Writer’s Work Takes Flight

By Abby Johnson 

David Sears’s niece wasn’t interested in “Flying Naked.” To the young girl, it’s simply a boring adult book about piloting. 

“You should write about an adventure,” she told him. “Something that has horses, trains and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry…oh, and American history — but only the interesting parts.” 

Sears, a Beverly/Morgan Park native and St. Ignatius College Prep graduate, is in the Air Force stationed at the Pentagon. He’s a former airline pilot and the author of “The Untimely Journey of Veronica T. Boone,” a young adult trilogy that explores friendship and Chicago history while featuring exotic travel, dramatic chases, tornados, presidents of the United States, millionaires, gangsters, bootleggers, monsters, and one helpful but ornery African dwarf mongoose.  

The trilogy is Sears’s first Middle Grade series, and the disparity between this genre and that of “Flying Naked,” a chronicle of his time as a pilot in South America, may be surprising to those unaware of Sears’s interest in Chicago’s backstory. He’s a self-proclaimed history buff, the result of growing up with a father who worked as school teacher for Chicago Public Schools and always pointed out the historic sites while driving throughout the city.  

“There is so much history that flies under the radar,” Sears said. “And when writing these books I was able to explore all of it. That’s why I enjoyed writing them so much.” 

While he may know the city’s rich past like the back of his hand, his experience in pre-teen entertainment was previously nonexistent. His research process was a rather hands-on one: He spent several hours talking to his niece and her friends, uncovering hidden interests and curiosities. What came of these conversations was a time-travel, historical fiction adventure about two girls from the present who try to save the country by stopping a crime that happened at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893.  

When asked why he chose this particular setting for the story, Sears said Hyde Park is often overlooked as a neighborhood when it comes to historical significance. Everyone thinks of Al Capone or the Sears Tower when they think of Chicago, he said  

“I wanted to bring attention to an area that is arguably the most important in Chicago’s history.” 

And there are still plenty of other areas whose stories are waiting to be told. Sears knows this, which is why he is already mapping out Veronica T. Boone’s next adventure. He gives up his lunch hours to write these stories. But it’s worth it, he said.  

“I never thought I’d be writing these kinds of books, but when the niece gives you a job, you do it, right?” He chuckles. “Seriously, though. I’m glad she did. It’s been good for both of us.” 

Chicago Writers Studio Inspires Local Authors

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.