Think about the last time an environmental title made a top seller list or was recommended as “the next best thing” by a friend. Chances are, those instances are few and far between. Torrey House Press in Utah, however, is striving to change this lack of recognition. Since its conception in 2010, Torrey House Press has been publishing titles that promote environmental activism through fiction and nonfiction, and in September, Torrey House Press is becoming a nonprofit so that they can focus on their mission and develop stronger bonds with the Utah literary scene and conservation groups. Mark Bailey and Kirsten Johanna Allen, the founders of the press, sat down with Anisse Gross for Publishers Weekly on August 28, 2015 to discuss the shift to nonprofit.
The decision to become a nonprofit started with Bailey and Allen realizing that because of their specific niche of environmental and conservation titles, they were “in a no-man’s-land between having commercial success and success in conservation,” according to Bailey. Allen said that when the couple started the press, they didn’t fully grasp “how difficult publishing is,” learning through trial and error. As a nonprofit, they can expand their network and relationships with conservation, environmental, and literary groups. They have plans to partner with some of the major literary and environmental players in Utah, “with the goal of creating the strong literary ecosystem” that Bailey and Allen feel Utah needs. They also hope to provide a paid internship to engage with local students.
Now that Torrey House Press is a nonprofit, opportunities for grants and funding have opened up, which allows them to expand their influence in the literary and conservation realms. Literature – both fiction and nonfiction – has a tremendous power and influence in terms of social change, something Allen and Bailey are acutely aware of. For example, one of their upcoming titles, Howl: Of Woman and Wolf by Susan Bird (October 2015) explores our relationship to wolves and nature while highlighting important issues in conservation. This is just one example of how Torrey House Press’ titles engage readers with compelling and thought-provoking stories.
Bailey and Allen are also focusing on the big picture in terms of social justice and change, looking towards the future for ways that Torrey House Press can have a major impact. Allen’s goal is “to be the publishing arm of conservation,” releasing climate-change fiction (“cli-fi”), literary fiction, and creative nonfiction that entertain and educate. Their new tagline is “conservation through literature,” and it will be exciting to see how the small press will continue to evolve and contribute to the expanding genre of environmental literature.