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The Society of Midland Authors announces its upcoming events. Admission is free to all of these programs, which are open to the public, and no reservations are required.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Society of Midland Authors and the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame will present a tribute to the acclaimed Chicago novelist Leon Forrest on Tuesday, March 11, at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave., 22nd floor, Chicago.

The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame’s Donald G. Evans will lead a panel discussion featuring Ronne Hartfield and Kathleen E. Bethel talking about Forrest’s life and literature. The discussion begins at 7 p.m. A social hour with free appetizers and a cash bar begins at 6 p.m. No reservations are required for this free public event.

Leon Forrest (1937-1997) is one of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame’s newest inductees. He also served as president of the Society of Midland Authors. His stream-of-consciousness writing concerned the legacy of slavery and earned him a place on Chicago magazine’s “Most Important Chicagoans of the 20th Century.” His novels are set in a mythical Forrest County that closely resembles Chicago. His third novel, “Two Wings to Veil My Face” (1984), won the Society of Midland Authors Award for adult fiction, the DuSable Museum Certificate of Merit and Achievement in Fiction, the Carl Sandburg Award and the Friends of Literature Prize. His fourth book, “Divine Days” (1992), won the Chicago Sun-Times Book of the Year Award for local fiction.

Forrest grew up on the South Side and went to school at Wendell Phillips, Hyde Park Academy and Wilson Junior College. He wrote and edited for several South Side community newspapers, and was a professor of English and African-American studies at Northwestern University for 24 years.

The panel discussion will include:
— Ronne Hartfield, a poet, essayist, international museum consultant and author of the 2004 memoir, “Another Way Home: The Tangled Roots of Race in One Chicago Family.”
— Kathleen E. Bethel, African-American studies librarian at Northwestern University Library and an advisory board member for the Project on the History of Black Writing.
— Donald G. Evans, founder and executive director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, author of the novel “Good Money After Bad” and editor of the anthology “Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year.”


Tuesday, April 8, 6 p.m.
Chicago poets Dan “Sully” Sullivan and J.W. Basilo will perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, in a Society of Midland Authors event at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave., 22nd floor, Chicago.

Held in celebration of National Poetry Month, the performance begins at 7 p.m. A social hour with free appetizers and a cash bar begins at 6 p.m. No reservations are required for this free public event.

Sullivan has appeared on HBO’s “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,” on National Public Radio and at the Green Mill Uptown Poetry Slam. He was the Chicago Mental Graffiti Poetry Slam Champion for 2003, 2004 and 2005 and a recipient of the 2003 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award. Sully is a member of the Speak’Easy Ensemble directed by Marc “So What!” Smith and makes up one half of the duo Death From Below. He is co-founder and sponsor of the Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Spoken Word Club. He recently released a poetry album and chapbook, “Because We Can’t Fight the Bulldozer Alone.” For details, see

Basilo is a writer, performer, humorist, musician and educator from Chicago whose work is equal parts poignant and perverse, hilarious and heart-wrenching. Basilo is a National and World Poetry Slam finalist, a PushCart Prize Nominee, one half of poetry-comedy duo Beard Fight (with Dan Sully), and an artist-in-residence at Real Talk Avenue. His work has appeared on NPR, CBS, WGN, in the Chicago Tribune, numerous literary journals and hundreds of theaters, dive bars, prisons, schools and comedy clubs. Basilo was recently named executive director of Chicago Slam Works, and is the co-host of the world-famous Uptown Poetry Slam at The Green Mill. For details, see

Tuesday, May 13, 6 p.m.
The Society of Midland Authors 58th Annual Awards Banquet
Cliff Dwellers Club, 22nd floor, 200 S. Michigan, Chicago.
The reception with a cash bar will start at 6 p.m. Dinner will begin at 7 p.m.

Paul Durica, the founder of "Pocket Guide to Hell," will be the emcee at the Society of Midland Authors annual book awards banquet on May 13. "Pocket Guide to Hell," is a series of free and interactive walks, talks, and reenactments dealing with Chicago's past, which have been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, and the New York Times among other places. With Bill Savage, he is the editor of Chicago By Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker's Guide to the Paris of America (Northwestern UP 2013), and his writing has appeared in Poetry, Tin House, Mid-American Review, The Chicagoan and elsewhere.

As former SMA President Jim Schwab wrote in 2012, "There is a lot to be said for hanging out with the best. Their bestness rubs off on all of us. Every year, I feel smarter after rubbing elbows with winning authors, hearing their explanations of the challenges they overcame to put together remarkable books that are a pleasure to read.

"And you get to take one home after it's all over. They're on the tables, they're your souvenirs, and if enough other people fail to show up for the banquet, there may be enough left that you can take home more than one.

"[The winning books] are the ones I could never put down, the ones that gave me a sense of their destiny, the ones I wanted to come home to, night after night, until I finished."