She’s no longer in the job that brought her here in 2014, but for former Fox 29 anchor Lucy Noland, who left the station last May, Philadelphia has become the setting for what she hopes will be a second act.
Along with her friend Susan Russell, the former director of the animal shelter ACCT Philly, Noland is at work on a new publishing venture that grew out of the women’s shared concern for all creatures great and small.
Wine may also have been involved.
Meeting with a reporter one (pre-coronavirus) evening in Russell’s West Mount Airy home to talk about their company, Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe & Sundry Goodes, LLC, (whose logo, drawn by Noland, features a cat holding a glass of red), the pair occasionally finished each other’s sentences as they explained how they’d ended up in the publishing business.
“So, Susan is out of work. I’m out of work. We’re drinking wine," Noland began.
» READ MORE: Lucy Noland departing Fox 29
Russell, who moved here from Chicago in 2018 to take the ACCT Philly job only to resign last August (“My time here was positive … in the sense that a lot of lives were saved. I think after a while, I just realized I wasn’t the best person for that job"), went to find a napkin. Printed on it: “I used to drink. But that was an hour ago.”
Then, more seriously, the Newfoundland-raised Russell, a lawyer who’s been working for a New York firm and recently passed the exam for the Pennsylvania bar, added, “But it wasn’t just that. We had a concept.”
The idea: to write and publish books — and sell related merchandise — to benefit both themselves and the animal-welfare causes that gave each of them roots, and a community, in their adopted city.
“I absolutely love Philly,” Russell said. "I came here and didn’t know a soul … The animal [welfare] community is a place where you’re going to find lots of people with hearts the size of Texas.”
That night’s gathering included Noland’s Fishtown neighbor Peggy Jackson and artist Kaity Lacy, who are both active in animal rescue efforts, and featured occasional appearances by one or more of Russell’s cats. Told that the founding of Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe sounded a bit like a book club that got out of hand, Russell laughed.
“Every book club gets out of hand! Who’s ever read the book? We want people to read the book,” she said.
Atop the baby grand piano in her living room, which Russell refers to as a “cat settee,” she and Noland spread out Lacy’s whimsical illustrations for one project: the first in a children’s series, Gata Unbound, written by Noland and Russell, that’s meant "for ailurophiles.” (Boning up for the National Spelling Bee? An ailurophile is a cat lover. Gata, from the Greek word for cat, is the name of one of the human characters.)
The book includes two stories, both allegories inspired by the trap-neuter-return programs used to improve the lives of feral cats. The series is full of quirky characters, including an inventive feline named Archimedes, whose big failure was a pasta machine for mice — “Who knew that mice didn’t like pasta?” said Noland — and a trap-neuter-return hero with a passion for Mexican freestyle Luchador wrestling
Gata Unbound is scheduled to debut later this spring in a hardcover edition that Noland said will be printed “on environmentally sustainable tree-free bamboo with eco-friendly soy-based inks.”
A more adult title, Assholes Need Love Too, is out in paperback. Written by Russell with Erica Brown, founder of Diamonds in the Ruff Dog Rescue, and illustrated by Maggie McMahon, it’s available through BookBaby’s BookShop, a Pennsauken-based print-on-demand company the women tout as an alternative to Amazon (and whose paper stock is certified as coming from sustainably managed forests).
The “assholes” are a dog, rooster, and a pig, and it’s based on Brown’s experiences living on eight acres in New Jersey with three rescue dogs, 16 chickens, and a pig.
In Noland’s heart, though, Gata Unbound comes first "because my inaugural book is not going to be Assholes Need Love Too. My mom and dad can’t read the book,” said Noland. She’s also concerned that some of the 36,000-plus Facebook users who follow her passionate posts and many animal welfare-centered videos might be offended by the title.
Born in Saigon, where her parents met, and raised in Oregon, Noland spent nearly three decades in TV news, with stints at stations in Alaska, Detroit, Fresno, Calif., Houston, New York, and Los Angeles as well as five years at Fox 29. Since leaving the station after her contract wasn’t renewed, she said, she’s felt even freer to work for causes that matter to her. Those involve not only animals, but homelessness, childhood brain cancer, autism, and the opioid crisis.
“I don’t know whether it was because I’m at this stage of my life where my eyes are more open to what’s important; or whether it’s because my children don’t need me as much anymore so I can look beyond my small family to the greater family; or whether it’s a combination of both,” said Noland. (She has a grown son living in Philadelphia, one daughter in Houston, and another at the University of Georgia.)
”I love being on air. I do. Because I like being able to tell stories,” she said. But “life is short, and I can’t just sit there feeling constrained at the anchor desk any longer.”