Announcing: The Society of Midland Authors 2015 Award Winners and Finalists

The Society of Midland Authors, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this spring, will present its annual awards May 1 in Chicago, honoring its choices for the best books by Midwest authors published in 2014:

Adult Fiction

WINNER: Robert Hellenga, “The Confessions of Frances Godwin,” Bloomsbury. (Author grew up in Three Oaks, Mich., spent childhood summers in Milwaukee and now lives in Galesburg, Ill. He has also lived in Chicago and Italy.)

FINALISTS: Kathleen Rooney, “O, Democracy!,” Fifth Star Press. (Author grew up in Woodridge, Ill., and lives in Chicago.)

Lin Enger, “The High Divide,” Algonquin. (Author lives in Moorhead, Minn.)

The judges for Adult Fiction were Mark Eleveld, Bayo Ojikutu and Tony Romano.

Adult Nonfiction

WINNER: Jonathan Eig, “The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution,” W.W. Norton. (Author lives in Chicago.)

FINALIST: Michael McCarthy, “Ashes Under Water: The SS Eastland and the Shipwreck That Shook America,” Lyons Press. (Author lives in South Haven, Mich., and has lived in Chicago.)

The judges for Adult Nonfiction were Ray E. Boomhower, Gregory Harms and Davis Schneiderman.

Biography & Memoir

WINNER: David Stuart MacLean, “The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Author lives in Chicago and grew up in central Ohio.)

FINALIST: Ken S. Mueller, “Senator Benton and the People: Master Race Democracy on the Early American Frontiers,” Northern Illinois University Press. (Author lives in Lafayette, Ind., and attended St. Louis University.)

The judges for Biography & Memoir were John Hallwas, Re’Lynn Hansen and Bob Remer.

Children’s Fiction

WINNER: Margi Preus, “West of the Moon,” Amulet Books. (Author lives in Duluth, Minn.)

FINALISTS: Margaret Willey, “Beetle Boy,” Lerner Books. (Author lives in Grand Haven, Mich.)

Crystal Chan, “Bird,” Atheneum Books for Young Readers. (Author lives in Chicago.)

John David Anderson, “Minion,” Walden Pond Press. (Author lives in Indianapolis.)

The judges for Children’s Fiction were Lisa Bigelow, Laurie Lawlor and Gary Schmidt.

Children’s Nonfiction

WINNER: Ann Bausum, “Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog,” National Geographic Children’s Books. (Author lives in Janesville, Wis.)

FINALISTS: Don Mitchell, “The Freedom Summer Murders,” Scholastic Press. (Author was raised in Iowa, Illinois and Ohio, and now lives in Arlington, Va.)

Ilene Cooper, “A Woman in the House (and Senate): How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country,” Abrams Books for Young Readers. (Author lives in Highland Park, Ill.)

The judges for Children’s Nonfiction were Patricia Kummer, Andrew Medlar and Christine Taylor-Butler.


WINNER: Grace Bauer, “Nowhere All At Once,” Stephen F. Austin State University Press. (Author lives in Lincoln, Neb.)

The judges for Poetry were Anne-Marie Cusac, Alice Friman and Martha Modena Vertreace-Doody.

James Friend Memorial Award
for Literary and Dramatic Criticism

WINNER: The Goodman Theatre’s Cindy Bandle Young Critics program

About the Awards

The Society, founded in 1915 by a group of authors including Hamlin Garland, Harriet Monroe and Vachel Lindsay, has given out annual awards since 1957. The juried competition is open to authors who live in, were born in, or have strong ties to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin.

Notable winners have included Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Studs Terkel, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mike Royko, Jane Smiley, Dempsey Travis, Leon Forrest, William Maxwell, Louise Erdrich, Scott Turow, Alex Kotlowitz, Aleksandar Hemon, Stuart Dybek and Roger Ebert.

This year’s winners will receive a $500 award and a recognition plaque. The coordinator of this year’s contest was Marlene Targ Brill. Since 2002, the Society has also hosted the presentation of the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary and Dramatic Criticism at its banquet.

May 1 Awards Banquet

The annual awards dinner will take place Friday, May 1, at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan, 22nd floor, Chicago, which features a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park. A reception with cash bar begins at 6 p.m. followed by the dinner and awards ceremony at 7 p.m.

The master of ceremonies will be Robert K. Elder, the author of six books, including “Last Words of the Executed” and “The Film That Changed My Life,” and director of digital product development and strategy at Crain Communications Inc.

Tickets to the awards banquet can be purchased two ways: Buy tickets for $76 each through PayPal at Or print out the reservation form at and mail it to us with a check for $75 for each ticket.

May 2 Centennial Celebration

On the day after the awards banquet, the Society of Midland Authors will celebrate its centennial a day of literary speakers and panel discussions — from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 2, at University Center, 525 S. State St., Chicago. Members of the Society will be selling their books throughout the day. Admission is free. The public is welcome. The schedule of speakers includes:

10 a.m.: Introductory ceremonies. 10:15 a.m.: Carla Knorowski, CEO of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, presents the new book “Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” together with essayists who contributed to the book. 11 a.m.: Rick Kogan, longtime Chicago Tribune journalist. 11:30 a.m.: Haki Madhubuti, poet and publisher of Third World Press. 1 p.m.: Harry Mark Petrakis, author of “Pericles on 31st Street.” 1:15 p.m.: Edward Burke, author, alderman of Chicago’s 14th Ward and chairman of the Committee on Finance. 2 p.m.: A conversation between Steve Bogira (Chicago Reader reporter and author of “Courtroom 302”) and Jonathan Eig (“The Birth of the Pill,” “Get Capone”). 2:30 p.m.: Martin Marty, noted University of Chicago scholar on the history of religion. 3 p.m.: A conversation between children’s authors Blue Balliett (“Chasing Vermeer”) and Ilene Cooper (“Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy”). 3:30 p.m.: Uptown Poetry Slam founder Marc Kelly Smith. 4 p.m.: A panel discussion with novelists Christine Sneed (“Little Known Facts”), Carol Anshaw (“Aquamarine”) and Rosellen Brown (“Before and After”). The day will also include short tributes to noteworthy authors from the Society’s history.