Cooler by the Lake

StoryStudio's online magazine

The Cure to Writer’s Block is a Downward Dog Away

By Colton Gigot • In Classes, Colton, UncategorizedNo Comments

Our friend Pat has a problem. She’s been in a funk, stuck in a month-long creative slump. We all know the feeling. She puts in her forty hours at office, toils under the soul-sucking fluorescent lighting, and by the time she goes home her creative energies are sapped, her attention span is shot,

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Meet Nadine!

By Colton Gigot • In Instructors, Interviews, Nadine, The Writing LifeNo Comments

We’re excited to introduce our newest StoryStudio instructor, Nadine Kenney Johnstone! Nadine, who recently moved (back) to Chicago from Massachusetts, will debut September 25th with a single-session class called Tales from the Office. She will also lead our next cycle of Memoir in a Year, which starts on October 20th (don’t forget

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StoryStudio <3’s Ice Cream (and B Corps!)

By Colton Gigot • In B Corp, Events, Local, UncategorizedNo Comments

Picture this: It’s late afternoon on a Wednesday. You’ve been writing all morning and your creative energies are kaput. You’re desperate for a pick-me-up, but another cup of coffee is bound to jumpstart the jitters. Suddenly everything you need comes together in one place: a truck full of ice cream, a parking lot full of

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StoryStudio Instructors Walk the Writerly Walk

By Colton Gigot • In Annette, Colton, Events, RebeccaNo Comments

Ask a writing instructor what’s the hardest part of their job, and most will tell you it’s not the instructing. It’s being the writer once class is over. When you spend a day helping fellow writers find their grooves, the next challenge becomes channeling the confidence and energy to find your

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#StoryStudio Writing Sprint

By Colton Gigot • In Jen, The Writing Life, UncategorizedNo Comments

by Jennifer Ann Coffeen What are you writing? What are you reading? What writing goals are you setting for yourself and are you meeting them? These are the questions our staff has been asking YOU all summer long. Your replies have been pouring in via email, twitter, and Facebook.» Read More

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Advanced Memoir Workshop is a Community of Writers

By Colton Gigot • In Colton, Interviews, The Writing LifeNo Comments

One of our favorite parts of doing what we do is cheering on our students when they meet their writing goals. Of course, writers are mostly solitary creatures, so when we do see our students succeed, it’s usually on the individual level—finishing a piece, getting one published, winning a contest,

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Take Writing Risks, Learn Live Lit with Keith Ecker

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

If you’ve never read your work aloud, getting up on stage and performing what you’ve written might feel like a huge risk. What if it’s not good? What if I freeze up? Don’t worry! You can learn how to tackle your fears of writing and reading aloud by taking risks on the

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Staff Picks: Best Outdoor Writing Spots

By Colton Gigot • In Best Of, Colton, Staff Picks, The Writing Life, UncategorizedNo Comments

We don’t wan’t want to jinx anything, but it would appear that summer has arrived in Chicago.

That means it’s time to put away the parkas, emerge from our writerly caves, and soak up as much vitamin D as our systems will tolerate before the sun goes away again. » Read More

Dreaming To Awake

By Jill • In UncategorizedNo Comments

I dreamed of my father last night. Always a sign of contemplation for me. He appeared as we were traveling on a high-speed bus/train through some version of Italy that doesn’t really exist. The bus/train was just about to veer off course, taking a tumbling turn down a mountain at

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Johanna Stein Dishes On Humor

By Colton Gigot • In Craft, Interviews, UncategorizedNo Comments

As a comedy writer, producer, director, and actress, Johanna Stein has learned to find the funny in any situation. In anticipation of her upcoming class, How to Write a Funny Story, Stein sat down with Cooler by the Lake to discuss comedy craft, her favorite funny people, and a few basic rules

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Picking Our Writing Battles: Guest Post by Michael Devens

By Maria • In Craft, Guest Posts, UncategorizedNo Comments

Perfection. Something to aspire to, or something that keeps us writers struggling with inadequacy and never-finished drafts? Here at StoryStudio, we know that writers have a complex relationship with perfection, which is why we’ve asked Michael Devens, a longtime StoryStudio student and work-study volunteer, to share his thoughts on battling perfectionist

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“May I…” Gets Attention from the Tribune

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

It’s been a swell couple of weeks in the world of StoryStudio and Words for Work speaking engagements. At the moment we’re excited about two things in particular.

1)  Jill’s member lab presentation at Chicago Ideas Week made an even bigger splash than we first thought.» Read More

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Best In The Neighborhood: Eight Great Cafes for Writing

By Colton Gigot • In Best Of, Colton, Local, UncategorizedNo Comments

When you’ve been a writer long enough, your favorite coffee shop becomes like a second home.

It takes time, but eventually you’ll find the spot that has it all: the best brainstorming vibes, the perfect clientele for people watching, and the most inspiring espresso you’ve ever had.» Read More

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April Booklist: Stories Gone Visual

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

Take it from the StoryStudio staff: absolutely! All month long we’ve been smitten with Visual Storytelling as we prepare for our upcoming class with Adam McOmber. What we’ve learned: there are no rules when you’re mashing up visual art and the written word.» Read More

National Poetry Month: 4 Ways to Celebrate

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

April is National Poetry Month, and if you’re like a lot of us, you may have forgotten to make room on your calendar for a proper celebration. But good poetry deserves its due, so we’ve put together a list of easy ways to celebrate National Poetry Month without disrupting your writerly

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The Where and the How

By Jill • In Jill's ObsessionNo Comments

Some days I’m all business. I wear my uniform of tailored slacks, even-toned blouse, and blazer. Earrings: conservative with a bit of flair. I am going to the Loop, 23rd floor, conference room J, views of the lake from the reception desk window, coffee carts littering the hallway, dark browns

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Road to Ragdale 2014

By Colton Gigot • In Colton, Ragdale, The Writing LifeNo Comments

What’s more exciting than a 50-degree day in Spring?

The arrival of Ragdale season, of course! Visit Ragdale to take advantage of these two unique events for Writers. StoryStudio instructors Deborah Siegel and Abby Geni will be there this spring and summer.» Read More

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Editors Speak: Literary Magazine Panel

By Colton Gigot • In How To, Interviews, The Writing Life, UncategorizedNo Comments

We’re gathering our friends from Chicago’s coolest indie lit magazines, and we’re sticking ‘em in the hot seat for an afternoon of literary brain picking.

Join us at the studio next Saturday, March 22 (RSVP here), as we host Curbside Splendor, MAKE Magazine, and Graze Magazine brass for a local lit readers’ and writers’ Q&A. »

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The Brush of Sei Shōnagon

By Jill • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Jill’s Obsessed with Zuihitsu, the Japanese concept of “following one’s brush.” In my attempt to read all the books I should have read by now, I find myself thinking about Sei Shōnagon, the author of The Pillow Book, circa 997 Japan.» Read More

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Do Yourself a Favor: Social Media Marketing for Writers

By Colton Gigot • In How To, Interviews, Jen, The Writing LifeNo Comments

When you write for a living you learn pretty quickly that finishing a piece is just the beginning of your writerly workload.

Blog posts, short stories, personal essays—even brilliant ones, it seems—don’t sell themselves. As tempting as it is to post to your blog, sit back, and let the internet do the

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Is Self-Publishing Viable in 2014?

By Colton Gigot • In Interviews, Live Lit, UncategorizedNo Comments

Love the idea of working from home? Always wanted to be your own boss? Writers who want to work on their own terms in 2014 have reason to celebrate. Self-publishing options are on the rise, increasingly viable, and more empowering than ever.» Read More

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Office Hours: Writing in the Company of Cats

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

This year I took the plunge from part-time freelancer to full-time works-from-home writer. I also became a cat owner for the first time.

  I thought owning cats would be hard. It’s mostly been easy. I thought writing in their company would be easy.» Read More

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Live Lit: A Writer’s Show and Tell

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Something great is happening in Chicago right now.

A bunch of writers and comedians and dramatists and schlubs are stuck indoors (it is mid-February, a four-degree day), and they are writing things down on paper. Big things, little things. They are riffing on God, remembering a parent, musing on some guy from

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What’s Your Number?

By Jill • In Business Writing, Jill, Jill's Obsession, The Writing Life, UncategorizedNo Comments

Ask a dieter how she’s doing and she’ll cite the exact minute she starting eating only celery and how much weight she’s lost, down to the ounce. But ask an author or small business owner how she’s doing, and you’ll get a vague answer like, “oh, we’re busy” or “I’ve

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January Booklist: What We’re Reading

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Yes, we’re a center for writers. But we’re all readers at heart.

A good book goes a long way to freshen the mind and keep the creativity flowing. Here’s how the StoryStudio staff is staying sane in January. The Book of Salt by Monique Truong Our Winter 2014 selection for StoryStudio Reads: “On my

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It’s Raining in Here

By Jill • In UncategorizedNo Comments

One of our beloved leather chairs post flood. I’m grieving. Those chairs were a once in a lifetime find, returned by some unappreciative sitter and left abandoned in the Ikea returned goods area. Sigh. But it is also with great relief that I say goodbye to our wonderful leather chairs that have

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2013: SSC Year in Review

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

  Fellow Writers, On behalf of the StoryStudio staff, it has been a pleasure to work with you all in 2013—to hear your stories, to tell our own, and to share in both your struggles and your writing accomplishments. It was an action-packed year for all of us at the studio.» Read More

Befriending the Brewers

By Maria • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Last Saturday, the StoryStudio staff trekked through the falling snow to join Karma Kombucha, Begyle Brewing, and Intelligentsia Coffee at Graze magazine‘s Brewer’s Ball. Foodies and literature lovers alike were there for lessons in brewing things. Here’s what I learned, and what I’ll be attempting to brew at home: Coffee How to brew

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We’re the Belles of the Brewer’s Ball!

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Can you guess what StoryStudio’s brewing up this weekend?

We’re posting up at the Hairpin Arts Center, where we’ll talk storytelling as part of Graze Magazine’s Brewer’s Ball. Jill will be onsite to deliver the “storybrewing” goods (can we get a dose of story science?), and she’ll be in good company.» Read

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A Writer’s Guide to Holiday Party-Going

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Thanksgiving 2013 is in the books and that means two things:

Americans have spent the last 12 hours pummeling and stampeding their neighbors in the name of big screen TVs, and the annual gauntlet of holiday party-going is well under way.» Read More

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SSC Picks: Top 5 Local Independent Booksellers

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Alas the holidays are upon us, and that means reader-writer types like us have plenty to be excited about: fireside NaNoWriMo grind sessions; warm, boozy, nutmeg-infused drinks, the comforting murmur of holiday television specials we’ve already seen but leave on for the nostalgia.» Read More

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NaNoWriMo Check-In: Who’s Still With Us?

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Alright, novelists. It may have been a schlep, but if you’re still writing, you’ve officially made it through the first week of NaNoWriMo 2013.  Feels good, doesn’t it? We hope you’re still going strong, haven’t hit any major road blocks or, worse, thrown in the towel.» Read More

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Need a Good Book? Look No Further…

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

What do authors Joshilyn Jackson, Catherine Lloyd, and Belinda Alexander have in common?

They’re all kick-ass writers with upcoming book releases, and they’ve all been named to the Indie Next List for December. For the unfamiliar, The Indie Next List updates each month with the most-recommended new or upcoming titles by

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Jam Session: What Storytellers Can Learn from Content Marketing

By Maria • In UncategorizedNo Comments

When I found out that StoryStudio was co-sponsoring Content Jam, a conference on content marketing, my first question was, “What does storytelling have to do with content marketing?” Okay. Actually, my first question was, “What the heck is content marketing?” Content marketing, I learned, is “marketing that seeks to create valuable, interesting

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5 Excuses to Join NaNoWriMo This Year

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Weekend novelists! Published Authors! Professional Procrastinators! It’s finally here and we couldn’t be more excited about it! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) kicks off on November 1, and that means thirty days of nonstop, no–reservations novel writing for our instructors and students.» Read More

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Which Line Are You Writing?

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

I’ve never met a writer who didn’t want with all their being to see their name in print. But getting published is hard. There are a thousand places to submit, they all have unique submission guidelines, and most the time you won’t hear a word back on that manuscript you

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Knitting the Next Chapter

By Maria • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Hello, writers! You may have noticed someone new hanging around StoryStudio. That would be me, Maria Hlohowskyj, StoryStudio’s new Creative Programs Manager (and yes, there will be a spelling test later). I’m joining the StoryStudio family just a few months after receiving my Masters in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University

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Blogging for Business: What Stories Can Your Brand Share?

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

By Keith Ecker

What do Coca-Cola, American Express and tech giant Cisco Systems have in common?

Besides being incredibly successful corporations, they all know how to tell a good story. These brands are among a growing number of recognizable organizations that are embracing content marketing, an extraordinarily popular concept within marketing circles today

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Does Your Content Have Character?

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

…if you build it, will they come?

That worked for Kevin Costner in the movie, Field of Dreams. But where your own creative content (and your income) is concerned, you’d be crazy to act on the advice of some kooky disembodied voice…right?» Read More

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So I Honed My Chops, Now How Do I Get Booked on that Super Cool Live Lit Show?

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

By Ian Belknap So. Here you are – you’ve demonstrated your intrepidness and skill in a workshop setting, now you wish to test your mettle in the real shows. You’re ready for the big time – what do you do? It’s simple, really: Start with who you know (and yes, I’m aware

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A Wicked Great Workshop to Hone Your Live Lit Chops

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Getting booked on a super cool Live Lit show is easier than you might imagine.

by Ian Belknap Live Lit is still an emerging art form, so the barriers to entering it as a practitioner are not as elaborate as they are in other art forms – we don’t much care where

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Write More, Work Better: 3 Writerly Habits You Should Take to the Office

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

One of the perks of being a writer—whether you’re a freelancer, a full-time professional, or a weekend novelist—is that your best writerly habits often translate to helpful skills in other professional arenas. The same habits of mind that make you a good writer—writing regularly, revising constantly, micro-analyzing word choice and syntax—can

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“Daring Greatly” in Your Creative Nonfiction

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

By Keith Ecker Writing creative nonfiction, specifically exceptionally revealing personal nonfiction, is a vulnerable experience that can leave the less resilient author feeling naked and exposed. Oftentimes, those who set out to shed light on the memories that dwell within the darkest crevices of the mind find the end result to

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Are You Ready to Roundtable?

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

by Jennifer Ann Coffeen This September will mark my fifth year in StoryStudio’s Novel Roundtable, which means I am officially a roundtable junkie. This half class/ half support group has seen me through hours of writing, editing, and publishing woes. Plus, we bring treats!» Read More

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Man Booker Prize Announces 2013 Longlist

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Have you heard? As of July 23, The Man Booker Prize has officially released its longlist of candidates for this year’s prize in fiction. And it’s kind of a big deal. If you’re not familiar (and we won’t tell your fiction writer friends if you’re not), The Man Booker Prize is

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To Tweet, or Not to Tweet

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

What do you want? StoryStudio news and updates! How do you want it? That’s what we’d like to know.

We’ve done some soul-searching and decided it’s time to rethink the way we communicate with our StoryStudio friends and students. As writers, we pride ourselves on being good communicators, and

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Time is Money with Early Bird Discounts

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

Who hasn’t been there before? We convince ourselves we’ll get that short story idea on paper…right after this episode of Mad Men. A 5 o’clock deadline is rapidly approaching, but we justify a coffee break for “productivity’s” sake. The perfect plot twist comes to us in a dream, and we

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Write, Camera, Action!

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

I’m just going to say it. I’ve had it with zombies. I could fill a page with all the high-profile monster-movie releases in recent memory, and still I’d be hard pressed to finish this line with the ones that were worth the time.» Read More

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Write What You Eat

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

“I wish I spent half as much time writing as I do eating.”  -Anonymous

You ask a coworker what’s for lunch. You tweet a photo of last night’s dessert (#StraightToTheThighs). You set an alarm to remind you to set an alarm for Anthony Bourdain.» Read More

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StoryStudio Walks the Live Lit Walk

By Colton Gigot • In UncategorizedNo Comments

If you’ve been following Cooler, then the secret’s already out. If you haven’t, here it is: we’re pretty excited about our Live Lit program. Our students and instructors are, too. And rightfully so. When you’re writing and performing your own literature, there’s a lot to be excited about.» Read More