The 2017 Writing Workshop of Chicago: June 24, 2017

Screen Shot 2016-12-25 at 10.34.26 PM.pngAfter a successful 2016 event in Chicago, Writing Day Workshops is excited to announce The 2017 Writing Workshop of Chicago — a full-day “How to Get Published” writing event in Chicago, IL on June 24, 2017.

This writing event is a wonderful opportunity to get intense instruction over the course of one day, pitch a literary agent or editor (optional), get your questions answered, and more. Note that there are limited seats at the event (250 total). All questions about the event regarding schedule, details and registration are answered below. Thank you for your interest in the 2017 Writing Workshop of Chicago!


This is a special one-day “How to Get Published” writing workshop on Saturday, June 24, 2017, at the historic Congress Plaza Hotel, just south of the downtown area. In other words, it’s one day full of classes and advice designed to give you the best instruction concerning how to get your writing & books published. We’ll discuss your publishing opportunities today, how to write queries & pitches, how to market yourself and your books, what makes an agent/editor stop reading your manuscript, and more. No matter what you’re writing — fiction or nonfiction — the day’s classes will help point you in the right direction. Writers of all genres are welcome.

This event is designed to squeeze as much into one day of learning as possible. You can ask any questions you like during the classes, and get your specific concerns addressed. We will have literary agents onsite to give feedback and take pitches from writers, as well. This year’s agent faculty so far includes:

  • [NEW ADDITION] editor Lauren Jablonski (St. Martin’s Press)
  • [NEW ADDITION] literary agent Alice Speilburg (Speilburg Literary)
  • [NEW ADDITION] literary agent Jennifer Unter (The Unter Agency)
  • literary agent Laura Zats (Red Sofa Literary)
  • literary agent Kelly Van Sant (D4EO Literary)
  • literary agent Tracy Brennan (Trace Literary Agency)
  • literary agent Gemma Cooper (The Bent Agency)
  • literary agent Dawn Frederick (Red Sofa Literary)
  • literary agent Michael Caligaris (Holloway Literary Agency)
  • editor Grace Menary-Winefield (Sourcebooks and Sourcebooks Landmark)
  • literary agent Alexandra Weiss (Jennifer De Chiara Literary)
  • literary agent Marcy Posner (Folio Literary)
  • literary agent Loretta Caravette (LR Children’s Literary)
  • literary scout Jen Karsbaek (Fuse Literary)
  • editor Emily Clark Victorson (Allium Press)
  • agent assistant Lesley Sabga (The Seymour Agency)
  • and more to come

By the end of the day, you will have all the tools you need to move forward on your writing journey. This independent event is organized by coordinator Jessica Bell of Writing Day Workshops, with assistance from the Mystery Writers of America’s midwest chapter.


9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, June 24, 2017 — the historic Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605, just south of the downtown area. (312)427-3800.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.44.44 AM.png


What you see below is a quick layout of the day’s events. See a full layout of the day’s sessions, with detailed descriptions, on the official Schedule Page here.

Please Note: There will be 2-3 classes/workshops going at all times during the day, so you will have your choice of what class you attend at any time. The final schedule of topics is subject to change, but here is the current layout:

8:30 – 9:30: Check-in and registration at the event location.

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. “A Bird’s-eye View Publishing & Books in the Year 2017.” This workshop is quick & easy overview of the publishing industry today.

2. “Self-Editing and Revision.” This presentation will discuss the importance of revision as all stages of one’s career—from beta readers and critique groups to querying agents, to working with your editor to get a book prepared for publication (and when you have to push back against their editorial suggestions).

3. “Give Them Chills: How to Write Crime, Thriller, and Mystery Novels That Get Reader & Agent Attention.” Learn how to suck readers in from page one by adding intrigue, suspense, and just plain awesome writing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.44.34 AMBLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. “Invest in Your Career and Books: A Discussion on the Best and Most Efficient Ways (Free and Not) to Promote and Publicize Your Published Book.” This speech addresses all kind of means you can promote your own book, free and not — such as Facebook ads, paid advertising, book trailers, hiring a publicist, traveling to bookstores, and more.

2. “Everything You Need to Know About Literary Agents and Query Letters.” This workshop is a thorough crash course in dealing with literary agents.

3. “How to Write Great Kidlit Novels: The Keys to Successful Middle Grade and Young Adult. Advice on composing middle grade and young adult novels — word count guidelines, character, how the categories are different, voice, plot & structure, and more.

(What you see here is a quick layout of the day’s events. See a full layout of the day’s sessions, with detailed descriptions, on the official Schedule Page here.)

LUNCH ON YOUR OWN: 11:50 – 1:15

Lunch is on your own during these 85 minutes.

BLOCK THREE: 1:15 – 2:30

1. “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest. In the vein of “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent,” this is a chance to get your first page read (anonymously — no bylines given) with attending agents commenting on what was liked or not liked about the submission.
2.  “How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal.” This session will talk about platform, identifying your book’s place in the market, effective pitching, and more.

3. “Picture Book Intensive: Advice on Selling Your Children’s Book.” In this session, we’ll discuss questions to consider before sending a picture book manuscript out in the world.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. “How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Talking Author Social Media, Blogging, and Platform.” Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, everyone could use some helpful guidance on how to effectively market themselves and sell more books.

2. “Voice and Style in Your Fiction: 15 Tips on How to Write Like the Pros.” This workshop is a thorough crash course concerning craft, style, and voice.

3. “World-Building: How to Create an Amazing World for Your Story — Whether It’s Contemporary or Speculative.” It doesn’t matter if your novel is set in a small town in Kansas or in a bustling space metropolis, the world you create matters, and setting can even become a character in its own right.

(What you see here is a quick layout of the day’s events. See a full layout of the day’s sessions, with detailed descriptions, on the official Schedule Page here.)

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. “Everything You Need to Know About Self-Publishing.” Self-publishing provides an enormous opportunity to writers, but how do you make sure you’re giving yourself the best chances of success?

2. “How to Get Published: Ten Simple Tips.” Learn 10 things you can be doing right now that will help get your book(s) published and have more control over your writing destiny.

3. “Writing Your Life Story — How to Pitch & Sell a Memoir.” Whether you’re beginning to write or revising for publication, delving into research or incorporating narrative style, material will be offered on topics pertinent to your current project.


At 5 p.m., the day is done. Speakers will make themselves available by the workshop’s Barnes & Noble station for a short while to sign any books for attendees.

Agent & Editor Pitching: All throughout the day.



Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 2.57.03 PM.pngLauren Jablonski is an assistant editor at St. Martin’s Press, part of Macmillan. Lauren is interested in acquiring commercial fiction and nonfiction for both young adult and adult. She enjoys contemporary, historical, fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, romance, thrillers and anything with a unique voice — especially works that promote strong female characters, inclusion, and diversity. In nonfiction, she is interested in quirky, gifty, and celebrity projects as well as memoir, pop-science, business, and projects about strong women. She loves being sucked into worlds she knows nothing about. Learn more about Lauren here.

Screen Shot 2017-02-18 at 1.28.11 PM.pngJennifer Unter is a literary agent and the founder of The Unter Agency. The Unter Agency represents quality fiction and general nonfiction. Her nonfiction interests include memoir, food/cooking, nature/environment, biography, pop culture, travel/adventure, true crime, politics and health/fitness. Adult fiction interests are women’s/book club fiction and literary fiction. She is also open to seeing commercial thrillers and mysteries. (No romance or sci-fi or fantasy, please.) The Unter Agency also represents all types of children’s literature — picture books, middle grade, and young adult. Learn more about Jennifer here.

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 3.45.27 PM.pngLaura Zats is a literary agent with Red Sofa Literary. Laura seeks young adult fiction (especially contemporary), middle grade contemporary / adventure, adult fantasy and science fiction (loves non-traditional settings, fast-paced storytelling, anthropological elements, and smart humor; no high fantasy), and romance & erotica (especially contemporary; please no vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, or mermaids). Learn more about Laura here.

screen-shot-2014-09-26-at-12-34-10-amAlice Speilburg [SOLD OUT OF PITCH APPOINTMENTS] is a literary agent at Speilburg Literary. In nonfiction, she’s looking for authors with established platforms who are writing books in the following categories: biography, food, gender issues, health, history, literary journalism, music, pop culture, relationships, science, travel. In fiction, she’s currently looking for character-driven novels that fall under the following genres: historical fiction, mainstream, literary, mystery, science fiction, thriller/suspense, middle grade, and young adult. Learn more about Alice here.

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 5.34.29 PM.png Tracy Brennan is a literary agent with Trace Literary Agency. In fiction, she seeks women’s fiction, chick lit, psychological thriller, crime, commercial mainstream fiction, literary fiction, mystery, historical, suspense, and romance. In nonfiction, she seeks business, communications, health and wellness, history, politics, and true crime. Learn more about Tracy here.

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 4.21.15 PM.pngKelly Van Sant [SOLD OUT OF PITCH APPOINTMENTS] is a literary agent with D4EO Literary. “I am seeking middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction across all genres, including fantasy, science fiction, adventure, historical, and contemporary. I love character-driven stories with intricate plots, and am always drawn to explorations of friendship and found family. I am especially interested in #ownvoices and inclusive narratives.” Learn more about Kelly here.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 2.06.32 PMGemma Cooper [SOLD OUT OF PITCH APPOINTMENTS] is a literary agent with The Bent Agency. Gemma represents authors who write for children, from picture books to young adult, both fiction and nonfiction. “I love younger fiction, and have a soft spot for funny chapter books aimed at 7+ with series potential. For middle-grade, I’d love to see a good mystery or adventure, but really any MG with a strong voice will get my attention, whatever the subject matter or setting (historical, fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, thriller). For young adult fiction, I prefer a contemporary setting and I’d love a standout YA romance or something with strong friendships or sibling relationships. For picture books, I am only looking for author/illustrators and not just picture book texts. I’m looking for diverse voices, illustrators and stories across my list, but particularly for chapter books and MG.” Learn more about Gemma here.

dawn-1313Dawn Frederick is a literary agent with Red Sofa Literary Agency. She represents writers of young adult, middle grade, and graphic novels. She also personally seeks nonfiction in the following categories: biography, creative (narrative) nonfiction, history, humor, pop culture, women’s narratives (chick lit nonfiction), sports, social issues and current affairs, pop culture. Learn more about Dawn here.

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 10.35.49 AM.pngAlexandra Weiss [SOLD OUT OF PITCH APPOINTMENTS] is a literary agent with Jennifer De Chiara Literary. Within young adult, the genres she is most interested in representing include realism, science fiction, and fantasy – but also stories that include magic (think The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern) are her favorite, as are stories that include space and science. She loves stories that include diverse and risk-taking subjects, including culture, race, sexuality, and identity. She also seeks all types of adventurous, silly, and out-of-the-box children and middle grade books. Books with or without pictures intrigue her, and she is most interested in a character-driven story and big plot to explore. Concerning adult fiction, she is looking for strong literary voices that take the notion that every story is a love story to new levels.  She seeks interested in complex relationship stories that surround something bigger. Alexandra is open to most adult genres, but heavy mystery, horror, or thriller stories are not for her. Books that are written in or include uses of uncommon formats (uses of letters, screenplay, photos, poetry, or collection of short stories or essays) is another unique quality she looks for. Learn more about Alexandra here.

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 7.08.43 PM.pngLoretta Caravette is the founder of LR Children’s Literary. She specializes in children’s books of all genres: picture books, early chapter books, middle grade, and young adult literature. Our agency represents both authors and illustrators. She appreciates nonfiction and historical fiction in all genres — especially picture books. She is very interested in the easy readers and early chapter books. Loretta will take on an author/illustrator combination. Learn more about Loretta here.

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 4.09.19 PM.pngMichael Caligaris is a literary agent with Holloway Literary Agency. His interests are as follows: literary Fiction, autobiographical fiction (i.e., So Long, See You Tomorrow; A River Runs Through It; Sylvia), short story collections or connected stories as a novel (i.e., Jennifer Egan, Elizabeth Strout, Junot Diaz), LGBTQ lit, novels that are set in the Midwest or could be considered Americana, crime fiction, mystery/noir (i.e., Walter Mosley, Kate Atkinson, Lou Berney), dystopian fiction, civil unrest/political uprising/ war novels, memoir, New Journalism and/or long-form journalism, essay collections (on art, race, mental health, music, etc.), satirical/humor writing, and environmental writing. Learn more about Michael here.

Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 9.32.05 AM.pngGrace Menary-Winefield is an associate editor with Sourcebooks and Sourcebooks Landmark. In nonfiction, she is seeking quirky self-help books with a great hook and wide appeal, and smart nonfiction with unique explorations of history. She enjoys gift books — entertainment pop culture books, novelizations and nonfiction tie-ins and gift books (text and illustration) that inspire and entertain. For fiction, she seeks mainstream and commercial fiction that explores unique, sometimes even fantastical concepts (such as Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell). She seeks diverse stories in both historical and contemporary settings. Learn more about Grace here.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 2.04.34 PMMarcy Posner [SOLD OUT OF PITCH APPOINTMENTS] is a literary agent with Folio Literary. She is seeking: “I straddle the line between adult and children’s books (middle grade and young adult only). In the adult world, I’m looking for: commercial women’s fiction, historical fiction, mystery, biography, history, health, and lifestyle – and, especially, thoughtfully written commercial novels, thrillers with international settings, and narrative nonfiction. In the children’s world, I’m looking for smart, contemporary YA and middle grade novels. A great new juvenile mystery series for boys would be fun.” She does not represent genre books of any kind (no romance, mystery, sci-fi or fantasy), nor does she seek memoirs. Learn more about Marcy here.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.45.52 AM.pngJen Karsbaek [SOLD OUT OF PITCH APPOINTMENTS] is a literary scout with Fuse Literary Agency (formerly named Foreword Literary). Jen now acts as an agency scout to find exciting and talented writers for the agency’s current agents. She is happy to take pitches on behalf of her co-agents for the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, mainstream/upmarket fiction, women’s fiction, middle grade, new adult, young adult, and literary fiction. The agency also seeks books by and about people from marginalized perspectives, such as LGBT people and/or racial minorities. Learn more about Jen here.

Screen Shot 2017-01-06 at 12.09.01 AM.pngEmily Clark Victorson is the co-founder and publisher of Allium Press of Chicago.  Allium Press was founded in 2009 as a small, independent press and publishes literary fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, middle grade, and young adult fiction — all with a Chicago connection. Learn more about Emily here.

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 4.43.20 PM.pngLesley Sabga [SOLD OUT OF PITCH APPOINTMENTS] is an agent assistant at The Seymour Agency. She is taking pitches on behalf of all of the agency’s acquiring agents. She wants to hear pitches for happily-ever-after romance, mainstream suspense, thrillers, mysteries, young adult with a fresh voice (both contemporary and sci-fi/fantasy), science fiction, fantasy, action/adventure, Christian/inspirational fiction and nonfiction, women’s fiction (contemporary and historical), new adult, Southern fiction, picture books (especially author-illustrators), cookbooks, middle grade (all kinds), narrative nonfiction, memoir, and literary fiction. Learn more about Lesley here.

Laura Crockett is a literary agent representing TriadaUS Literary. Unfortunately, she had to cancel on the event.

        More 2017 agents to be announced as they are confirmed. You can sign up for pitches at any time, or switch pitches at any time, so long as the agent in question still has appointments open.

These one-on-one meetings are an amazing chance to pitch your book face-to-face with an agent, and get personal, individual feedback on your pitch/concept. If the agent likes your pitch, they’ll request to see part/all of your book — sending you straight past the slush pile. It also gives you an intimate chance to meet with an agent and pick their brain with any questions on your mind.

(Please note that Agent/Editor Pitching is an add-on, separate aspect of the day, for only those who sign up. Spaces are limited for these premium meetings, and pricing/detail is explained below.)



$169 — EARLY BIRD base price for registration to the 2017 WWOC and access to all workshops, all day. As of October 10, 2016, registration is now OPEN.

Add $29 — to secure a 10-minute one-on-one meeting with any of our literary agents in attendance. Use this special meeting as a chance to pitch your work and get professional feedback on your pitch. (Spaces limited.) If they wish, attendees are free to sign up for multiple 10-minute pitch sessions at $29/session — pitching multiple individuals, or securing 20 minutes to pitch one person rather than the usual 10. Here are some testimonials from writers who have signed with literary agents after pitching them at prior Writing Day Workshops events:

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 12.20.11 AM.pngI signed with my agent, Patricia Nelson, after
meeting her at the Arizona Writing Workshop.”
– writer Axie Oh

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 12.07.56 AM.png“I officially signed with agent Renee Nyen of KT
Literary. I met her at the Colorado Writing
Workshop.” – writer Jessie Hilb Akos

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 12.08.00 AM.png“After taking pitches at the Michigan Writing
Workshop, I signed writer Kyle Prue as a new
client.” – literary agent Veronica Park

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 12.08.09 AM.png“After taking pitches at the Alabama Writing
Workshop, I met Erin Hollis at a pitch session, and
she is now my newest client.” – agent Julie Gwinn

Add $69 — for an in-depth, personal critique of your one-page query letter from Chuck Sambuchino, one of the day’s instructors. (This rate is a special event value for Writing Workshop of Chicago attendees only.) Registrants are encouraged to take advantage of the specially-priced critique, so they can send out their query letter with confidence following the workshop. Also, if you are meeting with an agent at the event, you’re essentially speaking your query letter aloud to them. Wouldn’t it be wise to give that query letter (i.e., your pitch) one great edit before that meeting?

Add $79 — for an in-depth personal critique of the first 10 pages of your novel. Spaces with faculty for these critiques are very limited, and participating attendees get an in-person meeting at the workshop. Options:

  • Middle grade / chapter books: Faculty member Madeline Smoot, a children’s book editor who is teaching at the event, will get your work in advance, edit the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting. No picture books, please.
  • Young adult: Faculty member Julie Hammerle, a published YA writer who is teaching at the event, will get your work in advance, edit the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting. No picture books, please. She is open to critiquing every genre/type of young adult with the exception of paranormal.
  • Literary fiction / mainstream fiction / memoir: Faculty member Brian Klems, a published writer/editor who is teaching at the event, will get your work in advance, edit the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss his thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting.
  • Mystery / thriller / crime / suspense: Faculty member Susanna Calkins, a published author, will get your work in advance, edit the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss his thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting.
  • Mystery / thriller / crime / suspense [SOLD OUT]: Faculty member Charlie Donlea, a published writer/editor who is teaching at the event, will get your work in advance, edit the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss his thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting. Charlie is sold out for the 2017 event.

How to pay/register — Registration is now open. Reach out to workshop organizer Jessica Bell via email:, and she will provide specific instructions for payment and registration to get you a reserved seat at the event. Payment is by either PayPal or check. Because Jessica plans different workshops, make sure you note that you’re inquiring about the Chicago workshop specifically.


Because of limited space at the venue, the workshop can only allow 200 registrants, unless spacing issues change. For this reason, we encourage you to book sooner rather than later.

Are spaces still available? Yes, we still have spaces available. We will announce RIGHT HERE, at this point on this web page, when all spaces are taken. If you do not see a note right here saying how all spaces are booked, then yes, we still have room, and you are encouraged to register.

How to Register: The easy first step is simply to reach out to workshop organizer Jessica Bell via email: She will pass along registration information to you, and give instructions on how to pay by PayPal or check. Once payment is complete, you will have a reserved seat at the event. The WWOC will send out periodic e-mail updates to all registered attendees with any & all news about the event. Because Jessica plans different workshops, make sure you note that you’re inquiring about the Chicago workshop specifically.

Refunds: If you sign up for the event and have to cancel for any reason, you will receive 50% of your total payment back [sent by check or PayPal]. The other 50% is nonrefundable and will not be returned, and helps the workshop ensure that only those truly interested in the limited spacing sign up for the event. (Please note that query editing payments and manuscript editing payments are completely non-refundable if the instructor has already edited your letter.)

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Thank you for your interest in the 2017 Writing Workshop of Chicago.


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