OnWord 2022 Recap

OnWord 2022 Recap

Take a look back at a night to remember, the AWM’s annual benefit OnWord 2022!

OnWord is the annual benefit hosted by the American Writers Museum to raise funds, primarily for youth education services and programs. This year, the event took place September 15, 2022 at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago and centered on the theme of “Inspiration.” Including remarks from leading contemporary writers, student writing contest winners, philanthropists and and more, there were a number of inspiring people in the room. Plus, we raised nearly $700,000!

Here are some of our favorite moments from OnWord 2022.

Peter Sagal Kicks the Night Off

We were delighted that Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s hit show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, delivered the opening remarks for OnWord. Although he could not attend in person, since he was recording his live show at the time, he still participated by prerecording his remarks. Sagal is a longtime friend of the AWM, and we are always grateful when he joins us for events. Check out his remarks below!

Viet Thanh Nguyen Receives the Inspiring Writer Award

It was our honor to bestow the Inspiring Writer Award upon Viet Thanh Nguyen, another longtime friend of the AWM. In addition to serving on our National Advisory Council, Nguyen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, essayist, editor, scholar and educator whose work aims to inspire creativity and passion for the arts. A refugee of the Vietnam War, his work is also centered on providing spaces and opportunities for the voiceless to be heard, which is why he asked for the prize money to go directly to the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network. We can’t thank him enough for his continued support of the AWM and his commitment to empowering young writers and artists.

Poet Nate Marshall Presents the Inspirational Teacher Award to Sandra Cap

Few professions produce inspiration as much as teachers and educators do, which is why the Inspirational Teacher Award is so special to us. Each year, a contemporary writer presents the award and $10,000 to a former teacher who was crucial in inspiring them to become a writer. This year poet, editor, educator, and MC Nate Marshall presented the award to his former teacher Sandra Cap. While attending the Keller Regional Gifted Center, a Chicago Public School, Cap saw potential in Marshall and introduced him to spoken word and poetry slams. As a fan of hip-hop and rap battles, he was hooked and today he is an award-winning published poet and college professor. Marshall is also a member of the curating team of the AWM’s latest exhibit, Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice, now open.

Thank you to Sandra Cap and all the teachers who inspire the next generation of writers on a daily basis!

Nate Marshall hugs his former teacher Sandra Cap, recipient of the Inspiring Teacher Award from the American Writers Museum
Nate Marshall hugs his former teacher Sandra Cap, recipient of the Inspiring Teacher Award.

John Estey Student Writing Competition 2022 Winners

The John Estey Student Writing Competition is a nationwide contest in which students craft an original piece for the chance to win cash prizes. This year’s prompt comes from a James Baldwin quote: “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” Students from across the country entered and the resulting essays, stories, poems, songs, and more did not disappoint. The 2022 winning students from the Elementary School group are Olivia Bakal (Oakwood School, CA) and Evelyn Basken (Alcott College Prep Elementary School, IL). In the Middle School group, the winners are Ali Giordano (Lazar Middle School, NJ) and Alisha Walker (Lincoln Middle School, IL). And finally, the High School winners are Elizabeth Boguslavsky (Glenbard South High School, IL) and Lana Olarte (Durham School of the Arts, NC).

Watch the young writers read excerpts from their winning entries and reflect on what this recognition means to them below!

Hill Hammock Receives the Cultural and Civic Leadership Award

And finally to round out the evening, we honored AWM Trustee Hill Hammock with the Cultural and Civic Leadership Award. Hammock has been instrumental in getting the AWM off the ground and for our sustained success, as he was a Founding Co-Chair of the AWM. He has also served on the boards of many other organizations and foundations in Chicago and his philanthropic footprint is all over the city. On hand (or recorded virtually) to help us in honoring Hammock were Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Barbara Gaines, Founder and Artistic Director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; David Greising, President Better Government Association; and Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President.

Thank you, Hill, for all of your hard work and continued support!

Hill Hammock receives the Cultural and Civic Leadership Award from Jane Irwin, presented by the American Writers Museum.
Hill Hammock receives the Cultural and Civic Leadership Award from Jane Irwin

Thank you to everyone who joined us for OnWord 2022 and helped make it a night worth writing about! Check out some of the fun photos from that night in the gallery below. We hope to see you next year at OnWord 2023, if not sooner than that at the American Writers Museum for one of our many exciting author events or to explore our engaging exhibits. Until next time!

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