CWA's New Logo


4 Books Take CWA’s Top Honors

The four winners of the Chicago Writers Association’s 3rd Annual Book of the Year Awards on their face are as different as can be.  A novel written by 30 high school students at Whitney Young High School.  A debut novel authored by a Chicago playwright and disabilities-rights activist.  A memoir inspired by the death of a childhood best friend. A Jack Kerouac-inspired road trip about the generational bonds of fathers and sons.  

“The one common thread that seems to run through all of the books chosen this year is that each, in its own unique way, draws on the power of the human spirit,” said Randy Richardson, CWA President. “They are all very real and moving stories filled with all the joys and pains that come with ordinary and sometimes extraordinary circumstances.”

The winning books are:

  • Traditional Fiction: “Good Kings Bad Kings” by Susan Nussbaum
  • Non-Traditional Fiction: “30 Days to Empathy” by The 31 and Jay C. Rehak (Editor)
  • Traditional Non-Fiction: “We Hope You Like This Song” by Bree Housley
  • Non-Traditional Non-Fiction: “Any Road Will Take You There” by David W. Berner

The awards will be presented at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 Lincoln Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Square.  At the event, which is free and open to the public, the authors will read from their award-winning books and have copies available for purchase and signing. 

The finalist judges were three of last year’s winning authors – Patricia Ann McNair (“The Temple of Air”), Renee James (“Coming Out Can Be Murder”) and Richard C. Lindberg (“Whiskey Breakfast”) – and special guest judge David Katzman (“A Greater Monster”).

“I congratulate all of the winners, and indeed all of the twelve finalists,” said Book Awards Chair Tori Collins.  “I thank the judges for their time and thoughtful selections.  They had to make some very tough choices.”    

McNair, in choosing Nussbaum's already award-winning "Good Kings Bad Kings" (the book won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction), wrote: "There is heartbreak in these stories, this story, but there is hope, grace, and transcendence as well."

In selecting the Kerouac-inspired memoir “Any Road Will Take You There” as the best in the non-traditional non-fiction category, Katzman called it “a thoughtful, touching, and at times heartbreaking account of the struggles of fatherhood, career, marriage, and the death of a parent.”

James, the judge in the non-traditional fiction category, found “30 Days to Empathy” to be “an incredible educational accomplishment” whose 30 authors collectively “paint a picture of high school student life that is gritty and hopeful and very human.”

In selecting “We Hope You Like This Song” as winner of the traditional nonfiction category, Lindberg called it a “touching homage” to the author’s childhood friend that “draws inspiration through humor, reflection, and hope.”

The awards, divided into four categories (traditionally and non-traditionally published fiction and non-fiction), were open to books published between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 and authored by Chicago area authors or CWA members. (Non-traditional is defined as self- and print-on-demand published.)


FREE* Community Creative Writing Classes

 The Apprentices: 9th annual FREE* Community Creative Writing Classes

Saturday, December 7, and Sunday, December 8, 2013
Evanston campus—405 Church Street (Davis Street L stop, Purple Line; free parking on street and in back lot;
handicapped-accessible ramp at entrance near parking lot). All courses are taught by graduate students in
Northwestern’s MA/MFA in Creative Writing Program. 

Saturday, December 7

All classes are for writers with various levels of experience.


SAT. 9 a.m. Writing Like a Cinematographer: Using Cinematic Techniques to Build Your Scene

In this class we’ll explore the difference between the way stories are created and built for film and for the page.We'll discuss the "Hitchcock Rule" and you will learn how to decide which details are the most important to your story.  We'll examine films, fiction, and you’ll practice using these techniques in your own work. (Troy Parks)


SAT. 10 a.m. Now I See It! How To Read Stories Like a Writer

In this class, you will learn the essentials of evaluating what is on the written page. Together we will read a published story (provided), playing close attention to the way the author crafted the beginning, plot, and point of view, in an effort to improve our own writing.  (Michi Smith)


SAT. 11 a.m. Talk To Me: Using Compelling Dialog In Fiction                                                                  Dialogue is an integral part of storytelling.  Characters talk, interact, speak their minds, and sometimes surprise themselves (and you) with the words that come out of their mouths. We'll be looking at some dialogue in fiction and find out what makes it work.  We will discuss strategies on how to make dialogue realistic and at the same time work as an efficient means of defining characters and revealing story.  If you have some tricky dialogue you're working on, please bring in a short excerpt.  Be prepared to read aloud; we want voices! (Frank Wees)

SAT. Noon. Writing Magical Realism                                                                                                            Learn how to write stories that live on the border between mundane reality and magic.  In class we’ll  explore exactly what Magical Realism is, and how to use its techniques in your own stories.  (Jason Welch)

SAT. 1p.m. Words You Didn’t Know Could Go: Experiments in Writing Poetry

 In this class, students will use automatic writing exercises to generate material, and will then experiment with editing techniques to reexamine and reconfigure their language. The emphasis will be on discovering fresh word combinations and unintended lines.  (Dan Fliegel)

SAT. 2 p.m., Session A.  Up Close, Out there: How to Use Distance and Point Of View in Your Stories
In this class, we’ll explore different perches from which to observe scenes, settings, and characters in story excerpts (provided). Up close, the narrator becomes a curious bystander or an insider, taking in the close action with a sharp eye; out there, the narrator relies on a more sweeping, general impression. (Ignatius Aloysius)

SAT. 2 pm, Session B. Who Gets to Speak? Finding the Right Voice for Your Narrator                                                         What creates a distinctive, memorable voice? We will explore how to craft the best persona, diction, and vantage point for your storyteller, to match the intent of your fiction or nonfiction piece. (Karen Zemanick)

SAT. 3 p.m. The Art of Persuasive Writing                                                                                                         We will discuss the differences between facts and opinions and ways to present arguments. And we’ll start writing, using these elements: beginning, problems, solutions, feasibility and call to action. Students should come with a topic in mind. (Brian Nagle)

SAT. 4 p.m. How to Make a Story Your Own

What makes a story a classic? What classics do all of us know? We’ll discuss them then take inspiration from them for beginning your own short story. (Phallon Perry)                       


SAT. 5 p.m. Strangers on the Subway: Finding Characters In Your World                                               We’ve all seen them: the amateur magician on the el, the painter at the bus stop, the guitarist in the park. We may not know these people’s stories, but their mystery inspires us. This class will explore how to jumpstart a fictional piece through discovering the characters that populate our lives. (Dominique Shrader)


Sunday, December 8


SUN. 9 a.m. Close To Home: Travel Writing Without Planes, Trains Or Automobiles            This class moves beyond the idea that travel writing can be interesting only if it's about someplace exotic. We'll focus on making the Chicago area interesting for someone in New York or Alabama. We'll discuss how travel writers build narrative and authenticity, and write authoritatively, while we focus on the use and abuse of details and history. We will have an in-class assignment. (Ahsan Awan)


SUN. 10 a.m. Session A. Asking Questions: How To Channel Your Inner Reporter in Developing Creative Nonfiction

An interview can make or break a piece of nonfiction. In this class students will explore different methods and techniques to successfully conduct an interview.  Students will also practice interviewing in class and learn how this tool can enhance their writing of creative nonfiction. (Tara Scannell)

SUN. 10 a.m. Session B. Sunday Using Writing to Connect and Connecting to Write             One of the most commonly preconceived notions about writing is that it is an act of solitude. While this might be true to some extent, it is important for creative nonfiction writers to understand that their genre relies on connecting with others. In this workshop we will engage with one another to evaluate how we might use our immediate environment to explore our writing and how we might use our writing to explore our immediate environment. Come prepared to observe, write, connect and interview!  (Nora Seilheimer)

SUN. 11 a.m. Writing Off The Page: Using Mixed Media in Fiction                                                                    We will explore various ways to incorporate diagrams, drawings, magazine and article clippings, and word blocks from newspapers into original fiction.  We’ll also look at ways these other media can contribute to plot and characterization in stories. If possible, please bring a story you’ve written or an excerpt. (Noelle Havens)

SUN. Noon. Creating Distinct and Original Characters                                                              The root of a good work of fiction is often its characters.  As readers, a story’s characters are what draw us in and make us care.  In this course, we will examine what goes into developing unique characters, characters who move beyond the tired “stock” and “dynamic” descriptions. (Patrick Carberry)

SUN. 1 p.m. The Story's In the Details: Reporting in Nonfiction

The descriptive details that we include in nonfiction pieces shape our writing and give it a voice. In this workshop we’ll seek to understand and confront our own subjectivity so that, as writers, we can focus on the details of our stories in order to achieve a depth of reporting essential to nonfiction.  (Kristin Jensen) 

SUN. 2 p.m. Breathing Underwater: Using the “Hypoxic” Essay To Generate Ideas

“Hypoxic” means to go without air. What does this have to do with writing? Writer Michael Martone originated this form and related process to help students simply write and break free from worrying about whether their writing was “good.” We will explore the origins of the hypoxic workshop and essay, focusing on how we can use the form as a means to generate ideas. Then we will write hypoxically ourselves. (Martha Halloway)                                                           


SUN. 3 p.m. Make People Laugh (For the Right Reasons): Using Humor in Fiction
In this session, we will explore how humor works on the page, by focusing on comedic characterization, situation and dialogue. This class will also include an interactive writing assignment. (Marina Mularz)

SUN. 4 p.m. And Then What Happened? Tips for Writing Plots That Keep ‘Em Turning the Page                                                                                                                                              There’s a secret to creating engaging plot lines, and it’s the reader that holds the key. In this class, we’ll discuss the psychology of the reader: What are their expectations as they progress through a work of fiction, and how can an awareness of those expectations actually guide the decisions we make in plot and pacing? You will learn techniques to help you create surprise and suspense in your stories...and to keep your reader turning pages!  (Carrie Muehle)

To register, please email or call 847-491-5612. Because of demand, each person may register for a maximum of seven classes. Each is taught by a graduate student in creative writing at Northwestern.   Classes are 50 to 55 minutes long. Please bring paper, pen or pencil; or laptop. *Classes are free but we will accept donations to benefit Young Chicago Authors. If you have to cancel, please let us know. 


CWA Book Award Finalists Named

Twelve books by Chicagoland authors have been named as finalists in the Chicago Writers Association’s 2013 Book of the Year Awards.

The finalists, chosen by CWA’s Book Awards Committee, will compete for four awards to be presented at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 Lincoln Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Square.

The winners, to be announced on or before Dec. 1, will be selected by three of last year’s winning authors, Patricia Ann McNair (“The Temple of Air”), Renee James (“Coming Out Can Be Murder”) and Richard C. Lindberg (“Whiskey Breakfast”), and special guest judge David Katzman (“A Great Monster”).  

 “I would like to thank Awards Committee Chair Tori Collins and her dedicated committee members – Amina Gautier, Toni Apicelli, Connie Wilson and Candace George Thompson– for putting in countless hours reading through the many entries we had this year in order to narrow the field to twelve,” CWA President Randy Richardson said. “The bar gets raised each year.  The number and quality of entries has grown with each year of the contest, making the selection process that much more difficult.” 

The awards, divided into four categories (traditionally and non-traditionally published fiction and non-fiction), were open to books published between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 authored by CWA members and non-members residing in the Chicagoland area. (Non-traditional is defined as self- and print-on-demand published.)  The awards are meant to bring attention to books by Chicago area authors. 

The finalists are:

Traditional Fiction

  • The Registry by Shannon Stoker
  • The Fire Beneath – Tales of Gold by Almira Astudillo Gilles
  • Good Kings, Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum

Non-traditional Fiction

  • The World Undone by Mary Driver- Thiel
  • 30 Days to Empathy by The 31 and Jay C. Rehak
  • The Bunco Club by Karen DeWitt

Traditional Non-Fiction

  • Chicago Sketches by Richard Reeder/Illustrator Leonid Osseny
  • We Hope You Like This Song by Bree Housley
  • Records Truly Is My Middle Name by John Records Landecker/Producer Rick Kaempfer

Non-traditional Non-Fiction

  • Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons by David W. Berner
  • Still Having Fun by Candace George Thompson
  • Heck on Heels: Still Balancing on Shoes, Love & Chocolate by Mary T. Wagner

 The winners will all be invited to read from their books at the free awards ceremony.


World of Words Book Fair