Campus Author: Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis, by Catherine Rankovic

Book offers insights, excerpts from area’s most notable contemporary writers

When many people think of St. Louis, the Gateway Arch, Cardinals baseball or Anheuser-Busch beer comes to mind.

Catherine Rankovic is looking to add another feature to that list: literary hub.

Through her book Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis (Penultimate Press, 2010), Rankovic, production editor and designer for University College in Arts & Sciences, offers readers an introduction to the great contemporary writers who call St. Louis home.

In Meet Me, 13 acclaimed creative writers talk about their lives and work through interviews by Rankovic. The book also includes photographs, short biographies and excerpts from authors’ writing.

Writers featured — “the literary greats of the future,” Rankovic says — are Josephine Baker’s biographer Jean-Claude Baker; novelist/critic Harper Barnes; essayist Gerald Early; memoirist Kathleen Finneran; travel writer Eddy L. Harris; playwright Ntozake Shange; mystery novelist Qiu Xiaolong; and poets Tess Gallagher, Eric Pankey, Carl Phillips, Jane O. Wayne and the late Donald Finkel and John N. Morris.

Half of the featured writers are or have been WUSTL faculty members. Early and Phillips are professors and Finneran, a WUSTL alumna, is a writer-in-residence, all in the Department of English in Arts & Sciences. Barnes is a former adjunct professor and Xiaolong is a former lecturer in Chinese history, both in University College in Arts & Sciences. Pankey is a former director of the Creative Writing Program. Finkel, a founding member of The Writing Program, and Morris, a professor of English literature, were members of the English department.

“Having lived many other places, I like to say of St. Louis, ‘This is Paris,’” Rankovic says. “I really believe that the cluster of writers presently working in St. Louis is like the cluster who worked in Paris in the 1920s.

“I hope that the people who don’t yet realize how great we are will be convinced by this book,” she says.

Rankovic says she styled the Q&A interviews so readers would feel as though they were part of an intimate conversation. She also included photographs, biographies and excerpts to help readers understand the person behind each writer.

“The writers talk about crystallizing their identities as writers, about writing and publishing books, and issues such as racial tension, their individual missions in life, and honesty,” Rankovic says.

“Almost every writer in Meet Me speaks of honesty,” she says. “St. Louis is a place that seems to encourage honesty in writers — and that stirs up controversy.”

For more information about the book, visit or e-mail Rankovic at