Chicago Writes: ChiYA Talks Group Blogging with Windy City RWA


ChiYA with Stephanie Scott (left) of Windy City RWA

Big thanks to Stephanie Scott and the Windy City chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America) for inviting ChiYA to talk about group blogging at one of their bi-monthly meetings. We were honored by the invitation, and we had a blast talking about how we started our blog and why we love blogging together!

Our one-year “blogiversary” is coming up later this month, so our RWA talk offered a great opportunity to look back at the past year and discover how much we’ve learned. Here are a few of the highlights:

In the end, this blog is about building community and better knowing both ourselves and our writing. Thanks to everyone who has joined us on our blogging journey so far. We hope you’ll stick around for the next year! And thanks again to Windy City RWA. Be sure to take a look at their schedule for a full list of their fantastic programming.

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Chicago Writes: Writing Conferences in 2017!

I’m a huge proponent of writing conferences. They’re great for honing your craft, learning about the industry, networking and meeting other writers, and many have pitch appointments and pitch events!

For YA there are many conferences all over. Here are a few great ones you can consider if you’re looking into going to a writing conference in 2017!


Conferences in Chicago

ALA Annual Conference

June 22-27, 2017: Chicago, IL. The annual conference of the American Library Association.


  • (non-member) Early Bird $375
  • By 6/16 at noon $400
  • Onsite $440
  • Single day $205
  • Exhibits only $75

The Writing Workshop of Chicago

June 24, 2017: Chicago, IL. A one-day workshop on “How to Get Published.”


  • Early Bird $169
  • Add $29 to secure a 10-minute one-on-one pitch appointment.

Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF)

Boston Teen Author Festival is September 23, 2017 at the  Cambridge Public Library. The Boston Teen Author Festival is bringing YA to Boston! They aim to unite the best young adult authors with their fans, old and new. It’s mostly for fans of books, but they have offered pitch appointments in the past.

Cost: Free


(more for fans of books than for writers)

Bookcon is June 2-4. 2017 in New York City. BookCon is the event where storytelling and pop culture collide. Experience the origin of the story in all its forms by interacting with the authors, publishers, celebrities and creators of content that influence everything we read, hear and see. BookCon is an immersive experience that features interactive, forward thinking content including Q&As with the hottest talent, autographing sessions, storytelling podcasts, special screenings, literary quiz shows and so much more. BookCon is the ultimate celebration of books, where your favorite stories come to life.


  • Saturday Adult $35
  • Sunday Adult $30
  • Children $10

Las Vegas Writer’s Conference

Las Vegas Writer’s Conference on April 20-22, 2017.Throughout the weekend, you will be able to meet and socialize with our faculty, pitch to agents and publishers, and learn from experts in fields connected to writing and publishing.


  • Early (until 1/31/17): $425
  • Full (beginning 2/1/17): $500
  • Friday Only: $300
  • Saturday Only $300

Midwest Writers Workshop

The Midwest Writers Workshop is in Muncie, Indiana on July 20-22, 2017. This annual summer conference offers 45+ different instructional sessions with top quality faculty on everything from fiction to nonfiction, marketing, and ways to get your creative juices flowing.


  • Part I: Intensive Session (Thursday) $155
  • Part II: Thursday evening, Friday & Saturday $300
  • Part I & Part II: $400

One-Day Writer’s Day Workshops

1-day Writer’s Day workshops. These writing events are 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.

March 25, 2017: The Writers Conference of Michigan outside Detroit.

March 25, 2017: Kansas City Writers Conference in Kansas City, MO.

April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop Philadelphia, PA

April 22, 2017: Kentucky Writing Workshop Louisville, KY

April 22, 2017: New Orleans Writing Workshop in New Orleans, LA.

May 6, 2017: Seattle Writing Workshop Seattle, WA

May 19-21, 2017: PennWriters Conference Pittsburgh, PA

June 8-10, 2017: Carnegie Center Books-in-Progress Writers Conference Lexington, KY

July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writing Conference Nashville, TN

Sept. 9, 2017: Chesapeake Writing Workshop outside Washington, DC


  • Early Bird Price between $149-169
  • $29 add-on for one-on-one pitch appointments

Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference

Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference is on April 28-30, 2017 in Colorado Springs, CO. Pikes Peak Writers Conference has a welcoming, friendly atmosphere filled with the topics that interest you the most, and perhaps a few topics that you will become interested in after. You will be surrounded by industry professionals and other dreamers who are eager to learn, connect and network.


  • Early bird pricing is $395.
  • Regular pricing is $415 from November 15, 2016 through March 15, 2017.
  • Late pricing is $475 from March 16, 2017 through April 24, 2017.

Romantic Times Convention (RTCon)

RT Con is taking place on May 2-7, 2017 this year in Atlanta, Georgia. While it is mainly for romance, there is a very robust YA section. It also lets you sign up for pitch appointments and you can do Pitchapalooza (like speed dating for pitching!).


  • $450 for Readers

  • $495 Published Authors, Aspiring Authors, Bloggers, and Reviewers

  • $20 for Teen Day NOTE: Teens/Tweens 15 years and younger are required to have a chaperone ($15 per chaperone). Children under 8 years old are not permitted in convention area and/or in workshops and Teen Day Party. Tickets for adults who want to attend the Teen Day Program is $20.  (Does not include the evening party)

  • $55 for FAN-tastic Day Pass (includes the Giant Book Fair, workshops, and the FAN-Tastic Day Party, but not the evening party)

Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Annual Conferences

Annual Winter Conference in New York (February 10 -February 12, 2017)

The Annual Winter Conference is held over two days with an optional intensive day on Friday. The conference is held at the Hyatt Grand Central at Grand Central Station in New York City.

Note: This year’s SCBWI Winter Conference has passed, but it occurs every winter in New York City.

Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles (July 7-10, 2017)

The Annual Summer Conference spans three days with an optional intensive day on Monday. The conference is held each year in Los Angeles. Registration for the 2017 conference will commence in March, 2017. Many of the biggest authors and illustrators in children’s books will be joining a bevy of agents, art directors and editors.

Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

Writer’s Digest East Annual Conference on August 18–20, 2017 in New York City has panels and workshops as well as over 50 agents and editors. You can also partake in Pitch Slam!


  • Before 4/17 $399
  • 4/18-8/17 $449
  • Onsite $499

Online Conferences

Going to conferences can be expensive, so here are some online ones that you can look into attending!

Write on Con

Note: already passed, but it seems the idea will be to repeat this online conference annually.

Feb 2-4, 2017. WriteOnCon is a three-day online children’s book conference for writers and illustrators of picture books, middle grade, young adult, and even new adult. It was founded in 2010 and is now run by a new team of writers who are eager to hearken back to the awesomeness that they remember so fondly from being attendees over the years, while also bringing exciting new elements to the mix.


  • $5 general admission
  • $10 to get into live events
  • $15 for extended access (so you’ll be able to see everything for a month after the conference ends)

Manuscript Academy

They offer world-class publishing instruction that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home or your favorite coffeeshop. Unlike traditional conferences, you simply need a computer, a tablet, or even your smartphone to log in and enjoy the very best instruction from some of the top minds in the literary community. Every online Manuscript Academy conference will give you the full educational and networking value of a traditional writing conference, but without the hassle of travel, paying for meals out, or arranging childcare.

Cost: $225


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Chicago Writes: What #NaNo2016 Has Taught Me


This year, I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo. The last time I tried was back in 2005. I ended up getting a novel started out of it, and I did eventually finish that novel, but I didn’t *win* NaNo in the traditional sense of the word. (And no one liked that novel, so I ended up trunking it.)

So I decided to see if I could do it this time.

I should’ve known better. I’m a pretty slow writer. It can take me years to come up with a name for my main character, let alone plots and all that good stuff. And I’m a pantser. I have things I want to happen in the story, but I tend to use those as guidelines rather than full on directives. And I have a DayJob™ plus freelance clients. I’m currently juggling two. Add in health issues and well, I’m wondering what I was thinking.

But I’m glad I attempted it. I know I’m not going to win, but it’s OK. I think, what I’ve gained, is much more valuable for my writing and my (eventual) career:

  1. I gave myself permission to suck. Letting go of the expectation of perfection, even letting myself keep typos and misspellings and wrong words in the manuscript has been challenging, but liberating!
  2. No self-editing means more words can flow. Even if those words are crappy words or words that will likely get cut or changed later.
  3. I’m not even trying to write a coherent plot, and that’s OK. I’m letting my character tell the the story. It’s a hot mess. I won’t be showing this to anyone. But by letting her tell the story without worrying about making a brilliant plot or you know, crafting a NYT bestseller, I can focus on what she’s telling me, what she wants, and how I can get her there. And also, what crap I can throw in the way to trip her up! *evil cackle*
  4. No pressure! Once I realized that I wasn’t going to win (and let’s face it, I figured this out the first week of November), I’m simply letting myself have fun with the process. The last thing I want to do is put undue pressure on myself and my writing, and sap the joy out of the one place I feel really, truly home.
  5. Every book really is different. I have books I pounded out in six months. I have books that have taken years to write and more years to revise. I don’t know which this one is yet—because we’re starting a new journey together.
  6. I’m having a blast! Getting to know my main character, her co-stars, the setting, and even all the minor characters has been a lot of fun. I’m crafting a boss playlist, writing down ideas forever in my notebook, and staying up in the middle of the night thinking of things to happen, and trying to figure out exactly how to write this story.

I’m grateful for attempting NaNo this year. I like what I’ve learned, I like the newfound freedom I have with my writing now. I hope I can keep this mindset every time I draft something new, knowing I can always fix the hot mess of a draft later.


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Chicago Writes: No NaNo? No Problem.

This is the second of two posts on NaNoWriMo. For an alternate perspective, see NaNoWriMo 2016: A Guide & A Gentle Nudge.

Oh, NaNo.

Beloved by writers around the world, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a thirty-day sprint undertaken during the month of November, when hundreds of thousands of participants attempt to pen 50,000 words before the calendar flips to December. It’s challenging, exhilarating, and a great way to stay warm as you feverishly pound out 1,667 words per day.

Sometimes, it isn’t in the cards.

disclaimer.pngPerhaps, like me, you love NaNo but are in the middle of an MS that shouldn’t be neglected. Perhaps you’ve tried NaNo and find it makes your muse pack up and take a long vacation. Perhaps you’re more reader than writer, or buried in edits, or know that this year just isn’t the year.

If that sounds like you, it’s good to remember that NaNo is about far more than dividing 50,000 by 30. It’s about celebrating words and stories while stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself to do something unique—and yeah, maybe a little bonkers.

So as we head into November, let’s take the spirit of NaNo and make it yours:


You wouldn’t be alone in celebrating National Novel Reading Month, a response to NaNoWriMo that encourages more reading. Take this a step further by challenging yourself to read books you normally don’t—if you’re a fantasy fan, try contemporary; if you normally read YA, try Middle Grade or plays or even nonfiction. Alternatively, you could pick books (or one giant book) you want to read before you die—be they traditional classics or the first six books in Dune.

Like NaNo, this will work best if you have a concrete goal: take your normal monthly reading load and multiply it by 1.5, for instance. Write down that goal and take it to heart, selecting some books in advance and scheduling daily reading time.


ALLLLLLL the books!


I think I invented this last Tuesday, but I could be wrong. NaNoIdeaMo, as I call it, is a challenge to brainstorm thirty book ideas in one month. More than rough sketches, these ideas should include primary characters, major plot arcs, stakes, and setting. I’ll personally follow a structure similar to the one described by Mary Robinette Kowal in episode 7.50 of Writing Excuses. In December, I’ll create a fun and brutal bracket system to narrow these thirty ideas down to the one I actually want to write next.


Where will your imagination take you?


National Novel Editing Month is technically in March, but the NaNo spirit includes bucking convention, so why not do it now? If you have a large editing project in your future, develop a schedule that starts with substantive edits and keeps you on track through copyedits. You’ll have a pristine new draft by December.


I swear this scene made sense at the time…


Rather than a word count goal, challenge yourself to write 15-30 short stories during the month of November. As with everything else on this list, make it an ambitious but achievable goal.



Start a new habit, find a new hobby

By popular belief, it takes 21 days to start a habit. Use November to try out something you’ve always wanted to do—or to start a habit you know would be good for you. At just a month, it’s less pressure than a New Year’s resolution, and it could be anything from making breakfast every day to finally signing up for that pottery class or joining a rec sports team.

Whether you’re a writer or a reader, the things you do outside of books will enrich your experience inside of them. And hey—maybe your habit does have to do with books: read ten pages a night, write 100 words before work. Whatever it is, take yourself seriously and treat your new goal with respect. Open yourself up to new experiences—now that’s the NaNo way.


NaNo knows that success feels great, whether you’re at your computer or on the field.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this November, or something else entirely? Let us know in the comments, and write/read/brainstorm/revise/live on!


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Chicago Writes: NaNoWriMo 2016, A Guide & A Gentle Nudge

This is the first of two posts on NaNoWriMo. For an alternate perspective, see No NaNo? No Problem.


DO NANOWRIMO! Okay…maybe I lied when I said it would be a gentle nudge.

So, I really like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because I’ve done it ever since I decided to start writing with a goal of publishing.

According to

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

NaNoWriMo kind of reminds me of college because you have an excuse to be grouchy and crazy at 3 AM and there are likely other people doing that exact same thing! So you know what that means, 3AM coffee/wine and whine time with friends!

Did you know Storyist, write or die, and Scrivener were created out of NaNo by writers who saw deficiencies in existing writing software? So, even if you haven’t ever done NaNo, you might have benefited from those that have done it!

I also always like to point out that some awesome novels were started and/or written during NaNoWriMo. I actually wrote the bulk of my latest MS during 2015’s NaNo and that’s the novel I got an agent with (wheee!)

Okay, so here are some of the fun things you get by signing up (FOR FREE) at

Cool stats and graphs telling you how awesome (or, in my case, how lazy) you are:


Awesome Forums where you can connect with other authors. There are so many options to base the forums on (genre, hobbies, progress in your WIP, where you live, who you read):

NaNo2.png gives you tools to motivate yourself but none of it is mandatory. It’s just available for your use if you find it helps you on your writing journey. There are fun things like buddies (friends who are also participating), badges, and a blog with advice:

NaNo3.pngAnd there are some Regional specific events:


Something I want to say is if you take part in NaNo and don’t hit the 50,000 word mark, then it’s not a failure. Writing at all is an accomplishment, and it’s great to be able to just sit down and put words to paper. That’s the spirit of NaNoWriMo. What it offers that’s cool is a community and tools to help motivate you along the way.

Links to help you hook up with Chicago writers taking part in NaNoWriMo:

NaNo’s Chicago Region page

ChiWriMo Facebook Group

AND you can find the ChiYA crew on the site if you’d like to be NaNo buddies!

Kat Cho: katjc589

Ronni Davis Selzer: LilRonGal


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