20 Stories: (#19) Kavita Das

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 Kavita’s story.

Summer 2003

During my long commute to work – two trains and a bus, from downtown Chicago to near O’Hare airport – I would lose myself in a book. But something started happening. Thoughts and memories began bubbling up and I would hastily scribble them on scraps of paper or on the back pages of the book I was reading. This went on until one day I decided to take a writing class at Columbia College with Jill Pollack. 

I remember Jill being so engaging as she taught us some of the fundamentals of writing and encouraging as we shared our first pieces. That first class gave me the chance and the courage to take those scraps of ideas and develop them into a piece, with a beginning, middle, and end. 

Jill gave me such positive feedback and encouraged me to keep going. She told me that she would be creating her own writing space, and asked if I would be interested in continuing. Besides really enjoying my time in Jill’s class, I felt seen and heard. My fledgling attempts at writing, ones that I would now cringe to read, were never mocked or diminished. Instead, she created an atmosphere that was both fun but also supportive. 

And so I, and a handful of others, became one of the first students at StoryStudio Chicago, Jill’s new writing center. I took a few more classes with Jill and began to develop my own voice as a writer. I remember being surprised one day when Jill said we were ready to start submitting our work. I didn’t think I was ready yet but her confidence inspired me to submit to the Readers Write column of The Sun. 

The good news was that my very first submission was accepted! I was thrilled to share the news with Jill and she was thrilled for me.  But the bad news was that I was leaving Chicago and StoryStudio to move back to New York City, my hometown. Thanks to my wonderful experience in my first writing classes with Jill at StoryStudio, as soon as arrived in New York City, I began looking for writing classes and writing groups. 

And so I, and a handful of others, became one of the first students at StoryStudio Chicago, Jill’s new writing center.

Summer 2023

I’m now the author of two books and I created and teach a course, Writing with Conscience, which focuses on how to write about social issues in ways that are compelling while doing them justice. Dipika Mukherjee, a Chicago-based writer friend, encouraged me to teach at StoryStudio.

Soon afterwards I learned that StoryStudio was celebrating its 20th Anniversary. It was a bittersweet moment because I’m amazed at how Jill has built StoryStudio into not just a writing space but a vibrant writing community. Although I thanked Jill Pollack in the Acknowledgements of my first book, I regret that I never got around to reaching out to her to tell her how much of an impact she and StoryStudio had in setting me on the long and winding road to becoming a writer. I decide to finally reach out and Jill is as effusive and supportive as I remember.

For some of my writing students, my class is the first writing class they’ve ever taken. I endeavor to create a supportive environment where they can develop not only their writing skills but confidence in their stories and voices. Like the one Jill created for me.

Posted on: