HUMORIST TO ADD FUN TO
A SERIOUS LITERARY OCCASION
James Finn Garner established himself as a best-selling author through his originality and sense of humor.
With books like Apocalypse Wow! (his newest), Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, Politically Correct Holiday Stories and Once Upon a More Enlightened Time, he revived the spirit of common sense in public discourse.
Now, as guest speaker at the Society of Midland Authors annual awards dinner, he will focus his wit on some of the vicissitudes of publishing. "Remaindered: Bad Ideas and Bargain Bins" will be the title of his presentation.
The dinner was held on Tuesday, May 19, in the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave. Cash bar at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40.
There's convenient parking in the Grant Park underground garage across the street, the parking everyone uses for Orchestra Hall.
Make reservations by mail to Society of Midland Authors, P.O. Box 10419, Chicago, IL 60610.
The dinner has come to be an important literary event, covered on occasion by such publications as the Chicago Tribune, which ran a photo spread, and Publishers Weekly, which reported a "good evening, one that would have made former members Gene Stratton Porter, Sherwood Anderson, Louis Bromfield and William Allen White proud."
The Society of Midland Authors and the Cliff Dwellers Club, where SMA programs have been held for the past year, share a common heritage.
Many of the original Cliff Dwellers were among the founders of SMA.
The judges have announced the following SMA literary awards for books published in 1997. The winners will be given cash awards and plaques at the dinner.
Sharon Solwitz, Blood and Milk, Sarabande Books.
Thomas Lynch, The Undertaking, W.W. Norton.
Keith William and Dwight W. Birdwell, A Hundred Miles of Bad Road, Presidio Press.
Harriette Gillem Robinet, The Twins, The Pirates and The Battle of New Orleans, Atheneum Books.
Brandon Marie Miller, Just What the Doctor Ordered: The History of American Medicine, Lerner Publications.
Jason Sommer, Other People's Troubles, University of Chicago Press.
The various committee jurors also found the following authors and books deserving of particular commendation:
Lisa Lenzo, Within the Lighted City, University of Iowa Press.
Constance Pierce, Hope Mills, Pushcart Press.
David Haynes, All American Dream DolIs, Milkweed Editions.
Larry Watson, White Crosses, Pocket Books.
Thomas Frank, Conquest of Cool, University of Chicago Press.
Sharon Skolnick (Okee-Chee) and Manny Skolnick, Where Courage Is Like a Wild Horse, University of Nebraska Press.
Bruce Cummings, Korea's Place in the Sun, W.W. Norton.
Reinder Van Til, Lost Daughters: Recovered Memory Therapy & the People It Hurts? Wm. B. Eerdmans.
L. James Binder, Lemnitzer: A Soldier for His Time, Brassey s.
Susanne K. George, Kate M. Cleary, University of Nebraska Press.
Earl P.Olmstead, David Zeisberger: A Life Among the Indians, Kent State University Press.
Daniel Dyer, Jack London: A Biography, Scholastic.
Gail Giles, Breath of the Dragon, Clarion Books.
Laurie Lawlor, Addie's Forever Friend, Albert Whitman.
Bonnie Pryor, Toenails, Tonsils, and Tornadoes, Morrow.
Gloria Whelan, Friends, Thunder Bay Press.
Marlene Targ Brill, Women for Peace, Franklin Watts.
Sylvia A. Johnson, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn and Beans, Atheneum.
David L. Parker with Lee Engfer and Robert Conrow, Stolen Dreams: Portraits of Working Children, Lerner Publications.
Karen Zeinert, The Amistad Slave Revolt and American Abolition, Linnet Books.
Kelly Cherry, Death and Transfiguration, Louisiana State University Press.
Reginald Gibbons, Sparrow: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press.
John Dickson, The Music of Solid Objects, Thorntree Press.
Debra Bruce, What Wind Will Do, Miami University Press.
Decisions on these awards were made by the following judges:
Adult Fiction: Al Gini, Terry Sullivan, Tom O'Brian.
Adult Nonfiction: Chuck Davis, R. Timothy Unsworth, Richard Prince.
Biography: James Wright, Cheryl Thayer, Thomas Boudrot.
Children's Fiction: Carol Adorjan, Mary Jane Miller, Marlene Targ Brill.
Children's Nonfiction: Charlotte Herman, Anna D. Carlson, Rita Hoffman.
Poetry: Mark Perlberg, Richard Jones, Timothy Muskat.
THE SCHAAF REPORTSweet 16
Susan Sussman is celebrating the sale of her first mystery to St. Martin's Press. Audition for Murder will be Sussman's 16th book in print.
Her co-author is actress and Jeff Award winner Sarajane Avidon.
The two met in high school while attending Northwestern's summer arts program. Their joint effort, to appear in the spring of 1999, introduces a struggling Chicago actress with an offbeat propensity for discovering bodies.
The Play's the Thing
The Indianapolis civic festival, "Spirit and Place: A Gathering of Voices," featured two of Rita Kohn's plays, Ruth and Sarah and Hagar.
Kohn's new work in progress, A Different Journey: Celebrating the Lives of Leona Rostenberg and Madeline Stern had a rehearsed reading at Barnes and Noble's Clearwater Crossing, also in Indianapolis.
And "The Power of the Moment" received the Third Place Best Feature Award from the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. It is published by Breeze of Bloomington, Ind.
Bellied up to the Ballot Box
When the Wall Street Journal needed an expert to comment on the conjunction of St. Patrick's Day and Election Day in Chicago, now that the law has been changed to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages, they went straight to urban historian Melvin Holli of the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Professor Holli was able to put it all in perspective, one hopes due to first-hand study of all the primary sources.
Anything in the interest of research!
David Cowan's history of the tragic fire at Our Lady of the Angels School, To Sleep With the Angels, is scheduled for a fall 1998 release in paperback by Ivan R. Dee, Inc. It was written with John Kuenster.
Cowan is under contract for two new nonfiction works, as well as a collection of short stories.
Martin E. Marty was given an unusual and impressive gift to commemorate his 70th birthday on Feb.5: a new research institute for theology and religion in his name at the University of Chicago.
According to Divinity School Dean Clark Gilpin, "We intend to educate scholars who understand the rich diversity of the world's religious traditions and who can effectively communicate that understanding to citizens, religious leaders and professionals in other fields."
Gilpin went on to praise Marty as "an historian whose scholarship illuminates issues of broad human importance, concerns itself with the religious health of civil society, and is free from jargon and accessible to the wider public. It is this kind of scholarship that the Marty Center is designed to foster."
The only question is, what do will we do when Professor Marty turns 71?
Kathy Stevenson won first place in the first Pioneer Press North Shore Fiction Writing Contest.
"Click," her prize-winning entry, is written from the point of view of a teenage girl whose best friend has committed suicide. A second entry was awarded an Honorable Mention in the same contest.
Stevenson spent last August at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Middlebury, Vt., where she worked with National Book Award winner Andrea Barnett.
Diana Johnson participated in a special Valentine's Day program for Chicago area children. She began by discussing her bilingual (Spanish and English) children's picture book, Princesa and Friskie, at WGN radio.
Then she traveled to Spilling the Beans, a coffee and tea shop at 1154 Central in Wilmette, where she held two readings and signings of her book.
Vive Le Balesi
Charles J. Balesi, a teacher in the Chicago Public School system and Newberry Library scholar-in-residence, was feted at the French Consulate in New York City in February.
Balesi, former president of the French Colonial Historical Society, received the annual Prize of the Souvenir Francais.
The chairman of the prize committee noted that Balesi won the prize not just for his book, The Time of the French in the Heart of North America, 1673-1818, but for his efforts to disseminate knowledge about French historical roots in North America as well.
Balesi also has served as vice president of the French Heritage Corridor and on the Chicago-Paris Sister Cities Committee.
He was further cited for spearheading efforts to preserve French culture and historical sites. This was demonstrated particularly after the disastrous Mississippi flood of 1993, which threatened several sites with French connections in Illinois and Missouri.
Lead Writers' Conference
SMA members Marlene Targ Brill and Martha Vertreace will be among the leaders at the Blooming Grove Writers' Conference July 31 to Aug. 2 at Illinois State University, Normal, Ill.
Brill has written more than 35 books for children and adults.
Vertreace is associate professor of English and poet-in-residence at Kennedy-King College, Chicago.
An advance review of Richard Frisbie's seventh book, Daily Meditations for Busy Grandpas, has already appeared, although the book (ACTA Publications, Chicago) won't be off the press until the end of May.
Writing in Bringing Religion Home, reviewer Tom McGrath says, "Frisbie, father of eight and grandfather of 12, wastes no words in capturing 365 different glimpses of what it means to be Grandfather.
Check out his entry for Jan. 11 titled `Tracks'":
"When your tracks in the snow of life melt at winter's end, who will remember that you passed this way?
Half a century hence, perhaps, someone will recall in casual conversation, "When I was a child, my grandfather used to take me to the woods in the winter and show me where the deer danced."
Frisbie, a former editor of Chicago magazine, has previously written Basic Boat Building (a Dolphin Book Club selection originally titled Boat Building for Hands Who Are All Thumbs; It's a Wise Woodsman Who Knows What's Biting Him; Who Put the Bomb in Father Murphy's Chowder?; How to Peel a Sour Grape: an Impractical Guide to Successful Failure; Family Fun and Recreation and The Do-It-Yourself Parent (co-author with Margery Frisbie).
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