Turk Pipkin's Book of the Every Other Month Club
When you subscribe to this service, you get six volumes, Kenya gets three libraries
Turk Pipkin is not one for small projects – the actor-writer-philanthropist has taken on interviewing Nobel laureates for documentaries, founding a nonprofit to promote literacy in Africa, planting 2 million trees in Bastrop, trying to beat Willie Nelson at golf – so when he says his latest endeavor is "either my craziest or most ambitious project ever," you have to wonder how big it is.
Turns out it's six books big. Which may not sound like a lot, but the six are all being written by Pipkin and self-published by him and distributed by him. And he's releasing them all in just 12 months through a book club he created himself that operates solely by subscription. And the proceeds from the book club go to charity. However, the club has to attract enough subscribers to pay for itself before he can get that money where it belongs: Kenya, where it will be used to build school libraries. And once the money is in Kenya, there are the complexities of construction and delivering books to schools in remote areas – for one school, that will mean flying the books in, ferrying them to an island on a boat, then hauling them on handcarts with a donkey. "There are lots of moving parts," Pipkin says dryly.
Complicating this effort is that Pipkin isn't making it happen through the Nobelity Project, the nonprofit that he and his wife Christy Ellinger Pipkin founded after making their film Nobelity (remember the interviewing Nobel laureates bit?). Even though Pipkin's Book of the Every Other Month Club will benefit some programs that the nonprofit serves – improving schools and literacy in Kenya has been its major focus – there was concern about the financial risk such a venture might pose for the Nobelity Project. So Pipkin assumed the responsibility himself. Or as he says, "Christy told me, 'You're on your own.' I've got a few years of work, some great books, and several new libraries in Kenya riding on it."
The "few years of work" to which Pipkin alludes are unpublished books and unproduced screenplays that he wrote over the decade he was filming Nobelity, its feature follow-ups One Peace at a Time and Building Hope, and some 50 short films, as well as "building a whole lot of schools." (Like 30.) "I was writing all along, but only published The Tao of Willie," Pipkin says, "so I've decided it was time to make the leap and put it all out there."
So out it's being put through the Book of the Every Other Month Club. Here's how it works: Subscribe on Pipkin's Indiegogo page – www.tinyurl.com/TurkBookClub – and starting in December you'll receive the following six books over the coming year:
The Moleskin Mystery: As advertised, it's a mystery, but also a love story, in the form of a handwritten tale in a moleskin notebook found in a New Orleans bar. Award-winning Austin designer DJ Stout of Pentagram designed the book. (Dec. 2017)
Requiem for a Screenplay: A collection of three screenplays that were almost made into movies but now will have what Pipkin calls "a better life in black and white." Designed by Stu Taylor. (Feb. 2018)
All for Love: A novel about a father and daughter lost at sea and the search to save them. This is the book that Pipkin has been working on the longest, and he's already sold the film rights. Designed by local art director-designer John Jordan. (April 2018)
Words for Your Songs: Collected work by Pipkin penned for Bob Schneider's Poetry Machine, a weekly writing club begun by the musician/artist/writer in which he sends friends a phrase as a prompt to write poems. Art will come from the Moth Generator, a Twitter bot co-created by Pipkin's daughter Katie Rose Pipkin that randomly generates imaginary moths with patterns, colors, and names combined by chance. (Summer 2018)
Grace and the Moon: A children's book about two girls named Grace, one who lives in the U.S. and one who's in Kenya, who share the same sky and moon. Written in English and Swahili, the book features more than 50 full-color illustrations being painted in Kenya. (Summer/fall 2018)
A Christmas Song: The sequel to When Angels Sing, Pipkin's 1999 holiday tale that inspired the 2013 film Angels Sing, starring Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Kris Kristofferson, and directed by Tim McCanlies. (Dec. 2018)
The $200 subscription cost covers all six books and shipping, with a copy of Pipkin's The Tao of Willie tossed in as a bonus. Higher subscription levels offer such perks as canvas prints of Pipkin's wildlife photos from Kenya and a reading by Pipkin. Twenty percent of every subscription will fund school classrooms and libraries built by the Nobelity Project, with additional funds going toward books and educational support for literacy at three partner schools in rural Kenya: Mweiga, a large school where the Nobelity Project's work in the last few years has inspired the government to add to the improvements there; Mwangaza, a village where most residents are low-income agriculture workers but where students have the highest grades of any public school in the district; and Wiyoni Primary, the school on the island.
Given how much he has riding on the book club, Pipkin is making the rounds to attract subscribers. Next week, he'll be at Hotel Ella for a literary salon in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. He'll read from the club's books, sign The Moleskin Mystery for subscribers, and pour some Turk Wine – another fundraising tool for the Nobelity Project, a cabernet/syrah blend from Hope Family Wines that "turns wine into water" by funding clean water for Kenyan schools.
"You have to be really creative in the way you grab people's attention," says Pipkin, who learned that as a street performer on the Drag back in the Seventies. The Book of the Every Other Month Club may reflect his showman's sensibility, but he also adds that "beyond the mechanics of the whole thing, I really love the books. When I finished All for Love, I was convinced this is the best thing I've ever written. Then I re-read Moleskin Mystery, and now I'm convinced that it's far and away the best."
Turk Pipkin will discuss his Book of the Every Other Month Club at the Hotel Ella Literary Salon Tue., Nov. 28, 6-8pm, at the Hotel Ella Ballroom, 1900 Rio Grande. For more details, visit www.turkpipkin.com or www.nobelity.org.