Becoming an advanced writer takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and our “In A Year” programs are designed to help you cross the finish line… and get published.

Rebecca Makkai, StoryStudio Chicago’s Artistic Director, created Novel In A Year in 2012. The goal was to found a yearlong writing program to build community, teach the craft and business of writing, and help writers get their books into the world. Now, more than a decade later, StoryStudio also offers the program for Memoirs, Essay Collections, and Short Story Collections.

Our In A Year (IAY) programs rotate yearly. Check each individual program page for start dates, application windows, and more details.

We didn’t design this program for you to write a full book in just one year. Rather, it’s a chance for you to dedicate a whole year to your book. Whether you have the first 50 pages, a full draft, or just an idea, we welcome you to apply to one of the below programs.


Please click on each instructor’s name below to read more about the specific IAY program you’re interested in.

NOVEL IN A YEAR: FIRST DRAFT (Open June 4 – July 12)
Online with Lindsay Hunter
In Person with Michael Zapata

Novel in a Year: First Draft
Lindsay Hunter (online)
Michael Zapata (in person)
Abby Geni (in person)
Sheree L. Greer (online)

Novel in a Year: Revise and Launch
Abby Geni

Novel in a Year: Young Adult & Middle Grade
James Klise

Essay Collection in a Year
Megan Stielstra

Memoir in a Year
Gayle Brandeis

Short Story Collection in a Year
Cyn Vargas

Novel in a Year: Speculative Fiction
Juan Martinez

All of our In a Year programs offer the unique opportunity to join a writing cohort, study craft, workshop key scenes, measure your progress, meet deadlines, and give and get support for the long slog from plotting to composition and beyond. Writers come to us with and without advanced degrees or a background in creative writing; we welcome writers of all levels to apply.


Students will meet in the Studio, or virtually, monthly for three-hour sessions to discuss craft, solve drafting challenges, workshop scenes, and share some snacks and beverages. In between class sessions you’ll have plenty of time to write and generate new work while still staying in touch via StoryStudio’s private online class forum.

We’ve structured this program to provide maximum benefit without demanding too much time away from focusing on your own work. In addition to workshopping short scenes in class, participants will meet individually with your instructor for 100-page manuscript reviews. (Revise & Launch is a full-manuscript review).

With the complimentary passes to our Master Classes, writers are encouraged to attend these “booster shot” craft lessons with their classmates as supplemental learning from acclaimed authors.

Finally, with the private online forum, additional work can be exchanged and workshopped outside of the scheduled class meetings. Many writers use the space to arrange coffee meet-ups, plan literary outings at local bookstores, and discuss articles and books.

The In a Year program has been going strong for over 10 years, and you will have the opportunity to benefit socially and professionally from a strong network of alumni, many of whom are experiencing publishing success.

Here is a general timeline for these programs, and when to expect the next group to open applications, or start.

Novel in a Year: First Draft with Abby Geni
Novel in a Year: First Draft with Sheree L. Greer
Novel in a Year: Revise and Launch
Novel in a Year: Young Adult & Middle Grade
Short Story Collection in a Year
Novel in a Year: Speculative Fiction

Novel in a Year: First Draft with Mike Zapata (In Person)
Novel in a Year: First Draft with Lindsay Hunter (Online)

Memoir in a Year
Essay Collection in a Year

The In-A-Year program has been running since 2012. Here are some of the folks who showed up to our 10-year reunion in 2022.

[Nadine] and my fellow MIAY classmates held my feet to the fire and helped me shape my memoir into a book that was worthy of publication. I am grateful for the experience and would highly recommend Nadine, and the course at StoryStudio, to anyone interested in writing a memoir.

– Ross Slotten, Plague Years: A Doctor’s Journey Through The AIDS Crisis (2020)

Novel in a Year provided a constructive space to explore my first novel. It felt tailored especially for me: a post-MFA writer with a full-time job in need of a supportive community and structure… By the time we reached the full manuscript review, I’d already discovered the strengths and weaknesses in my work-in-progress.

– Sahar Mustafah, The Beauty of Your Face (2020)

The NIAY classes offered support and encouragement, but beyond that, they gave me ideas and approaches to revision, a clear eyed sense of the difficulty of the endeavor, and excellent feedback. In addition, I met fellow writers who I still know and value to this day.

– Rebecca Keller, You Should Have Known (2023)


Teaching Artists
The instructors for our Advanced Courses are rockstars. They are dedicated members of the literary community who are actively publishing novels, memoirs, and collections.

Though time and space can be in short supply, having a friendly and encouraging cohort will help you meet those word count goals and deadlines. It’s quite a motivator!

Cohort & Community
Who said you have to go it alone? Taking continuous classes with the same cohort of students will give you the chance build strong and lasting bonds, participate in the community, and be listed as a StoryStudio VIP student with “first chance” opportunities for future classes.

Meet Editors and Authors
In addition to your wonderful instructor, visiting authors and editors will come to class, providing invaluable advice and insights.

Manuscript Review
You’ll get clear and professional advice with a manuscript review; an author letter with ideas and suggestions and comments; and a private meeting.