If you want to help people, you need to go where it’s super dark. This was Adam Wahlberg’s realization two years after launching Think Piece Publishing.
Wahlberg started his independent press in 2012 after working 16 years as an editor for Minnesota Law and Politics magazine. He left that job shortly after the publication was acquired by Thomson Reuters.
Striking out on his own, Wahlberg dreamed of doing something big with his editing skills, something that bridged his passions for working with writers and promoting mental health.
For the first two years, Think Piece was little more than a blog filled with essays on social issues. It went absolutely nowhere.
“The first two years were a disaster,” he said.
Then one day, Wahlberg picked up an e-mail from the agent of Chicago author Janet Burroway. She was writing a memoir about her losing her son, a soldier, to suicide. No major publishing house wanted anything to do with the project.
Wahlberg jumped at the opportunity to work with Burroway, publishing and promoting her 2014 book “Losing Tim.”
The experience helped Wahlberg grasp the potential for making real-world impact with his tiny publishing operation. And it helped crystallize a mission: creating awareness about mental health issues through high-quality writing and art.
“I thought maybe I could make it a little less scary for people,” Wahlberg said.
Two “breaks of a lifetime” came for Think Piece Publishing in 2015.
First Wahlberg agreed to publish Julie Barton’s “Dog Medicine,” the California author’s hit memoir about depression and adopting a lifesaving golden retriever. “Dog Medicine” was later acquired by Penguin Random House and landed on the New York Times bestseller list.
Also, Wahlberg approached Minnesota musician Adam Levy of the Honeydogs. A longtime fan of Levy’s band, Wahlberg was eager to hear what Levy was working on. Wahlberg wondered about publishing a Q&A on his website.
Then Levy told Wahlberg about “Naubinway,” the album he was writing about losing his 21-year-old son to suicide. Wahlberg readily agreed to produce and promote the project.
“He’s really quick to want to help out,” Levy said of Wahlberg. “There’s this endless curiosity. And this immense heart.”
“Dog Medicine” and “Naubinway” were released within two weeks of each other in late 2015, capping an end to a very busy (and successful) year.
Wahlberg took a little breather after that. But now he’s busy again with a new project — a book by another prominent Minnesota musician, Wahlberg teased, because the project is still under wraps.
Yes, Wahlberg technically acts as the publisher behind these projects. But he doesn’t see himself that way. He sees himself more as a champion for art that helps the community confront mental health challenges.
As Levy put it, Wahlberg has become “an advocate for this conversation.”
Christopher Shea is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.