Volume 6, Number 1 


The mission of the American Writers Museum Foundation is to establish the first national museum in the United States dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives.




Learn more about plans to establish the American Writers Museum


See what other people are saying about the American Writers Museum


Learn more about the Executive Planning Team and National Advisory Council


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Read the 64-page museum design plan 


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"To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven ."


-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 "What a brilliant idea, to establish an American Writers Museum! It is very fitting that this ambitious museum is Midwestern in its setting, and particularly in the great literary city of Chicago.  Here is a project that will be both educational and thrilling, inspiring to all who love to read and to write. I am honored to be involved in this original enterprise and will be very intrigued by its development and the ways in which it will flourish."
- Joyce Carol Oates

Rutledge Writing Awards Presented at Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Event

(Left to right) Prize winners Jared Hornsberry, Sara Geiger, Alexis Williams-Hondras, James Malnati, Nia Robinson, Cherokee Sperry, and Awards Co-Director Carolyn Saper.

The 2014 Rutledge Writing Awards, co-sponsored by the American Writers Museum, were awarded on December 6 at the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame's annual induction ceremony. Entries were received from over one hundred Chicago high school students, and ten awards were handed out to those who demonstrated the most outstanding writing skills in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction writing based on their neighborhoods, with Sara Geiger from Kenwood Academy High School, and James Malnati from Walter Payton College Prep taking the top prizes.


The Principal Sponsor for the Awards was James Rutledge, and the Awards were directed by Don Evans, founder of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, and Carolyn Saper of the American Writers Museum, who presented the Awards at the ceremony.


Although the first year's competition is now over, high school teachers and budding writers can still access AWM's document on tips for improving your creative writing by following the link here.



Earlier this month AWM co-hosted an event at a private club in downtown Chicago, featuring Young Adult authors Veronica Roth and Erica O'Rourke. The event attracted over 150 attendees, and consisted of a discussion with the authors followed by questions from the audience, a book signing, and lunch.

(Left to right) Event Coordinator for AWM Mary Mollman, Veronica Roth and Erica O'Rourke, Program Co-Chair Courtenay Wood and niece Hannah Bambic, and AWM Executive Director Nike Whitcomb


When asked if they had always wanted to be writers, they both responded that they had and cited imagination as a key element in the writing process. Roth wrote the first book in her highly successful Divergent series when she was still a student at Northwestern University, and O'Rourke made the switch from schoolteacher to professional writer when her debut novel Torn won the Golden Heart Award in 2010.


More information on Veronica Roth can found on her website, and for more on Erica O'Rourke please visit her website here.  


AWM President to Speak at CALS Symposium


Dr. Malcolm E. O'Hagan, President and Founding Chairman of the American Writers Museum, will be one of the speakers at the Center for American Literary Studies 5th annual symposium at Penn State University on March 20. Dr. O'Hagan will speak on behalf of AWM, and highlight the vital importance of establishing a national museum dedicated to American literature.

The mission of CALS is to encourage and support the study of American literature, and reinforce the importance of American writing to American life. For more information please visit their website here.


From Our Neighborhoods Moves to Evanston



The American Writers Museum's first travelling exhibit, From Our Neighborhoods: Four Chicago Writers Who Changed America, has begun the New Year by moving to the Evanston Public Library, where it will remain on display for the public to view until February 1. Having toured six different Chicago locations in 2014, the exhibit will now move through the suburbs of Chicago, including month-long tenures at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin (February), the Oak Park Public Library (March), and the Highland Park Public Library (April), before returning to the Loop in Summer 2015.


The exhibit, which focuses on the lives and works of Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Studs Terkel, and Richard Wright, is funded through the generous support of The Chicago Community Trust and the S&C Electric Company, and is co-sponsored by the Chicago History Museum. The exhibit was developed by the American Writers Museum in partnership with the Chicago Literary Council, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, Guild Literary Complex, American Library Association, Third World Press, DuSable Museum of African American History, and Chicago Park District Department of Cultural & Natural Resources.


To find more information on the From Our Neighborhoods exhibit's touring and programming schedule please click here.

AWM Presence at American Library Association Conference


AWM will be exhibiting at the American Library Association's Midwinter conference in Chicago from January 30 - February 3. The event is expected to attract over 11,000 attendees from a diverse range of literary backgrounds, including librarians, publishers, booksellers, and writers. Some of this year's distinguished guests include Cornel West, influential academic and author of 20 books; LeVar Burton, actor and Curator-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Reading Rainbow; and Jason Segal, actor and children's book author.


The event aims to help attendees connect with other professionals involved with literature and literacy, and otherwise support the literary industry. The AWM booth will be open for the entirety of the conference in McCormick Place West. For more information on the ALA Midwinter conference please visit the event website here.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This month, on January 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be celebrated nationwide in honor of the leader of the American Civil Rights movement. The holiday not only serves as a reminder of the struggles for equality in America's history, but also stands as a testament to the power of the word, as King's famous 'I Have a Dream' speech, though only around 1,600 words long, has had an effect so great as to shift the course of history.


The American Writers Museum aims to preserve and celebrate the legacy of great American writing, such as the speeches and essays of Martin Luther King Jr., and the importance of bringing this project to light will be reinforced on January 19 as we acknowledge the significance of free speech and the power of great writing.


"No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Martin Luther King


To read a full transcript of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech please click here, and for a description of the American Writers Museum's mission click here.


Founders Council Profile: Jim Hansen


Jim Hansen, the retired Co-founder, CEO, President, and Chairman of Source/Inc, a Chicago-based marketing and branding firm, joined the AWM Founders Council in the spring of 2014. Jim's first job out of graduate school was helping to design and build the control room complex for NASA's Apollo missions, and he says that "being involved in the AWM program provides a perfect bookend experience for me."


When Jim first heard about the project, he was surprised that a museum dedicated to American writing did not already exist, and agreed that it was a project worth backing. He is particularly interested in the creative process of the writer, including aspects such as author biographies and research. He cites Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, a historical novel set in Chicago in 1893, as a particularly interesting example, due to Larson's ability to translate historical fact into compelling novelistic prose.


As a member of the Founders Council, Jim has acted on AWM's branding committee and is part of the team behind AWM's forthcoming promotional film. Jim and his wife Carol also recently hosted a fundraising event, featuring author A. J. Baime, at their Winnetka home, and he continues to support AWM with his time and talent.   

Affiliate Spotlight: Concord Museum & The Old Manse

I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I am not afraid of falling into my inkpot.

-          Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'Worship'


The Concord Museum, an AWM affiliate, is a museum dedicated to the local history of Concord, Massachusetts. The area is famed for its numerous literary connections, and the Concord Museum houses an impressive array of artifacts, including the largest and most extensive collection of Henry David Thoreau's possessions. In addition to the famed Thoreau collection, the museum also presents an exact reproduction of Ralph Waldo Emerson's study, which features many of Emerson's original possessions.


Elsewhere in Concord stands The Old Manse, a former home of Emerson's, which now operates as a literary museum. The home was originally built for Emerson's grandfather in 1770, and Emerson lived there briefly, writing the first draft of his hugely influential essay 'Nature' within its walls. The home was later rented by another literary great, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who moved there shortly after his marriage to Sophia Peabody in 1842. Visitors can explore the property where these two American literary icons lived, and view relics such as original furniture and books owned by them.

To learn more about any of these great writers, please visit the website for the Concord Museum here, and the website for The Old Manse here.


Trivia Contest - Enter to Win $25 and AWM Posters


This famous painting by Asher Brown Durand, which reportedly sold for $35 million in 2005, depicts painter Thomas Cole alongside which 19th century American poet?


Submit your answer here for the chance to win. A winner will be drawn randomly from the correct respondents to receive the $25 prize and the runners-up will each receive an AWM poster. 

Thanks to all our donors, patrons, affiliates, and friends for your ongoing support!
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