By Lori Hope Baumel
“Through Innovative and dynamic state-of-the art exhibitions, as well as compelling
programming, the American Writers Museum educates, enriches, provokes and inspires visitors of all ages.” – americanwritersmuseum.org
It’s a new age for literature. Regardless of quality, the average person is consuming more of the written word than ever before. What we read shapes our thoughts, our ideals and priorities. In this digital age, the availability of Twitter, social network feeds and formats like Snapchat and Instagram take up too much of our time. It consumes us, sometimes swallowing us into an abyss of confusion. On the other hand, at least we are reading and encouraging communication.
On a recent trip to Chicago, I discovered The American Writers Museum (AWM), the first of its kind in the nation. The museum opened to the public in May 2017. The mission of the AWM is to engage the public in celebrating American writers and explore their influence on our history, identity, culture, and daily lives. If you are planning a trip to Chicago in the near future, I highly recommend setting aside a day to explore this wonderful place. The presentation and layout is inspiring and the use of the space enriched my appreciation for good writing in many formats. There are opportunities for hands-on activities in the museum, including a room filled with precomputer vintage typewriters. I sat down to an IBM Selectric, circa late ‘70s, and created a poem (included in the photo collage above).
If you are not planning on taking a trip to Chicago soon, I will act as your cultural ambassador and share what I learned from my visit:
Almost every form of spoken and written word that you experience begins with a writer. Songs and poetry are lyrical. Movies, plays and television shows begin with scripts and even opera is based on librettos. Newspapers, magazines and, of course, books, begin with a writer or collaboration of authors. They offer topics of discussion and provoke a dialogue about communities past and present. In the world of fiction, they take us to places writers dream of and are often metaphorical life lessons.
Books, especially, create seeds of interest that bloom into ideas that can generate or change a national perspective. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and The Rights of Man inspired the birth of America and our right to independence. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was one of the most influential texts during the abolitionist movement. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring discusses environmental justice. Silent Spring helped the modern environmental movement get off the ground and led to the nationwide ban on the pesticide DDT. To this day, it inspires readers to think more seriously about their relationship to the Earth.
Not all literature is inspiring. A great deal of it is trash that damages progressive ideals. But, exposure is the key. First and foremost, we cannot let our children slip through the cracks. They must learn HOW to read. Early childhood education is of the utmost importance. In addition, I am a strong advocate for the use of computer software that enriches a child’s reading experience. My children grew up with Reader Rabbit, Encarta95, and a multitude of math games. There are exceptions, but most school systems introduce a basic curriculum of literature that strives to inspire students to cultivate an interest in reading. The advent of the internet, digital phones and tablets can do more good than harm if approached from an educational standpoint. They have encouraged travel, exploration and the sharing of ideas. More people are reading and, most importantly, more people are listening. If we are educated and exposed to worthy ideas, the more likely our idealistic pendulum will swing towards good. Even in the darkest of political times, the youth of today are the ones who will change the governmental landscape. Diversity, equality, human rights and inclusion are all hot topics right now. The speed in which change occurs, whether it be positive or negative, is beyond comprehension. Insightful writers in all mediums will have a positive effect.
Whether it be an audiobook, a selection on Kindle, a graphic novel or an Around Wellington
article online, the many formats available to readers are encouraging. I have never spent as many hours a day reading as I do now. Good writing is out there and accessible. Choose wisely and make it worth your time. Then, open a dialogue. Like the authors I examined at the American Writers Museum, you too can make a difference in today’s society
Hands on creative exercise at the American Writers Museum:
Top 5 for January 2018
1) Read a New York Times Bestseller:
A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom
Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.
2) Explore, experiment and discover photography at:
The 23rd Annual FOTOFUSION 2018
The Palm Beach Photographic Center
415 Clematis St., West Palm Beach, FL
January 23-27, 2018
For events, classes and lectures see:
3) It’s time for Wellington’s Internationally Renowned:
Winter Equestrian Festival
Beginning January 10 to April 1, 2018
3400 Equestrian Club Drive, Wellington, FL 33414
For event dates and times see:
4) Combine reading with Mother Nature:
Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach County
Invites the Public to Fun and Informative
Horticultural Events in January
The Literary Garden: Book Discussion
Tuesday, January 9 – 2 to 3:30 pm
Clayton Hutcheson Conference Room
Featured Book: Stir My Broken Brain & the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor
Few pleasures in life surpass that of reading a good book or cultivating your own garden.
Mounts Botanical Garden is partnering with the Palm Beach County Library System to combine these joys by uniting book lovers and garden enthusiasts with dynamic reading selections, followed by a discussion the grounds of the Garden. A national best-seller and winner of a Living Now Book Award, Stir is an exquisite memoir about how food connects people and lives. (Note: To pre-register, call 561.233.1757.)
Stories in the Garden:
Friday, January 12 – 10 to 11 am
Mounts – The Pavilion
Speaker: Stacey Burford, Youth Services Librarian
Celebrate the 13th year of Stories in the Garden by bringing young ones (ages 2-6) to these FREE nature-themed programs co-sponsored by the Palm Beach Library System. They’ll love the interactive stories, songs and learning activities in the Garden. Programs are held rain or shine in the sheltered Pavilion. No reservations required, except for parties of six or more. A craft activity to culminate each day will be reserved for the first 30 registrants. (Note: To pre-register, call Mounts at 561.233.1757.)
5)Take a Writing Class!
The Writers’ Academy at the Kravis Center
JAN 2, 2018, 1:30 PM at the EUNICE AND JULIAN COHEN PAVILION
A seminar for those who are on the cusp of initiation into writing. Learn how to release
your inner writing self. Everyone has the potential to write truly and deeply. Instructor
Julie Gilbert will show you how to unlock your very own muse. This lecture is for the
curious and adventurous. Bring a pencil. Fee: $30
To purchase a seat, go to: