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August 1999


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

It is my pleasure to invite you to join us for another year of interesting and informative programs at the Cliff Dwellers Club, and to extend a special welcome to our newly installed SMA members, officers and board members.

The Society of Midland Authors launches its 85th year during important and historic times. Who could have foreseen, back in 1915, when Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, the Society's first president and the author of Cities of Many Men, encouraged American writers from the heartland to join together in the bonds of fraternity, friendship and good will, that the fledgling SMA would survive and prosper into another century, another millennium?

But here we are, about to do it while remaining true to the vision of Chatfield-Taylor, Carl Sandburg, Edna Ferber, Hamlin Garland and Vachel Lindsay; Midwestern originals all, in the early but defining years of SMA.

What new Ferbers, Sandburgs, and Garlands will come of age in 21st century Chicago? I will wager that the literary icons of the new millennium will list SMA membership among their many accom- plishments.

The Society of Midland Authors is rich in history and tradition; a clearing house for the exchange of ideas and creative inspiration. Over the years, our guest speakers have represented a broad spectrum of literary genres. They represent the best of contemporary Midwestern writing and thought, and we encourage all of our members to attend meetings at the Cliff Dweller's Club on the second Tuesday of each month (unless otherwise posted) from October until April, with the exception of our December holiday break.

In the coming months we will be announcing an exciting calendar of literary events with details posted on the SMA website (address: and in the pages of Literary License. We will continue a series of readings and autographings initiated by our immediate past president, James Schwab, at the Barnes & Noble Webster Place store. If you have a new book coming out soon, and would like to meet and greet the reading public at Barnes & Noble, this is a fine opportunity to promote your work. Please contact Katie Schwartz, B&N events coordinator at 773/871-3610, or send us an E-mail and we will see what we can do to move things along.

The officers and directors of the Society are hard at work formulating ideas for fresh and innovative programs to benefit our membership in the coming year, and we encourage you to send us your suggestions or consider attending a board meeting in person to share with us your ideas.

You may feel free to contact me anytime at my E-mail address,, with your comments. I look forward to meeting and greeting all of you at the Cliff Dwellers Club this fall. I will close with a quote from H.L. Mencken, who in 1933 described our local literary scene in the pages of the American Mercury thusly, 'Find a writer who has something to say and nine times out of ten he has some connection with the gargantuan abattoir by Lake Michigan ' he was bred there or got his start there or passed through there when he was young and tender.'

We hope you will do more than just pass through. Join your fellow SMA colleagues at the Cliff Dwellers!

Richard C. Lindberg

Jacquelyn Mitchard and Scott Turow shared the podium at the SMA April meeting in the Cliff Dwellers Club to describe the struggles behind their initial bestsellers. Mitchard recalled that when the Oprah Winfrey show phoned to arrange for The Deep End of the Ocean to be featured by Oprah's TV book club, she thought it was a gag. They had to call three times before she would talk to them. Turow, an assistant U.S. attorney working on the Greylord bribery scandal in Chicago, wasn't sleeping nights. His wife, Annette, braced on one elbow, said, 'Quit that goddam job' He didn't just then, but he started plugging away on Presumed Innocent while commuting on the train.

Members who missed the annual awards dinner in May probably don't know who the award winners were. So here's the list:

Adult Fiction: Barbara Croft, Necessary Fictions, University of Pittsburgh Press.

Adult Nonfiction: Eric T. Freyfogle, Bounded People, Boundless Lands, Island Press.

Biography: Hull Cook, Fifty Years a Country Doctor, University of Nebraska Press.

Children's Fiction: Janet Hickman, Susannah, William Morrow & Co.

Children's Nonfiction: Andrea Warren, Prairie Girl: Growing up on the Prairie, William Morrow & Co.

Poetry: Mark Cox, Thirty-Seven Years from the Stone, University of Pittsburgh Press.

Adult Fiction: Kent Meyers, The River Warren, Hungry Mind Press. Josip Novakovich, Salvation and Other Disasters, Graywolf Press. John Manderino, The Man Who Once Played Catch with Nellie Fox, Academy Chicago. Ellen Hawley, Trip Sheets, Milkweed Editions.

Adult Nonfiction: Thomas Frisbie and Randy Garrett, Victims of Justice, Avon Books. Perry Ray Duis, Challenging Chicago, University of Illinois Press. Mike Wright, What They Didn't Teach You About World War II, Presidio Press. John Edward Hallwas, Bootlegger, University of Illinois Press.

Biography: Edgar Marquess Branch, A Paris Year: Dorothy and James T. Farrell, 1931-1932, Ohio University Press. James W. Johnston, The Long Road of War, University of Nebraska Press. Ben Bassham, Conrad Wise Chapman: Artist and Soldier of the Confederacy, Kent State University Press. Roger Lundin, Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief, William B. Eerdmans.

Children's Fiction: Vicki Grove, Reaching Dustin, G.P. Putnam's Sons. Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Snowflake Bentley, Houghton Mifflin Children's Books. Gloria Whelan, Forgive the River, Forgive the Sky, William B. Eerdmans. Marlene Targ Brill, Diary of a Drummer Boy, Millbrook Press.

Children's Nonfiction: Milton J. Nieuwsma, Kinderslager: An Oral History of Young Holocaust Survivors, Holiday House. Patricia C. and Frederick L. McKissack, Young, Black, and Determined: A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Holiday House.

Poetry: Donald Finkel, A Question of Seeing, University of Arkansas Press. Ann Townsend, Dime Store Erotics, Silverfish Press. Steve Fay, What Nature, Northwestern University Press. Alane Rollings, The Logic of Opposites, Northwestern University Press.

By Barbara Schaaf

$$$ and Sense
Steven Burgauer, an investment consultant and science fiction writer, has completed Wealth Builder's Guide: An Investment Primer (zero-g press of Peoria). In this slender (44 pages), to-the-point volume, Burgauer draws upon his 20 years of experience in the field to cut through the myths surrounding money-making, aiming at students and beginning investors.

Snoop Sisters
Barbara D'Amato and Alzina Stone Dale livened up this year's 11th Malice Domestic Convention in our nation's capital. The roomies each gathered up an Agatha Award, D'Amato for 'Of Course, You Know Chocolate Is a Vegetable,' which appeared in the Ellery Queen Magazine (D'Amato has already taken home the Carl Sandburg prize for her novel, Good Cop, Bad Cop); and Stone Dale for her nonfiction effort, Mystery Readers' Walking Guide to Washington DC.

Series Murders
Kensington Books has just released Michael Craft's third Mark Manning mystery, which has found a warm welcome from Booklist and Kirkus. Craft's sleuth is a gay investigative reporter who quits his job at a major Chicago daily in order to become the publisher of a newspaper in a small Wisconsin town. Craft, a Kenosha resident, will publish Manning's fourth mystery with St. Martin's Press next spring.

The Return of Mel Holli
When last we left Melvin Holli, he had gone boldly where no historian has dared to go before: rating the good, the bad and the truly mediocre mayors in The American Mayor: The Best and the Worst Big City Leaders. Now comes The View from Chicago's City Hall: Mid-Century to Millennium (with Paul Green). Described by Arcadia as a '...remarkable tribute to 50 years of Chicago's political and cultural history,' this volume begins during the administration of Martin H. Kennelly and ends with the current occupant of the Fifth Floor. Stay tuned for Mel's further adventures.

Safe at Home
Safe Harbor, a play by Joanne Koch, ran from April 24 through May 23 at Chicago's Organic Theater. It tells the true story of the Algarvas, a family of Jews who went into hiding for 600 days during the Nazi occupation of Salonika, Greece. Unlike the Frank family of Amsterdam, the Algarvas survived their captivity. Only one other family was able to do so. Just 1200 of the city's 55,000 Jews survived the war. Safe Harbor has been optioned for a feature-length film.

And They're Off!
Thomas B. Littlewood's fifth book, Calling Elections: The History of Horse-Race Journalism, is just out from Notre Dame Press. Littlewood is professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Illinois in Urbana. His biography of Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, won the SMA award for best biography published in 1990.

Doctor in the House
Best-selling novelist Sara Paretsky got what was coming to her at Columbia College's commence- ment exercises: an honorary doctor of letters degree. Paretsky also is included in Kenan Heise's collection, Chaos, Creativity and Culture: A Sample of Chicago in the 20th Century.

On the House
Barbara Garland Polikoff has an unusual view of the subject of her new book With One Bold Act: The Story of Jane Addams (Boswell Books). Her aunt, Sadie Garland Dreikurs, participated in programs at Hull House during her childhood, later taught art classes there, and still later was trained by Addams as a social worker. Polikoff has been receiving high marks for bringing Adams to vibrant life.

Home Run
Baseball's Radical for All Seasons, David Stevens' first book, was a runner-up for the 1998 Seymour Medal given for the best baseball history or biography. Stevens tells the life story of sports and union pioneer John Montgomery Ward.

Reveals Writers' Secrets
In an April article in the Chicago Reader, Susan Sussman reveals how she recruited Sarajane Avidon as a collaborator on the pair's new mystery, Audition for Murder. 'You're at home sitting around not doing anything that's pretty much what a writer does. We should write a mystery and set it in the theater.' Between them they created sleuth Morgan Taylor, an actress who tries to solve a series of murders taking place in the world of Chicago theater. Taylor has a callback for a second volume. No word as to whether either Sussman or Avidon has a barn where they are going to put on a show this summer.

Back to School
Relax ' there's still some summer left. But during the Printers' Row Book Fair, three SMA writers participated in the annual Authors in the Schools program. Christine Herman (Miss Malone Super- star), Glennette Tilley Turner (Follow in Their Footsteps), and Barbara Garland Polikoff (Life's A Funny Proposition, Horatio) bravely agreed to face classrooms full of third-graders, who had been studying their works for weeks and were ready to grill them. So far as Literary License knows, none of the three was kept after school.

What Have YOU Done Lately
The first chapter of Gladys Swan's novel Carnival for the Gods appeared under the same title in the Stories and Sources special issue of the Literary Review (Fall 1998), accompanied by an essay about its origins, 'Reveling in the Image.' Her painting Carousel is used as cover art. Four of Swan's paintings appear in the spring issue of Ellipsis: Literature and Art. Her poems, 'The Serpent Rod,' 'The Chinese Tapestry,' 'Model for the Drawing Class,' and 'Rembrandt's `Peter Repentant'' her essay, 'From Experience to Art: The Descent into the Self' and her short story, 'The Orange Bird,' have been or will be published in the Sewanee Review.

Honors for Poet
It's always nice when a poet gets some attention. Cynthia Gallaher was recently named one of '100 Women Making a Difference' by Today's Chicago Woman. The ALA Booklist also had nice things to say about her book of Chicago poems, Swimmer's Prayer.

Arab Writers Encouraged
SMA Board member and Webmaster Ray Hanania will host a special conference for Arab American and ethnic writers Oct. 8-10 at the Days Inn O'Hare South. The conference will feature about 25 writers of Arab American heritage who have published general interest and mainstream books, novels and articles or are involved in drama and theater. The SMA will also be host a special workshop on Sunday from 2 to 5 pm to help conference-goers with writing challenges and related issues.

Rich Lindberg, who is speaking at the conference, will coordinate this drive. If you are interested in participating in this workshop, please give Lindberg a call or contact him by E-mail. You can register by writing to Hanania at 15139 S. Windsor Dr., Orland Park, IL 60462, or by checking out his web page at SMA members will receive a substantial discount on the registration, of only $90 for the three days.

New Book from Petrakis
Friends have been felicitating Harry Mark Petrakis on the publication of his new book, Tales of the Heart: Dreams and Memories of a Lifetime. (Ivan R. Dee.) Booklist calls it 'bursting with life force...reassuring and warmly engaging,' a memoir by 'an exceptional man of letters.'


Robert Cromie Robert Cromie, who died May 22 at age 90, was noted for his enthusiasm for books and fellow writers, as demonstrated in his Chicago Tribune columns and TV broadcasts. Cromie Circle on WGN-TV and Book Beat on WTTW-TV were viewed across the nation.

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