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Literary License Newsletter heading

January 2001


Deadline for submission of books in the annual SMA literary competition will be March 1, 2001. It's open to any author residing in the 12 Midland states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin). Books published during 2000 may be entered by the publisher or by the author. There's no entry fee, but a copy of the book must be sent to each of three judges in the appropriate category: adult fiction, adult nonfiction, biography, children's fiction, children's nonfiction or poetry.

Entry forms may be downloaded from the SMA website: Names and addresses of the judges will also be posted as soon as the list of judges is complete. DO NOT send books to anyone but the judges.

By Richard Frisbie

Although the grown-up buyers of children's books take note of changing times, the interests of the children remain much the same from year to year. So said Kathleen Tucker, editor-in-chief of Albert Whitman & Company, publishers of children's books, at the Nov. 14 meeting of the Society in the Cliff Dwellers Club. She joined a panel including Candace Fleming, author, and Eric Rohmann, illustrator, both prize winners in their respective fields.

What interests kids? Adjusting to a new sibling, learning about the world, going to school, losing a friend who moves away, coping with the death of the family dog and the other ordinary events of a child's life.
  Any new book has a hard time getting published. Tucker gets 3,500 submissions a year, and her company publishes only 30. Typical printings run from 6,000 to 10,000 copies. A bestseller might go to 60,000.

The publishing industry produces about 40,000 new kids' books a year, all competing forreviewers' attention and for shelf space. To get a book published "there has to be a new spinon the old themes," Tucker said. Fleming told of writing one book that started out with an idea for a character, a girl who could do bird calls. As she worked on it, she realized she had to find out exactly what sounds birds make. That led to more and more research. In the end, reviewers praised it as an "eco-adventure." Another Fleming book of 950 words ran to 47 drafts. This impresses kids mightily when she
visits a classroom and shows them the actual stack of paper. She said, "I think in picture books. Once I have the idea, I see pictures attached to the stories," although, she laughed, in the end "the illustrator never gives me back what I saw." Rohmann starts by "discovering" an image, then expanding it. "Ideas come from other ideas." He noted that C. S. Lewis said his Narnia books came to him as mental movies, then he wrote down what he saw. "Books add a fourth dimension--time," Rohmann said. That's what makes them superior to TV and other media. The author/illustrator and the reader control the time, allowing the reader the "moment when your mind fills everything in." All the panelists agreed that despite the practical assumptions of the market, there is always a demand for the originality that springs from artistic vision.

By Richard Frisbie

American Pharaoh was a good title for a biography of Richard J. Daley because he was both
a powerful autocrat and a builder, said Elizabeth Taylor, co-author of that biography, at the Oct. 10 SMA meeting in the Cliff Dwellers Club. Taylor, now book editor for the Chicago Tribune as well as editor of the Chicago Tribune Magazine, came to Chicago as bureau chief for Time magazine and " found everything ledback to Richard J. Daley."His pyramids included the Sears Tower, the Dan Ryan Expressway, O'Hare International Airport--"the list goes on." Allied with business leaders, he helped bring in new buildings with an infrastructure of parking and new highways. He helped attract the University of
Illinois/Chicago to the near South Side, "a great thing." He kept Chicago from declining like Gary or Philadelphia. At the same time, although the Black vote originally elected Daley, the Black population, like the Jews in ancient Egypt, came to regard this modern pharaoh as an oppressor. One example was the history of the Chicago Housing Authority, set up to replace a warren of crumbling tenements mostly housing poor Black families. Elizabeth Wood, the highly respected director, envisioned scattered site low-rise public housing, set amid trees, with easily accessible playgrounds. This vision conflicted with the desire of Chicago politicians to keep Chicago segregated and under the control of the Daley machine. Wood was forced out, and the Black ghetto was replicated in sterile new highrises. Co-author of American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation is Adam Cohen of New York, a senior writer for the Nation section of Time.

By Barbara Schaaf

In celebrating the dawn of the real millennium, thanks must be given to SMA's energetic, peripatetic and perspicacious membership, without whom this report would be kept to 25 words or much, much less.

Millennium Man
What better way to start a new millennium than with SMA's man for all millennia, Martin Marty, who recently was feted at the 19th annual Amicus Certus dinner dance sponsored byLutheran Social Services of Illinois. Marty was named as Lutheran Services' "true friend" for his dedication to religious history and for his natural skill in delineating the role of the church in modern media. Marty is serving as interim president of St. Olaf's College while continuing as contributing editor of The Christian Century and editor of Context, and as professor emeritus of the University of Chicago Divinity School. "Surveys show that one-half of American adults volunteer for something," according to Marty. "The biggest unwritten story in American religion is the positive story." Sounds like the subject of another book  which would be his 51st.

A Bump in the Night
Candlewick Press has brought out a new edition of Florence Parry Heide's Some Things Are Scary, illustrated by Jules Feiffer and first published in l969. Publishers Weekly praises the reissue, saying , "With perceptive examples and over-the-top images of physical comedy, Heide and Feiffer acknowledge, and perhaps demystify, some shared fears." Heide's hero survives one anxiety-producing situation after another. For ages five to nine.

Another Web to Spin
Congratulations to the Chicago Press Veterans Association on adding Ray Hanania to the board and on securing his services as webmaster. SMA is also fortunate to have Hanania serve in both capacities.

When Do We Eat?
At a Press Vets dinner honoring Bob Wiedrich as Press Veteran of 2000, SMA board member Phyllis Choyke won a $100 gift certificate from Lettuce Entertain You. "Bad Coffee" But Good Work
SMA member Reginald Gibbons has joined the board of the Guild Complex as vice president and secretary, which entitles him to attend Sunday morning meetings featuring bad coffee and sweet rolls. The Guild Complex is an independent not-for-profit cultural center and forum for literary cross-cultural expression, discussion and education. He says he doesn't mind the sacrifice. He sees the Guild Complex as "the place where the full range of our American literary culture can be present and active." For the past 16 years, Gibbons has been executive and artistic director at Northwestern's TriQuarterly, as well as teaching creative writing and in the MFA program. He has to his credit one novel, six volumes of poetry, and 20 other books, with Longshot O'Leary the most recent (1999 from Holy Cowl Press).

Great Books, Big Deal
Bruce Gans continues to attract ink  most recently on page one of the Chicago Tribune   for his success in proving that students at Chicago City Colleges can learn to love the Great Books. Gans caught flak for not devoting his class time to supposedly more relevant works, instead focusing what he calls "the best that's been thought and said." In November, Gans described his experiences at a national conference sponsored by the Johnson Foundation. Gans's success at Wright College  28 sections of more than 960 students has inspired teachers in other disciplines. And City Colleges President Wayne Watson is urging other campuses to establish similar programs.

Dale on Sayers on Holmes
Alzina Stone Dale has written the introduction to Sayers on Holmes (Mythopoeic Press), a collection of Dorothy Sayers's essays on the great detective. Included for the first time in print is Sayers's centenary birthday tribute to Holmes, aired on the BBC in l954.


Honored by City and State
Glennette Tilley Turner has received the Studs Terkel Humanities Award given by the Illinois Humanities Council. Following a reception in her honor at City Hall in Chicago on Nov. 20, the award was presented at a meeting of the City Council. Her newest book, The Underground Railroad in Illinois, which represents 30 years of research and writing, rolled off the press the same week.

As Many Lives as a Cat
Two of Carol Adorjan's children's books: The Cat Sitter Mystery and The Copy Cat Mystery, have been re-issued as Authors Guild Editions. Cat Sitter has enjoyed many reincarnations, here and abroad. This reprint brings the total to eight.  She says, "Since there are five cats in the book, I figure it has many more lives to come."

Wins Faulkner Medal
Barbara Croft, of Oak Park, Ill., has won first place in the novella category of this year's Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society literary competition for her story, Columbia, set during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The organization awards a cash prize and gold medal each year to writers in six categories. The awards are presented in New Orleans at the Faulkner Society's annual Words and Music Festival. She is also the author of Necessary Fictions, a novel that won the 1999 SMA fiction award.

Bungalow Expert
Dominic A. Pacyga has been named curator for the Chicago Architectural Foundation's Chicago bungalow exhibit. The exhibit will open in September, 2001. Pacyga is co-editing the first scholarly book on Chicago bungalows and is working on a book-length manuscript on Chicago in the 1950s. He was interviewed on WBEZ's 848 program in August concerning the anniversary of the closing of the Chicago stockyards and in October concerning the bungalow exhibit.

Winning Hands
A long article by James McManus about the 2000 World Series of Poker was featured on the cover of the December Harper's magazine. The film rights have been optioned by a group representing director John Turtletaub (Phenomenon, Instinct, The Kid). His booklength narrative in progress, titled Positively Fifth Street, is being auctioned to publishers. He also covered the Poker Million tournament on the Isle of Man for Playboy. His second novel, Chin Music, will be reissued in paperback by Foxrock in the spring of 2001. His fourth novel, Going to the Sun (1997 SMA fiction award), is in its fourth printing with HarperPerennial.

Reads Poems in Moscow
Chicago poet Georg Nikolic was an honorary guest of the Russian PEN Centre at the International PEN Congress held in Moscow in May. He read from his work at the main literary event of the Congress, which featured poets and writers from all over the world, including Gunter Grass, Andrei Voznesensky, Robert Bly, Bella Ahmadulina, Ana Blandiana and others.

From Other Writers' Groups
Many SMA members belong also to other writers' organizations such as the Authors Guild and the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. From the Mystery Writers' newsletter come the following items:
  Scott Turow, as author of Personal Injuries was one of five nominees for the Hammett Prize, according to the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers. It's named for the legendary writer Dashiell Hammett. David Walker was given a certificate of appreciation for four years of service as the Mystery Writers' treasurer. He reports that the third mystery in his Wild Onion series, The Death of Emerald Woods, is slated for December publication by St. Martin's. From the Authors Guild Bulletin:
Jim Lehrer, novelist as well as PBS news anchor, told The Washington Post, "I'm not like other writers. I don't have to wait until the wind blows just right through the window. (Writing) is like having a low-grade fever all the time."

Publishers' Cup of Tea
Marietta Marshall Marcin tells us an expanded third edition of her book on herbal teas has been published by Storey Communications (Garden Way). Now called Herbal Tea Gardens, the book which has been in print for 18 years gives growing, brewing and health information for 100 herbs, as well as 20-plus garden plans. Marietta also wrote an article on the subject for the premier issue of "Perennials," a new Better Homes and Gardens publication.

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