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April 2009

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Society's 'page vs. stage' program: You could do verse
By Mark Eleveld

Yes, there are healthy aesthetic wars amongst the poetry masses. One current, and exaggerated, battle is the difference between the academic poets and the slam poets, or performance poets. The annual poetry program for the Midland Authors Society this April featured two of the lead proponents in this ever-going skirmish: poetry slam founder Marc Kelly Smith and Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein. The rules of engagement were simple: two poets from completely different worlds, one who writes primarily for the PAGE and another

who writes primarily for the STAGE. The poets read together for an hour, back and forth, poem for poem. It was not a slam or competition, just a good, spirited, entertaining poetry evening from different poetic genres.

A chiseled veteran of 24 years of hosting the most raucous, entertaining and scrutinized poetry reading on the planet, Smith organizes, performs and holds court at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge on Lawrence and Broadway every Sunday. Smith is also a darn good Chicago poet: "the entertainer: rarely had that word been applied to a poet … until Marc Smith created the slam," said the Chicago Tribune. Born on the Southeast Side of Chicago, Smith performed his original poems, read work from the current Illinois poet laureate and enthusiastically answered questions from a responsive, full crowd at the Cliff Dwellers. Dressed in black, moving about the audience, Smith talked about his ever-present shyness despite his 2000-plus performances. He detailed bits and pieces of his philosophy, that poetry slams were devised as a means of creating a community, of getting people out of their homes and amongst each other to watch and listen to words. "This movement, these poems aren't about me, I'm not the great poet, I've written a couple of good ones,'' he said. (He followed this up with his poem "My Father's Coat.") "Chicago has been given a great gift. It is because of Chicago that poetry slams, which are worldwide, have become what they are. Chicago needs to preserve some of this legacy, remain the place for poetry."

Likewise, Kevin Stein, the Illinois poet laureate, worked the room with details of his last four-plus years of duty and poems from his new book, Sufficiency of the Actual, "a self-deprecating societal evaluation that has a tendency to hug and butcher, with lightning word choices that ring seconds after the last of the thunder has been heard," as stated by the Chicago Sun-Times. Stein, a professor at Bradley University, remarked that he has read at over 200 poetry events since his inaugural year. He began his reading by suggesting that he doesn't believe that poetry is written primarily for the page. Stein writes his own work with a musical inclination, confessing to his childhood aspirations of rock 'n' roll banging (including an 18-minute cover of the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction"). "I believe all poetry is at root performative – whether for page or stage. To be honest, I never think of my poems as made only for the page – how limiting that would be – and have always been keen on sound and the musical phrase. How else do we think and feel?" He was very flattering, and encouraging of the poetry slam world in terms of shaking things up. As Smith gave homage to Stein by reading one of his pieces, Stein closed his set by reading a Smith poem, which he called, "a finely crafted, written poem."

The audience also was treated to famous Chicago poet David Hernandez, although he was not a scheduled reader. Hernandez was prompted to the stage by Smith and Stein alike. "Chicago ought to put a statue of this guy next Harry Caray," Smith said. Hernandez dedicated a piece to performance for Marc Smith and the page for Kevin Stein. The night ended with lively questions and answers. One audience member asked Smith where he could get a copy of "My Father's Coat."

Excerpt from "My Father's Coat"

It's not that I'm trying now

to be proud of my father.

I didn't like him.

He was a narrow man.

There was more of everything he should have done.

More of what he should have tried to understand.

The coat fit him well.

It fits me now.

I didn't love him,

But I wear the coat.

Biblio File

Authors who have come to rely on Biblio File as the publishing world's best source of author news have just one complaint: They have to wait a month until the next newsletter is published to find out what's going on. So the Society's social networking guru, SMA Vice President Robert Loerzel, has set up three new sites for our members – on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. "You can use these sites in several different ways" Loerzel said. "I find that Twitter is a pretty useful way of keeping track of news headlines – it's almost like today's equivalent of having an AP wire machine at your desk spewing out the latest news from the New York Times, NPR, etc. That's what it's like if you focus on following news sites.

"I've received alerts on Twitter that tickets for a concert are just about to sell out, or announcements about something interesting that's about to air on NPR. It's all a matter of which people you sign up to follow.

"Other people use it more as a social tool, of course. It's kind of nice to telling a bunch of your friends all at once about something you're doing – maybe going on vacation, seeing a play, etc.

"I tend to use Facebook more for the socializing and Twitter more for the news, but that's not true for everyone."

SMA Board Member Arnie Bernstein took time out from promoting his new book to add this comment, "Here's a helpful hint. Make a file bookmark in your Web browser for Twitter. In that file, bookmark all of the people you are "following" on Twitter. This will help reduce the clutter and filter out useful information and updates as opposed to someone who happily wants to tell you that he or she just ate a peanut butter sandwich." So follow the Society on Twitter at http://twitter. com/midlandauthors. Become our fan at Become our friend at http://www. myspace. com/midlandauthors.

Florence Parry Heide's next picture book will be Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of the Girl Who Floated (Schwartz and Wade, Sept. 22, 2009). It chronicles the adventures of a princess who is so light that she floats.

The Chicago Sun-Times on March 29 ran a reflection by Harry Mark Petrakis: "The black Achilles: Author Harry Mark Petrakis recalls the confused battles along the color line in 1930s Chicago." The piece ran in the newspaper's Commentary section with an illustration by Thomas Frisbie.

A publication party for Arnie Bernstein's new book, Bath Massacre, was held April 19 at Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Forest Park. He promoted the event April 16 on the WGN Channel 9 Noon News between 12:15-12:30 p.m. (archived at, also was Rick Kogan's guest April 20 on Kogan's "Sunday Papers" program. "The launch was something of a geological strata of my life," Bernstein told Biblio File. "People from every phase of my life where there: the parents of my best friend since the third grade, high school buddies, an old neighbor from nearly 30 years ago, people I used to work with, a former student and some current students, writing friends plus assorted relatives. It was like looking over a mosaic of where I've been at various stages of my being. Wonderful, exhilarating and very satisfying. And wall-to-wall people, which is always fun." The May 2 Michigan debut of the book will be held in Lansing at the Capital Area District Library and will be taped for C-SPAN's Book-TV.

Paul McComas' 14-minute black-and-white film "Blood of the Wolfman" will be shown from 11 p.m. to midnight May 1 at 911 Foster Ave., Evanston.

The New York Times reported April 7 that Scott Turow will change publishers – from Farrar, Straus & Giroux to Grand Central Publishing, a division of the Hachette Book Group – for his sequel to Presumed Innocent (See March Literary License).

Larry Lund, president of the Cliff Dwellers, where the Society of Midland Authors hosts its monthly programs, reports the Cliff Dwellers have added 23 members since October, for a total of 423.

Like all administrations, the Obama White House is turning to the Midland Authors for the real scoop: Ed Gordon went to Washington April 16-22 to talk to the Department of Labor, National Manufacturers Association and other groups about his new book: Winning the Global Talent Showdown (See New Books). The book is about how the United States can create a better work force to complement the high-tech economy, a battle that Gordon says we are losing. The book pre-sold 5,000 copies before it was published on April 1.

Dan Dinello is writing a chapter called "Cyborg Goddess: The Technological Path to Transcendence in Oshii Mamoru's Ghost in the Shell" for the book Anime and Philosophy due out at the end of 2009 by Open Court Press.

Gail Lukasik will read from her new novel at Centuries & Sleuths at 2 p.m. May 2.'s "Friday Flashback" feature on March 13 said, "We stumbled upon this Thomas Frisbie story from a 1969 Sun-Times" about the White Sox considering a move to Addison.

The Society took part in the city's largest-ever Creative Chicago Expo at the Cultural Center on April 4. More than 5,200 people attended, visiting about 120 exhibitors, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs reports. Staffing the Society's table during the day were Robert Loerzel, James Merriner (who filed this report for Biblio File), Bob Remer, Jim Schwab, and Lynn Voedisch. They told visitors about the Society and handed out sample copies of Literary License, programs from last year's awards banquet and Richard Frisbie's excellent article from 2000 about the history of the Society. They also made new friends with leaders of the city's arts and letters communities. In addition, Bob attended a workshop on fund-raising for nonprofits and says he picked up some tips to help build up the Endowment Fund.

Correction: In the March Literary License, the title of Michael Argetsinger's new book was wrong in the second reference. It should have said Mark Donohue: Technical Excellence at Speed both times.

A funny thing happened on the way to the SMA dinner ...

Paul Frisbie's long relationship with words and how they impact others has been developed through his work both as an author and a professional comedian.

Frisbie, author of The Chicago River Out Your Window, will emcee the Society of Midland Authors annual book awards dinner on May 12 at the Congress Plaza Hotel. You may remember him from the lengthy profile in the Chicago Tribune magazine or from one of his local appearances at Zanies or other venues.

Like authors who travel anywhere to get a story, comedians travel anywhere to tell one. Here's what Frisbie wrote in 2004.

"Comics will go anywhere. We visit spanking new cookie cutter suburbs and tired old river towns. We explore dusty mining communities in the Rocky Mountains and beachfront boardwalks on the Carolina coast. We see towns that have lost their purpose; where every other building is boarded up and fading signs advertise products and services that are no longer available. And then we hit the next town up the road, where there's a Blockbuster Video, a Boston Chicken, and a discount computer outlet. The lawns are mowed, the cars are new – you've driven 100 years in just 20 miles.

"One week you're playing a comedy club for five nights; the next week you've got some corporate shows spread out between three different cities and three different states. You stay in every kind of hotel imaginable; from three-room suites with kitchenettes to odd little fishing motels with no cable TV and a handmade ashtray.'

"Entertainers call it ''The Road' and it's an addicting place. You head blindly off to places you've never been, to entertain people you've never seen, with no way to know what to expect. The crowd may be five or five thousand people. You'll find out when you get there – and you can't wait.

"But it's all water under the bridge the next day. You check out of your hotel, you gas up the car and you go see what's waiting around the next bend in the road."

Winning the Global Talent Showdown: How Businesses and Communities Can Partner to Rebuild the Jobs Pipeline
April, 2009

In his 17th book, Winning the Global Talent Showdown: How Businesses and Communities Can Partner to Rebuild the Jobs Pipeline, Edward Gordon continues his exploration of the future of jobs and how technology is transforming workplaces, occupations, and the educational preparation needed for them. Gordon explores how a talent crisis is shaping up in 25 countries of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. The primary focus of this book is on solutions especially through forming community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations to develop new approaches to education at the community level.

A More Perfect Union
March 16, 2009

In Steven Burgauer's new book set in the future, asteroids are being mined and comets sent crashing into Venus' atmosphere to cool the planet for colonization. On Earth, a violent civil war breaks out in America over the repeal of the Second Amendment.

On one side is a fanatical religious right, on the other a spineless liberal administration. Caught in between are space travelers returning from Mars. Among them is Butch Hogan, a space jockey in the employ of Transcomet Industries. Butch works with orbiting electronic mass drivers crucial to the asteroid trade. Upon landing, Butch must choose sides in the ever-widening war.

Fearless Confessions:
A Writer's Guide to Memoir
University of Georgia Press
June 1, 2009

Sue William Silverman's new book, Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir, navigates a range of issues from craft to ethics to marketing, to finding the courage to write. It is enhanced with illustrative examples from many different writers as well as writing exercises, and it is for beginners and more accomplished writers. Silverman is also the author of Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You as well as Love Sick: One Woman's Journey Through Sexual Addiction, made into a Lifetime TV movie, and she was nominated for two PRISM Awards. For more information, visit

Historic Photos of Ernest Hemingway
Turner Publishing
March 15, 2009

Illinois Wesleyan University professor James Plath's new book features 200 photos of Ernest Hemingway, the most photos of the Nobel laureate assembled in a single book. It's also the first time that a biography has been attempted within the restricted format of photo captions and introductions. The Bloomington-Normal Pantagraph called it "a handsome coffee table volume in the best sense of the word," an "expansive life of the 20th century's most celebrated author compressed into a well-lighted nutshell" with "captions to both identify and enlighten in a plainspoken style that straddles the informal and the scholarly." Plath is the co-author of Remembering Ernest Hemingway (Ketch & Yawl Press, 1999) and former director of the Hemingway Days Writers' Workshop & Conference in Key West, Fla.

An English-Russian Edition of Poems
University Press of the South
April 1, 2009

Here's what Ethan Lewis, professor of English at the University of Illinois, says about SMA board member Rosina Neginsky's new book: "Dr. Neginsky reminds readers that we are also artists, for her works summon our responsibility. Under the Light of the Moon (2002) reads, plausibly, as a spiritual autobiography. This volume redirects its lyric mirrors upon us."

El Barrio
Henry Holt and Co.
April 14, 2009

In Debbi Chocolate's latest book, a young boy explores a vibrant city neighborhood that shimmers with life – at once a party, a waltz, and a heartbeat. El Barrio is his sister preparing for her quincea Z era, his grandfather singing about the past and his cousins' stories from other lands. Booklist says, "The whole is an exuberant cacophony of colors and sight." Chocolate is author of more than 20 picture books, including The Piano Man, which received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award.

SMA Slate for 2009-2010

Here is the slate of candidates for the Society of Midland Authors for next year.

President: Robert Loerzel

Vice President: Gerry Souter

Corresponding secretary: Chuck Masters

Recording Secretary: Stella Pevsner

Treasurer: Richard Frisbie

Membership Secretary: Thomas Frisbie

Board of directors (three-year terms)

Rosina Neginsky

Robert Remer

Lynn Voedisch

New Members

A Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Richard Baer, M.D., is author of Switching Time: A Doctor's Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities (Crown, 2007).

He also is the former president of the Illinois Psychiatric Society. After many years in practice as a psychiatrist he received a master's degree in creative writing from Northwestern University. Publishers Weekly called Switching Time a "compelling and engaging memoir."

Nami Mun was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up there and in Bronx, N.Y. She has worked as an Avon Lady, a street vendor, a photojournalist, a waitress, an activities coordinator for a nursing home, and a criminal defense investigator.

After earning a GED from the Santa Monica Unified School District, she went on to get a BA in English from UC Berkeley, and an MFA from University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award for fiction.

She is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize, as well as scholarships from Yaddo, MacDowell, Eastern Frontier, Squaw Valley Writers' Conference, Tin House Writers' Conference, and Key West Literary Seminar. Her stories have been published in the 2007 Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Iowa Review, Evergreen Review, Witness, and other journals, including Tin House, who named her an Emerging Voice of 2005. Her debut novel, Miles from Nowhere, was recently short-listed for the Orange Award for New Writers. She currently teaches Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago.

For more information, visit

Bethany McLean, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine known for her work on the Enron scandal, is co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and the Scandalous Fall of Enron.

Prior to working at Vanity Fair, she was an editor at large and columnist for Fortune magazine. McLean received her BA in English and mathematics at Williams College in 1992. After college and prior to joining Fortune, she worked as an investment analyst on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs. McLean has made appearances on the "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" as an observer of the trials of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and was on "The Colbert Report," and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." She is writing a book with Joe Nocera on the 2008 financial crisis. She grew up in Hibbing, Minn., and lives in Chicago.

Fleda Brown, who lives in Traverse City, Mich., won the Felix Polak Prize for her sixth collection of poems, Reunion. She also is author of The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their Lives; Breathing In, Breathing Out; The Devil's Child; Do Not Peel the Birches, and Fishing With Blood. She was born in Columbia, Mo., and grew up in Fayetteville, Ark. She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Arkansas, and in 1978 she joined the faculty of the University of Delaware English Department, where she founded the Poets in the Schools Program, which she directed for more than 12 years.

Her books, essays, and individual poems have won many awards. She served as poet laureate of Delaware from 2001-2007, when she retired from the University of Delaware and moved to Traverse City. She teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., and she spends summers with her husband, also a retired English professor, at their cottage on a small lake. Her forthcoming book is Driving with Dvorak from the University of Nebraska Press.

How authors can get along with their copy editors

Q&A With Carol Saller

As reported in the January Literary License, Carol Fisher Saller has written her sixth book, The Subversive Copy Editor. (It's available from the University of Chicago Press.)

"[The book] is not about how to copy edit," says Saller, who is senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press and the editor of The Chicago Manual of Style's Q&A. "This is more a self-help book for how to live a good life as a copy editor."

Although her book is aimed at copy editors, there is plenty of advice that authors can take to heart.

For example, writers, like copy editors, should be familiar with the word processor they are using, Saller says. "Read a commercially published manual rather than the documentation that came with your software," she writes. "Four out of five techies agree that you need a manual at least 1.5 inches thick."

Also many edited manuscripts still go to authors as hard-copy printouts, but there is a trend toward sending electronic versions, Saller writes. In that case, an author needs to be clear who has the working copy. If the copy editor has that copy, an author has be sure not to make unnotated changes the copy editor might never see.

"Something you should never do once editing has begun is to make changes to the original e-files in the expectation you can send them to the copy editor, who will somehow incorporate this new version," Saller writes. "I cannot stress enough how unreasonable this would be."

Avoiding time-wasting practices is more important than ever because the time squeeze affecting almost everyone is making harder for copy editors, too, Saller says.

"We are under pressure," Saller says. "I assume almost everyone is under pressure to produce more with fewer resources."

However, "if you have a veteran copy editor, it is going to be pretty good quality editing because that editor has the experience to zero in on the most egregious things, whereas the neophyte might chug along very slowly," she says.

In a chapter titled, "Dear Writers," Saller advises authors not to tinker extensively with their manuscripts while they are in the copy editing stage, for two reasons.

First, she says, there's a chance the writer is wasting a copy editor's time by calling attention to typos that already have been corrected. Second, "your work will benefit from your gaining a little distance on it," she says.

"It's possible that even if you are not trying to think about your manuscript, various corrections, additions and little improvements will occur to you anyway," she writes. "Just write them down so you can tend to them when it is your turn."

And, if the author and the copy editor are lucky, their collaboration will result in a finished work that is significantly improved.

"One of the nicest responses I've ever had to my editing was in the form of an author's addition of a paragraph to the end of his novel," Saller writes. "In my cover letter, I had expressed my initial surprise and disappointment at the ending, and I explained why, although I added that, feelings aside, I knew it was the only sensible ending. The new paragraph addressed my feelings perfectly, without changing the facts of the ending. I couldn't have been more pleased."

And though the book is titled The Subversive Copy Editor, there is nothing very subversive about one final notion: It doesn't hurt to say thank you.

"I know I said we're not in it for the glory – but I lied," Saller writes. "One of the nicest rewards of a copy editor's life is when a writer is grateful and bothers to say so in a public acknowledgement."

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