Storytelling in Clay and Metal

Margot McMahon

I mentioned meeting the amazing sculptor Margot MacMahon at a Chicago Literary Hall of Fame event earlier this year. She impressed me with her insight into raising children and making time for Art. I have to admit that I didn’t know how incredibly talented she was, and the extent of her work that is collected internationally. I believe that as artists we encourage and challenge one another: our peers, our contemporaries, and those who come after us. Margot McMahon has definitely inspired me.

Executive Director Donald G. Evans is highlighting some of the whos and whats of the upcoming ceremony on the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame blog.

The first person to be featured is sculptor Margot McMahon, and it’s well worth your time to check out the blog and learn about this Chicago artist. I sincerely believe that McMahon is one of the artistic giants upon which the future will build their own inspired creations.

Here’s a taste:

My first impression of Margot McMahon’s sculptures was life. Like all great art, her three-dimensional representations give more than illusion—they allow the viewer to enter into the world of the subject,

suspending the knowledge that this is plaster or clay or bronze and seeing not only what’s there but what’s not. Her sculptures suggest motion.

Boy Gardener, by Margot McMahon

There’s hardly an artist better suited to creating our statue, and the fact that Margot has taken on this project will help make that moment special.

“I’m treating this award as a sculpture,” says Margot. “I want this to have a contemporary look, an active look. The gesture of the hand captured in the sculpture is in a thoughtful pause, the most active part of writing that gets us to the idea. The idea is what the writer is about, and the idea is what the reader is about.”

Read more on the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Blog.

Horizons and Literary Landscapes

The week was filled with creative endeavors and conversations–the kind that feed your spirit and imagination.

Sunday began with awesome crepes and brainstorming for exciting new projects on the horizon (more on those later).

Thursday was Deck the Hall at Sheffield’s in Chicago, the fundraising party/auction for the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. While I had been a little concerned that the snow might deter patrons, the turnout was very good, the auction successful, and the readings diverse and inspirational.

Bayo Ojikutu, Marcus Sakey and Don De Grazia read from books by three Literary Hall of Fame nominees: Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun, Studs Terkel’s P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening, and Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make. The well-read excerpts reminded me exactly how rich the literary landscape of Chicago has been and continues to be.

The three Chicago authors went on to read from their own works, and while I was familiar with the excellence of Bayo’s 47th Street Black and Don’s American Skin, I had never read any of Marcus Sakey’s books. His writing is gorgeous. Of course I had heard of Marcus and his imaginative crime novels (he’s also one of those lucky writers who has had three books optioned by film companies), but when he read from his book, I was captivated. I’ve added The Amateurs to my short list of books to be read. (For any who have not read these authors, I heartily recommend them).

The event featured an auction of literary delights that helped to raise funds for the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, featuring treasures like an autographed first edition of Neil Gaiman’s Newbery Award-winning The Graveyard Book and a signed rare first edition of Stuart Dybek’s Brass Knuckles, both generously donated by the authors.

Don Evans, who isthe heart and soul of the Hall of Fame, was a sincere and well-spoken emcee, and graciously mentioned me and Conclave: A Journal of Character. Chicago writer and president of the Chicago Writers Association, Randy Richardson was there to help ensure that things ran smoothly. The Hall of Fame is the Chicago Writers Association’s project, and Randy has been working with Don to make the dream a reality.  I was delighted to be in such good company, in this community of writers and readers. I felt inspired to finish up Conclave so that I could turn my attention back to my own writing.

At the Deck the Hall party, I met sculptor Margot McMahon, whose three children are ten years older than mine, and we had an excellent conversation about how to raise children, make art, and retain some of your sanity. It was exactly the conversation I needed to hear that night. I loved listening to her experience creating the "Just Plain Working" exhibition about ten famous, but often overlooked, Chicagoans.

This well-respected artist has been able to make art while also working to be a successful parent. Some of her words of wisdom: "Let your children see you reading and make sure that they know it’s your time, not theirs. If they see you place such an importance on books, they’ll begin to value them as well." McMahon also believes that music is crucial in teaching children to focus and concentrate, to teach them to finish a task and learn self-discipline.

As much as I loved my time spent in Germany and the solitude it gave me and my family as a time to focus, reflect, and evaluate, I am happy to be home and excited to be a writer living in this time and place.

So many adventures on the horizon!