Great writing comes across as effortless, but it is not. The writers featured here in the Museum spent years honing their craft – practicing, practicing, practicing. As E.B. White once observed in his classic revision of William Strunk’s Elements of Style , “writing good standard English is no cinch.” Transcendent writing is even harder.
This gallery offers insights into how writers think: the daily discipline and habits necessary to get the work done, the deep understanding of language to make the writing sing. At the root of it all is a love of words. The right word can elevate a line or sentence into art…and if the right word does not yet exist, then inventing a new one might do the trick.
Add a line to story collectively written by today’s visitors to the Museum. Every morning our staff selects an opening line, usually from a memorable American book, poem, essay, or short story. From there, the story can head in any direction as visitors keep the yarn spinning, line by line.
Contribute your creativity! It’s your chance to rewrite an American classic. The only rule? Keep it clean.
These interactive, multi-user touch tables allow visitors to explore more than 25 masterworks of American literature in-depth. A flowing ribbon in the middle of the table features icons that can be selected and expanded to learn more about the work or the writer.
Certain literary works are exceptionally enduring, remaining resonant over time. These masterpieces are beloved by readers and studied by scholars. They inspire other writers. They remain touchstones in our cultural identity.
This interactive exhibit invites you to explore a select library of American masterworks. Choose a work, then delve into the “story behind the story.” Learn about a work’s author. Analyze its artistry. Explore its historical and literary context. Understand its immediate and lasting influence. Get new insights into a favorite, or discover something unfamiliar.
A love of words is at the heart of all great writing. The right word in the right place can be beautiful, evocative, terrifying, funny, or revelatory.
Consider this exhibit an opportunity to give the word its due. By playing one of the games here, you can explore the meaning of words, sample the distinctive vocabularies of different writers, or even invent your own word. After all, American writers have coined many new words throughout history. It’s your chance to impress others with your knowledge and razzmatazz (a word invented by Chicago writer George Ade).