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Small publishing company relaunches after four-year hiatus

Jeffrey Woolverton

In 2006, Jeffrey Woolverton found a book that would change his life.

He had written a novel called “The Apples of Arcadia” and sent it off to several publishing companies. All of which promptly rejected his work.

“I was at a crossroads and I had to decide whether to continue and accept that I would probably never be published or figure out another way to do this,” said Woolverton.

Woolverton was working as an activities coordinator at Life House at the time and was waiting for a staff meeting to start when he noticed a book with purple binding sitting on a bookshelf.

“Life House gets books donated all the time. On the shelf was this book ‘How to be a Self-Published Author.’ It had bright purple binding so it stuck out.

I pulled it off the shelf and started flipping through it,” said Woolverton.

The book was a step-by-step guide on how to set up your own publishing company. Woolverton says it was really detailed.

“It was like ‘Step one: come up with a name. Step two: apply to get a Minnesota Tax ID. Step three: come up with a business plan.” All the way down to stuff like how to setup a business post office box to receive submissions,” he said. “And I thought, heck, I could do that.”

A year later, Woolverton had followed all the steps to set up his company, Black Umbrella Books, so named for an element he noticed in most film noir movies.

“The scene that always pops up is the rainy street with a black umbrella and I thought, how more literary than that can you get? And especially in a place like Duluth, Minnesota. It’s kind of a rainy town, very cloudy,” said Woolverton.

Woolverton dedicated his company to publishing original poetry and literature. He published his first book of poems called “Given in to the … Blue Feelin’” in 2007, followed by his novel and another book of poems in 2009. Unfortunately, at this time Woolverton hit another set of crossroads. He had recently been promoted to development director at Life House at a time when the economic crisis of 2008 was greatly affecting nonprofits.

“I had to make another decision whether to keep going with Black Umbrella Books at the same pace as I was going, which was about a book a year, or I could take my energy from that and focus it on Life House.”

Woolverton stayed at Life House and focused on grant writing and other activities and put his publishing company on a hiatus. Today, he says that Life House is at a much more stable position and he’s ready to relaunch Black Umbrella Books.

“We’ve never really gone away,” said Woolverton. “We’ve just been on a hiatus — a sort of extended vacation.”

Black Umbrella Books will officially launch the release of “The Genius of the Fool” — and relaunch its own local publishing venture — during its BUB Relaunch Party on Feb. 25, from 7-9 p.m.

at the Underground Theater, 506 W. Michigan St. The event is free and open to the public. Food by Pizza Lucé in Duluth will be available, as well as a cash bar for ages 21 or older. Live music by local

musicians Seth Doud, Andrew Lipke and Benjamin Wilson will round out the evening.

Woolverton also asks that those attending bring in books of their own to donate to those who may not have access to books.

“When you look at it, how I got into the whole publishing venture was through somebody donated a book to a non-profit. I want to continue that spirit,” said Woolverton.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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