The Society of Midland Authors, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote authors living in a 12-state region in the center of the country, celebrated the centenary of its founding in 1915 with a weekend of literary events held at several venues in downtown Chicago. The festivities began on Friday evening, when the Society held its annual awards banquet honoring the organization’s choices for the best books of 2014 in six categories.

The gala, held at Cliff Dwellers Club with about 80 in attendance, featured author Robert K. Elder, who is also the director of digital product and strategy at Crain Communications. On Saturday, the Society hosted a full day of literary presentations at University Center. The day began with Carla Knorowski, CEO of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation discussing Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and included a talk by Third World Press head Haki Madhubuti, who launched in 1967 the Chicago-based press specializing in publishing African-American literature. The day concluded with a panel discussion with the novelists Christine Sneed, Carol Anshaw, and Rosellen Brown.

The Society of Midland Authors was founded in 1915 by a group of 50 writers that included Clarence Darrow, Harriet Monroe, Hamlin Garland, and Edna Ferber, with the mission of stimulating “creative literary effort” in the Midwest. The organization hosts literary events that are free to the public, and also publishes a newsletter touting its members’ accomplishments. To join the Society as a full member, one must be a current or former resident of a Midwestern state, and also be the author or co-author of a book published “by a recognized publisher” or the author of a “published or professionally-produced” play.

As the organization moves forward, v-p Robert Loerzel says it hopes to step up its member recruitment efforts, with more of an effort to reach authors who live outside of the Chicago metro area. “It’d be great if we find 100 new members in this 100th year,” he said.