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E-gads! Will e-books e-rupt? Changes on way, authors say
Technology is rapidly changing how books are promoted and may
change the way they are printed, but readers are still enthusiastic
about reading them, two fiction authors told Society of Midland
Authors members at their regular monthly program on Feb. 10.
Shawn Shiflett, who teaches fiction writing at Columbia
College, said that on the day of the program he asked his students
what they thought about electronic books such as Amazon's Kindle,
the second generation of which had just been announced that
"They turned out to be the biggest Luddites," Shiflett said.
"They said, 'We like the way the pages feel. We want to smell
the book binding.'
[One] student said, 'If I could get rid of my cell phone and
my e-mail, I would.' I was floored."
Even so, new technology will not only change the way we read
but also the way we write, Shiflett said.
"[In class], we are reading Madame Bovary, and it is
driving my students crazy," he said. "We just don't think like
And even Madame Bovary, by omitting "Dear Reader" digressions,
was an advance in economy of style over some earlier writing,
Another way technology might change books is that publishers
no longer will have to set arbitrary limits on length, Stephanie
"I was over the 100,000-word mark, and [the publisher] said
we will have to raise the price on your book if we go over the
word count," Kuehnert said. "With any sort of e-book reader,
that wouldn't be a problem."
Technology also is changing the way authors promote books,
said Kuehnert, who is going through an auction process for her
"I am someone who Twitters a lot," she said. "I think it is
a great promotional tool.
"I remember being a teenager and dreaming of being able to
correspond with authors who I admired," she added. "Now teenagers
who enjoy my book can do that instantly through My Space or
Kuehnert also said she did most of her publicity online. A
friend set up a Web site and Kuehnert set up a "street team"
whose members would enter special contests in exchange for placing
the most book covers on the Web with a link.
"They got that banner up in over 200 places," Kuehnert said
"It was very cost effective."
An author's blog also is effective, she said, and she also
is planning a video trailer to promote her new book.
Shiflett pointed out that, as technology makes it easier for
authors to self-publish, they are hampered by a general perception
that self-published books aren't worth reading.
"It is totally not fair," he said. "If you are a filmmaker
[who personally obtains financing for a film], you are looked
at as savvy."
But the old perceptions of self-publishing will evolve, he
"I think it is going to become more acceptable," he said.
'Children and young adults are surprising, humbling readers'
Q&A with Laurie Lawlor
Laurie Lawlor, who has written more than 35 books
of fiction and nonfiction, many of them award-winning, will
be one of the panelists at the Society of Midland Authors' March
10 program on writing for children and young adults.
Partly intrigued by the fact that Literary License
and Lawlor share the same initials, Literary License
recently caught up with her for an interview:
Q: Have you detected a change in children's interests during
the time you have been writing books?
Laurie Lawlor: Children and young adults are some of the most
demanding, humbling readers on the planet. Their interests are
diverse, insatiable, and always surprising. For the past 23
years that I have been a published author, I never cease to
be amazed by their comments, suggestions and ideas. Adults tend
to be the real problem. Many have a narrow, often commercialized
view of what children can handle or what they'll find appealing.
In difficult economic times publishing has tightened considerably.
It's a tough market especially for new writers.
Q: How did you research your historical books?
Laurie Lawlor: Research is probably one of my favorite parts
of my job. If I could, I would never write the book. Historical
research does not differ considerably from nonfiction research.
I begin with secondary sources and then move to primary source
material: diaries, letters, newspapers, first-hand accounts,
oral history anything I can get my hands on. Travel to
museums, cemeteries, and the actual landscape I'm investigating
helps enormously. The Internet is helpful for locating art and
photographs and answering small questions. However, it is a
little like looking through a periscope. Far too little is revealed.
Q: Does writing for different age levels create special challenges?
Laurie Lawlor: I enjoy the stretch necessary to reach different
age groups. This fall I sold to Holiday House my first alphabet
picture book, a delightful collection of American proverbial
phrases that is being illustrated by Ethan Long. I'm also working
on an older YA novel and a middle grade biography. I like being
challenged and never find my work repetitive or boring.
Q: Of the more than 35 books you have written, do you have
Laurie Lawlor: Coming from a theatrical family, I have always
been a great admirer of William Shakespeare. The Two Loves of
Will Shakespeare, a YA novel published by Holiday House, remains
one of my favorites. Sandburg Award winner Shadow Catcher: The
Life and Work of Edward S. Curtis, now available in paperback
through Bison Imprint, University of Nebraska Press, is one
that I found particularly inspiring to work on because I discovered
in Curtis the artist-as-hero, a photographer who refused to
give up. Stamina is something all writers need, especially if
we see our work as a lifelong endeavor.
Q: What's your next book about?
Laurie Lawlor: I have become very interested in the environmental
movement and how we engage children and young adults in experiencing,
appreciating, and protecting our natural world. I am currently
working on a nonfiction book about pioneer naturalists.
Mark Jacob and his brother Matthew have signed a contract
with Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, to produce
What the Great Ate, a collection of anecdotes about the
dining habits of the greatest people in history. Mark welcomes
suggestions from SMA members (he's at firstname.lastname@example.org.),
but don't bother with the story of Elvis Presley's "peanut-butter-and-nanner"
sandwiches. He already knows all about that.
On Feb. 5, the Chicago Tribune published a profile of entrepreneur
and historian Dempsey Travis, who was Society of Midland
Authors president from 1988 to 1990. Travis is president of
Travis Realty Co. and author of 20 books.
Kathy Stevenson will present "Writing for Publication"
at Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.
Also at Gorton, on Feb. 26 at 10 a.m., Stevenson will read from
her newest work at a "Morning Spotlight." Her essays have recently
appeared in Sheridan Road and Forest & Bluff magazines, and
for the past year Kathy has written a weekly column for Main
Line Life newspaper in suburban Philadelphia. Last month, Kathy
began the Bennington Writing Seminars MFA program at Bennington
College in Bennington, Vt.
Penguin/Putnam will release a new edition of Cheryl L.
Reed's Unveiled: The Hidden Lives of Nuns in spring,
J. Niimi's book R.E.M.'s Murmur (Continuum,
2005) was recently released in Kindle format by Amazon.com.
Also, Niimi contributed an artwork for the "All Aboard Future"
show at the Secret Project Robot gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y.,
which runs Feb. 13-20. The show features works by 15 authors
from New York, Chicago and Beijing.
Keir Graff's most recent book, One Nation, Under
God, is now available in paperback. Also, in October his
short story "Untitled" was the second runner-up in the Chicago
Crime Writers Competition.
Pat Kummer, one of the panelists for the March 10 SMA
meeting, writes books for the educational market. With a B.A.
and M.A. in history, she taught social studies before becoming
a social studies textbook editor and then a freelance writer.
Besides textbook materials, she has written 60 nonfiction books
for children and young adults. Also on the March 10 panel will
be Esther Hershenhorn, author of picture books and middle-grade
fiction, who teaches writing for children at the University
of Chicago's Writer's Studio and the Newberry Library and coaches
writers of all ages to help them tell their stories.
In the Feb. 11 Tribune, a columnist quoted Carol Felsenthal
on her one-time fantasy job: "In my mind, I was working
at a store like Barbara's on Wells Street in Old Town helping
customers figure out which novel to read next, explaining why
one Jane Austen novel, in my opinion, was better than another,
or why Edith Wharton's best novel is not her most famous."
"As a father of two young girls, I'm always on the lookout
for new children's books," wrote a contributor Feb. 13 on Blogcritics.org.
"And that brought me to the wonderful book titled The One
and Only Marigold by Florence Parry Heide. At age
89, Heide has written more books for kids than I can count."
Robert Hellenga's novel The Fall of a Sparrow got
a citation Feb. 11 in the online Economic Times.
Detroit author Sylvia M. Hubbard, who has been writing
a blog called "How to Love a Black Woman" since 2005 and who
says she reads 50 relationship books a year, was quoted Feb.
2 in ajc.com [the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's site].
History professor Ann Durkin Keating has been a busy
news source lately. She was quoted in the Feb. 13 Aurora (Ill.)
Beacon-News about Abraham Lincoln, in the Jan. 19 (Chicago)
Daily Herald and in the Jan. 20 Naperville (Ill.) Sun. about
Children's writer and Peoria native Kate Klise, co-author
of the "Regarding..." series, will be at Peoria's Lakeview Branch
Library on Feb. 24.
Kristen Laine was interviewed Jan. 21 on Vermont Public
Radio about marching bands.
Richard Longworth's book, Caught in the Middle:
America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism, has
gone into its third printing. Longworth has given more than
120 presentations on the book around the Midwest to universities
(Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa State, Marquette, DePaul,
the U. of C., Northern Iowa, Northwestern, Ball State, etc.),
community colleges, economic development corporations, national
and international conferences in Detroit and Chicago, and civic
groups, including the Chicago Lawyer chapter of the American
Constitution Society at DePaul.
Dan McAdams was one of the "thoughtful academics from
a variety of disciplines" interviewed Feb. 8 by Miller-McCune.com
about President Obama's call for sacrifice. "I think his chances
are very good," said McAdams, a research psychologist at Northwestern
University. "Americans have typically responded well to appeals
for sacrifice, especially during a time of national crisis."
McAdams' primary area of research is on "generativity," the
concern for, and commitment to, promoting the well-being of
Donna McCreary's Lincoln's Table: A President's
Culinary Journey from Cabin to Cosmopolitan was quoted in
the Feb. 10 Indianapolis Star.
On Feb. 9, swans.com reviewed Scott Turow's Ultimate
Punishment, A Lawyer's Reflections On Dealing With The Death
Penalty. The review quoted SMA President James Merriner's
The Man Who Emptied Death Row: Governor George Ryan
and the Politics of Crime.
My Little Red Book, an anthology published this month
of more than 90 women's stories of the first time they got their
period, includes a contribution from Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Frances Shani Parker, author of Becoming Dead Right:
A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes was scheduled
to speak Feb. 13 at the Detroit Unity Temple in Detroit.
Last month, readitnews.com said of Benjamin Percy,
"Few writers have captured the emotional core of the Iraq war
with the conviction of this 28-year-old author."
Among the experts DePaul University listed last month who
could discuss the scandal involving former Illinois Gov. Rod
Blagojevich was Craig Sautter, visiting faculty, School
for New Learning. DePaul said, "Sautter has expertise in the
history of political corruption in Illinois."
Tentatively titled Get Capone, Jonathan Eig's book-to-be
uses recently released memos written by the IRS investigators
who finally brought Capone down.
Josh Karp, who's teaching journalism at Northwestern
and DePaul, last month completed the first draft of his new
book, a semi-humorous first person look at the world of golf
and spirituality coming in spring 2010 from Chronicle Books.
On Updike: 'You forget what a tremendous
story that is'
Novelist John Updike died on Jan. 27. Wearing its reporting
hat, Literary License talked that day to several Midland
Authors about the news. Here's what they said:
Joe Meno, an award-winning novelist, writer of short
fiction and playwright who teaches fiction writing at Columbia
College Chicago [see New Books], by coincidence the very day
Updike died was teaching one of his short stories:
"Today was the first day of class in the new semester and
we read 'A&P.' A lot of folks get that story foisted on them
in high school. You forget what a tremendous story that is,
humorous and vibrant. It is one of my favorite pieces.
"It has just an infectious type of humor, but it is really
tragic at the end. It kind of balances the humor with a sense
of tragedy, too, which is a large part of his work.
"All of the Rabbit series are hilarious, but inevitably end
in the worst possible way for the characters. When he came to
prominence, he and Philip Roth were some of the first writers
to write about the suburban experience. Now that America has
become more and more one giant suburb, it seems to fill so many
films and television shows, but at the time people were used
to novels being about characters who were extraordinary, but
not as familiar as our neighbors in suburbia. It definitely
is part of the tradition he will leave behind."
"He has this great sense of humor, he never takes himself
so seriously that he can't discuss issues of sexuality really
frankly. That is part of his legacy as well. So much of his
work deals with male sexuality. He was a pioneer in some ways.
"[When we read A&P] it sounded like a 19-year-old undergraduate
as lively and colloquial as anything they would write
now. He seems incredibly timeless. It seems as significant and
wild as when it first came out."
Sara Paretsky, the award-winning creator of the V.I.
Warshawski detective novels: "His novels never really spoke
to me, but I very much admired him as a critic and an essayist
and I thought more than almost any other person in the world
of letters he understood the interplay between fiction and culture
in the way that he wrote about it.
"It feels like a real loss, even though I never knew him personally."
Harry Mark Petrakis, author of 21 books, including,
most recently, The Shepherd of Shadows:
"To write a single book is like climbing a steep mountain.
A writer needs courage, discipline and devotion to one's craft.
John Updike mustered these qualities 50 times, a feat few other
writers will ever manage to accomplish."
Scott Turow, writer, lawyer and the author of seven
"I was a passionate Updike fan, especially of the four Rabbit
novels, which I thought offered an unequalled portrait of the
way the mind meets the present and rivaled Tolstoy in their
breadth and their unsparing lack of sentimentality about a man
who had grace within his grasp and repeatedly fumbled it away.
"When the last of the Rabbit books appeared I wrote Updike
a euphoric letter, which he was kind enough to answer. I met
him once after that. He was kindly but remarkably aloof. A mutual
friend talked about setting up a golf date for the three of
us, but I never got to Massachusetts with my clubs. I made the
mistake of thinking there was time.
"He was our greatest living man of letters and should have
won the Nobel Prize long ago. As a novelist, he was like the
girl with a curl but his greatest work stands beside
the very best books of the 20th century."
More Words to the Wise
Arbutus Press, 2009
Since the year 2001, Michael J. Sheehan has had a
program on the talk radio station WTCM-AM 580 in Traverse
City, Mich. Along with his co-host, he fields questions each
Tuesday morning about the English language. The topics include
word and phrase origins, points of grammar and punctuation,
pet peeves, pronunciation, funny gaffes in advertising and
broadcasting, writing tips, and anything else remotely connected
to our living, lissome language.
The questions contained in this More Words to the Wise
were called in during the show or later e-mailed to him
during the past four years. They are real questions asked
by real people, some of them confused by our mother tongue,
some of them bemused by its jabs and dekes.
As in the companion volumes written for Arbutus Press, the
questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity,
but the essence of the original interchanges has been preserved.
Frisbie Communications, 2009
Life Together is the title of a new chapbook just
published by Margery Frisbie. Of the 39 poems included,
24 are new and 15 have been previously published in various
newspapers and journals. This is her second book of verse.
She is the author of several other books, including An
Alley in Chicago, a widely quoted biography of the late
Monsignor John. J. Egan.
The Great Perhaps
Norton, May, 2009
In Joe Meno's latest novel, the sky is falling for
the Caspers, a family of cowards: for Jonathan, a paleontologist,
searching in vain for a prehistoric giant squid; for his wife,
Madeline, an animal behaviorist with a failing experiment;
for their daughter, Amelia, a disappointed teenage revolutionary;
for her younger sister, Thisbe, on a frustrated search for
God; and for grandfather Henry, who wants to disappear, limiting
himself to 11 words a day, then 10, then nine.
When Jonathan and Madeline suddenly decide to separate,
this nuclear family is split, each member forced to confront
his or her own cowardice.
In its Feb. 2 issue, Publishers Weekly said, "Meno continues
to employ his keen sense of human nature, this time exploring
the tumultuous landscapes of a contemporary Chicago family.
Meno's handle on the written word is fresh and inviting,
conjuring up a story that delves deeply into the human heart."
Sweet Lou and the Cubs
Lyons Press, March 3, 2009
George Castle's 10th baseball book since 1998 is
out Sweet Lou and the Cubs. (Don't confuse it with
another new book called Sweet Lou.) The book is a chronicle
of manager Lou Piniella's first two seasons at the Cubs' helm,
featuring plenty of insightful and funny anecdotes about Piniella,
profiles of key players and a chronicle of how the team improved
its under-staffed baseball operation in time to help Piniella.
Sweet Lou and the Cubs competes in a crowded market.
Two other new Cubs books are out, and some 25 other titles,
including Castle's old books, already are on bookstore shelves.
Castle, whose syndicated weekly Diamond Gems radio show is
entering its 16th season this year, previously authored
I Remember Harry Caray,
Sammy Sosa: Clearing The Vines,
The I-55 Series: Cubs vs. Cardinals,
The Million-To-One-Team: Why the Chicago Cubs Haven't Won
the Pennant Since 1945,
Throwbacks: Old-School Players in Today's Game,
Where Have All Our Cubs Gone?,
Baseball and The Media and Entangled in Ivy: Inside the Cubs'
Quest for October.
Werner Krieglstein, a Fulbright Scholar and University
of Chicago fellow, is professor of philosophy and religious
studies at the College of DuPage.
He has lectured internationally and appeared in a European
film on the life of Nietzsche.
He is the founder of a neo-Nietzschen philosophical school
called Transcendental Perspectivism, and he is author of The
Dice Playing God (1991, University Press of America), Compassion:
A New Philosophy of the Other (2002, Editions Rodopi B.V.) and
Compassionate Thinking: An Introduction to Philosophy (2006,
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.). He just finished writing a spiritual
sci-fi novel called Einstein's Mistake and has an agent in England
who has offered a contract, but he has not signed up yet.
His Wikipedia page is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Krieglstein
The Society of Midland Authors is continuing its effort to
build up its Endowment Fund to enable the Society to increase
the size of the book awards we give each May.
Thanks to the following members who have donated this year
to the Fund:
Robert Remer (chairman of the Endowment Fund), Bernard
J. Brommel, Phyllis M. Choyke, Mary Claire Hersh, Elsa Marston,
Jon S. Anderson, Jean B. Elshtain, Kathleen A. Stevenson, William
E. Barnhart, Elinor P. Swiger, Harriette G. Robinet, Timothy
J. Gilfoyle, Shirley Haas, Charles J. Masters, Michael R. Argetsinger,
Robert J. McClory, Elizabeth A. Fama, Carol Felsenthal, Jacquelyn
Mitchard and Dominick A. Pacyga.
New Board Member
The Board of the Society of Midland authors has appointed
a new director to fill a vacancy on the board. Richard Bales,
author of The Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs. O'Leary's
Cow, is assistant regional counsel of the Wheaton, Ill.,
office of the Chicago Title Insurance Co. the company
that maintains the only set of land records that survived the
His term will expire in 2011.
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