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June 2002

By Richard Frisbie

Paul Simon with some of the winners and finalists in the SMA awards competition: Dick Simpson, Jon Anderson ,Richard Lieberman , Robert Vivian, Elaine Marie Alphin.

        Speaking before an audience of authors for the first time in his life, former U.S. Senator Paul Simon shared his experiences as a writer with SMA members and guests at the annual awards banquet on May 14 at the Cliff Dwellers Club, Chicago.
        Simon is now finishing his 20th book and starting his 21st. He explained how he has managed to keep writing during a long career in state and federal government. Currently, he heads the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Vice President R. Craig Sautter, Simon, Treasurer Robert Remer.

        He said he never makes appointments for more than 15 minutes, "well, 30 minutes for a head of state." Any night he gets home earlier than 10 p.m., he tries to type at least one page before he goes to bed.
        He always reads his text aloud, so he can root out any phrases that might make readers stumble. Yes, he still uses a typewriter, but he believes in upscale filing equipment. He recommended the kind of filing cabinet that stores the files sideways so you never have to rummage in the back of a file drawer.

SMA President Carol Carlson, Simon, Past President Rich Lindberg.

        As a young newspaper editor in southern Illinois, he admired writers like William Allen White and Walter Lippmann, whose newspaper columns were known to influence government policy. Simon's own newspaper writing exposed local govern-ment corruption and led to his being asked to testify before U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver's Senate committee investigating organized crime.
        Elected to the Illinois legislature, Simon went looking for a book covering Abraham Lincoln's days in the legislature. None existed. He was urged to write it himself, so he did.
        He likes to see writers well paid, noting that Parade, the Sunday supplement magazine, has 37 million circulation and pays $10,000 for a cover story. But that's not why he writes so doggedly.
        "As writers, we can change history," he said. "We must pay more attention to the rest of the world."

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By Richard Frisbie

        Jane S. Smith, who has won awards for both nonfiction and fiction, told the audience at the April 9 SMA meeting in the Chicago Athletic Association how the experiences differed for her.
        Nonfiction usually pays better and faster, she said, but reviewers may want to talk about the subject rather than the writing. Sometimes your "expertise is on trial."
        Fiction requires much more work upfront to develop a proposal for publishers.
        She has found that a nonfiction manuscript expands as research brings out additional pertinent facts, while a fiction manuscript shrinks. She keeps cutting out scenes.
        Before beginning her first book, she considered writing biography. The trouble was, most subjects "live longer than the interesting part." Then she thought of writing the "biography of an event."
        Her 1990 history of the Salk polio vaccine, Patenting the Sun, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science and Technology.
        Her nonfiction success made her a "health policy research expert" while she'd like to have become a "best-selling author."
        Starting on her novel, she realized she didn't like her pompous characters. So she turned the book into a farce. That allowed her to satirize them as representatives of certain familiar contemporary attitudes. The amusing result, Fool's Gold, won the SMA 2000 Adult Fiction Award.
        She came to Northwestern University as an English professor. Her work on the Salk vaccine book led to additional responsibilities with the NU Institute for Health Service Research Policy Studies, which involves teaching students from the business, law and medical schools.
        Her other wide-ranging university assignments include history, preventive medicine, women's studies, and urban affairs and policy research.
        "It shows what you can with a degree in English," she joked.
        Other insights:
        Although her nonfiction required much more extensive research, fiction required considerable research too, such as road traffic in the countryside of the south of France (the locale of her story), prices at the market, things people say, scenery.
        Hollywood types, who might consider movie rights, would ask, "What about Jonas Salk's sex life?" Or explain, "Nobody out here understands more than one narrator."


Most of last year's officers and directors have agreed to continue on for 2002-2003.

President--Carol Jean Carlson
Vice President--R. Craig Sautter
Corresponding Secretary--Phyllis Ford Choyke
Recording Secretary--Stella Pevsner
Membership Secretary--David Cowan
Treasurer--Robert Remer
Publications--Richard Frisbie
Webmaster--Mary Claire Hersh
Immediate Past President--Richard Lindberg


Bernard Brommel, Mark Eleveld, Thomas Frisbie, Dorothy Haas, Shirley Haas, Steve Monroe, Harold Rafson, Barbara Schaaf, James C. Schwab.

By Carol Jean Carlson

        The main topic of discussion at the Printers Row Book Fair again this year was the weather. Saturday was hot, humid and uncomfortable, and Sunday was cold, windy and uncomfortable. But those manning the Society of Midland Authors tables persevered.
        There was a lot of activity around the SMA booth over the weekend. Book-signers included Jon Anderson, Richard Lindberg, R. Craig Sautter, Janet and Gerry Souter, Kathleen Stevenson and Michele Weldon. We also got the names of a number of authors seeking membership.
        On Saturday, the SMA trivia contest team (Carol Carlson, Craig Sautter and Richard Lindberg) went down in defeat to the team from Barbara's Bookstore—not without a good fight, however. The subject was American literature. Our cheering section included Mary Edsey (head cheerleader), Sally Sautter, Stella Pevsner and Robert Remer.
        Once again, SMA sponsored an author's autograph contest. Jim Duda from Glenwood, Ill., won a Waterman Preface fountain pen with an 18k nib donated by Gilbertson Clybourn Inc. Judy Asti from Deerfield, Ill., won a basket of award-winning books.
        Thanks to Mary Edsey for designing the contest.

By Barbara Schaaf

Boat Book Launched
        James P. Barry, author of more than a dozen books, photographer and editor, has just published Hackercraft (MBI Publishing) about the work of boat designer John L. Hacker.
        Barry, of Columbus, Ohio, believes Hacker "was one of the 20th century's most important runabout and race boat designers," who built "innovative and influential boats." Hacker's creations were so elegant, according to Barry, that they became known as the "Steinways of boats."

Looking Sharp
        Yes, it is a dagger she sees before her the Silver Dagger, that is, awarded to Sara Paretsky by the Crime Writers Association based in Great Britain for her life of achievement in the genre.
        This marks only the fourth time a woman has won the award, and Paretsky is the first American woman to be recognized by the CWA.
        A reception in Paretsky's honor was held at the British Museum.
        Meanwhile, closer to home, Paretsky delivered the keynote address at "Of Dark and Stormy Nights 2002," the 20th workshop sponsored by the Midwest chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Inc.
        Barbara D'Amato also was a featured participant.

Warp Speed

        Susan Sussman discussed "Move It? or Slow 'n Easy?" at Sleuthfest, a crime writers' conference held by the Florida branch of MWA. And her novel, The Dieter, has been optioned by an Australian movie maker.

On the Tube
        Cris Mazza read from her ninth novel, Girl Beside Him, and answered questions on LCN, the Library Cable Network operated by a consortium of seven large suburban public libraries northwest of Chicago.

Kids Lit Panel
The Vernon Area Public Library celebrated Illinois Author Day by inviting Jane Howard, Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann to join other area writers of children's books in a discussion of their favorite tomes during National Library Week.
        Modesty prevented Howard from choosing one of her own, but it didn't stop Pioneer Press newspapers from mentioning that her latest is When I'm Sleepy.

Take a Hike
        Irving Cutler, professor emeritus of geography at Chicago State University, offers 15 tours of Chicago-area ethnic neighborhoods. He has been leading others around for the past 30 years between mid-March and December.
        Cutler told the Chicago Sun-Times that as a boy his hobby was walking Chicago's streetcar and bus routes.
        He's author of several books, including Chicago: Metropolis of the Mid-Continent and The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb. For information, contact him at 847-251-8926.

For All Seasons
        For the second time in six months, Susan Hahn, editor of TriQuarterly, has brought out a collection of poetry. Mother in Summer (TriQuarterly Press), her fifth book, relates a daughter's grief over her mother's terminal illness, and follows the recent Holiday.
        Publishers Weekly credits the volume with "the insistence and the constancy of...raw emotion...and unmistakable humanity."

In Good Shape
        True to Form is not just the title of Elizabeth Berg's latest book, it is what Berg's many fans can expect from this, her tenth novel, according to PW.
        Berg's protagonist is Katie Nash, featured in her first book, Durable Goods, a 13-year-old working her way through the summer of 1961.

Before Columbus
        Lerone Bennett, Jr., was feted by the Before Columbus Foundation at the Book Expo America Convention held in New York City. Bennett, executive editor of Ebony, has just published Forced Into Glory, and is also the author of Before the Mayflower.

Blues and Lost Loves
        The Chicago Tribune called Robert Hellenga's new novel, Blues Lessons, "a potent narrative about the lives people make out of broken expectations."
        Set in Michigan in the 1950s, it tells the story of a white kid who is introduced to the blues culture by a group of blacks who work in the local fruit orchards, and the heartbreak that follows.


Mysteries Past and Present
        Alzina Stone Dale will teach a Newberry Seminar this fall on Thursday evenings beginning Oct. 24 at the Newberry Library. Sessions will cover mystery writers "past and present," from Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle to Craig Rice and Barbara D'Amato. Separate sessions will feature Sara Paretsky and the late Chicago Police Capt. Hugh Holton.
        On May 31, 2003, a free public program at the Newberry Library will honor Holton, whose papers form a new collection at the library. Retired Chicago Police Superintendent Fred Rice will speak, followed by a panel of Chicago mystery writers led by Alzina Stone Dale talking about Chicago mysteries.
For more information call 1-312-255-3700 or 3665 or contact

Roeske's Poems and Prizes
        Paulette Roeske's most recent collection of poems, Anvil, Clock and Last, was published by Louisiana State University Press late last year.
        Her poems have recently appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Chariton Review, The Southern Indiana Review, The Madison Review and The Spoon River Poetry Review, and are forthcoming in the following anthologies:
         Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge: Poems About Marriage (ed. Ginny Lowe Connors) and Vespers: Religion & Spirituality in Twenty-first Century America (eds. Virgil Suarez and Ryan G. Van Cleave).
        This spring, she has given public readings of her work at Ball State University, the University of Louisville, University of Evansville and Illinois State University.
        Her collection, Bridge of Sighs: A Novella and Stories, won the Three Oaks Prize for Fiction. The prize consists of $1,500 and publication by Story Line Press.

How to Get Your Book on TV
        Howard Wolinsky told newspaper colleagues the following story about promoting his current book.
        "Last fall, CNN Headline News invited me on to discuss Healthcare Online For Dummies. Then, the bombing began in Afghanistan. The book discussion fell by the wayside."
        Later, "they invited me back on. And the interview actually took place. My colleagues at the Sun-Times were disconcerted by my tie, jacket and combed hair. They knew something was up. I explained I was going to Tribune Tower, giving them the impression I was interviewing at the tomb of so many former Sun-Times staffers.
        "I then fessed up. I was going to the CNN Bureau in the Tribune Tower. Their health anchor in Atlanta spoke into my ear as I stared into the camera lens. Afterward, they said they should have told me there was a delay in the transmission so sometimes we spoke over each other. Oh well. The anchor also introduced me as `Dr. Wolinsky,' and so I corrected her, and had to take it from the top.
        "I do have a $10 mail-order `Doctor of Divinity' degree and have performed one marriage on a houseboat in Florida. But I don't speak of my doctorate often.
        "In future interviews from the Chicago CNN Bureau, look at the bookcase prop in the background. With their complicity, I donated Healthcare Online For Dummies, and they placed it in a very visible position. Also, I am reminding the health correspondent on the Today Show that he wanted us on."

Quotable Expert
        Jim Schwab, whose books deal with the environment, has entered the ranks of the experts whom the media go to when they need a solid quote.
        A feature in The New York Times on "Megachurches as Minitowns" pointed out that certain congregations with 10,000 or 20,000 members are acquiring land and building housing, restaurants and other self-contained amenities. Does this create tensions with local governments? Well, yes, Schwab told the Times.
        The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act passed by Congress prevents local governments from blocking church projects without a compelling government interest.
        Municipalities around the country are "wrestling with the question of what the new law allows them to do," Schwab said. He's a senior research associate and editor with the American Planning Association in Chicago.

Name Library for Gwendolyn
        Steve Neal, Chicago Sun-Times political columnist, is pushing the idea of naming the Illinois State Library in Springfield for the late Gwendolyn Brooks, a long-time SMA member.
        He reports widespread report for the idea in state government, except for a "handful of Republicans" who'd rather honor former Gov. Jim Edgar, who did have a lot to do with building the library.
        "It would be a mistake to name the state library for a politician when Brooks deserves this honor," Neal wrote.
        "No other state has had a more active poet laureate. For three decades, she sponsored statewide poetry competitions for high school and grammar school students. She paid the expenses and prize money out of her own pocket.
        "Brooks inspired generations of young people to express themselves in poetry and prose."

Dark Secret
        Jim Mallon's second novel is out, from 1st Books Library. He'll do a book-signing on July 13 at Victoria's book store in Arlington Heights, Ill.
        Laundered Loot is "fast-paced, filled with danger--spanning four continents, a heady and romantic pursuit of a dark secret."

Goose Bumps
One suspects that Barbara D'Amato's new book kept a Publishers Weekly reviewer up all night.
        PW said, "This versatile author has always had the ability to raise goose bumps...but in this stand-alone thriller she makes our spines absolutely tingle."


Poetry Contest Pays $10,000
        Phi Beta Kappa sponsors a poetry award (with the Winston Foundation) that pays $10,000 for the winner and $2,500 for four finalists. To qualify, books must have been published in the United States between June 1, 2001, and May 31, 2002. Deadline for submitting entries is Monday, July 1.
        Send entries to Phi Beta Kappa Poetry Award, 1785 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Fourth Floor, Washington, DC 20036. Information at 202- 265-3808,
        Phyllis Choyke, who brings this to our attention, says Greg Gocek, who is president of the local chapter of PBK, will be grateful if anyone entering the contest will let him know at PBKACA, P.O. Box 642622, Chicago, IL 60664—2622.


Zena Sutherland
        A noted authority on children's literature and author of 19 books, Zena Sutherland died June 12 of cancer at age 86.
        She had written more than 30,000 children's book reviews for The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, the Chicago Tribune, the Saturday Review and other publications.
        She also helped judge the Caldecott, Newbery and National Book awards.
        For many years, she taught in the University of Chicago library school.
        The Chicago Sun-Times called her "the most influential American children's book critic of her day--and perhaps all time."

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