Free Spirit’s 30th Anniversary: An Interview With Our Founder

Over the last few months we have been celebrating the 30th anniversary of Free Spirit Publishing. The following interview with Judy Galbraith was recently published in our newsletter, Upbeat News.

judy-galbraith-1988

Judy pictured in 1988.

In honor of our anniversary, this month’s spotlight is on Free Spirit’s founder and president, Judy Galbraith. Judy, a former classroom teacher with a master’s degree in guidance and counseling of the gifted, started Free Spirit Publishing with the publication of her first book, the perennially popular The Survival Guide for Gifted Kids. Since then, Free Spirit has grown to a full-size company employing 24 people (and two office dogs) with an office in the trendy North Loop neighborhood in Minneapolis. Judy has also gone on to author or coauthor several Free Spirit books, including: The Gifted Teen Survival Guide, When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers, What Kids Need to Succeed, and What Teens Need to Succeed.

Q: Let’s jump right into the big questions! When you started Free Spirit Publishing in 1983, did you expect it would develop into such a successful institution?

A: I had no idea what would transpire, but I can say that so-called failure wasn’t an option. I’ve always been a very determined person, and quitting isn’t in my DNA. I believed in my ability to create a successful publishing company even though I didn’t know exactly what directions it would take and in spite of the fact that I didn’t have a business background.

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of working at Free Spirit Publishing?

A: There are two things that really stand out for me. There’s no better feeling than when we get a letter from a young person telling us how much a particular book has helped him or her. That’s the best testimony of our quality and the achievement of our mission. Second, I’ve had the privilege of working with many, many gifted and talented authors, illustrators, and the Free Spirit staff is simply a stellar group of dedicated professionals.

Q: We totally agree—there is nothing better than receiving letters from readers who have been helped by our books. Is there a title in particular (from Free Spirit or another publisher) that has especially impacted your life?

A: Naturally, there are many Free Spirit titles that I have a special affinity for. But the book that truly helped and guided me in the early years of publishing was Paul Hawken’s Growing a Business. Like me, Hawken wasn’t a traditionalist and he didn’t have the stereotypical corporate mentality. His unconventional wisdom was affirming and inspiring.

Q: Can you share some of the most exciting moments at Free Spirit over the years?

A: A big step for me was moving Free Spirit out of a home office and into a real office in a building that had a loading dock.That was a milestone because I would no longer have to unload boxes of books by hand and schlep them into the house one by one!

Free Spirit Offices Today

Free Spirit’s present office.

Other milestones include reaching my first million in sales, having our books repeatedly garner awards, earning positive reviews, moving into our own building, and having our first book translated (we now have books published in more than 30 languages around the world).

Q: Did you hear that, folks? Her appearance on Oprah to talk about her books didn’t even make the cut!

One of our favorite questions to ask authors in Upbeat News is what makes them a “Free Spirit.” How did you come up with the name?

A: When I was in college I always had a mind of my own. The harder people tried to get me to go along with something that didn’t align with my beliefs or standards, the more I pushed back. They’d say “Oh . . . you’re such a free spirit!” When it came time to pick a name for my business, that stood out as the best candidate. It’s easy to say, spell, remember, and the concept has a very appealing connotation. Even if you’re not a free spirit, you want to be one!

Judy Galbraith, President and founder of Free Spirit Publishing.

Judy in 2013.

Q: Is there anything else you want to say to our Upbeat News subscribers?

A: I’m very appreciative of our customers, subscribers, and followers. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to continue “fighting the good fight” as they say. If you’re having a rough day, write to us. We’re here to help.


What makes you a free spirit? Tell us! Respond on this post and enter to win a $300 Free Spirit gift certificate!


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


Springy Book Anniversary © by Free Spirit Publishing© 2013 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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