Margaret Ayer Barnes (April 8, 1886-Oct. 25, 1967)
All people who think sooner or later go through hell.
Chicago born and bred, Margaret Ayers Barnes was a novelist, short story writer and playwright. She began her writing career in earnest after a debilitating car accident at age forty in 1926. Two of her plays, Age of Innocence (adapted from the Edith Wharton novel), and Jenny each played for more than a hundred performances on Broadway. Her first novel, Years of Grace won the Pulitzer Prize in 1931 and was also the best selling book in its year of publication. The novel, set in late nineteenth century Chicago, spans four decades in the life of Jane Ward Carver, daughter of a wealthy family, from child all the way to grandmother, and shows the changing world through her eyes. Barnes followed that up with two more best sellers, Within This Present and Westward Passage, which was adapted to the screen for Ann Harding. Barnes was also an amateur actress, playing roles in productions of the Aldis Players in Lake Forest and the North Shore Theatre in Winnetka. That experience helped her launch a career on the speaking circuit.
Norbert Blei (Aug. 23, 1935-April 23, 2013)
You give a poet a bucket of worms, he’ll probably put the whole bucket on the end of the hook.
Born and raised in Chicago’s Little Village and then Cicero, Blei, armed with an English degree from Illinois State University, began his writing career at the City News Bureau. After a time as a successful free-lance journalist, Blei began incorporating journalistic tidbits into fiction, and in the end produced 17 books, including his Chicago trilogy of Neighborhood,Chi Town and The Ghost of Sandburg’s Phizzog. In those works, Blei pays homage to Chicago’s great literary culture, writing about the likes of Mike Royko, Studs Terkel and Carl Sandburg. Blei’s short stories, poems and essays were as distinguished as his novels, finding publication in some of the most respected literary outlets, such as The New Yorker,Utne Reader and Tri-Quarterly, as well as newspapers that included the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. Blei was as much associated with Door County, WI as with Chicago, having moved to Ellison Bay in 1968. For 40 years, he was Writer-in-Residence at The Clearing Folk School, and there he became a beloved teacher, editor, publisher and mainstay guest on Wisconsin Public Radio. He received the Gordon MacQuarrie Award from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters; Pushcart Press Award in fiction; and the Bradley Major Achievement Award from the Council of Wisconsin Writers.
Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 - June 5, 2012)
The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me.
Fanny Butcher: (September 13, 1888 - May 1887)
Much has been written about the great days of the Chicago’s literary life around the 1920s, the so-called Chicago Literary Renaissance. As someone who watched it, recorded it, and was part of it, since I knew many of the makers and shakers, I can assure you that nobody ever thought while it was happening that we were making literary history.
Fanny Butcher was a writer and critic for the Chicago Tribune for 40 years. She moved to Chicago as a child and graduated from the University of Chicago. Throughout her career at the Tribune, she worked as a society editor, club editor, crime reporter, and fashion editor. She was also a praised book reviewer, and published her memoir Many Lives, One Love in 1971. A favorite writer and friend of hers was Ernest Hemingway, who was honored by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2012.