When DOUBLE EXPOSURE WON the Tofte/Wright Children’s Literature Award, I decided I needed to learn more about the Council of Wisconsin Writer’s and those who have worked to preserve and sustain the amazing literary traditions, talents and created opportunities for groundbreaking Wisconsin authors and their books.
This years WINNERS will be reading at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee, WI. on Sat. May 16th at 11am. The cost of this celebration banquet is $30 and the link to register is: http://wiswriters.org/2015%20banquet.htm
Here’s what I found out about Wisconsin Authors–Mr. Tofte & Ms. Wright:
Arthur Tofte (1902-1980) enjoyed two distinctly different careers, businessman and author of science fiction, fantasy, and the occult. He published his first story, “The Meteor Monsters,” for Amazing magazine in 1938 when he was a member of the Milwaukee Fictioneers, a group focused on the memory and style of influential science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum. Tofte then focused on his career as a business executive in Milwaukee. Upon his retirement in 1969-and with the encouragement of editor Roger Elwood-he began publishing again, eventually producing five novels, 18 short stories, and four essays. His most popular works include Crash Landing on Iduna (1975), Walls Within Walls (1975), and The Ghost Hunters. His The Day the Earth Stood Still (1976) is a full-length version of the short story made into the world-famous film.
Betty Ren Wright (1927-2013) grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Milwaukee-Downer College (now Lawrence University) and worked as an editor for Western Publishing Co. in Racine from 1949 to 1978 until turning to writing full time. Known for her mastery of mystery and suspense, her popular mysteries for middle-grade readers include A Ghost in the House, The Ghost of Mercy Manor, Too Many Secrets, and A Ghost Comes Calling. Her novel The Dollhouse Murders was a 1983 Edgar Award nominee in the best juvenile category and won the Texas Blue Bonnet Award. She has also written 35 picture books, and her short stories have appeared in Young Miss, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, and many other magazines.
Here’s a little background on the Council of Wisconsin Writers: In the Beginning
(This is from the Council’s website about their 30th Anniversary Celebration, April 30, 1994. And it contains a few names most of us Wisconsinites will recognize.)
Our organization’s genesis was actually New Year’s Eve 1958. It was that night that retired businessman Herbert Schowalter decided he would not spend his retirement years hunting and fishing only.
One of the most powerful memories Schowalter had brought home from his World War II tour through France, Germany and Austria was of the pride the Europeans took in their cultural possessions – books, paintings and music – and of how this pride sustained them in defeat.
Another memory was of the European assumption that Americans were cultureless and materialistic. “We aren’t cultureless,” Schowalter later told the Milwaukee Journal, “but we certainly haven’t done enough to avail ourselves of the culture we have, or to encourage the people who create it.”
Thus, from one man’s memories, one man’s cultural pride, and one man’s resolve arose an organization dedicated to encouraging creative expression in Wisconsin. In February 1963, Schowalter and two other members of a group of writers called the Raconteurs hosted a dinner at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee and promoted the idea. Schowalter’s co-hosts were Larry Lawrence, a former editor with the Milwaukee Journal, and Al Nelson, a prolific freelance writer.
The dinner guests were writers, teachers, editors and others from around the state who shared an interest in writing. The guests supported the idea, and the CWW was born (Milwaukee novelist Edward Harris Heth suggested the name). For the next several months, the CWW existed without dues or formal funding by passing the hat among the faithful. Anne Powers, the historical novelist, made her Shorewood living room available for meetings.
The original CWW working committees included: writers Helen C. White, August Derleth, Jim Dan Hill, Robert E. Gard, Lawrence Keating, Donald Emerson and Betty Ren Wright; and editors and publishers Howard Mead of Wisconsin Tales and Trails, Father Michael Dineen of Country Beautiful, and Edward Kamarck of the Wisconsin Idea Theater. A distinguished variety of civic leaders filled out the roster.
In 1964, the Johnson Foundation of Racine donated $1,000, and the search for the first CWW award winner was on. Newspaper accounts at the time noted that Pulitzer Prizes for books were only $500 each, and National Book Awards were up to $1,000 each.
The winner of the first CWW award was poet Chad Walsh, for his collection Unknowing Dance/Psalm of Christ. Dorothy McGuinn, president of the Society of Midland Authors, addressed the first CWW banquet. Lawrence Keating served as master of ceremonies. The judges for that first contest were Emerson, White, Derleth, J.L. O’Sullivan and Leslie Cross.
In 1966, the CWW – with its membership swelling to 33 – elected its first president, Donald Emerson, and board of directions: August Derleth, Chad Walsh, Florence Lindemann, Herbert Schowalter, Charles Peterson, Larry Sternig, WilliamCary, Lawrence Keating, Larry Lawrence, Edgar Kezeli, Al Nelson and Robert Wells. In the ensuing 50 years, hundreds of members and volunteers have worked to recognize the outstanding work of Wisconsin writers as well as to promote public awareness of our state’s great literary heritage.