Bookfest St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

Bookfest St. Louis

Mary Engelbreit is speaking at BookFest this Saturday.
Mary Engelbreit

Before she became a household name for her internationally acclaimed illustration work, Mary Engelbreit was a typical young adult finding a way to make a living in St. Louis. In her late teens and early 20s, she worked at a local art store and an ad agency — and then landed a job as an editorial artist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

She was let go during her probation period, she told listeners Wednesday during an interview with St. Louis on the Air. The unceremonious goodbye came after she challenged the fact that men were paid much more than women. 

Fiction writer Michael Nye (at left), Left Bank Books co-owner Kris Kleindienst (center) and Kathleen Finneran, a senior writer in residence at Washington University, are among those involved in this weekend’s festival.
Erica Ott & St. Louis Public Radio

Kris Kleindienst need only glance out toward the entrance to her bookstore at the corner of Euclid and McPherson avenues for some solid reminders of St. Louis’ literary legacy. The busts of four canonical writers adorn the intersection – T.S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin and William Burroughs, all of whom spent formative years in the city.

But Kleindienst is just as enthusiastic about St. Louis’ contemporary writing community as she is about the region’s historical claims to writerly fame.

“We’re a great literary town, and that – in my 44 years of bookselling – has really just become clearer and clearer to me,” the Left Bank Books co-owner said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air during a discussion ahead of Bookfest St. Louis.