COMING UP NEXT:

The FRED SHAFER SESSIONS

4 seminars dedicated to -
The Paragraph in Fiction Writing


~ Since 1946 ~

Upcoming events

    • September 08, 2022
    • September 29, 2022
    • 4 sessions
    • REMOTE

    DO NOT REGISTER FOR THIS 4-PACK IF YOU PREFER INDIVIDUAL SESSIONS

    An important unit in fiction writing that is often overlooked and taken for granted is the paragraph. When readers notice the paragraphing in a short story or novel, they may feel that it represents casual choices, quick touches of the return key made while the writer was dealing with other issues. Most fiction writers, however, regard the paragraph as a key source of form, movement, depth, and discovery, and they organize their days around building and shaping paragraphs.  

    Fred Shafer will discuss the possibilities that are open to the writer who pays close attention to paragraphs. Since there are few, if any, guidelines or rules for paragraphing in fiction, he plans to cover a number of strategies that are different from those followed in expository writing. Using examples from contemporary short stories and novels, he’ll look at various writers’ preferences as to the length and structure of paragraphs, depending on their sense of the pace, tone, and identity of their work. He’ll show methods of arranging sentences to carry out the purposes of paragraphs, as well as the changes in strategy that may become necessary in any story or chapter, even after a writer feels that she has settled on a plan for paragraphing.

    Fred Shafer was an editor with TriQuarterly, the literary journal published by Northwestern University, where he taught fiction writing in the School of Professional Studies for many years. He leads three private workshops in short story and novel writing.

    Fred will accept one submission of up to 20 pages per person for critique, and will return critiqued manuscripts on a variable schedule so he can read as many as possible. Please see Manuscripts at ocww.info for complete details.


    • September 29, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
    Register

    An important unit in fiction writing that is often overlooked and taken for granted is the paragraph. When readers notice the paragraphing in a short story or novel, they may feel that it represents casual choices, quick touches of the return key made while the writer was dealing with other issues. Most fiction writers, however, regard the paragraph as a key source of form, movement, depth, and discovery, and they organize their days around building and shaping paragraphs.  

    Fred Shafer will discuss the possibilities that are open to the writer who pays close attention to her paragraphs. Since there are few, if any, guidelines or rules for paragraphing in fiction, he plans to cover a number of strategies that are different from those followed in expository writing. Using examples from contemporary short stories and novels, he’ll look at various writers’ preferences as to the length and structure of paragraphs, depending on their sense of the pace, tone, and identity of their work. He’ll show methods of arranging sentences to carry out the purposes of paragraphs, as well as the changes in strategy that may become necessary in any story or chapter, even after a writer feels that she has settled on a plan for paragraphing.

    Fred Shafer was an editor with TriQuarterly, the literary journal published by Northwestern University, where he taught fiction writing in the School of Professional Studies for many years. He leads three private workshops in short story and novel writing.

    Fred will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see the Manuscript drop down on our website at ocww.info for details.       

    • October 06, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
    Register

    The great advantage of prose (over theater, film, and life) is that we’re privy to characters’ interior states. But how can a writer get thoughts and emotions across, other than by stating them flat-out or by updating us constantly on breathing and heart rate?

    We’ll explore ways to use tangent, gesture, backstory, action, association, and more to give characters a rich internal life without resorting to the old cardiopulmonary check-in. 

    Rebecca Makkai’s last novel, The Great Believers, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; it was the winner of the ALA Carnegie Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, the Clark Prize, and the LA Times Book Prize; and it was one of the New York Times Ten Best Books of 2018. Her other books are the novels The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, and the collection Music for Wartime—four stories from which appeared in The Best American Short Stories. A 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, Rebecca is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada University and Northwestern University, and is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago. Her new novel, I Have Some Questions For You, is forthcoming in 2023.

    • October 13, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    For better or for worse, movies affect the way we read and write fiction. As writers—whether we approach our work with a cinematographer’s eye and a screenwriter’s heart or we rarely watch movies and have no desire to see our work adapted for the screen—the language of cinema has already spent over a century seeping into the ways we tell stories on the page. And while a lot can be said about how it has degraded the art of fiction, we should also consider how it has enhanced and expanded the art. What cinematic impulses do we knowingly and unknowingly bring to our work, and how might we learn from and take advantage of those impulses, the bad as well as the good ones? In this talk, we’ll discuss these questions as we also ask the most important one of all: What can literature do that cinema cannot? 

    Vu Tran's first novel, Dragonfish, was a New York Times Notable Book and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of the Year. His writing has also appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, the Best American Mystery Stories, Ploughshares, and Virginia Quarterly. He is the winner of a Whiting Award and an NEA Fellowship, and has also been a fellow at Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Yaddo, and MacDowell. Born in Vietnam and raised in Oklahoma, Vu received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his PhD from the Black Mountain Institute in Las Vegas. He teaches at the University of Chicago, where he is an Associate Professor of Practice in English and Creative Writing.


    • October 20, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    Matt Bird returns to share new tips from his book The Secrets of Character, covering things he didn’t cover in his last appearance.  Learn more tricks to get your reader to believe in the reality of your hero, care about the circumstances of your hero and invest their hopes in your hero to succeed, all in the first ten pages. 

    Matt Bird lives in Evanston with his wife (the author Betsy Bird) and two adorable children.  He is the author of the bestselling writing guide The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers, and the brand-new The Secrets of Character: Writing a Hero Anyone Will Love

    • October 27, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    Why do certain moments in fiction stick with us for years while others we almost forget the moment we finish reading the sentence? It's a question that has preoccupied Orner for his entire writing life and in this talk Orner will discuss what has stayed with him from works by William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, Henry Green, Juan Rulfo, Saul Bellow, Penelope Fitzgerald, John Edgar Wideman, Bette Howland, and others to explore how such indelible moments are created -- and why they seem to stick. Of course, this is personal to the reader but one thing Orner has noticed over the years is that, for him, indelible moments aren't always ones that have a great deal of action -- sometimes it is fiction's quiet detonations that have the most lasting and memorable impact. 

    Chicago-born Peter Orner is the author of Still No Word From You: Notes in the Margin, coming out in October 2022, plus two novels published by Little, Brown: The Second Coming Of Mavala Shikongo, 2006 and Love And Shame And Love (2010), and three story collections also published by Little, Brown: Esther Stories (2001, 2013 with a foreword by Marilynne Robinson) Last Car Over The Sagamore Bridge (2013), and Maggie Brown & Others (2019). Peter’s essay collection/ memoir, Am I Alone Here?: Notes On Reading To Live And Living To Read(Catapult, 2016) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Peter is also the editor of three non-fiction books/oral histories for the Voice of Witness Series: Underground America: Narratives Of Undocumented Lives (VOW/ McSweeney's, 2008), Hope Deferred: Narratives Of Zimbabwean Lives (VOW/ McSweeney's, 2011) (co-edited with Annie Holmes), and Lavil: Live, Love And Death In Port-Au-Prince (VOW/ Verso Press, 2017) (co-edited with Evan Lyon). 

    Peter's fiction and non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times, the Atlantic MonthlyGrantaThe Paris ReviewThe New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Southern Review, Ploughshares and many other publications. Stories have been anthologized in Best American Stories and three times received a Pushcart Prize. Peter has been awarded the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as a California Book Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Writing, The Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and has been a finalist for the Pen/ Hemingway Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. In 2017-2018, Peter was a Fulbright U.S. Scholar in Namibia where he taught at the University of Namibia. 

    Peter directs the Creative Writing Program at Dartmouth College, and lives with his family in Norwich, Vermont where he's also a member of the volunteer fire department. 

    • November 03, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    Is your book on Amazon not selling?  Your Amazon book page may be the cause.  More and more Amazon book page conversion is a big issue, and it can also impact your Amazon relevancy score. What’s a “relevancy score”? This class will unpack that as well!

    It’s one thing to have your book up on Amazon, it’s quite another to have a book page that actually sells your book. This session will go over tips and insider information on turning your Amazon book page into a sales machine!

    We’ll discuss: 

    • Your book description: how to make it your #1 sales tool·   
    • Understanding how Amazon “scans” your page for relevancy
    •  Understanding your Amazon relevancy score
    • Running Amazon ads that aren’t converting? We’ll dig into that too and offer some quick remedies to help increase your ad conversio     
    • Your book’s tagline: how this helps to sell more books
    • How to get more real estate on your Amazon book page Using video on your Amazon book page – yes, you can!
    • Using Author Central to enhance your Amazon Book Page in super creative ways!      
    • Creative ways to add Amazon keywords to your Amazon book page for better page visibility
    • Amazon “Also Boughts” – why they matter to your page visibility·      . . . and much more!
    Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine. 

    Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon visibility campaigns as well offering national media pitching, online book marketing, author events, and other strategies designed to build the author/book visibility.

    She is the author of 18 books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on AmazonRevise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors, and the newly released From Book to Bestseller.

    AME has had dozens of books on top bestseller lists, including those of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal. 

    Click here to learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services

    • November 10, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    Writers want their readers to read their work. Readers want to be captivated from the opening sentences. What specific ways of portraying a protagonist make these twin goals possible? 

    Love seems obvious. Love the character, read the book. But pity? Characters as diverse as Olive Kitteridge, Ma (in Room), Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter, Lennie Small, Frodo Baggins, Jane Eyre, and Katniss Everdeen are all initially presented as pitiable. Why are we drawn to underdog characters? How can we write them realistically and compassionately? 

    Goldie Goldbloom is an Australian writer living in Chicago with her eight children. Her latest novel is On Division, which was launched on September 17, 2019 from Farrar Straus and Giroux. Her fifth book, Marguerite and Eleanor, is forthcoming in 2022, also with Farrar Straus and Giroux. Her fiction and nonfiction have received many prizes and awards, including from the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Chicago, the Brown Foundation, Best Australian Short Stories, Le Monde and others. You can find her writing in many fine journals, including Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner and at NPR and Le Monde. Goldie teaches at the University of Chicago and in Northwestern University's MFA program for writers.


    • November 17, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    Join Chicago children's author Kate Hannigan as she talks about understanding the middle-grade genre, how to get started on your project, and how to finish your novel for young readers. We'll put pencil to paper and try out different writing styles and voices.

    Chicago author Kate Hannigan writes fiction and nonfiction for young readers. Her latest middle-grade novels are the three-book historical fantasy series Cape, Mask, and Boots (Simon & Schuster) that weave superheroes with real-life heroes from WWII. Her historical mystery The Detective's Assistant (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) features the Pinkerton Detective Agency and America's first woman detective. It won the Golden Kite Award and was optioned for film. Visit her online at KateHannigan.com

    Kate will accept manuscripts for critique at $3/page.  Please see the Manuscript drop down on our website at ocww.info for details.  

    • December 01, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    We cobble together our manuscripts all by ourselves, one sentence and scene at a time. In the process of creating characters and establishing setting, we can sometimes forget the most basic truth: that we are telling a story. How do you grab a reader's attention and hold it through the messy middle and all the way to the gratifying end? In this session, we'll talk about planting seeds, raising narrative stakes, and maintaining focus on what matters most as you revise. The goal? To sweep up your readers in the fever dream you've created, and leave them feeling transported. 

    Christina Clancy's debut novel, The Second Home, was released June 2 by St. Martin's Press. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, in The Sun Magazine, and elsewhere. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Her second novel, Shoulder Season, was published summer 2021. 



    • December 08, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    In this generative workshop, we’ll focus on the twin engines that move a poem—the sentence and the line. In revision, we’ll consider how we might step back from our own intentions so that we might learn more from the poem itself—and in this way discover ‘doorways’ that open new passageways into the poem. This workshop will cover a lot of ground (pacing, erasure, silence, visual poetry, and more) while remaining focused on the possibilities available to us within the sentence and the poetic line. Brian will share handouts detailing these concepts and featuring poems from contemporaries like Diane Seuss, Ocean Vuong, Ilya Kaminsky, Tim Seibles, and more—as well as global voices that (he hopes) might become some of your new favorite poets. 

    Brian Turner is the author of a memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country, and two collections of poetry, Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise. Three new collections of poetry will be published by Alice James Books in 2023. He’s the editor of The Kiss and co-edited The Strangest of Theatres. He’s published work in The New York Times, The Guardian, National Geographic, Harper’s, and other fine journals. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, and he’s received a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, an NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, a US-Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship, the Poets’ Prize, and a Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in Orlando, Florida.

    Brian will be accepting poems up to 3 pages for our OCWW Poetry Contest. Please see the manuscript drop down on our OCWW website at ocww.info for details.

    • December 15, 2022
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    Single-scene stories, according to Margaret Bishop in her fantastic anthology Single Scene Short Stories, are short literary works that take place in only one physical scene, one geographical coordinate, and/or one window of time; the resulting prose is remarkably tight, trim, and urgent, as the full thrust and momentum of the work—and the resulting emotional resonance—must be achieved without transporting the reader from one place to another and with very little voice-over summary or exposition. While writers who practice this form may use brief instances of flashback or backstory, foreshadowing or forecasting to provide slight context to the unfolding scene, the writer (and reader) must remain within the framework of that one particular narrative moment.

    Many writers develop single-scene stories to publish as standalone works, but there is also tremendous value in practicing the art of the single-scene story as a way of constructing a framework for a book-length project or as a means of further developing one’s ability to “show v. tell,” or create immersive prose that drops a reader right into that narrative moment as opposed to simply telling the reader about it from a distance. Essayist and nonfiction writers, especially, are wise to use the single-scene form to further enhance the narrative qualities of their work, as the vast majority of the genre’s bestsellers are drafted primarily in narrative scene.

    In this craft talk, we’ll read some powerful examples of the form, discuss how and why they work, and generate the framework for several of our own standalone works. This session will be useful for writers of all genres, though particular emphasis will be placed on the power of drafting nonfiction via single-scene stories.

    Amy Butcher is an award-winning essayist and author of Mothertrucker,  (Little A, 2021), a book that interrogates the realities of female fear, abusive relationships, and America’s quiet epidemic of intimate partner violence set against the geography of remote northern Alaska. The book earned critical praise from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, The Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, CBS News, The Chicago Review of Books, The Oxford Review of Books, Booklist, and others. The Wall Street Journal writes that Mothertrucker is “a rattling good story” that is “shot through with poignant insights.” Publisher’s Weeklywrites that the book is “tender and gripping,” writing, “[Mothertrucker] explores myriad issues with nuance and grace, including Indigenous rights, violence against women, religious hypocrisy, and environmental concerns.” Kirkus Reviews calls the book “a searching and deeply empathetic memoir,” writing, “[Mothertrucker] is a sobering reflection on verbal and psychological abuse [that] honors the healing power of female friendship and questions the nature of divinity beyond its constricting patriarchal manifestations.” Excerpts of Mothertrucker also won an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, with judges calling the book “well researched,” “very well-written,” and “a positive antidote to the trauma of violence against women.” Her first book, Visiting Hours (Blue Rider Press/Penguin-Random House, 2015), earned starred reviews and praise from The New York Times Sunday Review of Books, NPR, The Star Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and others. She is the Director of Creative Writing and an Associate Professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan University and teaches annually with the Iowa Writing Festival and the Sitka Fine Arts Camp in Sitka, Alaska.

    Photo credit: Adam Stiffler

    • January 05, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    Using the prose poem as a formal foundation, this workshop will explore how removing the lyric “I” from the poem can shift the poetic landscape. We will participate in two generative writing exercises, which are designed to help students step out of their comfort zone/writing tics and to lean into strangeness, magic, and the illogical. In the words of Gabrielle Bates, we’re shooting for “a larger aperture—more light.”

    Taylor Byas is a Black poet and essayist. Originally from Chicago, she moved to Alabama for six years, where she received both her Bachelor’s degree in English and her Master’s degree in English (Creative Writing concentration) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Taylor currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is a third year PhD student and Albert C. Yates Scholar at the University of Cincinnati studying poetry. She is also an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus. 

    She has received five Pushcart and six Best of the Net nominations, and has won a Best Microfiction Award. She is also the 1st Place Winner of the 2020 Poetry Super Highway Contest, the 2020 Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets, the 2021 Adrienne Rich Poetry Award, a finalist for the 2020 Frontier OPEN Prize, and an Honorable Mention for the 2021 Ninth Letter Literary Award in Poetry.

    Her chapbook, Bloodwarm, is out now from Variant Lit (2021). Her second chapbook, Shutter, is forthcoming from Madhouse Press in March of 2022{This is past}. Her debut full-length poetry collection, I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times, is forthcoming from Soft Skull Press in the Spring of 2023. She is represented by Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency. 

    • January 12, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    One of the central struggles in storytelling is that human beings are, in essence, time travelers. We live in the past of our memories and the future of our hopes. Thus, when we tell stories, we often shuttle around in time. This can be exciting, but often it winds up confusing the reader, and (in my case) the writer. In this seminar, we’ll unravel the mysteries of chronology by examining the work of Meg Wolitzer, Natasha Tretheway, Cheryl Strayed, and others. And help writers figure out how to tell their story in a way that thrills their readers.

    Steve Almond is the author of a dozen books, including the New York Times Bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. His new novel, All the Secrets of the World, has been optioned for television by 20th Century Fox. He’s the recipient of an NEA grant for 2022 and teaches at Harvard and Wesleyan. His stories and essays have been published in venues ranging from the Best American Short Stories and the Best American Mysteriesto the New York Times Magazine. He lives outside Boston with his wife, his three children, and his anxiety. 


    • January 19, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    One of the key elements in successful prose, fiction, or nonfiction, is imagery—the word-pictures that directly transmit what the writer sees. But while writing students get a lot of help with things like plot and structure, imagery often goes unmentioned, in part because it is so hard to talk about how to make better images. Therein lies the value of haiku for prose writers. The short, imagistic form of poetry imported from Japan offers a clear (and very fun) way to practice making images. In this craft talk, we will read and write haiku together, using the experience to deepen our understanding of what imagery can do in our own writing.

    Robert Anthony Siegel studied Japanese literature at Harvard and the University of Tokyo. He is the author of a memoir, Criminals, and two novels, All the Money in the World and All Will Be Revealed. His short work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Los Angeles TimesSmithsonianThe Paris ReviewThe Oxford American, Tin House, and Ploughshares, among other magazines. He's been a Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan, a Mombukagakusho Fellow in Japan, a Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a Paul Engle Fellow at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and has won O. Henry and Pushcart Prizes. He teaches online at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and Catapult and coaches privately.

    Robert will be judging our OCWW Haiku Contest. Please go to the Manuscript drop down on our OCWW website at ocww.info for more details.

    • January 26, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    When we are writing weighty, challenging subject matter—war, illness, trauma, terror, overcoming {overcoming what?}—it can be challenging to keep our readers with us. We seek to witness powerful events and speak our truth, and yet we’re called to write poems, fiction, and memoir that transport and transform others.  In this presentation, writers review five simple practices that support powerful, memorable writing, no matter how intense and difficult the subject.

    Heather Sellers is the author of two new poetry collections, Field Notes from the Flood Zone and The Present State of the Garden.  Her textbook, The Practice of Creative Writingis in its fourth edition and follows two books on craft, Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter. Her collection of linked short stories is Georgia Under Water, and a memoir, You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, was featured in O, the Oprah Magazine and is an O book-of-the month club pick and Editor’s Choice at the New York Times. Her recent essays appear in The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, The Sun, and O, the Oprah Magazine. Her essay “Haywire” was selected for the Best American Essays by Leslie Jamison, and “Pedal, Pedal, Pedal” won a Pushcart Prize in 2018. She regularly speaks to audiences about prosopagnosia (face blindness), most recently at NASA. Sellers directs the writing program at the University of South Florida.

    • February 02, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    There's a particular problem that writers encounter when they begin stories or novels that concern a family, a relationship, or an organization with a long history. As readers, we always enter the movie late, after it's started. How do we get the reader the necessary information without digging ourselves into expository potholes? How do we get the reader up-to-speed without being dull and informative? I'm going to talk about visitors in fiction as narrative enablers who serve as ambassadors for the reader—visitors who need to be informed about what's going on, just as the reader does. I'll have examples from (possibly) Kafka's "In the Penal Colony," Puzo's The Godfather, Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower, Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Stoker's Dracula, and Jordan Peele's movie Get Out. I'll also be talking about readers-as-strangers, the overcoming of strangeness by empathy, and our contemporary social issues of emigration and refugees and migrants.

    Charles Baxter is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), First Light, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, The Soul Thief, and The Sun Collective, and the story collections Believers, Gryphon, Harmony of the World, A Relative Stranger, There’s Something I Want You to Do, and Through the Safety Net. His latest craft book, Wonderlands: Essays on the Life of Literature was published in October. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The O. Henry Prize Story Anthology. He has won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. He lives in Minneapolis.

    • February 09, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    Finding the right home for your work requires understanding the literary landscape—how little magazines work, how to find them, how to interpret submissions guidelines, what to look for when deciding to enter contests, how and when to pitch your work, and more. A talented panel of editors will share their insights and advice to writers of all genres seeking publication in a journal. You’ll learn concrete tips for approaching the submissions process; you’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at a variety of different magazines/journals and learn about what you can expect once your work is accepted. There will be plenty of time for Q&A. 

    Joshua Bohnsack is the managing editor of TriQuarterly, faculty advisor for Oyez Review, and publisher of Long Day Press, a short-form publishing house. He is the author of the novella, Two Hands (Fruit Bat Press) and his work has been published in The RumpusAGNISalt Hill, and more. He grew up on a farm and moved to Chicago. 


    Su Cho is the author of the poetry collection The Symmetry of Fish (Penguin, 2022) which was a winner of the National Poetry Series. Her work has appeared in places like The Best American Poetry 2021, Best New Poets 2021, and They Rise Like a Wave: An Anthology of Asian American Women Poets. Her editorial work includes serving as Guest Editor for Poetry magazine and serving as editor-in-chief of Cream City Review and Indiana Review. She is an assistant professor of English teaching creative writing and poetry. You can learn more at www.suchowrites.com.

    Hattie Fletcher has been the managing editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine since 2005 and the editor of True Story since 2016. Essays she has edited have been reprinted in The Best American EssaysThe Best American Travel Writing, and The Best Women’s Travel Writing and have been awarded the Pushcart Prize. She was a coordinating editor for the Best Creative Nonfiction series, published by W.W. Norton, and is co-editor, with Lee Gutkind, of True Stories, Well Told . . . from the first 20 years of Creative Nonfiction magazine (In Fact Books, 2014).


    Aram Mrjoian
     is an editor-at-large at the Chicago Review of Books, an associate fiction editor at Guernica, and a 2022 Creative Armenia - AGBU Fellow. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The GuardianCatapultElectric LiteratureWest BranchLongreads, and many other publications. Find his work at arammrjoian.com

    • February 16, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    In this generative talk, we'll study openings to stories by several authors. We’ll work to identify different types of openings in an effort to understand how writers create urgency that carries the reader through a narrative. We’ll practice these different types of openings in class, so that you leave the course with a few different ways to begin your story, novel, or essay. This session’s strategies will be helpful to writers of all forms.  Come ready to read some great openings and create your own.

    Karen E. Bender is the author of two collections: Refund, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award, shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Story Prize, and longlisted for the Story prize, and The New Order, which was longlisted for the Story prize. Her novels are Like Normal People and A Town of Empty Rooms. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, The Yale ReviewTheHarvard Review, Guernica, and others, and her stories have won three Pushcart prizes. She has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and has taught for MFA programs including the University of Iowa, SUNY Stony Brook, Hollins University, Warren Wilson College. She is Core Faculty at Alma College's MFA program in Creative Writing. Visit her at www.karenebender.com.

    • February 23, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    In this talk, we will discuss the challenge of mastering tone, rhythm, and style in our writing by looking closely at the art of composing powerful sentences and scenes in fiction and nonfiction. We'll explore samples from masters of the form, learn some new strategies, and discuss the challenge of word choice and sentence variation as they apply to our own work. Writers will leave the session with a bank of examples from writers in all genres, plus a few of their own short exercises to use as stand-alone pieces or seeds for a larger project.

    Micah Fields has published essays and photography for the Oxford AmericanGulf CoastThe BafflerColumbia Journalism ReviewSonora ReviewHayden’s Ferry ReviewWar, Literature & the Arts, and elsewhere. He holds a BA from the University of Montana and an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa. He received the Oxford American’s 2018-19 Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship, an Iowa Arts Fellowship, and the AWP Intro Journals Award in nonfiction. He served as a Marine Corps infantry rifleman from 2007 to 2011 and is a combat veteran of deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now lives in Helena, Montana, where he writes, teaches, and works as a fishing guide on the Missouri River. We Hold Our Breath, his book about Houston and its story of development and storms, is forthcoming from W. W. Norton.

    Micah will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see the manuscript drop down on our website at ocww.info for details.


    • March 02, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    As writers, it is essential that we trust and explore the many possibilities of our imaginings. This workshop will push us past what we think we know about the narratives we are making and help us to expand the parameters of our stories. With particular attention to endings (of characters, situations, and stories), we will study published models and write our way down alternate roads. During the workshop, it can be helpful to have access to one’s own work-in-progress, but we will try new writing as well.

    Patricia Ann McNair’s short story collection, Responsible Adults, was named a Distinguished Favorite by the Independent Press Awards. The Temple of Air (stories) received Chicago Writers Association’s Book of the Year and other honors. Her collection of essays, And These Are the Good Times, was a Montaigne Medal Finalist for Most Thought-Provoking Book of the Year. McNair’s fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Barrelhouse, American Fiction: Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, Hypertext Review, LitHub, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, and other publications. She was named to Chicago’s NewCity Lit 50 list, and A Writer to Watch by Chicago’s Guild Literary Complex. McNair is associate professor emerita in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, where she received the Excellence in Teaching Award, and was nominated for the U.S. Carnegie Professor of the Year. She directs the Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers Retreat and the Shake Rag Alley Mining for Story Writing Retreat. McNair lives in Tucson with her husband, visual artist Philip Hartigan.


    • March 09, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    Memoir is a strange animal, living somewhere between fiction and autobiography. Life doesn’t unfold in neat little plot packages, and a novelist’s toolbox is required to bring our stories to life. Through short readings, generative exercises, and observation, we'll work together to stretch toward the universal by illuminating the particular. 

    Kelly McMasters is an essayist, professor, and former bookshop owner. She is the author of the forthcoming The Leaving Season: A Memoir (W.W. Norton, 2023) and co-editor of the forthcoming Wanting: Women Writing About Desire (Catapult, 2023). Her first book, Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town, was listed as one of Oprah's top 5 summer memoirs and is the basis for the documentary film “The Atomic States of America,” a 2012 Sundance selection. The anthology she co-edited with Margot Kahn, This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home (Seal Press, 2017), was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Her essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostMagazine, The Paris Review DailyLiterary HubThe American Scholar, River Teeth: A Journal of Narrative NonfictionTin House, and more. Her writing has been supported by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Katharine Bakeless Nason scholarship to the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers' Conference. She is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Publishing Studies at Hofstra University in NY. 

    Kelly will accept the first 10 manuscripts for critique. Visit Manuscripts on our website for details.


    • March 16, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    You can write a narrative all the way to the end and still not be able to say what it is about. Uh oh. Learn to capture the essence of a story in a few sentences. That analysis becomes your North Star for your character and plot development. It is your way into drafting or revising a story, and it is your way of convincing someone they really should read it. This session is for writers of fiction, especially novels and memoirs.

    Learn to:

    • Articulate the subject and idea of your story
    • Make an umbrella statement about the action and its impact
    • Describe the vision and the world of the story
    • Say how your protagonist's actions prove your concept of the story.

    Recommended reading: The Last Draft: A Novelist's Guide to Revision

    Sandra Scofield is the author of seven novels, including a National Book Award finalist, Beyond Deserving (1991); a memoir, Occasions of Sin; a book of essays about family, Mysteries of Love and Grief; and a book of short stories, Swim: Stories of the Sixties. She is on the faculty of the Solstice MFA Program at Lasell University, and has been on the faculty of the Iowa Summer Writing Festival for 26 years. She also is an ardent painter. 


    • March 23, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    How can work be generous to its characters but not stupidly innocent, not ignorant of human nature?  We’ll look at examples by Anton Chekhov, David Malouf, Colm Toibin, Edward P. Jones, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

    Joan Silber is the author of nine books of fiction. Her most recent is Secrets of Happiness, listed as an Editors’ Choice by The New York Times Book Review and one of the most anticipated books of the year by Buzzfeed, The Millions, and LitHub. 

    Her novel, Improvement, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and she received the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Her book Fools was longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award; The Size of the World was a finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize; and Ideas of Heaven was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize. She lives in New York, taught for many years at Sarah Lawrence College, and frequently teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program.


    • March 30, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    When we write fiction, we create parallel worlds. As such, possibility is not only a question of genre or believability on the page, but also one of language: What if?

    In speculative genres, the relationship between the past and the future, the real and the unreal is often blurred beyond recognition. In this workshop, Michael Zapata (The Lost Book of Adana Moreau) will guide writers through these relationships and discuss craft techniques and artful strategies to create speculative and otherworldly works of fiction. The workshop will also include a writing exercise and a Q&A. 

    Michael Zapata is a founding editor of MAKE Literary Magazine and the author of the novel The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, winner of the 2020 Chicago Review of Books Award for Fiction, finalist for the 2020 Heartland Booksellers Award in Fiction, and a Best Book of the Year for NPR, the A.V. Club, Los Angeles Public Library, and BookPage, among others.  He is on the core faculty of StoryStudio Chicago and the MFA faculty of Northwestern University. As a public-school educator, he taught literature and writing in high schools servicing dropout students. He currently lives in Chicago with his family.



    • April 13, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    How do we use language that calls for our and others’ full attention? How do we create, order, and craft words in a way that goes beyond the user-friendly, transactional ways we skim text to gather information or entertain ourselves? In this generative session, we'll explore metaphor-making and other strategies for making our writing sing. The exercises provided in this session will push you toward what Gregory Orr calls your poetic "thresholds—those places where disorder and order meet." We will make our writing more urgent and persuasive. We will write in a way that ensures our readers feel what we felt when we were called to write those words in the first place.

    John McCarthy is the author of Scared Violent Like Horses (Milkweed Editions, 2019), which won the Jake Adam York Prize. His new manuscript, This Brutal Vanishing, was recently a finalist for the Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry from The University of Wisconsin Press and the Lexi Rudnitsky's Editor's Prize from Persea Books. Additionally, John is a former recipient of The Pinch Literary Award in Poetry. His work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets 2015, Cincinnati Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Kenyon Review, Ninth Letter, and TriQuarterly. John received his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He lives in Evanston where he serves as a Managing Editor of RHINO



    • April 20, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    Robert Frost famously said “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” The corollary, then, must also hold true: “No laughs in the writer, no laughs in the reader." Structurally, a happy surprise can be as impressive as a sad one, and in this session, writers will learn how to use humor and comic timing to make their poetry more emotionally complex, considering how the addition of comedy—even to poems that are ultimately serious--can yield a more pleasing experience for both author and audience.

    Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, as well as a founding member of Poems While You Wait. Her most recent books include the novels Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) and Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey (Penguin, 2020). Her poetry collection Where Are the Snows won the 2021 X.J. Kennedy Prize and was published by Texas Review Press in fall of 2022. Her novel From Dust to Stardust, based on the life and work of silent movie star Colleen Moore, will be published by Lake Union in the fall of 2023. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay, and teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University. 

    Kathleen will judge the OCWW Humor Contest. Please visit Manuscripts  on our website for details.


    • April 27, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader, or so the adage goes. Easier said than done. The process of drafting is filled with uncertainty that can cause us to reach for easy solutions that later ring false. 

    In this course we will explore what it means to give our work our courageous attention, and how to open our creations to more risk and delight. By turning toward the mysteries inherent in our early ideas and drafts, we can strike our best material sooner, and write our most original, authentic stories. 

    Rachel Swearingen is the author of the story collection How to Walk on Water and Other Stories, which received the New American Press Fiction Prize, and was named the 2021 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year, and a New York Times Book Review “New and Noteworthy Selection.”

    Her stories and essays have appeared in Electric Lit, VICE, The Missouri Review, Kenyon Review, Off Assignment, Agni, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. Her writing has won the Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and the Mississippi Review Prize in Fiction. In 2019, the Guild Literary Complex named her one of 30 Writers to Watch. She lives in Chicago and teaches in Cornell College’s low-residency MFA program.

    • May 04, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    Marcy Posner of Folio Literary Management and Joanna MacKenzie from Nelson Literary Agency will take you through the projects that are getting editors’ and readers’ attention and discuss why certain genres are working particularly well in today’s demanding and dynamic publishing landscape. They will break down the hooks and ideas that have garnered attention and offer advice on how to take your projects to the next level.

    Joanna MacKenzie joined Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 and is building a list of adult titles in the areas of mystery, thriller, and commercial women’s fiction as well as select projects for kids in the areas of young adult and chapter books.  She loves creepy islands, mysteries set in close-knit communities (if those communities happen to be in the Midwest, all the better), and fierce female heroines.  Joanna is looking for smart and timely women’s fiction where the personal intersects with the world at large, think Emily Giffin’s All We Ever Wanted or Camille Perri’s The Assistants; stories about the immigrant experience like Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake; and narratives dealing with the relationships that make us who we are for all ages like I’ll Give You The Sun by Andy Nelson.

    Joanna McKenzie will accept one-page query letters for critique. Please visit Manuscripts on our website at ocww.info for details.

    Marcy Posner has spent a lifetime in books. After a brief stint as a librarian and fifteen years in publishing, Marcy made the transition to agenting and spent twelve years at the William Morris Agency as an agent and as Vice President and Director of Foreign Rights; five years as president of her own agency; five years at Sterling Lord Literistic as an agent and Director of Foreign Rights. Marcy is currently very happy at Folio. Her editorial skill and a deep knowledge of the publishing industry set her apart from many of her colleagues. When she works with her authors, she focuses editorially on how to make their books as strong as possible. Her extensive experience and connections are invaluable. Marcy knows the editors and publishing houses that are looking for a certain subject, or a different voice, or a particular kind of author. Her clients include Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestseller Jacqueline Kelly, New York Times bestseller Sheri Reynolds, literary writer Christine Sneed, along with debut authors Lexie Elliott and Christi Clancy. 

    She is seeking   women’s fiction, thrillers, historical fiction, history, psychology, narrative non-fiction, YA and middle grade, fiction and non-fiction. She is not interested in genre fiction for any age especially sci-fi and fantasy.

    • May 11, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • REMOTE
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    In this class, we’ll explore “narrative density”—the interconnectedness, layered-ness, and weight of a work of fiction.  We’ll walk through a sequence of specific, practical exercises in which we look to use the everyday complexity of ordinary life to enrich our fiction—we’ll consider the beautiful messiness of what our characters are “in the middle of” (in a big-picture sense and in a small-picture sense), “linger” on fertile elements of a draft, and bring lively narrative through-lines to the surface.

    The goal will be for you to walk out of this class with a new tool for composition and revision, fresh ideas that you can immediately use, and revised/brand-new passages.

    Joseph Scapellato is the author of the novel, The Made-Up Man, and the story collection, Big Lonesome. He was born in the western suburbs of Chicago and earned his MFA in Fiction at New Mexico State University.  His fiction and nonfiction appear in Literary Hub, Electric LiteratureNorth American ReviewKenyon Review OnlineNo Tokens, and other places.  Joseph teaches in the creative writing program at Bucknell University and lives in Lewisburg, PA, with his wife, daughter, and dog.


    • May 18, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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    Character and action might be the drivers of compelling fiction, but in drafting and revision, how do we decide what kind of development makes sense? How do fear and desire shape the logic—and illogic—of our characters’ choices? And how can we avoid the pitfalls of event that lacks character agency, which can show the hand of the author in the work? This is a generative class that includes examples from Julia Otsuka, Brandon Taylor, and Lydia Davis. Participants will come away from this class with a character profile that includes motivations and a bank of images, obsessions, and actions, as well as tools and understanding for how to move from character to plot and action to emotion in fiction. 

    Jennifer Solheim's stories and essays have appeared in Bellevue Literary ReviewThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Pinch, and Poets & Writers. As a writer and literary scholar, she has taught at University of Michigan, Université de Paris VII, and University of Illinois—Chicago, in addition to creative writing workshops at the Northwestern Summer Writers’ Conference and StoryStudio Chicago. A Contributing Editor at Fiction Writers Review, she serves as the Associate Director of the BookEnds novel revision fellowship at Stony Brook University.

    Jennifer will accept manuscripts for critique. Please visit Manuscripts at ocww.info for more details.

    • May 25, 2023
    • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
    • ONSITE - 620 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL /REMOTE
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