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Literary License Newsletter heading

April 2006

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        The Society of Midland Authors has endured since 1915 while many other worthy literary organizations have faded away. The explanation is that generations of leaders have succeeded not only in recruiting new members year after year but also in replacing themselves.
        All of the Society's functions are carried out by volunteers. So there's always room for more workers to join committees, find they enjoy helping out and perhaps move up to become directors and officers.
        One of the foundations that help fund SMA once commented that we "certainly do a lot with a little."
        Activities include sponsoring annual awards in six categories, holding monthly public programs in season and an awards dinner each year, publishing eight issues of Literary License and a yearbook, and in general providing fellowship for Midwestern authors.
        After the current season concludes with the annual dinner May 9, SMA will begin focusing on next year and forming committees to tackle the behind-the-scenes work that makes all this possible.
        If you would like to join one of the committees, please tell SMA what interests you most and list your pertinent qualifications. Send this information to Thomas Frisbie, president, 12 S. Owen, Mt. Prospect, IL 60056. E-mail:

        Writing about science is like translating languages, Carol Rausch Albright ( told the audience at the Feb. 14 SMA meeting in the Chicago Athletic Association.
        She knows, having spent her career writing books like The Humanizing Brain: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet, lecturing and editing scientific articles for non-scientists and vice versa. A former World Book editor, she's now executive editor of Zygon: Journal of
Science & Religion
        It's a field attracting growing international interest, with more and more conferences, university courses and grant money. The John Templeton Foundation alone awards an annual prize currently worth more than $1.4 million for advancing "spiritual matters, including research in love, creativity, purpose, infinity, intelligence, thanksgiving and prayer."
        The trouble, said Albright is that in the debates between science and religion, neither party understands the other without help.
        Writers "have to think more clearly what you're trying to say," and avoid jargon, with "compassion for students."
        While scientists tend to be those who quit going to church as soon as their mothers let them, "religionists" are the ones who "avoided science classes."
        Consider the human trait of anger. Scientists take an interest in measuring adrenaline and other physiological components. Ethicists try to understand the effect on personality and human relationships.
        An example of misunderstanding is the statement by proponents of intelligent design that "evolution is only a theory." To scientists, a theory is an explanation of natural phenomena that was once a hypothesis but has since become widely accepted in the world of science. Gravitation is still "only a theory," but if you drop a rock it will land on your foot.
        Albright conceded that seemingly established theories do change, sometimes despite resistance of older scientists, as new insights take hold. The Big Bang theory of the beginning of the universe was an example.
        "Science can tell us what's out there," she said, "but it can't tell you how to live."
        In the end, the challenge for science writers is make the subject seem relevant.."Why should readers care, anyway?"


Can You Top This?
        Not all the winners are selected yet in this year's SMA literary competition, but we certainly know who wins for the heaviest book in the competition. The Return of Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (Andrews McMeel Publishing) weighs in at 23 pounds per three-volume, slip-cased set with a total of 1,456 pages.
        The "limited-edition" first printing of 250,000 copies weighed 250 metric tons, and used 34,957 reams of paper and 12 metric tons of ink.
        For die-hard Calvin and Hobbes fans it will be well worth it because the set includes every Watterson strip (3,160) from the cartoon's launch on Nov. 18, 1985, to its final run on Dec. 31, 1995. During its syndication, Calvin and Hobbes ran in more than 2,400 newspapers.

Chicago Architecture Wellspring
        Another hefty tome is Wilbert R. Hasbrouck's The Chicago Architectural Club: Prelude to the Modern (640 pages, The Monacelli Press), which documents "the history of the organization and its role in shaping architectural education and modern architectural practice."
         The Club was founded in 1885 and provided a place where draftsman could learn, compete and socialize. The book is rife with photos and illustrations. Stanley Tigerman contributed the book's epilogue. Hasbrouck, FAIA, is a practicing architect in Chicago and a founder of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, as well as a former director of the Society of Architectural Historians.
        His wife, with whom he works closely, is founder and president of the Prairie Avenue Bookstore.         


Golden Oldie Mysteries
Alzina Stone Dale will discuss Golden Oldies here and abroad and their social settings then and now at 2 pm Saturday, April 29, at Centuries & Sleuths bookstore in Forest Park, Ill.
        She'll describe the "Upstairs Downstairs" social scene between
the wars, with special mention of the recently published Dorothy L. Sayers' short story, "The Travelling Rug" (with a female housemaid sleuth) and a biography of Josephine Tey by her cousin UK mystery writer Catherine Aird.

Distinguished Alum Reads
Every month Chicago's Columbia College presents a distinguished alum in a reading series called Literature & Libations. On March 7, the speaker was Arnie Bernstein, who offered a preview of the new book he's working on.

Fellowship for Prose
Barbara Croft has been awarded a 2006 Illinois Arts Council fellowship for prose, based on the submission of a portion of her unpublished novel, Tree of Heaven.

Returns for Lectures
Kathy Stevenson writes, "I am currently dividing my time between Lake Forest and Haverford, Pa., and enjoy getting the SMA newsletter even though I can't attend meetings right now. I hope to be back in Lake Forest permanently in a few years."
        She will be back in Illinois long enough to speak during National Library Week for the Lake Forest Library Cross Currents program on Tuesday, April 4, at 10 a.m. at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest on "How Place Informs Fiction." Also at the Algonquin Public Library that same evening at 7 p.m. on "From Idea to Publication."
        She has been publishing commentary/essays regularly in the Philadelphia Inquirer and editing her second novel, Clear Springs.
        Kathy Stevenson's essays, feature articles and short stories have appeared in such publications as Newsweek, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, The Writer, The Christian Science Monitor, Redbook, American Way, American Book Review and many others.
        She is also the author of The Lake Poet, a historical novel published in 2001, and Lake Forest Moments, a collection of essays about Lake Forest.

Poet Collaborates With Photog
Linda Nemec Foster's new book, Listen to the Landscape, is a collaboration with fine arts photographer, Dianne Carroll Burdick. Foster's poetry is coupled with Burdock's hand-colored landscape photographs to produce an effect that writer Jack Driscoll describes as filled with "clarity and grace." The book will be published in September by Eerdmans Publishing.
        Foster recently received more good news from The National Poetry Review. The literary journal selected her poem, "The Field Behind the Dying Father's House," as first runner-up in its national competition, The Laureate Prize for Poetry.
        The poem will be published in the summer issue.                 

New Novel from Award Winner
Robert Hellenga, an SMA fiction award winner, has just published a new novel, Philosophy Made Simple (Little Brown & Co.)
        The publisher's blurb says, "In what he interprets as a moment of transcendent vision, Rudy Harrington buys an avocado grove in the Rio Grande Valley and takes up philosophy. The wisdom that emerges from his struggles with Plato and Aristotle, Schopenhauer and Sartre is put to the test when he enlists the neighborhood elephant to preside over his daughter's Hindu wedding and falls in love with the groom's mother."
        Hellenga was scheduled to read at Barbara's Books in Oak Park, Ill., on March 16. He also recently received an Illinois Arts Council finalist award.

Lawyers in Love
Alan H. Neff's new book, Blauser's Building (Denlinger's Publishers, Ltd.), is described as "a comic, dark and fast-moving David-and-Goliath story about lawyers in Chicago—lawyers in love (but not with the law)."

Two Books This Fall
June Sawyers has two books coming out this fall. She's the editor of Read the Beatles: Classic and New Writings on the Beatles, Their Legacy, and Why They Still Matter, which Penguin is scheduled to publish in November, and Tougher than the Rest: The 100 Best Bruce Springsteen Songs, which Omnibus Press will publish some time this fall.

Playwright Does Novel
Robert Vivian, whose collection of creative nonfiction, Cold Snap as Yearning, won the SMA Nonfiction Award in 2002, has a first novel, The Mover of Bones, due out from the University of Nebraska Press in fall of 2006. He also has had more than 20 plays produced on and off Broadway.

Reads from New Novel
Award-winning Chicago poet Beatriz Badikian Gartler will read from her new novel, Old Gloves: A 20th Century Saga, Wednesday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m. at the Harold Washington Library Center's
Chicago Authors Room on the seventh floor.

Soupçon of Danger
Blue Balliett, author of the much-acclaimed Chasing Vermeer, has a new children's book out in April from Scholastic.
        The Wright 3 is about sixth graders who foil a plot to destroy a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
        Publishers Weekly says, "Those who enjoyed the first adventure will be quickly drawn in once more by...a sophisticated subject spiced by puzzles, codes and a soupçon of danger."


Michael Argetsinger
 Michael Argetsinger is past president of the Publicity Club of Chicago and a past officer of the Chicago Area Runners.

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