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June 2003

SMA's monthly programs, starting in October, will again be held on second Tuesdays at the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan Ave.
      This year all the programs will be linked to the overall theme, "Chicago in Literature."
      Some speakers and panelists are still being lined up. Here's the schedule so far:
      Oct. 14 – Chicago's Black Literary Renaissance.
      Nov. 11 – Chicago in the Civil War.
      Jan. 13 – Chicago Crime in Fact and Fiction.
      Feb. 19 – Natural Chicago in Literature.
      March 9 – Chicago Latino Literature.
      April 13 – Chicago Political Books.
      The annual awards banquet will be held on Tuesday, May 11, at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave.


Reporting By Carol Carlson and Craig Sautter
      The SMA team of President Carol Carlson, Past-President Rich Lindberg and President-Elect Craig Sautter battled to a tie with a team representing the Columbia College English Department in the finals of this year's Printers Row Book Fair Literary Trivia Contest.
      It was the third year SMA entered a team in the competition. at the Printers Row Book Fair.
      In a blinding rain storm that drove participants off center stage to the shelter of nearby tents, the SMA team staged two sustained comebacks to tie the two-time defending champion Columbia College team.
      Victory was to go to the first team to answer 12 questions correctly. But a tie was declared when the master of ceremonies ran out of obscure literary questions and the two teams amicably agreed to escape the storm with a draw. A possible run-off is being planned for this winter at Columbia College. Before the storm prematurely ended the fair, SMA members posted two good days of book sales June 7 and 8 at the SMA table under the Powell's Book Store tent.       This year SMA held a business-card drawing for a selection of our award-winning books. We pulled two cards, one Saturday and one Sunday. Each winner won a collection of books worth approximately $250. The lucky winners were Bob Harder, an author in his own right, and Edward Ripp, a bookseller.
      The Book Fair, held annually on Dearborn between Congress and Polk, attracts 75,000 or more book lovers. It was founded in 1985 by the Near South Planning Board to attract visitors to the Printers Row neighborhood, once the center for book making in Chicago.
      In November, 2002, the Chicago Tribune announced its purchase of the Book Fair from the Near South Planning Board as part of the newspaper's "ongoing commitment to the written word and its support of literacy and literary endeavor."
      It is hoped that the Tribune will raise the profile of the fair, which is now one of the top tourist attractions in Chicago, even further.
      Among the notables speaking at the fair were authors Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Berg, Rosellen Brown, Ana Castillo, Alex Kotlowitz, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Calvin Trillin, Alice Walker, Studs Terkel and, of course, a number of writers whose bylines appear on the pages of the Tribune.
      Once again, the weather played an important part in the festivities. Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day and the crowds were accordingly huge. Sunday was chilly, and when the rains came around 1 pm, the crowd and the exhibitors gradually disappeared.

By R. Craig Sautter
      Army helicopters buzzed downtown office buildings at dusk, repeatedly circling the Loop as part of a mock national security anti-terrorism preparedness drill.
      Meanwhile, high above the lake front in Michigan Avenue's Cliff Dwellers Club, more than 100 members of Chicago's literati gathered May 13 to salute the authors of the Midwest's best books published in 2002.
      As part of the Society of Midland Authors' annual banquet, winners discussed their award-winning books. Aleksander Hemon (Adult Fiction), author of Nowhere Man (Doubleday), spoke affectionately of his adopted city, Chicago. The young writer from Sarajevo, who was still learning English as he wrote his prize-winning novel, said that unlike the anti-hero of his novel who feels at home nowhere, he is happy to claim the Midwest as his new home.
      Joseph Epstein (Adult Nonfiction), author of Snobbery: The American Version (Houghton Mifflin), confessed that after 15 relatively modest-selling books, he felt good to have a modest best-seller to his credit. He joked that for him a rare book was a second edition.
      And he recalled how New York turn-of-the-century best-seller Edith Wharton had asked Henry James how he liked the new car she had purchased with royalties from her latest book.
      James, acknowledged as among the greatest American novelists of his generation, pointed to a wheelbarrow in his yard.
      "I bought that with the royalties of my last book," he quipped, "I hope to paint it with the royalties from my next one." Epstein noted he usually feels more like James than Wharton.
      Garry Wills (Biography), author of James Madison (Times Books), said that before Madison was ever President, Madison was a force as a ghost writer.
      Not only did he write the Bill of Rights, but once when George Washington addressed Congress, his speech was ghost-written by Madison. As a member of the House of Representatives, Madison then crafted that body's answer to the President. Then he anonymously wrote the Senate's reply to Washington.
      "Madison had quite an interesting dialogue with himself," Wills laughed.
      In 1993, Wills' Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.
      Other SMA 2003 winners included:
      Children's Fiction, Jamie Gilson for Stink Alley (HarperCollins Children's Books) and Debra Seely, for Grasslands, (Holiday House).
      Children's Nonfiction, John Fleischman, Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science (Houghton Mifflin).
      Poetry, Neal Bowers, Out of the South: Poems (Louisiana State University Press).
      Critic Roger Miller of the Chicago Sun-Times won the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism.
      Reporter and radio personality Rick Kogan then entertained Society members with tales of growing up as a writer in Chicago. The first sounds he said he remembers were the clicking typewriter keys of his father, Herman Kogan, long-time Chicago newspaper man, typing away on weekends on his classic book, Lords of the Levy, about the city's notorious First Ward bosses Hinky Dink Kenna and Bathhouse John Coughlin.
      As he grew to his teen years, frequent Kogan house guests included Nelson Algren, Studs Terkel and Mike Royko. The author of seven books of his own, Rick Kogan related the difficulties of writing a book while working as a dedicated journalist. "It ain't easy. It ain't easy," he sighed, "but satisfying."
      This year's banquet concluded with presentation of an award of appreciation to Carol Jean Carlson, the Society's out-going president. Carol is also involved in the purchase and restoration of the Uptown theater on Chicago's North Side.

      In addition to the winners of this year's awards, the Society of Midland Authors recognized and commended the following finalists in each category:
      Adult Fiction: Robert Hellenga, Blues Lessons (Scribner) ; John Fulton, More Than Enough (Picador); Carol Anshaw, Lucky in the Corner (Houghton Mifflin Co.).
      Adult Nonfiction: Joel Greenberg, A Natural History of the Chicago Region (University of Chicago Press); Eric Klinenberg, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (University of Chicago Press); Ted Kooser, Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press).
      Biography: Jean Bethke Elshtain, Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (Basic Books).
      Children's Fiction: Elizabeth Fama, Overboard (Cricket Books).
      Children's Nonfiction: Ellen Jackson, Looking for Life in the Universe: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Houghton Mifflin Co.).
      Poetry: Gabriel Gudding, A Defense of Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press).

SMA has elected new officers and directors for the coming year.
      President, R. Craig Sautter; Vice President and Membership Secretary, Thomas Frisbie; Corresponding Secretary, Phyllis Choyke; Recording Secretary, Stella Pevsner; Treasurer, Robert Remer.
      Directors through 2006: Bernard Brommel, Dorothy Haas and Barbara Schaaf.
      Directors through 2004: Arnie Bernstein and June Sawyers.
      Carol Carlson remains on the board as Immediate Past President. Richard Frisbie continues as publications editor and Mary Claire Hersh as webmaster.


      By Barbara Schaaf
Talent Honored
      Many applied but few were chosen by the Illinois Arts Council to receive an artist finalist award. Among the 27 Illinoisans honored for their "considerable talent" was poet Beth Copeland Vargo of Cary.

      Alzina Stone Dale, author of several popular murder walking tour guides, put Barbara D'Amato, Eleanor Taylor Bland and Marc Zubro through their paces at a panel on "The Heirs of Conan Doyle: Chicago Mystery Writers Today." The scene of the crime was the Newberry Library in May.

More Mystery
      Not content with opening The Mystery Company, a new bookstore specializing in crime fiction, in Carmel, Ind., Jim Huang has also added a similarly named imprint to his Crum Creek Press.
      Among the first publications will be Barbara D'Amato's Hardball.

All About Oil
      Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the CIA-engineered ouster of Mohammed Mossadegh, Iran's elected leader, comes Stephen Kinzer's All the Shah's Men: The Hidden Story of the CIA's Coup in Iran. According to Publishers Weekly "it reads like a spy novel" but is solidly researched and "stands like a textbook lesson in how not to conduct foreign policy."
      Kinzer also wrote Blood of Brothers, about Nicaragua, and Crescent and Star, about Turkey.

Colonizing Mars
      The Martians aren't coming here; we're going there, but not for 400 years, according to Stephen Burgauer's latest sci-fi novel Newhuman, which has been nominated for the 2003 Tiptree Award.
      Colonization of the red planet is in its early days, and Burgauer has written what one critic calls "a masterfully crafted story based on the universal human conflict between the desire for order and the desire for freedom."

Be Prepared      Earn a merit badge by picking up Janice A. Petterchak's biography of the founder of the Boy Scout movement in the U.S. Lone Scout: W. D. Boyce and American Boy Scouting (Legacy Press) tells the story of a popular and successful Chicago newspaper and periodical publisher (in l9l6, his fortune was estimated at $l6 million) who was said to have "friends in almost every civilized country."
      Boyce was plucky (traveling widely in primitive parts of the planet) and lucky (he sailed on the Lusitania a few months before she was sunk). Reports of his journeys were published in his newspapers and collected into popular books by Rand McNally.
      Petterchak makes the point that the most lasting contribution of this little-remembered plutocrat was the initiation and financing of scouting during its earliest years in America.

Unanimous Honor
      Did you ever wonder what it would take for the frequently fractious Illinois Senate to agree on something?
      Now there is an answer: It takes a poet of the stature of Gwendolyn Brooks. This June Illinois senators voted 58-0 to name the Illinois State Library in Springfield after the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize.
      To mark the occasion, Third World Press has published In Montgomery and Other Poems, a collection of 46 of the late poet laureate's works. She was a member of SMA for many years.

Unboxed Set
      Charlene Baumbich writes that her first two novels, after 30,000 direct-market sales as a boxed set through Guideposts Books, have been picked up by Penguin. They will release them about four months apart next year in order to establish the series.
      "I have also now signed a contract direct with Penguin for the third book in the Dearest Dorothy series, and it will release late 2004 or early 2005.
      " Today I signed contracts with Recorded Books for all three, and the first in the series is also being released in large print in May.
      "And, I have a contract with Penguin for my next nonfiction book, Don't Miss Your Life! This is the subject I've been speaking on for 12 years."
      It's also the name of her website,
      "WAIT! There's more. My last nonfiction book, 365 Ways to Connect With Your Kids (Career Press) was recently published in Japanese and will soon also be appearing in Turkey!
      "In the mean time, I continue to be kept busy with my speaking."

Another For Dummies
      Marlene Targ Brill says she can't decide whether to grow up or not. So she continues to write for children--and about them for adults. Her latest published book is Raising Smart Kids for Dummies.
      "Yes, it's one of those yellow and black affairs you see taking up book store shelves," she says.
      She discussed her Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad on a panel about the Underground Railroad at the Printers Row Book Fair.

Tavern History
      Bruce Felknor is immersed in a history of The Tavern Club, which is 75 this year.
      He explains, "There have been several historical sketches of the club in the past but this will be the first book-length treatment in substantial detail."
      It was "founded (with liquor lockers) in the Prohibition era, largely by members of the Cliff Dwellers chafing under their founder's Temperance inclinations.
      "Their founder was also SMA's: Hamlin Garland. (Nearly all The Tav's founders, however, remained active in The Cliff.)
      "I have been the club's historian and librarian for 20-odd years, and was floored a year ago when the club renamed its library the Bruce L. Felknor Library. Especially moving to me because the club was created by artists, including authors, painters, musicians, architects and critics."

The New Censorship
      Writing in the New Statesman, Sara Paretsky paints a chilling picture of the "new censorship" – a combination of publishing trends and a government that is keeping track of what people are reading by secretly snooping through library and bookstore records.
      She recalls that two decades ago when she began her career as a novelist it took her agent nearly a year to find a publisher "willing to take a chance on a female private eye in America's heartland" but he had dozens of doors to knock on.
      "Today, there are essentially seven publishers, with names like Gulf & Western, Disney, Time Warner."
      Her first book sold 4,500 copies, 2,500 to libraries, which the government now seems to think are teeming with terrorists. She cites a man who was arrested in a New Jersey library last October and held incommunicado for two days solely because someone saw him reading foreign-language text on a computer screen.
      About 10 years ago, when Chicago police foiled a murder plot by arresting the hired killer, he had several index cards, on one of which was written, "Killing Orders – Sara Paretsky." Thinking they had the name of the murder mastermind, they rushed off to get a warrant
      Fortunately, the assistant state's attorney on night duty recognized Killing Orders as the title of one of her novels. The hitman just had made note of books he intended to read while hiding out. No warrant was issued.
      Today, under the Patriot Act, if police thought they'd found a possible connection to terrorism they wouldn't have to offer proof. They could just make her disappear. No lawyer. No contact with family.
      "Even if they never arrested me, they could come into my house, search and seize my files, confiscate my books, and download data from my computer–all without telling me, without showing me a warrant. They can do that to any individual in America."

Double the Pleasure
      The current catalog from Southern Illinois University Press lists two new books from Steve Neal scheduled for October.
      HST: Memories of the Truman Years comes with a foreword by Clifton Truman Daniel, President Truman's grandson. It's a "candid oral history" based on interviews with people who knew him best.
      Miracle of '48: Harry Truman's Major Campaign Speeches and Selected Whistlestops, with foreword by Robert V. Remini, covers "the plainspoken addresses behind the greatest comeback in U.S. political history."

      What's Korean for "New"?

      A previous issue of Literary License reported that Merv Block was writing a new book. Well, not exactly, he says. What's happening is that one of his books, Broadcast Newswriting: The RTNDA Reference Guide, has been translated into Korean, and a publisher in South Korea is bringing it out.
      "But I AM still writing. Right now, I'm working on this sentence. For the past several months, I've been writing articles for my web site. Most recently, I wrote about the networks' abuse of 'overnight.' And their misuse of 'today' and 'tonight.' And their carelessness with truth.
      "I also had a column on newswriting in the March issue of Communicator, the magazine of the Radio-Television News Directors Assn. Presently, it'll be posted at my web site. If I accumulate enough copy, I may have the makings for a new book."

Creative North Shore
      Kathy Stevenson's historical novel, The Lake Poet (2001), is featured as part of a new exhibit presented by the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society.
      The exhibit, "A Sense of Place: Literary Journeys," shows how the communities of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff (Ill.) have inspired such creative endeavors as Ragdale, Howard Van Doren Shaw's retreat, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
      The Lake Poet is now in its third printing. Kathy's Thirteenth Angel Press has just published her new collection of essays, Lake Forest Moments (April 2003), the third title from the press in 18 months.

Speaks for Spoken Word
      Mark Eleveld, co-publisher at EM Press, has edited The Spoken Word Revolution: Slam, Hip Hop & the Poetry of a New Generation, a new book accompanied by a compact audio disk. On the disk, narrated by Marc Kelly Smith, poets recite the poems printed in the book. Smith is known as founder of the poetry slam movement. Since he began the Poetry Slam in 1987, competitive performance poetry has spread throughout the world.
      Interest in Eleveld's book has sparked a promotional tour that began April 12 in Chicago's Beat Kitchen and will continue throughout the summer in New York, Massachusetts, South Carolina, New Mexico and California.
      Sales recently exceeded 16,000 copies after Borders and Barnes and Noble put it on their shelves nationwide..
      Booklist called the book "a dynamic and clarifying volume chock-full of fresh and informative commentary by the likes of Billy Collins, Marvin Bell and Jerry Quickley and an exciting array of knock-out poems by Patricia Smith, Tara Betts, Jeff McDaniel, Roger Bonair-Agard, Bob Holman, Regie Gibson, DJ Renegade, Jean Howard, Luis Rodriguez, Saul Williams and many more.
      "Eleveld and his contributors not only celebrate the verve, artistry and significance of performance poetry but also anchor it firmly within the splendid, age-old, and life-sustaining universe of poetry, where it so rightfully belongs."

"True Gift" Adventure
      Harriet Gillem Robinet is promoting her latest book, Twelve Travelers, Twenty Horses (Arheneum).
      On the way to California with their kind new master, 13-year-old Jacob, his mother and other slaves are caught up in adventures that include trying to stop a plot to help the South secede from the Union.
      School Library Journal said, "Robinet packs in lots of history throughout the story of the group's travels west from Missouri late in the fall of 1860...The true gift of this historical adventure is its offering of a slave narrative that builds esteem rather than pity."

Experts on the Loose
      SMA members are sharing their expertise with other writers' organizations.
      Maurice Possley, investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, reminded colleagues at a luncheon of the Chicago Press Veterans how investigative reporting has changed over the years.
      Instead of going under cover, reporters now have to identify themselves, but malefactors can still be caught through computer analysis of documents.
      His daughter, Maura, received a Press Vets scholarship to pursue her senior year in journalism and Spanish at Eastern Illinois University.
      Tom Frisbie spoke about the criminal justice system for the Midwest Mystery Writers. A Chicago Sun-Times editor, he is co-author of Victims of Justice.

Springsteen on Paper
      June Sawyers reports that Penguin will be publishing a book she edited, Racing in the Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader, in February, 2004. "As of this writing (subject to change), Martin Scorsese has agreed to write the foreword."

By Tom Frisbie
      Donna Boonstra was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. She currently resides in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. She is co-author with Jim Graczyk of Field Guide to Illinois Hauntings.

      Professor Randy Brooks chairs the English department and directs the writing major at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. He is also co-editor of Mayfly magazine, publisher of Brooks Books and web editor of Modern Haiku magazine.
       Among his many books are: School's Out: Selected Haiku of Randy Brooks, The Homestead Cedars, In Her Blue Eyes: Jessica Poems, Collected Haiku of Randy Brooks, and Me Too! (co-author).
      Beatriz Badikian Gartler was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and she teaches at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
      She has lived in the Chicago area for the past 30 years. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals, anthologies and newspapers. Mapmaker Revisited is a collection of her poems in English and Spanish.

      Garnett Kilberg Cohen has taught in the English Department at Columbia College Chicago since 1988, and has been chairperson since 1994. Garnett's Lost Women, Banished Souls, A Collection of Short Stories was published by the University of Missouri Press in 1996.
said the book "catapults the reader into an emotional roller-coaster ride through the painful lives of disconsolate women in this contemporary collection of short stories."
      Garnett's short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Chicago, Descant, Ontario Review, Other Voices, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Literary Review, American Fiction and others.
      Her poetry has appeared in Oval,
Verve, The Ledge and The Maryland Review, and is forthcoming in The Mid-American Poetry Review.
      Garnett received a special mention from Pushcart Prize 2000, the best of the small presses. She has been a finalist in the Raymond Carver Short Fiction Contest (1990) and won honorable mention in the Isak Dinesen Creative Nonfiction Contest (1995).
      A former fiction editor of The Pennsylvania Review, she has had residencies at both Ragdale and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has worked as a newspaper reporter and an advertising copywriter.

      Lucia Cordell Getsi
, of Bloomington, Ill., has written several volumes of poems including, Intensive Care, Teeth Mother Letters, Bottleships: For Daughters and No One Taught This Filly to Dance.
      Getsi is a professor of English and comparative literature at Illinois State University and editor of the Spoon River Poetry Review. She won the Capricorn Poetry Prize, Illinois Author of the Year in 1994.

      Alan Henry is co-author with David Schippers of Sellout: The Inside Story of President Clinton's Impeachment. He has had a distinguished newspaper career covering three decades with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he was Sunday editor; the Boston Globe; Middlesex News, and Pioneer Press, where he was deputy executive editor.
      He has won numerous awards for news, investigative, feature and column writing, and is an award-winning writer of short stories.

      SIU Professor Allison Joseph is the author of What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand, 1992), as well as Soul Train (Carnegie Mellon, 1997) and In Every Seam (Pittsburgh, 1997).
      Her honors include the 1992 Women Poets Series Competition Award, the 1992 John C. Zacharis First Book Prize, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry for 1996 and a 1997 Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council. Her interests include contemporary American poetry, especially the work of women and minorities, popular culture and literary magazine publishing, and the teaching of creative writing.

      Cranston Knight of Chicago has been writing poetry for a number of years. His works have appeared in more than 20 journals and magazines. His published poetry works include I (Hunan Press, 1996), In the Garden of the Beast: Vietnam Cries a Love Song (editor) and Freedom Song. Knight and Sterling Plumpp are co-authors of Hornman (Third World Press, 1996).

      Paul McComas is a fiction-writing instructor and performance artist whose short story collection, Twenty Questions (Daniel & Daniel, 1998), is in its third printing. He is also the founder of Rock Against Depression, a teen-suicide prevention program, and he is a performance artist and playwright.
      His debut novel, Unplugged (John Daniel & Co.), was published in 2002 to critical acclaim. He lives in Evanston.

      David Radavich
is a teacher, poet, playwright and essayist who teaches playwriting and Shakespeare at Eastern Illinois University. He has won numerous poetry, drama and teaching awards.
      He is author of By the Way: Poems Over the Years (Buttonwood Press, 1998).

      Carol Fisher Saller of Chicago is both an author and, since January, 2000, a book editor for Cricket Books, an imprint of Carus Publishing Company, Chicago.
      Prior to that she was a manuscript editor for the University of Chicago Press, where she created and maintained the Chicago Manual of Style web site. Her books include The Bridge Dancers, Pug, Slug and Doug the Slug, Florence Kelley, Working Children and George Washington Carver (co-author with Andy Carter).

      Lynette Seator, the A. Boyd Pixley Professor Emerita of Humanities at Illinois College, is a resident of Jacksonville. Her career includes teaching poetry-writing workshops in Illinois prisons for almost ten years. Seator was named Writer of the Year in poetry competition from the Friends of Lincoln Library.
      Finishing her Ph.D. while her husband studied, she began publishing scholarly articles on Spanish and Latin American literature. She has traveled widely in Latin America, Europe and Asia, and as organizer of symposia in Moscow and the U.S.
      After the death of her husband, who as a judge bore the responsibility of sentencing offenders, she went into prisons to conduct poetry workshops. As a result, she has edited and published Hear Me Out: Poems From Prison and Speaking Through the Bars: Poems by Women. She wrote Behind the Wall Poems in 1999 and Changing the Lives of Russian Women in 1998.

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