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Oprah of the Piney Woods

Kathy Patrick wields some hefty clout out of her beauty shop/book store

Oprah of the Piney Woods

See video of Kathy Patrick discussing the annual Girlfriend Weekend.

Michael "Pollywog" Sager has come to Beauty and Book in Jefferson, Texas, to see Kathy Patrick. President of the 42 Taillights Motorcycle Club in nearby New London, Sager is tall, bald, with a long gray beard, and has iron cross tattoos on both forearms.

He holds a binder filled with pink printer pages, a diary of his daughter's first year of life. Another set of these pages is at a vanity press called iUniverse, being proofread at Sager's expense. His daughter is now 15 months old, and Sager is already working on the second installment of the story of her life.

Kathy Patrick washes the hair of Jenny Wingfield, author of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, in Patrick's hair salon/bookstore, Beauty and the Book.
Chris Curry
Kathy Patrick washes the hair of Jenny Wingfield, author of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, in Patrick's hair salon/bookstore, Beauty and the Book.
Books hand-picked by Kathy Patrick line one-half of Beauty and the Book, which she calls the only combination bookstore and beauty salon in the world.
Chris Curry
Books hand-picked by Kathy Patrick line one-half of Beauty and the Book, which she calls the only combination bookstore and beauty salon in the world.

Sager has driven 90 minutes to meet with Patrick — in her beauty salon — in the hopes that she can help make his book a hit.

"I've been wanting to get a chance to see you and your place for quite a while now," he tells her. "I'm up here just for you."

He has heard that Patrick's book club, The Pulpwood Queens, has helped out-of-print authors go into second rounds of publishing, get options for films, become bestsellers. He has heard that she's a kingmaker. She is gentle with him, but doesn't coddle, revealing her hairdresser's gift of easy conversation. She gives him some advice on self-publishing and shares her own experiences of writing her first book, but doesn't promise him anything other than a cursory read of his work — because Patrick is a busy woman.

Founded 11 years ago, The Pulpwood Queens now has more members than the population of Jefferson — 515 chapters spread all across the world. Six official Pulpwood Queen books have been optioned for movies after their selection by the club.

In 2002, when Patrick announced Dive from Clausen's Pier as the inaugural Good Morning America Read This! pick, saying it was the perfect plot for a book club discussion, the novel shot to No. 9 on the New York Times Bestseller List and No. 1 on Amazon, selling out by 6 p.m. that day. She's spoken at dozens of book festivals and has been approached about a reality TV show. She's working on her own second book, and possibly a play.

Photographs of her with famous authors line one-half of the old mechanic shop in which she now runs "the only combination hair salon/book store in the world." Model Paulina Porizkova poses in a red sparkly tiara with Patrick. There's a picture of Patrick riding horseback with John Berendt, author of Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil. The bathroom door, painted black, is covered in silver signatures from all the authors, famous and not-yet-famous, who have come by the shop.

In one corner is an endcap stocked solely with signed copies of My Reading Life by Pat Conroy, Patrick's favorite living author, who also wrote The Prince of Tides. According to Patrick, Conroy was inspired to write his latest book after a visit to Jefferson a few years ago, where he found fellowship in the bookloving community of Pulpwood Queens (and Timber Guys, as male members are called).

Patrick is also in the process of recording 12 webisodes of a talk show with Random House where she interviews authors such as Conroy and Fannie Flagg. It's this that makes the Pulpwood Queens book club unique — unprecedented access to authors for readers either via Skype at Pulpwood Queen meetings, or during the annual Girlfriend Weekend, a massive gathering of Pulpwood Queens from across the country that culminates in a party called the Great Big Ball of Hair.

So, whatever his talents as an author, motorcycle club president Sager knew exactly what he was doing when he rode over to see Patrick, a small-town woman with big clout in the literary world.
_____________________

Kathy Patrick's resume is one of starts and stops, disappointments and triumphs both large and small — all of which have brought her to this corner of Texas.

"I've had to reinvent myself so many times," she says. One of her favorite quotes is "So when life hands you a lemon, forget lemonade, make margaritas."

Whatever stereotype you have of a small-town woman who runs a beauty salon and book club, Patrick wants to break it.

Though she just turned 55, she looks closer to 35, and much younger than the composite image on the cover of her first book, a memoir called The Pulpwood Queen's Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life. She has cropped dark hair and one very hip feather hair extension, and her eyes are powdered in a shade like a peacock's feathers. She admits to being sick of pink, but it's a Pulpwood Queen theme so she tolerates it. In person, she's a far cry from the girl she writes about in the early pages of her book.

Growing up as a shy tomboy in a small Kansas town whose family moved frequently between financial and social strata, she found solace in books such as To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. School did not come easy to her, until her fourth-grade teacher, who saw she was struggling, recommended the book Honestly Katie John. It was the first time Patrick realized reading could be enjoyable, and later influenced her focus on literacy education.

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8 comments
Bill Torgerson
Bill Torgerson

Fun read! Nice background for me as I try to tell a story around the video I shot at Girlfriend Weekend 2012.

Writecarolodell
Writecarolodell

The comparison to Oprah is not an exaggeration--Kathy Patrick is fierce, fun, and has a genuine passion for books and people. Her devotion to her fans, to literacy, and to her community is the glue to her "queendom." Her book clubs are not just in name only--her clubs read and discuss and are a driving force in the publishing world--and you don't know what fun is until you experience one of her Girlfriend Weekends--held each January--those folks know how to party--with some of the well-loved and well-loved authors as guests. Kathy lives a big life in a small town! She's an example of what one person can do. ~Carol O'Dellwww.caroldodell.com

Carrifrederick
Carrifrederick

I was one of the many people that made the pilgrimage to Jefferson, Texas after reading her book! Let me say, Kathy Patrick is one of the sweetest people showing true southern hospitality that there ever was! There were eight of us that made the trip and the day ended up being magical! She is definitely kind and generous. She is genuinely the Pulpwood Queen! All she gushes about is books and books and more books. We loved it, where some people stalk after movie stars and athletes we do the same with authors!! LOL She needs her own reality show for sure! I remember when we were visiting Jefferson and we went into one of the little shops there, I ask the store owner, "Do you know who Kathy Patrick is?". He said, "Oh yeah, shes crazy isnt she?"..we all laughed and said, "She seems pretty normal to us!"

Brookebivey
Brookebivey

Wonderful article! Love, love, love Kathy Patrick and the Pulpwood Queens!

Twila Carter Ilgen
Twila Carter Ilgen

What a wonderful article! Great story, Kathy's a real jewel of the Piney Woods! Keep up the good work!

West7t4
West7t4

This is probably the most interesting and well written story I have read in the Press in years. Keep it up and I will become a regular reader again.

Kathleenkaska
Kathleenkaska

What an incredible article! This is the best one ever (including what I wrote). Oprah of the Piney Woods, Kingmaker, great names. And I love the photo of Kathy and Pat Conroy. Kathy is truly a jewel of the literary world and I'm delighted to know her.

Kay Huck
Kay Huck

Kathy Patrick is a one woman show who is all about the other person. Fabulously intelligent, sensitive and creative. Once I met her I ran home and started a PQ book club! It wasn't long before others wanted to join. Her book selections always stimulate discussion and most of the authors have either phoned in or used skype for video calls. Bowing at the foot of The Queen!

 
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