May 23, 2023
Lots happened in St. Louis around the invitation I received to do a book talk for the St. Louis County Library Foundation. It took place Tuesday, May 23, at the Grant’s View Branch of the county library system, where the foundation keeps temporary headquarters as it awaits completion of its new facility.
Authors: If Carrie Robb, the SCLC Foundation’s events organizer, invites you to come speak, say yes.
St. Louis is familiar turf to me. I had a high school heartthrob from Clayton, have attended various conventions and meetings, and had the thrill in July 1969 at the gorgeous outdoor Municipal Opera of being in the best seats in the house on a perfect summer night to see Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dance Giselle. That was just plain thrilling. Although I was a lowly sophomore in college at the time, I had connections. I was working on the side that summer for the Muny’s Kansas City counterpart, Starlight Theater.
This 2023 visit, in its own way, was just that fine.
Before I left New York for St. Louis, interviews about Undaunted that I’ve posted elsewhere on this site were pre-recorded, one with Debbie Monterrey for Total Information on KMOX-AM and a second one for The Jennifer and Wendy Show on KTRS550 radio with Jennifer Blome and Wendy Weise. All three women are seasoned pros at this sort of thing—all with dulcet voice tones—and it was fun to talk Undaunted with each of them. One unintended but welcome aspect of the work for this book is that the material invites different questions from different interviewers and I don’t have to parrot the same talking points over and over again. Then again, some points I think are too important not to keep making . . .
Since it was such a quick trip, I wrested a wingwoman, my daughter, Brett Kroeger, away from her duties as hockey mom and singer. She doubled as tour photographer and documentarian for the—whoosh!— twenty-one hours we were on the ground. Thank you, Brett.
On arrival in St. Louis, the first good omen was the name of our media escort, the loquacious and adorable Elaine Bly. I’m not making this up.
As verification, I offer this photo of her car’s vanity plate.
The second sign was the view of the arch out our window at the Four Seasons.
Feeling great, our first stop was HEC-TV, where Angie Weidinger conducted an interview scheduled to air June 5. I’ll post the video when it is available. Angie and I traded stories. She told of her first job as a television reporter and the contract she signed that required her hair to be straight whenever she appeared on the air, including after, say, covering a deluge. The years were not the 1960s; it was 2002-2009.
I think I’ll be collecting many of these stories along the way.
One of the two main events was the book talk at the Grant’s View branch, where I finally got to meet Carrie Robb in person. For the talk, part of the foundation’s Westfall Politics & History series. the wonderful Debbie Monterrey served as interlocutor, allowing us to continue the discussion we had started a couple of days before.
We recorded it into the sound system so the audio quality is great. (Thank you, Carlos!)
Here’s the conversation with Debbie Monterrey:
(And if you’d like the skip the talk and just hear Brett sing a few bars of the Stephen Foster song that gave Nellie Bly her name [“Nelly Bly”], much as she did (but with eons more training) in the American Experience program “Around the World in 72 Days,” we caught it on a cell phone and inserted the better sound:
That, as you can imagine, was a major crowd-pleaser, so much so that the remarkable Carrie asked us to repeat this the next morning at the Foundation’s donor breakfast and Brett obliged. At the 45-minute mark, Debbie called for questions from the audience:
Here’s Brooke, emoting:
The evening included a book signing and in that window of time came a man I had never met, Doug Clark, who drove the 120-plus miles from Columbia, Mo., bringing with him, for me to sign, all six of my books—seven, actually, including Front Pages, Front Lines, the suffrage essay collection I helped edit, assisting my esteemed friends and colleagues, Linda Steiner and Carolyn Kitch, who took the lead. This undid me. He told me he had done the same for the now late Molly Ivins, driving all the way to Texas with all of her books, too. Deep bow to you, Doug Clark.
The bookstore, The Novel Neighbor, handled the book sales and at the store itself, does a unique thing. It asks visiting (and local, I suppose) authors to inscribe a red wooden plaque with their favorite quote, incorporating into the design an old key (books open doors, you know). This is what I offered.
The next morning, I went solo (except for the repeat Brett interlude). We made an audio recording of the speech:
And of the Q&A with the audience that followed:
A great and thoroughly welcome surprise was the appearance of a strong contingent of St. Louis journalists who happen to be women, including Aisha Sultan and Jane Henderson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Amanda Woytus of St. Louis Magazine, Michelle Li of KSDK-TV, and Trish Muyco-Tobin of Gazelle Magazine.
There’s a gallery below with photos of all the library and the foundation’s superb leadership team. Here’s a view of the “tabletop” and a crowd shot I pulled. Lovely is the operative word.
More photos …
… and an ephemera bonus: Press release here and other details here on the St. Louis County Library Foundation site. See this tribute to the wonderful Debbie Monterrey.
And the ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pre-visit: