Thanks for a Great Year; Here’s to Another
Monday, January 1, 2024
Happy holidays. January 1 is a somewhat arbitrary marking point—we don’t really stop there and begin again here. We just keep going. But everything does slow down around this time of the year. “Hello, I am currently away until…” “administrative offices are closed.” “I am largely offline, spending time with my family.” When all the banks and schools and post offices and stores and bars close down, we realize we need them, but perhaps not every single moment of every single day.
As we sit on the precipice between 2023 and 2024, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame is proud of the year behind and optimistic about the year ahead. For any nonprofit entity like us, this is necessarily a time of reflection. We must gauge the results of what we’ve done in order to effectively plot what we will do.
What did we accomplish in 2023? This is where I’m supposed to sell you on the wonders of our organization and then squeeze you for a year-end donation. This, however, runs contrary to my instinct, which is to let the work speak for itself.
Those of you who know us probably appreciate our value. We believe in our home city; we believe in the importance of stories. Chicago respects great literature and serves as a nourishing place in which writers do their best work. A strong community of literary artists—the writers, yes, but also the editors, teachers, readers, content producers, actors, musicians….everybody who strives to use words to make sense of their world—elevates all our lives. The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame works diligently to amplify our many voices—past, present and future.
How did we do this in 2023?
We inducted Nella Larsen, Bette Howland and Finley Peter Dunne into the CLHOF. We honored Harriette Gillem Robinet and Scott Turow with our Fuller Award for lifetime achievement. We presented our first Randall Albers Young Writers Awards winners with prizes. We had cocktail parties and backyard parties and barroom parties in which we explored the history of Chicago literary drinks, sang literary songs, played literary trivia, and generally reminded ourselves about the immense pleasure and spectacular friends we have in this community. We produced or helped out with readings and discussions; we hosted a tent at Printers Row Lit Fest; we led walking tours; we celebrated Poetry Month, Black History Month, and Independent Bookstore Day; and more. These are just some of our programs. We also produced small booklets in association with our signature ceremonies; consistently wrote about our authors and their books on our blog; blasted out notices to boost the good works of local writers, publishers, bookstores, nonprofit enterprises, etc.; and regularly added new content to our database of Chicago literature. We did this all around the city, at a variety of venues with a host of partners.
I said I wouldn’t say it and then I did anyway. That was really for the benefit of those who didn’t experience any of this. Those of you who make it out to these
events—regularly or from time-to-time—are pretty well abreast.
What about 2024?
We plan to induct Hamlin Garland, Eunice Tietjens, and E. Donald Two-Rivers into the Hall. We’ll celebrate Patricia Smith and Alex Kotlowitz for their lifetime achievements. We’ll expand our young writers awards to include more authors. We’ll host discussions about literature that touches on important topics like immigration. We’ll throw a Roaring 20s party in which we learn the Chicago genesis of Daisy Buchanan and other Gatsby characters. We’ll offer seminars to enrich our understanding of Chicago literary history and workshops to boost our own writing efforts. We’ll offer opportunities to explore sites related to Chicago books and authors. We’ll increase efforts to amplify the myriad programs, contests, publications, and happenings other organizations are leading. We’ll keep adding content to our website. In short, more of the same, only—we hope—more thoughtful.
Amy Danzer will again lead an incredible Board of Directors that will add Heidi Bloom, Carlos Cumpian, and Jane Hseu to its ranks. Randy Albers, Barry Benson, and Roberta Rubin will slide over to the Advisory Council, where they intend to bolster the effectiveness of that body. Our Associate Board, under the guidance of President Carrie Muehle, plans to undertake several special projects. Our volunteers, interns, and regular vendors will continue to make big impacts on everything we do.
We hate to ask for money, but if we don’t ask for money…nobody gives us money. Don Seeley, the great photographer who lends his talents to most of our programs, just sent me a folder of his favorite Chicago Literary Hall of Fame shots over the years. These photos capture us as we move about the city—from great halls to back alleys. It captures so many of you sharing in these great moments, and also making them. It shows us taking advantage of a city both real and literary. Going through them all reminds me of how the years blur one into another, and renews my enthusiasm to keep this going.
Our Chicago stories come in all forms from all manner of people, and together they create a world of endless possibility. We focus exclusively on Chicago because it’s the place we love—unconditionally though not uncritically.
If you know us, consider sending in a year-end donation. Use our website for that, or else send to: Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave., #222, Chicago, IL 60613. If you don’t know us, then make it your New Year’s Resolution to participate in our 2024 offerings.
Happy holidays. Thanks for all you've done, and will do.
Donald G. Evans is the Founding Executive Director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.