Utah’s Torrey House Press, started by Mark Bailey and Kirsten Johanna Allen in 2010 to publish books about the environment and conservation, is becoming a nonprofit.
Allen, editorial director at Torrey House, explained that when they started the press the couple didn’t realize “how difficult publishing is. We paid for our education.” Torrey House published three books in 2011 without a distributor before they found Consortium to handle their titles, starting in fall 2012. “We learned a lot through the school of hard knocks,” Allen said, adding that Consortium has been “tremendously helpful.”
The move to nonprofit status becomes official in September. In addition to literary fiction and creative nonfiction, Torrey House has embraced the burgeoning “cli-fi” (climate-change fiction) genre, but they’ve faced challenges that come with being outside of traditional publishing hubs and centers of literary life. “We realized that we were in no-man’s-land between having commercial success and success in conservation,” Bailey said. “Now our tagline is ‘Conservation through literature,’ and we’ll be able to focus more on that with a nonprofit.”
The move to nonprofit status will also allow Torrey House to partner more with the state’s literary and environmental players—including Utah Humanities, the University of Utah Press, independent booksellers, libraries, various college writing programs, and the University of Utah’s Environmental Humanities graduate program—with the goal of creating the strong literary ecosystem Bailey and Allen feel Utah needs. Additionally, they hope to create a paid internship at the house, drawing students from various local colleges.
The couple is also looking to conservation groups for ideas for titles. “We’re stepping up our partnership with conservation groups to talk about the stories they feel are important and need to be told,” Allen said, “including Native American voices coming together around protecting large areas of land.”
Torrey House will publish four titles in 2015, including Hawks Rest by Gary Ferguson, and four are slated for 2016; one of them is an anthology of Native American writers. In addition to Bailey and Allen, the press has a part-time publicist and associate editor, Anne Terashima.
Bailey, who has lived in Utah his entire life and retired after a career in finance, said the press is focusing on the “big picture. I do think that we are on the edge of a cultural paradigm shift. We have elected a black president and have gay marriage in all the states of the union, and that process legally started in Utah. Next it’s going to be immigration and the environment. The environment is a big deal. I’d like to be part of that movement and get ideas out there.” Allen sums up their goal by saying, “We want to be the publishing arm of conservation.”