Unusually Clever People
I trudged miles of aisles at a trade show in Baltimore the other day, amazed at how many tree-growers there ARE, but the most interesting discovery among the thousands of vendors was a small publisher who I’m convinced wants to do some good while making money. Though if he’d actually said that I’d think he’s a phony. And I may be going out on a limb but I’m willing to risk it – Paul Kelly is no phony.
THE ROAD TO ST. LYNN’S PRESS
Through a series of conversations I discovered in Paul an interesting mix of back-to-earth gardener, business acumen and lots of what Margaret Roach calls “woo-woo”.
He started his first garden in 1974 in the hills of West Virginia where he was teaching, and credits the kids with teaching him to grow a garden. Then he went west and lived in an intentional community
in Northern California for 17 years, and gardened there, too. But it wasn’t all yoga, meditation and gardening – he also ran a PR firm specializing in book author tours, and did marketing for publishers - from Harper Collins to small spiritual publishers.
ST. LYNN’S AND WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR
Back east now and living in his own town of Pittsburgh, Paul started St. Lynn’s Press
in 2005 and produced books on organic gardening, zen life, help for caregivers, and the popular “Queer Questions, Straight Talk”
for families. Now focussed exclusively on gardening and other “green” topics, this year St. Lynn’s is producing gardening books by Pittsburgh’s most notable garden writers – Doug Oster, Jessica Wallister, and Nancy
Gift – with titles like Good Weed, Bad Weed
and Good Bug, Bad Bug
a vegan recipe book, and one about “Living off the grid for 36 years” that I’m really curious about.
I asked Paul what kinds of book ideas he’s looking for from garden writers and he said “Anything that’s different,” including “quick and easy” books for people who want to garden but can’t devote a lot of time to it, and “cross-over” books that combine gardening with something else. He says he sees lots of book proposals that would make great magazine articles, not so much full-fledged bookS. “It’s challenging for a small publisher like us to make a go of it if a book doesn’t sell 5,000 copies.”
on January 24, 2011 at 4:58 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.
As a small publisher who still wants to find time to garden, Paul’s ultimate goal is to publish one book a month throughout the year, so for the months when gardening books don’t sell well he’s looking for proposals covering topics like social responsibility, health and healing, simple living, and sustainability.
Besides a meaty topic, what else is he looking for in authors? This is no surprise: “More than ever, an author must have a strong platform of their own in these times to help a book succeed. The social media sites and well-read blogs today have for the most part taken the place of traditional book reviews.”
At home in Pittsburgh, Paul seems to grow everything – vegetables, fruit, and “lotsa flowers and flowering shrubs, too”. Then on the weekends he takes care of a few acres he bought in the hills of West Virginia back in the mid-’70s, on which he built a rustic cabin from trees on the property. He told me “It has no electric or indoor plumbing. There’s a part of me (my muscles don’t agree) that still thinks I’m a young hippy in their 20′s!”
You and me both, Paul, and someday let’s swap stories about that awesome era. In the meantime, I’m hoping to see St. Lynn’s Press play an important role in the garden-writing world. It’s needed.