Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Happy 95th Anniversary to St. Louis Writers Guild!

Happy 95th Anniversary to St. Louis Writers Guild!
By Brad R. Cook

St. Louis in 1920 was city of brick. A city on the rise. The brick wars, yes it was a war had reshaped the gateway to the west. The landscape was smaller than we know today. The city wasn’t as connected. Webster Groves was an orchard outside of town. None of the highways had been built – the main thoroughfares were Grand, Kingshighway, Lindell, Locust, and Natural Bridge. Clayton Road was listed on a map of the day as the road to Jefferson City. Imagine how long that would take.

St. Louis Writers Guild first meeting was held on Thursday evening, October 28th, 1920 in the living room of Shirley Seifert’s home on De Giverville Ave. About thirty people meet to discuss novel writing. A group of six local writers from various fields created an organization that would gather more often than the biannual meetings of Missouri Writers Guild. The topic for the first meeting was novel writing. They had high ideals for what it meant to be writer, and were drawn to surround themselves with only the best in the literary world.

Sam Hellman, the first SLWG president and a paragon of the silver screen, had a razor wit and his finger on the pulse of his times. A longtime newspaperman, Hellman was the managing editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but would turn his attention to Hollywood. He penned approximately 40 movies, many of which are considered classics of the golden age. He loved playing bridge and talking endlessly about writing. Elinor Maxwell McCord was quoted as saying, “Mr. Hellman is a riot in conversation. It was better listening to him than reading one of his stories. He keeps a running chatter of conversation, couched in the most marvelous slang imaginable, and some unimaginable.”
Hellman was an established writer for 20th Century Fox beginning in the 1920’s, and later switched to Warner Bros in the 1940’s. He wrote for Will Rogers (The County Chairman, 1935), Spencer Tracy (It’s a Small World, 1935), and the Ritz Brothers (The Three Musketeers, 1939), and worked with other major Hollywood names including John Carradine, Jane Darwell, Guy Kibbee, and Donald Meek. He wrote numerous Shirley Temple hits including (Poor Little Rich Girl, 1936) and (Captain January, 1936).
A few of his other masterpieces include, (Flying Fists, 1924) (writer), (The Lottery Lover, 1935) (writer), (Stanley and Livingstone, 1939) (historical research and story outline), (The Doughgirls, 1944) (writer), (My Darling Clementine, 1946) (story), and his final film (Powder River, 1953) (writer).

Shirley Seifert, the second president of St. Louis Writers Guild, was born in St. Peters, Missouri. Seifert attended Washington University in St. Louis where she majored in classical and modern languages. Her journalism professors encouraged her writing, and this led her to sell an article to Population Science Monthly. In 1919 Seifert wrote “The Girl Who Was Too Good Looking” and earned $100 from American magazine. Seifert’s regularly published in Redbook, McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, and New York Herald-Tribune Magazine.
Seifert’s literary career centered on historical fiction and many of her novels were set in the American Midwest, featuring ordinary people living in extraordinary times. She maintained a positive outlook regarding the Great Depression saying, “I am no defeatist. When I am doing research for a novel, I see how America will work out of its present crisis.” She wrote fifteen novels, and earned a noteworthy place in American literature when The Wayfarer was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Ralph Mooney, wouldn’t be president until 1941, but was instrumental in the early years of St. Louis Writers Guild. Mooney published short stories in popular magazines like the Saturday Evening Post, Argosy All-Story Weekly, The Popular Magazine, Munsey's, American Magazine, and People's Favorite Magazine. His most well-known stories include “Look like a Million” in American Magazine, 1921, and “Polysynthetic Football” published in The Saturday Evening Post, 1922.
He is most famous for his novel David Rudd, published in 1927, sometimes called a memoir; it has been explained as a romance of the Mississippi River. His next novel was a work of fiction titled Mr. Pelly’s Little Home and was published in 1936.
Mooney also ventured into the theater with friend C. Eugene Smith. In 1914, a three-act operetta, The Love Star was produced by W. Gus Haenschen, the words and lyrics were written by Mooney and Smith. This instrumental ensemble for chorus and piano was produced in St. Louis, Missouri by the Quadrangle Club of Washington University.

Jay Gelzer was born in England and she published many short stories in popular magazines including Goodhousekeeping, Collier’s, Woman’s World, and Cosmopolitan. She wrote two books: a collection of stories published under the title, The Street of a Thousand Delights, and Compromise: A Novel. In 1924, she copyrighted a dramatic comedy screenplay called Lonely Woman, and the 1929 film, Broadway Babies, was based on one of her stories.

William Brennan was a newspaperman who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post, he later became a screenplay writer.

Lenora McPheeters wrote short stories.

Unfortunately we are still working to find verifiable information on William Brennan and Lenora McPheeters, both were integral to the formation of St. Louis Writers Guild, but have not left as large a footprint on history as the other founders. Research continues in hopes that within some dusty corner more records can be discovered.

Thank you to Founders, the Charter Members, and the writers who attended those early meetings. Thank you to 95 years of writers who have continued their honored traditions and kept this organization alive and thriving. Without all of you we'd just be a footnote in history instead of one of the oldest and largest literary organizations in the Midwest.

Here's too many more years of gathering together to discuss what else – writing!

Thank you to the today's board, President David Lucas, Jennifer Stolzer, T.W. Fendley, Jamie Krakover, Peter Green, Lauren Miller, and Brad R. Cook.

I should also mention – Today is the 50th Anniversary for the Arch. I’m certain they chose this date to honor St. Louis Writers Guild’s 45th Anniversary.

Visit for more information about St. Louis Writers Guild. 

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Zulu, Book II is coming in November 2015. He currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more at, on Twitter @bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr

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