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updated: 1/25/2013 9:26 PM

Author Jane Smiley coming to Arlington Hts. on Tuesday

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  • Jane Smiley

    Jane Smiley

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

A Pulitzer Prize winner is the featured author for the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's "From Page to Stage" event on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Jane Smiley, whose best-seller "A Thousand Acres" won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1992, will make two appearances. The first is a free, drop-in event at the library at 4 p.m., where Smiley will do a 20-minute reading in the library's new Marketplace area on the main floor, with its fireplace and collection of new and popular books.

The main event comes at 7:30 p.m. at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. Smiley will take the stage for a 45-minute interview by Joe Collier, a programs assistant at the library, before taking questions from the audience.

The event is also free, but registration is required. To sign up, call the library information desk at (847) 392-0100 or enroll online at

"I think of it more as a conversation," said Smiley, in a phone interview on Wednesday from California. "It's less formal than a lecture or reading. It's one of my favorite ways to present my works."

Smiley is the author of numerous novels and four nonfiction books. "A Thousand Acres," a modern-day King Lear, was adapted into a film in 1997. Her novella, "The Age of Grief," was made into the 2002 film "The Secret Lives of Dentists."

Many of Smiley's characters reflect her own experiences. She was born in California, grew up in St. Louis and taught English for 15 years at Iowa State University in Ames before returning to California.

She has a fascination with the strong cultural differences in such places as Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa, and many of her stories explore those influences and how they affect her characters' lives.

Her most recent book, "Private Life," published in 2010, follows the life and marriage of Margaret Mayfield, from a small Kansas town in the 1880s through World War II.

"I think Margaret is someone who is easy to relate to," Smiley said. "Her concerns through the course of her marriage are very real."

Christina Stoll, the library's programs manager, says they asked Smiley to come after consulting with their readers' advisory service and book discussion groups.

"She's a high-profile author who appeals to a large group of community members," Stoll said.

Stoll said she expects the evening to focus on Smiley's life as a writer and on her broad collection of works. She includes Smiley's most recent entries into writing for young adults, with her Abby Lovett series about a young girl and horses.

"This community really supports literary events," Stoll added. "They're readers, authors and writers."

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