Years ago, an editor reacted to the a manuscript I’d written by writing “Congratulations on a well-written first draft.” Then as I recall, he demanded all kinds of changes. That’s the way it is with writing. .For my latest book, Walking South City, my editor has demanded change after change. I imagine It’s not much different with other authors and their editors. You shouldn’t take things seriously., because that’s the process.
For my book, about a walk I took through South St. Louis, my editor insisted on something like eight drafts for one chapter. Readers will appreciate that my editor wants it right.
But it’s great when you get it right the first time. So it is with his reaction to my prologue, in which I explain some of the reasons why my route looks like it does. “Stellar. Excellent Job,” he emailed me. As somebody who didn’t get many A’s, that made me feel stellar.
Next spring, you’ll have a chance to read the book. Here’s hoping you think it’s stellar.
One notable South Side thoroughfare is Itaska Street. The city named it for the lake in Minnesota that is the true source of the Mississippi River. A handy tip: don’t try to find an address on “Itaska Street” by saying it into a phone with a GPS app. That’s because the lake in Minnesota is actually spelled Lake Itasca, not Itaska. Not knowing about the misspelling of the St. Louis city street, the GPS may insist on leading you to the lake in Minnesota.
You won’t read facts like that in any walking guide of South St. Louis, only in my oddball tour of the South Side. Don’t miss it when it comes out early in 2023.
You wouldn’t find this tallish stump on a trail in far southeast Carondelet Park in other walking tours of South St. Louis. But it will be in my tour book next year, because my book will be unlike any other. Stripped of bark, branches and any hint of a green canopy, it resembles the biggest twig I’ve ever seen. Don’t miss it when it comes out next year. It’s the strangest book I’ve ever written.
My upcoming book giving a walking tour of strange South St.. Louis ends at a 33-foot tall space alien in front of the Plantarium in Forest Park. Have you ever seen a picture of an alien that wasn’t skinny? Maybe somebody needs to fatten him up before they send him back. You’ll read many more strange things about the South Side when the book comes out early next year.
I’m thrilled to announce Reedy Press soon will release a new book by me, possibly later this year. In Scenes From South City, I’ll give a somewhat crackpot look at what I saw in about 50 miles of walks through the South Side. In seventeen chapters of about three miles each, all traipsed in 2021, I tell about the usual stuff: the parks, the stores, the best houses. To that, I’ll add the graffiti, the oddball artwork, the stuff you didn’t know about before.
You’ll learn about it in an oddball way you’ve never seen before. Keep watching this space for updates. I can’t wait for you to read it.
Right before Growing Up St. Louis came out at the beginning of April of 2020, my publisher suggested I ought to do a Facebook group to match it. Okay, I groaned to myself, thinking that was one more thing to do as I sold the book. Amazingly, the group called Growing Up St. Louis – what else? – turned out to be one of the most fun parts of the “after publication” portion of writing Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades.
Several times a week, I’ve sat down and feasted on some wonderful pictures of kids in and around St. Louis from the on-line photo archives of the Missouri Historical Society. Then a growing membership added more photos. One rule applied: the pictures had to be taken at least 40 years ago, and they had to include a kid. That kept the focus on the younger set. Members added comments that made it more fun. Even better, we kept out politics and anything controversial. Nobody talked about grim stuff like COVID-19. Yey!
I got to know some regulars. The last time I checked, we had 1,666 members. It may not be viral – yet – but still shows there’s a lot of people out there who love reminiscing about how it was to be a kid in St. Louis. As we celebrate a new year together, I’ll thank all of our members, but I’ll especially thank my publisher Josh Stevens for a fantastic idea.
Between the paragraphs, and below, without the captions, are a few of my favorite photos that appeared in the group last year. I’d invite you to visit the group and see the pictures in context. Then please consider liking it so you get it all the time.
If you’re still looking for that perfect gift, your answer might be Growing Up St. Louis or one of my other books. They all provide a special look at the people and history of the Gateway City that everybody on your list will love.
On Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5 and 6, you’ll have a chances to buy autographed copies at three different locations in South St. Louis. I’ll sign from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, at Elder’s Antiques, 2124 Cherokee St, St. Louis, MO; from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday at The Royale Food & Spirits, 3132 S. Kingshighway Blvd.; from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday at Abigail’s Gift Boutique, 5611 Hampton Ave., and from 4-7 p.m. on Sunday at Taha’a Twisted Tiki, 4199 Manchester Ave.
As administrator of the Growing Up St. Louis Facebook Group. I’ve found hundreds of pictures of kids from St. Louis. Other members have added an untold number. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. If you have, I think you’ll also enjoy my book Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. It contains childhood stories of more than 100 St. Louisans from all different ways of life. These stories of Gateway City residents born from 1907 to 2008 offer a different look at history, from the eyes of kids. I’ll talk about the book on Zoom at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5. To watch, go to the upcoming events section of the Kirkwood Historical Society Facebook page. To buy the book, go to jimmerkelthewriter.com. I’ll see you Monday, for a different look at growing up in our town.
This memory, from page 43 of my book, Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades, is especially to me. Sidney Duerr, the kid in the front, is my uncle. He was born in 1927 and died not long ago at the age of 91. He’s pulling his younger brother, my Uncle Donald Duerr.
Here’s a bit of what my Uncle Sid told me:
When times got hard, nobody would buy anything in hardware stores, so my dad lost his hardware store in Old Orchard in Webster Groves. He moved all of his stuff into the basement. My job was to go get the lawn mowers and bring it to him to sharpen. After he lost the store, my dad got a job at a hat company. During the Depression, my mother took care of three old ladies. The neighbors behind us, they were really poor, and we kind of helped them, too. That’s how we got through, everybody helping out. There wasn’t any politics.