April Q&A: A Passion for Words

George Geers had spent all of his working life as a newspaper writer and editor, and he loved every minute of it. But one day nine years back he gave in to what he calls a “terrible desire” to publish books. He set up a small publishing company in his native Concord called Plaidswede (a name George explains as “Scottish mother, Viking father, Celtic daughters”). His main focus was to be – and is – books about New Hampshire and New England. He signed up luminaries of N.H.’s literary scene – some of them pictured here with George – and was quickly on his way.

What attracted you to journalism?
I was an intern at Foster’s when I was in college and got a glimpse of the atmosphere at a newspaper. I loved it. There’s something about a newspaper – it’s first-hand history. Just as my father, who worked in heavy construction, loved the smell of oil, gas and diesel, it was the same for me with the smell of hot lead type and paper cooking on the press.

Was it the same for you when the computer age arrived?
When I started out, I typed on an Olympia typewriter. It took me a while to go to a computer. I felt it was a betrayal – real journalists don’t type on computers. But then I found it was nice to be able to correct stories, not to have to put xxxx over words we mistyped.

But, after 30 years in the newspaper biz, you decided to start a publishing house? How come?
Because I love books. I just had a terrible desire to publish books and I kept seeing opportunities to do it. I was working at The Telegraph at the time and was very happy there, but I just had the desire to publish.

What do you hope to accomplish?
My goal is to become the ‘Random House’ of New Hampshire and to preserve the voices of New England columnists. I’ve been lucky to be working with Fritz Wetherbee, Rebecca Rule and the other writers. And it’s important to find new voices.

Do you have to turn down a lot of would-be writers?
I get a lot of proposals. It’s difficult to tell people their baby is ugly and that they can’t publish. I steer them to the N.H. Writers’ Project, where they’ll get support.

Newspapers are finding it tough to survive these days. Are you worried about books?
No, I’m not worried a bit. Who can get excited about reading a book on a computer screen? You want to sit under a tree with a glass of lemonade and enjoy. The hard-core reader hasn’t disappeared.

Do you still have your old Olympia typewriter?
It’s long gone, but I’m sure there’s one in the attic somewhere.

Will you ever retire?
No, there’s no retirement from what I love. There are things I have to write before I go.