Literary Lunch: Publisher has feminist focus

By Heather Lee Schroeder
June 22, 2006

APPETIZERS: Get your poetry on

Local poets should step out to support the monthly open mike poetry reading at 7 p.m. July 6 at Avol's, 315 W. Gorham St. You can show up to listen or, if you're feeling brave, sign up to read one of your own masterpieces.

Alison Bechdel, creator of the alt-comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For," will discuss her new graphic memoir, "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic," at 6 p.m. July 7 at A Room of One's Own Bookstore, 307 W. Johnson St. Her memoir explores growing up in the family funeral business and Bechdel's gradual understanding of her own and her father's sexual identities. "Fun Home" has been described as "one of the very best graphic novels ever" by Booklist.

ENTREE: Publisher has feminist focus

Take two parts feminism and one part spirituality. Combine. Add a generous dose of determined business partners who hope to change the way the world works. Mix well. The result? An independent publishing house called Creatrix Books.

The brainchild of Carol Marshall (publisher and business manager) and Kassandra Sojourner (production manager), the press launched in fall 2004.

Creatrix Books has a women-centered focus and a strong female sensibility. Although spirituality is a special interest of the press, the main criterion is any work that is empowering to women.

In addition to a backlist of four books, the press has a new release titled "The Planting Rite: Book One of the Rememberer's Tale" by Kip Parker. It's a fictional exploration of pre-patriarchal culture.

In addition, planning is under way to start a peer-reviewed imprint with a group called Goddess Scholars. Marshall said the imprint is vital because researchers interested in goddess scholarship don't have a place to publish their work. The first journal and a related conference will be launched within two years.

Marshall said the idea for Creatrix Books came from a conversation with her brother, who asked her what she would do with her life if money were no object. Marshall said the answer was easy: She would become a publisher and writer.

When an inheritance came her way, Marshall quit her job and started the business. "We decided if we're going to take it on, we're going to take on something big," Marshall explained. "We're willing to pull in the belt and figure it out."

This attitude comes from the fact that Marshall and Sojourner view Creatrix as both a business and a vocation. The women have backgrounds in women's spirituality and goddess religion, but their reasoning for choosing this blend of topics goes deeper than that. "I think that there's an unfortunate misconception that feminism is old hat or that we don't need to worry about that anymore because we've gained our equality," Marshall said. "That's so wrong.

"This goes much deeper than equal pay for equal jobs," she added. "This goes to the basis of what kind of culture we have. If all women in America would stand up and say, 'We're tired of this war. We need health care. We want our children and our elderly taken care of better,' I think it would be a much better place to live. That's the kind of feminism we're talking about.

"There have got to be better solutions, and I hope women will lead the way," she said. "We need to."

DESSERT: TeachingBooks gets its due

It's hard to believe that it's almost five years since Nick Glass told me he was leaving his day job as events coordinator for independent bookstore Pooh Corner (now closed) to start a Web-based business called TeachingBooks. At the time, his plan seemed risky - even pie-in-the-sky.

TeachingBooks has defied the odds, and the business has grown over the years. The site ( is licensed in more than 12,000 schools in the United States and Canada, including all schools in Wisconsin.

Now it has been recognized with a Distinguished Achievement Award in the educational Web sites category of "Portal for Young Adults and Children" from the Association of Educational Publishers. This award honors "significant and excellent achievement in supplemental educational resources for school and home," in this case as a Web site that serves as a gateway to educational information.

And the company does good works as well as good work. To aid the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans' public schools, TeachingBooks is providing its services in that district for $1 a year for the next five years.

Kudos to Glass and his staff!

Heather Lee Schroeder's "Literary Lunch" appears twice a month. E-mail: Web site:

©Literary Lunch 2006