One Author's Life


A Tribute to the Queen of Book Clubs

August 28, 2014

One of the most extraordinary and influential persons in book publishing today is a woman from Texas who thinks nothing of walking around Manhattan publishing circles with a tiara on her head.

If you see her, look out, that’s Kathy L. Murphy, founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, the largest book club in the world with more than 600 chapters. She exudes a lovely combination of kindness, confidence (but never arrogance), and old fashioned American “can-do” optimism.

Since August 27 is her birthday, I thought I’d share a little story about the Queen.

The first time I ever laid eyes on her was at Book Expo America in New York City. The actress Kirstie Alley, with a new memoir coming out, was the center of attention that morning. You couldn’t help but stare at Miss Alley, especially her shoes with what had to be five-inch heels. (Myself, I would fall down, but that’s another story.)

I was standing to the side, chatting with members of the sales force for my publisher, Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. The line snaked across the cavernous Jacob Javits conference center as everyone wanted to get a signed copy of Kirstie Alley’s new book. There is no question that she has star power.

But then another queen arrived. Guess who it was? Kathy L. Murphy, the Pulpwood Queen.

And, suddenly, the VIPs – the most important, high-falutin’ publishers in New York – well, their heads swiveled. Kirstie Alley may be Kirstie Alley, but in the minds of top publishers, there was only one Kathy L. Murphy.

About fifteen feet away from me was an oversized booth where one could ask for galleys of books that were about to be published. That is where The Lady with the Tiara (Kathy) was headed. I overheard her say to a sales rep, “The only thing I’m looking for here is a novel called Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society.

“Not only do we have a copy,” the excited sales rep said, “but we have the actual author right here in the flesh!”

Next thing I knew, we were being introduced in the following fashion:

“Miss Dreamsville,” my publisher said. “Meet the Pulpwood Queen.”

Afterward, it was explained to me in whispered tones that “She’s from Texas and she has a huge book club and she’s very discerning. And if you’re really lucky she may like your book.”

As it turned out, the Pulpwood Queen did like my novel and chose it as her January 2013 selection. Texas was added to my book tour so that I could attend the Pulpwood Queen’s annual Girlfriend Weekend.

Because of that crazy-fun weekend – and thanks to the Pulpwood Queen herself, of course – I met many new people with whom I became friends. People I might never have met. That includes a boatload of readers, as well as Southern Belleview authors Julie Perkins Cantrell, Lisa Wingate, Kellie Coates Gilbert, and Shellie Rushing Tomlinson.

With Kathy L. Murphy, it’s not “just” about books. It’s about the community of books. And no one does it better, and in a more unique way. Happy Birthday to the Pulpwood Queen!