by Len Lear
On Monday, June 15, 6 p.m., Mt. Airy-based Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe & Sundry Goodes, which was started last fall, will be releasing “virtually” via a socially-distanced Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Live its first book in a series of children’s books for cat lovers of all ages. Written by Lucy Noland and Susan Russell and beautifully illustrated in watercolor by Kaity Lacy, all cat lovers and advocates, the first 88-page volume in the “Gata Unbound” series contains two books, “Klein’s Weird Evening” and “Archimedes’ Ear.”
Through the experiences of a rare, male calico cat, an old inventor, a “psycatherapist” and “cathropologist,” a baker of Greek descent, a mysterious celebrity cat-trapper and a whole host of fascinating characters, this humorous book series engages readers in the wild world of cats and the life-saving innovation known globally as “trap-neuter-return.” “TNR has saved millions of cats from unnecessary deaths in crowded animal shelters worldwide,” said humane educator and artist Kaity Lacy, who illustrated the books.
Anyone who has watched the 10 p.m. news program on Channel 29 will recognize Noland, a native of Saigon, Vietnam, who was an anchor on Channel 29 for five years until June of last year. Her TV work has earned her Emmys, Golden Mics, Edward R. Murrow and AP Broadcasters awards as well as several awards from humane organizations.
Noland’s business partner, West Mt. Airy resident Susan Russell, who has five cats of her own, has been a director of the municipal animal shelters in Chicago and Philadelphia (ACCT Philly) in their life-saving efforts. A writer, attorney, animal advocate and volunteer, Russell has also authored the award-winning coffee table book titled “A Ruff Road Home: The Court Case Dogs of Chicago” and has self-published three children’s books: “Shelter Dog Kisses,” “We Can’t Go There, We’re Bears” and “Mr. Bird and Mr. Cat: How ‘Bout That!”
Russell was born in Nova Scotia and grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland. “My dad was a Mountie, so we moved a little bit but not a lot. My roots are firmly planted in the rocky Newfoundland soil, though … I had some pretty incredible experiences growing up in that beautiful rugged province. I love nothing more than to sing east coast of Canada and old Irish songs while holding a glass of whiskey, and I heavily suspect I might be a reincarnated old Irish man.”
The Noland/Russell business was born when they realized last September that they are both terrific storytellers, that they both love animals and have advocacy in their blood. So after a couple — or more — glasses of wine at a vegetarian restaurant, they mapped out the concept for the “Gata Unbound” series and the characters, especially the cat stars. Following that, the writing began in earnest.
“Then we decided to start a little publishing company. Our wee company is not only launching the ‘Gata’ series, but also the ‘Assholes’ series about the real-life antics of a pig, a rooster and a dog, who all happen to be very lovable assholes … Our first book in the series, ‘Assholes Need Love, Too,’ has a little something for everyone.”
When asked for their ages, Russell said, “As Lucy will tell you, she’s younger than I. Now beyond that, and whether that’s true or not, our lips are sealed. And I do mean Crazy-glue kind of sealed. Though in this period of social distancing/no access to hair salons, something very odd and silvery has happened with my once-mousy brown hair.”
When asked what she likes (and dislikes, if anything) about living in Mt. Airy, Russell replied, “I can honestly say I’ve thought long and hard about this question. And I can’t find a darn nasty thing to say about living in this community. I loved it the minute I laid eyes on it, the minute I chatted with my first neighbor, the minute I tripped while jogging on the sidewalks, upended by the magnificent wizened trees, the minute the azaleas came out in full rainbow regalia. This area is a feast for the eyes and the heart. I just love it here.”
What is the hardest thing that Susan has ever done? “This is a hard question. The past few years have been challenging. Heading up animal shelters is challenging. Your heart and soul are in it to save lives, and they can’t all be saved. Though more and more — and even most these days — are being saved in Philly and Chicago. Those are the decisions you make as a director. Sometimes you hold their paw as they pass, not because they should have died at the time and place, but because you had a responsibility.”
Anyone familiar with publishing knows that that there are countless children’s books and that it is an incredibly competitive field. How can Lucy and Susan compete successfully in it? “The way we see it,” replied Susan, “is there’s plenty of light for everyone, and all the stories need to be told. We’re going to promote the heck out of it and hope that folks will be intrigued by this unique children’s book series that has as a key theme, trap-neuter-return programming for community cats. We’re also going to keep writing our hearts out.”
To join the Zoom book launch, go to Facebook @Archimedesprintingshoppe or @LucyNoland and Twitter or Instagram @ArchimedesPrint. No Zoom required! Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com
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