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Teens Get the Word on Parenting : Morning Glory's Publications Aim to Teach--Not Preach

December 26, 1990|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BUENA PARK — Jeanne Warren Lindsay's first contact with pregnant teen-agers came in 1972 as she was working as a long-term substitute English teacher at a continuation high school in Anaheim.

A few of the students she saw were pregnant.

"These young women were so hungry for information," Lindsay recalled. "I offered them a child-development text for English credit. It was the usual textbook for students who won't be parents for 10 years, and there was certainly no mention of single parents. But they wanted information so badly on rearing their children they were willing to read it."

When Lindsay was hired later that year to start a special school program for pregnant and parent teen-agers in the ABC Unified School District in Cerritos, she saw just how inadequately textbooks dealt with teen-age mothers and their special needs.

"The materials you could get, the textbooks, didn't appear to know that people got pregnant in their teens, and yet at that time one out of five babies in the country were born to teen-agers," she said.

In 1977, Lindsay set out to help fill the information gap.

Borrowing $2,000 from a relative, she founded Morning Glory Press, an independent small publishing company that specializes in books for pregnant and parent teens.

Since then, Morning Glory Press has published 11 books, all either written or co-written by Lindsay. It also distributes nine titles from other publishers.

Although other publishing houses offer single titles on the subject, Lindsay says, Morning Glory is the only press specializing in books solely for these teen-agers. This year, she says, Morning Glory will gross more than $300,000, with the majority of its sales to schools, social service agencies and libraries around the country.

The venture was originally run out of a spare bedroom in the Buena Park tract house she shares with Bob, her husband of 39 years. One by one, as each of their five children moved out, Lindsay would take over the abandoned bedroom for office and book-storage space. Now, Morning Glory Press has its headquarters in a spacious office built five years ago behind their garage. A modest sign on the front of the garage--itself piled high with boxed books ready for shipping--points the way to the seat of Lindsay's mini publishing empire.

The 768-square-foot office has a vaulted ceiling and large windows overlooking the back yard. At one end is a kitchenette. An old library ladder leads to a loft, where Lindsay does most of her writing, in shorthand, while reclining on a chaise longue. If it's sunny, she writes on the chaise longue in the back yard.

At the other end of the office, separated by a fireplace and sitting area, is the business part of the room, with its two computers, two printers, a typewriter, four filing cabinets and shelves crammed with books.

It's a homey atmosphere, with lots of knickknacks, pictures and a poster quoting newspaperman A.J. Liebling: "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one."

It's here where Lindsay, usually clad in a sweat shirt, typically puts in a 60-hour workweek.

Morning Glory Press is not, however, a one-person operation.

Along with two part-time workers who box books and fill out invoices in an adjoining room, there's Carole Blum, who went to work for Lindsay five years ago. Blum's title, Lindsay joked one morning recently, depends "on what letters she's writing: She's sales manager, director of promotions, office manager and customer service."

"Well," Blum said looking up from her computer, "at a small place, you have to do what has to be done."

Lindsay continued to teach and coordinate the teen mother program at Tracy High School in Cerritos as Morning Glory Press grew. But she took an early retirement in 1988: "I love teaching, but I couldn't do both. I was going crazy."

At 61, Lindsay says she figures "I'm about 10 to 15 years away from retirement. I've got a lot to do."

Among the more recent Morning Glory books are "School-Age Parents: The Challenge of Three-Generation Living," which was published several months ago and is intended for "families facing the dilemma of adolescent pregnancy and parenthood."

This month, the press published the revised edition of Lindsay's 1982 book, "Do I Have a Daddy: A Story About a Single-Parent Child." The slim volume offers an illustrated story for the child and a section in the back with suggestions for the single mother from other young mothers rearing children alone. Since it was first published eight years ago, "Do I Have a Daddy" has consistently sold about 100 copies a month.

Morning Glory Press's biggest seller is the 1981 book "Teens Parenting: The Challenge of Babies and Toddlers," at 60,000 copies and sales remaining steady. This book, which is recommended by the American Library Assn., offers guidelines for parenting during the child's first two years and features extensive comments from young mothers interviewed by Lindsay.

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