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Literary License Newsletter heading

January 2007

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        The Society of Midland Authors Literary Competition for books published in 2006 is now underway. From its inception in 1915, the Society has honored outstanding authors and poets.
        Currently the Society presents awards of cash and recognition plaques to winners in the categories of adult fiction and nonfiction, biography, poetry and children's fiction and nonfiction published in the previous year. The juried competition is open to authors and poets who reside in, were born in, or have strong ties to the Midwestern heartland.
        Beginning in 2002, the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism is also presented under our aegis. In addition, at the discretion of the Society's officers and board of directors, lifetime achievement awards are presented to individuals who have donated their time and energies to assist the Society over a period of years and authors recognized for their contributions to Midwestern letters.
        States covered include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
        Awards chairman is Carol Jean Carlson.

By Richard Frisbie

        Author of more than 500 published works, winner of the National Book Award, the National Medal of Arts and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, Ray Bradbury obviously knows how to do what he does.
        At the Jan. 9 SMA meeting in the Chicago Athletic Association, his biographer, Sam Weller, shared some of the literary "pearls of wisdom" he picked up during four years of interviews with the master:

  • Write about what you love. Such childhood fascinations as the night sky, rocket ships, circuses and Bradbury's home town, Waukegan, keep emerging in his writing.
  • Work hard. After a slow start, Bradbury disciplined himself to write a story a week. The first year, he sold three out of 52. Then six the second year and 12 out of 52 the third year.
            By that time, his stories were being anthologized. Despite Bradbury's literary stature, Weller said, the publishing establishment has been confused by Bradbury's work.
            Bookstores tend to shelve his books with science fiction, but sci-fi writers complain about his loose approach to science.
            Actually, Weller said, Bradbury "writes about the human condition," and it doesn't matter if he "gives Mars two moons."
  • Be "tenacious." Bradbury kept giving his books, unsolicited, to John Huston. At first, Huston ignored him, but eventually Huston asked Bradbury to write the screen play for Moby Dick.

        What Bradbury can't do is write nonfiction. He's too disorganized to keep track of his notes. Weller told of helping Bradbury find a royalty check that had gone missing in a huge pile of papers and documents on his dining room table.
        It was for $200,000.
        Weller's own tip, which he followed in writing The Bradbury Chronicles (winner of last year's SMA nonfiction award): become a fanatic filer.
        His first step in beginning his 145,000-word Bradbury biography was to buy a filing cabinet.


Tell Yourself a Story About You
         Everyone has a story to tell, but how do you tell your own story? As part of its ongoing author series, Northwestern University's Center for the Writing Arts features Michele Weldon, NU assistant professor and author of the memoir, I Closed My Eyes, in the lecture, "So you Want to Write a Memoir" Thursday, Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. at the Pick-Laudati Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

No Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
        When Joel Greenberg saw a mockingbird in December near Lake Michigan, local newspapers and radio stations reported the news.
        As author of A Natural History of the Chicago Region, he is a respected expert. Although mockingbirds live in the south, if he said he saw a mockingbird, no one doubted that one somehow had found its way north.

Love and Murder
        Alzina Stone Dale will appear on a panel with Max Allan Collins and Gary Niebuhr at the Love is Murder/Of Dark and Stormy Nights annual mystery conference at the Wyndham O'Hare hotel near Chicago on Feb. 4. They'll discuss the "History of Mystery ."

Automotive Journalistic Excellence
        Michael Argetsinger's biography, Walt Hansgen, His Life and the History of Post-War American Road Racing, has drawn praise from critics since it was published in March.
        On Dec. 18, Argetsinger was awarded "Best of Books" and a gold medal in the biography category during the 16th International Automotive Media Awards Competition in Tucson.
        Earlier in the month at ceremonies in Los Angeles he was one of three finalists for the Motor Press Guild's Dean Batchelor Award, recognizing automotive journalistic excellence.

Tales Out of School
        As part of the spring reading series of the Poetry Center of Chicago, Billy Lombardo will appear on a panel "sharing war stories from education's front lines. Their work will focus on their experiences with their students and stories from a child's perspective."
        Other panelists will be Daniel Ferri and Taylor Mali.They'll appear April 11 in the ballroom at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Reservations Have Roads Too
        Three SMA members associated with the American Planning Association – James C. Schwab, Stuart Meck and Rebecca C. Retzlaff – recently combined to produce Tribal Transportation Programs: a Synthesis of Highway Practice.
        It's an aid to the larger Native American reservations, which have problems in common with county governments.

By Thomas Frisbie

        Andrea Cheng is the author of several books for children and young adults. Her first novel, Marika, was selected by the city of Cincinnati for "On the Same page," a citywide reading program. Honeysuckle House, Anna the Bookbinder and Shanghai Messenger received Parent's Choice Awards. Grandfather Counts was recently featured on Reading Rainbow. Her books draw on her background as the child of Hungarian immigrants as well as the background of her husband, the son of immigrants from China.
        She studied Chinese at Cornell University, where she received a master's degree in linguistics. She and her family have traveled to both Budapest and Shanghai to get to know their extended families. In addition to writing books for children, She teaches English as a Second Language at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. She lives with her husband and their three children in Cincinnati.


        David Miller, longtime companion of Beverly Friend, sponsor of the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism, died Dec. 23 of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 77.

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