BEVERLY — The owner of the Chicago Writers Studio has plenty of books at her new business at 1917 W. 103rd St. in Beverly. But one book shelf is purposely empty.
This space is reserved for the books, screenplays, short stories and other written work produced by those who participate in classes at owner Cole Lavalais' new studio.
"I've always wanted a space where I could come and writers could feel free to write," said Lavalais, who will host a grand opening for her studio from noon-3 p.m. Saturday.
A Beverly resident for the past 20 years, Lavalais has a doctorate in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has taught writing for more than 11 years. Her new business also comes on the heels of her first novel, "Summer of the Cicadas."
The 192-page book ($14.59) follows a young woman named Viola Moon who has a nervous breakdown just before she enters college. The story then takes readers along as she unravels, Lavalais said.
Writing the book took years, Lavalais said. And along the way, she envisioned opening a studio where she could share what she learned with other writers — hopefully making their path to publication smoother.
Lavalais also said the she's noticed a burgeoning writers community in Beverly, spurred by live-lit events such as The Frunchroom, Words By Friends and other happenings at the Beverly Arts Center designed for writers.
"It feels like something is happening here," Lavalais said. "There is no shortage of writers or people who want to tell stories in this neighborhood."
Cole Lavalais will have a grand opening for her Chicago Writers Studio from noon-3 p.m. Saturday at 1917 W. 103rd St. in Beverly. Lavalais finished her first novel, "Summer of the Cicadas," in May. [DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig]
As for her business, classes cost $250 and will be taught in eight-week sessions. There will never be more than 10 students in each class, and instructors are all accomplished writers, Lavalais said.
One of those instructors, Shahari Moore, has had her work recognized as part of the Cannes International Film Festival. She is currently directing a documentary on the life of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize.
"Everyone is really passionate about people getting better," Lavalais said.
Classes at the studio come without the hassle of registering at a nearby college such as Chicago State University — where Lavalais earned her master's degree. The studio classes also offer a level of instruction unmatched by the more rudimentary workshops at the public library, she said.
Lavalais said there are similar writing studios on the North Side as well as Downtown. She said the South Side is an untapped market, which she hopes to cultivate through classes as well as "write-in" events and more in Beverly.
"I think there are so many stories that aren't told because people don't have a safe space to tell them," Lavalais said.