Nestled away in the outskirts of Old Town Clovis is a group of locals that have gone from booksellers to publishers. For the last two years, HBE Publishing has given a voice to many Clovis authors.
“The Valley has a wide and varied history of authors and award-winning authors. If you mention any writing award that there is, we have them here,” said HBE Publishing owner Dan Dunklee. “And not just Saroyan, but Margarita Engle, who is a Newbery Honor winner and won the Pura Belpré Award the last five years. Gary Soto, Phil Levine, Juan Felipe Herrera, it just goes on and on.”
Dunklee is amazed that these award-winning authors are not promoted more locally.
“All of these authors are known internationally. Margarita goes to Bangkok for conferences and all this stuff — and people here don’t even know her name,” he said. “We have the talent and we need to get it out there.”
That’s HBE Publishing’s mission.
Although the company has gotten submissions from authors from all over the nation, the only ones Dunklee has agreed to publish traditionally are people from the Valley.
“That’s kind of what I would like it to be. It’s very easy to get authors from all over the place — and they all deserve it — but we’re a very small shop,” he said. “Penguin, in their first year of operation, published 12 books and they had a staff of 30. We have a staff of three and we did 11. So we’re busy.”
Dunklee runs HBE Publishing, while his wife, Peggy, oversees operations at A Book Barn, which stocks used, rare and out-of-print books. The bookstore has been at its current location, 640 Clovis Ave., for six years and was previously at 5th Street and Pollasky Avenue for six years, Dunklee said.
HBE has published the works of nearly two dozen authors over the past year, a significant amount of titles for such a small press.
Come October, HBE plans to publish the latest work of world-renowned author Margarita Engle. “The reason Margarita came to us is because we’ve been supporting her before she got big,” Dunklee said. “What we did to support local authors led her to take a chance with us.”
Clovis resident Anne Biggs recently published her novel, “The Swan Garden,” with HBE Publishing. She’s on a book signing tour this week in Ireland, the setting of her novel and her birthplace.
“The Swan Garden” tells a story of a young girl living in an Irish orphanage; her child is taken from her at birth by the Catholic Church. She escapes for a happier life, but can’t escape the memories of her horrific past.
“It’s a story of survival,” Biggs said, “and HBE believed in my story.”
Dunklee is extremely proud to have provided an outlet for, as he puts it, “an extremely well researched, personal story that really needed to be told.”
Anne Biggs is the young Irish girl’s baby.
“Annie was a banished baby and it’s basically Annie’s story of what she thought her mother went through,” Dunklee explained. “The Catholic Church throughout the world is in the press about abuses... What Annie tries to say is it’s not necessarily the church, it’s the people; that’s what makes the difference. It’s been very touching. It’s helped a tremendous amount of people; it’s brought awareness — and it’s totally changed Annie’s life.
Biggs said the Dunklees, “give everything 120 percent because they want it to be perfect. The editing is done face to face.” In next two years, Biggs said she plans to publish a memoir and a sequel to “The Swan Garden” with HBE.
Dunklee said be believes the success of his company is due to the staff being, “very hands-on with clients, while also being accessible at any time.”
His goal is simple: “We want to provide an outlet that makes it easier for authors to publish their works,” he said.
Apart from publishing, HBE also offers a wide variety of services including editing, layout and design, to advice and cover essentials.
The editors and designers that work for HBE have 30 to 40 years of experience and Dan prefers that his editors, “give a lot of feedback and work closely with the authors,” he said.
Dunklee also offers a unique perspective as both an avid reader and longtime bookseller — he knows what can and can’t sell.
“The main goal of every author is to be read,” Dunklee said. “When I choose something for traditional publishing, it’s something I think has a wide market.”
He decided that was the case for “Finding Pony” writer Kara Lucas.
“It is a story of foster kids by a local author, a first-time author very passionate about foster children,” he said. “It shows the trials and tribulations of foster families and foster kids.”
Dunklee also enjoys publishing children’s books, including two by Kathleen Gorman: “Twisty Green Monster” and “How Far Is Heaven?”
Five more children’s books will be published by HBE this year, including one illustrated by local artist and longtime staff artist for The Fresno Bee, Doug Hansen.
“They’re going to be fun for the kids to read and to be read to,” Dunklee said. “I’m a big proponent of children’s books and getting kids to read. I guess what I’m trying to say is that they don’t always have to have a message, but they are going to be fun.”
And so will HBE Publishing’s multiple upcoming young adult series.
Local author Vicki Thomas is working on a seven-book series called “Mystical Forest,” while John Latham of Clovis is also working on his seven-book fantasy series called “The Lands of Mother.”
Sean McBride will soon begin to publish the first of his 15-book series, which Dunklee describes as “a cross between Magic Tree house and A to Z Mysteries, for kids, except it’s all literary-based,” he said. “The young adventurer, Elsie Jones, will be meeting people like the Three Musketeers, Doyle, Thomas Paine, Tutankhamun, Buddha, Cervantes … it’s fun. They’re really fun.”
The first book in the series will be “Elsie Jones and Book Pirates,” which will tie in with Capt. William Kidd and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” Dunklee said.
640 Clovis Ave., Clovis