Kathy L. Patrick

An extended interview with Kathy Patrick.
Kathy L. Patrick
Photograph by Marla Keith

This boisterous bookseller runs a Jefferson hair-salon-slash- bookstore, Beauty and the Book, that is a bastion of independent literary thinking—and egalitarian fun. She shares her Texas joie de vivre in The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life.

What is a Pulpwood Queen and who should be one?

The Pulpwood Queens are the largest “meeting and discussing” book club in the world. Our motto is “Where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule!”

Our sole mission is to promote literacy, get the world reading, and help undiscovered authors get discovered in a big way! In 2000, shortly after I opened the only hair salon/book store in the country, Beauty and the Book, I started The Pulpwood Queens Book Club.

I may have been born and raised in Kansas but for the last twenty years the great state of Texas has been my home. We welcome everybody, including men. My husband refused to be a Queen so he came up with the name Timber Guys for the men in our group.

Where does one buy a tiara in the Year of Our Lord 2007?

Everywhere from a bridal shop to Wal-Mart. I purchased my first tiara from a wholesale costume supply in Houston, but I’ve been upgrading ever since. Tiaras leave scars on the head, but people treat you better so my advice is, wear them out often.

My husband bought me my latest tiara on my 50th birthday that was vintage from a boutique in New Orleans. Tiaras cost from one dollar to priceless. In my shop I now have a chandelier decorated with all my broken tiaras. I call my creation "Bright Lights, Broken Tiaras, Big Dreams!

You’re the proprietor of an East Texas beauty salon/bookstore. How did that unlikely combination occur? And doesn’t the hairspray make the pages stick together?

After I lost my job as a book publisher’s rep, my sister suggested I open up a hair salon. When I told her I would be bored senseless doing hair, she told me to do the book thing too.

Speaking of hairspray, many have stereotyped me as a typical "big hair" salon. It was Diane Sawyer herself that asked us to have "big Texas dos" on Good Morning America .

Since we have a good sense of humor about the stereotypical southern hairdresser theme, we comply. I can actually chew gum and read a good book at the same time.

My days are filled with haircuts and color, and the occasional drive to Shreveport to do celebrities like Joan Rivers, Art Garfunkel, The Go-Go’s and The B-52’s. I also run two book festivals—Books Alive!, a Christian and Inspirational festival, and Girlfriend Weekend, the annual gathering of Pulpwood Queens.

What does the future hold for independent book stores?

It’s payback time. I believe people are missing the community of a hometown bookstore. Even the publishers know that if you want to break in a new author, you send them to the independents, not the big box chains.

You’re a first-time author but a long-time bookseller—which is harder: writing or selling?

Writing, for sure. It took me six years to write my sismple little story. Small town Kansas girl with big dreams, big on books, big deal! It was a real struggle for me, as I have always considered myself a reader not a writer. My book was really written coming from a very quiet place.

Selling books is as natural to me as breathing. I’ll keep writing books and I will for sure keep selling books, or I ain’t breathing.

What is the essence of the Pulpwood Queens’ secrets for happiness and success?

When my agent suggested my book should be a guide to life, I spit my coffee across the room. She told me, “Exactly, Kathy. Who better than somebody who has lived through all your mistakes?” True happiness comes from hard work and struggle. One thing I’ve learned is, if you want to find purpose in life, read.

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