“Imagery” is the term we use to define description that appeals to the senses—and the visual image is often the first go-to when we’re setting a scene or introducing a character. Sounds and voices, music and silences often come secondarily—and this kind of imagery can foreshadow or introduce change, disruption, and/or instability. Sounds and silences help us as writers describe movement, whether physical, intellectual, or emotional. But how can we describe sounds and silences in ways that affect the reader? In this workshop, we will analyze examples of atmospheric sounds, voices, music, and different qualities of silence; consider how sounds and silences can serve as inspiration; and develop strategies for encapsulating sounds and silences in our writing.
Bio: Jennifer Solheim is a fiction writer and literary critic whose first book, The Performance of Listening in Postcolonial Francophone Culture, was published by Liverpool University Press in 2018. Her short stories have appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, Confrontation, and The Pinch, and received Honorable Mentions from Glimmer Train. She teaches literature, film, and writing at the University of Illinois—Chicago, and is working on a novel about an indie rock band in family therapy as a BookEnds fellow at Stony Brook Southampton. Jennifer has a PhD in French from the University of Michigan and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars.
Jennifer will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see the manuscript guidelines on our website: ocww.info.
In this hybrid workshop we’ll consider and explore 10 craft techniques that span genres. If you’re writing nonfiction/CNF, fiction, or poetry—this workshop is for you. A reading packet will be sent to you prior to our workshop. Please have writing tools (pencil, paper, computer, etc.) on hand during the workshop—as we’ll be generating new work during this session.
Brian Turner is a poet and memoirist who served seven years in the US army. He is the author of two poetry collections, Phantom Noise and Here, Bullet, which won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award, The New York Times “Editor’s Choice” selection, the 2006 PEN Center USA “Best in the West” Award, the 2007 Poet’s Prize, and others. In addition to his poetry, he is editor of the anthology, The Kiss (2018), a diverse anthology of essays, stories, poems, and graphic memoirs. Turner’s work has been published in National Geographic, The New York Times, Poetry Daily, Harpers Magazine, and other fine journals. Turner has been awarded a United States Artists Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship a Lannan Foundation Fellowship and more. Turner is director of the MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College. His recent memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country, has been called, “achingly, disturbingly, shockingly beautiful.”
Often our work crosses boundaries, blurs the lines. Today many writers are publishing hybrids. Examples of metafiction and autofiction that blur the lines are The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, winner of the National Book Award for fiction, and History of Violence by Edouard Louis.
Jane Hertenstein will talk about what constitutes a hybrid, the freedom to color outside the lines, and also some practical and ethical questions that pop up when considering how to evaluate and place work that blends memoir and fiction. Come prepared to explore all the many directions your writing may take you.
Jane Hertenstein is a repeat instructor at OCWW having presented on topics such as memoir and flash. She is the author of over 80 published stories both macro and micro: fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre. In addition she has published a YA novel, Beyond Paradise, and a non-fiction project, Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady, which garnered national reviews. Jane is the recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Hunger Mountain, Rosebud, Word Riot, Flashquake, Fiction Fix, Frostwriting, and several themed anthologies. Her latest book is Cloud of Witnesses from Golden Alley Press. She can be found blogging at http://memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/@memoirjane.
Special Bonus! Jane, our resident flash expert, will accept 500 word flash manuscripts from members for a free flash contest. Write about a special memory, a moment you witnessed under a streetlight, write flash romance, flash mystery, or a flash of anger. Condense a darling you had to cut from a longer work or write whatever flashes into your mind. You choose your own writing adventure! Submission deadline is April 16. Please see manuscript guidelines on our website: ocww.info. First Prize: 20 page manuscript critique Second Prize: 10 page manuscript critique. Third Prize: Speaker's's book. All will be selected by the winners during our 2020-2021 program year.
Agents Joanna MacKenzie and Marcy Posner will discuss the role an agent plays in finding a home for your book and their suggestions for landing an agent who would be a good fit for you and your work. They will share tips on writing a quality query letter and at what stage your manuscript should be in before you query.
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.
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.
How to submit to Marcy Posner: Query letter plus the first 50 pages by email attachment to email@example.com.
Joanna MacKenzie and Marcy Posner will accept query letters for critique. Please see the manuscript guidelines on our website: ocww.info for details.
SPECIAL EVENING REMOTE SESSION
Tolstoy said, “Art is transferring feeling from one heart to another." And E.L. Doctorow said, "Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader--not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." That is our job description. But how do we go about this work of transferring feeling? How do we write poems and stories that make the reader feel wet? Fortunately, one of the main ways is very concrete. We create an emotional impact through vivid detail, precise description, metaphor and image. By observing, we see more. By describing what we see, we understand more, we feel more. We discover something we didn't know before. And that process of seeing, understanding, feeling and epiphany then takes place in the reader as well. In this workshop we'll look at successful examples in poetry and prose and learn (and try out) practical strategies for including these elements in our own writing.
Poet and educator Ellen Bass is a Chacellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her most recent book of poetry, Indigo, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020. Previous books include Like a Beggar, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Publishers Triangle Award, The Lambda Literary Award, and the Northern California Book Award; The Human Line; and Mules of Love, which won The Lambda Literary Award. Bass has also written works of nonfiction, including, with Laura Davis, the Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors or Child Sexual Abuse, which has sold over a million copies and has been translated into twelve languages. The New Yorker has published ten of Bass’s poems throughout the years, and tow have been chosen for the New Yorker podcast. She teaches in the MFA program at Pacific University and lives in Santa Cruz, California.
What is voice, exactly, and how do you find yours? You have a voice already; we all do. Finding your literary voice is a process of discovery, a matter of listening closely to yourself, paring away the noise of the many voices that engulf each of us every day, and then pressing that genuine natural voice you have through the form of language. Together, we'll discuss how this works, looking at various voices and what makes them unique, and practicing with our own.
Amy Hassinger is the author of three novels: Nina: Adolescence, The Priest's Madonna , and After the Dam. Her writing has been translated into Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Indonesian and has won awards from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), Creative Nonfiction, Publisher’s Weekly, and the Illinois Arts Council. She's placed work in many publications, including The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Writers’ Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She earned her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois. She grew up in Massachusetts, but now lives in Urbana, Illinois, where she sings in a band, The Jaybirds, and bothers her children.
The first chapter of any book has to do a thousand things at once: interest and engage the reader, kick off the plot, introduce the characters, set the tone, and establish the world of the story. In this class, award-winning author Abby Geni will share her insights about the daunting task of writing a powerful, compelling first chapter. We will talk about inciting incidents, strong first sentences and paragraphs, the idea of stasis and intrusion, the onset of tension, and the nature of voice. We will talk, too, about the revision process and how to know when your first chapter is done.
Abby Geni is the Chicago-based author of the novels The Wildlands and The Lightkeepers, as well as a short story collection, The Last Animal. Her books have been translated into seven languages and have won the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Chicago Review of Books Awards, among other honors. Her latest novel, The Wildlands, was named one of the best books of 2018 by Kirkus and Buzzfeed and was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize. Geni is a core faculty member at StoryStudio Chicago and recently served as Visiting Associate Professor of Fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her website is www.abbygeni.com.
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