom focuses on the way many writers swerve away from from the most difficult interactions in their work, and how to correct that impulse. In the second hour of her program she'll review member manuscripts submitted for critique as examples of how to improve your story by finding the issues and addressing them. Please see manuscript guidelines for details. 

    Goldie Goldbloom is the author of two novels, The Paperbark Shoe (Picador) - a Best Novel of the Year (IndieFab) and winner of the AWP Novel Award - and Gwen(forthcoming), as well as two collections of short stories, You Lose These (Fremantle Press) and The Grief of the Body (forthcoming). Her work has been selected for the Best Australian Short Stories, and has been published in journals such as The Kenyon ReviewPrairie Schooner, and Narrative. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson and has taught at Northwestern University ever since being named the Simon Blattner Fellow. She is the recipient of a NEA Fellowship, a Brown Foundation-Dora Maar House Fellowship, a Jerusalem Post Prize, and a Rona Jaffe Fellowship, amongst other honours. Goldbloom is an international speaker of note, most recently as an honored guest at the Assises Internationales du Roman, in Lyon, France. She was a founding board member of an advocacy organization for at-risk LGBTQ minorities and is the writer of the oral history blog Frum Gay Girl .

    9-9:30 AM registration and socializing

    9:30-12 PM program

    • February 01, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Natasha Tarpley -

    Writing For and About Children of Color

    The “We Need Diverse Books” movement has underscored the need for more diversity in books, and in the publishing industry overall. However, there is also a need for a greater diversity of representation of people of color and others in literature itself. This workshop will encourage dialog around this complex issue as a way of exploring thoughts and assumptions about diversity, and then move into practical suggestions and techniques that can be used to approach and craft rich, multi-dimensional diverse characters in your own writing. Natasha will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.

    Natasha Tarpley is the author of the best-selling picture book, I Love My Hair!, as well as other acclaimed titles for children and adults. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship among other awards. When she is not writing books, Ms. Tarpley can usually be found reading them. She has also taken up the cruel and unusual hobby of running marathons. She lives with her husband and the ghosts of two cats on the south side of Chicago. 

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

    • February 08, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Stuart Dybek 

    Rewriting Is Telling Yourself The Story Again and Again and Again 

    Time Change from evening to regular 9:30 AM Start

    One of Chicago's foremost authors and lecturers says the rewrite isn't primarily about correcting mistakes in grammar and punctuation—it's always about story. In this special evening session, the dynamic Stuart Dybek shows how it's done.

    Stuart Dybek's The Start of Something: Selected Stories by Stuart Dybek was published by Jonathan Cape/Vintage in 2016, and two new collections of fiction, Ecstatic Cahoots and Paper Lantern, were published simultaneously by FSG in June 2014. Dybek’s previous books of fiction are Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, and I Sailed with Magellan. He has also published two volumes of poetry, Brass Knuckles and Streets In Their Own Ink. His work is widely anthologized and appears in publications such as The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic, Tin House, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Dybek is the recipient of many literary awards including the PEN/Bernard Malamud Prize for “distinguished achievement in the short story”, a Lannan Award, the Academy Institute Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writer’s Award, the Harold Washington Literary Award, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and four O’Henry Prizes. 

    His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and in Best American Fiction. In 2007, he was awarded both a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Rea Award for the Short Story. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University.

    9:00-9:30 AM Registration and Socializing

    9:30-12:00 PM Program

    • February 15, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Jay Bonansinga - 

    Writing the Modern Page-Turner

    Join New York Times Bestselling author of the Walking Dead novels, Jay Bonansinga, in this informative deep dive into the craft of writing a page turner.  Through anecdotes, exercises, and plenty of Q&A, Jay will take you inside what makes a bestseller.

    Jay Bonansinga has established himself as a fixture in the genres of horror and suspense.  He is the New York Times bestselling author of THE WALKING DEAD novels (four volumes in collaboration with the creator of the franchise, Robert Kirkman, and four volumes as solo author).  He is also the author of fourteen original novels, including the Bram Stoker finalist THE BLACK MARIAH (1994), the International Thriller Writers Award finalist SHATTERED (2007), the acclaimed YA horror novel, LUCID (2015), and Jay’s latest horror opus, SELF STORAGE (2016).  Jay’s work has been translated into sixteen languages, and he has been called “one of the most imaginative writers of thrillers” by the CHICAGO TRIBUNE Walking Dead series.

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

    • February 22, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register
    Rachel Edwards Harvith

    What Makes Good Theater?

    Last year, director, actor and dramaturg Rachel Edwards Harvith led a scintillating session on what makes riveting dialogue in scriptwriting, and how to employ those principles in novels and short stories. This year, she expands the discussion to look at other elements in a script that make for riveting theater, and how the same elements apply to other forms of creative writing.

    Rachel Edwards Harvith is a director, actor, and dramaturg with a passion for developing new plays and reimagining classics. She serves as the Associate Artistic Director of Chicago Dramatists and was a founding company member of Mortar Theatre. Harvith has helped hundreds of playwrights refine their plays, in the classroom, rehearsal room, and beyond. As a literary manager, she has worked with Bailiwick Chicago, Syracuse Stage, and Long Wharf Theatre. Recent directing credits include Beautiful Autistic and The Mecca Tales (Chicago Dramatists); 180 Degree Rule (Babes with Blades); Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose (Raven Theatre); and Assassins (Kokandy Productions), which was named the #5 Chicago theatre production of 2014 by Time Out Chicago, and received 5 Jeff nominations. Education: BA in Theatre, Grinnell College; MFA in Directing, University of Iowa.

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

    • March 01, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Nadine Kenney Johnstone

    Make Your Story Meaningful

    How do you make fiction or non-fiction resonate with readers? In this workshop, writers will learn and discuss methods for giving a story the emotional layering it needs to be satisfying to editors and readers. We will read published excerpts to see how successful authors have layered their stories. You will then do brainstorming exercises and in-class writing activities that focus on layering your writing. In addition to working on craft, we will discuss some innovative publishing options available to today's authors. Nadine will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details. 

    Nadine Kenney Johnstone is the author of the memoir, Of This Much I'm Sure, about her IVF challenges and the healing power of hope. Her infertility story has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Today’s Parent, MindBodyGreen, Metro, and Chicago Health Magazine, among others. She teaches at Loyola University and received her MFA from Columbia College in Chicago. Her other work has been featured in various magazines and anthologies, including Chicago Magazine, The Moth, PANK, and The Magic of Memoir. Nadine is a writing coach who presents at conferences internationally. She lives near Chicago with her family. 

    Follow her at nadinekenneyjohnstone.com.

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

    • March 08, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Susanna Calkins  

    Bringing in Research While Telling a Compelling Tale

    In this session, Susanna will discuss what she has learned about writing historical fiction as a historian-turned-novelist, as well as share her own path to publication. In particular, she will focus on such questions as: How can we contextualize our stories historically without just dumping information on our readers? How can we make our dialogue seem authentic, without sounding stilted or archaic? How much historical research is "enough"? In this discussion, Susanna will offer some strategies for avoiding the most common pitfalls in writing historical fiction.

    Susanna Calkins writes the Lucy Campion historical mysteries, which are set in seventeenth-century London. Holding a PhD in history, Susanna works at Northwestern University where she directs learning and teaching programs for faculty, offering sessions on such things as providing feedback and learning from failure . As a member of the Midwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Susanna runs the Hugh Holton critique program, in which established authors provide detailed feedback on unpublished manuscripts.

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

    • March 15, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Matt Bird

    Writing for Strangers

    Most of us start out telling the story we want to read, but how do you make your story interesting enough to pass the “chatty stranger on an airplane” test? 

    Can you win over a jaded audience that is sick to death of over-worked plot lines and doesn't want to distrust your hero?  We discuss 122 neat little tricks you can use to maximize audience identification with your characters and interest in your plot. Matt will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.

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

    • March 22, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Peter Ferry 

    Never Give Up: The Writing, Resting, Shopping, Despairing, Evolution and Redemption of a Short Story

    We all have unpublished works buried in frustration and exasperation in dark drawers somewhere. In this session, celebrated author Peter Ferry talks about how such material can be resurrected and re-marketed by tracing the long, circuitous and curious history of his short story Ike, Sharon and Me on its journey from rejection to selection for the Best American Mystery Stories of 2017. 

    Peter Ferry's stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Fiction, OR, Chicago Quarterly Review and StoryQuarterly; he is the winner of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Short Fiction. He is a contributor to the travel pages of The Chicago Tribune and to WorldHum.  He has written two novels, Travel Writing, which was published in 2008, and Old Heart, which was published in June, 2015 and won the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year award.   He lives in Evanston, Illinois and Van Buren County, Michigan with his wife Carolyn.  

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

    • March 29, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Abby Geni 

    Making Revision Manageable

    Many writers find the idea of revision to be daunting.  Crossing the divide between a first draft and a polished novel or short story can seem overwhelming.  In this class, we will analyze and unriddle the editing process. We will discuss common writerly mistakes, new ways of thinking about revision, and practicable tools and techniques for approaching your own work. The lecture will include handouts, readings, in-class exercises, and discussion. Abby will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.

    Abby Geni is the author of The Lightkeepers, winner of the 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction and the inaugural Chicago Review of Books Awards for Best Fiction, and The Last Animal (2013), an Indies Introduce Debut Writers Selection and a finalist for the Orion Book Award.  Her short stories have won first place in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and the Chautauqua Contest and have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies.  Geni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Iowa Fellowship.  Her website is www.abbygeni.com.

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

    Abbi Geni 

    Making Revision Manageable

    • April 05, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register

    Amy Hassinger 

    What is Creative Non-Fiction and Why is it the Next Big Thing in Your Writing Life?

    The pairing of the word “creative” with the word “nonfiction” makes some journalists wince, and with good reason. But “creative” doesn’t necessarily mean loose with the facts. It has more to do with how a piece of nonfiction is put together—with an innovative structure, maybe, or a searing attention to its own musicality, or some other unique effect that lifts the piece out of the routine and into the extraordinary. Together we’ll look at some striking examples from this broad genre, and do some creative experimenting of our own. Lecture/discussion/writing exercises. Appropriate for curious writers of any genre. Amy will accept fiction and non-fiction manuscripts. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.

    Amy Hassinger is the author of three novels: Nina: Adolescence, The Priest’s Madonna, and After the Dam. Her writing has been translated into five languages and has won awards from Creative Nonfiction, Publisher’s Weekly, and the Illinois Arts Council. Her nonfiction has appeared in numerous venues, including The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Writers’ Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches in the University of Nebraska’s MFA in Writing Program. You can find out more about her at www.amyhassinger.com.

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

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

    Barbara Barnett and Richard Davidson - The Path to Publishing Success

            

    Two of OCWW's most successful authors discuss their very different paths to success. 

    Barbara Barnett is author of Bram Stoker Award finalist The Apothecary's Curse (Pyr Books) and Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. (ECW Press). Apothecary's Curse recently won the Readers Choice Award for Fantasy/SF at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference. Her work is featured in Llewellyn International’s book Spiritual Pregnancy, and her short stories have appeared in anthologies from Riverdale Ave. Press and Media Bistro. She’s publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics Magazine where she writes on pop culture and politics. Barbara will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines. Find Barbara at BarbaraBarnett.com 

    Richard Davidson is the author of the self-help guidebook: DECISION TIME! Better Decisions for a Better Life. He has written the five-novel Lord’s Prayer Mystery Series: Lead Us Not into Temptation, Give Us this Day our Daily Bread, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Thy Will Be Done, and Deliver Us from Evil. He is the editor of an anthology, Overcoming: An Anthology by the Writers of OCWW. His latest four novels, Implications, Impulses, Impostor, and Impending form his new Imp Mysteries series, continuing to chronicle the exploits of characters introduced in the earlier series, along with affiliated newcomers.

    Mr. Davidson is Past President of Off-Campus Writers' Workshop, the oldest ongoing group of its kind in the U.S. and is the founder of the ReadWorthy Books Book Review Blog and the Independent Mystery Publishing Society (IMPS).

    9-9:30 AM registration and socializing

    9:30-12 PM program

    • April 19, 2018
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL
    Register
    Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Writing Complex Identities


    Each and every one of us possess complex identities, which include such elements as our age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, class, national, political orientation and much more. In this workshop, Mary Anne Mohanraj will help us explore complex identities through the lens of fiction and/or creative nonfiction. (All prose genres are welcome.) Participants will move through a set of writing exercises designed to help them expand the complexity of their characters, looking at aspects of diversity, the language we use for description, where characters come from, and authenticity.

    Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion (HarperCollins),The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and eleven other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages.  Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated science fiction magazine, Strange Horizons, and serves as editor-in-chief of Jaggery, a South Asian literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit (www.desilit.org) and The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org).  Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, with her husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog. She is currently working on a breast cancer memoir, a science fiction novel, and a collection of poetry. Visit www.maryannemohanraj.com  

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

    • 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. Tina will also 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. Manuscripts will be accepted for critique. Please see Manuscript Guidelines for details. 

    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

    Mary Robinette Kowal

    Help for Novel Writers on Structuring a Short Story Idea

    When people are struggling to write short fiction, the problem usually begins with the idea. It often leads to a story that is too long, really the beginning of a novel, or is so simplistic that it is dull. In this workshop, we'll walk through how to create and structure a short story idea.

    Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of historical fantasy novels: The Glamourist Histories series and Ghost Talkers. She has received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. Her stories appear in Asimov’sClarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. 

    She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and more than a dozen manual typewriters.

    Visit maryrobinettekowal.com

    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

    Rebecca Makkai

    We Need To Talk

    In real life, we’re polite, repetitive, and a lot of what we say is unnecessary filler. Which means that the more “realistic” our dialogue, the less it serves our fiction. How do we break our own learned conversational habits to craft dialogue that not only convinces but also moves the story forward and oozes subtext? In this craft class, we will look at examples from some of the masters of dialogue, and discuss what makes them work. We’ll also discuss craft details such as pacing, avoiding awkward speech tags, and maintaining longer speeches (monologues) – as well as the larger issue of giving each character a distinct and consistent voice. 

    Rebecca Makkai is the Chicago-based author of the story collection Music for Wartime, as well as the novels The Hundred-Year House (a BookPage “Best Book” of 2014 and winner of the Chicago Writers Association Award) and The Borrower (a Booklist Top Ten Debut). Her short fiction was featured in The Best American Short Stories anthology in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, and appears regularly in publications such as Harper’s, Tin House and Ploughshares, and on public radio’s This American Life and Selected Shorts. The recipient of a 2014 NEA Fellowship, Rebecca has taught at the Tin House Writers' Conference, Northwestern University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. 

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


Past events

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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