Greetings from the EasternPennPoints Café. Our virtual café is open, as always, and I’ve just filled my mug with some jasmine green tea. Today I am joined by author Susan Russell, who is the cofounder of Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe in Philadelphia. Archimedes has just launched their inaugural children’s book series, Gata Unbound, and I’m excited to learn all about the book and that process.
Laura: Welcome, Susan! Although we are social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m so happy you’re joining me in a virtual café chat. I hope you’re enjoying a tasty beverage or snack.
Susan: Thank you so much, Laura! I’m so happy to be here. I’ve just filled my glass with iced black tea with a little lemon and stevia. Been drinking a lot of that lately with this warm Philly spring. I’m feeling very antioxidated, if that can be considered a thing!
Laura: Sounds great. First off, I’m interested in learning more about Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe. The company is relatively new, founded in 2019 by a group of animal lovers and activists. Can you tell us a little about your company and its mission?
Susan: We like to style ourselves as a feel-goode (with an “e”) company, because we combine old-fashioned fun (books, stickers, shirts, posters) with purpose, and try as much as possible at these early stages to pay attention to the triple bottom line of environmental, social, and fiscal responsibility. My partners, journalist Lucy Noland (who was the main evening anchor at a Philadelphia television station) and humane educator and artist Kaity Lacy, have been active in the Philadelphia animal welfare community for years. I’m newer to the scene, but was quite active in Chicago. In addition to other living beings, we all have a lot of respect for the good Mother Earth, so when making “goodes,” we try to be as conscious as we can of our footprint.
Laura: The Gata Unbound series, which you co-authored, is your inaugural children’s book series. Tell us a little about it and how our readers can get a copy.
Susan: Readers can head to our website www.archimedesprintingshoppe.com and order books and sundry goodes.
Gata Unbound, as the name suggests, is a children’s book series for ailurophiles of all ages. Its colorful cast of characters includes a rare male calico cat, an old inventor, a psycatherapist and cathropologist, a baker of Greek descent, and many, many more. The theme that wends its way through the series is a critical life-saving innovation for community cats, called trap-neuter-return or “TNR” for short. Many cities, including Philadelphia, have ardent TNR advocates who understand that the best way not to euthanize thousands of beautiful cats in overcrowded municipal shelters is to reduce the populations in the communities by trapping, spay/neutering, and vaccinating them and then, if feasible, returning them to their communities or finding them homes, especially the very young kittens. It’s a complicated topic, and no doubt everyone has an opinion, but as a former animal shelter director in two big cities I can attest first-hand that TNR is a critical life-saving tool in the proverbial toolbox.
Laura: What challenges have you faced in launching this series?
Susan: Well, COVID-19 has indeed been a challenge for the world, not just for the launch of a book. We had book launches planned, you know, the old-fashioned meet and talk to people kind at books stores, and in partnership with organizations like HSUS, and in bookstores in Philadelphia and New York, but that got a little trickier after COVID hit. So, part of our challenge is getting the word out far and wide in a time of COVID! And to that effect, we are taking the advice of wise ol’ Heraclitus, and taking the unknown way because the known way is an impasse. So we will virtually launch our books following social distancing guidelines, and we’ll continue to engage folks in the conversation via less conventional channels and innovative means. We all work, and we’re all involved in the development of these books, so paying close attention to this aspect of things is indeed challenging, but critical.
Laura: Are there more Gata Unbound books to come?
Susan: There are many! On Monday, June 15, 2020, we will virtually launch Gata Unbound Volume 1 in the deep woods of Philly, which was the closest thing to approximating our cat character’s “territory” in the books. Volume 1 contains two books, Klein’s Weird Evening and Archimedes’ Ear. Volume 2 is in the process of being illustrated by Kaity, and contains books three and four. Book five is written. And book six is in the works. We envision many adventures for our fun, comical characters, which get introduced as the series unfolds, and we can’t wait to travel to all of those places with them, and have the world join us.
Laura: And what else is in the works for Archimedes?
Susan: Archimedes has a number of books in the hopper. In addition to children’s books, we also have an adult parody book, which we released on June 7 on a farm in New Jersey with my coauthor Erica Brown and illustrator Maggie McMahon. Its title is probably not appropriate for young readers and it is aimed at older readers, age 14 and up. It’s based on real-life events—we couldn’t make this stuff up—and it’s also about animals, a common theme in our oeuvre. These animals just happen to be a pig, a rooster, and a dog—rescued animals all.
Laura: I love cats, but unfortunately, I’m allergic to them. Right now I’m watching my pet turtle, Hamlet, climb up and down on his aquarium float. I’d love to hear about your cats—their names, personalities, and what they’re currently up to.
Susan: You know, my partner Lucy has a sweet turtle. I love those little creatures. I only have five cats at the moment, but they are all characters. Larry is a fitness enthusiast (please see photos), but like many of us, no matter how hard he works out, those last ten pounds just keep on keepin’ on. Then there is Bob Jr., an orange tabby cat who is named after my dad, and who is the embodiment of peace and love, brothers and sisters. Every cat likes to sleep with him. They might not like each other, but they all like him. There’s Ms. Margaret. She’s a little prickly, but beautiful and practical, and a very good editor. And then there are my kitties with the missing bits: sweet tailless Paulie (or as he likes to say “tail-free”), and my three-legged Gorgeous George, who is truly the best wrestler of the pride, despite his missing forelimb. Over the past year, I lost my fierce nasty, eccentric calico Kate (she used to write the best Christmas letters) and my enigmatic Abyssinian mix, Isis, to ripe old ages, which I suppose if one must go, it’s not a bad way. We are hoping to bring in a new foster, William Shatner, a kitty from Philly’s streets, within the next week or so, as our last foster, three-legged Ned Divine was adopted by a wonderful family roughly a month ago. My five cats are very busy helping me edit the Gata series, and we are going broke on Temptations, as they will not, and nor should they, work for free.
Larry (top left), Bob Jr. (top right), Margaret (center left), Paulie (center right), and Gorgeous George (bottom).
Laura: Thanks so much for chatting with me, and I wish you the best of luck with Gata Unbound and all of your upcoming projects!
Susan: Thank you so much, Laura, for this wonderful opportunity!
The authors and illustrator will be holding a virtual book launch for Gata Unbound on June 15, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. EST on Facebook (@Archimedesprintingshoppe or @LucyNoland), Twitter (@ArchimedesPrint), and Instagram (@ArchimedesPrint). To find out more about Gata Unbound and Philadelphia-based Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe, visit www.archimedesprintingshoppe.com.
A founding member of Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe & Sundry Goodes, Susan Russell has a love for animals that runs deep. She is especially inspired by the ill-mannered and ill-tempered. And it is that inspiration that fueled her leadership of the municipal shelters in Chicago and Philadelphia 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! They are all available on Amazon.
Susan and her incredibly patient spouse are the parents of a houseful of wildly intellectual and book-loving cats. When these felines aren’t lounging in various boxes, they’re editing the Gata Unbound series and serve as consultants on the project.