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“Getting To Know You”

(Feature of greetingcardwriting.com)

 

(Sandra’s Special Note:  As many of you know, I teach Greeting Card Writing at three online locations, www.writerscollege.com, www.bizymoms.com and www.absolutewrite.com.   In each of the classes, I offer a challenge to my students; i.e. if they sell at least five greeting card verses within a year of taking my course,  they’ll be interviewed on my website.  Below is yet another success story from one of my former students).

 

We couldn’t hope to express it any better than Richard Rodgers or Oscar Hammerstein from their hit musical, “The King And I.”  In fact, the lyrics are especially appropriate for this popular section of greetingcardwriting.com because they talk about a teacher and her pupils. The writers featured here have all been former students—and my, how they’ve soared creatively!

 

 

“It's a very ancient saying,
But a true and honest thought,
That if you become a teacher,
By your pupils you'll be taught.

As a teacher I've been learning—

You'll forgive me if I boast—

And I've now become an expert,
On the subject I like most.”
 


Getting To Know You

 

 

RoxAnn Henry signed up for my greeting card writing course through Writer’s College on March 14, 2005.  As of January 2006, RoxAnn has sold nine greeting card verses to various companies.  In her own words, she’s happy with “my notebook of scratchings and a quiet corner.” I’m so proud of RoxAnn’s accomplishment and know she’ll provide inspiration for those of you out there who carry dreams of becoming a published writer—one who is paid for words you’ve written.

 

This month, greetingcardwriting.com features:

 

RoxAnn Henry

New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

email: roxmar@usachoice.net

 

 

 Tell us a little about yourself, your family and occupation and when you first started writing greeting cards.

 

      Hello Everyone.  If you had told me a year ago I’d be interviewed  on the internet, I would have responded with a good hearty laugh!

      In January 2006, I celebrated my 50th birthday, and yes, it was a celebration.  That very day I sold three cards!  For those of you who think you need a college English degree to do this, I'm living proof you don't.  I was married very young, luckily to a great guy, and started a family right away.  Our son, 33, a businessman, is handsome and single.  Our political daughter who is 23, is beautiful and somewhat taken!  Motherhood was a serious occupation for me and so, if I wanted to afford the extras, like expensive piano lessons and designer basketball shoes, I had to get a job with the school district whose hours were compatible with full-time mothering.  I became the woman songs are written about and no, not love songs....I became a lunch lady.  Yes, it meant I had to wash stacks of ranch-smeared trays, learn to lift like a bodybuilder and smell like a taco, but it was all worth it.  That's not to say I don't have a gamut of other interests.  To name a few, I like to read and write, have taught Sunday School for 22 years, and I log lots of miles on my treadmill....sometimes the sweat inspires me!  I wrote my first greeting card for Sandra last April and it wasn't very good!

 

 

Why did you choose greeting card writing over other writing genres?  Do you write in other genres and if so, which ones?  If not, do you plan to try other writing areas?

Tell us about how your writing day works.  Do you find a particular time of day more productive than others?

 

      Oddly enough, I never intended to write greeting cards.  Four years ago, I wrote a religious wedding poem with a frog theme.   I tested it at two bridal showers and was pleasantly surprised at the tearful reactions of the brides and their guests.  I knew it was every bit as good as most of the gift plaques I saw in the stores.  It occurred to me that if I could get people to cry in less than a minute over a poem, it might just sell!  I spent several frustrating years doing research, but always seemed to hit a brick wall, probably because of my non-existent marketing skills.  One day I fell into Sandra's website and had an Oprah light bulb moment.  I started to think that if I learned how to write cards, I could also learn which companies I could peddle my poem to.  Unfortunately, the frog hasn't moved off his lily pad....I've been too busy writing cards.

 

      I've written humorous poetry for friends and family and enjoy just the simple act of letter writing.  A few years ago, my lunch lady friends and I extra'd on a movie set with  the very handsome Richard Gere.  I wrote a descriptive newspaper article about the frigidly cold fourteen hour experience and it was well received.  Later, I wrote a piece for another newspaper about "neighbors" and the overly kind editor encouraged me to keep pursuing some sort of writing.  But time always seemed to be my enemy and I just didn't want to devote huge chunks of it to a single project and face that dreaded deadline.  At that point in my life, having spent so many years raising children and seeing them through college, I was determined to decrease stress and increase pleasure.

 

      Honestly, I don't have a writing schedule.  I might go several weeks without writing a single card and then sit down one day and write eight.  I may jot down something in the night or yell for my husband to write down a thought while I'm on the treadmill.  I do pay attention to Sandra's three day rule....my cards nearly always get tweaked and reworked after they rest a bit.  One word can make such a difference.  I get inspired at all times of the day and I decided from the beginning that this was going to be a fun part of my life - pressure would play absolutely no part. 

 

How many greeting cards do you buy and send annually?  What’s your personal favorite occasion and why?

 

      I'm one of those people who says, "I gotta send her a card."  And often I do.  I could never put a number on how many I mail in a year, but because I have been on the end of real sadness, sympathy cards are important for me to send.

 

Since you completed Sandra’s class in April 2005, you’ve sold nine greeting card verses.  Could you give us a breakdown of the various occasions you’ve sold?  Have these all been humorous verses?

 

      Here's where you might label me a "one hit wonder."  I have sold eight birthday cards and one religious encouragement even though I have written in many different categories.  I guess it’s a compliment to my exceptional parents...my sentimental birthday cards have all been to moms and dads!   I've sold nothing humorous so far, but am currently playing the waiting game on a batch I sent in August.  I would love to sell more religious cards and I work hard on getting that right. 

 

Do you regard greeting cards differently now that you write them too?  Do you notice things about them you never considered before?

 

      Yes, I do.  When someone can write long contemporary prose and hit it just right, I have great appreciation for that.  I received a birthday card from my daughter last month that falls in the "keeper" category.   It was one of those cards that talks about teen rebellion,  lessons learned and finally, wanting to be just like me....you know, the kind of card you wait years to get!  I've read it over and over.  I love the photo cards and will stand in front of the card racks imagining what my inside verse would be.  And now every card I come across gets flipped over as I search for yet another card company.  Probably my biggest challenge is getting that perfect thought across in as few words as possible...what most companies look for.

 

In one of the first emails you ever sent to me, you mentioned you weren’t a pet lover and commented there was probably some law against that!  Have you experimented writing for occasions (such as Pet Sympathy) for which you don’t have a natural affinity?

 

      Yes, I lack the pet chromosome, but I try to keep that genetic fact hidden!  It's exactly why I pushed myself, though, to try my hand at a pet sympathy card.  Of the seventy cards I have out there right now in front of editors, seven of them are for the sad owners of deceased pets.  For all I know though, my words may just make the whole grieving process worse!   As for writing outside my comfort zone, my Kwanzaa and Kabala cards may just have to wait a bit. 

 

Are there any occasions or particular occasion slants you’d like to see on the racks that aren’t currently there?

 

      There seems to be a card for everything these days!  Sometime ago, I finished reading Rick Warren's bestseller, "The Purpose Driven Life."  I imagined a whole rack of cards with inspirational thoughts from his book and wondered if I should call him up and plant this marvelous idea in his head.  On my next trip to Wal-Mart, I was almost disappointed to see that Rick was two steps ahead of me.  The cards had already been written.  How about a line of lunch lady cards (we all know how she is unfairly portrayed!)? 

     

 What do you find most interesting or fun about writing greeting cards?

 

      Like everyone else,  I own my fair amount of stress.  Pair that with staring for fourteen years  into the bottom of a sudsy sink filled with a mountain of greasy pans and you soon see that if you don't find a creative outlet you could go bonkers.  I had a huge void in my life when my kids left the nest and I searched for a very long time for something that would bring imaginative satisfaction.  To be able to sit down and write a few words that might give someone a chuckle or bring comfort to someone suffering a loss seems like such a simple, yet wonderful way to make a tiny life contribution.  I didn't have to spend a lot of money to get started and I'm still the master of my time.  I haven't seen any of my cards in print, but I have enjoyed the delicious checks that come in the mail. 

 

Give aspiring card writers two or three pieces of advice you deem vital to success in the freelance greeting card writing arena.

 

      I'm not sure I'm accomplished enough as a writer to dispense advice, but this is what I've learned.   Patience is vital and you better acquire some. You might as well just make friends with Mr. Rejection, too.  Every company has a different timetable about responding.  I submit all my cards to a particular company first for two reasons....they bought my very first card from the very first batch I sent them and their unusually rapid response time is just over a week or so.  I sold eight cards to a company that only seems to respond quarterly.  Because of my track record with them, I always make sure to keep two to three batches of cards in front of the editor. I'm hoping my name is getting familiar to her.  Accurate record keeping of your cards is an organizational must.  I do all my scribbling in one notebook and only one.  If I write down a thought on a scrap of paper, I transfer it quickly. 

 

      In closing, I'd like to sincerely thank Sandra for allowing me this space on her website, for helping me find that "something" I was searching for and for teaching me that I can deliver words as well as pizza. 

 

      Keep writing everybody,

           RoxAnn Henry 

 

 

Thanks RoxAnn! What a terrific interview! Aspiring writers should take heart that there are definitely opportunities for freelance writers in the greeting card arena.  Your experience is proof of that.  We appreciate your taking the time to answer our questions.
 

 


   

 

 
 
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