Top

arts

Stories

 

Oprah of the Piney Woods

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

On this Friday before a holiday weekend, Sager is not the only person who has made a long trip to Beauty and The Book to see Patrick.

On any given day, she is visited by tourists, book-loving pilgrims, local authors and sometimes, the media. Near the two sinks where she washes clients' hair, three full Route 44 drinks from Sonic Drive-In wait to be consumed.

"Everybody brings me drinks when they come visit me," she says, as she offers an untouched cup to her client, one of two sisters who have made an 18-hour, 1,000 mile drive from Ohio to check out their father's East Texas property and visit Beauty and the Book.

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.

"Is this the farthest you've ever gone for a haircut?" Patrick asks the woman, who sheepishly answers "yes."

Patrick's next appointment is with a woman named Jenny Wingfield, an author from Jefferson. As if on cue, Wingfield is carrying a collapsable Bud Light cooler. "I brought you a beverage. This is better that any margarita. It's goat's milk."

Wingfield wrote a book called The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, about a preacher without a church and his young family who move into a house that also happens to be connected to a honky tonk. "It's a typical East Texas tale," Patrick jokes.

The women talk about Steel Magnolias, which Patrick once starred in a production of, and about the possibility that her memoir could become a musical.

They talk about other books that have become movies. Patrick tries to persuade her customers to come back to Jefferson in January for the 12th annual Girlfriend Weekend, where John Berendt will be the keynote speaker.

"We don't gossip in my shop," she says. "We talk books, we talk film, we talk culture. I'll be 55 this month. I don't have time for negativity."

But Patrick's literary enthusiasms were initially rebuffed by the community.

Not long after she first moved to Jefferson, Patrick was invited to a local woman's house for a book club meeting. "I didn't have a lot of outside friends," she says. "I was so excited." During the gathering, Patrick thanked the 12 women for letting her join their group. Afterwards, the hostess pulled her aside and says. "We didn't invite you to be in our book club. We invited you to be a guest."

"I hate exclusivity," she says, citing her own parents' class struggles in Kansas. "My book club is not like that."

After Beauty and the Book opened and she had a place for fellow readers to gather, she decided to start her own book club — one that would focus on fun, freedom and acceptance. She picked the name Pulpwood Queens as an homage to the East Texas logging and paper industry, but also to empower women to pamper themselves — to allow themselves the luxury of leisure reading, whether what they read is high brow or low.

The first meeting of the Pulpwood Queens was March of 2000. The first book they discussed was The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. "Which I helped get published," Patrick says.

While still working at Barron's, Patrick had read a galley of author Rebecca Well's first novel, Little Altars Everywhere.

"When the book came out, I started selling it like crazy and it went out of print. I called the publisher and said, 'Don't let this book go out of print because this is a winner' and they said, 'Well, we feel like it's a little regional book.' I said, 'So was Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.'"

"Though in fact she was bound to become famous no matter what I said or did," Patrick wrote in her memoir. Harper Collins ended up buying the rights to that book and advanced Wells for her second work, which became the first in the Ya-Ya Sisterhood series.

Six women came to that first meeting. At first, Patrick wasn't sure the book club would last.

"I honestly didn't think they were going to show up at the next meeting because I said we were gonna wear tiaras. This one woman timidly held up her hand and said, 'I cannot wear a tiara.' I said, 'We're going to empower ourselves because we're beauty-within queens. Have some more wine,' and I just started pouring wine like crazy."

"The next meeting, 7 o'clock rolled around, I had the shop all ready to go. I went to the blinds and I saw what looked like a funeral procession coming down the road. They all started pulling in the driveway, and 36 women showed up, wearing tiaras and all carrying casseroles. And they all tried to cram into my shop. I said, 'Okay. You guys might as well get to know me. I'm allergic to housework, but we're going upstairs.'"

During this time, the Oprah Book Club was at the height of its popularity. Just a year after the Pulpwood Queens' first meeting, Harper Collins called Patrick and asked if Oprah's producers could film a short segment at Beauty and the Book.

"I told all my book club members and we kind of doubled really quick then," she said. "Everybody wanted to be in our book club if the Oprah people were coming, and so 225 people showed up at my house for this event."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
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!

 
Loading...