Mary Ruth Clarke
Adapting Fiction for the Performing Arts: Is It a Play? TV Show? Movie?
LAdapting Fiction for the Performing Arts: Is It a Play? TV Show? Movie?
Screenwriter and playwright Mary Ruth Clarke discusses how to evaluate the potential your novel or story idea has for stage, television or the silver screen. Her theater credits include a host of stage plays that have been performed all over the United States. As a screen writer, she co-authored and starred in the original Meet the Parents, then co-adapted it into the blockbuster movie starring Robert De Niro. Mary Ruth teaches screenwriting and writing for television at Chicago Dramatists, where she is a Resident Playwright and has critiqued "about a gazillion plays and screenplays." She is a regular guest lecturer at the Chicago Screenwriter’s Network monthly meet up and ran a Master’s Class for the Chicago Independent Film Project in December. She is a member of the Writer’s Guide of America East and the Dramatists Guild.
Mary Ruth Clarke co-wrote and starred in the original “Meet the Parents” and co-adapted it into the blockbuster version, starring Robert De Niro. Her screenplay “Chimney Rock” is under option, and she has been a script doctor for many screenplays, including “A Guy Thing” and “Desperation Boulevard.”
Her play Bonhoeffer’s Cost just finished a run at The Agape Actors Co-op in Austin, Texas and has been produced at the Beacon Theater in Philadelphia, the Provision Theater in Chicago. Agape also produced her farce Suffer The Long Night, co-written with her “Meet The Parents" partner, Greg Glienna. Suffer The Long Night was also produced in Los Angeles at Meta Theater.
Her play Address Unknown was produced in Chicago by 20% Theater Company, and was also produced by Fury Theater in 2014.
Her solo performance, I Could Kill Him For Dying recently ran at Three Cat Productions in Chicago.
She is a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists, where she just finished a 28 hour workshop and had two Saturday Series readings of her almost one-woman musical, Fay Burns. Other recent Saturday Series readings Alice and Celia and Whatever It Takes, a comedy screenplay, directed by Second City’s Pat McKenna.
Mary Ruth teaches screenwriting and writing for television at Chicago Dramatists, and has critiqued about a gazillion plays and screenplays. She is a regular guest lecturer at the Chicago Screenwriter’s Network monthly meet up and ran a Master’s Class for the Chicago Independent Film Project in December. She is a member of the Writer’s Guide of America East and the Dramatists Guild.
9-9:30 AM registration and socializing
9:30-12 PM program
Nadine Kenney Johnstone
Make Your Story Meaningful
How do you make fiction or non-fiction resonate with readers? In this workshop, writers will learn and discuss methods for giving a story the emotional layering it needs to be satisfying to editors and readers. We will read published excerpts to see how successful authors have layered their stories. You will then do brainstorming exercises and in-class writing activities that focus on layering your writing. In addition to working on craft, we will discuss some innovative publishing options available to today's authors. Nadine will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.
Nadine Kenney Johnstone is the author of the memoir, Of This Much I'm Sure, about her IVF challenges and the healing power of hope. Her infertility story has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Today’s Parent, MindBodyGreen, Metro, and Chicago Health Magazine, among others. She teaches at Loyola University and received her MFA from Columbia College in Chicago. Her other work has been featured in various magazines and anthologies, including Chicago Magazine, The Moth, PANK, and The Magic of Memoir. Nadine is a writing coach who presents at conferences internationally. She lives near Chicago with her family.
Follow her at nadinekenneyjohnstone.com.
Bringing in Research While Telling a Compelling Tale
In this session, Susanna will discuss what she has learned about writing historical fiction as a historian-turned-novelist, as well as share her own path to publication. In particular, she will focus on such questions as: How can we contextualize our stories historically without just dumping information on our readers? How can we make our dialogue seem authentic, without sounding stilted or archaic? How much historical research is "enough"? In this discussion, Susanna will offer some strategies for avoiding the most common pitfalls in writing historical fiction.
Susanna Calkins writes the Lucy Campion historical mysteries, which are set in seventeenth-century London. Holding a PhD in history, Susanna works at Northwestern University where she directs learning and teaching programs for faculty, offering sessions on such things as providing feedback and learning from failure . As a member of the Midwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Susanna runs the Hugh Holton critique program, in which established authors provide detailed feedback on unpublished manuscripts.
Writing for Strangers
Most of us start out telling the story we want to read, but how do you make your story interesting enough to pass the “chatty stranger on an airplane” test?
Can you win over a jaded audience that is sick to death of over-worked plot lines and doesn't want to distrust your hero? We discuss 122 neat little tricks you can use to maximize audience identification with your characters and interest in your plot. Matt will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.
Matt Bird has an MFA from Columbia University, but a lot of the advice he hands out now is the opposite of what he was taught there. He is the author of the bestselling writing guide “The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers”, published in 2016 by Writer’s Digest Press. He lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife and two adorable children. Matt can be reached on his website: www.secretsofstory.com
Never Give Up: The Writing, Resting, Shopping, Despairing, Evolution and Redemption of a Short Story
Peter Ferry's stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Fiction, OR, Chicago Quarterly Review and StoryQuarterly; he is the winner of an Illinois Arts Council Award for Short Fiction. He is a contributor to the travel pages of The Chicago Tribune and to WorldHum. He has written two novels, Travel Writing, which was published in 2008, and Old Heart, which was published in June, 2015 and won the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year award. He lives in Evanston, Illinois and Van Buren County, Michigan with his wife Carolyn.
Making Revision Manageable
Many writers find the idea of revision to be daunting. Crossing the divide between a first draft and a polished novel or short story can seem overwhelming. In this class, we will analyze and unriddle the editing process. We will discuss common writerly mistakes, new ways of thinking about revision, and practicable tools and techniques for approaching your own work. The lecture will include handouts, readings, in-class exercises, and discussion. Abby will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.
Abby Geni is the author of The Lightkeepers, winner of the 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction and the inaugural Chicago Review of Books Awards for Best Fiction, and The Last Animal (2013), an Indies Introduce Debut Writers Selection and a finalist for the Orion Book Award. Her short stories have won first place in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and the Chautauqua Contest and have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Geni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Iowa Fellowship. Her website is www.abbygeni.com.
What is Creative Non-Fiction and Why is it the Next Big Thing in Your Writing Life?
The pairing of the word “creative” with the word “nonfiction” makes some journalists wince, and with good reason. But “creative” doesn’t necessarily mean loose with the facts. It has more to do with how a piece of nonfiction is put together—with an innovative structure, maybe, or a searing attention to its own musicality, or some other unique effect that lifts the piece out of the routine and into the extraordinary. Together we’ll look at some striking examples from this broad genre, and do some creative experimenting of our own. Lecture/discussion/writing exercises. Appropriate for curious writers of any genre. Amy will accept fiction and non-fiction manuscripts. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.
Amy Hassinger is the author of three novels: Nina: Adolescence, The Priest’s Madonna, and After the Dam. Her writing has been translated into five languages and has won awards from Creative Nonfiction, Publisher’s Weekly, and the Illinois Arts Council. Her nonfiction has appeared in numerous venues, including The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Writers’ Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches in the University of Nebraska’s MFA in Writing Program. You can find out more about her at www.amyhassinger.com.
Barbara Barnett and Richard Davidson - The Path to Publishing Success
Two of OCWW's most successful authors discuss their very different paths to success.
Barbara Barnett is author of Bram Stoker Award finalist The Apothecary's Curse (Pyr Books) and Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. (ECW Press). Apothecary's Curse recently won the Readers Choice Award for Fantasy/SF at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference. Her work is featured in Llewellyn International’s book Spiritual Pregnancy, and her short stories have appeared in anthologies from Riverdale Ave. Press and Media Bistro. She’s publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics Magazine where she writes on pop culture and politics. Barbara will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines. Find Barbara at BarbaraBarnett.com
Richard Davidson is the author of the self-help guidebook: DECISION TIME! Better Decisions for a Better Life. He has written the five-novel Lord’s Prayer Mystery Series: Lead Us Not into Temptation, Give Us this Day our Daily Bread, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Thy Will Be Done, and Deliver Us from Evil. He is the editor of an anthology, Overcoming: An Anthology by the Writers of OCWW. His latest four novels, Implications, Impulses, Impostor, and Impending form his new Imp Mysteries series, continuing to chronicle the exploits of characters introduced in the earlier series, along with affiliated newcomers.
Mr. Davidson is Past President of Off-Campus Writers' Workshop, the oldest ongoing group of its kind in the U.S. and is the founder of the ReadWorthy Books Book Review Blog and the Independent Mystery Publishing Society (IMPS).
9-9:30 AM registration and socializing
9:30-12 PM program
Writing Complex Identities
Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion (HarperCollins),The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and eleven other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages. Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated science fiction magazine, Strange Horizons, and serves as editor-in-chief of Jaggery, a South Asian literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit (www.desilit.org) and The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org). Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, with her husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog. She is currently working on a breast cancer memoir, a science fiction novel, and a collection of poetry. Visit www.maryannemohanraj.com.
Abby Saul, Tina Schwartz: Agent Hunting 101
Two of OCWW’s most popular agents conduct a workshop on how to woo and win the right agent for your work. Abby Saul specializes in literary and commercial fiction, while Tina Schwartz’s focus includes YA, women’s literature, and non-fiction. They will describe today’s market and talk about the qualities of a query letter and opening chapter that grab a busy agent’s attention. Both Abby Saul and Tina Schwartz will accept 1 page query letters to critique for $15. Tina will also accept the first ten pages of your manuscript for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.
Tina P. Schwartz is a writer of ten traditionally published books. She is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor's degree in Marketing Communication with an Advertising emphasis. After spending many years in advertising, Schwartz gave up a career in media sales to pursue her true passion of selling manuscripts when she opened The Purcell Agency, LLC in July of 2012. She enjoys spending time with family, playing games and sports. She is a huge movie lover and a self-proclaimed tomboy. You can find out more about her at www.tinaPschwartz.com or www.ThePurcellAgency.com.
Agent Abby Saul founded The Lark Group after a decade in publishing at John Wiley & Sons, Sourcebooks, and Browne & Miller Literary Associates. She’s worked with and edited bestselling and award-winning authors as well as major brands. Abby also has helped to establish ebook standards, led company-wide forums to explore new digital possibilities for books, and created and managed numerous digital initiatives.
As an agent, Abby is looking for great and engrossing adult commercial and literary fiction. A magna cum laude graduate of Wellesley College, Abby spends her weekends—when she’s not reading—cooking and hiking with her husband.
Haunting as Narrative Driver and Resonance Builder - Special Evening Event
From the absences of Sappho to the ghosts of Henry James to the longing-fueled chases driving Laura van den Berg's stories, the idea of haunting presents itself in many forms throughout literature. In this session we'll explore haunting as narrative driver and resonance builder by reading examples of different modes of haunting and appropriating their forms. Whether you're interested in building a traditional ghost story, a tale of unrequited love or lingering grief, or playing with erasures of source materials, this course can help anyone looking for ways of building theme and image-based collateral in a variety of genres. Jac will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see manuscript guidelines for details.
Jac Jemc lives in Chicago. Her novel The Grip of It is forthcoming from FSG Originals (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) in August 2017. Jemc is also the author of My Only Wife (Dzanc Books), From the absences of Sappho to the ghosts of Henry James to the longing-fueled chases driving named a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award; A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books), named one of Amazon's Best Story Collections of 2014; and a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She'd Invited In (Greying Ghost Press).
Jac's nonfiction has been featured on the long list for Best American Essays and her story "Women in Wells" was featured in the 2010 Best of the Web anthology. Jac received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has completed residencies at the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Hald: The Danish Center for Writers and Translators, Ragdale, the Vermont Studio Center, Thicket, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has been the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grants, and was named as one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex and one of New City's Lit 50 in Chicago. She's taught English and Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame, Northeastern Illinois University, Loyola University Chicago, Lake Forest College, Illinois Wesleyan University, Story Studio Chicago, and The Loft Literary Center. She currently serves as a web nonfiction editor for Hobart.
6:00-6:30 Registration and Socializing
Sarah Terez Rosenblum - Writing Sex - Special Off-Site Evening Event
Good writing is like good sex. It takes practice. And writing about sex? That takes practice too!
Join novelist, teacher, and freelance writer Sarah Terez Rosenblum in a dynamic discussion about writing a literarily relevant sex scene. You'll get tips, guidelines, and a chance to read and share work. Manuscripts will be accepted for critique. Please see Manuscript Guidelines for details.
Sarah Terez Rosenblum’s debut novel, "Herself When She's Missing,” was called “poetic and heartrending" by Booklist. She writes for publications and sites including Salon, The Chicago Sun Times, XOJane, afterellen.com, Curve Magazine and Pop Matters. Her fiction has appeared in literary magazines such as kill author and Underground Voices, and she was a 2011 recipient of Carve Magazine's Esoteric Fiction Award and the 2015 1st runner up for Midwestern Gothic's Lake Prize as well as a finalist for Washington Square Review’s 2016 Flash Fiction Award. In addition, she was shortlisted for Zoetrope All Story’s 2016 Short Fiction Contest, receiving an honorable mention. In 2014, she founded the Truth or Lie Live Lit Series. Sarah teaches Creative Writing at Story Studio, and The University of Chicago Graham school.
Follow her on Twitter or on Facebook or visit www. sarahterezrosenblum.com
6:00-6:30 Registration and Socialization
Mary Robinette Kowal
Help for Novel Writers on Structuring a Short Story Idea
When people are struggling to write short fiction, the problem usually begins with the idea. It often leads to a story that is too long, really the beginning of a novel, or is so simplistic that it is dull. In this workshop, we'll walk through how to create and structure a short story idea.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of historical fantasy novels: The Glamourist Histories series and Ghost Talkers. She has received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. Her stories appear in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi.
She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and more than a dozen manual typewriters.
9:00-9:30 Registration and Socializing
Book Reviews and the Library Market
Keir Graff will speak to authors from his perspective, both as an oft-reviewed author and as executive editor of Booklist, the American Library Association’s book-review journal for public libraries. In addition to sharing Booklist’s inner workings, he will discuss the business of book reviewing, the current publishing landscape, the importance of the library market, and dos and don’ts of submitting books for review.
Keir Graff is the author of two middle-grade novels (including The Matchstick Castle), and four novels for adults (most recently the thriller The Price of Liberty), with two more books slated for publication in 2018. He is also coeditor of one short-fiction anthology, Montana Noir (2017), and is currently editing a second. Since 2011, he has been cohost of Publishing Cocktails, an occasional literary gathering in Chicago. By day, he is the executive editor of Booklist. You can find him on Twitter (@KeirGraff, @Booklist_Keir), Facebook (Keir.Graff.Author), and at www.keirgraff.com.
We Need To Talk
In real life, we’re polite, repetitive, and a lot of what we say is unnecessary filler. Which means that the more “realistic” our dialogue, the less it serves our fiction. How do we break our own learned conversational habits to craft dialogue that not only convinces but also moves the story forward and oozes subtext? In this craft class, we will look at examples from some of the masters of dialogue, and discuss what makes them work. We’ll also discuss craft details such as pacing, avoiding awkward speech tags, and maintaining longer speeches (monologues) – as well as the larger issue of giving each character a distinct and consistent voice.
Rebecca Makkai is the Chicago-based author of the story collection Music for Wartime, as well as the novels The Hundred-Year House (a BookPage “Best Book” of 2014 and winner of the Chicago Writers Association Award) and The Borrower (a Booklist Top Ten Debut). Her short fiction was featured in The Best American Short Stories anthology in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, and appears regularly in publications such as Harper’s, Tin House and Ploughshares, and on public radio’s This American Life and Selected Shorts. The recipient of a 2014 NEA Fellowship, Rebecca has taught at the Tin House Writers' Conference, Northwestern University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
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