What the Fire Meant to Reedy Authors


Various friends and relatives may have questions about how the fire in the Reedy Press warehouse affects me. Here’s my explanation.

All of my books were burned in the fire.  I didn’t have insurance,  but I and the other Reedy Press authors didn’t need it.

Let me explain.

They were our books, but they were our publisher’s books. We signed contracts with Reedy Press to write the books. They paid for editing, production and printing and then put the final product in the Reedy Press warehouse. They get their money from sales to stores, Amazon, etc. and pay us a royalty based on a percentage of sales.  We also get money from buying our books from Reedy at a good wholesale rate and then selling them at presentations and signings.

I know this sounds complicated, but that’s how traditional publishing works.

Reedy Press took the loss. We didn’t. They’ve got insurance, although I don’t have all the details. We didn’t have insurance because we didn’t need it.

Back in 2001, I got insurance to cover the 4,400 copies of a book I was self-publishing.  But this is different. We’re contractors, not proprietors.

Any loss for me would come from not being able to sell my books during the busy Christmas season and losing royalty money. However, Reedy is looking at doing reprints that may be available in January or earlier. I’m considering a way to limit that by selling gift certificates redeemable when the reprints come in. So my loss may not be too big. I welcome your prayers for all of us, including Reedy Press.

Does that help?


Reedy Press Will Be Back

60792-wonderfullifeWe’ve seen the movie. We know what happens next. But it’s good to remember this.

A businessman faces disaster, so much that he goes off to end his life.  An angel-in-training intervenes and stops him and convinces him his life was worth living. He returns to see his many friends have restored his fortunes a hundred times over.

That conclusion of It’s a Wonderful Life comes to mind when thinking about the massive warehouse fire yesterday, Nov. 15, 2017 that destroyed the inventory of my publisher,  Reedy Press.  No, Reedy Press owner Josh Stevens didn’t go off anywhere, and there was no angel. At least any angel we could see.

But there is a similarity. I’m confident that Reedy Press and Josh Stevens will be back and bigger than ever because of their well-earned reputation for decency. I’ve known Josh since he brought me on board in 2009 to do a book about South St. Louis. Sometimes he’s aggravated me. Sometimes I’ve wished he’d be easier on me as an editor.  But he’s always acted out of integrity. His definite ideas about how to build a first-class publishing company have always worked.

I see that in all the Facebook comments I’m seeing on Facebook from fellow authors.  They’re full of love and willingness to do what they can to help a friend who’s down. Bank on this: that comes from years of doing the right thing. In this small town, you wouldn’t see that if Josh had spent years trying to get the best of people.  I know his many friends among booksellers, the media and others are ready to back him. I know he’ll do the right thing in planning his company’s return. Two years from now, Reedy Press will be bigger than ever, and the fire will play a part of that restoration.

A scripture comes to mind: Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Josh and all the workers and the authors in the Reedy Press can count on it.

I can count on it, too. I have 27 books for the seven signings and presentations between now and Christmas. I have none for next year. It would seem that an income source is gone. But I’m not worried. I’ll be back, and so will Reedy Press.

Your New Assignment

Get Busy Now!

Up to now, you’ve been great. Whenever I’ve asked for help in finding people for Growing Up St. Louis, you’ve come to my rescue. Now I’m coming to you with two specific requests.

First, I’d like to interview someone 97 years old or older about his or her experiences growing up in St. Louis. I’d love it if the person is 100 or more. It would be nice if the person is a man. So far, just about everybody I’ve interviewed in that age category is female. We men live wild lives and tend to die out before we reach that age. So I’d consider it a pleasure talking to an older male. Obviously, the person should still be sharp. But I know there are people out there in St. Louis. You can help me find them.

The second group I need is people from 30 to 50. I have more than I need of people who are older than 50 and have almost enough of those who are younger than 30. But there’s a void in the middle. I need everybody, but especially women.

After my recent interviews at St. Louis Public Library branches, I’m nearing my goal of interviewing 100 people of all ages and backgrounds about their experience growing up in St. Louis. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories already. With your help, this will be a terrific book. Please pass this on to somebody who may be able to help. And please e-mail me at southsidemerkel@gmail.com if you know of somebody with a great story to tell.

















The End is in Sight

Schremp Hahn
Valerie Schremp Hahn and her two kids, Alice and Leo outside the Carpenter branch of the St. Louis Public Library.

Valerie Schremp loved playing in the woods behind her home in Oakville. When her mother told her not to play in the creek in the woods, she naturally played in the creek. It was the kind of thing you’d expect from someone who grew up to be a journalist. Today, she writes as Valerie Schremp Hahn for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Valerie is one of more than two dozen St. Louisans I’ve interviewed for my book Growing Up St. Louis with the help of the St. Louis Public Library. During October, I talked to people who walked into open interview sessions at the library’s Buder, Carpenter, Schlafly and Julia Davis branches. Now, I’m about 22 people away from my goal of interviewing 100.

I interviewed Valerie on Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Carpenter Branch, as her mostly patient kids Alice and Leo waited in a children’s section of the library.  I also talked to Mary Schroeder about going to picnics for Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Florissant in the 1950s. No matter who I interview, I always end as a friend. I think you will, too, after  the book comes out.





On the Air About the Library Sessions

KTRS-MIZZOU-Header_9_7ll be on two local radio stations this week to talk about the interviews at St. Louis Public Library branches to be in my upcoming book, Growing Up St. Louis.

At 2:10 p.m. today, Oct. 4,   John Carney will quiz me on his show on KTRS AM 550. Then after 9 a.m. this Friday, Oct. 6, Jim Doyle will talk to me on the Radio Arts Foundation,  107.3 FM and 96.3 HD KNOU.


If nothing else, listening to the shows should be enough to get you to come to the interviews at the Buder Library on Saturday, October 7, or three other city library branches the following three Saturdays.

Here’s the complete schedule. Come talk to me, OK?

Saturday, Oct. 7, 10 am to 6 pm at Buder branch, 4401 Hampton Ave.

Saturday, Oct. 14, 10 am to 6 pm at Schlafly branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave.

Saturday,Oct. 21, 10 am to 6 pm at Carpenter branch, 3309 S. Grand Blvd.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 am to 6 pm at Julia Davis branch, 4415 Natural Bridge Ave.

Time to tell your story

Elizabeth June Manning Harper(1)I don’t know about you, but this Saturday, Oct. 7, I’ll be at the Buder Branch of the St. Louis Public Library.  I hope you’ll be there, too. We really need to talk.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., I’ll do brief interviews of you and anybody else who shows up about their unique experience of growing up in St. Louis. On three following Saturdays, I’ll do the same thing at three other St. Louis Library branches. From those, I’ll pick 50 people for full interviews for my upcoming book Growing Up in St. Louis. It won’t be an easy job, because everybody’s experience of growing up is amazing. When I’m finished, I’ll add the 50 from the library interviews to 50 I’ve already done.


Not everybody will get in the book, but as the man said, if you don’t try, you won’t win.

Here’s the schedule of library interviews:

Saturday, Oct. 7, 10 am to 6 pm at Buder branch, 4401 Hampton Ave.

Saturday, Oct. 14, 10 am to 6 pm at Schlafly branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave.

Saturday,Oct. 21, 10 am to 6 pm at Carpenter branch, 3309 S. Grand Blvd.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 am to 6 pm at Julia Davis branch, 4415 Natural Bridge Ave.

Me while I was growing up in St. Louis









Details about the library interviews

16018 GROWING UP ST LOUIS SIGNHere’s a news release with details about the interviews for a chance to be in my upcoming book Growing Up St. Louis.

Author Jim Merkel to Interview St. Louisans for Upcoming Book

Growing Up St. Louis at St. Louis Public Library Branches in October

            What was it like to grow up in St. Louis in the 1920s? In the 1960s? In the 1990s?

Local author Jim Merkel plans to find out. He’s interviewing 100 people who grew up in the area for his upcoming book Growing Up St. Louis.

Interviews will take place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays in October at four St. Louis Public Library branches, including:

Saturday, Oct. 4, 10 am to 6 pm at Buder branch, 4401 Hampton Ave.

Saturday, Oct. 14, 10 am to 6 pm at Schlafly branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave.

Saturday,Oct. 21, 10 am to 6 pm at Carpenter branch, 3309 S. Grand Blvd.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 am to 6 pm at Julia Davis branch, 4415 Natural Bridge Ave.

Dorothy Hunter (left) with her sister Ida and her brother Jack at their home on Connecticut street, just some of Tower Grove Park.


“I’m working hard to make sure my book includes all ages and groups who grew up in St. Louis,” Merkel said. “By opening its doors for my interviews, the St. Louis Public Library is making this much more likely.”

Reedy Press, which publishes Merkel’s books, and the St. Louis Public Library, arranged the sessions. “I’m excited to be part of this unusual partnership to gather stories of childhood in St. Louis since the start of the 20th Century,” he said.

“Going to Forest Park Highlands or a Cardinals game is part of the experience of growing up in St. Louis,” Merkel said. “So is growing up black in a racially divided city. So is hearing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor or 9/11. We want to hear about all aspects.”

Interviewees will fill out questionnaires about their childhood, sign a legal release and write briefly about a favorite memory. Then Merkel will have a short conversation with them.

At the end of October, Merkel will choose people for full-length callback interviews in November and December at the Carpenter Branch. Factors for selection will include how they add to the demographic mix of participants, how compelling their stories are and how they show the unique experience of growing up in St. Louis.

No appointments are required, and interviewees needn’t be city residents. They may also represent another person they want to be in the book, such as a 100-year-old grandmother.

Growing Up St. Louis will consist of 10 chapters: the first two decades of the 20th Century, followed by each decade up to 2000, and 2000 to the present.

A longtime St. Louis journalist, Merkel has written Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side; Beer, Brats, and Baseball: German-Americans in St. Louis; The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and The Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch; and The Colorful Characters of St. Louis.