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 Alan’s story.
A Chicago Love Story
Like most stories worth telling, my StoryStudio Chicago story is a love story. One that begins with my wife, who was not yet my wife, when this story begins.
She knew I “wanted to be a writer” in the way people getting more serious toward each other tended to know things. As the sort of earnest declaration tossed out to test reaction. For Christmas, she gifted me a manuscript consultation with Jill Pollack.
Memory is a slippery fish. I always put us at Julius Meinl, the Austrian café that’s no longer open. It’s deeply possible I’m wrong, but I like us there that first time we met just the same. Let’s agree I ate a small bowl of the soup that I still miss, the one with the chicken broth and thin, small noodles.
The setting of our first meeting doesn’t matter. The exact shape of our conversation doesn’t either. We weren’t talking about Jill’s plans for the writing group she was about to start or the novel I was fumbling about with. Not really.
We were talking about potential. I wanted to keep talking.
I joined the first StoryStudio workshop in a room where linoleum glowed under harsh florescent. The exact opposite of its current, cozy space. We had what we needed, just the same. Chairs arranged in a circle. Writing to share. And that nervous alchemy of belief and hope.
The belief that writing mattered. The hope that our writing, one day, might.
We had what we needed, just the same. Chairs arranged in a circle. Writing to share. And that nervous alchemy of belief and hope. The belief that writing mattered. The hope that our writing, one day, might.
I’ve been part of StoryStudio, in one way or another, ever since. As a reader, writer, Novel in a Year cohort member, supporter and board member.
I’ve read a murder procedural set in medieval France. A satire about office politics. A still, quiet story set in a Japan overtaken by a plague of silence. (This was before COVID.)
I knew Dana Wood and that jangling laugh of hers. Knew her as a fine and caring reader and a woman who put her writing life aside every summer to fully enjoy the season that makes Chicago winters somewhat bearable.
I’ve helped the Studio grapple with its mission, potential, programming and hoped-for impact.
For twenty years, the Studio has worked to become even more of what it was during that first tentative workshop session. What’s on offer is still on offer, only moreso.
They offer things that feel increasingly hard to come by. Not just as a writer. But as a human living in America. Encouragement. Community. Belonging.
Tell me that’s not the best kind of love story.