March 2019 Newsletter

March 24, 2019 10:04 PM | Anonymous

Letter From The President

February brought us the weather in the forties for which we’ve been praying. It felt spring-like following the Polar Vortex deep freeze that lingered into the first day of the new month. Come February 7, the heralded return of Rebecca Makkai brought us an infusion of instructional warmth. Her presentation entitled ”We Need to Talk, provided a delightful insight into how to craft realistic written dialogue. She showed us how and where to use dialogue tags for clarifying from whom the conversation is coming and how to give each character a distinct and consistent dialogue voice. The Q & A was lively.

February 14 brought us a newcomer, John S. Green, a short story writer, playwright, actor, and teacher, who won Chicago’s Jeff and After Dark awards for his play “The Liquid Moon,” which also earned him a Pulitzer nomination. John’s OCWW presentation “Book Readings That Sell Your Book,” was informative, entertaining, and generated lots of interactivity. His tips on presentation methods for readings opened up discussion and readings by attendees from their work, which invited presentation method critique. In all, the audience walked away feeling an improved ability to face their book readings with greater verve and confidence.

Jay Bonansinga returned to visit with us by popular request on February 21. Many of our members know him well as the New York Times bestselling author of The Walking Dead novels and cable TV series, as a Bram Stoker finalist, designated by the Chicago Tribune as “one of the most imaginative writers of thrillers.” Jay’s topic, “Storytelling Fundamentals for the Digital Era,” opened the eyes of our attendees to a fun, informative, rousing session on the evolution of storytelling techniques. As is typical of Jay’s presentations, it was an engaging, provoking lecture.

Our workshop month closed on February 28, with Rachel Swearingen on the subject of “The Magic and Mechanics of Imagery.” Rachel walked us through how images, when constructed well within a story, can be shaped in a manner to make the story unforgettable and mysterious. She explored the mechanics behind the magic, how to use images to structure narrative in a manner that allows a transition in time and space, and how to modulate setting, pace, and voice. Rachel incorporated several image-driven stories as examples, and attendees undertook prompts to craft writing exercises exploring the use of imagery. The session proved stimulating and invited spirited Q & A dialogue.

March promises a continuing flow of writing nuggets starting March 7, with Mary Robinette Kowal on the subject of: “Concepting the Modern Short Story.” She is followed on March 14 by Kelly McNees on the topic of “Create Conflicts that Propel Your Plot.”  If you are searching for or want to know how to search for and find an agent, don’t miss Abby Saul and Tina Schwartz who will speak March 21, on “The Agent Challenge.” The month will wrap up March 28 with Eric Rampson presenting “An Arc of Arcs or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Story Structure.”

 I look forward to seeing you in attendance often throughout March. Don’t miss the opportunity to glean precious writing insights from each of our presenters.

My best to you all,




As an outcropping of our OCWW Collaborative Novel project, a new OCWW Critique Group has been formed. A group of five who joined together to critique each other's collaborative chapters for the OCWW novel found the effort to be so successful they decided to form an ongoing OCWW Critique Group consisting of Adrianne Hayward, Judy Panko Reis, Emmet Hirsch, Michael Farley, and Fred Fitzsimmons. Meeting details are still being worked out; however, preliminary plans call for the group to meet on Monday evenings, likely twice a month. After the group settles in, there could possibly be an opening for one additional person to join. Meetings will principally be held at the home of Judy Panko Reis, and also other venues dependent on circumstances and attendee availability. The group heartily recommends others in the collaborative novel-writing critique groups to consider doing the same.

Accepting Applications

The 606 Critique Group, which meets twice monthly in Chicago, will accept applications for membership. If you are interested, please submit a writing sample no longer than 15 double spaced pages to



OCWW Secretary Tom Benz is interviewed in the Indie Reader online about his latest book, Home and Castle. In the interview he says, “Life tends to be messy. . . .To me, fiction affords the opportunity to concentrate the world into something more vivid, interesting and meaningful.” For the complete interview, see the Indie Reader.


Member Michael Austin has published a story, The Ways Ice Can Freeze, in The Madison Review, which is available online. Here’s what he has to say about it:

It's a story about a relationship. I started it "in media res," as Jay Bonansinga suggested the other day, and then I filled in the couples' relevant history later in the story. I would never be so bold as to present my writing as an example of how to do things right . . . but this story just happens to follow some of the advice that Jay gave . . . so I guess it would be one example of how to present a story structurally.

It starts on page 52, which for some reason is page 58 on the slider bar at the bottom.

The Madison Review: Fall 2018

Opportunity for Authors

Berwyn (IL) Public Library offers an opportunity for local authors. While its collection development procedures mean it typically can’t purchase books for its collection without consulting professional reviews, they also know that many wonderful traditionally published and self-published books never get the reviews— but they want to give their patrons a chance to read them.

 The Berwyn Public Library Local and Self-Published Collection highlights local creators and works of local interest, and allow self-published creators an opportunity to showcase their work and reach a wider audience. The collection is donation-based and curated using different standards than the main collection.

Only physical, bound print items will be accepted into the collection. All items must be professionally bound and printed (no spiral-bound, hand-written, etc.). Fiction, non-fiction, and children’s items will be accepted. See more at

For more information, contact Hannah Rapp,


Some of these contest may charge a fee for submissions

This one brough by Tom Sundell

2nd Art-Inspired Story Writing Contest

A short story inspired by a work of art in the Crow Woods art books. New this year, the writing can be a short story, or a script for a play. Submissions will be categorized into figurative, landscape/still life, surreal, abstract, and 3D. Please choose the artwork of a living artist, so his/her permission can be obtained in event of your piece being published. An entrant may use a featured artist's recent work not published in the 3 art books, provided that approval is obtained from both the artist and the contest.

Results Announced - May 31, 2019


The decisions of the judge are entirely his own. Winners will be considered for the publication of Visions of Life 2.

Winning short stories will receive a short paragraph from the judge.

Sign Up At

The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, Illinois is looking for your best short story. This call for submissions is for the Foundation's HEMINGWAY SHORTS CONTEST. 

Ten (10) finalists along with one grand prize winner ($500 monetary award)will be chosen, and with the authors' agreement, will be published in our 4th edition of the literary journal HEMINGWAY SHORTS. We will announce the grand prize winner's name and recognized all ten (10) finalists at our Annual Foundation Benefit event. 


Applicants must submit their work through Submittable only.
The submission fee is a non-refundable $15.00.
Applicants are required to provide
(a) the title of their submission,
(b) author’s name,
(c) street address;
(d) phone number and (e) email on their submission text.

Submissions must be:

  • Double-spaced using the Times Roman font at 12pt in doc or docx formats only.
  • The story should be no longer than 1,500 words in English only.

Short stories only. No plays, No poems. One submission per entrant. (Please send what you believe to be your best work.) Previously submitted or previously published material is not permitted. Simultaneously submitted work is allowed, but if the work is accepted for another contest or publication, it is the entrant's responsibility to alert the Hemingway Foundation.  

The deadline for submissions is April 2, 2019 (no exceptions) 

Failure to adhere to these guidelines will mean disqualification. 

For more information or to submit go to:

The Aeon Award 2018

The Aeon Award is a prestigious fiction writing competition for short stories in any speculative fiction genre, i.e. fantasyscience fictionhorror or anything in-between or unclassifiable. The Aeon Award short fiction contest has been running since 2004 and has a Grand Prize of €1000 and publication in Albedo One! Second and third place contest prizes are €200 and €100 as well as guaranteed publication in Albedo One, the leading Irish magazine of science fiction, fantasy and horror. The contest opens January 1st and ends on November 30th.

Entering the Contest is Simple!

(1) Make sure to read the contest conditions and guidelines here, but in shortIf your story is science fiction, fantasy or horror, is less than 10,000 words in length and has not been previously published, simply paste it into the body of an email with your contact details and send it to with “Aeon Award Submission” as the Subject of the email.

(2) Pay the €8.50 entry fee, which we have kept as low as is feasible, by simply clicking on this link, which brings you to a page where you can add the fee to your shopping cart and start the payment process (this page also has full instructions for paying the fee). We use PayPal to allow you to quickly and securely pay the fee using your credit or debit cards. Try it, it’s easier than you think!

We understand that rules in fiction contests and writing competitions can be confusing, so we’ve created a Frequently Asked Questions page for the Aeon Award Contest. We also welcome queries and questions, no matter how small, by email, to Frank Ludlow, at


The sixth annual Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp & Writing Retreat residential programs will be held May 19-25, 2019, once again at the lovely Cedar Valley Center in southeast Wisconsin. It’s time to fulfill that commitment and take your work-in-progress to the next level.

The NIP Bookcamp workshop accepts writers in any fiction genre as well as memoir or other creative non-fiction. The Writing Retreat is open to any writer looking for six days to focus on their writing.The NIP staff works with writers at any stage of the creative process.

Here’s what’s going on for the next Bookcamp workshop and the Writing Retreat:

Guest Speakers Ready for 2019 NIP

Another great cast of characters is scheduled for the next Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp & Writing Retreat, May 19-25, 2019, two concurrent residential programs for writers.

Joining our core instructional staff, SJ RozanLisa Lickel, and Phil Martin, we’ve got an exceptional list of guest speakers lined up.

Literary Agents Return

Returning are friends Jennie Goloboy, literary agent with the Donald Maass literary Agency, and Laura Zats, literary agent with Red Sofa Literary. They will be leading workshop presentations, joining our annual state of the publishing industry panel discussion, providing insight at our Thursday night Slush Pile Read, and hearing pitches Friday afternoon.

Publishing House Editor

Joining Jennie and Laura will be Terri Bischoff, former acquiring editor at Midnight Ink Publishing, which specializes in mysteries and thrillers. Terri enjoyed her first stay with us last May so much she was eager to join us again in 2019.

Registration info

Check out the NIP website,, for application instructions and prices. Or contact Director Dave Rank,, 262-717-5154. Early registrants can take advantage of our installment payment plan.

"We thank the Chicago Writers Association,, and the Off Campus Writer's Workshop, for their support and encouragement of the NIP. Members of those organizations receive a discount to enroll in either the Bookcamp or Writing Retreat," NIP Director Dave Rank said.

Cedar Valley Center is a tranquil, 100-acre rural retreat in southeastern Wisconsin, about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, and less than a three-hour drive north of Chicago.

The Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp & Writing Retreat, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

© 2014, Off Campus Writers' Workshop.
620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL 60093

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