To celebrate our 20th Anniversary in 2023, we’re highlighting 20 stories that have helped shape StoryStudio over the years. Each month of 2023, we’ll be featuring one or two members of our community as they share their story. Whether they came from the very first class that Jill started in 2003 when StoryStudio was just a few folding chairs and a dream, or they’re from the most recent cohort of Novel in a Year students, on their way to publishing a book; these members make StoryStudio what it is.
Below is Nadine’s story.
When I was 30, and our son was a year old, we relocated from a quaint home in rural Massachusetts to a third floor walk up apartment in Ravenswood. While the decision was impractical on some accounts (try carrying a baby, a stroller, and bags of groceries up three floors), I desperately needed to return to Chicago.
I’d left my beloved city six years earlier to be with my now-husband Jamie in Massachusetts, bringing with me my MFA and little else. It was exciting and expansive and also lonely, but writing tied me to the place and the people. When I got pregnant after two harrowing years of infertility, I simultaneously signed a publishing contract to write my infertility memoir.
Yes, I naively thought I could raise a newborn and write a book in the same 12 months. And then Geo was born, and we had no family nearby to help. The loneliness I’d felt those previous six years was magnified by a million. When I suggested moving back to Chicago to be near my family, Jamie, my nature-loving husband, knew how deeply I needed the support and agreed.
So suddenly, there we were in Ravenswood, where it just so happened that an organization called StoryStudio existed one mile away from our apartment, and it also just so happened that the center I’d taught for in Boston recommended me as a teacher to StoryStudio.
I felt raw when I walked into StoryStudio for the first time. I was a new mom with mounting pressure to get a job, finish my memoir, and make this cross-country leap work. But then I met Jill and Scott and Maria, and they felt like instant family. They hired me to teach Memoir in a Year and the lovely Rebecca Makkai gave me insight on how she was leading her popular Novel in a Year program so I could use some of those key structures in my class.
StoryStudio became my second home.
My students were getting published. I watched them launch dozens of memoirs and countless stand-alone pieces. And, on top of it all, they created writing accountability cohorts and became life-long friends. There is no more rewarding outcome for a writing teacher than this. And StoryStudio had created the space to foster it all.
I taught there often, and stopped by even more often just to chat with the awesome staff, instructors, and students. The space was dripping with talent. You couldn’t NOT feel inspired when you walked in. This palpable energy helped me revise and finish my memoir, Of This Much I’m Sure, which was published in 2017.
Over the years, I was lucky enough to teach six cohorts of Memoir in a Year, and many stand-alone classes. I presented at the Writers’ Festival and joined the Core faculty. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by literary greats. I led StoryStudio Ragdale retreats and had the great privilege of assisting the incredible Patty McNair at her life-changing retreats. Each time she taught, there was such magic running through the room that I almost didn’t want to go back to real life.
But something amazing was happening in real life that did draw me back – my students were getting published. I watched them launch dozens of memoirs and countless stand-alone pieces. And, on top of it all, they created writing accountability cohorts and became life-long friends. There is no more rewarding outcome for a writing teacher than this. And StoryStudio had created the space to foster it all.
When the pandemic hit and my father lost his cancer battle, everything shifted for my family. We decided to do many of the things on our bucket list now instead of waiting for retirement. We sold many of our things, road-tripped the U.S. in an old-school Airstream, and eventually relocated to a beach town. I started leading women’s writing and wellness retreats online and around the U.S., and I also created a podcast called Heart of the Story where I interview today’s top women writers and wellness experts. We’re 120 episodes in and it’s one of the greatest professional joys of my life. This year my family celebrated some big birthdays – Geo’s 10th, Jamie’s 50th, and my 40th. And I have a new book baby called Come Home to Your Heart, an essay collection and guided journal for falling back in love with yourself.
While I sadly no longer live a mile from StoryStudio, it remains a pivotal part of my story. I thought I’d moved to Chicago to create a village for my son but to my surprise, I stepped into a supportive, motivated writing community that made me feel alive and inspired–a village of my very own.
Thank you, StoryStudio! Happy Anniversary!