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December 2004

        To enter this year's competition, for books published in 2004, fill out the entry form (elsewhere in this issue) and mail it with a copy of the nominated book to each of the three judges in the proper category (three judges, three forms, three books).
        The deadline is Feb. 1, 2005.
        Books may be nominated by the author or publisher. Make sure that you enter the book in the proper category. Failure to do so will result in the book being disallowed.
        The categories are: Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, Biography , Children's Fiction , Children's Nonfiction and Poetry
        PLEASE NOTE: An entry form must accompany each book to each judge for a total of three forms per title
(three judges, three forms, three books).
        Books unaccompanied by completed entry forms will not be considered.
        There is no entry fee and the author need not be a member of the SMA. The book must have been published in 2004 by a recognized publishing house and the author must reside in one of the 12 Midland states listed here:
Illinois , Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan , Minnesota , Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin.
        Questions? Call Carol Jean Carlson, immediate past president and competition manager, at 773-506-7578 (h), 773-275-3999 (b), or E-mail

by R. Craig Sautter
        Happy New Year! With the arrival of 2005, The Society of Midland Authors marks a great milestone -- our 90th anniversary! The SMA Board and I look forward to an exciting year of events and reminiscences to celebrate our longevity and to renew our mission of greater collegiality among writers of the Midlands.
        To that end, we hope many of you will join us at our monthly meetings at the Chicago Athletic Association for the final four sessions in our "Chicago in Literature Series," and at our 90th Annual Banquet and Awards Presentation in May.
        We also hope to do some serious fund-raising to help insure that our organization has a firm footing for its journey toward another 90 years. Any additional contributions from members will be greatly appreciated, and we'll be approaching several foundations.
        Recently, I've been rummaging through the SMA Archives at the University of Illinois Chicago Library and have come across some fascinating bits of information, which I want to share with you. As you probably know, Richard Frisbie has written a very good account of our history, which you can find in the SMA Yearbook. Here's some additional information.
        SMA has an actual founding date: April 24, 1915, a date that appeared on the cover of SMA membership directories for many years. Among SMA's "charter members" were poet James Whitcomb Riley, who in the twilight of his career was named "honorary president"; and novelist Hobart Chatfield Chatfield Taylor, of Lake Forest, who became SMA's first president. Hamlin Garland was slated to become SMA's first president, but moved to New York City instead and became an SMA vice president.

        Garland (1860-1940), who won a 1921 Pulitzer Prize, made a surprisingly long-lasting impact on the world. Just a few weeks ago, he received in the SMA P.O. box a letter from TEC, an organization of chief executives, inviting him to a breakfast meeting at the Union League Club of Chicago to hear a presentation on "Entrpreneurial Success."

        SMA originally had several vice presidents located in Chicago and various Midland states outside of Illinois, including, in 1915: novelist Emerson Hough, who would later serve as SMA president; George Ade, the Chicago Record columnist, author and playwright whose plays were produced on Broadway, was listed as a resident of Brook, Ind.; poet Arthur Davison Ficke and novelist Alice French (Octave Thanet) lived in Davenport, Iowa; famed editor and novelist William Allen White hailed from Emporia, Kan.; former Chicago editor and novelist Brand Whitlock lived in Brussels, Belgium; novelist Will Payne, former editor of The Dial, resided in Paw Paw, Mich.; and Joseph Mills Hanson of Yankton, S. D.
        .SMA's first board of directors included Harriet Monroe, founder of Poetry magazine; Walter Taylor Field, of Hinsdale; Chicago novelists Clara Louis Burnham, Edna Ferber, Clara Laughlin, Harry K. Webster, and Edith Wyatt; University of Chicago sociologist and novelist Elia W. Peattie; plus Chicago Daily Tribune columnist and novelist Bert Liston Taylor; experimental playwright Alice Gerstenberg, a future SMA president; and novelist Zona Gale of Portage, Wis., who headed the "Friendship Village" movement, based on one of her novels.
        By 1917, SMA members included Jane Addams; poets Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay and Edgar Lee Masters; Norwegian novelist O. E. Rolvaag; crime novelist Mignon Eberhart; and novelist Rosamund du Jardin; Maurice Brown, founder of the Little Theatre movement in the United States, who later produced hits on the London stage; lawyer and novelist Clarence Darrow; Llewelyn Jones, who succeeded Floyd Dell as editor of the Friday Literary Review, Kenneth Sawyer Goodman and Walter S. Poague, both of whose deaths in World War I were reported on the same day in 1918.
        Other "charter members" included: Mrs. Carter Harrison, wife of a former Chicago mayor; best-selling author George Barr McCutcheon, and his brother John T., a Chicago Tribune illustrator whose "Injun Summer" was regularly reprinted each autumn by the paper; sports and short story writer Ring Lardner; historical novelist Mary Hastings Bradley; Indiana novelist Meredith Nicholson; Dr. Frank Gunsaulus of the Armour Institute; Mrs. Robert Peattie; artist Lorado Taft; Earl Reed, philosopher Dr. Paul Carus; novelist Edwin Balmer, a future two-time SMA president, and many others.
        In 1919, SMA meetings were "indefinitely postponed because of the Influenza epidemic." By 1921 they had resumed, and Tribune reporter and book reviewer Fanny Butcher became an SMA member of many decades; so did Daily News editor Harry Hanson; poet Edgar Guest, of Detroit; Chicago poet Eunice Tietjens; novelist Gene Stratton Porter, whose address was listed as Limberlost Cabin, Rome City, Ind.; and Chicago poet Vincent Starrett.
        By 1930, SMA members included Pulitzer Prize winner Margaret Ayer Barnes and her sister, Janet Ayer Fairbank, a Pulitzer runner-up; poet Marion Stroble; Daily News columnist and novelist Robert J. Casey, U.S. Senator Arthur Vandenberg, of Michigan, who served as an SMA vice president from 1934-35; Pulitzer Prize winning poet George Dillion; Paul Vincent O'Brien, literary editor of the Daily News; and novelist and future SMA president Arthur Meeker.
        In the 1940s novelists Peter DeVries, Jack Conroy and John G. Neihardt, as well as David Appel, literary editor of the Chicago Daily News and Fredric Babcock, literary editor of the Tribune; Paul Angle; and novelist Louis Zara joined the Society.
        SMA dues were first set at $5, lowered during the First War to $3 for Chicago residents and $2 for out-of-towners. SMA's annual meeting was originally held on the last Saturday of October in locations such as the Auditorium Hotel, the Cliff Dwellers' Club or the Fortnightly. The Society also sponsored monthly luncheons. In 1930, Ernest Byfield, president of the Hotel Sherman, dedicated a special room and library to the Society and urged members to come by any time with guests for lunch, tea or dinner.
        Clearly, SMA has recorded a stellar history, one to which we all continue to contribute in this our 90th year as the premiere literary organization of America's Midland.

By Tom Ciesielka,
TC Public Relations
        Any publicity campaign for a book requires at least three pieces of support material: book synopsis, electronic versions of book cover and author photo, and an author biography. The biography is exactly what you would think, except it should be boiled down to less than 500 words (my rule).
        One example of an author biography is the one for John Grisham ( ). Take a look at it and then consider some of these tips to create your own:
        Give it a dramatic touch: Regardless of what you write, people want to become engaged in what passions make you tick. Take a look an excerpt from Grisham's bio:
        "One day at the Dessoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a 12-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987."
        Share your expertise and experiences: First, a reporter or reviewer needs to know what qualifications you bring to your book. In the case of Grisham, he often writes about legal issues, so his work as a lawyer makes his writing credible. Take a look at another excerpt from his bio:
        "Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Miss. law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby -- writing his first novel".
        Facts, facts and facts: Be sure your bio has plenty of facts available for the reporter. Make it easy for the person to describe who you are without having to get basic background information from you directly. Again, Grisham's bio does a nice job in this area:
        "Born Feb. 8, 1955, in Jonesboro, Ark., to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University.
        "After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990."
        Next month's tip: Home Town Hero: How To Promote Your Book Where You Live

By Richard Frisbie
        Chicago is the nation's most corrupt city, according to U.S. Department of Justice records on the number of prosecutions launched. That's why James Merriner found plenty of material for his current book, Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago 1833-2003. It has never made any difference who was mayor or state's attorney, he said at the Nov. 9 SMA meeting in the Chicago Athletic Assn. "Corruption is bipartisan."
        SMA president R. Craig Sautter set the tone for the meeting by reading from the century-old classic, If Christ Came to Chicago. It explained the process in the 19th precinct of the First Ward. "Boodling is very simple." It's a matter of quid pro quo and "square the alderman." All the participants share a "common bond–the quest for the almighty dollar is their holy grail."
        Marriner said there were many reasons for corruption in local politics:
        • "Handshake deals behind closed doors aren't necessarily illegal," but the opportunities for using clout in public works are like "heroin to politicians."
        • "Reformers won't stay mad for more than six months." Also, government requires a balance between meeting human needs and maintaining efficiency and frugality. "Reformers never understood that government is not a business. Politics requires give and take."
        Recent ethics and disclosure laws have closed off some avenues for corruption, while others remain. "Illinois' blind real estate trusts are a good place to park boodle," Merriner said.
        He believes the only way to reduce corruption is to reduce the amount of government.

By Barbara Schaaf
From Saigon to Safety
        In Escape from Saigon; How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy (FSC/Kroupa) , Andrea Warren tells the story of a Vietnamese eight-year-old who is taken from his Saigon orphanage, flown to the U.S. as part of Operation Babylift, and adopted by an Ohio couple who rename him Matt.
        Warren has first-hand knowledge of Matt's saga; she adopted an infant girl who was rescued by Babylift. Warren found that life in a new world was not always easy, as Warren discovered through her interviews with other adoptees. Her research included a visit to Vietnam.
        This is Warren's second book about the impact of war on children; her first was Surviving Hitler; a Boy in the Nazi Death Camps. She next tackles children and the Civil War.

Taking It All Off
        Striptease; the Untold History of the Girlie Show (Oxford) is Rachel Shteir's exploration of "A distinctly American diversion that flourished from the Jazz Age to the era of the Sexual Revolution." Shteir, who heads DePaul's dramaturgy and dramatic criticism department, "reaches for a larger cultural meaning ....and the paradox of stripping's possibilities."
        Illustrated with photographs and details from the lives of the practitioners, Shteir uses gender politics and cultural theory. Publishers Weekly says that her "discussions of the ways striptease informed American culture and her careful descriptions....are bright moments."

Serial Suburban Murders
        Eleanor Taylor Bland brings back homicide detective Marti MacAlister for the l2th time in A Cold and Silent Dying (St. Martin's/Minotaur) . The scene is the Chicago suburb of Lincoln Prairie, whose residents have a lot more than crabgrass and soccer schedules to fret over. Her new boss, like Marti, is African American, and clearly believes that there is room for only one of them in the department. Her partner's wife has MS and it is exacerbating. Worse yet, her best friend's ex-husband, a slippery serial murder is back in town and Marti and the ex find themselves on the top of the to do list.

Bats in the Barn
        Jacquelyn Mitchard and illustrator Julia Noonan have collaborated on a book about bats that does not mention Dracula; this must be a first. In this celebration about love of a bat mother for her child, mom does croon "Small new prince of the dark," but Baby Bat's Lullaby (HarperCollins) leaves out the stuff that might scare off the 2-6 year-old market at which it is aimed.

But Will There Be Cake?
        Free Lunch Arts alliance, the Glenview nonprofit which publishes Free Lunch; a Poetry Miscellany has received a grant from the Illinois Arts Council to fund poetry readings at north suburban libraries in the new year. Mark Perlberg is first up on Jan. l6, 2005, at Wilmette Public Library.
        Fran Podulka will wait for the thaw (at least one hopes it will have thawed by April l7, 2005, at Glenview Public Library.
        Free Lunch was set up in l989, and has published new and well-known poets. Ron Offen is its editor, and may be reached at

Dribble, Dribble
        If recent events in professional basketball have left a sour taste, pick up John Christgau's Tricksters in the Madhouse; Lakers vs. Globetrotters, 1948 (University of Nebraska Press).. He will take you back to February l948 when the Minnesota Lakers took the floor of the Chicago Stadium against the Harlem Globetrotters . The all-white Lakers were expected to win that year's World Professional Tournament easily, and the all-black Globetrotters were regarded more or less as a comic turn. Literary License does not reveal endings, so you will have to read Christgau's play-by-play to find out why this game was a step toward equality. (Christgau also is responsible for the Origins of the Jump Shot; Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball).

Harry the Great
        Alexander and Troy both tanked at the box office, but Chicago has its own golden Greek, and he never disappoints. Harry Mark Petrakis uses his tenth novel, The Orchards of Ithaca, to revisit "themes of family, religion and ethnic identity" through his hero, Orestes Panos., a Chicagoan who is a successful Greek American restauranteur.
        The action begins in l999, when Panos awakens on his 50th birthday, sees liver spots he had missed noticing, and begins to assess his life thus far.         


        Arnie Bernstein writes: "The Illinois Center for the Book/Illinois State Library sent me a letter saying that I'm one of the 35 Illinois authors they want to honor at the annual Illinois Literary Weekend/Bookfair this March. Of course I said 'yes!'
        "I'll also be participating in workshops they're teaching at Springfield area schools."

Words to the Wise
        Erin McKean, editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly and editor in chief, US Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, hopes that SMA members will take a look at the new Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, the newest thesaurus from OUP.
        In addition to the usual synonyms and antonyms, the book includes more than 200 mini-essays by David Foster Wallace, Jean Strouse, Michael Dirda, Simon Winchester, Francine Prose, David Lehman, Zadie Smith, Stephin
Merritt and David Auburn.
        Also, 2005 will see the publication of Verbatim's 30th volume. SMA members who are interested in the only magazine for language and linguistics for the layperson should check out the web site:
        McKean can be heard regularly on the PRI show The Next Big Thing (which airs at 2 p.m. Saturdays on WBEZ in Chicago), where she tries to convince writers to use new or obsolescing words in their work so that she can get evidence for the words' inclusion in the Oxford American Dictionary.

'Creative Scholarly Book"
        Armando Favazza's book, PsychoBible, received the Creative Scholarship Award from the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture.
        The Award Committee noted in the program that "PsychoBible is a classic, and absolutely the most creative, scholarly book in our field that we have seen in a long time."
        He has a steady schedule of radio interviews and lectures about the book at such differing venues as the Mayo Clinic, the St. Louis Ethical Society, and the Kansas City Club.
        Favazza is a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

"A Gem" in Winter
        Barth Landor's novel, A Week in Winter, was reviewed on Chicago Public Radio on Nov. 14, during Hello Beautiful," the arts show hosted by Edward Lifson. (The audio is available online in their archives.)
        The reviewer, Goldenrule Jones, called the book "a gem", and said "Landor's style is less close to contemporary writers than to the Russsian masters."
        A Week in Winter was published in March by the Permanent Press, and has been nominated for a variety of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award for First Novels. An author interview can also be found on Chicago Public Radio's website, via the "Hello Beautiful" link.

Two for One Book Party
        Margaret McMullan read from both her new books at a book signing and reception in the Arts Club in Chicago on Dec. 2.
        The books are How I Found the Strong and In My Mother's House.
        She's chair of the English department at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

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