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BIOGRAPHERS FOLLOW FOOTNOTE TRAIL TO AVOID PLAGIARISM PITFALLS
By Richard Frisbie
To avoid inadvertent plagiarism
while using secondary sources, follow the footnotes.
That was the advice of Janet and
Gerry Souter at the March 13 SMA meeting in the Chicago Athletic Association when
they described their method of producing a series of biographies of famous artists.
So far, they've done Georgia O'Keeffe,
Frida Kahlo, Camille Claudel, Diego Rivera, Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder and
Mark Rothko for Parkstone-International publishers.
One thing these artists have in
common, Gerry said, is that they're all dead. Instead of interviewing their subjects,
the Souters have to work from diaries, letters and various archives. They use
the footnotes in previous biographies to track down sources. Instead of incurring
library fines, they buy the books they need for $5 or $6 from Amazon.com.
"We use only the facts,"
Janet said. "We frame different viewpoints in our own style."
This is something they are qualified
to do. Both are artists themselves and graduates of the School of the Art Institute.
Gerry said too many books about artists "carry the stink of a Ph. D. thesis."
The Souters also look at the artists'
works. They drove from their home in Arlington Heights, Ill., to review the full-size
Rivera murals in the Detroit Art Museum.
They said it may or may not be
a help if the subject has written an autobiography. Diego Rivera claimed in his
to have experimented with cannibalism in his youth, having found a source of fresh
corpses of accident victims. Gerry, who has been also a newspaperman, is skeptical
of that story.
Gerry read a passage from Rothko
in which the artist attempted to define "beauty" in such convoluted
and obscure language that it drew a laugh from the audience.
The Souters got the assignment
by following up a tip from the American Society of Authors and Journalists. Parkstone
had announced they were looking for writers.
Lavishly illustrated with the
artists' works, the books contain 40,000 to 50,000 words of text. They're published
in French and German as well as English.
The Souters have written more
than 30 books, sometimes separately, sometimes together.
Both of their names are on the
cover of the Rothko book. Janet did the O'Keeffe book. Gerry's books on Kahlo
and Rivera will soon be published as a boxed set.
Janet and Gerry review each other's
work. "She cools me down, I jazz her up," Gerry said.
Janet spoke of what they had learned
about their artists' relations with others. She admired O'Keeffe and Claudel as
"fiercely independent women," but artists, she said, aren't very good
"caregivers." Claudel, who had a stormy relationship with the sculptor
Auguste Rodin probably would have benefitted from Prozac®.
Although Hopper slapped his wife
around, it was she who promoted his career. She fought back, too, with her fingernails.
Gerry said Calder was an exception,
"a wonderful person."
OTHER MEMBER NEWS
Happy Outcome for Small Publisher
In a recent full-page Publishers
Weekly feature, the chief of the Independent Publishers Group gloated over
their handling of a best-seller from Haki Madhubuti and his Third World Press.
The book was The Covenant with
Black America, a collection of essays by important black thinkers, introduced
by broadcasting personality Tavis Smiley.
Curt Matthews, who is also CEO
of Chicago Review Press, explained that both he and Madhubuti recognized the book's
But sometimes a bestseller can
ruin a small publisher. As sales take off and the media rave, the temptation is
to print too many copies. As the excitement dies down, the returns flood in and
eat up the profits.
With Covenant, the IPG
staff "worked crazy hours" to get 50,000 books into the stores. Then
reprints were held to batches of 25,000 or 30,000 as more orders came in.
The happy ending was that almost
all of 315,000 copies were sold and paid for.
Nurturing Wonder in Children
Martin E. Marty's new book, The
Mystery of the Child, is "breathtakingly ambitious in scope, written
with the author's customary sober and reflective erudition," said Publishers
Children, he writes, are not a
problem to be controlled. Instead, adults should not only "nurture wonder
in children, but to seek their own 'childlikeness.'"
Although written for a general
audience, the book's scholarly underpinnings grew out of a three-year study at
Emory University of "The Child in Law, Religion and Society."
Sidewalks of Chicago
The long-running "Sidewalks"
feature in the Chicago Tribune with text by Rick Kogan and photos by Charles
Osgood has been turned into a book of the same name, a "beautiful coffee-table
In a Tribune review, Jonathan
Alter of Newsweek wrote that Kogan's books "make me--a native Chicagoan
now living in the emotionally colder climate of New York--homesick."
Sidewalks covers famous
and obscure landmarks, celebrities and the ordinary folks Kogan meets strolling
Alter observed, "In New York
you're in finance, or journalism, or fashion, or some other industry that is so
big you never manage to connect with the other worlds. In Chicago, the circles
are smaller and more concentric. This makes for a richer social life."
Luck Enriches Historical Novel
Rebecca Johns, author of Icebergs,
got two lucky breaks when researching her historical fiction novel, which was
inspired partly by a World War II-era plane crash involving her grandfather, Johns
told a group March 10 at the Niles Library in Niles, Ill.
The first break was that the world's only remaining flight-worthy B-24, the kind
of plane her grandfather had been on, was brought on tour to Palwaukee Airport
near Chicago, giving her a chance to fly on it and gather details that would help
her describe the aircraft.
The second break was that her research led her to the fellow airman who saved
her grandfather's life in 1944 when he was thrown headfirst from a crashing B-24
into a snowbank on the Labrador coast and couldn't climb free on his own.
One of the main characters in
Johns' novel, Walt Dunmore, is similarly aboard a crashing B-24 and is trapped
in a snowbank. The book, Johns' first, follows the lives of the families of two
aviators in the crash, one who lives and one who dies, and shows how the crash
affects their lives.
Also, just as J.R.R. Tolkien said he was inspired to write The Hobbit when
the first line of the book popped into his head, Johns said the last line of Icebergs
suddenly came to her on March 10, 2002, inspiring her to write a book worthy of
it. And what was that last line? Well, to understand its significance, Johns has
some advice: read the book.
Johns, who now lives in Iowa City, was born in Libertyville, Ill., and is a graduate
of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Icebergs (Bloomsbury) won the Michener-Copernicus
Poet Laureate Promotes New CD
As Illinois Poet Laureate, Kevin
Stein has announced release of the first-ever audio compact disk poetry anthology,
Bread & Steel: Illinois Poets Reading from Their Works. "Through the
voices of established poets and those just emerging in the art form, listeners
journey along the thoroughfares and back roads of Illinois diverse poetic landscape."
Bread & Steel offers the
voices of 24 poets, including Dave Etter, Susan Hahn, Li-Young Lee, Haki Madhubuti
and Lisel Mueller, reflecting "the cultural, aesthetic and racial mix of
Building on the popularity of
audio and video poetry offerings on the Illinois Poet Laureate's website (www.poetlaureate.il.gov),
Bread & Steel, Stein said, "is a must-have addition to the holdings
of Illinois school and public libraries, delivering the intimacy of the poetry
coffeehouse to the library or classroom."
Funds from the purchase of Bread
& Steel will support other ventures to promote Illinois poetry, most particularly
Stein's Poetry Now! project, which he has funded out of his own pocket.
Grants from Poetry Now to more
than 20 Illinois libraries "aim to create an audience for contemporary poetry
in rural and urban locales not generally immersed in the current poetry scene."
Merchant Marine on D-Day
Bruce Felknor writes: "The
National D-Day Memorial at Bedford, Va., invited me to lecture at the end of January
on "The Normandy Invasion: Getting it There." I did so, with PowerPoint
illustrations, to an enthusiastic overflow audience.
"I described the intense
secret planning and development of the two artificial harbors implanted on the
Normandy shore, each the size of the port of Gibraltar--whose major elements were
essentially invented by Winston Churchill two decades earlier. The placement began
on D-Day plus 1.
"The narrative came from
my 1998 book, The U. S. Merchant Marine at War, 1776-1945 (Naval Institute
Press), and subsequent research, plus 'Bruce Felknor's Page at the Merchant Marine
Web site (usmm.org). Book sales from the Memorial's gift shop exhausted its modest
stock and I had to sign book plates for the back orders; that was a kick for a
"The merchant marine angle,
virtually unknown today, was that the towboats who towed and emplaced great concrete
harbor structures from England, and the battle-scarred freighters sailed there
and sunk to provide breakwaters, all were manned by merchant seamen (except for
a scattering of Army and Navy tugs)...
"The merchant mariners, of
course, manned the troopships and freighters and tankers that delivered most of
the men and all the supplies and weapons of war across U-boat-filled seas."
A "Greek John Steinbeck"
Arcadia, My Arcadia by
Chicagoan Nicholas D. Kokonis won a "First Homer Award" and "Gold
Medal" from the International Society of Greek Authors at the Cultural Center
of Athens on Jan. 11. Arcadia, My Arcadia has been widely acclaimed by
some as "a hymn to the ordinary immigrant men and women who, unable to earn
a living in their homeland, chased their dream and caught it abroad."
For others, "it is a book
that must enter our home like a loved one who was missing for years."
For still others, "Nikos
Kokonis reminds us of a Greek John Steinbeck."
In February, the honors literature
course at Northeastern Illinois University discussed the book in an open-to-the
The story is currently under movie
option consideration and a Greek edition will be available in the immediate future.
Linda Nemec Foster's most recent
book of poetry, Listen to the Landscape (Eerdmans), was a finalist for
the 2006 Michigan Notable Book Award. It was a collaboration with photographer
Dianne Carroll Burdick.
Foster completed another collaboration
last year with jazz musician Steve Talaga.
Her poetry chapbook, Contemplating
the Heavens, was the inspiration for Talaga's original score and CD of the
same name. Composed over a two-year period, the piece combines classical, jazz,
blues, fusion, and contemporary music elements that reviewers have hailed as "haunting,
eclectic and powerful."
The original score and CD have
been nominated for this year's Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Another poetry book, Amber
Necklace From Gdansk (LSU Press), was the subject of a panel discussion including
Foster at the January American Historical Association's annual conference in Atlanta.
"Best First Mystery"
Lori Andrews' Sequence
(paperback, April 2007) has been nominated for a Romantic Times Best First Mystery
In May, she'll host an important
conference and see publication of another new book.
On May 21 in Chicago , she will
lead a free conference on "Who Owns Your Body?" with author Michael
Crichton. She is a law professor and the director of the Institute for Science,
Law and Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
for her new book, The Silent
Assassin (St. Martin's Minotaur) research took her from the White House to
a former journalists' club in Vietnam.
"Sequence is a cutting
edge forensic thriller with a smart, edgy female protagonist," according
to Chuck Hogan, author of
Prince of Thieves.
Blurb detail: "Alexandra
(Alex) Blake is a cutting-edge geneticist who has just taken a two-year post at
the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) in Washington, D. C.
"Her boss, Colonel Jack Wiatt,
angry at losing his chance to head the FBI, decides to outfox that agency by pulling
Alex away from her work sequencing the 1918 Spanish flu and thrusting her into
"Alex helps track a serial
killer who is targeting women near Navy bases, raping them and tattooing them
after he murders them.
"But when Alex's work expands
to include the murder of the FBI head's ex-husband, the suspects include the Senator,
a Congressman who is Alex's one chance at a stable romance, and even Wiatt and
his staff, Alex puts her own life in jeopardy to bring the case to a surprising
RECENT NEW MEMBERS
By Thomas Frisbie
A veteran Chicago reporter at
the Daily Law Bulletin and an editor, Jerry Crimmins is author of Fort
Dearborn, a novel that Publishers Weekly calls "vividly imagined
and scrupulously documented."
Fort Dearborn tells its
story through the eyes of two young boys and their fathers --one father a sergeant
with the United States First Infantry, the other a Potawatomi warrior.
Booklist says, "The
novel reads like a suspense story yet will reward readers with in-depth knowledge
of a pivotal period in U.S. history."
Crimmins is author also of the
1992 book, Obits and Murders.
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