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posted: 4/8/2014 1:07 PM

Librarians name finalists in Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project

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  • Rick Polad of Carol Stream, author of "Change of Address," is nominated for the honor of Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author.

    Rick Polad of Carol Stream, author of "Change of Address," is nominated for the honor of Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author.

  • Library media specialist Joanne Zienty of Wheaton wrote "The Things We Keep," and is a finalist in the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project.

    Library media specialist Joanne Zienty of Wheaton wrote "The Things We Keep," and is a finalist in the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project.

By Christine Cigler
Fox River Valley Public Library District

Two West suburban residents are among the three finalists nominated by Illinois librarians for the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project. They were chosen from among 103 self-published authors.

"The purpose of this exciting project is twofold -- give a talented author exposure and spotlight the importance of libraries to literature efforts," said Robert Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Association, one of the project sponsors.

Rick Polad of Carol Stream was nominated by the Phillips Library at Aurora University for his book, "Change of Address." Joanne Zienty of Wheaton was nominated by the Forest School Library in Des Plaines for her book, "The Things We Save."

Each of the finalists gave a statement.

"After a career as a geologist, I am now teaching earth science and astronomy at the college level," Polad said. "I spend summers volunteering with the Coast Guard on Lake Michigan and playing golf -- sometimes with success. I have been an avid mystery reader since I learned to read and, over the many years, I developed my own character.

"I wrote a story for my parents and friends but, given the hurdles of the publishing industry, never considered that route. After a suggestion from a friend to e-publish, I published the first book in the Spencer Manning series, 'Change of Address.' The third book is due out shortly.

"The hardest part of this venture is marketing. I am very excited to be a part of the Soon to Be Famous Author project. This is wonderful exposure for unknown authors and libraries."

Zienty of Wheaton said, "Born and raised on Chicago's South Side, I vividly remember the 'glow of industry' that lit the night sky with an orange haze and perfumed the air with acrid odors of coke ovens and blast furnaces, although the steel mills have been shuttered for decades.

"My first success as a writer came in fifth grade when I completed a 70-page novel -- an homage to Walter Farley's "Black Stallion" series -- and had my first play, a Thanksgiving melodrama, produced onstage at my elementary school. I've been writing ever since.

"My other passion is working as a library media specialist, combining my favorite pastimes: reading, encouraging others to read, teaching information literacy and playing with technology. I live in Wheaton with my very supportive husband, two amazing daughters and two naughty cats. As a writer, participating in the Soon to Be Famous Author project has been an incredibly validating experience."

A third author with suburban ties also was nominated. Mary Hutchings Reed of Chicago was nominated for her work, "Warming Up," by the Mount Prospect Public Library.

"'Warming Up' started out as a novel exploring why some incredibly talented people never step into the spotlight and others with less talent never shy away, but it was soon hijacked by a fearless street kid who once charmed 60 dollars from me," Hutchings Reed said.

"What is exciting about (the) STBF Author Project is not the prospect of becoming famous, but the opportunity to reach new readers," she added. "Technology has made it possible for writers to become their own publishers, but access to on-demand printing and Internet marketing only ensures availability.

"With ever-increasing choices, the selection process for readers has become overwhelming. Projects like STBF celebrate the critical role of libraries and librarians in curating the public culture and making it truly accessible.

"Readers trust their librarians to guide them, and there is no greater compliment to a writer than to have a librarian recommend her novel as a good read."

The winner will be announced during National Library Week at a media reception at 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the Reaching Across Illinois Library System administrative offices, 125 Tower Drive, Burr Ridge.

David Vinjamuri, brand expert and New York University professor who inspired the project, will present the award.

Vinjamuri spoke about the importance of libraries in the era of eBooks and branding at the American Library Association's annual conference last summer.

"David made the point again and again about how libraries are instrumental in promoting reading and literature. He issued a challenge to libraries to find an unknown talented Illinois author that will become a success based on librarians' recommendations," Doyle said.

The winning author will be interviewed by Steve Bertrand, host of Bertrand on Books on WGN Radio 720 AM. Bertrand's interviews with authors are featured on "Kathy and Judy" between 10 a.m. and noon Saturdays and posted on WGN's website in their entirety. He's interviewed top writers, including Scott Turow, Jackie Collins, Lisa Gardner and Sara Paretsky.

The library community in Illinois also is planning to promote the winning author through special appearances, interviews, feature articles, book discussions and Skype visits. The committee will encourage libraries to purchase the winning title and feature it in displays and book discussions.

"Libraries and librarians are experts at recognizing exceptional literature and promoting the works of authors," RAILS Executive Director Dee Brennan said.

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