StoryStudio is thrilled to present the fourth annual StoryBoard workshop, now hosted in hybrid form: in-person or online. In 2023, this week-long program will run in-person from August 13 – 18, followed by an online week August 20 – 25.


See details from last year’s 2022 StoryBoard program:


August 14 – 19 in person
August 21 – 26 online


Application window 
closes Sunday, May 15


$9 application fee
$750 tuition


Use Submittable to upload
your application materials and
make your faculty preference selections.

Materials include: 10-page writing sample, and a brief questionnaire

FAQs are below.

The StoryBoard program is a weeklong intensive workshop. Workshops will take place in our Chicago-based Studio, or on our online platform Zoom. For more about StoryStudio as a creative writing center under our parent nonprofit organization Stories Matter Foundation, click here.

StoryBoard will offer workshop time, community building with your cohort and instructor, and special discussions with all six authors. Throughout the week there will also be one craft talk from each instructor in the afternoons.


  • Sunday evening of your week, August 14 or 21, there will be a welcome meeting at the Studio or via Zoom. Have a drink and meet your fellow writers.
  • Monday, August 15 or 22 will kick off the workshops at 10am Central.
    • Each day will include 3 hours of craft lecture and workshops, until 1pm. From there, you’ll have free time to do as you wish (continue the conversation with classmates over lunch, flop on your bed, or log off to put your inspiration to use on the page) until 3pm.
    • At 3pm, a craft talk will be given by one of the instructors on a topic of their choosing. This is optional, but we highly encourage you to attend. 
    • The days without a craft talk are free to you to explore Chicago. If you’re in-person, we encourage you to set up some lunches and dinners with your fellow cohort members, and check out some literary events around the city. If you’re virtual, we’ll have some online cocktail hours for you to all mingle and get to know one another more.
  • Special Offering: Artistic Director Rebecca Makkai will be in conversation with all faculty members in a webinar fashion on Zoom, a conversation that will be free and open to the public. Date TBD, but likely before the first week begins. This will be recorded for those unable to attend live.
  • Things will wrap up on Friday, August 19 or 26 with a goodbye reception or Zoom party following the final workshop.

Cultivating Art From Pain: Writing for Survivors – Terese Marie Mailhot

IN-PERSON NONFICTION • We’ll have some fun talking and generating new work, with a focus on self-characterization, dynamism, honesty, joy, and honor regarding what we’ve survived and what’s next artistically. Testimony is the first step to healing. Working to move testimony into art can be hard, but I have a lot of practical strategies that have worked for me and other students I have taught. We retrieve ourselves and restore ideas about love, healing, and art when we write about the hard stuff together. This workshop is for people who want to write about survival and the self, and who are willing to work in different forms (and learn about them): fragments, braids, short short work, and epistolary forms. This workshop is for people who might be tired of hearing their work is “raw,” “brave.” or “brutal.” It’s for people who had hard lives and want to write beautiful and honest things about it. 

1 hour craft talk/discussion, followed by two hours of workshop.

Terese Marie Mailhot is from Seabird Island Band. Her work has appeared in Mother JonesAl JazeeraThe Guardian, and “Best American Essays.” She is the New York Times bestselling author of Heart Berries: A Memoir.

Risk, Risk, Risk – Ingrid Rojas Contreras

IN-PERSON FICTION • Writing fiction is a process of sighting, unearthing, and time. In drafting a story or novel, we encounter an abundance of choices. Some feel riskier, and some feel safer to our ability and creativity. In this class, we will practice writing at the edge of what we think feels comfortable, identify elements we are overly reliant on, and go over several strategies and drafting possibilities that allow for the bold choice. We will run a series of experiments on current and abandoned drafts to see what they can break open, and aim to arrive at a version of story that feels personally powerful, compelling, and thrilling.

1 hour of craft talk each day, 2 hours for workshops (2 students per day).

Ingrid Rojas Contreras is the author of Fruit of the Drunken Tree (Doubleday, 2018) a silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor’s choice. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The CutThe Believer, and elsewhere. A new work of non-fiction, a family memoir about her grandfather, a curandero from Colombia who it was said had the power to move clouds, is coming from Doubleday in 2022.

All The Extraordinary Ways Not To Be Ordinary – Patricia Smith

IN-PERSON POETRY • As you jog feverishly to your notebook or keyboard with that one-in-a-million idea, you try to forget that a million other people are lit up by that same idea, driven by same fever, and subject to your same delusion–that no one is going to write whatever-it-is quite the way you will.

But you make that happen. In this workshop, we’ll look at the best ways to that establish that all-important creative signature–the unexpected entry, the zooming lens, distraction in form, distraction in approach, abandoning the body and foraging for beauty. When we’re done, whether or not your work stands out in the pack will be entirely up to you.

1 hour of craft talk each day, 2 hours for workshops (2 students per day).

Patricia Smith is the winner of the 2021 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement from the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (Northwestern University Press 2017), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award, the LA Times Book Prize, the NAACP Image Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (Coffee House Press, 2012), winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; and Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press, 2008), a National Book Award finalist. She is a Guggenheim fellow, an NEA grant recipient, a finalist for the Neudstadt Prize, a former fellow at Civitella Ranieri, Yaddo and MacDowell and and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. Smith is currently a visiting professor at Princeton University and a distinguished professor for the City University of New York. Unshuttered, a book of dramatic monologues accompanied by 19th century photos of African-Americans, will be released in the fall of 2022.

The Body Intervenes: Personal Narrative and the Body – Megan Stielstra

ONLINE NONFICTION • “Literature does its best to maintain that its concern is with the mind,” wrote Virginia Woolf in 1926.“ On the contrary, the very opposite is true. All day, all night, the body intervenes.” This workshop examines how memory lives in the body, using our own stories and experiences as a contribution to a wider cultural and political dialogue that centers human beings. Pulling from both literary and oral storytelling traditions, we’ll engage in a series of activities (adapted for zoom!) that will take our writing out of the head and into the body, generating new work and digging deeper into material you’re already exploring. All levels are welcome; we need you. We need your voice. We’re trying to remake the world.

1 hour of craft talk/writing and rewriting activities, 2 hours of workshop (2-3 writers per day).

Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections: Everyone Remain Calm, Once I Was Cool, and The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, the 2017 Nonfiction Book of the Year from the Chicago Review of Books. Her work appears in the Best American Essays, New York Times, The Believer, Poets & Writers, Tin House, Longreads, Guernica, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for National Public Radio, Radio National Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and all sorts of theaters, festivals, classrooms, and bars (so many bars). She teaches creative writing in Chicago and weird, wonderful zoom spaces in your living room.

Dreaming Awake: A Generative Prose Workshop – Dan Chaon

ONLINE FICTION • This class focuses on unique strategies for generating ideas, discovering image, scene, character and plot, and deepening and expanding our abilities to imagine new original narratives using a variety of different techniques and modes to access the imaginative subconscious.   The course is exercise-based, with in-class writing throughout the session, and students will leave with several new partial/rough-draft stories in hand and reliable tools for overcoming writer’s block. Discussion of student work will similarly be imaginative and generative rather than critique-based. 

1.5 hour of craft talk with in-class student writing per day;  1.5 hour for workshops (2 students per day.)  

Dan Chaon is the author of seven books, including the National Book Award nominee Among the Missing, national bestsellers Await Your Reply and Ill Will, and, most recently, the novel Sleepwalk. Dan taught at Oberlin College for twentyyears before retiring in 2018 to focus on writing. He lives in Cleveland with the dogsRay Bradbury and Shirley Jackson.  

Understanding the World of Young People’s Literature – Pablo Cartaya

ONLINE YOUNG ADULT/MIDDLE GRADE • This class will be about understanding the world of young people’s literature as we build towards creating (and expanding) your own unique voice in the field. What was the last great young adult book you read? What about a middle grade book that brought you back to your adolescence? Was there a book from your youth that helped you through a difficult time? Made you feel seen in some meaningful way? What constitutes middle grade or young adult? Does it even matter when crafting a story for these varied ages of readers? What impact do you hope to have on the field? In this week long class, Pablo Cartaya will delve into answering some of these questions, get you thinking about your own answers, and help as you draft, revise, and build on the possibilities of your own work in young people’s literature. 

1 hour of craft talk each day, 2 hours for workshops (2 students per day).

Pablo Cartaya is a critically acclaimed and best-selling author, screenwriter, speaker, and educator. Notable works include The Epic Fail of Arturo ZamoraMarcus Vega Doesn’t Speak SpanishEach Tiny Spark, and the climate dystopia The Last Beekeeper. His novels (on over forty U.S. state award lists) center around the themes of family, culture, community, the environment, and the cross-section of the Latinx experience in the United States. Pablo has worked with Disney, Apple+, and Sesame Street on projects adapted from television series and movies and in 2021, he served as a judge for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. He is currently an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at Sierra Nevada University and gives talks around the country on writing, reading, and identity. He calls Miami home and Cuban American his cultura. Awards and Honors include: 2020 Schneider Family Book Award Honor, 2019 ALSC Notable Book, 2018 American Library Association’s Pura Belpré Honor, 2018 Audie Award Finalist for Middle Grade Audiobook of the Year, and 2018 E.B. White Read Aloud Book Award Finalist.


How will Covid-19 affect this?

In order to adhere to safety measures, but in an effort to still experience a somewhat in-person conference, this workshop will be hybrid format. Some instructors will be in-person, and some will be remote only. 

We are constantly keeping our eye on the positivity numbers within the city, and are taking the advice of the CDC and our local governments in regard to gatherings. Should we need to switch any in-person workshops online, we have the ability and confidence to do so. 

What level are these workshops?

Acceptance is selective and based on the quality and promise of the writing sample. The writers and instructors participating will all be serious about their craft and the feedback provided. Prior workshop experience is not necessary.

How many people will be in my group?

Workshops are limited to 10 participants maximum.

Will we be workshopping new pieces, or ones we apply with?

You are welcome to submit any piece for the workshop component of the program. If you apply with one piece, but want to submit something else for the group to workshop, that’s acceptable. All workshop pieces will need to be submitted one month prior to the program’s start date.

Will I get to pick who I work with?

On our submission manager, Submittable, you’ll find options to list your preferences of faculty members. We’ll do our best to match you with your first choice.

What will the virtual participation look like?

Zoom invite links and information for joining your peers online will be provided in advance of the workshop. Additionally, you will have access to a private online chat forum for continual conversation outside of the live Zoom component. We will also provide some optional, general hang-out sessions throughout the week to get to know your peers more.

Testimonials From 2021 Attendees

2021 Hybrid-Format Faculty

Testimonials From 2020 Attendees

StoryBoard Workshop Welcome Reception over Zoom
Lidia Yuknavitch’s Workshop Group
Inaugural, 2020 Faculty