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January 2006

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        Books published during 2005 may be entered in the annual SMA awards contest until Feb. 15, 2006.
        Entries must be shipped directly to the judges in each category.
        Because of last-minute changes, the complete list of judges was not yet available at press time.
        The list of judges and complete instructions will be posted on this web site.
        Information is available also from Carol Jean Carlson, awards chairman: 1420 W. Farragut Ave., Chicago, IL 60640. (D)773/561-3999 (N) 773/506-7578. E-mail:


        Once upon a time (well, Nov. 9, to be exact), everybody in the audience felt like wide-eyed 10-year-olds again, anxiously waiting to find out what happened to the bunny that a born storyteller rescued from her cats.
         The storyteller, Katherine Hannigan, managed to piggyback an appearance at the SMA meeting in the Chicago Athletic Association on a speaking tour associated with her prize-winning book, Ida B...and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World.
        She explained that she had been inspired to write her book by moving to a small town in the country, Fayette, Iowa, home of Upper Iowa University, after growing up in Lockport, NY.
        She wove her spell with simple materials, beginning with slides
showing the surroundings. Fayette, set among fields and forests near the Volga River, has one café, one street and no traffic lights. There's a country road where, on her morning run along the shoulder, she sees deer, eagles, owls, wild turkeys and other wildlife. Sometimes, she finds an injured animal or bird and nurses it with the advice of a wildlife rehabilitation expert.
        "I wanted to tell myself a story about this place," she said. For months, she wrote two to four hours a night in a spiral notebook after teaching at the university while her imagination focused on a little girl she decided to name Ida B. "As soon as I knew her name, I knew the child." Sensitive to the environment, Ida B. comforted herself during hard times by talking to trees.
        At first, Hannigan had no thought of publication. "I was writing for myself. It was the best time I ever had."        
        Eventually (there were 42 drafts), she showed the manuscript to Kate Dicamillo (author of the book that inspired the movie, Because of Winn Dixie), who encouraged her and steered her toward an agent
        Hannigan said that dealing with publishers was like the story of the Three Bears. The first publisher said she should take out the part about conversations with trees. The second publisher had no suggestions at all. Too easy, Hannigan thought. The third publisher (Greenwillow) was just right, with a few helpful suggestions. Greenwillow also agreed to publish the book on recycled paper, appropriately for a book with an environmental theme.
        After publication and a long-list of prestigious awards, including last year's SMA award for children's fiction, plus a spot on the New York Times best-seller list, she found that when she spoke to audiences of children they said the conversations with trees was one of the parts they liked best.
        What about the bunny? When she rescued the rabbit from her cats, it seemed too traumatized to survive. Although people are advised to handle wildlife as little as possible, she decided in this case there was nothing to lose.
        Several times a day she would pick it up, stroke it and talk to it. "You're a marvelous bunny, you can make it," she would say over and over.
        When the rabbit seemed better, she freed it in her yard. Instead of running away, it came back for more stroking. But the next time she put it down, it hopped away into the bushes and went on with its life.
        Nobody in the audience actually blurted out, "Whew!," but that's what they were thinking.
        An additional happy ending: Hannigan's cousin, Joseph Hannigan of Long Grove, Ill., a Chicago suburb, saw a notice of the meeting in the paper. He brought his wife, Mary Anne, to the program and was reunited with Cousin Katherine for the first time since childhood.        


        If your mailing label says "(Exp 2005)," that means you haven't paid your dues for the fiscal year that began last July 1. We'll be sorry to lose you, but to prevent your name from being removed from the SMA mailing list, the web site and the forthcoming membership directory, you must act promptly.
        Send your $35 dues to the Society of Midland Authors, P.O. Box 10419, Chicago, IL 60610. (click for printable dues form)


Vietnam Revisited
        Michael Allen Dymmoch's fifth John Thinnes mystery, White Tiger (St. Martin's Minotaur), deftly recalls the horrors of the Vietnam War. The Chicago police detective is called in to investigate the murder of a Vietnamese woman, Tien Lee, an old acquaintance whose half-Asian son Thinnes fears he may have fathered.
        When he is taken off the murder case, Thinnes turns to his friend Dr. Jack Caleb, a noted psychotherapist and former medic in Vietnam who now specializes in treating vets, for help in solving the case and dealing with memories of the war. As Thinnes and Caleb, who also struggles with wartime memories, search for the reason Tien Le was killed, Thinnes comes to believe that a murderous criminal from Saigon, known as White Tiger, may now be at work in Chicago.

Maybe We Should Exercise
        James McManus, author of the SMA award-winning Positively Fifth Street, has written a new book chronicling his experience with the $8,000 executive physical at the Mayo Clinic. Physical: An American Checkup (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) is a sometimes funny, often terrifying, tale of one man's confrontation with the American medical system and ultimately his mortality.
Murder in Michigan's UP
        Henry Kisor, book editor and literary columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, has written another book featuring Deputy Steve Martinez, who first appeared in 2003's Season's Revenge.
        A Venture into Murder (Forge) begins with the body of an organized-crime assassin washing up on the shores of Lake Superior in Porcupine City in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
        When a second body is discovered--this one over 100 years old--Martinez comes to believes there is a connection between the two corpses. Add a Chicago entrepreneur who has transformed an abandoned copper mine into an underground greenhouse and Martinez's unraveling personal relationship and you have all the ingredients for a well-crafted page turner.

Shifting Political Forces
        Claude Walker recently resigned as communications director and senior policy advisor for Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn. He assisted in planning and publicizing Quinn's many events promoting heritage-based and environmental tourism, particularly on the Illinois river system.
        Walker cited severe burnout as the reason for his leaving. Walker made literary history with his book Currents of Power: A Modern Political Novel (2001, Writers Club Press), the first novel about state politics ever e-published.

Senior Bloggers
        Carla K. Johnson, writing for the Associated Press, recently profiled seniors who have shifted from shuffleboard to web logs or blogs. Our own Jim Bowman, 73, of Oak Park was among those senior bloggers included in the article.
        Jim maintains four regular blogs--one on happenings in Oak Park, one for his many opinions, one on religion and one that gives feedback to Chicago newspapers. And he claims to be retired!

"I Shuddered in My Shell"
        Candace Fleming embellishes the true story of a 1930s attempt to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel in Sunny Boy! The Life and Times of a Tortoise (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Kroupa).
         Originally slated for turtle soup, Sonny Boy was saved by a horticulturalist who has since passed. He goes on to live with a stamp collector, a Latin scholar, and then Biff the Brave, "a daredevil extraordinaire," who wants Sunny Boy to accompany him on his perilous adventure.
        The real daredevil was George Stathakis and the real Sunny Boy was over 100 years old. While this book has a happy ending, in truth only the tortoise survived. The book is illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.

Lexicographer Extraordinaire
        Dictionary editor Erin McKean recently assumed the editorship of Verbatim, a quarterly journal on language, written for a general audience. Originally from North Carolina but now living in Chicago, McKean is also editor-in-chief of U.S. dictionaries for Oxford University Press. She manages both jobs from the basement of her home. This year
Verbatim ( is celebrating its 30th volume.

Pull Plug on Erotic Fantasies?
        That is the question Bill Lederer's new absurdist play Prudence of the Deep Blue Wild, which opened to wide acclaim in November at the Prop Thtr, asks. Poet Ron Offen produced the play.

Go, White Sox!
        With the whole city agog over the White Sox winning of the World Series, Richard Lindberg has been asked to update his White Sox Encyclopedia (Temple University Press) so it will be available for sale before opening day.
        Incidently, even the Lyric Opera pays tribute to the Sox victory in their current production of The Magic Flute.

Holiday Happening
        On Dec. 18, Wes Adamczyk and Janice Nowak narrated "A Tale of Two Christmases" at the Polish Museum of America, 984 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.
        The program consisted of recollections of a young boy deported from Poland to Siberia. A joyous Christmas Eve in Poland in 1938 was contrasted with the sadness of the Christmas in exile in 1941.
        Polish carols by the Polonia Ensemble and classical chamber music by the Calumet Chamber Musicians led by John Wachala punctuated the presentation.


Correction Department
        Michelle True writes: "Thanks for putting my (news) in Literary License (Oct., 2005). One complaint - I don't know how I got turned into a ‘he' in your article, with my name being Michelle."
        (Ed. note: Sorry. It was late at night. Possibly something made us think of Michelle Angelo painting his Sixteenth Chapel.)
        Michelle True reports a new book, In Katrina's Wake: An Anthology of Inspirational Poetry, just out. All profits will be donated to the American Red Cross.
        She is also publishing a non-fiction book, The Poet's Manual: How to Go From Aspiring Writer to Published Author And Beyond, to be released in February,

Quiz Whiz
        On WFMT radio in Chicago recently, Barth Landor was announced as the winner of the morning quiz for correctly identifying St. Cecilia as the patron saint of music.

Busy Day
        Tom Frisbie, promoting the revised edition of the book he co-authored with Randy Garrett, Victims of Justice Revisited, enjoyed a busy media day on Nov. 30.
        In the morning he was interviewed on WBEZ, Chicago public radio. That night he appeared on WTTW-Channel 11.
        In between, he wrote an update for the Chicago Sun-Times on the latest developments in the notorious Nicarico murder case, which were the reason for all the media interest.
        Coincidentally, later the same evening he went to Chicago's celebrity-chair charity auction, for which he had made a chair bearing the signature and computer-generated portrait of movie director Spike Lee.

Edits New Magazine
        Pat Colander has a new day job as editor and associate publisher of the new Shore magazine, aimed at upscale readers on the southeast shores of Lake Michigan, from Chicago around to southwest Michigan.
        The controlled circulation includes luxury goods dealers, restaurants and service providers.
        Colander, a former writer for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader, is the author of two books. She has also held management positions with Copley Newspapers and other publishing companies in the area.

Review Profiles Author
        A glowing review in the Chicago Sun-Times of Eleanor Taylor Bland's new mystery, A Dark and Deadly Reception, turned into a profile of the author herself.
        She began to write after a career as a cost accountant. St. Martin's Press liked the characters and the writing in her first mss. so much that they were glad to encourage her to continue. That's now 13 books ago.        
        Publishers Weekly called the book "well-crafted...deft use of flashbacks not only builds suspense but adds complexity to her characters."

Wins Douglass Prize
        Laurent Dubois of the Michigan State University history department has won the Frederick Douglass Prize for his book, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804.
        The $25,000 annual award for the year's best non-fiction book on slavery, resistance and/or abolition is the most generous history prize in the field, and the most respected and coveted of the major awards for the study of the black experience.
        The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), the onetime slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers and orators of the 19th century.

POD Not as Easy as ABC
        Bruce Felknor, author of 11 previous books, reports a new book that's also a new experience. Of Clubbable Nature: Chicago's Tavern Club at 75 was sponsored by the members of the prestigious club and produced with print-on-demand (POD) technology.
        He wrote, "It is a merry romp through Chicago's history from ‘the long night of Prohibition' to yesterday, revealing much about the city and its movers and shakers, many of them ‘Tav' insiders."
        Felknor has been the club's historian and librarian since the 1970s and the library bears his name. He found POD a "mixed blessing...the established procedure of dealing by phone with staff ‘author's representatives' who spoke fluent English in heavily Philippine-Spanish accents were a major trial for a pretty deaf author."

Regime Changes: Keeping Score
        Stephen Kinzer's next book is coming out in April, titled, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.
        The former New York Times bureau chief in Istanbul, he has written previous books on U.S. meddling in Central America and the Middle East, including All the Shah's Men: The Hidden Story of the CIA's Coup in Iran.

Land of the Second Chance
        In his "sweeping and provocative" new book, The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By, Dan P. McAdams argues that in fact a redemption narrative is central to how the most successful Americans view their life stories. "Since the first Europeans arrived on our shores, Americans have been reinventing themselves in astonishing ways and producing second, third and even fourth acts."
        McAdams, author of a dozen other books, is Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, where he holds joint appointments in the psychology and human development and social policy departments.

Piling Up Awards
        The Power of One: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine (Clarion) has won several awards for co-authors Dennis and Judy Fradin in recent months.
        Last August, the Fradins traveled to Los Angeles to receive the Golden Kite Honor Award from the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators.
        In November, it was the Carter Woodson Honor Award at the National Council of Social Studies convention in Kansas City, Mo.
        Dennis and Judy are currently completing two other young adult books. Five Thousand Miles to Freedom (National Geographic Children's Books) retells the ingenious slave-escape story of Ellen and William Craft. This couple fled from Macon, Ga., disguised as a white man (Ellen) and her slave (William).
        The Fradins are also finishing a young adult bio of Chicago's own Jane Addams, tentatively titled Miss Kindheart.


        Donna McCreary of Charlestown, Ind., is one of the leading Mary Todd Lincoln presenters in the nation. She is chair of the Mary Todd Lincoln committee for the Association of Lincoln Presenters. She has performed at schools, universities and festivals. She is author of Lincoln's Table (Guild Press).

Jeff Griggs, a friend and former student of the ImprovOlympic and Second City's Del Close, is author of Guru: My Days with Del Close (Ivan R. Dee, 2005). Publishers Weekly said: "Griggs, a friend and former student of Close's who assisted the ailing artist with his errands during the latter years of his life, takes readers on a jarring and otherworldly journey through the byways of Chicago."
        Booklist said Griggs' writing is "energetic and heartfelt, honest and utterly riveting." Griggs was born in Quincy, Ill., and attended Illinois colleges before becoming a radio host and weekend TV weather forecaster. He quit the media to study improvisational theater at ImprovOlympic. He is now an actor, director and improviser in Chicago.

        Ted McClelland, is staff writer for the Chicago Reader, where he writes a column called "At the Track" featuring stories from the racetrack. He wrote of Horseplayers: Life at the Track (Chicago Review Press, 2005), a first-hand account of a year McClelland spent " bankrolled by his publisher " trying to make a profit betting on horses. His work also has appeared in In These Times, Mother Jones and

        Billy Lombardo's collection of short fiction, The Logic of a Rose, Chicago Stories," was the winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. Lombardo directs the Community Service Program and teaches fiction at The Latin School of Chicago. He has had stories recently published, or forthcoming, in Story Quarterly, Cicada and the Bryant Literary Review. He is currently working on a baseball novel.

        Nicholas Kokonis, Ph.D., a professor at the College of Lake County, is author of Arcadia, My Arcadia, the story of a poor boy in the war-torn Arcadia of the 1950s trying to do what no one in his village ever had done: complete high school. Much like the protagonist, Kokonis is an Arcadian who came to America in 1962. He attended Roosevelt University and the Illinois Institute of Technology and for 15 years he was a regular columnist for the Greek Press.

        Wilbert R. Hasbrouck, author of The Chicago Architectural Club, has been a practicing architect in Chicago, specializing in historic renovation, for more than 40 years.
        From 1968 through 1975, he was the executive director of both the Chicago Chapter and the Illinois Council of the American Institute of Architects. He and his wife Marilyn published The Prairie School Review and continue to operate the Prairie Avenue Bookshop.
        In 1986 he was named Preservationist of the Year by the Chicago Coordinating Council for Landmarks Preservation. Hasbrouck was given a distinguished service award by the American Institute of Architects, Chicago Chapter, in 1975. He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1973.

        Sloan St. James of Orland Park, Ill., author of The Dark Plain, says the book is "my first expedition into the surreal side of my own imagination." Baycrest Books chose the book to be the launch title for its new romance line, Sunset Rapids. The Dark Plain was chosen as a finalist in the Prism, Golden Quill and Booksellers' Best awards.

        Claire Zulkey, a 2001 graduate of Georgetown University, is author of Girls! Girls! Girls! (stories and fictional humor pieces). Booklist wrote: "Zulkey imagines a new kind of chick lit, one where well-earned laughs and fierce satire dethrone cheesy dialogue and lengthy laments about not having any shoes to match a particular outfit." On the Web, she runs

        Arthur J. Bilek was chief of the Cook County Sheriff's Police, a member of the Chicago Crime Commission and a professor at Loyola University. He lives in Evanston and is co-author of The St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

        Steve Huntley is editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and a former senior editor at U.S. News and World Report. He is co-author with Truman Gibson of Knocking Down Barriers.

        Janis F. Kearney is chancellor's lecturer at Chicago City Colleges. She was former President Bill Clinton's personal diarist from 1995-2001. She is author of Cotton Field of Dreams: A Memoir.

        J. Niimi writes about music for a number of publications, including the Chicago Reader, Seattle Weekly and City Pages. He has worked as a studio engineer and producer, and has toured and recorded six albums with his band, Ashtray Boy. He is author of R.E.M.'s Murmur.

How to Nominate New Members

        Membership in the Society of Midland Authors is only by invitation from the board of directors.
        Bylaws require that authors reside in or be strongly identified with the 12 Midwestern states. Also, their books must be published by recognized publishers.
        Existing members may nominate another author by sending the following information to Society of Midland Authors at P.O. Box 10419, Chicago, IL 60610: name, address, title of book(s), publisher. (click for printable nomination form)

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