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June 2006

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        SMA programs are scheduled for the second Tuesday of the month, Oct.-Nov. and Jan.-Apr, with the annual awards banquet in May.
        Here's a preview of what's coming:
        Oct. 10–Ed Gordon discusses writing about what the coming shortage of workers means to the economy.
        Nov. 14–Tom Cieselka, book PR specialist, leads panel of editors talking about how to get your book reviewed.
        Jan. 9–Sam Weller, winner of the SMA biography award for The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury, tells more about his subject.
        March 13–Gerry Souter describes how he researches his biographies of famous artists.
        February and April programs are being arranged by Jim Schwab, program chairman.


        The Printers Row Book Fair this year was graced with sunny skies and mild temperatures. Although some Midland authors (myself included) thought this year's position near the corner of Clark and Polk didn't offer the high of visibility and traffic that last year's position did at the corner of Congress and Dearborn, it provided a comfortable spot in the shade to discuss books with a seemingly earnest crowd.
        Long-time fair watcher and Society past president Rich Lindberg said he believes participation in the book fair garners the Society more exposure each year and attracts new members. The Society first became an exhibitor at the fair in 1999, he said.
        "The best thing about the fair is getting to speak informally with other writers and authors, and the great conversations you have with all the folk who stop by the SMA tent to browse, buy or talk," said Craig Sautter, also a past president and faithful fairgoer.
        On Saturday afternoon, Billy McCarthy, author of the novel, The Devil of Shakespeare, and Marlene Targ Brill, a prolific children's book writer, shared a table at the Society's booth and sold at a steady stream.
        Many writers reconnected with old friends they happened to see walking, including the Society's contest czarina Carol Jean Carlson, who pursued an old friend through the crowds until she caught up with him and inquired whether he had been elected a judge. (He had.)
        On Sunday, Libby Fischer Hellman was selling her four mysteries when a woman stopped by carrying a copy in her purse of a book she bought from Libby at last year's book fair.
        While the swarms were thinner along Polk, there was barely space to walk on Dearborn. Among the more interesting tables was the one at Columbia College that featured its own authors, including Joe Meno and Sam Weller, who both just won the Society's book contest in fiction and biography. The big names at the book fair that drew crowds were Augusten Burroughs, author of Possible Side Effects and more famously Running With Scissors, and John Updike, who was promoting his new novel, Terrorist.


(Please click to view the winners from 2005.)

        A large poster listing all of the authors who have earned awards from the Society of Midland Authors since 1956 was the main decoration at the Society's annual dinner on May 9 in the Chicago Athletic Association.
        As noted by the speaker of the evening, David Spadafora, president of the Newberry Library, the poster served as an appropriate symbol of how the Society has influenced literary history since 1915.
        As usual, the audience acquired interesting facts and refreshing insights from the award winners. Sally Walker said that in researching the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley she learned that underwater archaeologists fear jellyfish, not sharks. Divers wear pantyhose over their heads to protect their faces from painful stings.
        Sam Weller quoted his subject, Ray Bradbury on writing: "Don't think...Jump off a cliff and build wings on the way down." What if the wings don't open?-- a question posed by Mrs. Bradbury. Then "shut up and drink your gin."
        Steve Bogira reported that his book about criminal justice has already been optioned by HBO for a possible miniseries on cable TV.
        Speaking as Illinois poet laureate as well as award winner, Kevin Stein argued that reading poetry is good for you, providing a "soulful lollygag" and respite from daily pressures. You can't speed-read poetry. "Poetry rewards patience." He read one of his own short poems, a meditation on a cantaloupe.
        Bernard Brommel, a longtime professor at Northeastern Illinois University as well as an author whose biography of Eugene V. Debs won an SMA award in 1979, mentioned that one of the "great rewards of teaching" was seeing students produce books of their own. He saw one of those students in the room, Richard Lindberg, whose 12th book is about to be published.


        Cheryl L. Reed, an SMA board member, has been appointed book editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, replacing Henry Kisor, who has retired to write more novels, fly his airplane and spoil his grandchildren.
        Reed formerly worked as an investigative reporter. On June 23, the International Press Club of Chicago will present her with its Arnie Metanky Memorial Award for Veteran and Military Affairs Reporting.
        At the same ceremony, Maurice Possley of the Chicago Tribune will be inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame.


        At the April 11 SMA meeting in the Chicago Athletic Association, the audience went to law school with William T. McGrath, intellectual property specialist at the Davis McGrath law firm and associate director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law at the John Marshall Law School.
        He described fair use as the "most troublesome issue in all of copyright law."
        Since as far back as 1841, courts have been struggling case by case with making "evanescent distinctions" between copyright infringement and fair use, he said. There still are no sharp-edged rules, only judgments as to what's fair and reasonable.
        When a dispute arises, the courts look to four factors:
        1. The purpose of the use. News reporting, criticism and comment, educational programs and such enjoy more latitude, especially if noncommercial.
        2. The nature of the copyrighted work. For instance a manuscript enjoys more protection before it's published.
        3. The amount of copying in relation to the original work. The Nation was slapped down for running an unauthorized excerpt of only a few hundred words from Gerald Ford's memoirs just before the book came out. On the other hand, the movie industry couldn't prevent VCR owners from videotaping entire shows because the use was mainly noncommercial.
        4. Effect on the market. At first glance, the Napster case might seem to resemble the VCR case because individuals, not Napster itself, were doing the music downloading and file sharing. But the court said the file sharing was "exploitive," with a harmful effect on the sales of copyrighted music.
        Answering a question about quoting a couple of lines of song lyrics in a book, McGrath said that would probably be a fair use, but as a practical matter your publisher probably won't let you do it. The music industry is known for vigorously asserting rights they may not actually possess.
        Parody, he said, is an example of fair use if it's really parody. A book about the O. J. Simpson case titled The Cat Not in the Hat, with language and illustrations similar to the work of Dr. Seuss was ruled copyright infringement. On the other hand, The Wind Done Gone didn't infringe on Gone with the Wind because it was "transformative," adding a quite different viewpoint on slavery. Also, the court couldn't see that it competed commercially with the original story.


Americans and Redemption
        In his book, The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (2005, Oxford University Press), Dan P. McAdams, professor of psychology and of education and social policy at Northwestern University, suggests that who we are as Americans lies in the stories we live by, and that the most powerful stories of Americans are about redemption. As regards both our society in general and our personal lives, Americans want to change pain and suffering into something positive.
        For over 10 years, McAdams looked at "the life stories of especially caring and productive American adults." By embracing the negative things that happen to them and transforming these experiences into good, these people have been able to move forward and leave positive things behind.
        There are two dark sides to this predilection for redemption, however. People who are unable to make redemptive tales of their lives tend to have stories tainted by cruel plots and harmful cycles. In addition, the redemptive tales reveal a peculiar brand of arrogance and self-righteousness that Americans show to the rest of the world.

An "L" of a Book
        Michael Allen Dymmoch was a finalist for her book, White Tiger (2005, St. Martin's Minotaur), in the Mystery category for the 18th Annual Lambda Literary Awards.
        The Lambda Literary Awards, or "Lammys," are awarded each year by the Lambda Literary Foundation for excellence in gay and lesbian writing and publishing in the U.S. for the previous year.
        A list of the winners can be found at

Cruising Down the River
        On May 20, Lake Claremont Press hosted The Chicago Paperback Writers Cocktail Cruise on a Wendella Boats sunset cruise on the Chicago River. Participants in the event had the opportunity to meet a number of Lake Claremont authors, who were on hand to sell and sign their books.
        Included in the festivities were SMA authors Arnie Bernstein (Hollywood on Lake Michigan and The Hoofs and Guns of the Storm) and Chuck Billington (Wrigley Field's Last World Series).

Celebrating 11 Years
        More news from Lake Claremont Press: the press has recently issued their first catalog in their 11-year history. According to publisher Sharon Woodhouse, the staff and authors of the press are "actively involved in promoting and sharing our love and knowledge of Chicago with our community and the world beyond" through books and events and by serving as a resource for the media and the public.

Historical Mysteries
        Kathleen Ernst, educator and social historian, has three new children's books appearing this year:
        Hearts of Stone (Dutton Books for Young Readers), a novel of the Civil War.
        Highland Fling (Cricket Books), a novel about a young documentary filmmaker interested in North Carolina's Cross Creek Highland Games.
        Secrets in the Hills: A Josefina Mystery (American Girl Mysteries), a mystery set in New Mexico in the 1820s.
        Ernst's earlier book, Danger at the Zoo (American Girl Mysteries), set in the Depression and replete with facts about the Cincinnati Zoo, was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Children's/Young Adult Mystery, 2006.
        Her book, Betrayal at Cross Creek (American Girl History Mysteries), about Scottish immigrants to North Carolina and the American Revolution, was nominated for the same award the previous year and also garnered Ernst the Flora MacDonald Award, 2006, from the Scottish Heritage Center at St. Andrews Presbyterian College, Laurinburg, NC.
         The Flora MacDonald Award is given "to a woman of Scottish descent who has made an outstanding contribution to the human community."

Little Known World War II Horror
        The University of Chicago Press has just released a paperback edition of Wesley Adamczyk's book, When God Looked the Other Way. Adamczyk's book received a "rave" review in The Sarmatian Review from Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, academic dean and professor of history at the Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC.
        Chodakiewicz is an expert on Communism, Eastern Europe and international relations.
        In May 1940, 25,000 Polish army officers were led into the Katyn Forest in eastern Poland by the Red Army and executed. Adamczyk's father was one of them. Adamczyk tells his family's story and that of the forced exile of thousands of Poles by the Soviet government in the early days of World War II. Adamczyk's upper-middle-class family sans father was forced to endure a 3,000-mile journey to Kazakhstan. The family eventually escaped to then British-occupied Iran.

The Great Grey Prairie
        While reading The Children's Blizzard (2004, HarperCollins) by David Laskin, a gripping tale of the blizzard of January 12, 1888, the blizzard that claimed the lives of so many children, I came upon this interesting paragraph in a discussion of L. Frank Baum's stint in Brown County, S. D., including his bankrupting a variety store called Baum's Bazaar in Aberdeen.
        "That one writer of standing should have turned up in Brown County in the 1880s is curious. That two literary lions should have stalked this sweep of prairie in the same decade seems downright bizarre, yet there was the young Hamlin Garland just a few years earlier, toiling away on his father's claim not a dozen miles north of where Baum set up shop. Or perhaps not so bizarre since this was the decade of the Dakota Boom, what Garland call the ‘mighty spreading and shifting' that heaved hundreds of thousands of immigrants from all over the country and the world into the Dakota prairie, the Garlands, the Baums…among them."
        Hamlin Garland was a founder of the Society of Midland Authors.

Kudos to Our Webmaster
        Mary Claire Hersh, the volunteer who has so painstakingly designed and maintained the SMA Web site over the past several years, was honored June 21 by the Illinois Academy of Criminology at their annual Presidents' Night Dinner, an event paying tribute to the Academy's past presidents. Mary Claire received the Executive Director's Award for her work on the Academy's Web site.

A Treasure Among Treasures
        The Printers Row Book Fair is a treasure trove for collectors of books and ephemera alike. While searching through old magazines, Rich Lindberg came across the Spring 1965 issue of Chicago Magazine, which contained an article by Fanny Butcher entitled "The Long Tradition of Midland Authors." The occasion was the Society's 50th anniversary on April 24 of that year and the presentation of four annual awards "coveted by every author born, living or having lived ‘north of the Ohio River from the Alleghenies to the Rockies.'"
        The latter geographical designation was that of Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, SMA's first president. Butcher went on to talk about many of the Society's illustrious early members. According to Butcher, in 1965, only three of the 52 charter members were still alive)Edna Ferber, Mary Hastings Bradley and Alice Gerstenberg.
        In 1965, there were 230 members and the new president was Jack McPhaul of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial staff. (Our current president, Tom Frisbie, is also a member of the Sun-Times editorial staff.) Butcher concluded the article paraphrasing of Sandburg's Chicago, "Come and show me another authors' group with lifted head singing so proud to be alive."


Kids Pick Favorite
        Marlene Targ Brill recently heard that her historical fiction, Bronco Charlie and the Pony Express, was nominated for the 2007 Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award. The award encourages children in elementary grades, particularly second and third, to read and vote for their favorite book.
One of the Best in 25 Years
        Marilynne Robinson's novel, Housekeeping, was one of 17 titles receiving multiple votes in the New York Times Book Review May 21 voting for the best work of American fiction in the last 25 years. Robinson and SMA member Studs Terkel were among the judges. Last year, Robinson won the SMA's 2005 Adult Fiction Award.
Crime Expert
        Rich Lindberg was a recent guest on Milt Rosenberg's Extension 720 (WGN Radio) program, along with Dr. Jeffrey Adler of the University of Florida, discussing patterns of homicide in Chicago, 1875-1920.
        A crime of more recent vintage, the Schuessler-Peterson slayings is the focus of Rich's next book, Shattered Sense of Innocence: The 1955 Murders of Three Chicago Children, to be published in mid-October, 2006, by Southern Illinois University Press.
         After five years of investigative research and writing with co-author Gloria Sykes, the book identifies two possible new suspects to America's oldest solved homicide.
        Additionally, Rich's two-year term as president of the Illinois Academy of Criminology ends this month, and an updated version of his 1997 White Sox Encyclopedia will be re-issued as Total White Sox in September by Triumph Books here in Chicago. The book tops out at over 600 pages and goes through the 2005 World Series.

New Play Premiered
        John Christgau was part of a scholars' panel in Manzanar, Calif., June 11-12 at the opening of "The Enemy Alien Files, Hidden Stories of World War II," a powerful photo-exhibit depicting the U.S. government WW II policies that led to the arrest and internment of thousands of innocent German, Italian and Japanese residents of the U. S. and Latin America.
        His book, Enemies: World War II Alien Internment, was the first book published on the subject. His novel Spoon won the 1978 SMA fiction award.
        The exhibit will continue throughout the summer of 2006. The Manzanar ceremonies also featured the premiere of Christgau's Zip, a one-act play based on the true story of a 17-year-old German-American boy's experiences as an enemy alien.

U.S. Meddling "Damaging"
        By Stephen Kinzer's count, says The New York Times, "the United States has toppled foreign governments 14 times in the 110 years between the 1893 coup in Hawaii and the occupation of Iraq, making regime change by force as American as apple pie. But Mr. Kinzer says the results are always damaging to the countries involved, and to American security as well."
        His new book, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, follows his previous books on U.S. meddling in Iran and Guatemala. "An admirably written page-turner," it blames the greed of "United Fruit, ITT, Aramco, Halliburton and other corporations and plutocrats operating through like-minded officials" to replace legitimate governments with "corrupt brutes who turn out to cause more problems for foreign policy than did the ousted leaders."
        Kinzer was formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times.

Nothing Funny About Advance
        Paul McComas reports that his comedic coming-of-age novel, Planet of the Dates, has just been accepted for publication in late 2007 or early 2008 by The Permanent Press (TPP).
        Set in and around Milwaukee during the summer of 1980, it contains, "far and away, the funniest writing I've done...This is my third published book, but my first hardcover; it's also the first time I'm receiving not just royalties, but an advance!"

E-mail 101
        Michael H. Ebner recently published a brief on-line autobiographical essay entitled "The Romance of E-mail: Ground Rules" in the History News Network, a widely distributed publication by and for historians. It is found at
        He is the James D. Vail III professor of American history at Lake Forest College.
        His rules recognize practical uses of E-mail like setting up meetings while decrying cravenly substituting E-mail for messages that should be conveyed face to face behind closed doors.

History, Romance and Religion

        Amy Hassinger's new book, The Priest's Madonna, was published in April by Putnam. Based on a true story, it "interweaves the history of France at the turn of the 20th century with scenes of ancient Judea and the romantic and religious journey of a spirited and intense heroine to spin a tale of the forbidden love between a woman and a holy man and the moral and spiritual struggles of faith."

One Good Turn...
        Gerry Souter has signed a contract with Parkstone International publishers to write a biography of the artist, Edward Hopper. The success of his biography, Frida Kahlo - Beneath the Mirror, prompted the London publishing house to make the offer.
        "Like Frida," Souter said, "Hopper led an angst-ridden life. The geometry and solidity of his paintings and etchings belie his deeply personal problems that often burst into rage and dropped him into depression. And as with Frida, the writing style calls for a page-turner approach rather than the traditional march though his life and art."
        He and his wife, Janet, promptly left for the Whitney Museum in New York to study the largest single repository of Hopper's art and writings.

Writing for Radio
        In his latest book, Jack D. Coombe chronicles his years in the Golden Age of Radio as a scriptwriter and performer. When Radio Was King (Louda Press) also contains scripts he wrote during his long and prolific career as a writer of comedy material. "The work also acts as a primer on comedy writing itself, as well as containing advice on proper microphone techniques and stage performing," the publisher says.
        During World War II he wrote and performed for Armed Forces Radio and also, occasionally on loan from the Navy, for CBS.
        Following the war, Coombe continued his prolific career as a writer and performer for six radio stations and the CBS, ABC and MBS networks.
        He also appeared in and wrote for vaudeville, stage, film and television productions.
        When Radio Was King also chronicles his working relationships with many celebrities, including Danny Kaye, Clark Gable, Virginia Grey, Ann Sothern, Bob Crane and musicians Count Basie, Gene Krupa, Ella Fitzgerald and others.
        He now has written six books, including the first three-volume naval history of the Civil War.

Poetry Road Show
        Michelle True is touring with her "How to Get Your Poetry Published" workshop on the following dates:
        Wednesday, July 19, the Naperville (Ill.)Writers Group at North Central College.
        Saturday, Sept. 2, The Women's Center for the Creative Arts, 5514-A W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill 60630, (773) 412-9257.
        Saturday, Sept. 30, StoryStudio Chicago, 3717 N. Ravenswood, #115, Chicago, Ill 60613 (773) 728-8441.
        Saturday, Nov. 4, Deerfield (Ill.) Park District.
        She'll also present her "Introduction to Poetry," workshop at the Deerfield Park District on Saturday, Oct. 7.

Life After Death
        Deborah Blum writes from Madison, Wis., that she has a new book coming out in early August. "The Penguin Press is publishing it in the U.S., Random House in U.K., etc. and it's called Ghost Hunters: William James and the Scientific Search for Life after Death.

Broadcasts from C-Span2 Bus
        Candace Fleming, finalist for the SMA's 2006 Children's Nonfiction Award for Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt's Remarkable Life, was interviewed June 2 by Anne Haller of C-SPAN2 for a segment on its Book TV program, which runs every weekend.
        The interview took place on C-SPAN2's Book TV Bus, which contains a TV studio, at the Indian Trails Public Library in Wheeling, Ill..


        Paul M. Green is the Arthur Rubloff Professor and the director of policy studies at Roosevelt University. He is the author, co-author or editor of several books about Chicago and Illinois politics, including The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition.

        Lisa Holton, former business editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, is author of an upcoming book about the history of Chicago social clubs that will be published this fall by Lake Claremont Press. She also is author of The Essential Dictionary of Real Estate (2003) and How to be a Value Investor (1999).

        Rebecca Johns grew up in a small town on the Illinois-Wisconsin border and graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop. She has written for such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Parents and Fitness.
        Reviewing her novel, Icebergs, the May 21 issue of New York Times Book Review said, "Anyone who takes on World War II, the ‘60s, Vietnam and the disappearing rural landscape can't be faulted for lack of ambition." The review said her "inviting" novel" arrives at effectively muted moments of revelation."

        John Schultz is the author of The Tongues of Men and The Chicago Conspiracy Trial. His other books include the short novel, Custom (Grove Press, 1963, 1967) and No One Was Killed (Big Table, 1969), about the 1968 Democratic Party Convention..

        Ted Anton is an associate professor in the DePaul University English department. specializing in literary nonfiction. He teaches magazine writing and literary journalism, focusing on science, investigative reporting, urban issues and the history of ideas.
        He also teaches American literature and creative writing, as well as courses in such topics as science literature and underground publishing.
        His book, Bold Science: Seven Scientists Who Are Changing Our World (W.H. Freeman and Company, 2000, 2001) tells the stories of seven creative researchers in astronomy, genetics, neuroscience and ecology, and other fields fundamentally changing the millennium.
        His previous book, Eros, Magic and the Murder of Professor Culianu (Northwestern University Press, 1996), won the Carl Sandburg Award in Nonfiction from the Friends of the Chicago Library.        
        It is the true story of the 1991 campus murder of a charismatic young specialist in Renaissance magic at the University of Chicago.

        Shirley Christian is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author and an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University and the University of Kansas.
        Her most recent book, Before Lewis and Clark: The Story of the Chouteaus, the French Dynasty that Ruled America's Frontier, was published in April 2004 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
        She has been a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, the Miami Herald and the Associated Press.
        She won her Pulitzer for international reporting in 1981 for articles published in the Miami Herald about the wars in Central America.
        She was born in a farmhouse in Missouri and grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. She earned a bachelor's degree in language and literature from Pittsburg (Kan.) State University in 1960 and a master's degree in international journalism from Ohio State University in 1966.
        She lives in the Kansas City area.

        Daniel Dinello is a filmmaker, critic and professor at Columbia College, Chicago, who has a particular interest in sci-fi novels and movies that critique corporate and military scientists whose utopian visions of an ideal world perfected by their own fantastic inventions have a nasty way of coming back to bite the seat of their lab coats.        
        He is author of Technophobia: Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology, and his comedic short films include "Shock Asylum," starring Second City alum Stephen Colbert.
        In the film, Dinello's character is unwittingly submitted to a psychiatric ward. It culminates in a scene where Colbert chases after Dinello, attempting to drill a hole in Dinello's head.

Final Chapters

        Robert J. Adelsperger, who served faithfully on the SMA board for many years, died in May at 80.
        As curator of special collections for the University of Illinois at Chicago, he arranged for UIC to house the SMA's archives.
        He was a force also in other Chicago literary organizations, including the Friends of Literature, the Chicago Foundation for Literature and the Caxton Club.
        He often scrutinized membership nominations to ensure that they met SMA traditional standards.

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