According to Ian Henzel, a “rattling good yarn” is a British term for a riveting story, a good read. And thanks to Henzel and his husband of 34 years, writer St Sukie de la Croix, the world now has even more good yarns to read. And they’re coming from right here in the Coachella Valley.
Nearly eight years ago, Henzel and de la Croix relocated to the desert from Chicago. After 42 years working in software marketing development and product management, Henzel took the bold step of reinventing himself professionally, and at age 63, founded a publishing company.
“My husband was having difficulty with a publisher not paying royalties,” he says, “and so I got involved.” After questioning the sales reports the pair had gotten from the publisher, Henzel, who had long sought a more creative career, had a thought. “I said: ‘Let’s try doing this ourselves.'”
And with that, Rattling Good Yarns Press was born. With a public mission statement to bring overlooked LGBTQ voices to light (along with a personal one, to “treat people right and do good work”), the three-year-old company now boasts more than a dozen authors on its roster.
The company publishes both fiction and nonfiction titles. Fiction books include “Vamp Until Ready,” “Daniel: Growing Up Gay and Creative” and “Infraction,” while nonfiction titles include “Chicago After Stonewall: A History of LGBTQ Chicago From Gay Lib to Gay Life,” “As Far As I Can Tell: Finding My Father In World War II” and “Out Of The Underground: Homosexuality, The Radical Press, And The Rise And Fall Of The Gay Liberation Front.”
These titles and others are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as on the publisher’s website, rattlinggoodyarns.com. (In order to compete with other online retailers, Rattling Good Yarns Press offers free shipping on items purchased from its site.)
When it came to the business side of the venture — calculating royalties, marketing — Henzel quickly discovered his previous work came in handy. “I had worked on accounting software,” he says. “I had worked on putting together marketing materials. I had done trade shows. I’d done quality assurance — there isn’t one thing from my 42-year career that I don’t use.”
In addition to being proud of his example that there can be life after retirement, Henzel is proud of the work Rattling Good Yarns has done to shine a light on an underserved literary community.
“I think the exciting thing is that there aren’t many LGBT-focused publishers,” he says. “We’re one of the very few. And it’s maybe just a couple of fingers of publishers in the state of California that focus on that community. And we’re brand new and we’re right here in the Coachella Valley.”
At the end of this month, Henzel and a few Rattling Good Yarns authors will make an appearance at the International Bear Convergence at the Hotel Zoso in Palm Springs. Local author Daniel Jaffe (“The Grand Sex Tour Murders”) and local illustrator Roy Alton Wald (“St Sukie’s Strange Garden Of Woodland Creatures”) will be on hand, along with other Rattling Good Yarns writers, like St Sukie de la Croix.
“They’ll be there signing books,” Henzel says. “We’re very excited because this is a first for us. We’ve never done anything like this before.”
Writers wanting to be published by Rattling Good Yarns Press should go to the company’s website, fill out a contact form and provide a synopsis of their book, which Henzel says “needs to be in at least some alignment with the LGBTQ community in terms of the content.”
Henzel says he loves life in the desert. “You meet really interesting people,” he says. “And what I find most fascinating, because the population veers a little more mature, is this broad quilt of life experience and stories. I find that really interesting.
“The other thing I find really interesting, at least among the people I’ve met, is you can approach aging in two ways. You can get old or you can continue to age and continue to grow — in your curiosity, in the experiences you’re seeking out and in the information you’re getting. I find a lot of people like that here, which is creatively very stimulating. I also love the weather. Not having to shovel snow five times a day is always a plus. “
The International Bear Convergence will take place in Palm Springs, Feb. 24-28. For more information, visit ibc-ps.com. To learn more about Rattling Good Yarns Press, visit rattlinggoodyarns.com.
As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and locals who give back. Reach him at email@example.com.