By Kristin Boza
Writers groups in Beverly/Morgan Park are gaining popularity. Now, local authors have another valuable resource with the opening of the Chicago Writers Studio, 1917 W. 103rd St., #4. Owned by neighborhood resident and author Cole Lavalais, the Chicago Writers Studio aims to educate aspiring authors on technique and structure and help them connect to the writing community.
From a young age, Lavalais knew she wanted to be a writer, but she lacked writing role models. “I didn’t see any working black women writers. I was a big fan of Mike Royko growing up, but I didn’t see anybody who looked like me having a column in the newspaper like he did,” she said. “I wasn’t familiar with black women writers until college, and even then I didn’t know any personally. It wasn’t until I started actually seeing women who look like me doing this that I realized I could be a writer too.”
Lavalais’ career goals shifted as she worked her way through undergrad, a Master’s Degree in Psychology, an MSA in Creative Writing from Chicago State and eventually a PhD in Creative Writing from University of Illinois at Chicago. “I started teaching classes at UIC and other universities. Along the way, I kept running into folks who wanted to write. I decided I wanted to start a community-based writing studio,” she said.
Lavalais chose the location for the Chicago Writers Studio mainly because she and her family live here. “There’s a lot happening lately in Beverly’s literary movement, which I’m happy to see. I think it’s a great opportunity for folks in this community to have another resource so they don’t have to go up to the north side,” she said. “Before I opened the studio, I would have smaller workshops at the Beverly Library. People always said they wanted a local writers studio here to avoid the drive up north and dealing with parking. There’s just not enough resources for folks who want to write in this part of the city.”
The Chicago Writers Studio is a perfect fit for anyone who doesn’t have the time or money to earn a formal degree in writing, Lavalais said. “Not everyone wants to be published, some people just want to get their life story on record. Hopefully the studio will help people do that as well as helping those who want to be published,” she said. Lavalais recommends any aspiring writer starts with a short story. “The short story really teaches you things that you need to write a novel.”
Classes are aimed at anyone who wants to write, from recreational writers to emerging writers. Most writers will start with the Intro to Fiction class, where they will learn the elements of a short story and begin writing one. The Studio also offers workshops on novels, screenwriting and starting a memoir.
For more information or to sign up for a class, visit ChicagoWritersStudio.com.