Now celebrating two full years at the American Philatelic Society and nearly a year of work on The American Philatelist, Associate Editor Susanna Mills reflects on new friendships with philatelists, work from home experiences, and Dolly Parton's Christmas albums.
Meet Susanna Mills
Erin: I am really excited to interview Susanna today; she's one of my good friends at the APS. I'm going to let her take it away and share with you what her job is and what she does at APS.
Susanna: I am the Associate Editor, which was a title change in July, but very similar to the position of Content Manager, which I’ve held since late November 2019. On a day to day basis I work with our contributing writers on articles and columns for the magazine The American Philatelist, as well as the quarterly Philatelic Literature Review – those are my two big jobs with the major deadlines. I’ve also spent a lot of time writing and preparing articles for the Stamps.org Newsroom, and I occasionally see other things that might need to be proofread. There’s a fair amount of writing – mostly emails, of course! – that goes along with the job. Finally, I’ve worked with my coworkers on special projects, like the ongoing Holocaust Stamp Exhibit which has been put on hold temporarily and the 2020 recruitment challenge. So truly I have my fingers in a lot of different pots.
So you mentioned that you have been the Content Manager/Associate Editor for less than a year now, which leads me to my next question: how long have you worked for the APS?
I started working for the APS in October 2018 as an archival intern at the library, so I was working in the back rooms. This position is sponsored by the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society, to make sure that Thomas Alexander's papers and all of his research is taken care of and put to good use. I was making a list of all the resources so that people can come in and use them for their research. I only did that until March 2019, when I was offered the position of Digital Media Strategist, which meant that I moved over into the Editorial department where I worked with all the social media, blogs and photography for events. I also helped Tom Loebig market what is now the Great American Stamp Show, but in August 2019 was just StampShow. I went to StampShow and walked around taking photos and meeting everyone. And then in late November 2019 I was offered the job of Content Manager, and since then have been working on The American Philatelist nonstop, even through the title change.
A Don Neal cachet of drag queen superstar RuPaul Charles, a gift from Casey Jo White at StampShow 2019.
I am happy that everyone gets to hear about all the amazing things you have done so far. I have had the privilege of working on many projects with Susanna, such as Giving Tuesday. I'm excited that we can highlight all the projects and impacts you've made during your short amount of time at APS. It really shows how committed you are to your job and your craft. So with that I'd love to know, what are the best parts of the jobs you've held?
I’d say there are a couple different parts: I love to edit, so when I was editing and writing in the digital media position, that was my favorite. Now I get to do it full time. I am grateful to be able to do it every day. My other favorite part of the digital media job was being able to meet everyone – I should have mentioned that I did many interviews in that job as well, especially during Summer Seminar. It was a great opportunity to meet our members. The same thing applies to Volunteer Work Week 2019 – everyone came in with such energy and was so kind. No one minded that I came around to ask about their collecting interest for a couple minutes during their volunteering.
I'm curious, how has your work changed now that you're working at home from the stay-at-home order?
Working from home has some dog-related perks: Susanna's corgi-German Shepherd mix, Gomez.
I used to have the library as my resource – so useful – I would just hop up from my desk and walk down the hall and say to Marsha, or whoever is at the desk, "I have a question about this . . . do you know the book that I should use?" Or ask for help following up on something I read in a different book. So without the APRL around the corner from my desk to do small fact checks, I've been relying on experts and that's who I've been calling lately for the most recent resources and updates. By the way, everyone has responded to my emails and calls very generously, and I’m very grateful.
So with the lack of materials, I've had to find other ways of doing research. And now that some of the staff are on site again, including myself on occasion, I’ve been able to get materials from the library and the Reference Collection. On the other hand, the one thing I brought from the office was the entire Scott catalog. Anyone who has tried to haul the set cross-country knows that it’s about 80 pounds (at least), so that's pretty much all I could bring. I wasn't expecting to be out of the office for so long but I had enough foresight to know that the Scott catalog would be essential.
It came as a surprise to many how quickly we would be staying home, and the transition has been different for everyone. Luckily we have so many resources from APRL online and you're making it work with what you have. I think you are pumping out some great content for our members and I know they appreciate the hard work you do for the AP, PLR and much more on the website. Is there one resource on the website that you would like to share with our members that is connected with your job?
I'm so exceptionally proud of the Newsroom. Back in September 2019, the editorial department got together with Ross, our Project Manager, and sketched out a space on the website that would make stories and videos more accessible. After that, Ross created it and we debuted it in January – that’s such a simple way of describing how much work Ross put into this. What's great about the Newsroom is how easy it is to navigate – there’s tons of information and we are uploading new things almost every day. I think most of our members have seen the Newsroom and used the website regularly, but if you have not I would encourage you to check it out.
I am the number one fan of the Newsroom, because I'm always excited to see what is new, highlights from the AP and what is being written about in philately. It's great to see the growth of the blog into the Newsroom and all the dedicated work it took from you, Ross and the editorial team to make it what it is now. So now is the time to do some burning questions – are you a stamp collector, and if not what might you collect?
I am not a stamp collector. I have never had much of a collecting spirit, which to me implies acquisition, but I am deeply invested in studying philately, and I’ve been immersed in the social and research aspects of the hobby. If I were to take the plunge into acquisition, I’d probably tend towards collecting private die proprietary stamps, specifically for medicine. The products themselves were overwhelmingly shady . . . in a pre-FDA era where anyone with a dream and a lack of morals could make medicine out of . . . cocaine, usually . . . whatever they could get their hands on. All the medicines had strange names as well, such as one of my favorites, Centaur Liniment. Anyway, between the odd products and names and the quite interesting and often intricate stamp designs, there's so much to study and learn.
I think that is really interesting and I didn't know anything about these types of stamps so I have learned yet another new thing. I know that you shared that you are not yet a collector but I do know you are a member of the APS, so you are on your way.
I am collecting knowledge.
Is there another fun fact that you'd like to share with our members about yourself?
I spent a year and half as the assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories in American History. That was a two-volume encyclopedia with around 200 entries of conspiracy theories. Writers from across the country contributed entries and then we compiled them, edited them and fact checked them – which was about as fun as you’d expect . . . It’s a bit difficult to fact check things like “did aliens actually abduct this person,” and so the hunt for “evidence” led me to some strange websites.
I also wrote a few entries myself. One on backmasking of satanic messages on LP albums – essentially, when you play albums backwards, you can hear messages, or so it would seem. I wrote another on water fluoridation, which some people believe is a government conspiracy, and a third on cattle mutilation, which people seem to agree was aliens.
Oh wow, I've never heard of these stories and I'll have to look them up myself. Another fun fact I'd like to point out is that you have a sister that works at APS, and you both started working in the library together, and I think our members should know that we aren't just a family but that we have family ties within our organization.
It is lovely. I really enjoy working with Marian, especially when we actually get the chance to collaborate and our jobs overlap. Oh, we were both on the holiday staff party committee last year, which was a lot of fun. We set up the playlist with everyone's favorite holiday music, which is a tremendous responsibility, and we got to inflict our love of Dolly Parton's Christmas music on everyone. Especially "Hard Candy Christmas."
So my last question would be can you tell me something that you enjoy about our members?
I've had countless really good experiences with our members, particularly our contributors . . . I am so grateful for them. I’ve only had positive experiences with the writers for the AP and PLR. At StampShow 2019, it was wonderful to meet members with whom I had communicated through social media and email and see them in person. I spent several good hours just talking to members during that time, and have made some lifelong friends.
I have yet to attend an in-person show and I am really looking forward to attending one in the future since I have heard such excitement around these events from everyone. Thank you again Susanna, for your time and impacts you have made and will continue to make at the APS with all the wonderful work you do for us all.
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