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December 2002

Monthly Membership Meeting:

Children's Books: "For the Love of the Game"

        Jan Spivey Gilchrist will talk about the book she illustrated for writer Eloise Greenfield: For the Love of the Game: Michael Jordan and Me. Gilchrist's career as a children's author, illustrator and fine artist spans more than a quarter of a century. She has exhibited extensively throughout North America. Books illustrated by Ms. Gilchrist have received ALA Notables and numerous prestigious awards. Nathaniel Talking by Eloise Greenfield won her the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration in 1990 and Night on Neighborhood Street, also by Greenfield, won the 1992 Coretta Scott King Honor Book Award for Illustration. This book is also a Reading Rainbow Book.
        Gilchrist is also the author of two picture books, Indigo and Moonlight Gold and Madelia. She was inducted into the International Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent in October, 2000, and into the Society of Illustrators in 2001.

Where: Chicago Athletic Assn., 12 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

When
: 6 p.m. social hour, 7 p.m. program, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003.

Reservations NOT needed. Public invited. Hors d'oeuvres, wine and soft drinks, reception and presentation: $10 for members, $15 for non-members.

Information: call Matt Smolek at C.A.A. 312/236-7500, Ext. 2113.

Other Coming Events

Tuesday, Feb. 11–Poetry Readings from EM Press.

Tuesday, March 11–Stephen Kinzer, reporter for The New York Times and author of Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds.

Tuesday, April 8–Sally A. Kitt, art professor emerita, DePaul University, and author of Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos.


YOUR BOOK AS A PACKAGE AND HOW PR CAN SELL IT
By Richard Frisbie


        If, as has been said, a publisher is just a "printer with distribution," where does that leave the author?
        Answering that question with practical advice was the subject of a presentation by Thomas Ciesielka, professional book publicist, at the Nov. 12 meeting of the SMA in the Chicago Athletic Association.
        It was a question that apparently interested many SMA members. The attendance was noticeably larger than for many of our more literary programs, excellent though they have been.

Before approaching a publisher
        Ciesielka, who heads his own Chicago-based public relations firm, advised authors to research their market early in each project. Use the Internet to determine what comparable books may already have been published. Find out from the publisher how well they sold.
        "I just call up and ask," Ciesielka said. "You'd be surprised how often they'll tell you." If the publisher doesn't respond, Ciesielka may contact the author.
        To interest a publisher in a new book, you have to explain "what makes your book unique." Think about the reader and "work backward" to develop your own marketing strategy.
        An author should also research publishers. Does your present publisher seem to do marketing well? Should you make a change. Submit a reasonable request list. Will there be a display at an appropriate convention? Ads in niche publications?
        As part of the original proposal to a publisher, it may be possible to include a copy of notes from newspaper columnists or magazine editors, saying they might be interested in writing about the book when it comes out.
        If you know anyone whose opinion would carry weight, you may be able to arrange blurbs to accompany the proposal.

When your book is coming out
        With about 100,000 books being published each year, it's a challenge to get any publicity at all. "It's a waste of money to send out books," Ciesielka said. Book-signings can also be disappointing unless you crank up the attendance by "stacking the deck."
        But the news media are always looking for stories. Figure out whatever is newsy about your book and tip off the media via E-mail. If it piques their interest, they'll be grateful.
        Although E-mail is the preferred channel, you will still need a one-page bio and a brief description of the book on paper.
        You should do this a little before the publication date so that a story could refer to your "upcoming book."
        Get a website, to which E-mails can direct editors for more information about the book. This process can generate both reviews and feature stories."It works for backlist books too," he said.
        Reading the newspapers will suggest possibilities. He gave the example of a book about networking, which can exploit the seasons: the holidays in general, when people are going to many parties; the New Year, when people resolve to look for better jobs; late spring, when new graduates need to find jobs.
        During the question period, a couple of members pointed out that shifting gears from the writer mode to the huckster mode is difficult for many authors.
        Ciesielka, articulate and poised at the podium as befits a PR man, shrugged and advised working on becoming more of a promoter. But if you're truly an introvert, "don't go on radio or TV. Send someone."
        He wound up recommending a helpful book: A Complete Guide to Book Publicity by Jodee Blanco (Allworth Press, 2000), available in paperback.


HELP UPDATE THE SMA ARCHIVE AT UIC

        According to the Society of Midland Authors By-Laws (Article XI), an archive of correspondence and books written by members is to be maintained by the organization. Indeed, a collection of SMA material was kept from 1915-1968, diligently during some periods and less diligently during others.
        It is believed that the collection was housed for part of that time at the Auditorium Hotel on Michigan Avenue, where the organization met during one period.
        In 1968, the SMA archive was turned over to the library at the University of Illinois Chicago. It has been maintained by UIC ever since and "well-used" by various researchers over the years. After a recent renewal of correspondence between the UIC library special collections and the SMA board, it has been decided that this collection should be augmented with more recent materials and continue to grow in the future.
        Therefore, the SMA board is asking current members to donate signed copies of their books to the SMA archive at UIC to be preserved for posterity. New members will be asked to make donations in the future.
        In order to donate your book or books, other SMA correspondence or related materials such as photos, we ask you to send them to the current SMA Vice President, R. Craig Sautter, at 7658 N. Rogers, Chicago 60626. He will transfer them to the SMA archive at UIC. And you are invited to visit the SMA archive at any time during UIC library hours.


NOW YOU TELL ME

By Barbara Schaaf
Defying Corporations
        "Tired of politicians pimping for corporate execs?" Then Jayne Anne Morris of Madison, Wis., has a book for you. Morris contributed seven essays to Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy: A Book of History & Strategy.
        Published by Apex Press for POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy), this provocative volume investigates how businesses subvert legal codes and use social responsibility as a public relations ploy. The book provides "hidden histories, crisp analyses and thoughtful responses to corporate apologists."
        
Stranger Danger
        SMA past president Rich Lindberg has signed a deal to co-write a book about the 1955 murders of three young boys which terrified a whole generation of Chicago children and their parents.
        The Schuessler-Peterson slayings went unsolved for nearly 50 years until the arrest of Kenneth Hansen, who was tried and convicted twice, most recently in August, 2002.
        Gloria Jean Sykes, Lindberg's co-author, is an investigative journalist and documentary producer who has received Emmy nominations for Cheaters, an HBO production about the 1995 Steinmetz High cheating scandal; Campaign '90, about campaign funding; Homelessness: A Prayer and Children of Alcoholic Parents.
        Lindberg and Sykes grew up in Norwood Park and graduated from Taft High within two years of each other.
        Shattered Sense of Innocence: The Child Murders That Changed the Way America Looked at Itself will be published in the winter of 2003 by Cumberland House Publishing of Nashville, Tenn.
        Cumberland knows a good thing when they see it, having published three of Lindberg's previous works. Los Angeles agent Mike Hamilburg is handling negotiations for film rights.

Stompin' at the Ritz
        Chicago's Ritz-Carlton Hotel has been thronged lately with SMA members receiving honors. The Chicago Christian Industrial League feted Martin Marty at an October dinner.
        Linda McLennon, anchor of WBBM-TV news, emceed the salute to the prolific author, theologian and University of Chicago professor emeritus.
        At the 63rd annual Chicago Press Vets dinner Maurice Possley received an award in the Public Service Category. Possley co-authored "Cops and Confessions" for the Chicago Tribune.

Heavyweight Reviewers
        In August, Talk/Miramax brought out '46 Chicago, Steve Monroe's companion volume to '57 Chicago. Monroe has just finished a third novel, set in modern day, which Publishers Weekly reported is in the same genre as the writing of Elmore Leonard. Monroe is philosophical about reviewers, saying that ten years of sportswriting has prepared him.
         "Waiting for the reviews is scary, but it doesn't compare to writing a scathing article about a 320-pound lineman and having to meet him in the locker room afterward."

Contemporary Culture
        When the Cultural Studies Program at Columbia College and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs set up "Intersections: A Meeting Place for Diverse Ideas on Contemporary Culture and the Arts," they turned to Dominic A. Pacyga to present a program on public history and the arts. Pacyga, professor of history in Columbia's Department of Liberal Education, discussed the role of the public historian in creating an informed public by using the arts to explain both the past and present, as well as to provide future insights.
        Pacyga has written four books on Chicago history, including three on Chicago neighborhoods and one on Chicago's Polish immigrants.
         "Intersections" continues meeting on the first Thursday of every month until March at the Chicago Cultural Center. For information, call 312/744-6630.


OTHER MEMBER NEWS


Scott Turow on Death Penalty
        Most of a recent issue of the Chicago Tribune Magazine was devoted to Scott Turow, from his photo on the cover to the abridged first chapter of his new novel, Reversible Errors.
        An interview detailed his conversion from "death-penalty agnostic" to the belief that reforming the death penalty procedure of the criminal justice system is beyond the financial capacity or political will of legislators.
        Time magazine related how he took up the case of Alejando Hernandez, convicted of murdering a young girl.
        Upon reading the evidence, Turow told Time, "I became virtually unhinged. I couldn't believe this was happening in America."
        Ultimately, Hernandez was freed and Turow went on to serve on a state commission to review the death penalty in Illinois.
        This experience gave Turow the background for Reversible Errors. Early in the book, a man on death row is revealed as probably innocent. As the struggle to save him unfolds, the mistakes some of the leading characters have made in their personal lives ultimately prove to be reversible, like a bad verdict in a court case–as long as the defendant remains alive.

Founder Still Puts Stamp on SMA
        Phyllis Choyke was delighted to discover on a recent visit to the post office to buy stamps for a mailing to potential new members that the special stamps du jour featured the image of Edna Ferber, one of our founders.

Book Helps Library
        C. Ramon Greenwood has used his book, Another Time, Another Place, to raise funds for the public library in his hometown, Warren, Ark.
        Greenwood, who now lives in Arlington Heights, Ill., donated 250 copies to the Warren library.
        The library sold them all and earmarked $5,000 for a book fund memorializing Greenwood's parents.
        All the public libraries in Arkansas have been hurt by cuts in state funding.

Weldon on Wheels

        Michele Weldon was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show in June and again on a rerun in October for both of her books, I Closed My Eyes and Writing To Save Your Life. The show focused on the power of writing.
        In November, Weldon offered writing workshops in the Wise Women Author series at Lake Austin Spa in Texas. In January she'll be the keynote speaker in Dallas at the National Women Writers Association conference.
        Other recent activities: As a lecturer on the faculty of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Weldon was featured in the popular alumni series on campus, "Classes Without Quizzes." She conducted a writing seminar.
        Weldon was a guest on a panel with two other writers on freelance writing and books at the Journalism & Women Symposium held in Whitefish, Mont.
        In Indianapolis, Weldon discussed her memoir and gave a writing workshop at the Indiana Council Against Domestic Violence Conference.
        She was keynote speaker at the annual Brunch for Books, which also featured Jacquelyn Mitchard and Dawn Turner Trice, at Ruth Lake Country Club.

Disaster Recovery Lite
        Jim Schwab has been invited for the second time by the University of Iowa Graduate Program in Urban and Regional Planning to teach a one-credit-hour "short course" in planning for post-disaster recovery.
        Schwab is the author of an extensive report on the subject for the American Planning Association.
        The university is considering installing the course as permanent part of the curriculum.

"Sensitively Captures" History
        Richard Babcock, editor of Chicago magazine, has written a second novel, Bow's Boy (Scribner). It's about effects of the Vietnam War on a small town in Wisconsin.
        "Carefully crafted characters with meaningful inner lives and distinctive voices keep the reader engaged," said Publishers Weekly.
        "Babcock accurately and sensitively captures a fraught historical moment and its devastating impact on all the people who lived it" while building to a "quiet and powerful conclusion."

Third Poetry Book
        Allison Funk's third book of poems, The Knot Garden, was recently published by The Sheep Meadow Press. He's a resident of Edwardsville, Ill.

Mystery Gathering
        SMA members Alzina Stone Dale, Barbara D'Amato and Mark Zubro will be among the speakers at a program in the Newberry Library on May 31 devoted to the life and career of Chicago Police Captain Hugh Holton.
        Captain Holton's papers and other archival materials will become a collection there.
        Other speakers will include Jeanne Dams, another of Holton's mystery writing friends; Fred Rice, retired Chicago police superintendent, and members of the Holton family.
        Copies of Holton's new book, The Thin Black Line, will be available .
        The free program will be open to the public. For information call the Newberry Public Program office: 312/255-3700.

Award for Paperback Mystery
        Minnesota mystery writer Deborah Woodworth, author of the Sister Rose Callahan mystery series, has received the 2002 Barry Award for Best Paperback Original for Killing Gifts,
the fifth book in her series.
        The award was announced at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Austin, Tex. It's a national award sponsored by the Anthony-Award-winning mystery magazine, Deadly Pleasures.
        A committee chosen by the magazine's editorial staff selects nominees for several categories. Winners are selected through a voting process open to all readers.
        Woodworth uses the rich and intriguing history of the Shakers as a backdrop for her Depression-era series. Her protagonist, Sister Rose Callahan, is eldress of a fictional Shaker village in northern Kentucky.
        In Killing Gifts, Sister Rose is called to the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass., to solve the murder of a young woman found strangled and nearly frozen in the sisters' summerhouse.
        The last remaining Shakers, who live in the Sabbathday Lake Village near Poland Springs, Maine, are fans of the series and have expressed appreciation for its feisty heroine and its accurate portrayal of the Shaker history and lifestyle.
        The Shakers have stated that they feel about the Sister Rose mysteries the way the Benedictines are said to feel about the Brother Cadfael mysteries—they can't wait for the next one.

Challenging and Rewarding
        Eleanor Taylor Bland was misidentified in a previous issue as an "Elizabeth." The error was pointed out to us by a fellow mystery writer, Alzina Stone Dale, who knows Bland as the author of the popular Marti MacAlister mysteries about an African-American detective.
        Bland's 10th such mystery, Windy City Dying has just been published by St. Martin's Minotaur.
        "Fans of challenging, socially conscious mysteries will be well rewarded, says Publishers Weekly.

An Arm Reaching Out
        Dempsey Travis, a past president of SMA, author and, as the Chicago newspapers like to say, "South Side real estate mogul," has just donated $250,000 to the children's ophthalmologic clinic at the University of Chicago hospital.
        Travis is known for numerous other benefactions over the years, focusing mainly on college scholarships.
        "There's a need for somebody's black arm to reach out" to kids from Chicago public high schools, he says.

Story of Mass Murder
        Maurice Possley's book about the 1993 mass murder at Browns Chicken & Pasta in Palatine, Ill., will be published next summer by Berkley Books (Putnam).

Pleasure of Persistence
        Robert Hellenga traveled from Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he teaches, to Harper College in Palatine, Ill., on Dec. 5 to talk about the writing life and conduct a writing workshop.
        In an interview with Pioneer Press, he revealed that it took him five years to write the first of his three novels. Then it took three more years and 39 rejections before his agent found a publisher.
        That was The Sixteen Pleasures, which went on to enjoy excellent reviews, strong sales and win the SMA fiction award.


RECENT NEW MEMBERS

        Jim Graczyk is the author of A Field Guide to Illinois Hauntings and A Field Guide to Chicago Hauntings. He resides in Chicago.
        Stephen G. Bloom, a former Los Angeles Times staffer, is now an associate journalism professor at the University of Iowa. His book, Postville, A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, described a mainly Lutheran town experiencing an influx of 150 Lubavitzer Jews. He's also author of Inside the Writer's Mind: Writing Narrative Journalism.
        Becky Bradway, of Normal, Ill., wrote a book of personal essays, Pink Houses and Family Taverns, for Indiana University Press.
        Bonnie Joe Campbell has written Women & Other Animals, a collection of short stories, and Q Road, a new novel.
        Michael Allen Dymmoch teams up Chicago detective John Thinnes and psychiatrist Jack Caleb in her mystery series with "cat" in the titles, such as The Death of the Blue Mountain Cat, St. Martins (1993) and The Man Who Understood Cats, St. Martins (1998). She also wrote Incendiary Designs, Dunne Books.
        Kelly James Enger wrote Ready, Aim, Specialize! How to Create Your Writing Speciality and Make More Money for The Writer Books and is negotiating a contract with Kensington Books for Did You Get the Vibe?
        Erin McKean is the Midwest editor for Oxford University Press and author of Weird and Wonderful Words. She's heard regularly on National Public Radio's Next Big Thing program talking about words.
        Elizabeth Fama wrote Overboard, a novel for teens, for Cricket Books.
        Libby Fischer Hellmann's book is a mystery novel, An Eye for Murder, distinguished by "sharp humor and vivid language," said Publishers Weekly. "A masterful blend of politics, history and suspense."
        George Levy is the author of To Die in Chicago: Confederate Prisoners at Camp Douglas.
        Stephanie Mills' current book is Epicurean Simplicity from Island Press. Her previous titles include: In Service of the Wild, In Praise of Nature and What Ever Happened to Ecology?
        She was named a 1996 "Visionary" by Utne magazine as one of the leading proponents of the bioregional movement. She resides in Maple City, Mich.
        Thomas J. O'Gorman wrote New Space from Salvage: Creating Perfect Interiors from Recovered Architecture.
        Zak Mucha
wrote The Beggar's Shore, a novel about Uptown Chicago.
        


AWARDS FUND DONORS

        SMA is grateful to the following recent contributors to the Awards Fund, not previously acknowledged:
        Mervin Block, Deborah Brod, Martin E. Marty.
        
FINAL CHAPTERS

        Dr. Hull Cook
, winner of the 1999 SMA non-fiction award, died last year at the age of 90, SMA has learned.


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