Upcoming events

    • March 30, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL

    Writing Action and Conflict 

    Action and conflict are two necessary ingredients that propel a story forward. While these two crucial aspects of a story are required for thrillers, both also combine to elevate every story, no matter the genre. Barry and International Thriller Writers award winning author, Jamie Freveletti  shares strategies for developing/deepening conflict and writing effective action scenes that move our stories forward.

    Jamie Freveletti is the internationally and #1 Amazon bestselling, International Thriller Writers and Barry award winning author of the Emma Caldridge series. In addition to her own novels, the Estate of Robert Ludlum tapped her to write for his Covert One series: The Janus Reprisal, released in 2012 and The Geneva Strategy, released in February, 2015. She is a former lawyer, avid distance runner and black belt in aikido, a Japanese martial art. She lives in Chicago with her family.

    Registration and Socializing 9:00AM-9:30PM 

    Program 9:30AM-12:00PM

    • April 06, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL

    Keeping The Pace 

    Every novel has a rhythm. Pacing is the speed at which a novel’s events occur and unfold. As you build your book, you must decide which events are given priority, and which can be condensed or cast away. Which moments must be thoroughly explained and explored, and which can be summarized? This is pacing, and it is the heartbeat of your novel. Together, we will explore pacing: how to slow scenes down and speed them up, how to cue your reader to run or walk through sections of your book, how to emphasize what’s important, how to transition quickly though the unimportant, and how to know the difference between the two. Lecture will include handouts, readings, and discussion.

    Frances de Pontes Peebles is the author of the novel, The Seamstress, (HarperCollins) translated into nine languages and winner of the Elle Grand Prix for Fiction, the Friends of American Writers Award, and the James Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award. Born in Pernambuco, Brazil, she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has received a Fulbright Grant, Brazil’s Sacatar Foundation Fellowship, and was a Teaching Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her short stories have appeared in O. Henry Prize Stories, Zoetrope: All-Story, Missouri Review, and Indiana Review. Her short story, The Serrambi Case, has been adapted into film, and her novel into an upcoming Brazilian series for television. Her second novel is forthcoming from Riverhead Books.

    Registration and Socializing 9:00AM-9:30AM

    Program 9:30AM-12:00PM

    • April 13, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL

    Identifying Your Writer’s Voice

    Your writerly voice is the signature mark that you leave behind in your work; a share of your soul, and perhaps what readers remember most. What makes a writer’s voice unique and how do you find yours? How is it shaped by the work you admire? Is it similar to or different than your spoken voice? Ellen Blum Barish, editor of Thread: A Literary Publication, will talk about the elements that define voice and offer exercises to help you identify - and optimize - yours. This session will be meaningful for nonfiction, creative nonfiction, memoir and fiction writers.

    Ellen Blum Barish is editor of Thread: A Literary Publication, author of a book of essays Views from the Home Office Window: On Motherhood, Family and Life, Adams Street Publishing, 2007) and her essays have appeared in a variety of literary publications. She has taught writing at Northwestern University, Ragdale and Story Studio Chicago and currently teaches personal narrative workshops and works privately with writers. For more about her background, workshop schedules and coaching, go to www.ellenblumbarish.com.

    Ellen will accept critiques of essays and memoirs. Please see manuscript guidelines for details. 

    Registration and Socializing 9:00AM-9:30AM

    Program 9:30AM-12:00 PM

    • April 20, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka IL

    Best of Both: Depth and Artistry with Plot

     Are you familiar with the hot topic of MFA vs NYC? It came out of an article that drew attention to the gap between the kind of literary writing that comes out of the MFA programs and the more plot-driven work that gets attention from agents in New York. Ellen T. McKnight, author, teacher and one of the most popular OCWW presenters last year, shows us how to have the best of both--literary artistry and powerful plot. ”My goal is to help writers make their literary novels more saleable and their plot-driven novels more significant and profound,” says Ellen. Topics in the first week will include plot for the non-plot driven novel, planning vs improvising, the propulsive power of scene, pace beyond plot, seamless backstory and interiors, the release of energy into action, and finding your hook. Both weeks will be relevant to all kinds of writing, whether more literary or more commercial.

    Ellen T. McKnight is a fiction writer and poet whose publications appear in literary journals and anthologies. Her novel, The Ex-Mom, made the Finalist Short List in the Faulkner Writing Competition as a novel-in-progress. She teaches writing workshops to independent writers' groups and hosts a blog about writing – Connecting through Story – at ellentmcknight.com. Her blog has been featured on She Writes. Follow her @EllenTMcKnight on Twitter. 

    Ellen will accept manuscripts for critique received by 9:30 AM April 13th. Please see manuscript guidelines for further information.

    Registration and Socializing: 9:00AM-9:30AM

     Program 9:30AM-12:00PM

    • April 27, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL

    Best of Both: Plot and Pace with Depth

    Ellen T. McKnight continues, with a discussion of how to add depth to commercial fiction by using literary techniques. Topics will include voice as a way into depth, the importance of emotional impact, the role of internal tension, telling details, movement with meaning, and finding your truth. Both weeks will be relevant to all kinds of writing, whether more literary or more commercial. Ellen plans to conclude with advice about how to translate what you've accomplished to agents when you pitch your book, as well as the importance of always returning to what inspires you to write in the first place.

    Ellen T. McKnight is a fiction writer and poet whose publications appear in literary journals and anthologies. Her novel, The Ex-Mom, made the Finalist Short List in the Faulkner Writing Competition as a novel-in-progress. She teaches writing workshops to independent writers' groups and hosts a blog about writing – Connecting through Story – at ellentmcknight.com. Her blog has been featured on She Writes. Follow her @EllenTMcKnight on Twitter.

    Ellen will accept up to four manuscripts for critique with a submission/payment deadline of April 20th at 9:30 AM. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.

    Registration and Socializing 9:00AM-9:30PM

    Program 9:30AM-12:00PM



    • May 04, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL

    Breaking Into the Literary Fiction Market

    The path to publication for unpublished writers of literary fiction can be different than for commercial fiction. Christine Sneed, one of Chicago’s foremost literary authors and creative writing lecturers, delivers an in-depth lecture on how to submit literary works to periodicals, how to find an agent, and how to approach an independent press.

    Christine Sneed is the author of the novels Paris, He Said and Little Known Facts, as well as the story collections Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry and The Virginity of Famous Men.

        She has been published in The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Stories, New Stories from the Midwest, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, New England Review, and a number of other periodicals. Her books have received AWP’s Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction, Ploughshares' Zacharis prize, the Society of Midland Authors Award, the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, Book of the Year from the Chicago Writers Association. 

        Sneed is the director of MA/MFA creative writing program at Northwestern University and she’s on the fiction faculty of the Regis University low-residency MFA program.

    *Christine will accept up to four manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details. 

    Registration and Socializing 9:00AM-9:30 PM

    Program 9:30AM-12:00PM

    • May 11, 2017
    • 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
    • Evanston Public Library 1703 Orrington Ave, Evanston

    Using Mystery Tools for Any Story

    The mystery genre is vast and varied, but mystery authors do rely on a few specialized tools to tell suspenseful, well-plotted stories. Lori Rader Day, a multiple-award-winning mystery writer, reveals those tools in a talk about character, setting, plot, suspense, conflict, story structure and more as seen through the lens of solving a mystery—information that can add energy, intrigue, and reader satisfaction to any story.

    Lori Rader-Day is the author of The Black Hour, which won the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Lovey Award for Best First Novel, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion for Best First Novel/Mystery & Thriller, and the Illinois Woman's Press Association Mate E. Palmer Award for Fiction. It was a finalist in four other awards competitions. Her second novel, Little Pretty Things, won the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and is nominated for the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter.

    Lori Rader Day will critique manuscripts. Please see manuscript guidelines. 

    Special Evening Event:

    Registration 6:00pm-6:30pm

    Program 6:30pm-8:30pm

    Evanston Public Library

    1703 Orrington Ave, Evanston

    (corner of Church and Orrington)

    • May 18, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL

    Setting & Description

    How does the setting of a story influence the plot, characterization, and tension?  Award winning author Abby Geni will provide guidance on creating vivid worlds within your writing: how to craft strong descriptions, how to find the right balance between too little and too much imagery, and how to make sure that your prose has vibrancy and physicality.  Includes handouts and exercises.

    Abby Geni is the author of The Lightkeepers, winner of the 2016 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction, and the inaugural Chicago Review of Books Award for Best Fiction, and a Chicago Magazine 2016 Breakout Novel, and The Last Animal (2013), a finalist for the Orion Book Award and a winner of the Friends of American Writers Literary Award. Her 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.

    Abby will accept manuscripts. Please see manuscript guidelines. 

    Registration and Socializing 9:00AM-9:30PM

    Program 9:30AM-12:00PM


    • May 25, 2017
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL

    Making a Scene

    Scenes are the building blocks of fiction—and yet while an education in playwriting pays tremendous attention to the architecture of scene, fiction workshops tend to overlook it. We’ll take a playwright’s approach to fiction by learning how to build scenes with a solid arc, scenes that advance every element of the story, scenes that matter. Appropriate for writers working on short stories, novels and scene-driven creative non-fiction.

    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.

    Registration and Socializing 9:00AM-9:30PM

    Program 9:30AM-12:00PM

Past events

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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