'So the stories won't die out'
Children's book publisher: 'Classics'
I'm the publisher of Purple House Press in Keller, Texas, between Dallas and Fort Worth. I founded the company to reprint classic children's books that people remember from their youth, but which have gone out of print.
We use the original illustrations and covers so these books look and feel the way people remember them. Our books were first issued during the 1920s to 1960s. We have five books in print now, with another six on the way before Christmas and more scheduled for 2002.
Prior to becoming involved with publishing, I sold out-of-print children's books on the Internet for four years and I was a software engineer for 13 years.
Years in position
I've been doing this for one-and-a-half years.
I just turned 39.
I have a BS in computer science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, class of 1983. I also attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
How did you get your current job?
After quitting my job as a software engineer at Motorola to spend more time at home with my kids, my passion for books got me involved selling out-of-print children's books on the Internet.
Over the course of four years, I noticed the same books were requested over and over again by different customers. I also saw the price rising every year. As more people came online, the demand for scarce books rose but the supply wasn't rising at the same rate.
When I saw my most favorite childhood book, "Mr. Pine's Purple House," hit the price of $300 online I knew I had to do something. I don't want great books just sitting on the shelf as collector's items, I want them in the hands of children again -- so the stories won't die out and be forgotten by future generations.
Inspired by "Mr. Pine's Purple House" -- in which Mr. Pine dares to be different -- I created Purple House Press.
How many hours do you work per week?
Probably about 50 to 60 hours per week, sometimes more if we have a new release or it's the holiday season. I work seven days a week, answering calls and e-mail. I get online about 7 or 8 a.m., check e-mail, then pack books, call my printers, talk to customers, talk with our authors, each day is unique.
I also do the typesetting on our books and the graphics work for the book dust jackets, this can be very time consuming! Sometimes I work the entire day or evening away on one of these projects, for days or weeks until they're done. I have no set hours, which enables me to attend school plays and other activities with my children when they occur.
What's the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?
Definitely log on. I need to check e-mail and I always browse through the news at CNN.com.
What time do you have lunch? What do you usually eat?
I usually eat out just to get out of the house. It's fast food and I keep telling myself to eat healthier. The timing is different everyday, generally sometime between 12 and 2 p.m. and on the way to the post office to ship books.
What time do things get tense around the office? What makes it that way?
Things can get tense when proofs arrive from the printer which have to be returned the same day to keep on schedule.
If you're having a good day at work, what is it that makes it good?
One of the things that always brightens my day is talking with our author Leonard Kessler. He wrote "Mr. Pine" (my favorite book at age 3). He's the most cheerful person I've had the privilege of knowing and he has a talent for always seeing the good in any situation.
How much work, if any, do you take home?
All of it. I love it this way. My children can stay home with me while I'm working.
What does your work contribute to society?
Good question. Many Baby Boomers are looking for lost pieces of their childhood. They want copies of their favorite stories either to reminisce, or to share with their children and grandchildren.
When they start looking for these books, they frequently find them out of print and very expensive -- highly sought-after out-of-print children's books can cost more than $500. Some of our readers have been sharing copies of their favorites among family members for four and five generations -- now everyone can have their own copies.
Do you expect to finish your working life in this career?
I surely hope so. This is the first job I've had that I truly love every aspect of. I couldn't have dreamed up a more fulfilling or interesting job.
If you could have two more careers, what would they be?
I'm happy where I am.
What's an unforgivable trait in a colleague?
Dishonesty in one whose work represents the company -- as in someone who says he or she is able to do a good job for me and then turns in substandard work. In fact, this is why I learned to do the graphics for our dust jackets.
What do you do to relieve stress?
My husband and I enjoy taking our kids to the park for picnics, and of course I love to read.
What have you been reading lately?
I'm reading a few books right now: "Seven Up" (St. Martin's Press, June) by Janet Evanovich; "Eleanor of Aquitaine" (Ballentine, February 2000) by Alison Weir; "The City Under the Back Steps" by Evelyn Sibley Lampman (out of print); and I just finished "Artemis Fowl" (Talk Miramax Books, May) by Eoin Colfer.
I've always got a few good children's books lined up to read for work. The next is "The New Adventures of the Mad Scientists' Club" (out of print) by B. Brinley. It's been over 25 years since I read it last.
When you have one of those days on which you don't think you can face the job again, what is it that gets you out the door in the morning and off to work?
Someone calls on the phone to thank me for reprinting a treasured book. It really cheers me up. I appreciate people sharing their history with these stories.
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