It took author Cheryl E. Klein about seven years to write her first memoir.
It’s a deeply personal LGBTQ+ story about wanting to have a baby, but instead watched her perfectly planned life begin to fall apart after battling infertility, having a miscarriage, and have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
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Klein has published works of fiction in the past, but in this book she writes intimately about her own story, which was ultimately a story of hope and joy. Once completed, she sought out a freelance publisher who would truly understand the message behind her lyrics.
The author found what she was looking for in Long Beach, at a small, female-owned and operated publishing house called Brown Paper Press, which was co-founded by former local journalist Wendy Thomas Russell.
“From the first phone call I had with her, it was clear that we understood each other,” said Klein, whose new book, “Crybaby: Infertility, Illness and Other Things That Were Not the End of the World” , has been published. September 20. “She was excited about my writing and I felt like she was someone who was really into it and excited about it.”
It’s a book that fits perfectly with the goal Russell had in mind when she started her publishing house in 2014.
“My goal is to make a difference with the books I publish,” said Russell, who runs Brown Paper Press from his Long Beach home. “I’m very interested right now in posting marginalized voices and hearing from people who need and deserve a platform.”
Russell is a 49-year-old book lover who dreamed of being a novelist. Like many aspiring writers, Russell began his career as a journalist. Her time as a daily reporter ended at the Long Beach Press Telegram, where she covered the courts and special projects from 1998 to 2008, before going freelance for a few years.
It was after leaving daily journalism that she began working on her first book. It wasn’t a novel, but a memoir titled “Relax, It’s Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious.”
“As I was finishing my full book, I started to learn more and more about the publishing industry and I had some disheartening experiences and got to know other authors who were also going through these experiences. “, she said.
This included publishers and publishing houses that ignored certain stories because they thought they could only appeal to a small audience.
“There’s a lot of us out there who run into ‘Oh, that’s too niche,'” Russell said. “They assume it’s not appealing to every person on the planet. These aren’t celebrity memoirs that will make a lot of money right away. So that made me think it would be good to publish books that may not feel like they have a large audience, but are definitely worth the effort and may be written by more marginalized voices.
Instead of shopping for her memoir, Russell decided to self-publish her first book – and Brown Paper Press was born.
Since then, Brown Paper Press has published nine books by various authors covering topics such as conversion therapy, a feminist guide for young girls, and a book of photographs on the American Romani community.
She found a supporter in Chris Giaco, owner of Page Against the Machine, a progressive bookstore in Long Beach that offers books from Brown Paper Press and hosts launch events for Russell authors.
“Our missions align very similarly. One of the store’s goals is also to give a voice to what have always been underrepresented or oppressed minorities,” Giaco said. “I think a press like Wendy’s is more vital than ever to make sure those voices don’t get lost.”
As well as giving writers a platform, Russell also edits all the books and helps shape the stories when needed. She also hires cover designers, negotiates with printers, and teams up with authors to market the books and helps organize book tours.
“There were a few things about Brown Paper Press that stuck with me,” Klein said. “First, the books they published had similar themes to mine: queer memoirs, parenting books. Another thing is that I felt like I knew I would be working with someone who knew how to sell this kind of book.
Meanwhile, Russell doesn’t feel like she’s publishing books, she feels like she’s on a literary mission.
“For me, it’s mostly about delivering socially relevant books with a progressive bent,” she said. “I want people to feel seen, understood and empowered. I want to reflect the lives of those struggling in this country and around the world and elevate those conversations.
For more information about Brown Paper Press, visit brownpaperpress.com.