Dorothy Jane Mills, Author of “Ann Likes Red”


dorothyphotobWeb site: http://www.DorothyJaneMills.com

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your writing career? And what
books of yours have been published?

A: I’ve been writing ever since I was in the third grade, when I began writing for my elementary school newspaper. I wrote (and starred in) the sixth-grade play, a comedy. I wrote for, and edited, my high school college newspapers, and wrote for the college magazine. Writing has always been a large part of my life!
I intended to be a journalist, and during college I worked on a big-city newspaper and in the advertising department of a large department story. But after college I was sidetracked into teaching, so at first my main publications came in the field of education.

I wrote many articles for teachers. In 1965, while I was using a new instructional system to teaching reading to first graders, I realized I needed to have much more practice material for the children, to accompany the books and workbooks furnished to me, so I wrote some stories that I knew would help the pupils practice on their own. The publisher of the new instructional system published these stories, paying me a minimal flat fee for each, and I used them in my own classroom. They helped the pupils gain reading independence.

Almost immediately, a large New York publisher bought the rights to those books from the instructional system and, without paying me any royalties, published the books by the thousands. I saw them sold in department stores and even supermarkets.

Soon I was burned out as a teacher and, after a year of study at the doctoral level, went into publishing, becoming a supervising editor for a large Boston publishing house that specialized in instructional material. While working there I continued publishing articles, mostly for teachers but some general enough to be reprinted in books, along with a couple of children’s books and stories.

When I left full-time editorial work for free-lancing, I continued both editing and writing, mostly textbooks but also articles for general magazines and newspapers. With Paul Keene I published Fear Not to Sow Because of the Birds , a book of essays on country living (Globe Pequot, 1976) and with Dr. Patrick Groff I published Word Recognition; The Why and the How (Charles C. Thomas, 1987). I also published an instructional book for primary teachers called Toad Charts, Paper Faces, and Other Ideas for Visual Comprehension (Scott, Foresman, 1988). For some instructional publishers I revised or edited workbooks or textbooks, many of them written by college professors.

Most of my writing was, however, contributed to the work of my late husband, Dr. Harold Seymour, the historian of baseball. Dr. Seymour’s three-volume study of the national pastime for Oxford University Press is still the classic work on the subject. He was the first academic to write baseball history. I was his collaborator, taking over all the research and organization, and gradually taking over the writing, too, as his health declined. He passed away in 1992, and I completed his third book for him.

annelikesredBy that time, aside from publishing articles, I had launched a big new project of my own: a historical novel about Austria in the 1930s, The Sceptre , which took nearly ten years of research and writing. Because the market for fiction has tightened greatly, I launched Patrician Publications and self-published the book, first (1998) on the internet, then (1999) in paper copies, using the publishing services of Xlibris Corporation. The book is doing well, and I am writing a sequel.

Meanwhile, I have been working on a vegetarian cookbook that is different from anything on the market. Its focus is people who want to cut back on meat but miss meat a lot. These people want to enjoy meaty-tasting entrees, so I have devised a hundred of such entrees from a popular granular soy product called textured vegetable protein that can be made to taste amazingly like meat. Through my company, Patrician Publications, I am publishing Meatless Meat with the publishing services of Xlibris Corporation. The book is now in production. It will be ready about the same time as Ann Likes Red .

Q: Were you initially excited about or resistant to Jill’s idea of republishing your book?

A: I was surprised! I had forgotten about Ann Likes Red and the other little books published in 1965—until I began receiving letters from women longing to read it again and desiring to share it with their own little girls. One of them directed me to the listing for Ann Likes Red on Amazon.com, where I was astounded to discover many nostalgic messages about the book from women who wanted to buy it and couldn’t find it except for occasional (and expensive) rare old copies that occasionally came on the market. Amazon.com ‘s listing stated that the book was out of print, and the women who posted there asked that it be reprinted.

It was then that Jill (and another publisher) wrote me asking to sign me to a contract to reprint the book. I liked Jill’s approach—she sent me copies of her work and told me a lot about her company and how she had started it. With the help of her attorneys, Jill had searched for and found me (under my new name) through another publisher.

But I didn’t own the copyright to Ann Likes Red ! I had sold it for a small flat fee in 1965, and that company had sold the rights to a New York publisher—which had since gone out of business.

I worked with the U.S. Copyright office to re-establish my rights to the ten children’s books, paying them for the rights. Jill’s attorneys helped me research the history of the books’ owners. And now I own my own stories again!

Q: And how do you feel about the idea now, after seeing your book(s) in print again?

A: Delighted! Jill has sent me proofs of the Ann Likes Red cover and the folded-and-gathered pages. The book looks wonderful, better than the original. Jill invited me to write a short piece for the new edition, and I wrote an Afterword.

Moreover, the many women who wrote me asking for the book are now writing me about how thrilled they are that they will soon get a chance to see the book once more. Before the book went into production, Jill had already received many advance orders from women all over the country. I’m still amazed to discover how much effect this simple story of an independent little girl had on so many women of their generation. Many said they read the book over and over and over, until it was memorized; checked it out of the library every week for years; and still quote the book to their friends. I have written a couple of articles about my experience with this book. One is already accepted by an e-zine, Blue Ear. It analyzes the appeal of this story to girls.

Q: Without giving away any company secrets, has seeing your work in print again gotten the creative juices flowing and gotten you writing more stories (assuming that you haven’t been writing all along)?

A: I’m one of those people who needs no stimulation to get creative juices flowing. I rise about 4:30 A.M. to get started, and I work about eight hours a day, even though I’m now 73 years old. Besides articles, which I produce often (especially for the internet), I’m working on several projects. Most of my time at the moment is being spent on my second web site, http://www.HaroldSeymour.com , which I plan to open this fall. It’s devoted to the work of my late husband, the historian, and the literary prize (the Harold and Dorothy Seymour Medal) named after him and me, which is given annually to the author of the best book of baseball history or biography published in the previous year. The Medal is awarded by the Society for American Baseball Research, with 7,000 members worldwide.

For the new site, I am having the winning books reviewed by scholars, along with the books that have reached the finals in the Seymour competition. The site is being designed and mounted by a web designer with an interest in baseball history, Ralph Wallace of Digital Innovators in Chicago. He is contributing his work gratis. He also designed and mounted my own web site, http://www.DorothyJaneMills.com .

Besides writing the new web site I’m working on the promotion for Meatless Meat ; helping with the promotion for Ann Likes Red ; and continuing promotion of The Sceptre . I have several more book presentations and autographings coming up this fall. I’m also researching the sequel to The Sceptre , called The Labyrinth .

Q: What originally got you into writing children’s stories in particular?

A: I think I’ve covered that above: my interest in education.

Q: Do you illustrate your own stories? If not, did you get a choice about who did the illustrating? Did you take them to a publisher pre-illustrated originally?

A: The original publisher, an educational company, had the books illustrated, choosing from its own stable of illustrators.

Q: Was it easy for you to get that first story published, when you started out?

A: Actually, my first little stories were published in children’s magazines. Yes, it was easy.

Q: Okay, now I’ll put you on the spot–how is Jill to work with (big smile here)?

A: Jill is special. Her attention to detail is admirable. She improved the cover art, both the front and the back covers. She realized that the new edition had to be differentiated from the first one, by means of a note from the author. She worked with her printer to get the shade of red just right—really a cardinal red, not an orangey red. And she kept me informed every step of the way. We are in constant touch via email and phone. She gives me individual attention—a method of working untypical of today’s publishers.

Q: Are you helping Jill in any way to get publicity for your stories and her publishing company?

A: Yes. I like the way Jill welcomed my participation in the promotion of Ann Likes Red. She knew that because I’m experienced in promoting my own work and that of others, I could help her with this. I wrote the initial press release, and she edited it. I sent it to several places. I also helped by giving her some addresses of catalogs and reviewing magazines that I had collected.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring children’s book author?

A: Write what you think is needed and desired by children. Try it out on children you know. Then look for a publisher who handles that kind of work. Also learn how to promote your own writing.

Email interview by Shirley Bryant.

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

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