Tidings file photoLocal author and publisher Steven Scholl

Publisher flees to LA — in search of clean air

His three children raised and his longtime publishing company, White Cloud, a success in the field of spiritual literature, Ashland publisher Steve Scholl is bidding farewell to Ashland and moving to Los Angeles — in part, he says, with only a hint of irony, for the air quality.

White Cloud will stay in Ashland, under the guidance of business partner Steve Sendar — while Scholl will continue working full-time as publisher, but remotely. Scholl will also work 15 hours a week for Amanat Trust, a nonprofit that helps refugees. It’s run by a close friend and philanthropist.

Scholl, a native of Corvallis and Eugene, arrived in Ashland in 1994 and started White Cloud. He loves Ashland, except for one big problem: smoke.

“I’ve become less amenable to the long, cold winters, but the saving grace has always been the beautiful spring, summer and fall,” says Scholl. “But the last six years of really bad smoke have pushed it to the point that I find it unlivable.”

As an Oregonian, Scholl says it’s painful to leave the state, but friends around Santa Monica, where he plans to land, tell him the sea-breeze washed area has “the best air quality in the country.”

That may sound counter-intuitive for the region that practically invented smog, but Scholl said bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis have made the decision for him — plus, “It’s an opportunity for me to do something positive in the world that fits my skill set and awareness of international issues relating to the Middle East.”

Scholl’s publishing venture has always focused around mystical parts of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. He graduated from University of Oregon in religious studies and from McGill University in Montreal in Islamic Studies and philosophy.

“I have an academic background in the history, culture and beliefs and have lived in the Mideast and have traveled the world,” Scholl said. “I have the ability to do research around these types of issues (refugees)” and to read reports and evaluate how well relief agencies are doing and how they might benefit from funding.”

At the same time, White Cloud will be making a shift, publishing four books a year instead of 10 and focusing on world religion, ecology and yoga, he says. They also coach and train authors to get in print and market their books.

This year, Scholl will perform a feat no other publisher probably even thought of: publish two books, one with the forward by the Dalai Lama and the other with a forward by Pope Francis.

The first is “No Fear, No Death: the Transformative Power of Compassion,” by Barry Kerzan. The second is a reissue of his “Everything Starts From Prayer: Mother (now Saint) Teresa’s Meditations on Spiritual Life for People of All Faiths.”

“We’re very lucky and very proud about that,” says Scholl, who vows to revisit Ashland several times a year.

“It’s been amazing good fortune to be in this kind, communicative, conscious, progressive community — so many good experiences.”

Asked where he got the name of his company, Scholl said, “The white cloud is a powerful image in every spiritual tradition and every indigenous tradition. It’s used so many different ways as sanctity and holiness. God appears in a white cloud and gives us protection from the burning sun.”

Scholl, 64, has spent over a quarter of a century exploring and seeking to convey the mystic in books. Asked what it is, he said, “The mystic is the individual’s personal, experiential connection to the transcendental, without clergy or dogma. It’s what happens inside the individual without any structure or organization.”

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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