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April 2000

By Richard Frisbie

When the Chicago Sun-Times began planning its series, "100 Years in 100 Days: 20th Century Chicago," Irv Kupcinet, veteran columnist, refused to write the piece for 1900. "People might think that's when I was born," he said. He was prescient. Many of the 100 authors, including a considerable number of SMA members, chose to cover the year in which they were born. These were some of the behind-the-scenes details that emerged at the March 14 SMA meeting in the Cliff Dwellers Club. Writers who helped convert the newspaper series into a 216-page book, 20th Century Chicago: 100 Years, 100 Voices, were on hand to describe the process.

Adrienne Drell, award-winning Sun-Times reporter who directed the project, said there was considerable feedback from readers. A composing room worker, after reading about 1934, reported that his parents sat behind the "Lady in Red" the night John Dillinger was shot at the Biograph Theater in Chicago. A number of staff members enriched the visual impact of the book by lending period family photos. Roger Flaherty, assistant metro editor, who wrote about his birth year, 1938, described the difficulty of deciding what to leave out, when his research assembled so much interesting material.

Reading through files of the old Chicago Daily News, which in those days operated its own highly respected foreign service, he was struck by the reports day after day of Hitler's persecution of Jews, reports that should have warned the world of what was to come. Vicki Quade, former Newsweek correspondent and co-author of the hit show, Late Night Catechism, covered 1953, when one of the major news stories was an outbreak of polio. She recalled a moving interview with Sugar Rautbord, who despite being a victim of that epidemic, recovered enoughto become a glamorous socialite. At the time, "she felt she had let her family down; she wanted to die," she told Quade.

Tom Frisbie, a Sun-Times editor who had a lot to do with formatting and editing the book, was asked to write about 1995 because that was the year Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez were found to have been wrongly convicted of the murder of Jeanine Nicarico and sentenced to die. Freeing them led to a general exodus of innocent men from Death Row and a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. Frisbie wrote Victims of Justice, a book that chronicled the Nicarico case from start to finish. "Adrienne saw this as a big issue that may be the start of reform in the criminal justice system," Frisbie said.

In the audience from Champaign, Ill., was Joseph J. Bannon, Jr., whose Bannon Multimedia Group published the trade edition of the book with a time line and additional photos that did not appear in the daily newspaper series.

By Barbara Schaaf

Hail and Farewell
The March 5 "My View" column in the Chicago Tribune was a touching piece by Carol Madden Adorjan. Slugged "Making sure there's time to say goodbye," it told the story of a difficult trip to visit Adorjan's 90-year-old mother-in-law in a Florida hospice, and how a dreaded experience can turn into a comforting valedictory. Condolences to the Adorjan family on their loss.

More About Mel
Steve Neal of the Chicago Sun-Times devoted his March 4 column to Melvin Holli's latest book. Citing Theodore H. White's description of Chicago "as the political equivalent of Yellowstone National Park, Neal praised Holli's A View From Chicago's City Hall: Mid-Century to the Millennium, saying it "is worth the price of admission." ($18.95 from Arcadia).


Featured Illinois Poet
Yvonne Zipter writes that she has been selected to be the "featured Illinois poet in the Spring 2000 issue of the Spoon River Poetry Review, due out toward the end of April. "The issue will feature 11 of my poems, along with an interview of me conducted by the editor, Lucia Getsi. "I will also have two essays in the anthology Dykes with Baggage, due out from Alyson Press. One essay, `You Gotta Have Faith,' was written specifically for the anthology; the other, `Adventures in TherapyLand,' is being reprinted from my book, Ransacking the Closet." This spring she also had a poem, "Climbers," in Issue 14 of Mediphors: A Literary Journal of the Health Profession.

"Masterful Accomplishment"
Rosellen Brown's new novel, Half a Heart (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), was singled out for high praise by Publishers Weekly: "Always a master of plotting, Brown brings events to a suspenseful climax through a nightmarish situation and its shattering aftermath... "Provocative questions of moral, social and familial responsibility, of racial relationships, and of the claims of history on individual identity keep surfacing in this fiercely candid novel, surely one of Brown's most challenging, intelligent and masterful accomplishments." With publication in May, she'll embark on a 10-city author tour. Book of the Month Club will offer the book as a featured alternate.

Poetry Festival
In honor of National Poetry Month, the appropriately named Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University will host a national poetry festival April 15 on campus. Brooks herself will head a cast of Black poets in a program of readings, workshops and other literary events.

Eugene V. Debs Revisited
Bernard J. Brommel recently brushed up on his notes from his 1978 biography of Eugene V. Debs in order to lecture on the subject to an audience of retired Northwestern University professors. New History-Mystery Harriette Robinet's ninth book, Walking to the Bus Rider Blues, will be out in May from Atheneum/Simon and Schuster. It's a history-mystery set during the 1954 Rosa Parks bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. Her previous book, Forty Acres and a Mule, won the 1999 Scott O'Dell Award for children's historical fiction.

Mews Muse
Alzina Stone Dale's latest project is editing a book for the Mythopoetic Society on "Dorothy L. Sayers on Sherlock Holmes." It may include an unpublished BBC script in which Sayers' fictional Lord Peter Wimsey consults Sherlock Holmes about a lost kitten. Dale discovered the script by using E-mail. E-Bookstore

Dempsey J. Travis
Dempsey J. Travis, a former SMA president, is now selling his own books on his own website,

James Conklin
The president of the Friends of Literature died Feb. 12 at Rush/Presbyt-erian/St. Luke's hospital. He was an associate member of SMA, known to many for his role in helping organize co- operation between both organizations in promoting recognition of literary merit. Robert Adelsperger, also an SMA member, will succeed Conklin as FOL president. 85th Anniversary Celebration and Awards Banquet
When: Tuesday, May 9, Cash bar, 6 pm; Dinner, 7 pm
Cost: $50
Where: Cliff Dwellers Club, 22nd Floor, Borg-Warner Building 200 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Parking: Across the street in Chicago Park District underground garage used also by Art Institute and Chicago Symphony patrons
Featured Speaker: Harry Mark Petrakis, "A Storyteller's Journey"
Awards will be given as usual for outstanding accomplishment in the fields of biography, poetry, adults' and children's fiction and nonfiction Plus special 85th anniversary observance Harry Mark Petrakis, author of such novels as A Dream of Kings, Ghost of the Sun, In the Land of Morning and Nick the Greek, is noted as a warm and witty speaker who always gives an audience a good time.

In addition, award winners who are able to receive their awards in person traditionally have shared heartfelt emotions with their fellow authors and told funny or poignant stories well worth hearing. On this special occasion, a sell-out is a possibility. Send in your reservations and check now. Reservation form and return envelope are enclosed.

Sell Your Own Books at Printers Row Book Fair
Chicago, June 3 & 4, 2000
Hours: 10 am to 6 pm
Location: 500 - 700 S. Dearborn St. and Polk St. from Plymouth Court to Clark St.
Parking: Commercial lots on Clark St. and State St.
This year, as an experiment, SMA has reserved tables at the Printers Row Book Fair to allow members to sell their own books to 70,000 booklovers (last year's attendance) who will be filing through. Authors will be responsible for bringing their own books, selling them, collecting the money and taking away any unsold copies afterwards.

SMA will assign times based on the number of responses received. If only a couple of authors sign up, you can have the whole weekend. If there are many participants, we will divide up the times as fairly as we can, first come, first served.

Please register me to sell my books at the Fair. I enclose my check for $25 to help defray the cost of the booth. (Include the following information with your payment:)

Name, Address, Phone, E-mail
Title you wish to promote
Preferred time slot on Saturday, June 3 or
Preferred time slot on Sunday, June 4

Mail $25 check with this form to Society of Midland Authors, P.O. Box 10419, Chicago, IL 60610. You may enclose form and check with dinner reservation and/or contribution if you wish, but be sure to designate what the money is for.

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