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StoryStudio Writers Festival

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StoryStudio Writers Festival


StoryStudio Writers Festival 2018: Chicago’s Newest Story
Join us for a lively and productive two-day festival focusing on both the craft and the business of being a published writer.StoryStudio Chicago presents a winning lineup of some of the nation’s leading experts in writing and publishing at this inaugural event. Curated by Artistic Director Rebecca Makkai, the conference features special guests who will share professional wisdom and personal insights, discussing the tools you’ll need to take your work to the next level. Along with classes in craft and the business side of it all, the Festival offers agent and editor meetings, a First-Page Clinic, and our Fast Pitch session. We round it all out with evening activities, brown bag lunch conversations, and gatherings over coffee.We will also host a Friday, September 28 evening cocktail fundraiser “Story in a Night” at StoryStudio Chicago; tickets on sale with your registration below.Where and When: Saturday, September 29 (10am-5pm) & Sunday, September 30 (10am-4pm) at Center On Halsted (3656 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60613). Space is very limited! Be sure to sign up early to secure your spot. We'll be in touch soon to help you plan your schedule, including your attendance of our limited-space breakout sessions and any a la carte add-ons you sign up for!



Festival Schedule
Saturday, September 29th


9:00am-10:00am - Coffee, Chats, & Check-in


10:00am-11:00am (Choose one)


A.  The Author Time Machine: Where I Was, and What I Wish I’d KnownWhat if you could give your younger self advice on the joys and heartaches of the writer’s journey? A panel of established authors will travel back in time (theoretically, of course!) and revisit key points in their lives. From early efforts, to the first book draft, to publishing, and beyond – they’ll share the advice they wish they’d received back then. Featuring authors Kenyatta Rogers, Nami Mun, Dipika Mukherjee, and Juan Martinez. Moderated by Chris Jones.
B.  Breakout Session: Agent Queries: How to Stand Out…But Not Look Crazy! with Gina FrangelloFew tasks send more dread into the heart of writers like trying to “market themselves” to literary agents. As such, there are myriad ways to blow this opportunity, from writing letters that are self-deprecating, too short and bland, to crafting a grandiose tone that makes you look delusional or like a diva who would be difficult to work with. In this breakout session, we will look at the general parts of a query letter and how to make them as strong and original as possible while still coming off as professional and informed. If possible, please bring a draft of a query letter for review, but/and we will also be looking at the query letters that snagged several local writers their agents, and talking about what they did right and how to replicate it while retaining your own personality and being true to your book.
C. Meet an Agent (Add-on Session)Experience a 15-minute one-on-one meeting with a literary agent during the Festival. Beforehand you will have the opportunity to send a 12-page (maximum) submission plus a query letter to the agent you've been paired with. Participating agents include: Duvall Osteen (Aragi Inc), Lisa Grubka (Fletcher & Company), Alex Glass (Glass Literary Management), Marcy Posner (Folio Literary Management), and Joanna Mckenzie (Nelson Literary Agency).
D. Meet an Editor (Add-on Session)This is a 15-minute one-on-one meeting with a small-press book editor at the conference. Even if you don’t think you’d like to publish with a small press, this is an excellent opportunity to see how a publishing professional would read your query and your opening pages. Before the conference you will have the opportunity to send a 12-page (maximum) submission, plus a query letter to the editor you've been paired with. Participating editors include: Steve Woodward (Greywolf), Emily Victorson (Allium), Jill Petty (NU press), Carrie Muehle (TriQuarterly), Chris Fink (Beloit Fiction Journal), Sara Cutaia (Arcturus), Kenyatta Rogers (Rhino Poetry), Brandon Taylor (Electric Literature), Lyz Lenz (Rumpus), Richard Thomas (Gamut Magazine).


11:00am-Noon (Choose One)


A.  You Don’t Have to be a Secret Agent to Learn Agents’ Secrets!Think it’s impossible to land a literary agent? It can be daunting, but in this panel, you’ll hear from five literary agents who help demystify the process. What are agents looking for in a client? What excites them enough to want to see more of your work – or causes them to pass on it? What is the author/agent relationship really like? Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear agents spill their secrets! Featuring agents Duvall Osteen, Lisa Grubka, Alex Glass, Marcy Posner, and Joanna Mckenzie. Moderated by Rebecca Makkai.  
B. Breakout Session: Personal Essay & Creative Nonfiction with Lyz Lenz
C. First Page Clinic (Add-on Session)Have you ever wished you could be in the room when an editor reads your submission, able to hear all his/her thoughts? During these 15-minute sessions, a literary journal editor will share  feedback in real time on the first page of your manuscript. We will matchmake you based on the genre in which you’re writing.


12:00pm-12:45pm (Choose One)


A.  Brown Bag Class Sampler: The Art of Writing Food with Freda Love SmithFood writing can cut deeply into issues of self, identity, family, and love. This sampler class will explore possibilities of food writing through personal food essays, critical restaurant or cookbook reviews, and journalistic recipe articles, while discussing the current publishing market.
B.  Brown Bag Class Sampler: Finding Your Poetic Voice with Kenyatta Rogers Finding your own poetic voice can be a long journey, where you may travel down many roads that feel like dead ends. But never fear—you'll gain some tools to navigate that terrain in this sampler class. This class would be helpful for poets as well as fiction and nonfiction writers who want to get a better handle on the "poetics" of their prose.


1:00pm-2:00pm (Choose One)


A.  The Domesticated Chance: How to Promote Happy Accidents in Creative Writing with Nami MunIn this capitalistic, tag-lined, corporate-driven, highly manufactured, drone-like enviornment—where humans frenetically consume time, material, and natural resources like a perpetually famished garbage disposal—we, writers, are supposed to somehow create this thing called art. This thing that requires the opposite of what we're bombarded with on a daily basis: chance. In this lecture we'll touch upon the following artists: Lucretius (On the Nature of Things), Kendrick Lamar (DAMN), Peter Fleming (Resisting Work: The Corporatization of Life and Its Discontent), Marcel Duchamp (Three Standard Stoppages and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even), Wabi-Sabi, Jungian Shadow, Leonardo da Vinci, Protogenes, and Stephane Mallarme (One Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance ). We’ll conclude with how one might create a writing environment where happy accidents can emerge.
B.  Breakout Session: Mystery Trains: Three Ways Into Flash Fiction with Juan MartinezThis session works through three elements that elevate short pieces into memorable and propulsive experiences: a haunting, inexplicable image, a tightly wound conceit, and a stubborn joke. Many short pieces share all three, some use only one or two, and we all use them when we’re writing, but often do so unconsciously. We’ll work through a couple of techniques to bring these elements to the forefront.
C.  Breakout Session: Pitching Your Speculative Novel with Richard ThomasWhen it comes time to pitch your speculative novel—in a letter, email, or in person—can you summarize your book? Speak to the various genres it inhabits? Can you come up with comps at the drop of a hat? Can you get people excited and make them care? We'll talk about all of this and more. You'll practice your pitches with each other, and then try to sell me your book. Come prepared!
D.  Meet an Agent (Add-on Session)
E.  Meet an Editor (Add-on Session)
F.  First Page Clinic (Add-on Session)


2:00pm-3:00pm (Choose One)


A.  Panel: Writing for People Who Don’t Remember Landlines: the YA, Middle Grade, and Picture Book Landscape. How do you know what age you’re writing for? How does the publication process differ in writing for younger readers? What resources are out there for authors writing for kids? Our panel consists of YA, Middle Grade, and picture book authors with experience and advice to share. Featuring authors Gloria Chao, Michelle Falkoff, Amelia Brunskill and Juliet Bond. Moderator: James Klise
B.  Breakout Session: Overcoming Writer's Block with A.X. AhmadTrying to finish that piece but feeling stuck? Not sure where to begin, or how to revise? All writers face times where they hit a wall. Author Amin Ahmad will lead students in reframing the dreaded “writer’s block,” with the understanding that getting lost is an integral part of the writing process. Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, students will learn practical strategies for reinvigorating their writing, including:


Understanding the nature of first, second and third drafts


Dialoguing with characters, diagramming, and outlining


Using research tools


Identifying the emotions that initially inspired the writing process.


Like early explorers, students will learn how to become comfortable with “getting lost,” with the knowledge that such navigation can help make their writing richer, more complex, and more satisfying!
C.  Diagnosis Clinic: I’ve Got a Great Story But What Am I Writing? Finding Your Genre with Zoe ZolbrodSomething happened to you or someone you’re close to, and you know it’s worth writing about. In fact, you're compelled to write about it. But in what form? How much can you change while calling it true? Will the license of fiction help you find deeper meaning, or avoid untenable conflict? Has that journal entry or essay or short story you’ve been obsessed with grown to forty, fifty, sixty pages long—and does that mean you’re lost, or onto something? This session will give tips for discovering what genre will best suit the needs of yourself and your story.
D.  Meet an Agent (Add-on Session)
E.  Meet an Editor (Add-on Session)
F.  First Page Clinic (Add-on Session)


3:00pm-4:30pm


Keynote Panel: How the Book Sausage Gets MadeWriters spend countless hours alone with their work, but what happens after that? Once the final draft is written and the manuscript is sold to a publisher, what must happen before it becomes a real, live book? Chris Jones, author of Behind the Book, will speak to panelists across the publication lifecycle – authors, agents, editors, sales reps, and booksellers – to give you a peek inside the process. Their insider’s view will illuminate the steps from book deal to post-publication. Featuring authors Alex Glass, Steve Woodward, and Stefan Moorehead. Moderated by Chris Jones.  


5:00pm - Reception


6:00pm - Literary Trivia Night, Alumni Reading, and Open Mic! Hosted by Rebecca Makkai and Jeremy Owens.



Sunday, September 30th


9:00am-10:00am - Coffee, Chats, & Check-in


10:00am-11:00am (Choose One)


A.  Panel: Writing Resources in Chicago and BeyondGood news! You don’t have to move to New York City to make it as a writer, or even to be at the center of the literary world. In recent years, Chicago has become a thriving hub of literary activity. As Chicago Review of Books recently declared, the “New Chicago Renaissance” is upon us. The city and surrounding suburbs are rich with writing organizations, bookstores, live lit series, book events, residencies, and venues for literary review. Our panel of experts will guide you through these local resources. Featuring authors Jeremy Owens, Toni Nealie, Eric May, and A.X. Ahmad. Moderated by Adam Morgan.
B. Breakout Session: Crafting a Great Opening with editor Chris Fink of the Beloit Fiction JournalYour story arises from the slush and finds itself beneath the weary gaze of an actual human being. This is a success in itself. Now, after reading your first couple of paragraphs, this tired editor is either rooting for your story, or building a case against it. How to get her on your side? In this session, we'll read beginnings of several published stories, illuminating the shared qualities of these great openings. As the submissions pile up, your editor is looking for easy reasons to disqualify your work, rather than reasons to continue on. Besides numbering the qualities of great openings, we'll also consider a few anonymous submissions from the slush pile and try to determine why an editor would put the story down.
C. Breakout Session: How To Meryl Streep Your Next Reading with Jeremy OwensLet's be honest. Reading your work in front of strangers, friends, and fans is terrifying. That's all fine and good, but you're an artist with a gift! People need to hear your stories, and ain't nobody got time for being scared. We'll cover tips, tricks, and exercises to squelch your fears, bring out your very best YOU and become the Meryl Streep of your next reading.
D. Meet an Agent (Add-on Session)
E. Meet an Editor (Add-on Session)
F. First Page Clinic (Add-on Session)


11:00am-Noon (Choose One)


A.  Panel: Dominate Your SubmissionsWith so many writers competing for publication in literary journals, how can you ensure that your work jumps out of the slush pile? A writer must capture the editor’s attention within the first page, and even the first paragraph. This panel of journal editors will offer their insight on what makes a story, essay, or poem irresistible to them. Additionally, they’ll talk about the submission process itself, and best practices for researching and selecting journals to send work to. While there may be no magic formula, these editors will tell you how to strengthen, strategize, and dominate your submissions. Featuring Brandon Taylor, Carrie Muehle, Chris Fink, Kenyatta Rogers, and Lyz Lenz. Moderated by Ben Hoffman.
B. Breakout Session: Persons of Interest: The Development of Fictional Characters with Eric Charles MayIf the purpose of plot is to reveal character, that is, to reveal a fictional character’s “true” nature, how do we create fictional people interesting to hold our (and our readers’) interest? Eric Charles May presents some strategies for developing engaging fictional characters.
C. Meet an Agent (Add-on Session)
D. Meet an Editor (Add-on Session)


12:00pm-12:45pm (Choose One)


A.  Brown Bag Class Sampler: Outsiders - Writing the Modern Short Story with Dipika MukherjeeMigration is at the heart of the American national ethos. We all come from somewhere and the perspective of the outsider looking in makes for great fiction. This sampler class will focus on short stories and the theme of migration.
B.  Brown Bag Class Sampler: Novel in a Year Info Session with Rebecca Makkai, Abby Geni, Jim Klise, and Zoe ZolbrodInterested in learning more about StoryStudio’s Novel in a Year programs? Join our instructors for this information session on how NIAY works and which one is the right fit for you.


1:00pm-2:00pm (Choose One)


A.  Featured Craft Lecture with Chris Abani
B.  Fast Pitch!Ready to pitch? Students will have the opportunity to pitch their manuscripts to three literary agents/editors in this lively 15-minute session.
C.  Breakout Session: Processing and Incorporating Feedback with Abby GeniNow What? With Abby Geni.  In this session, we will discuss our experiences during the festival and brainstorm strategies for using what we've learned. There will be general craft talk in which Abby Geni will offer guidance and perspective, as well as a Q&A in which people can share their individual concerns and thoughts.
D.  First Page Clinic (Add-on Session)


2:00pm-3:00pm (Choose One)


A.  Panel: From StoryStudio to PublicationFor over 15 years, StoryStudio has helped writers of all genres hone their craft. Many students have gone on to publish their work, and today we’re proudly celebrating six writers whose books have appeared within the past year. The writers on this panel will discuss the lessons they learned at StoryStudio, the advantages of the unique community they became a part of, and their journey from the classroom to publication, offering both practical and inspirational advice to those about to follow in their footsteps. Featuring authors Amelia Brunskill, Lauren Emily Whalen, Sahar Mustafah, Blair Hurley, Maddie Reynolds, Anne Laughlin, and Madeline Rabb. Moderated by Vince Francone.
B. Fast Pitch!Ready to pitch? Students will have the opportunity to pitch their manuscripts to three literary agents/editors in this lively 15-minute session.
C. Diagnosis Clinic: Is this YA or Middle Grade or Adult Fiction or What? Featuring Michelle Falkoff.When we start writing novels, we're usually doing it for ourselves--we're writing books that are the kinds of books we'd like to read. But once we're finished, it's worth thinking about who our external audience might be. With the number of different categories and genres available in publishing, it's sometimes a harder question than it seems. In this session, we'll talk about some of those categories, particularly the differences between middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction, and we'll analyze your projects to see where they might belong.
D.  First Page Clinic (Add-on Session)


3:00pm-4:00pm


Keynote Panel: What Makes Writing Good, What Makes Writing GreatYou’ve taken writing classes, met with an agent or editor, and received feedback on your work – but what does it all mean? To many, the concept of great writing is subjective, and certainly, much of it depends on the taste of the reader. So how can we tell when writing is good, or even great, for that matter? How does a writer transcend mere competency and go from good to great? This group of editors and critics, who are also writers themselves, will help you make sense of it all. What makes them select a piece for publication, or give a glowing review? They’ll draw on their extensive experience in the field to wrap up the weekend with the big takeaways--the ones that will send us back to our desks ready to make great work. Featuring editors and authors Adam Morgan, Gina Frangello, Brandon Taylor, and Jill Petty. Moderated by Toni Nealie.


5:00pm - Reception




Note: As schedules are finalized in the coming weeks, you’ll receive a follow-up email confirming your place at the Festival and any special sessions you have requested. Please note that registration and add-on sessions will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Add-on sessions are limited to one per attendee at this time. We will update everyone on remaining available sessions after the first round of registration takes place, for those wishing to sign up for more than one. 
Still more notes: Registration, add-on sessions, and tickets for Story in a Night are fully refundable through August 31, 2018, and refundable at 50% of the original total through September 21, 2018. Charitable contributions cannot be refunded.



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