Kathy L. Murphy wears many hats and styles many heads as the Pulpwood Queen’s Book Club Reading Nation stays strong and active after 20 years.
Just two short decades ago, Murphy began a book club with six strangers in her hair salon/bookstore. That book club, the Pulpwood Queen’s Book Club Reading Nation, has grown to almost 800 chapters nationwide with members in fifteen countries. And it all started in historic Jefferson, Texas.
With the 20th anniversary of this global hit in mind, we chatted recently with the original Pulpwood Queen herself.
How did the idea for the Pulpwood Queen’s Book Club Reading Nation begin?
Shortly after I opened Beauty and the Book, the only hair salon/bookstore in the country, a local book club invited me to join them. After a wonderful discussion and a four-course luncheon, I blurted out, “So, what are we reading next?” The hostess [explained], “I think you misunderstood. We invited you to come to our meeting as a guest.”… I left as quickly as I could…
By the time I got home I was searching for a notepad and paper. I would start my own book club. Everyone would be invited, and we would fill my store. I brainstormed what to call it. I thought “The Pulpwood Queens,” as pulpwood was the industry of Jefferson. Pulpwood is made into paper, and paper is put into books! The name would let people know we did not take ourselves as seriously as others, but we would be just as serious about the books we read.
Our motto is “Where tiaras are mandatory and reading our good books is the ONLY rule!” The full story is in my first book and memoir, “The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing Book Sharing Guide to Life.” It’s my story of how books saved me, and why I have been on a mission to let everyone know how sharing stories can change your life for the better.
When you started out in Jefferson, Texas, did you expect the club to see so much success?
Starting out, all I knew was I wanted to share my passion of beauty and books. What happened next is still unbelievable. My shop has long since closed, but from the get go we became a media sensation. John Grisham was publisher of Oxford American Magazine, and covered my grand opening. Over 200 people came to my shop. Oprah producers featured us on a show called “Dallas Style.” (What amazes me was another Texas woman featured was Beyoncé.)
Next, Diane Sawyer of “Good Morning America” called. The Los Angeles Times followed me around for a week, as I now took authors to visit Pulpwood Queen chapters.
Looking back, everyone thought I was this creative genius, but in fact I was just in survival mode.
Since then, we’ve been featured in all the local print media plus some national ones like Newsweek and Time, all local television stations and Texas television programming and beyond. I will tell you it’s weird being asked for an autograph because to me I will always be a small-town Kansas tomboy with her nose stuck in a book reading up in her treehouse.
Any new and exciting things fans can look forward to?
I am working on three books, “The Pulpwood Queen Goes Back to School,” and a novel called “Eureka: A Novel,” a love letter to my hometown of Eureka, Kansas. And, I have begun the first in a series to be titled “Frogtown,” based on the story of what happens when someone comes into the forest, told through the eyes of the creatures that live within.
I also have been painting, and all my latest works are at Stephanie Chance’s Decorate Ornate in Gladewater, Texas.
I now am also the new host for Breathless Bubbles & Books, our Facebook Group page. I partnered with award-winning Sonoma, California winery, Breathless Wines to pair my reads with their wines. We also kicked off our 20th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend with Pulpwood Academy which is our new online book club.
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
This pandemic has punched the reset button, and made me realize there is nothing more important than sharing our stories. A story not shared is a library lost to family and friends. Be a lifelong learner, and if you are always kind and always love, smooth sailing will happen. Just wait for it…it’s all about the story.
Gracie Watt is the Digital Intern at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and a sophomore at St. Edward’s University in Austin, studying Journalism. When she’s not writing, Watt enjoys singing, playing the guitar and doing volunteer work. @gracie.whatt