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Blank Slate Press is thrilled to be a part of LIT IN THE LOU. 


Please visit the festival webpage at and find out how you can be involved by:


Slant of Light by Steve Wiegenstein - cover

THIS OLD WORLD by Steve Wiegenstein

Thanks to BSP author and former MWG president Steve Wiegenstein for allowing us to reprint this blog post. Steve’s is the author of SLANT OF LIGHT (2012) and THIS OLD WORLD (Sept. 2014). 

I’ve just returned from the annual meeting/conference of the Missouri Writers’ Guild, an organization I have had the privilege to serve as president for the last two years. I came away with several reflections that I will be sharing over the next few posts.

First, and most important from the personal perspective, I was reminded that all writers–all writers, I repeat–need to continually sharpen their craft. At the conference, we had beginning writers and authors with multiple books. But I think every one of us came away with something to remember. It’s easy to get stuck in a stylistic rut, or to grow insensitive to one’s weaknesses. A conference, with its wide variety of sessions and viewpoints, is a great way to pause and reexamine old habits. I was in a session this weekend with an insecure beginning writer who in the space of two minutes told us the most amazing and moving story, reminding  me that inspired thoughts can come from the most unexpected sources and that everyone deserves to be listened to.

I was reminded as well that writers, for the most part, are generous people with their time and thoughts. Throughout the conference, people gathered in hallways and side chairs, conversing and sharing. That’s where the real conference is taking place, as much as in the formal sessions and workshops.

It’s an ongoing, evolving art form, this act of writing, and a gathering of writers both humbles and refreshes. How much there is yet to know. How much there is yet to write.

You can find the original post on Steve’s blog.


Blank Slate Press is looking forward to a year of expansion with new titles, new authors, and a new team member.  We are proud to announce that Brad R. Cook, a former freelance technical writer, founding contributor of The Writers’ Lens, and current President of St. Louis Writers Guild will bring his talents to lead the team on Marketing, Author Management, and Acquisitions.

PLUS, we’re reopening submissions! 

Taking the lead on reviewing submissions, Brad will be working with Amira Makansi to read and evaluate new manuscripts. As Brad puts it, right now BSP is looking for “great stories with deep complex characters and strong voices. I’d really like to find, some wonderful magical realism, historical fiction, or escapist adventures. I’m on the eternal hunt for books that make me think, wrench my emotions, and define my life … basically books that move me.” Check out our submissions page here.

And speaking of books that moved us…our first author, Fred Venturini, is back on the scene with his re-edited and expanded version of THE SAMARITAN. THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK will be released by Picador this fall and you will not want to miss it. It’s already getting buzz! Check out #15 on this BuzzFeed list.


(Originally posted on Kevin Killeen’s blog:

With 80 percent of all books in America purchased by women, this vital demographic is weighing in on a novel featuring grade school boys in trouble.

One female reviewer objected to the tale of boys constantly peeing on bushes and running amok while they’re moms are home baking cookies.

Another reviewer, “Simply Stacie,” reports the story stirred her to root for the main character “like I was his mother.”  She also says she “couldn’t put it down,” anxious to find out how it would end for her young hero.

Meanwhile, parish moms in the vicinity where the book takes place have pulled the author aside with their heads shaking to ask, “Did you really do all this stuff?”

It was the 1960s, after all, and there were fewer rules, no cell phones, and boys were only expected to “be home for dinner.



They filed past the book signing table like well-wishers filing past the casket.

Hundreds of friends, relatives and sympathetic strangers turned out for a series of events marking the release of Never Hug a Nun.

Kind people, many of whom left dishes in the sink, ventured out to get a copy of the novel at Charlie Brennan’s Fontbonne Book of the Month Club taping Nov 27, at the KMOX Holiday Radio Show Dec 3, and at the Webster Groves Book Shop Dec 8.

Many of the men whispered confessions of their own delinquent past as they purchased the book, then hid it under arm and hurried to their car.  Most touching was the procession of parish mothers, some of whom remember the author as a “troubled student,” purchasing two or three copies to impress upon their grand children the dangers of going the wrong way.

At the Webster Groves Book Shop, owner Ann Foy put out a small dish of lightly-salted peanuts for customers to enjoy during this cough and flu season.  Foy awarded the prize to a couple who had driven the farthest — all the way from Belleville, Illinois — a free pencil marked “Webster Groves Book Shop.”

When the day was done, almost a hundred copies of the book had been sold.

“That’s pretty good,” Foy said.

Killeen thanked the management, then walked home in a cold, overcast mist.  Feeling a little queezey from all the attention, and the expired Gatorade he drank,  Killeen watched with interest as a red fire engine with sirens blaring rifled down Main Street.

His first thought was that if life were a novel, he would arrive home to find his own house had burned down from the Christmas tree he left on.   But it turned out to be some distant, unknown calamity affecting someone else.

“God help those who are in trouble,” he mumbled — a prayer the nuns had forced the students to say whenever they heard sirens. NHAN - table top sign - v 3-1

At home he found his family was all gone, except his 15-year old son Jack playing a soldier video game.  The last video game the author played was an Atari space invaders game in the 1970s.  The space invaders always won.

He sat down in a chair listening to the machine gun fire from the TV in the next room, and wondered what all the people who bought the book would think about it after they read it.

Killeen is scheduled to do a reading from the book and sign more copies at the newly-rennovated Central Library on Olive Street in Downtown St. Louis on Tuesday, Dec 11 at 6:30 p.m..

The book is available at the Webster Groves Book Shop, Left Bank Books, Subterranean Books,, and soon at St. Louis area Barnes & Noble locations.

It was a big day for Kevin Killeen. He was interviewed today on the KSDK Channel 5 Noon Show … AND featured in the Webster-Kirkwood Times: Growing Up In Webster … Kevin Killeen Style.

Check out the links and the head over to your local independent bookstore and pick up your copy of NEVER HUG A NUN. (The book will be available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon. In the meantime, you can also order it from us directly:






~ The rescue dog who inspired OFF THE LEASH comes home ~



Sunday, November 18th, 1:00 P.M.
Lecture Hall of the Humane Society of Missouri
1201 Macklind, St. Louis, MO 63110. 

She’s the dog who motivated a seemingly sane, mother of four to bag the day job and road trip across America.Now Libby is coming back home. St. Louis journalist and author, Jean Ellen Whatley with Libby by her side, will be giving a multi-media talk and signing copies of her memoir, Off the Leashon Sunday, November 18th at the Macklind location of the Humane Society of Missouri; the same place where the author first set eyes on the irresistible golden-red puppy, who would become her muse, her canine traveling companion, confidant, and comic relief.

Whatley’s blog-to-book, which just last week made the St.Louis Post-Dispatch Best Seller List, chronicles the writer’s 8,600 mile journey to reconnect with every person and place she had ever loved. Along the way, she observed life lessons from her dog.

“To love with abandon, to live in the moment,” said Whatley, “not hold a grudge and go along for the ride.”

“For anyone who has ever loved a dog,” said publisher Kristina Blank Makansi, of Blank Slate Press, “this is a tale of bonding between a woman and her dog of the highest order. More than that, Off the Leash is about freedom. It’s about having the courage to listen to your gut and take action, no matter the risk.”

Subterranean Books is the official bookstore partner for the event, with 10% of sales that day going to the Humane Society’s adoption efforts. “We are 100% behind rescue dogs, that’s all we’ve ever had,” said Kelly von Plonski, co-owner of Subterranean Books.” We’re proud to promote a local author and also help support efforts to place loving dogs in loving homes. Just look at the literary inspiration created by this match-up!”

Whatley’s book talk will include many photos and videos from her eight week, coast-to-coast odyssey.  “We’re proud of our famous traveling dog, Libby,” said Jeane Jae, VP of Communications, Humane Society of Missouri. “Not every one of our pets gets to grace the cover of a book, but all of our pets are capable of inspiring such devotion.”

The book talk takes place Sunday, November 18th, 1:00 P.M. in the Lecture Hall of the Humane Society of Missouri, 1201 Macklind, St. Louis, MO 63110. For more information e-mail Kristy Makansi at Blank Slate Press at kbmakansi @

Want to know more about Jean and her incredible journey? Check out her blog and watch her trailer here.

We’re delighted to report that we’ve got a lot going on in the next couple of weeks. First, as described in our last blog post, we’re excited to participate in the Saint Louis Literary Consortium’s 2012 Holiday Book Signing at Left Bank Books on November 9, 10, 11th. We hope everyone in STL will come out and support a great independent bookstore, wonderful literary organizations, publishers and, of course, local and regional authors.

BSP authors Steve Wiegenstein (SLANT OF LIGHT) and Jean Ellen Whatley (OFF THE LEASH) will be in store to sign their books. Jean will be signing from 6 – 8 pm Friday evening, and Steve will be signing from 12 – 2pm on Saturday. This is the perfect opportunity to buy the best gift of all–BOOKS–for everyone on your holiday list! And, even though NEVER HUG A NUN and DRIVING ALONE won’t be available for in-store purchase yet, you can pre-order your copies at the register.

Next, we’ve got another wonderful event coming up for OFF THE LEASH

 Blank Slate Press author Jean Ellen Whatley, Subterranean Books, and the Human Society of Missouri are coming together to do a book signing and to promote pet adoption. A portion of all sales will go to support HSMO’s mission. Jean will have a great slideshow and talk about how her dog, Libby, inspired her to go on a cross-country journey to rejuvenate, reenergize, and reclaim her life. Libby accompanied her every step along the way and their already strong bond became even stronger. It’s amazing how much we love our dogs!

So, if you love your dog, if your dog inspires you with his/her love and devotion, plan on joining Jean and supporting the HSMO.
>> when: November 18, 1:00 pm
>>where: 1201 Macklind Avenue | St. Louis, MO 63110 | phone: (314) 647-8800
>> Here’s a blurb from  from the Riverfront Times about her last event at Subterranean Books. And a clip in which she talks about the importance of Libby in her life and on her journey.

And the buzz is building for Kevin Killeen’s NEVER HUG A NUN

We’ve got a number of events on the schedule to make sure you can get a copy of NEVER HUG A NUN for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Yuletide, no matter what holiday(s) you celebrate, you’ll want a copy of this delightful book that celebrates the innocent mischievousness of being a kid.

>> KMOX Fontbonne Book of the Month Club with Charlie Brennan
> Tuesday, November, 27
> 7 to-9 p.m. at Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves
>  Featuring Kevin Killeen and musician John Pizzarelli, author of World on a String: a musical memoir
> Charlie Brennan will interview Kevin on KMOX on November 14th

>> KMOX Holiday Radio Show
> Monday, December 3
> The Rep on the Webster University Campus, Webster Groves
>  Featuring Kevin Killeen and the whole on-air KMOX crew

>> Booksigning at Webster Groves Bookshop
> Saturday, December 8 , 1-4
> 100 West Lockwood Avenue,  (314) 968-1185

>> Reading at the Newly Remodeled Central Library
> Tuesday, December 11 at 6:30 p.m., Carnegie Room (3rd Floor)
> 1301 Olive St., downtown – (314) 206-6779.


New Literary Group Announces Joint Book Signing
Holiday Event at Left Bank Books – CWE

The newly organized Saint Louis Literary Consortium is pleased to announce their first joint event to be held in conjunction with Left Bank Books. The event will host publishers and featured authors on the weekend of November 9, 10, and 11 at Left Bank Books’ Central West End location, 399 North Euclid Ave, 63108. While books from each of the organizations will be available the full three days, featured authors will be present for signings at various times throughout the weekend. (Store hours are: Friday and Saturday – 10:00 am to 10:00 pm; Sunday – 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.)

“Saint Louis has a long and rich literary history, and this event is a way to celebrate continuing that tradition of excellence. We’re delighted that Left Bank Books is hosting us and giving us the opportunity to showcase local publishers and authors just in time for the holiday shopping season,” said Winnie Sullivan, Executive Director of PenUltimate Press. “For readers who love small presses and who want to support local authors—and local booksellers—this will be a great weekend.”

“This is just the first event that our new group has in the works as we come together as publishers and organizations to promote the literary arts in the Greater Saint Louis area,” Nancy Hughes of the St. Louis Poetry Center said. Along with the St. Louis Poetry Center and the St. Louis Writers Guild, participating organizations include Blank Slate Press, PenUltimate Press, Stonebrook Publishing, and Walrus Publishing.

For more information about the event, contact Left Bank Books at 314.367.6731. For information about the Saint Louis Literary Consortium, contact any of the participating organizations or Kristina Blank Makansi at Organization website addresses are:,,,

Participating Authors

Over 40 authors will be a part of this event! A schedule of book signing times will be announced soon.

Qiu Xiaolong
Mary Ellen Howard
Tullia Hamilton
Catherine Rankovic
Matt Freeman
Curtis Comer
Angie Fox
TW Fendley
Cole Gibsen
Brad R. Cook
Peter Green
Linda Austin
Claire Applewhite
Leigh Savage
Brenda Neubauer
Liz Maloney
Faye Adams
Bill Adams
Pat Bubash
Bruce Lucas
Robin Tidwell
Steve Weigenstein
Jean Ellen Whatley
Hannie J. Voyles
Vicki Bennington
Daniel Brannan
Loretta Goebel
Wanita Zumbrunnen
Denise McCormick Baich
Steven Schreiner
Mary Ruth Donnelly
Jennifer Fandel
Susan Grigsby
Gaye Gambell-Peterson
Niki Nymark
John S. Tieman
Marjorie Stelmach
Glendall Wallace
Drucilla Wall
Eamonn Wall

This holiday season give the gift with a St. Louis touch, support your local authors!


The author being interviews for New Mexico Style on KRQE (CBS) KASA (Fox).

Today is  a big day for Jean Ellen Whatley, one of our fantastic Blank Slate Press authors. She’s back in Albuquerque, NM, her old stomping grounds, for her first book signing and for the 2nd Annual Don Whatley Memorial Golf Tournament named for her late brother. The golf tourney raises much needed funds to help some 7,000 homeless children and their families in the Albuquerque Public Schools. In it’s inaugural year, more than thirty-eight families received incentive awards from the fund administered by the APS Title 1 Homeless Project of which Don Whatley was an integral part.  Don is best remembered for his 20 years of leadership in the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

Don’s death from cancer in 2010 was part of the motivation for Jean to quit her job, grab her dog, and embark on the 8,600 mile road trip across America to reconnect with the people and places that shaped her life–and that led to her book OFF THE LEASH. When she worked in Albuquerque, Jean was an on-air reporter (she was known as Jean Shepherd back then) for KOAT-TV.  Tonight’s book signing is the official launch of her book , and today she taped a feature on the news magazine show New Mexico Style for their author spotlight segment on KRQE (CBS) KASA (Fox) which will be broadcast the week of October 15.

The book signing will be held at Serafin’s Chile Hut on Central Ave. tonight from 5:00 to 7:00 in cooperation with Bookworks, a local independent bookstore.

Bookworks sounds like a great place: “As one of Albuquerque’s last remaining local, independent bookstores, we pride ourselves on supporting our community and putting books and people together. We hold over 300 in-store, out-of-store, and kids’ events per year, showcasing the work of major nationally-known authors and small, locally-published authors alike.”

If you’re in the area, please stop by the event or get your book directly from Bookworks.



More honors for BSP, Fred Venturini and The Samaritan

Blank Slate Press was thrilled to take home The Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book: Fiction for THE SAMARITAN by Fred Venturini at the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) annual awards in NYC on Monday. I just got home from a whirlwind tour of the East Coast which included moving my daughter from Oberlin College to Baltimore for her summer internship, visiting with friends in DC and Virginia Beach, and heading up to NYC for the IBPA awards and Book Expo America. Whew! Fun, exciting and exhausting. I put over 2500 miles on the car and had wonderful visits with old friends and silly times with my lovely sister, Kathy.

But the high point was definitely the IBPA awards.  It was truly a thrill to be recognized by the  IBPA judges for THE SAMARITAN.

For those of you who have read the book–and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?–it is truly an amazing work of fiction and we are thrilled that we were able to work with  Fred on the book and to claim it as our debut title. And…please check back soon for more exciting news about THE SAMARITAN and Fred. :)