CWA Announces Chicago Literary Hall of Fame
Posted: 5/3/2009 8:46:35 PM
We are one city, but our literature is as big as the world.
Over here: the ghost of Frankie Machine at Milwaukee Avenue’s Bit of Poland. Over there: the dandelions in Maud Martha’s parents’ backyard. Charlie Citrine stumbles into a Russian Bathhouse on Division. Look at Studs Lonigan with his Sweet Caporal and Beneatha’s straightened hair.
Chicago boasts a rich and proud literary heritage, and those characters, places, and images will last as long as passionate readers remember and care about them. As will the brilliant people who made them out of words.
Chicago Writers Association is delighted to announce a project to properly honor that heritage: The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
This project evolved from my own interests as a reader, book collector and writer—I thought there should be a way for us to celebrate, remember and share in our collective literary life. I thought, perhaps, there was a way to connect all the literary dots, so that our view of Chicago would be intertwined with its literature. I thought we could do something tangible to show that we think the value and character of our city is not only reflected in but shaped by our great books.
We’re a long way from realizing any of that, but we’re off to a good start.
Nominating and selection panels have been formed to elect the initial induction class of six writers in the spring of 2010. Stuart Dybek, Rosellen Brown, William Savage, Haki R. Madhubuti and Achy Obejas have all agreed to be on the selection panel. We also have commitments from an illustrious 14-member nominating panel (see accompanying list) that represents a fine sampling of Chicago’s great literary institutions and people. Together, these 19 participants represent a cross-section of the best and brightest and most accomplished members of our community.
"Two of the main goals of the Chicago Writers Association are to build a bridge to unite all facets of Chicago's diverse literary culture and to promote Chicago as a place of literary distinction,” said CWA president Randy Richardson. “The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame goes a long way toward achieving these goals. It is something that is long overdue. For too long, Chicago has been known as the Second City. Putting a spotlight on our rich and proud literary tradition will let the rest of the world know what we here in Chicago's writing community already know -- that Chicago's literary heritage is second to none."
The initial induction class will consist of writers whose careers (and lives) are ended. Future classes will be expanded to include living writers, including special categories to be determined. Those special categories could include popular writers, beloved characters, bookstores, great books and so forth.
Soon, we will seek partnerships and financing to expand our vision of the project. We intend to build both an online and physical presence, though the latter will likely be in the form of temporary (perhaps traveling) exhibits for the foreseeable future. We imagine an induction ceremony that brings together a good number of Chicago’s writers, readers, teachers and supporters, and that does justice to the literary lions being honored.
“How, as a city that embraces its own diversity, we distinguish Chicago’s literary ‘best’ to begin building a Chicago Writers Hall of Fame will be a most challenging enterprise,” said nominating panel member Judith West. “And I’m pleased and excited at the prospect.”
CWA members and the literary community at large will be invited to participate in the process of shaping the Hall of Fame. For more details, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Donald G. Evans, CWA Board Member and Literary Hall of Fame Project Coordinator
Chicago Literary Hall of Fame
-Haki R. Madhubuti
-Randy Albers (Chair, Fiction Writing Department, Columbia College)
-Rob Duffer (co-founder Reading Under the Influence and Chicago Literary Scene Examiner)
-Richard R. Guzman (Professor North Central College, editor Black Writing from Chicago and Smokestacks and Skyscrapers: An Anthology of Chicago Writing)
-Marie Hayes (Editor, StoryQuarterly)
-Garrett P. Kiely (Director, The University of Chicago Press)
-Rick Kogan (WGN’s Sunday Papers and Chicago Tribune)
-Victoria Lautman (Writers on the Record)
-Alice Maggio (Gaper’s Block, Chicago Book Club)
-Jonathan Messinger (TimeOut Chicago, The Dollar Store Reading Series)
-Donna Seaman (Open Books and Book List)
-Jackie Taylor (Founder and Executive Director, Black Ensemble Theater)
-Russ Tutterow (Artistic Director, Chicago Dramatists)
-Sharon Woodhouse (Publisher, Lake Claremont Press)
-Judith West (Board Member and VP Elect/Strategic Planning and Development, Chicago Women in Publishing)