Remote only: there will be no onsite session.
Like real people, fictional people usually do not exist in isolation. Audrey Niffenegger will discuss how to create the interdependent characters—family, friends, lovers, enemies—whose affections, rivalries, losses, and loyalties shape stories. There will be in-class writing exercises.
Audrey Niffenegger is a writer and visual artist who lives in Chicago and London. Her novels The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry were international bestersellers. She has also published graphic novels, including The Night Bookmobile and Raven Girl. The Time Traveler’s Wife is being adapted into an HBO TV series, and Ms. Niffenegger is working on a sequel, The Other Husband. She recently founded a new literary and book arts center, Artists Book House, in the Harley Clarke mansion in Evanston, Illinois.
We offer free student memberships at a discounted rate of $5.00 per session. You must send verification of your student status. Please contact Claudia Katz at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
“The catalogue of forms is endless: until every shape has found its city, new cities will continue to be born. When the forms exhaust their variety and come part, the end of cities begin.” Italo Calvino
The structure of a work of fiction is the reality through which everything else moves. Without it, stories can flounder, lose shape, or dissipate into the ether! In this two-hour seminar, Michael Zapata (The Lost Book of Adana Moreau) will guide writers through what it means to navigate the reality inventing power of structure. We’ll discuss experimental and non-traditional narrative structures found throughout the world and how to structure and map out our own work. The seminar will also include an opportunity for 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 the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Fiction and the City of Chicago DCASE Individual Artist Program Award. 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 drop out students. He currently lives in Chicago with his family.
Michael will accept the first 2 manuscripts to be submitted and paid for to critique.
The first draft of any short story is largely explorative: finding out what the story will be by writing it. But what happens next? Once you have created a first draft, necessarily flawed, how do you revise it into a polished, powerful story? Many writers are daunted by this task, and many stories falter at the threshold of the second, or third, or final draft. In this class, we will treat revision as a series of steps, rather than a single, sweeping transformation. We will break break stories down into their component parts and talk about how to use each aspect of fiction to greatest effect: setting, pacing, tension, character, dialogue, and more.
Abby Geni is the 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 faculty member at StoryStudio Chicago and recently served as Visiting Associate Professor of Fiction at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Remote Only. Please do not register for this session if you want to attend onsite.
As special as your writing project is to you, it will fight for attention with all the other manuscripts that pile up in the inboxes of publishing professionals. That's why those first twenty pages matter so much. In this workshop, we'll look at the key elements that can make your manuscript stand out, and signal that the rest of your novel is packed with promise and punch.
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.
Do not register for this session if you wish to attend via Zoom.
ATTENDEES SHOULD BE PREPARED TO MASK APPROPRIATELY, OBSERVE SOCIAL DISTANCE, SUPPLY PROOF OF VACCINATION IN ADVANCE OR PRESENT IT UPON REGISTRATION.
Special Zoom Only Session
Across the centuries, poets have looked to other art forms forinspiration. Using poems inspired by visual art and other media, including music and film, this workshop will examine the various ways that writers make use of other artists' work toward some purpose of their own. What new doors open when you engage with another artist’s work? How can a single image suggest a more developed narrative? How can we adapt characters from other works toward our own aims, whether through dramatic monologues or in other contexts? What are some particular strategies that allow writers to move beyond mere description of another artist's work into crafting poetry or prose that reflects their own singular vision? We’ll zoom in on the structures and strategies you can use and try out prompts that provide a path to new writing of your own.
Jane Satterfield is the recipient of awards in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland Arts Council, Bellingham Review, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Mslexia, and more. Her books of poetry are Her Familiars, Assignation at Vanishing Point (Elixir Press Poetry Award), Shepherdess with an Automatic, and Apocalypse Mix, winner of the 2016 Autumn House Poetry Prize. Her book Daughters of Empire: A Memoir of a Year in Britain and Beyond features selections that received the Florida Review Editors’ Prize and the Faulkner Society/Pirate’s Alley Essay Award. Recent nonfiction appears in Ascent, Entropy, Hotel Amerika, and DIAGRAM. She is also co-editor (with Laurie Kruk) of the multi-genre anthology Borderlands and Crossroads: Writing the Motherland (Demeter Press). New poems may be found in Ecotone, Hopkins Review, Missouri Review, Orion, and elsewhere. For more, visit https://janesatterfield.org.
Ned Balbo ’s newest books are The Cylburn Touch-Me-Nots (New Criterion Poetry Prize) and 3 Nights of the Perseids (Richard Wilbur Award), both published in 2019. His previous books are Upcycling Paumanok, Lives of the Sleepers (Ernest Sandeen Prize), Galileo’s Banquet (Towson University Prize) and The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems (Poets’ Prize and the Donald Justice Prize). He has received a National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowship and three Maryland Arts Council awards. In July 2021 he was a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. New poems appear in American Journal of Poetry, The Common, Gingko Prize 2019 Ecopoetry Anthology, Notre Dame Review, and elsewhere, and his electoral song cycle National Disgrace (credited to “ned’s demos”) is available online at Bandcamp. For more, visit https://nedbalbo.com.
We offer free membership to students and $5 session rates. Please contact Claudia Katz at email@example.com for details.
Hermit crabs evolved to live inside the discarded, scavenged shells of other creatures; as the crustaceans grow, they switch between shells, looking for the right size and shape to armor their fragile bodies. The relevance to writing? “Hermit crab” is the most common name for stories or essays that borrow the “shells” of ordinary, everyday documents like job applications, surveys, instruction manuals, recipes, school essays, and more. A story in the shape of a restaurant review or a police report can be hilarious or harrowing or anything in between. Using shells in our writing offers the writer a powerful blend of structure, inspiration, surprise, and built-in tension, as fiction presses against the conventions of traditionally nonfictional, formulaic documents. We’ll explore how writing within such constraints can shape a difficult subject or refresh a familiar one, for both writer and reader. Session will include sample readings, discussion, and creative exercises.
Caitlin Horrocks is author of the story collections Life Among the Terranauts and This is Not Your City, both New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice titles, and the novel The Vexations, named one of the 10 best books of 2019 by the Wall Street Journal. Her stories and essays appear in The New Yorker, The Best American Short Stories, The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize, The Paris Review, Tin House, One Story, and other journals and anthologies. Former fiction editor of the Kenyon Review, she teaches at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
Jennifer Egan (photo credit Pieter M Van Hattem) is the author of several novels and a short story collection. Her most recent novel, Manhattan Beach, a New York Times bestseller, was awarded the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and was chosen as New York City’s One Book One New York read. Her previous novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles
Remote Only. Please do not register for this session if you want to attend onsite
“Literature does its best to maintain that its concern is with the mind,” wrote Virginia Woolf in 1926. “On the contrary, the very opposite is true. All day, all night, the body intervenes.” This workshop examines how memory lives in the body, using our own stories and experiences as a contribution to a wider cultural and political dialogue that centers human beings. Pulling from both literary and oral storytelling traditions, we'll engage in a series of activities that will take our writing out of the head and into the body, generating new work and digging deeper into material you're already exploring. All levels and genres are welcome; we need you. We need your voice. We're trying to remake the world.
Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections: Everyone Remain Calm, Once I Was Cool, and The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, winner of the 2017 Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Review of Books. Her work appears in Best American Essays, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Believer, Poets & Writers, Tin House, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for National Public Radio, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and theatres, festivals, and classrooms across the country. She teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University and weird, wonderful Zoom spaces in your living room.
In this process-centered session, we will consider the best practices for writing dialogue in fiction and memoir. Through close reading, we'll look at several successful examples in published work to see what tips and tricks we can take away. The following topics will guide our discussion: who speaks and why; direct, indirect, and summarized speech; what is said and not said; formatting options for writers.
Finally, writers will work on a piece of their own to practice incorporating various elements of dialogue. Please bring to class a few pages of a recent piece, either fiction or non-fiction. If you don't have one, that's fine. Please also bring something to write with, as we'll go through some in-class exercises.
Emily Gray Tedrowe is a Chicago-based author of three novels, most recently The Talented Miss Farwell (Custom House). Her book
Obviously, lasting impressions are left by images and scenes that capture our attention and stay with us—for better or for worse. In this craft session, we will examine how writers carefully pick and choose images that carry with them emotional undertows and emotionally resonant details that speak to a larger scene, narrative, or experience of feeling. Oftentimes, our attention to image is oversimplified into adjective + noun constructions and an impulse to simply list objects within the writer or speaker’s purview. In this course, we will look at how those individual objects can be placed in context to the overall narrative structure of our poems and stories to build interior emotional states, narrative texture and rhythm. We will look at the overall strategies and choices that go into crafting successful images that make our writing more creative and complex.
John McCarthy is the author of Scared Violent like Horses (Milkweed Editions, 2019), which won the Jake Adam York Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Copper Nickel, Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, and TriQuarterly. He is a former recipient of The Pinch Literary Award in Poetry, and he received his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. John currently lives in Evanston, Illinois where he is an Associate Editor at RHINO magazine.
John will accept poetry and prose for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.
The physicist Carlo Rivelli asks, “Do we exist in time, or does time exist in us?” In fiction, time exists as a tool that shapes our stories. Time is our creation. We must decide which events are expanded and given priority, and which can be condensed or cast away; which moments must be thoroughly explored, and which can be summarized. Time, especially in novels, creates a rhythm that becomes the heartbeat of your book.
In this class, we will study time in fiction: how to speed up and slow down, when to jump into the past and when to stay present. We will explore how to write rich, inventive summary and how to craft scenes that move a story forward rather than freezing it in place. We will also talk about "seeing" time, diagramming timelines so that we can better understand the flow of time in our stories. This lecture will include handouts, readings, and ideas for take-home exercises to get you thinking about how time exists in your work.
Please read Edwidge Danticat’s “Without Inspection,” before class, as well as the short packet of excerpts I’ll email to registered participants.
Frances de Pontes Peebles is the author of the award-winning novels The Seamstress and The Air You Breathe. She is a 2020 Creative Writing Fellow in Literature from The National Endowment for the Arts. A native of Pernambuco, Brazil, she holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in O. Henry Prize Stories, Zoetrope: All-Story, Missouri Review, Indiana Review, and Guernica.
Remote Only. Please do not register for this session if you want to attend onsite
Eckhartz Press co-publishers Rick Kaempfer and Dave Stern will take potential authors through the maze of the publishing world. They are hybrid-publishers, something that didn’t exist just fifteen years ago. Rick and Dave will…
*Define the three different types of publishing (Self-publishing, hybrid publishing, traditional publishing)
*Explore the pros and cons of each
*Tell the story of Rick’s background and Dave’s background, and how that led them to forge this professional partnership.
*Discuss the evolution of Eckhartz Press and what they have learned along the way.
*Fully explain the hybrid press model they have adopted.
Rick Kaempfer is the co-founder and publisher of Eckhartz Press in addition to being the author or co-author of Eckhartz Press releases, “Everycubever”, “Father Knows Nothing”, “Records Truly Is My Middle Name” (with John Records Landecker) and “The Living Wills” (with Brendan Sullivan). Rick had been published several times before founding the company (including a novel “$everance” and a how-to-book about radio called “The Radio Producer’s Handbook”). In addition, he was also a member of the media for more than twenty years as the producer of two Hall of Fame radio shows (Steve Dahl & Garry Meier and John Records Landecker), and still covers the industry as the media critic for the Illinois Entertainer. He has watched the media landscape change over the past thirty years from a front row seat, and is excited to use that experience as the publisher of Eckhartz Press.
David Stern is the co-founder and publisher of Eckhartz Press, and the author of “The Balding Handbook”. After a 20+ year sales and marketing career, and a ten year stint as a principal in a Chicago advertising agency, Stern comes to Eckhartz Press uniquely qualified to tackle the realities of an ever-changing publishing landscape. He and Kaempfer have been collaborating in one form or another since they met at the University of Illinois in the early 1980s (when both must have been mere children). Stern is also one of the officers of Eckhartz Press’ parent company Just One Bad Century, Inc, and proud to call himself a life long (“City Boy”) Chicagoan.
Rick and David will accept 1 page single spaced query letters for critique for $15 and the first ten pages of a book at $3 per page, fiction or nonfiction. Please see manuscript section on our website, ocww.info for details
Are you struggling with a particular part of your novel? Maybe the beginning of your current draft is dragging, or the middle is slipping and falling, or the ending is simply an act of giving up. If so, don’t fret! Believe us, we’ve been there, too.
In this class, we’ll walk through some practical strategies specific to the beginnings, middles, and endings of novels. We’ll practice nitty-gritty techniques for making the opening chapters narratively propulsive and thematically rich; for intensifying or tightening the middle; and for building towards a structurally satisfying ending.
You’ll leave this class with immediately applicable ideas for the beginning, middle, and/or end of your novel, no matter where you are in your process.
Joseph Scapellato is the author of the novel, The Made-Up Man(2019), and the story collection, Big Lonesome (2017). He grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and earned his MFA in Fiction at New Mexico State University. Joseph is an assistant professor of English in the creative writing program at Bucknell University, and lives in Lewisburg, PA, with his wife, daughter, and dog.
Joe will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see details in our manuscript section on our website, ocww.info
"So completely has a whole year passed, with scarcely the fruits of a month. O Sorrow and Shame - I have done nothing!" So moaned Coleridge after ten years of not writing anything. Truman Capote spent the last years of his life filling blank pages with...nothing. Henry Roth managed to produce nothing in thirty years after writing the masterful Call it Sleep. Why do some writers struggle to produce a single page and others never look a writer's block in the eye? Come and learn some of the reasons for this challenge, and more importantly, some solutions.
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 2020, 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.
Goldie will accept two manuscripts for critique based on order of submission and payment.
If you can't tell it in 500 words, is it worth telling at all? In this talk, we will discuss the challenge of condensing worlds of thought, emotion, and observation into tight packages of prose. We'll explore samples from masters of the form, learn some new strategies, and consider the art of concision as it applies to our own work. Writers will leave the session with a bank of examples from a diverse selection of nonfiction writers, plus a few of their own postcards to use as stand-alone pieces or seeds for a larger nonfiction project.
Micah Fields has published essays and photography for the Oxford American, Gulf Coast, The Baffler, Columbia Journalism Review, Sonora Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, War, 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 fly-fishing and hunting guide. His book about Houston and its story of development and storms is forthcoming from W. W. Norton. You can learn more about Micah at his website: https://www.micahfields.com
You can also read one of his most powerful short pieces:
When Samuel Taylor Coleridge came up with the phrase “Prose is words in their best order and poetry is the best words in the best order,” he was chatting casually with his nephew Henry Nelson Coleridge on the evening of July 12, 1827. Yet, his remark could easily be the motto for getting a manuscript ready for submission—whatever the genre, you want every aspect to be as polished as can be, and every element to be in its most appealing sequence. Whether you’re submitting individual poems, essays, or stories to a literary journal or anthology, or whether you’re submitting a full manuscript to an agent or editor, this workshop will attend to both the quantifiable and the qualitative aspects of what makes a piece “publishable.” No matter your project, this craft talk will help you get your work ready to seek its optimal home.
Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. Her most recent books include the novels Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, The Listening Room, and Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey. She lives in Chicago and teaches at DePaul.
Kathleen will judge a flash contest. Please see details in the Manuscripts section of our website: ocww.info
Remote Only. Please do not register for this session if you want to attend onsite.
Often, when we talk about narrative perspective, we think about the distance between the text and the reader: are we reading in first, second, or third person? What is the distance in time from story to narrator? How close or distant is the narrator from the scene? These are all questions that can be addressed from the reader’s perspective.
But before we can read a text, as writers, we must consider how to represent our characters’ closeness or distance through time and space: a nexus of the physical, temporal, and emotional. Does the story require immediacy, thus little to no retrospection? Or does the story need the perspective of character distance—or even historical distance? Or does the story’s needs land somewhere in between?
What we will find is that some of the most compelling fiction results from a consideration of characters’ bodily experience, ultimately to bring the reader as close to the palpable and atmospheric experience of the characters as possible. This is our goal as writers: to draw the reader fully within.
Participants should come with an example of a work in progress they would like to consider and revise. Models will include recent works by Christina Baker Kline, Rebecca Makkai, and Kirsten Valdez Quade.
Jennifer Solheim's stories and essays have appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The 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 (https://fictionwritersreview.com/), she is also the Associate Director of the BookEnds (https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/southampton/mfa/bookends/) Novel Revision Fellowship of Southampton Arts at Stonybrook University, a program of which she is also an alum.
Jennifer will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see details in our manuscript section on our website, ocww.info
When we sit down to write, the first words, scenes, characters, conflicts, and settings we come up with are often the least original ones of which we're capable. Digging past the obvious, the stock (and even the products of the collective unconscious), we might finally arrive at stories that are strikingly new and memorable. In this class we'll cover some key elements of originality -- specificity, idiosyncrasy, complexity, repetition, andchange -- and talk about accessing them both in drafting and revision.
For writing to succeed, it must be both well-executed and original. While originality might seem intuitive, or even a product of the writer's personality, it's in fact a skill that can be sharpened. That's what we'll be doing.
Rebecca Makkai’s latest 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, 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. Rebecca is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada College and Northwestern University. She is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago. Visit her at RebeccaMakkai.com or on twitter@rebeccamakkai.
It’s widely agreed that empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—is an essential faculty of a good writer as well as a good human being. But are there incongruencies in how we commonly define and imagine empathy—in how we practice it? Is it ever unhealthy, counterproductive, even dangerous? In this talk, we’ll discuss these questions as a way to demonstrate that empathy is indeed invaluable, but that its true value might lie beyond compassion and somewhere more unexpected and ambiguous within us. And as storytellers, we’ll explore how to exercise this messier, more demanding form of empathy to help us access our most inaccessible characters and bring them to life, whether they deserve it or not.
Vu Tran's first novel, Dragonfish, was a NY 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 Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship, and has been a fiction fellow at Bread Loaf, Sewanee, MacDowell, and Yaddo. Born in Vietnam and raised in Oklahoma, Vu received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his PhD from the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He teaches at the University of Chicago, where he is an Associate Professor of Practice in English & Creative Writing.
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