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. Due to the COVID-19 crisis we are using remote learning through Zoom. We will resume live sessions at the Winnetka Community House when it becomes safe to do so, but will continue to use Zoom for those who cannot attend in person. Join our mailing list for the latest updates. 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 $40 per year. While you do not need to be a member to attend season programs, OCWW membership offers outstanding privileges. 

Not ready to become a member? Subscribe to receive emails about OCWW events.

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

    • June 17, 2021
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM (CDT)
    • Virtual Only

    OCWW board member Peter Hoppock will lead a discussion of the acclaimed 1966 short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. 

    Join Peter and fellow OCWW members for an investigation into how Oates has crafted this compelling story. Peter hopes to fuel an interactive discussion that will spark writers to get to their keyboards and write!

    Says Peter: “Joyce Carol Oates is one of our most admired and prolific writers, and she is particularly effective at depicting violence and evil in modern society. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” was conceived after Oates read a Life Magazine article about a series of murders of young girls in Tucson, Arizona.  She kept wondering about the victims—in particular, how a girl could be taken in by a predator who was so visible, so direct and so obvious. The murders percolated in her mind for a while until, after listening to Bob Dylan’s song: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” a story came to her in a torrent—but with 

    a cold, objective, and unsentimental tone. She purposely avoided the sensationalism and melodrama of the reporting that had surrounded the killings.” 

    We will focus on the discipline Oates exercised, how she built tension, how she moved from exterior to interior, the voice she established to help her get the reader into the mind of a teenage girl.

    Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is a story that seduces us into believing we might not be going a dark place, while at the same time making the outcome seem inevitable. We know what’s going to happen. We know the ending. What is Joyce Carol Oates doing that compels us to keep reading? 

    Accompanying your registration confirmation will be a pdf copy of the story for you to read and prepare for the discussion. Read it once for fun. Read a second time to study the narrative structure, the voice, the diction, and Oates’ writing style. Read it a third time to see if you can figure out the secret to the power of this compelling work of fiction. 

    As the date for our session approaches, OCWW will send out reminders with some questions and discussion starters if you haven’t already conjured up some of your own. The Zoom information will arrive the day before the session.

    • July 15, 2021
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM (CDT)
    • Virtual Only

    Beth DeSchryver will lead a discussion of “Lamb to the Slaughter,” by Roald Dahl.  

    No, this is not about facing a room full of editors.  

    Most of us know Roald Dahl as a children’s writer---Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryJames and the Giant Peach---which demonstrate his somewhat twisted imagination.  But it was his short stories that established his reputation.  Dahl published “Lamb to the Slaughter” as part of his 1953 award-winning collection, Someone Like You. The story was made into an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, one of the few directed by Hitchcock himself.  

    Says Beth:  “I first read this story in high school, and it has stuck with me ever since. This is not beautiful writing, or poetic, or interlaced with sophisticated metaphors. But it’s effective. I want to figure out why. Was I just an impressionable teenager?  What interests me are his choices---what he includes, but in particular what he chooses to exclude, thereby creating a surreal mood reflecting the state of mind of the main character. I want us to dive into those choices, analyze their impact as writers, and reflect on what that kind of control could do for our own work.  

    Dahl’s work has been called macabre, controversial, racist, misogynistic, and other dark adjectives.  But it has definitely endured.  I thought we could pull up a chair, dig in, and find out why.”  

    Beth DeSchryver is a long-time member of OCWW.  Her latest story, “Nameless Child,” is included in the OCWW Turning Points Anthology.

    Accompanying your registration confirmation will be a pdf copy of the story and sample questions for you to read and prepare for the discussion. 

    As the date for our session approaches, OCWW will send out reminders, possibly with additional information about the story. The Zoom information will arrive the day before the session.

    • August 12, 2021
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM (CDT)
    • Virtual Only

    Sarah Orne Jewett used writing skills, or was it magic when she wrote, “A White Heron.”  In 1886, her caldron was seven pages.  She put in a hop toad, a cow, birds, trees, a girl of nine years, a gun, a grandmother, a young man, a promise of money.  She created a timeless, poignant, relevant classic. 

          Have fun improving your writing skills. You will learn from your own, then from your classmates’ endeavors. Can you improve by editing or rewriting part or all of what and how Sarah wrote? 

         Please bring your edits to the zoom ‪guided by Tom Tepper.  

         After you register, you will receive links to free written and audio copies of the story in your registration confirmation email. The zoom link will be sent the day prior to the event.

Past events

June 03, 2021 Elizabeth Wetmore: Setting and Place
May 27, 2021 Rebecca Makkai - You Talkin’ to Me? The 'Ear' of the Story
May 20, 2021 Jennifer Solheim - Getting from Abstract to Concrete in Fiction (or, How to Make the Political Personal)
May 13, 2021 Zachary Martin - The Paths to Publication
May 06, 2021 Caitlin Horrocks: Confessions! With Christina Baker Kline in 2nd Half Q/A
April 29, 2021 Dean Bakopoulos - The Reason Life is So Strange: Some Thoughts on Options
April 22, 2021 Vu Tran: From Premise to Promise
April 15, 2021 Natalie Bakopoulos - The I Who Writes and the I on the Page: Strategies in First-Person Narration
April 08, 2021 Esther Hershenhorn - The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same! Writing and Publishing Children’s Books Today
April 01, 2021 Kathleen Rooney - A Flash in the Pan: Getting Started on Short-Short Fiction and Nonfiction
March 25, 2021 Rachel Swearingen - Move Me: Strategies for Getting Unstuck and Energizing Your Prose
March 11, 2021 Ian Belknap: Freshening Language
March 04, 2021 Kimmery Martin: Building a Writer’s Platform
February 25, 2021 John McCarthy - Mess Up Your Sentences (Correctly): Writing Imaginative, Emotive, and Engaging Syntax
February 18, 2021 Nadine Kenney Johnstone: Mining Your Memories
February 11, 2021 Chen Chen: Elegy in a Time of Pandemic
February 04, 2021 Agent-Editor Panel: Publishing from Both Sides
January 28, 2021 Mary Ruth Clarke - Back by Popular Demand: The Compelling Scene Contest
January 21, 2021 Patricia McNair: Ordinary Moments, Extraordinary Content
January 14, 2021 Libby Fischer Hellman: Building Suspense
January 07, 2021 Matthew Bird - Believe, Care, Invest
December 17, 2020 Ignatius Valentine Aloysius - Digging Deep into Revision
December 10, 2020 Abby Geni- The Balance of Show and Tell
December 03, 2020 Brian Turner - Writing the Impossible: Navigating Love & Loss in Language
November 19, 2020 Jane Huffman: Poetry for Prose Writers
November 12, 2020 Charles Baxter: Wonderlands in Fiction
November 05, 2020 Keetje Kuipers - Outsiders Writing the Outside
October 29, 2020 Goldie Goldbloom - Conveying Emotion and Mood: The Music and Rhythm Of Sentences
October 22, 2020 Megan Stielstra - Sprung from Necessity: On Urgency and the Personal Essay
October 15, 2020 Joseph Scapellato - When What They Want Is Not Enough: Alternative Approaches to Character
October 08, 2020 Christina Clancy: Creating Characters Who Step Off the Page
October 01, 2020 Marcelo Hernandez Castillo - Poetry of Abundance: Exploring the Contemporary Long Poem
September 24, 2020 Fred Shafer - The Experiments the Reader Doesn’t See ( Session 4)
September 24, 2020 Fred Shafer - The Experiments the Reader Doesn’t See (4 Pack)
September 17, 2020 Fred Shafer - The Experiments the Reader Doesn’t See ( Session 3)
September 10, 2020 Fred Shafer - The Experiments the Reader Doesn’t See ( Session 2)
September 03, 2020 Fred Shafer - The Experiments the Reader Doesn’t See ( Session 1)
August 20, 2020 OCWW's Summer Series Program
May 28, 2020 Abby Geni - First Chapter-Remote Session
May 21, 2020 Amy Hassinger - Voice: The Solo Symphony- Remote Session
May 14, 2020 Just Added: Ellen Bass - From Detail to Discovery
May 07, 2020 Joanna Mackenzie/Marcy Posner - Finding Your Agent 101- Remote Session
April 30, 2020 Jane Hertenstein - The Memoir/Fiction Hybrid: Writing that Doesn’t Fit a Category- Remote Session
April 23, 2020 Brian Turner: 10 Tools from the Writer's Rucksack
April 16, 2020 Jennifer Solheim - Sounds and Silences Remote Session
April 02, 2020 Ben Hoffman - Strangeness and Originality -Special Remote Evening Session
March 26, 2020 Mark Belden-Writing From Abundance Remote Session
March 19, 2020 Abby Saul - What You Should Know About Genre and Comparative Titles( Remote Session)
March 12, 2020 Frances de Pontes Peebles - The 23rd Draft: The Art and Logic of Revision
March 05, 2020 Ines Bellina - Social Media for Your Writing Life
February 27, 2020 Rachel Jamison Webster - The Inner Argument
February 20, 2020 John McCarthy - Transcending the Narrative: reimagining how we write emotions in poetry and prose
February 13, 2020 Kate Hannigan - Tapping Your Inner Ten-Year-Old: Writing Fiction and Nonfiction for Young Readers
February 06, 2020 Sophie Lucido Johnson - It's Kind of Funny, Actually: The Basics of Humor Writing
January 30, 2020 Mary Ruth Clarke - The Scene's The Thing: Compelling Scene Workshop and Contest
January 23, 2020 Stuart Dybek- Poetry for Fiction Writers: What Fiction Writers Can Learn from Poems
January 16, 2020 Eric Rampson - Give as Good as You Get: The Workshop Workshop
January 09, 2020 Eileen Favorite - Writing the Novel Synopsis
January 02, 2020 Goldie Goldbloom - The Poetics of Place: Making Landscape Essential to Fiction (rather than a boring digression)
December 19, 2019 Rebecca Makkai - Researching Into the Void
December 12, 2019 David Berner - Don’t Think; Just Write: How to Stop Overanalyzing and Simply Tell a Good Story
December 05, 2019 Patricia McNair - In Love and Kissing in the Dark: A Short Story Workshop
November 21, 2019 Nadine Kenney Johnstone - Write Your Truth
November 14, 2019 Will Boast - Play It Another Way: Experimenting with Tone
November 07, 2019 Zoe Zolbrod - Deeper than the Sum of its Parts -SPECIAL OFF-SITE EVENING SESSION
October 31, 2019 Sara Connell - Every Story is a Ghost Story
October 24, 2019 Vu Tran - What's In a Character
October 17, 2019 Randy Nichols - Find Yourself on the Write Side of the Law
October 10, 2019 Jac Jemc - The Unifying Power of Motif
October 03, 2019 Joe Scapellatto - Prose Poetics: Letting Your Sentences Sing
September 26, 2019 Fred Shafer - The Two Plots - Session 4
September 19, 2019 Fred Shafer - The Two Plots - Session 3
September 12, 2019 Fred Shafer - The Two Plots - Session 2
September 05, 2019 Fred Shafer - The Two Plots - 4 PACK
September 05, 2019 Fred Shafer - The Two Plots - Session 1
May 30, 2019 Abby Geni- Writing a Literary Thriller
May 23, 2019 Matthew Bird- Crafting Compelling Scenes and Meaningful Themes
May 16, 2019 Emily Clark Victorson, Andrea Hall, and Anna Michels- Meet the Editors
May 09, 2019 Michelle Fallkoff-Dialogue Tips for Young Adult and Adult Fiction
May 02, 2019 Sharon Darrow-Emotion and Revision: Finding the "Emotional Core" of Character in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
April 25, 2019 Jennifer Solheim-Want to Improve your Writing? Rx: Read Like a Writer
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 #1
September 06, 2018 Fred Shafer-The Music of Sentences 4 Pack 2018-2019 Members Only
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
September 07, 2017 Fred Shafer - Showing vs Telling Revisited Member 4 Pack
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

OCWW Anthology

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620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL 60093

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