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March 2002


        The list of awards to be given at the annual SMA dinner on May 14 at the Chicago Athletic Association will be expanded to honor a critic.
        The James Friend Memorial Award for Literary and Theater Criticism will be funded by Beverly Friend, a long-time member both of SMA and of the Friends of Literature.
        SMA has honored literary critics in the past, as recently as 1996 with the cooperation of the Friends of Literature.
        Despite a long and distinguished history, that organization has been unable to attract enough new members in recent years and is now disbanding.
        In view of their financial and emotional support of authors down the years, the SMA board of directors voted to invite the remaining members of the Friends to become associate members of SMA.
        It is thought that perhaps about 10 persons will sign up.
        The Friends of Literature has given the James Friend award 14 times.


        What amounts to a free Web site of your own is now one of the benefits of your membership in the Society of Midland Authors.
        Here's how it works. E-mail your usual résumé to our Webmaster, Mary Claire Hersh, at Attach a photo if you like. She'll post it on the SMA Web site along with pages from other members.
        Anyone using an Internet search engine to look for your name eventually will find your page.
        If you don't have E-mail, you can send a typed résumé to Mary Claire Hersh at 5000 Marine Drive, #6A, Chicago, IL 60640. She'll scan it into the system. If you enclose a photo, she can scan that too. But if you want the photo back, be sure to include a stamped self-addressed envelope.
        We don't propose to do any keyboarding, so hand-written submissions will be ignored.
        Refer any questions to Mary Claire at 773/561-2778.

March Meeting
Highlights from his Chicago Tribune columns

Where: Chicago Athletic Assn., 12 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
When: Tuesday, March 12, 6 p.m. social hour, 7 p. m. program
Reservations NOT needed. Public invited. Hors d'oeuvres, wine and soft drinks, reception and presentation: $10 for members, $15 for non-members.
For information, call Matt Smolek at the C.A.A.; 312/236-7500, Ext. 2113.

By Carol Carlson

        For most of his 40-odd years as a Chicago journalist for Time, Life and the Chicago Tribune, Jon Anderson has been writing about the real people of Chicago as well as the city's many interesting visitors. His profiles appear regularly in a column called "City Watch."
        The best of these columns from the 1990s have been collected in a book entitled City Watch: Discovering the Uncommon Chicago. Join us as Anderson shares his stories in person.
        Among the many profiles in the book are:

  • A unique look at Evanston's pride, the Oakton Elementary School Chess Team
  • A tour with Czech President Vaclav Havel, a man Anderson calls "the world's hippest head of state"
  • An unlikely profile of 35 tribesmen from Indonesia and an unusual welcoming dinner party in Winnetka
  • A visit with the founder of Cats-Are-Purrsons-Too, a nun with 67 cats
  • A tale of a man who, starting with one light pole, wound up painting all the light poles in his neighborhood.

        Jon Anderson has been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune for the past 20 years. In 1999, he was awarded the Studs Terkel Award by the Community Media Workshop of Chicago for reporting on Chicago's diverse neighborhoods. Anderson lives in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Other Coming Events

Tuesday, Apr. 9 – Jane Smith.
Tuesday, May 14 –Awards Banquet.

Board Meetings

Third Wednesdays of each month:
Mar.20, Apr.17, May 29.

By Tom Frisbie

        Chicago's varied building design historically has been the No. 1 lure for movie-makers, said film historian and author Arnie Bernstein during his Feb. 12 presentation to the Midland Authors at the Chicago Athletic Association.
         "One of the reasons film-makers love Chicago so much is the architecture," said Bernstein, author of Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100 Years of Chicago and the Movies, which won the First Place American Regional History Publishing Award for the Midwest region. "It can be so many things. We have such a variety--such a beautiful array of architecture."
         For example, film-makers have recreated East Germany in Pullman and have used the Field Museum as a set for Washington, D.C.
         "One of the most popular things to film is the Wrigley Building,"
Bernstein said. "Directors love it."
         During his presentation, Bernstein showed clips of such movies as Within Our Gates, Call Northside 777, Native Son, North by Northwest, Medium Cool, The Fury, Soul Food, Hoop Dreams, The Relic, Charlie Chaplain's His New Job and others.
         Many of early cinema's breakthroughs were invented in Chicago in the late 1800s and early 1900s when the city was a major film-making center and home to two top studios. Back then, Bernstein said, Chicagoans might easily see lions, tigers or bears roaming near Western and Irving Park, where they were kept handy for wildlife scenes.
         Even after the big studios moved to California, where they could film year-round, movies shot in Chicago helped to document the city's history. Call Northside 777 (1948) shows many old buildings in the Back of the Yards area that are gone today, for example, and Native Son (1949) contains significant footage of long-vanished city neighborhoods, even though much of the film was shot in Argentina to save money.
         Today, though, movie-making has tailed off sharply in Chicago, Bernstein said. "Since Sept. 11, there has been a lot less filming here. People don't want to leave Los Angeles."

By Barbara Schaaf

Universal Nightmare
        Even Freud had That Nightmare about flunking, according to Mary Jane Bezark's feature in the Chicago Tribune on test anxiety and dreams.
        Apparently dreaming in advance about failing can be a positive thing, even if you have long left school.

Parlez Vous D'Amato
        Fans of Barbara D'Amato will soon be able to read her Forge Press series in another language. A discerning French publisher has bought the rights.

A Touch of the Irish
        David Walker read from The End of Emerald Woods, featuring series sleuth Malachy Foley at the Sulzer Regional Library. As a chaser, he revealed "Why We Love To Read (And Write) Mysteries."
        Foley's fourth adventure will be published March 25. (Publishers Weekly already is saying nice things about it. "No Show of Remorse "...moves nicely along...a solid read.")

Former SMA Presidents Make News
        Best and Brightest: The late Leon Forrest's posthumous work, Meteor in the Madhouse, was selected by the Chicago Tribune as one of the best books of 2001.

        They Had a Little List: In The FBI Files: On the Tainted and the Damned (Urban Research Press), Dempsey J. Travis recounts the not-so-pretty story of the Bureau and its preoccupation with "minorities, foreigners and left wing thinkers" as well as the cooperation of satellite Red Squads in major American cities, including Chicago.
        Such dangerous citizens as Helen Keller, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Lloyd Wright, Orson Welles and Sammy Davis, Jr., were under surveillance by the G-men.
        (Travis was among the movers and shakers who belong to the Original Forty Club profiled in the Chicago Tribune Magazine on Jan. 27, 2002.)

Ready for His Close-up
        One can hardly turn on one's television set without seeing Rich Lindberg. Channel 11 drew on Lindberg's expertise for two installments of "Chicago Stories": one on the Edgewater Beach Hotel and another on Chief Francis O'Neil, who worked to preserve Irish folk music.
        Cable's Travel Channel is developing a series on infamous places, and went straight to Lindberg for his knowledge of Dillinger and Capone.


Arab-American Aftermath
        Ray Hanania is one of 18 authors contributing to a new book about the
aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack called "Dispatches from a Wounded World" (, 2002).
        Hanania's essay, "The Arab American Nightmare," details his confrontations with bigotry and tragedy in the hours after the attack.
        Hanania is also organizing a national conference on Arab and Muslim- American journalism, featuring more than 45 speakers at the Radisson O'Hare Hotel, March 8 - 10.
         Speakers at the Saturday night banquet include Al-Jazeera Washington Bureau Chief Hafez Mirazi and Lorraine Ali of Newsweek.
        Details on the conference, which is open to the public, are on his Web site at

Another Book Signing
        Kathy Stevenson will be signing her new historical novel The Lake Poet at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court - Monday, March 18, 2002 at 7:30 p.m.

Helps Win Energy Grant
        James Schwab helped Chicago Lutherans collect a $65,000 grant to increase energy efficiency of church facilities. As chair of the Envir-onmental Concerns Working Group for the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, he recently appeared in a news photo of the presentation with Lutheran Bishop Paul R. Landahl and representatives of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.
        The Foundation presented 28 such grants totaling $2.1 million around the state to promote "using cost savings from energy efficiency investments to promote economic development."
        Schwab, who writes books on environmental subjects, reported on grass roots experience at his own Chicago congregation. By switching exterior lights, interior exit signs and 45 lights in the sanctuary from incandescent to fluorescent,"we cut our electricity usage about 30 percent," he says.
        The church now uses 13,396 kilowatt hours less electricity each year, saving $100 a month. The savings paid back the $3,000 cost of the change in less than three years, freeing thousands of dollars for church projects.
        Since electricity is generated mostly by burning fossil fuels, the reduction also prevents as much as 25,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere every year.

Oprah Encore
        In the wake of her Oprah's Book Club success with her novel, Open House, Elizabeth Berg has just published Ordinary Life, a collection of 15 stories (Random House).
        Publishers Weekly describes them as "focusing on those moments in women's lives that provide opportunities for reflection...Berg's gentle probing of everyday events offers insight into turning points of life. They're "..indelible...affecting."
FDR's Political Pollster Unveiled
        Mel Holli's new book, The Wizard of Washington: Emil Hurja, Franklin Roosevelt and the Birth of Public Opinion, tells the story of the nation's first public opinion pollster.
        Emil Hurja applied the new science of polling in behalf of FDR in the campaigns of 1932, 1934 and 1936. Holli describes him as the "driving force behind the Democrats during the New Deal era."
        This is Holli's 16 th book. His previous book, The American Mayor: The Best and Worst Big-City Leaders, attracted widespread coverage in the media.
        Holli is professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"One of 10 Best Books"
        Another honor has been earned by Milton Nieuwsma's 1998 book, Kinderlager: An Oral History of Young Holocaust Survivors.
        The Institute of Higher European Studies in The Hague has listed it as one of the 10 best books written about the Holocaust.
        It traces the ghetto, labor camp and death camp experience through the eyes of three young Jewish girls.
        The book previously was recommended among "Best Books for Teens" by the New York Public Library and as a "Must Read" by the Scholastic Teen Book Club.
        Nieuwsma told the Holland Sentinal (Mich.) that he'd been interested in the Holocaust since childhood, when he'd met Corrie ten Boom, whose family hid Jews during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. She came as a guest speaker to the California church where his father was pastor and lodged with his family.


         With smaller literary agencies, the standard commission charged authors long ago rose from 10 per cent of royalties to 15 per cent.
        Now, according to The New York Times, even the largest agencies, including William Morris and International Creative Management, are following suit.
        Possible explanations: "advances have fallen in the last decade as growth in overall sales of books has slowed, growth in sales of best-sellers has outpaced that of other books and publishers have increasingly focused on competing for top-selling authors."
        An Authors Guild attorney said no one was complaining about agents' commissions. "Our fight is more with publishers and other users of our work."
        If the advance is large enough, why sweat the commission?

Editor: Richard Frisbie
Contributing Editor: Barbara Schaaf
Suite 104, 445 W. Erie St., Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: 312/397-0992    Fax: 312/255-9865

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