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Literary License Newsletter heading

April 2004

        The SMA's annual banquet is a celebration of the Book.
        Award winners tell how and why they write. Their stories are sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious.        
        And this year the featured speakers will be the author of an acclaimed novel re-discovered after a generation of neglect and the filmmaker who brought it back to life on the screen.
        Dow Mossman first published The Stones of Summer in 1972. The Washington Post praised it. The New York Times Book Review critic John Seelye wrote: "The Stones of Summer is a holy book, and it burns with a sacred fire, a generational fire, moon-fire, stone-fire….a marvelous achievement."
        Nevertheless, it went out of print.
        The book resurfaced recently when filmmaker Mark Moskowitz read it and began a search for Mossman that he documented in his award-winning 2002 film, Stone Reader, about the pleasures of reading.
        Now the novel has been reissued by Barnes & Noble Books.
        The dinner will be held this year on Tuesday, May 11, in the Chicago Athletic Assn. instead of the Cliff Dwellers Club. Tickets will cost $50.
        If you wish to stay overnight after the dinner, the CAA will have rooms available for $125, including tax. For reservations, call the CAA directly at 312-236-7500 and mention SMA.

Contributions Sought

        The reason there's a line on the enclosed reservation card asking for a contribution is that SMA must work to raise the funds each year to pay for the awards.
        Your dues cover only the printing, mailing and other ordinary expenses of the organization.


Tom Ciesielka
TC Public Relations
        Although publishers often have their own in-house publicity departments, most publishers provide little media relations support for their books.
        How much they will do for each title varies from a simple catalog listing to an all-out media relations campaign targeting magazines and television and radio interview shows.
        There is not enough space this month to explain exactly how they go about deciding whether a book gets the standard public relations package or the deluxe version.
        What I can say is that like everything else in business it's about the potential return on the investment.
        If the publisher determines that your book does not get the deluxe package and you decide to hire a public relations professional, here are some points to consider:
        1.Why do you want the media coverage? You need to decide if more media exposure will help you sell more books or will give you third-party endorsements for your speaking engagements. Perhaps you'll use the press coverage to help get a publisher interested in your next title.
        2. How much should you spend? Consider how many books you will have to sell to make up the money. Suppose you spend $2,500. Based on royalties from the publisher, it could be a couple of thousand books. However, if you are selling the book directly, it might only take 300 or 400 copies because you are buying the books wholesale and selling them retail.
        3. Where to go? There are a number of public relations firms around the country that specialize in book publicity. It is not necessary to hire someone where you live. Rather, expertise, track record and price might point you to the agency that best fits your needs.
        If you plan to spend a considerable amount of money, it would be a good idea to speak to at least three agencies.
        Next month's tip: When do book signings make sense and when are they a waste of time?

        SMA is aware that much of the news in Literary License focuses on members living in the Chicago area. That's because we see items in the local papers and recognize some of our names.
        Obviously, we can't read all the papers in the 12 states covered by SMA.
        We also recognize some members' names in Publishers Weekly, which is national in coverage, but with well over 300 members, we can't keep everyone's name in mind.
        The best way for Literary License to cover news of your books and your career is for you to send it in.
        E-mail is preferred (see masthead). A well-printed hard copy or fax that can be scanned and digitized is also OK.
        Sending a copy of your new book is overkill. It could be weeks before we'd have time to read it.
        Handwriting is discouraged. It leads to spelling errors. Especially obscure handwriting may be ignored, because we just run out of time rather than because of pique. Well, maybe that too.
        Sending in your news is worth your trouble. Many of our readers, besides being authors themselves, are editors, reviewers, booksellers and others whose attention can benefit your career in various ways.

Promoting Poetry
        In his new honorary post as the fourth Illinois Poet Laureate, Kevin Stein plans to promote poetry reading through the state.
        "When I'm done, I want people to be able to look at something tangible," he told the Daily Herald in an interview at his home in Dunlap. Ill.
        He's planning to ask several leading Illinois poets to read their work on a CD to be distributed statewide to public libraries.
        The plan depends on his being able to raise the funds from the honoraria he gets from public appearances as laureate. The state provides no budget.
        Stein himself likes to read poetry in unexpected settings, such as rural schools, nursing homes and a classic-rock radio station.
        He also hopes to create a Web site for Illinois poets and organize a youth poetry contest.
        "Stein is determined to leave his mark on a role held previously by such legends as Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks," the Herald reported.
        Both Brooks and Sandburg were also SMA members. The first Poet Laureate, Howard B. Austin, who served from 1936 to 1962, may have been. (SMA membership records for those years weren't readily available at press time.)

Chicago Under Glass
        Mark Jacob and a co-author, Rich Cahan, are working on a book based on 380 photos from the Chicago Daily News covering the period 1900 to 1930.
        The working title is City Under Glass because during those years Daily New staff photographers used glass negatives.
        The book will be published by the Chicago Historical Society, which owns thousands of glass negatives from the paper's archives.
        Besides combing the collection, Jacob and Cahan have interviewed Daily News photographers from the era who are still alive.

Distinguished Alumnus
        Ed Baumann will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2004 from the alumni association of Kenosha Bradford High School at a dinner in Kenosha, Wis., on June 26.
        Although Baumann has indeed enjoyed a distinguished career in journalism and as an author, he told the newsletter still published for onetime Daily News staffers, "I barely squeaked by with a C- average when I graduated in January of 1944 before going directly into the service."

Uptown Story
        The success story of SMA award winner Aleksandar Hemon is told in a new community performance show by Scrap Mettle SOUL, The Other Way: Stories of the New Uptown.
        Former SMA President Carol Jean Carlson is managing the show, which runs April 29 through May 9 in Uptown at Alternatives, Inc., 4730 N. Sheridan Road.
        General admission tickets are $10; student and senior citizen tickets are $5. Tickets are free for those who cannot afford to pay. To make advance reservations call: (773) 275-3999.
        With music and stories, The Other Way tells of the trials of recent immigrants, including Aleksandar Hemon, who immigrated from Bosnia-Herzegovina after Sarajevo fell under siege.
        Struggling to make it in America, he said, "I couldn't get a publisher to let me empty her trash, let alone look at my work." However, after his translated piece, "The Sorge Spy Ring," won a literary prize, a New York agent signed him on.
        Often compared to bilingual writers Nabokov and Conrad, Hemon is the author of The Question of Bruno and Nowhere Man, and his work appears regularly in The New Yorker, Esquire, Granta, McSweeneys, Paris Review and Best American Short Stories.

No Reform
        Reviewing James L. Merriner's new book, the Chicago Sun-Times wondered whether there's "crookedness in the lifeblood of the city."
        Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago: 1833-2003 tells the colorful stories of such episodes as the Great Boodle Trial of 1887, the Yerkes streetcar scandal, Capone era thuggery and more recent outbreaks of bribery, kickbacks and other violations of the public trust.
        "When Merriner delves into the characters engaged in corruption and in driving reform, his history sings," the Sun-Times reported.
        A former political editor for the Sun-Times and the Atlanta Constitution, Merriner has watched various attempts at reform eventually fail.
        He believes the best solution to corruption is less government, so "there's less boodle for politicians to swipe."
        But privatization, of course, opens the door to bid rigging, insider contracts and other ways to cheat taxpayers.
        Merriner will speak about his book at SMA's Nov. 9 meeting.

Named to Ethics Commission
        Scott Turow has been appointed to the new Illinois state ethics commission.
        The commission will investigate allegations of ethical misconduct by executive branch officials and advise the government on ethical issues.
        Turow was a prosecutor before achieving literary fame with his popular legal thrillers. He has also played a significant role in the state's re-examination of the death penalty.

"Lively Writing"
        Laurie Lawlor's new book, The School at Crooked Creek, tells the story of an Indiana frontier family in the 1820s. Her "lively writing," says Kirkus Reviews, evokes the period "as well as a solid story of a brother and sister learning to help each other feel important."
        She's the author of more than 30 books and winner of many awards.

By Tom Frisbie
                William Burger works at the Field Museum of Natural History. He is author of Perfect Planet, Clever Species (Prometheus, 2003).

        Deborah Adelman lives in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and teaches English at the College of DuPage. She is a member of the Modern Language Association of America and the National Council of Teachers.
        She has done residencies at the Ragdale Foundation and received Pushcart nominations for The Boy Who Would Have Been and La Loca.
        Her books also include The Children of Perestroika and The Children of Perestroika Come of Age.

        Michael H. Brownstein is a Chicago author, poet and upper-grade inner-city teacher. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in over 400 literary journals and magazines.
        He has written five poetry chapbooks.

        Armando Favazza is associate chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Missouri.
        He is known internationally for his work in cultural psychiatry and deliberate self-harm and religion. He is author of Psychobible: Behavior, Religion & the Holy Book (Pitchstone, 2004) and Bodies Under Siege.

        Robert O. Harder wrote a four-volume history of north-central Minnesota that received nominations for the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award. He also won the 2004 Minnesota Magazine Short Fiction Contest.
        A descendent of Algonquian chief Powhatan and Pocahontas, Horder flew 154 Vietnam combat missions. Later, he was a Montgomery Ward vice president.
        He and his wife, Dee Dee, live in Chicago and Big Sandy Lake, Minn.

        John Jakle is a professor of both geography and landscape architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has authored or co-authored ten books and numerous professional papers. He is essentially a landscape historian focused on America's evolving built environments, concerned with both their functional and aesthetic aspects.

        Tom Lichtenheld is a children's book author/illustrator and freelance advertising art director whose Everything I Know About Pirates was featured in Newsweek as one of the best children's books of 2000.
        His advertising work for clients such as BMW, Lee Jeans and United Airlines has won virtually every award in advertising.

        Thomas McNulty is author of Errol Flynn: The Life and Career (McFarland,2004). Before writing his book, Thomas McNulty was a successful free-lance magazine writer for many years.

        James Conroyd Martin is an English teacher and department chairman at Marian Catholic. His novel Push Not the River (St. Martin's, 2003) is based on the translated diary of the Polish Countess Anna Maria Berezowska, who was born outside Warsaw just after the First Partition of Poland in 1772.

        Nathan Thompson is author of Kings: The True Story of Chicago's Policy Kings and Numbers Racketeers. His works on Bronzeville and the policy game have been published in Source magazine, the Chicago Defender and Lakefront Outlook newspapers. He's been featured on Chicago Tonight, Tavis Smiley's National Public Radio show, 848 with Richard Steele and the Cliff Kelley Show.

        Formerly a grade school teacher in St.Paul/Minneapolis, David Haynes now teaches creating writing at Southern Methodist University.
        In 1996 Granta magazine called him one of the best young American novelists.
        His Right By My Side won the 1992 Minnesota Voices Project award and was listed by ALA as one of the best books for young adults.
        Other novels include The Full Matilda, due out next month, and All American Dream Dolls, Live at Five and Somebody Else's Mama.

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