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March 1999

Hitting the Jackpot with Your First (or Next) Book
Best-selling authors Jacquelyn Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean) and Scott Turow (Presumed Innocent) will describe their experiences.

Where: Cliff Dwellers Club, 22nd floor, Borg-Warner Building, 200 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
When: 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 13
Reservations: 312/922-8080. Please no later than the day before Public invited. Hors d'oeuvres, reception and presentation: $10 for nonmembers. FREE for paid-up SMA members

By Jim Schwab

Society of Midland Authors members have a unique new opportunity to connect with the reading public while helping the Society raise its own profile.

In a wholly new arrangement worked out with Katey Schwartz, events coordinator at the chain's Webster Place store at 1441 W. Webster Ave., in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, the SMA and Barnes & Noble will co-sponsor monthly programs featuring Midland authors.

The series will be launched on Wednesday, May 19, at 7 p.m., with the winners of the Society's annual book awards, who will be able to read from and sign their works.

This will be the evening immediately following the annual awards banquet, which will take place May 18 at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave.

While we will not know who those winners will be until the judges have made their decisions around April 1, all winners will be invited to participate in the program if they are available. We hope that those who live away from Chicago will be able to stay an extra day for this special inaugural program. Barnes & Noble will pay for the publicity for the programs, but SMA has agreed to take responsibility for its own internal promotion of the program.

Parking at Webster Place is free with validation of one's parking ticket from Barnes & Noble or any other store in the complex. The program is open and free to the public, and we hope that SMA members can assist in building a following for this series in order to make this a successful experiment. Following the May program, a series of monthly summer programs will occur on the same week night evening, which will be announced in upcoming newsletters.

In the fall, the programs will shift to a weekend time slot, probably a Saturday afternoon. Each program will feature one or more Midland authors under a common theme, either a specific genre or subject matter (for example, local history or political biography). Ideas for authors and themes can be directed to Jim Schwab, who negotiated the arrangements and is arranging the programming. This series is intended to supplement rather than replace the existing series of programs at the Cliff Dwellers Club, where the primary audience has been our own membership.

We hope that the two series can create a synergy in developing some mutual following.

Here's an update on the panelists for the SMA meeting April 13 at the Cliff Dwellers Club. Jacquelyn Mitchard toured 19 cities to promote her second novel, The Most Wanted. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, sold 915,000 copies in hardback and two million in paperback. It still ranks high on the Publishers Weekly mass market best sellers list. Scott Turow, who rose to bestsellerdom with Presumed Innocent, has just delivered the manuscript of a new novel to his agent. Personal Injuries is about "a charismatic but sleazy, skirt-chasing lawyer who has prospered by paying off corrupt judges."

Literary License often receives notices from members of book signings and speaking engagements we can't do anything about because of printing deadlines. To remedy that, SMA Webmaster Ray Hanania has added a new feature to the SMA website that allows you to post news of your upcoming activities for whole World Wide Web to read. For more information, see box below.

SMA programs frequently turn out to be on top of the news. The Feb. 10 program at the Cliff Dwellers Club, featuring three true-crime authors, fit this familiar pattern.

The frequency of death sentences in Illinois for wrongfully convicted prisoners is currently a hot topic. Tom Frisbie discussed his book, Victims of Justice, about the Nicarico murder case, in which the prosecutors are scheduled to go on trial in March for alleged misconduct. In that case two men sentenced to death later were shown to be innocent. The case was surrounded by ■incredible misinformation,■ he said. Sorting it out was a staggering project. "Readers want to be able to say, `Now I know what really happened.'"

Gera-Lund Kolarik described her youthful passion for reporting that led from a job with the Berwyn Life to television journalism to writing four meticulously researched accounts of major crimes. ■I love to (get inside) people's minds,■ she said. Her Free to Kill, now in its eighth printing, has sold 300,000 copies. A new book has been purchased for the movies under a contract that won't let her give the details just yet. She mentioned in passing that her Evidence Video company made the documentary that was shown in court recently in the widely publicized Rachel Barton lawsuit. Barton, a concert violinist, fell under a Metra commuter train when her violin caught in the doors.

William Helmer, former senior editor of Playboy, has chronicled the gangster scene of the 1920s and 1930s in several books, including Public Enemies: America's Criminal Past 1919-1940 (Facts on File).He recalled how crime esca- lated when Prohibition shut down saloons. Until then, police were able to catch many criminals through information from informants who hung around the bars.

He said J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which for many years denied the existence of the Mafia, focused on free-lance criminals like John Dillinger and Baby-Face Nelson, who could be pursued for Federal crimes and used to enhance the FBI's image. Helmer charged that FBI agents executed Nelson while he lay already wounded and helpless.

Keeping Us Awake
Writing in Illinois Libraries, a publication of the Illinois State Library, Susan Sussman (Audition for Murder) calls attention to the substantial number of other Illinois authors turning out mysteries. "Hundreds... have strewn bodies from the cornfields of southern Illinois to the horsy paddocks lining the Illinois- Wisconsin border.■ She briefly profiles ■a few of these dedicated and talented writers whose greatest joy is to keep us awake, frightened, laughing, wondering and, most of all, reading into the wee hours."

Included in the profiles are SMA members Mark Zubro, David Walker, Stella Pevsner, Marion Markham and Alzina Stone Dale.

Other SMA mystery authors listed but not profiled include: Raymond Benson, D.C. Brod, Alice Cromie, Jan Gleiter, Andrew M. Greeley, Barbara Gregorich, Barbara Sloan Hendershott, Gera-Lund Kolarik, Bill Love, Sara Paretsky, Patricia Pinianski, Les Roberts and Scott Turow.

Play Published
V. Glasgow Koste■s play, Stranger, will be published by Dramatic Publishing. It has been given staged readings at Chicago Dramatists, Indiana TheatreWorks and at the Duke Ellington Room in New York. It was also chosen for a collection of seven plays, published in Indiana Theatre Journal in 1998. Stranger was written with the support of an Indiana Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts Master Artist Fellowship.

Real Job: New Book

David R. McLaren writes from Springfield, Ill.: ■I'm quite happy to announce the arrival of my latest book, Mustangs Over Korea: The North American F-51 at War 1950-1953. Schiffer, 1999. My ninth effort. "I suppose that most parents might quake with trepidation if one of their children announced that they wanted to be a writer when they grow up. In my case, I waited until I retired from my government job before I seriously took it up. "So, as I am presenting my eldest son with a copy of my latest effort, he asks me when I am going to give up such a foolish endeavor and get a real job? "Keep up the good work with the SMA Literary License as I enjoy receiving it down here in middle America."

Working-Class Writers
Larry Smith is one of the editors of Writing Work: Writers on Working-Class Writing, published by Bottom Dog Press at Firelands College, Huron, Ohio. He also contributed a chapter titled, ■My Working Class Identity: How I Lost and Found It at the Movies." The Introduction says: "We asked the writers... to relate their own experience of a working-class culture, to describe their own process of coming to write, and finally to tell of the impact of other working-class writers and writings. "They were asked to help make that bridge with and for our readers. Taking our cue from the authentic directness of feminist criticism, we seek to lay the foundation for a working-class criticism."

Arts Magazine Wins Grant
Marci Whitney-Schenck's Christianity and the Arts magazine has received a grant of $100,000 for a three-year period from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to support a direct marketing program and help pay for upgraded printing and color reproduction of artwork. A nonprofit quarterly devoted to "promoting excellent Christian expression and to celebrating the revelation of God through the arts," Christianity and the Arts was one of 20 religious publications to receive nearly $2 million in grants. The invitational program, which was announced in May 1998, recognizes "the role of religious magazines in beginning and sustaining ongoing conversations with their readers to broaden their knowledge and to stimulate deeper understandings of the Christian faith."

Fights Skill Wars
Edward E. Gordon reports that his 10th book is scheduled for publication in 2000 by Butterworth, Heinemann. Skill Wars: Winning the Battle For Productivity and Profit decries a ■people paradox■ that ■now exists throughout America because of the poor fit between available jobs and available workers. "Unless we dramatically increase the knowledge of many more Americans, they run the real risk of becoming the `new techno-peasants' of the information age."

New Laurels for Laureate
More honors for Gwen-dolyn Brooks: She is among the highest vote getters in the Chicago Sun-Times poll to name the 100 top Chicagoans of the century. She has been inducted into the new Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. The ceremony was held at Chicago State University during the Eighth Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writers' Conference on Black Literature and Creative Writing. Former SMA president Dempsey J. Travis was a member of the panel that made a selection of 14 living writers and 19 to be honored posthumously.

Teaches Values
Kathleen Bostrom writes: "My book, The Value-Able Child: Teaching Values to Children at Home and School, (was) released on Feb. 22 by Good Year Books, a division of Addison Wesley (The Pearson Learning Group). "The second book in the `Questions From Little Hearts' series, Who is Jesus?, will be released in March. This is a picture book for young children. The first book in the series, What is God Like?, was released in March 1998.

Disaster Report
The American Planning Association will soon release a Planning Advisory Service Report, Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction, for which SMA President Jim Schwab served as the primary author and principal investigator. Four other researchers ■ two from Florida and two from California ■ contributed case studies concerning hurricane, earthquake, and wildfire recovery scenarios. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the project took five years of research and writing to complete. At more than 300 pages, the report is the largest APA has ever produced in its planning advisory series. The report will guide local planners across the nation who are faced with the need to plan for redevelopment of their communities following natural disasters.

Scenes of Crime
Alzina Stone Dale reports the following schedule of appearances and book signings:

March 20: "A Literary Springtime in Chicago," Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore, Oak Park. Panel moderator with Marilyn Clancy, David Cowan, Ursula Bielski, John Drummond and Kenan Heise.
April 14: National Library Week talk on "Chicago as the Scene of the Crime." Deerfield (Ill.) Public Library. Other appearances on her calendar will take her to Washington, D.C.; Bethesda, Md.; Muncie, Ind.; Bettendorf, Iowa, and Milwaukee.

Publisher Bites
Charlotte Herman reports: "Just as a fisherman waits patiently for a fish to bite, so I have waited for my new picture book to be published. But it's out now! How Yussel Caught the Gefilte Fish, published by Dutton Children's Books."

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