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  • March 24, 2019 10:04 PM | Anonymous

    Letter From The President

    The month of May nearly gave me whiplash from jolting emotions. I felt snapped from a state of high-flying excitement when encountering a jolting encounter with the surreal, all in one month. Each week, as I navigated our OCWW Zoom Workshop calendar, I marveled at the extraordinary enthusiasm I gleaned from the swarms of attendees the events were attracting. Over the month, the weekly count was averaging in the 80s with one week skyrocketing to a crowd of 159. Moreover, though the vast majority of attendees represented current OCWW members, the workshops also attracted more than a score of guest visitors from as far away as Australia, to France and Israel. More attended from California, Washington, Minnesota, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Florida. In all, we gained 22 new members in the month from the workshops alone. An additional seven new members also joined to be able to attend the OCWW Summer Program entitled “Reading Like A Writer.”

    Though we’ve become accustomed to ordering our groceries online for delivery, when my wife wished to purchase some hanging geranium baskets, we drove to our local Jewel, which was displaying a freshly delivered supply. Due to my immune-compromised condition, I remained in the car while she selected her flowers. From my vantage, I had a full view of the entry to the store and could see store patrons scurrying in and out, each mask covered and gloved. Even the store workers who were rescuing scattered grocery carts from the parking lot were masked and wore gloves. It looked like an invasion of masked aliens invading the store and escaping with shopping bags and carts of loot.

    I sat back in my seat, adjusted my mask, and thought this is surreal, and it’s going to last for a long time. We’ve entered a different world—the enthusiasm I was carrying from the excellent Zoom workshop turnouts and membership spike momentarily ebbed. But quickly, I thought ahead, to our splendid OCWW Summer Program, the coming June, July, and August sunshine, blooming flowers, the Wilmette beach, and Gilson Park, my daughter, and her family’s anticipated summer visit, and the positive days ahead. No longer hyper-enthusiastic nor experiencing the surreal, I felt tranquil and reenergized.

    I thought we can all now look ahead to freedom from confinement, better economic times, safety from the virus threat, and good health. Next season, at some point, we will be able to resume workshops in person. To those who have been wondering, until then, we will continue our Zoom gatherings next season. Though they do not provide the same social warmth as in-person sessions, they are the next best thing. Our postponed year-end members’ luncheon will also be rescheduled as soon as allowed. Another year of outstanding attendance will allow us to again cover the costs of that luncheon for members. We will continue using Zoom for all events when live workshops are not allowed, and we will combine Zoom sessions with live workshops when live sessions are permitted. There may be a few extra Zoom-only sessions to allow us to enjoy presentations from some of our favorite out-of-town speakers.

    Thank you all for your tremendous support this year. We couldn’t have done it without your membership participation and the extraordinary commitment made by our Officers, our Board, and our member volunteers who have worked tirelessly to keep OCWW the most exceptional craft writing organization in Chicagoland.

    My warmest best wishes to you all for a splendid summer ahead,


    Off Campus Writers' Workshop “Reading Like A Writer”

    OCWW announces its “Reading Like A Writer” Summer Program for the 2020 season. The meeting times are: June 18, July 23, and August 20 — from 11 am to 1:30 pm. Topics to be discussed during remote Zoom sessions are:

    June 18, George Saunders’ “The Red Bow,” facilitated by Peter Hoppock

    July 23, Katherine Mansfield’s “A Dill Pickle,” facilitated by Judy Panko Reis

    August 20, Alice Munro’s “Passion,” facilitated by Aurelia Nichols.

    Each monthly session will focus on a short story by a well-known writer, utilizing techniques from Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer to examine the craft of writing through lively discussion. Our goal is to have every participant leave feeling energized and motivated to write! Regardless of whether you're working in a specific genre, literary fiction, creative non-fiction, or even memoir, these discussions will touch on issues you've faced.

    Round-table talks will be led by a moderator. A core group of twelve (12) will have open-mike access to offer observations on writing craft from a deep reading of the selected work. All other participants will be able to listen in and submit comments and/or questions via Chat.

    These are not intended to be "book club" discussions about the "meaning of the story." We will look at how these writers solve aesthetic problems and/or elevate elements of their craft to enhance their work so that we can gain greater insight into our own writing process.

    To register for individual—or all three—sessions, email Sessions are free. Remember, open-mike participation is offered only to the first twelve (12) who register, so please sign up soon! Registration is restricted to OCWW members.

    Thank You Email from Lynn Sloan

    “I want to thank all those who have worked so hard, so productively, and so generously, to create a new way for our OCWW community to stay in touch and flourish. These are hard times, but your efforts have made it less hard, less lonely, and more inspiring. Thank you.” Lynn attached a snapshot she took of the May 21 Zoom session with Amy Hassinger’s presentation, that shows how, in her words, “OCWW is Zooming along.”

    OCWW presents Meet our Authors

    To support our authors OCWW will be sponsoring a series of “Meet our Authors” Zoom get-togethers this summer.

    If you’d like to introduce yourself and your publication(s) to our membership, please fill out this Google Form.

    Member News
     Poem Publications

    Four previously published and two new poems written by member Rita Pyrillis will appear in Eunoia Review in late June. Eunoia Review, which has been around since 2010, is a Singapore-based online literary journal committed to sharing the fruits of ‘beautiful thinking.’ Rita also will have an essay published in the June issue of the Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought. The theme of the issue is racism and the piece, The Only Indian in Chicago, is a braided essay on adoption and cultural identity.

     New Member

    Jennifer Hou Kwong (Jian Ping) is a writer and documentary filmmaker. Last month, Mulberry Child, an award-winning doc film based on her book of the same title, became available on Amazon Prime. It’s directed by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bissett.

    Her directorial debut is documentary film on a legendary Chicago icon: Art Paul. Art Paul of Playboy: the Man behind the Bunny, also available on Amazon. It’s about the life and impact of Art Paul, founding art director of Playboy and creator of the rabbit logo. Welcome Jennifer!

     Fellowship Awarded to Della Leavitt

    The Newberry Library awarded Della Leavitt a 2021-2022 Short-Term Fellowship for her historical novel-in-progress, On Maxwell Street: New Americans/New Beginnings (1922-1957).

     Poem by Speaker Brian Turner

    Member Laura Joyce Hubbard shared a poem by OCWW acclaimed speaker, Brian Turner from a recent New York Times project.

     Hypertext Publication

    Julie Lambert’s essay, “Mother’s Day,” will be published in the Spring/Summer 2020 print edition of Hypertext due out in June. The essay also won 2nd place in their nonfiction essay contest.

    Reciprocating Reading and Reviews Can Lead You To Fame

    Many of us have books published in Amazon, where they languish for a long time due to the lack of reviews. We'd like to help.

    We have created a Google Doc listing our members' Amazon-published books.

    Feel free to add yourself to the list. Leave the name of the author, the name of the book and the URL of your book in Amazon.

    If you take advantage of this opportunity, please make sure you read and review other OCWW authors. Fair is fair.

    Link to OCWW Upcoming Events:
  • September 02, 2018 2:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    September 2018
     By Joan Naper and Paco Aramburu

     Letter From The President                                                   

    A robust welcome back to all of our 2018/2019 OCWW workshop season active members, those about to rejoin, and all contemplating becoming new members. I hope your summer was productive and fun-filled. Mine was jam-packed, exhausting, but fun. Not nearly enough time available to accomplish what I had hoped. Those undone tasks left for another day. 

    Renee James and Susan Levi, our Program Co-directors, have once again developed for you a fabulous new season of weekly programs designed to help all of our passionately committed writing beginners and experienced author members achieve their writing and publishing goals. This year brings return by acclamation instructors like Fred Shafer, Stuart Dybek, Rebecca MakkaiKelly McNees, and others, and visionary instructional newcomers to OCWW Amanda Goldblatt, Vu Tran, Rachel Swearingen, Steven Trumpeter, Emily Gray Tedrowe, Jay Rehak, Sara Connell, Rebekah Frumkin, Sharon Darrow, John S. Green, and Michelle Falkoff. In all, a total of 38 workshops. We will also introduce some unique new types of exciting, inspirational undertakings and topics the likes of which we have never before put forth. Many thanks to Caryn Green, who helped Susan Levi enter the events onto the website.

    Fred Shafer has consented to start the year by returning for his thirty-second annual four-week September series. His program is entitled The Music of Sentences. His program will illustrate, “If you ask a fiction writer, a musician, or a composer of any kind of music to identify the primary element in their work, they will most likely give the same answer: a pleasing and effective sense of rhythm.”

    He quotes the late novelist Ursula Le Guin, “Rhythm is what keeps the song going, the horse galloping, the story moving,” and rapper Jay-Z describing the flow of a hip-hop song as, “A heartbeat, or the way you breathe, it can jump, speed up, slow down, stop, or pound right through like a machine.” He could easily be talking about sentences in fiction.

    Comparisons between music and writing will come up often during Fred’s workshops about the rhythms and structures of sentences on September 6, 13, 20, and 27.  Using examples taken from contemporary fiction, he will show that the discovery of rhythm can be central to the process of finding plot and meaning. He’ll discuss a series of related subjects, including the deep sources of rhythm; points of emphasis in sentences; the interplay that takes place among sentences of different lengths and structures; variations that occur throughout any scene, story, or chapter; the unique value of irregularity and imbalance; and the effort and pleasure that accompany revising for rhythm.

    Fred is an editor, writer, and teacher of writing.  He was an editor for many years with TriQuarterly, the international literary journal published by Northwestern University, where he also taught fiction writing and literary editing in the School of Professional Studies. He leads three private workshops in short story and novel writing, from which present and former members have published more than twenty books in the past eight years.  His essays, reviews, and interviews with writers have appeared in several journals.        

    What a splendid way to kick off our new year. I hope to see you all there.

    Best regards,


                                   A Note from Agent, Tina Schwartz:                                               
    Anyone who had a submission in to The Purcell Agency's Tina P. Schwartz, and has not received a firm accept or reject, please email her for update. Her email is, and write "OCWW SUBMISSION UPDATE" in subject line please.

    Tom Benz

    Tom Benz, OCWW Board Secretary, recently won a story contest sponsored by Solsticeliterary magazine. His story, called "Retrieval," is posted here Congratulations, Tom!

    Tom recently won the 2017 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award for

    a short story collection sponsored by Snake Nation Press. The resulting book, Home and Castle, can be found and on Amazon.

    He won the Solstice Literary Magazine
    Short Fiction Contest in 2011 and was a finalist in 2013. He has numerous stories published with magazines such as The Madison Review, William and Mary Review, the Beacon Street Review, Blue Lake ReviewCarve and others.

    He was a finalist in the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Collection Contest, also a finalist or honorable mention for the New Millennium Short Fiction Contest..
    His website is

    Jane Hertenstein

    Member Jane Hertenstein has a series of flash memoirs published on-line. Here is the link:

    Jane teaches memoir writing, leads a critique group, and volunteers at a homeless shelter where she facilitates a creative writing workshop for the women residents.

    She will be teaching a class about writing flash memoir at OCWW on Thursday, December 20.



                                                             C O N T E S T S                                                      

    CWA's 3rd Annual First Chapter Contest Open for Entries

    Are you currently writing an original work of fiction? Submit up to 10 pages of the first chapter of your book to CWA's 3rd Annual First Chapter Contest.

    First prize is a full scholarship to attend the Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp & Writing Retreat May 19 to 25, 2019, at the Cedar Valley Center & Spa, 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, near West Bend, Wisconsin (value: $1450). Second and third place winners will receive cash awards of $150 and $75, respectively. Each of the top three entries will also be published in CWA's e-zine, The Write City.

    For each entry, a non‐refundable fee of fifteen dollars ($15) must be made to CWA via PayPal on the same date as the author’s entry is submitted.

    Deadline is October 15, 2018. Winners will be announced in December.

    If you are thinking of entering this contest, September might be a great time to get  pre-submission feedback from Fred Shafer. Please see manuscript guidelines on our website:


    Prism Review Poetry and Short Story Contests

    Fiction: one story or linked short-shorts (8000 words max)
    Poetry: 1-5 poems, ten pages max
    Winners receive: $250 each and publication in Prism Review
    Contest deadline: midnight, November 30. All entries are considered for publication; all entrants receive the issue featuring the winning works.


    Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest

    Open to fiction submissions through 01 October 2018 (37 days from now).
    Guest Judge: Colum McCann, winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

    First prize: $1,000
    Second prize: $500
    Third prize: $250

    The three prizewinners and seven honorable mentions will be considered for representation by William Morris Endeavor; ICM; the Wylie Agency; Aragi, Inc.; Regal Literary; Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency; Markson Thoma Literary Agency; Inkwell Management; Sterling Lord Literistic; Aitken Alexander Associates; Barer Literary; the Gernert Company; and the Georges Borchardt Literary Agency.

    Entries must be complete by October 1, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. PDT. Results will be announced at the website December 15 and in the Winter 2018/2019 issue of Zoetrope: All-Story; and the winning story will be published as a special online supplement to that Winter 2018/2019 issue.

    We accept all genres of literary fiction. Entries must be: unpublished; strictly 5,000 words or fewer; and accompanied by a $30 entry fee per story. There are no formatting restrictions; please ensure only that the story is legible. Please omit all personal information from the manuscript itself (i.e., name, address, email address, phone number), as all stories are read blindly.

    We welcome multiple entries ($30/story), simultaneous submissions, and entrants from outside the United States. We will email contest updates and results to anyone who provides an active email address. Entrants retain all rights to their stories. Once a story is submitted, we cannot accept an updated draft. (However, an entrant is welcome to submit an updated draft as a new entry.) Entry fees will not be returned or adjusted.

    Please email us at with further questions. Thank you for your interest, and good luck!

    Looking for a Good Read?

    Many of our members have books available for sale on our website:

    Find the bookstore on the left side of the top menu bar.

    If you are a 2018-2019 member and would like your book included, please send your book cover jpeg and indiebound link to If you are self- published, please send your link to purchase.

    We also have a few dates available for members to sell their books at the session break. Please email to request this opportunity.

    Your Publishing or Event News

    2018-1019 OCWW members may submit third-person copy about their upcoming publishing news and events along with a jpeg image for the October Newsletter to

    Submission deadline is September 15

    Plan Ahead to Get Feedback on Your Writing

    Manuscript Critique Info and Deadlines 2018-2019

    Manuscript Critiques are for 2018-2019 OCWW members only

    1.  For Fred Shafer Only

    Fred will write comments on fiction manuscripts in all genres, for readers of all ages.  Hard copy manuscripts up to 20 pages, double- spaced, Times New Roman font may be sent to his home, at 2128 Lincolnwood Drive, Evanston 60201. Allow time for mail delivery. Manuscripts and a check for $3.00 per page must be received by Friday, August 31.  After that date, writers can bring their submissions and checks to the first three meetings (September 6, 13, 20) at the Winnetka Community House.  He will not accept manuscripts at the final meeting. You must pay the $10 session fee or the 4-pack. 

    2.  For all Speakers, unless otherwise indicated. Manuscripts should be sent as an attachment to email: Manuscripts should be in Word, double spaced, Times New Roman 12 point font with one inch-margins, pages numbered, and name on the front or in the header.  They should be received and paid for no later than 2 weeks before the workshop. 

    PLEASE NOTE: Different speakers may have additional requirements or guidelines for manuscript submission. See the event description below for complete details.

    3.  Mandatory $10 Speaker Session Fees:

    In addition to the manuscript fee, a single $10 session fee is required to submit a manuscript for an OCWW speaker’s critique. This $10 fee pays for the attendance of the session; this fee is due even if the member does not attend the speaker’s session.

    4.  Speaker’s Critique Fee:

     $3 per page, with a 20-page maximum. *Please note there is a $15 (5 page) minimum*

    5.  How to Pay for Your Critique:

    Once your manuscript is received, you will be sent an invoice to allow for quick and easy online payment. Manuscripts cannot be passed onto the speaker without advance payment. Payment must be received at least two weeks before the workshop. Please plan ahead if you prefer to bring cash or check payable to OCWW to a meeting, or mail to OCWW, c/o Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL  60093. Please contact if you haven't received your invoice. 

    Speakers and Deadlines:

    Goldie Goldbloom: October 25

    Emily Tedrowe: November 29 (will accept only the first 5 manuscripts)

    Nadine Kenney Johnstone: January 17

    Abby Saul  (Query Letter $15) March 7

    Tina Schwartz (First 5 pages) March 7

    Eric Rampson: March 14

    Jennifer Solheim: April 11

    Matthew Bird: May 16

  • December 28, 2017 1:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    January 2018
    Letter From The President
     Letter From The President

    The New Year is upon us! It’s a time to look back at what we’ve achieved and where we need to improve. It also gives us the opportunity to lay out a plan for a leap forward into 2018.

    What were OCWW’s organizational accomplishments in 2017?

    Members tell us, in their view, we fielded the finest array of accomplished instructors and workshop topics in recent memory. We also increased Membership and Workshop Attendance to the highest level in OCWW history. Member comradeship is at an all-time high. You can feel the buzz of conversation reverberating about the room at registration, before the workshop begins, during the break, and as Members make their way to the door at meeting close. It’s great!

    We also made progress in securing volunteers. Let’s give tribute to these volunteers. Each is a precious contributor to the success of our organization. They welcome us at registration, bring the snacks, create the newsletter, burnish our website, recruit and service the needs of our speakers, handle the manuscripts for critiquing, keep the books, handle our Board Meeting Minutes, and more. We wish we had more volunteer contributors. We’re still shorthanded and could use more help to keep our standards up and not overwork our existing team.

    Importantly, we have also improved our OCWW diversity demographics. It is vital for OCWW to show further improvement in this area to survive and thrive. Our finances are in the best shape ever. As a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, our goal is not to make money but to break even and maintain a sufficient contingency reserve to meet financial obligations should an emergency occur. We’ve prepared for any such contingency.

    How about 2018? Where is OCWW headed? What are our goals?

    Our priority is to maintain the superior speaker workshop standards that we have been achieving.

    Second, we need to increase the number of volunteers. Our Board, Officers, and other current volunteers are overloaded and weary. Remember, OCWW is a 100% volunteer organization. Without volunteers, we don’t exist. Let’s not allow those who are already volunteers to remain overburdened. We can’t afford to lose any of our current volunteers due to being burdened with overwork. All we ask is for you to consider giving back to the organization that gives you so much to help you with your writing. What’s the saying? “Pay it forward.” Most Members can find an hour or two a week to contribute their time and talent. How about stepping up? We are badly in need of volunteers for communications, publicity and website tech help. Three, four or more volunteer contributors to fill out the Communications/Publicity Committee would be a big help.

    Third, we look forward to further improving the social interplay aspects of OCWW by encouraging each Member to extend themselves to their fellow-Members and continue to show the friendliness and social interplay we have seen in recent times. If anyone would like to help coordinate an outing or social event please let us know.

    Finally, we are working on developing more promotional programs like our recent Holiday Book Fair to help our Member authors promote and sell their books.     

    Enough about OCWW. How about you?

    How do your personal writing goals and achievements stack up? Now that it’s 2018, it’s time to assess how many, if any, short story, novel, flash fiction, memoir, personal essay, non-fiction, poetry, or play/script-writing manuscripts you completed in 2017, or plan to finish in 2018, or wish to start and finish in 2018. If you’ve completed writings, have you gone the extra mile in preparing them for submission, or are they sitting in your “to be submitted” file? If it’s the latter, then it’s time to shake off the dust and dread and get to submitting them. It’s not a time to avoid submissions due to fear of rejections, we all get them. Writers who don’t submit their works never get published. Then again, some may be writing purely for personal pleasure or as a leave- behind memoir or personal essay for family and friends. If that’s your goal, more power to you, it’s an important and fulfilling goal to achieve.

    Let’s all embrace 2018 as an opportunity for making a fresh start on achieving our writing goals.

    I couldn’t leave the old year and enter the new without extending my thanks to every one of you for the support that you give to OCWW, the Board, Officers, and me. Please know it is appreciated.

    Here’s looking forward to a great year ahead.

    Warmest regards,


    Member Accomplishments

    Barbara Barnett was a guest speaker at the Faulkner Society annual Words and Music Writers Conference. She spoke on the topic, “blogging for authors” and getting “yourself” out there on social media as part of a fantastic weekend, featuring such luminaries as Walter Isaacson, Reza Aslan, and Roy Blount Jr. 

    In January, Barbara will be taping a new three-part web course on Blogging Basics for authors, which will be available in late January (scheduled) from the Profitable Authors Institute. In January, she will also be officially hanging out a “shingle” offering consulting to other authors on using the popular software program Scrivener for plotting, writing and editing long-form works. 


    Della Leavitt has two publications to share.  First, her poem and accompanying introduction, Where I am From, will be published in the Family Methodologies Special Issue of the International Society of Educational Biography's journal, Vitae Scholastica.

    Secondly, her piece, Teaching and Becoming: Currere in Context is partially adapted from one of the chapters from her novel-in-progress, The Measure of a Teacher. It will appear online in December 2017 as part of Volume 1, Issue 2 of the Currere Exchange Journal.


    Board Member Thomas Benz’s award winning story collection Home and Castle is being released in January by Snake Nation Press. Peter Ferry, author of Travel Writingand Old Heart, winner of the 2015 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award, said “Tom Benz's marvelous stories of life in the American suburbs will remind you of John Cheever but with a subjective empathy and wry vulnerability that are wrenching.”

    A special pre-order rate of $12 (including shipping and handling, except international) is available on a limited basis at (click on the book image and you do not need to “sign in” to buy).


    Member Jane Hertenstein has new flash fictions posted on-line at:

    Ink & Letters (

    and at Sunlight Press (


    Jennifer Worrell is featured in two anthologies for horror, fantasy, speculative romanceand noir comedy.

    72 Hours of Insanity, Volume 3 (Kalfou: a woman is haunted by her dead husband in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans)

    and Ironology 2017 (Moonlight & Love Songs: Fate of movie museum, thru POV of memorabilia; Stone Circuit, Black Hole: Science and magic are one, leaving a man to mourn his love more deeply than ever; and Keep the Change: A cat's human allergy leads him to take drastic measures.)


    Lynn Sloan reports that her story Nature Rules appears in the fall 2017 issue of Shenandoah.

    Find it here:

    CWA lists its upcoming events in its newsletter, 
    which you can find here: 

    Manuscript Submission Deadlines

    One of the outstanding benefits to being an OCWW member is the opportunity to have your work critiqued by some of our highly qualified speakers. To check if a speaker is accepting manuscripts please check the list below. Manuscripts should be sent as an attachment to Manuscripts should be in Word, double spaced, Times New Roman 12 point font with one inch margins, pages numbered, and name on the front or in the header.  They should be received and paid for no later than 2 weeks before the workshop. The critique charge is $3 per page, with a 20 page maximum. *Please note there is a $15 (5 page) minimum*

    Golda Goldbloom: submit and pay by January 11

    Natasha Tarpley: submit and pay by January 18

    Nadine Kenney Johnstone: submit and pay by February 15

    Matt Bird: submit and pay by March 1

    Abby Geni: submit and pay by March 15

    Amy Hassinger: submit and pay by March 22

    Barbara Barnett: submit and pay by March 29

    Abby Saul: submit and pay for 1 page single spaced Query Letter by April 12 Fee is $15.

    Tina Schwartz: submit and pay for 1 page single spaced Query Letter by April 12 Fee is $15. Tina will also accept the first ten pages of your manuscript by April 12.

    Jac Jemc: submit and pay by April 19

    Sarah Terez Rosenblum: submit and pay by April 26

    C A L E N D A R

    January - '18



    Amy Jo Cousins

    Hot Romance on a Cold Winter Day

    Romance is big business, and there’s a reason the romance genre is a billion-dollar industry, selling more books than the next two largest genres combined. The search for love and the struggle to make a relationship work are core stories, engaging readers’ hardwired need to learn what happens next on a character-driven level. Including strong romantic elements in your manuscript of any genre can strengthen your work, but a well-structured romance has its own story beats. We’ll discuss braiding your romance arc into the external plot and theme, and how to engage readers’ desire for emotionally satisfying endings.

    9:30am-12pm.  Winnetka Community House



    Richard Thomas

    What Editors Look for in Short Fiction: Key Elements Paired with Your Unique Voice

    Author, editor and lecturer Richard Thomas starts this lively session with a discussion of Freytag’s Pyramid and the essential points he teaches in his Short Story Mechanics Class for university students, including exercises authors can do later on their own. In the second hour, Richard will talk about how editors evaluate short fiction and how you can improve your chances of publication.

    9:30am-12pm  Winnetka Community House



    Hannah Gamble

    Use the Absurd to Spice Up Your Writing

    Poet, essayist, editor and educator Hannah Gamble leads a workshop on how to use absurdity to lead our readers to a genuine emotional experience. She will illustrate how absurdity works in fiction, poetry, and memoir, and conduct several writing exercises throughout the session.

    9:30am-12pm  Winnetka Community House




    Goldie Goldbloom  DATE CHANGE from 12/14/17

    Meet Your Conflicts Head On!

    Award-winning author and lecturer Goldie Goldbloom focuses on the way in which many writers swerve away from the most difficult interactions in their work, and how to correct that impulse.In the second hour of her lecture, she’ll review member manuscripts submitted for critique as examples of how to improve your story by finding the issues and addressing them.

    9:30am-12pm  Winnetka Community House


  • October 03, 2017 6:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    October 3, 2017


    Congratulations to OCWW Speakers: 

    Lori Rader-Day

    Christine Sneed

    Nadine Kenney Johnstone

    All Finalists in CWA’s Book of the Year Awards!

    Don’t miss your chance to enter the

     CWA First Chapter Contest!

    Entry deadline: October 15, 2017

    The winner will be awarded a full scholarship to attend the Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp & Writing Retreat May 20 to 26, 2018, at the Cedar Valley Center & Spa, 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, near West Bend, Wisconsin (value: $1,375). Second and third place will receive cash awards of $150 and $75, respectively. 

    For more information go to

    How to Crowdsource You Next Project

    Thursday, October 12, 7 – 9 pm

    Crowdsourcing: How to use Kickstarter and other crowdsourcing sites to fund your next project

    Savy Leiser

    933 W. Wilson 7 – 9 pm WEST DOOR, coffee shop closed

    Chicago SCBWI co-rep Savy Leiser, author of The Making of a Small-Town Beauty King (2016)  recently funded the first 2 books of a project called The Furever Home Friends, a series about shelter animals with accompanying plush toy where a portion of the profits benefits a shelter. Many authors and illustrators are forced to juggle projects and resources. Savy will talk about getting started, various crowdfunding sites, and, most importantly, how to promote your projects in order to get funded. @SavyLeiser,



    Goldie Goldenbloom's session date has been changed to January 25, 2018.

    Jennifer Solheim's session date has been changed to December 14, 2017

    Back to top

  • October 01, 2017 7:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

      October 1, 2017

    Created by Joan Naper and Paco Aramburu  

    President’s Message

    I’m writing you this month with tremendous enthusiasm and high expectations. If the pace of membership renewals and new membership keeps up at the pace we have seen in this first month, our membership will exceed last year’s, which was our highest in OCWW history. That is a testament to the great programs that our co-Program Directors Renee James and Susan Levi, and their programs team of Susan Van Dusen and Tom Benz have brought to you. It is also recognition of the enthusiastic and welcoming spirit that has been infused into the organization by our co-Membership Directors Claudia Katz and Ann Bates, and their extensive team of Registration Committee Members, and our splendid volunteer contributors of refreshment snacks that are being brought to each meeting. 

    Our pre-workshop coffee chat, break time, and post workshop social interplay is indicative of the wonderful blend we are bringing together of friendship and learning. OCWW workshops are now abuzz with conversation and goodwill. For that I thank our Board Officers, volunteers, and attending members. You are making OCWW an even greater organization than it has always been.

    The Fred Shafer 4-part workshops were an overwhelming success (need I say as usual). Fred’s 31 years of wisdom and inspiration has guided so many of our Members to success in their writing endeavors that we have lost count of the number. Thank you Fred. “May the Force be with you.” We celebrated Fred’s contribution to OCWW throughout his four week series and capped it off with an intimate luncheon at AVLI Restaurant at which Fred received personal tributes from attendees and a touching memento of a personalized copy of “TESTIMONY”, the latest offering from bestselling author, Scott Turow, son of Rita Turow, an accomplished writer in her own right, and one of the founding members of OCWW. That too was a heartwarming tribute to Fred for his contributions to OCWW.

    We look forward now to great presentations in October by Lori Rader-Day, Rebecca Makkai, Jamie Freveletti, and Christine Sneed. Wow! What a line-up. Don’t miss any of them. I look forward to seeing you there. If you haven’t already renewed your membership please do, and if you know of potential new members bring them as you guest. Also, please – volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. We need your help.

    Links To Our Features:

    Book Launches

    Renee James' Launches Seven Suspects

    Ruth Spiro Launches Baby Loves Thermodynamics

    Upcoming Critique Submission Deadlines

    First Evening Session

    Our Calendar


    Our Members’ Upcoming Book Launches:

    You are invited to the launch of Renee James' newest in the' Bobbi Logan series. The party starts at 2pm on Saturday, October 7, at Centuries & Sleuths Books in Forest Park. Light refreshments including wine and cheese will be served, and activities will include readings from Seven Suspects and a discussion of how transgender acceptance has evolved in the Chicago area since James' first novel, Coming Out Can Be Murder, made its debut in 2012.

    Bobbi Logan is Back!

    Someone is stalking Bobbi Logan. He moves like a ghost and he’s getting closer and more violent all the time. The police are trying to help, but they literally don’t have a clue. No one does. So Bobbi is drawing up a list of possible stalkers and she’s going to interview them, face to face, one by one. She knows it’s dangerous. She knows when she get to Mr. Wrong all hell will break loose. But at least it will be at a time and place of her choosing. At least she’ll see him coming. At least, that’s the plan.

    From the award-winning author of A Kind of Justice and Transition to Murder:

    Our very own Renee James Presents her newest mystery, 

    S e v e n     S u s p e c t s

    Launch Party! You’re Invited!  
    Saturday, October 7, 2017 - 2 p.m.

    Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 Madison Street, Forest Park, IL 60130  ; •  (708) 771-7243

    Centuries and Sleuths Books, one of the Chicago area's great independent booksellers, is worth the trip all by itself. One side of the store houses C&S's extensive history collection, while the other side offers the most complete selection of mystery titles in the metro area. The store has become home to aficionados of both. The Chicago chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime stage many of their monthly meetings at the store, and it has been the launch pad for many OCWW authors' books. The neighborhood is also home to a variety of cafes and restaurants.

    Renee James has been a member of OCWW for several years and served as co-director of programs for the last two years. She began writing fiction after a long career in magazine editing and publishing. She self-published her first novel, Coming Out Can Be Murder, in 2012 and has published three more novels since with traditional publishers. She also writes under a male byline, with works including a biography and, coming in November, a literary adventure novel.  For more about Renee James and Seven Suspects, go to


    Ruth Spiro Invites You To A Launch Party!

    OCWW members and friends are invited to the launch party for the next two books in my "Baby Loves Science" Series, as well as any of the following events. Ruth Spiro

    Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this clever board book explores the transfer of energy as it flows from the sun to an apple to baby. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby's sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well!

    I hope to see you!

    at: The Book Cellar
    4736 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 

    October 14 - 10:30am

    at: Magic Tree Bookstore
    141 N Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, IL 

    Ruth Spiro (

    **Members may email  publication news by October 20th to be included in the November Newsletter. .


    Upcoming Critique Submission Deadlines:

    Christine Sneed submit and pay by October 12

    Rebecca Johns, submit and pay by October 20

    Kelly McKnees (taking 5 pages for $15. Your submission may be discussed at session.) submit/pay by November 2


    Our First Evening Session: Rebecca Johns-

    Creating Complex and Dynamic Characters

    Help Make it a Huge Success!

    Please invite your writing friends with day jobs. Invite students. 
    Special Guest Price only $10.00!

    Student Special: Free with a valid School ID.

    November 2, 2017  6:30-8:30 PM

    Wilmette Community Recreation Center
    3000 Glenview Road, Wilmette - Lots of Parking

    DePaul creative writing professor, Rebecca Johns, will show us how creating high personal stakes and layering narrative techniques can take our characters to the next level. We loved her PowerPoint last year. Come out and see her again. The session includes handouts and exercisesRebecca will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines.

    Rebecca Johns' first novel, Icebergs, was a finalist for the 2007 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for first fiction and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Award. Her second, The Countess—a fictionalization of the life of Elizabeth Bathory, the “Blood Countess”—was published in October 2010 from Crown Books. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, StoryStudio, The Harvard Review, The Mississippi Review, the Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, Ladies' Home Journal, Self, and Seventeen, among others. 

    A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Missouri School of Journalism, she teaches in the English Department at DePaul University in Chicago.

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  • August 10, 2017 3:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last Two OCWW Summer Sessions August 3 and August 10!

           Free for OCWW Members

    In August Bobbie Ruby will lead one more summer critique and one more prompt sessions.

    Email Bobbie at if you wish to attend.

    What is a Prompt Session?

    Bring something to write with (pencil, quill pen,) and something to write on (paper, laptop).

    The leader gives a word or a phrase, usually something that can be taken many ways. 

    You start writing whatever the subconscious presents.

    You don’t think, you just write. Spelling and grammar don’t count.

    At the end of the writing time, we each read what we wrote to the group.

    Then we go around quickly and tell the author the words or phrases or images

    that were strong or vivid or resonated.

    Resonance calls up in the reader a feeling that says the writing rings true.

    Prompts help you get past your internal editor or critic.

    It is a great way to discover back story.  Also a sneaky way to break writer’s block.

    You can explore a prompt in your own voice as memoir or nonfiction,

    or in the voice of a character in your fiction writing


    Critique Group       Thursday  9:30  August 3

    Prompt Session     Thursday  9:30  August 10

    You can come to any or all of these programs.

    Please email Bobbie each time if you are coming to be sure we have enough chairs.


    At Bobbie Ruby’s home near Golf and McCormick (TJ Maxx) in Skokie.

    Email her at for directions

    COST    FREE, but you must be a member of OCWW for either 2016-17 or 2017-18.

    You can join OCWW and pay your membership at the meeting.

    WHO IS BOBBIE RUBY? Bobbie is a former OCWW Board Member.

    She has published a YA biography of Sir Francis Drake for Scholastic, short stories in Cobblestone, Woman’s World, and Twilight Tales. Her hymn lyrics won a national prize.

    She has led critique groups and prompt sessions in several venues.

    Email  if you are interested in attending and for directions.


    Barbara Barnett at 

    Chicago Writers Association

    OCWW member, Barbara Barnett is speaking at the Chicago Writers Association’s third education/networking event on Saturday, August 12, 2017 from 900 am to noon at Columbia College. The general topic is building your writer's confidence. Barbara's talk will be: Build Your Confidence as a Writer: The 3 Rs: Research, Revisit, Rebound

    Research…to sound like an expert (even if you’re not) 

    Revisit…your manuscript by hearing it aloud to remember why you love it

    Rebound…from rejection by finding your real writing community for support and sharing

    Whether you're a newbie or have been at it for years, confidence may be the most elusive arrow in your writing quiver. Join Bram Stoker Award-nominated novelist and executive editor of Blogcritics Magazine for tips and tricks to building your writer's confidence in this interactive session.


    • Conquering the fear of sharing your work by listening to your own voice (literally)
    • Learning how great research (and how to do it) will make you (at least sound like) the expert, whether you're writing non-fiction or the next bestselling novel
    • Finding your "peeps" whether online or in the local coffee shop to commiserate over rejections, cheer your successes and be your writing support.

    Tom Benz Wins Serena McDonald Kennedy Award

    Tom Benz, OCWW Board Secretary, recently won the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award sponsored by Snake Nation Press for his short story collection titled Home and Castle. The book, which contains a few stories considered in Fred Shafer's workshops, is expected to be published some time in the fall.

    Could your book be the CWA Book of the Year?

    Time is running out to enter the Chicago Writers Association's 7th Annual Book of The Year Awards.

    All entries must be received or postmarked by Tuesday, August 1, 2017. CLICK HERE for the requirements, and a downloadable entry form.

    Books will be awarded in each of four categories:

    • 1.     Traditional Fiction
    • 2.     Indie Fiction
    • 3.     Traditional Nonfiction
    • 4.     Indie Nonfiction

    Winners will be recognized at a ceremony on January 13, 2018.

    Member entry fee: $15. Non-member entry fee: $25.

    Submit your book today!!  You may join CWA prior to entering the contest for only $25 per year and receive the member submission rate. CLICK HERE to join.


    OCWW September Workshops

    Fred Shafer will kick off our 2017-2018 season with workshops September 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th. We apologize for the mistake of scheduling on September 21. Our speakers were already booked by the time we realized it was a high holiday. Please let Susan Levi know at one of Fred’s earlier sessions or by  if you will be missing the 21st to observe Rosh Hashanah. Fred Shafer has generously agreed to tape his session as an accommodation for our members affected by our oversight.    

    We will be celebrating Fred Shafer’s amazing contribution to OCWW over the last thirty years. Please spread the word! More details to follow.

    DePaul Offering Open Enrollment Creative Non-Fiction Class this Fall

    OCWW Speaker and DePaul Associate Professor, Rebecca Johns shared news that DePaul is now offering an open-enrollment graduate creative writing course. This fall's topic is Creative Nonfiction, taught by Francesca Royster. We anticipate offering the course for students interested in fiction and poetry, too, in future terms.

    The course, ENG 480 Introduction to Creative Writing, is open to anyone with permission of the MAWP director--which is Rebecca. If you are interested, please contact her. 

    Course Description:

  • April 13, 2017 7:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Member, Lynn Sloan thought you might like to know about the Evanston Literary Festival, running the first two weeks of May. "It looks like there will be quite a variety of free events with outstanding authors."

  • April 05, 2017 10:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Gina Grillo has shared the link to our latest article on the Tribune Website:,amp.html



    Last week Mary Robinette Kowal shared strategies and tips for avoiding common problems with our novel’s secondary characters. We don’t want our secondary characters to take over our story or be too bland. Mary shared a tool to help us create interesting and diverse characters with depth for our novels and shake these up to add conflict and ideas for storylines. If you have any questions about Mary’s process of casting your novel, please use this as an opportunity to have an interesting discussion with someone who attended the workshop. Ask around at our next session. Danielle (Dani) Hayden has graciously agreed to be a resource if you have any questions.

    Here’s Mary’s Homework Assignment:

    Now you're going to cast your story. Think of this as having a completely open casting call for a film, in which you're willing to look at anybody. Try to get through at least three of the characters. We've talked about the various axes of diversity; use those to create your characters. Try making at least two of the axes for each character arc on the subordinate end of the spectrum










    For your homework, fill out the casting sheet twice and flip at least two axis elements for each character. You may change all of them, but at least two per character and think about what advantages they offer for the narrative you want to tell. Also look to make certain that none of your choices introduce problematic tropes.

    Focus on flip for at least two axes elements: Age, ability, race, class/education.

  • September 28, 2016 10:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    OCWW Needs Your Help. Volunteer Today!

      Dear OCWW friends,

      OCWW operates on a volunteer basis. We need your help! Please take a look at our list of volunteer opportunities. Contact us at: if you are interested.   

    “Many hands lighten the load.”

    If you love coming to our lectures please join our merry volunteer crew.

    Volunteer Opportunities:

    Hospitality: Creates and manages the snack sign up sheet.

    Snack Providers: Sign up and bring snacks.

    Publicity Committee: Help with promotions, advertisement, and/or social media.

    Communication Assistants: Help with member questions and communications. Take event photographs with OCWW’s camera.

    Outreach Committee: Reach out to Universities, writing groups, venues and other partnership opportunities.

    Welcome Committee: Meet and greet new members and first time guests.

    Social Committee: Coordinate special offsite events and monthly birthday wishes.

    Registration Assistants: Help with workshop registrations. *Your session fees will be waived*

    Technical Assistants: Temperature control, AV set up and trouble shooting.

    Library Assistants: Organize our library; manage check-outs and returns.

    Fundraising Committee: Help with fundraising activities.

     Assistant Treasurer: Register attendees, collect &record cash/checks, deposit funds, send information to Treasurer who develops Financial Report & Tax Filings. *Your session fees will be waived*

    Volunteer Board Positions:

    Vice President: Leads meetings in President’s absence; backs up President as needed. Mail pickup and distribution.

    Program Co-Chairs: Lines up speakers for weekly meetings, including finding and booking them, arranging topics, getting bios and ms info and informing the Pres, Secretary, Communications and Publicity.

    Secretary: Keeps Board meeting minutes; provides notice of meetings and circulates agendas and minutes; prepares and issues contracts to speakers; maintains Board records.

    Assistant Treasurer: Records payments, manuscripts and membership. *Your session fees will be waived*

    Attendance / Membership: Manages membership roster and records weekly attendance. *Your session fees will be waived*

    Bylaws: Serves as a resource on matters governed by the Bylaws; in charge of any amendments; assists with meeting protocol as needed.

    Communications: Sends out e-Blasts and Newsletter, manages website information.

    Librarian / Historian: Manages the library and keeps OCWW’s historic records.

    Manuscripts: Prepares and supervises the manuscript policy; keep track of weekly submissions and coordinates with speaker.

    Publicity: Submits program information to online and print outlets, etc.

    Summer Meetings:  Plans summer meetings, including speakers and locations.

    Arrangements Director: Verify workshop venue set-ups (i.e. dates/times, seating layouts – # tables/chairs, equipment requirements (i.e. A/V needs – projector adapter for Apple or PC, mikes, whiteboard, projection screen, # of electrical extension cords, coffee and hot water requirements, OCWW cabinet refreshment supplies – cups, napkins, etc.


    With Gratitude,



  • September 01, 2016 10:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Saturday, July 23 I did a 1/2 hour radio interview with Florida "Boomer Times" Anita Finley about my mystery MIAMI ICED as well as writing in general.  To pass the time while you’re driving or gardening or…. you can listen to the interview on YouTube, the link is:


    Sue Sussman






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