Trish O’Hare can remember sitting in her yellow bedroom as a young girl, ignoring her mother's calls to get ready for church and soaking in the last pages of Charlotte’s Web. She got to the end and realized she was crying.
“I couldn’t believe pieces of paper made me do that,” she said.
Right then and there, Trish fell in love with literature.
"I have an inordinate affection for literature and the place it holds in our lives, the way it takes us to different worlds, the way it makes us smarter,” she said.
It’s no surprise, then, that she ended up with a career in publishing. For years, she worked to get Irish writers published in the U.S. While doing this, she was turned on to the Open Door series, which was a collection of short, low-level books written by well-known authors.
“People like Roddy Doyle, Maeve Binchy, Joe O’Connor, and they’ve written these small little books to help people learn how to love reading—not learn how to read—but learn how it can transform their life,” Trish said.
This intrigued Trish, who licensed the Open Door books and began publishing more on the same methodology of 10,000 words or less with frequent chapter breaks to build a sense of accomplishment. She also made sure the books looked attractive and not like children’s books.
Thus, Gemma Open Door for Literacy was born in 2008. ProLiteracy has been a partner of Gemma’s since 2010, supporting its mission and selling select titles through New Readers Press.
Gemma’s collections include HiLo books for adults, Young Adult, and Culture and Memoir. It’s of great importance to Trish that the same steps of the publishing process are followed that would be followed for any other books. Authors are contracted with and paid royalties, everything is vetted and put through the editing process, and the cover design is carefully thought out so that it is something an adult can be proud to carry around.
These aren’t just little stories—they’re literature and they’re relevant and meant to enhance someone’s quality of life, Trish said.
“To share the sense of literature with someone who maybe never owned a book before. That’s something I can do. I know how that works,” Trish said. “I think there is a need. And when you say pleasure reading, it’s almost a misnomer. It’s almost as if it’s fun and of no importance. I don’t think so. Literature can be fun, but it’s of great importance.”
Recently, Gemma released a new title by Laurie Foos. Foos’s books feature magical realism, and her fans will not be disappointed in The Other. It’s the story of Ava, a girl born with wings, though no one knows it, not even her best friend Theo, a boy who is teased because he has two different color eyes. When Ava has the chance to have the wings removed, a new friend, who also has something “wrong” with them makes Ava reconsider.
“As the story goes on, you discover that which makes these kids unusual gives them super powers,” Trish said. “So they’re actually special.”
Coming in October, a new novel by Suzanne Kamata will be released. Kamata, author of popular Gemma titles The Spy and A Girls’ Guide to the Islands, switched gears and wrote a rom-com. In Bake Sale, a divorced mother raising her daughter in Tokyo meets a widower with a son at a bake sale at the kids’ school and falls in love.
You can purchase these new titles and many more from New Readers at https://www.newreaderspress.com/adult-education/pleasure-reading/gemma-open-door