March 28, 2008

Don't Believe Everything You Hear!

Guess who's going to be on the radio this weekend?

A few weeks ago, the very talented host, Ann Bocock, interviewed me for Florida Forum on WXEL. For some reason, I responded to one of her questions: "My husband and I play Scrabble every night."

Ha!!! I work nearly full-time, raise two teenage boys, care for two pets and volunteer. By the end of most days, I barely have the energy to floss my teeth! Hubby and I enjoy a competitive game of Scrabble about four times a month.

Despite my minor goof, I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. You can hear it this Sunday, March 30th at 11 a.m. or Monday, March 31st at 7 p.m. on South Florida's radio station 90.7 or online at Click on the "listen live" button at those times or listen to a Florida Forum rebroadcast later.

A big, whopping thank you to Allison Fraclose at for her nice review. (And I didn't even have to bribe her with lemon squares or bright, shiny objects!) The "gold star" review is posted at and on Amazon. Here's a snippet: "Extremely well-written, this book surprised me with its humor, action, and poignancy. With this winning combination, this is a read you will certainly want on your ticket!"

Much thanks, also, to Sandra Louden for being my guest blogger this week and for sharing her 22 years of greeting card writing experience. I'd love to hear from anyone who uses her advice and sells a greeting card or two.

Stay tuned. Next week, guest blogger, Bob Younce, talks about why we need writers.

Happy weekend,

March 27, 2008

Guest Blogger -- Sandra Louden, Greeting Card Writer Extraordinaire

If you've ever read a greeting card and thought, "I can do that," you're right! You can. Many greeting card company editors are eagerly awaiting the next submission of unique, innovative and funny birthday card ideas to land on their desks.

I'm delighted to have Sandra Louden ( with us today to share her many years of experience writing and selling greeting cards.

Sandra, take it away . . .

I’m a professional greeting card writer and have been for over 22 years. Although I’ve been published in other genres, I’ve been tagged “a greeting card writer”— and that’s mainly how I’m known. I’ve written a strong-selling book on breaking into this often-misunderstood genre, which is about to go into a 2nd edition. I taught at our local Community College (Allegheny County—Pittsburgh) for 12 years. Even though my course was non-credit, the state rated it Occupational (as opposed to Recreational), which meant it was partially funded by the County and State, so even if enrollment didn’t reach the minimum, the course still ran. It was rated Occupational because my students sold their work on a regular basis and the state considered this an income-generating source. I’ve also taught online since 1998 at two writing schools: and I’ve been interviewed in many places, including NBC-TV, BBC (3 times), Voice of America, Attaché (In-flight magazine for U.S. Air), Ferguson’s Careers in Focus (found in middle and high schools), Christian Science Monitor, Mslexia (For Women Who Write – Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Metro (International Newspaper with a circulation of 37 million), 801 (Columbia School of Journalism), The National Examiner and made the cover of Parade Magazine.

That’s an overview of my background.

By way of introducing you to this writing genre, I’m going to let you in on some things I like—and know you will also—about greeting card writing. After that, I’ll get you started with a few card companies where you can send ideas. You can also contact me (that info is at the end of this blog), should you have further questions.

A Short List of Greeting Card Writing Positives:
1. You don’t have to write rhymed, metered Helen Steiner Rice-type verses.
2. You don’t have to draw the pictures.
3. There are other companies besides Hallmark and American Greetings.
4. The per-word dollar rate is terrific.

The persistent myth that greeting card writing means a Dad-sad-bad-had cycle amazes me. I mean, you only have to go to your nearest card store to see that rhymed, metered verse makes up an infinitesimal (well okay, maybe not quite that small—but pretty darned small) part of the collection of cards in front of you. The first questions to ask yourself here are: What sort of cards do I buy? What do I like to send? Which are my favorites to receive? Most of us today either opt for humor or soft, conversational prose. Well, the great news here is that humor and conversational prose are what most card editors want from their freelance writers. While you see poetry on the racks, these are mostly the domain of Hallmark and American Greetings, both of whom have staff writers who supply them with their rhymed needs. That and of course, the recycle factor—rhymed verses are recycled with updated art work slapped on the front. (When you’ve been around long enough, you won’t be hallucinating if the eerie thought hits you: Didn’t I send this sappy verse to my actor boyfriend in 1974—the one I thought I couldn’t exist without? It probably was).

As far as drawing, the only thing I draw anymore is a blank. I wish I were exaggerating when I tell you my drawing skills are truly pathetic. I’d draw an alligator and my kids would ask what that poor chicken was doing crawling in the water. This fallacy stops many aspiring card writers; I get a steady stream of emails asking what happens if you can’t draw. My answer: Nothing. (Oddly enough, I never get asked if would-be writers have to supply the photographs that so many of today’s cards carry on their fronts). Editors don’t want “the entire package” from one freelance person; they prefer keeping words and images separated. As a card writer, you may often receive an assignment to write verses from existing images, either drawn or photographed. If you submit a verse that relies on a visual to get its meaning across, you’ll have to be able to describe that image succinctly—in no more than two sentences (one is better). In the pre-computer days, writers would submit a single verse on a 3x5” index card—not much room there for wordy descriptions. And while that submission process is by and large obsolete, it still provides an excellent rule of thumb for K.I.S.S.—Keep It Short, Sweetie.

When I ask students to name some card companies, Hallmark and American Greetings top the list. That’s natural—since they’re #1 and #2 respectively. Most people are aware of Blue Mountain Arts (now known as SPS Studios) and then answers trickle to nothing. The Greeting Card Association estimates there are 3,000 card companies in the United States—they range from the giants to the “stacked on the kitchen table while the chili’s cooking on the stove” companies. And while many mid-size, independent companies have been scooped up by these two giants, there are still a lot of companies simply aching for solid freelance submissions.

Unless you write the unique 36-40 line verses that became synonymous with SPS (and which almost every company has imitated), most of your card verses, whether soft prose or humor, will run no more than 30 words—and most of the time much shorter. The payment per humorous verse runs anywhere from $40 to $200 ($300 in some cases, if you’re willing to wait for a testing process), with the average being around $75-$100. Soft prose generally runs less, somewhere around $60-$75. As far as payment per word then, do the math. I’ve written features for major magazines, such as A&E’s Biography, where I was paid $1/per word. By comparison, for a two-word verse (with accompanying visual suggestion), I received $150—or $75/per word. Sure, I use that for effect, but it’s an accurate effect. The payment in this genre simply can’t be matched.

There are other perks, of course, to greeting card writing. You get to write short sentiments present at all life’s major milestones. Your words will be “adopted” by strangers who will call them their own. Words they may be unwilling—or unable—to say for themselves. As a greeting card writer, you also get to work with some of the country’s most exciting artists, photographers and cartoonists. Through the years, I’ve been in contact with folks whose visual work I’ve admired from afar.

Before I officially get you started by providing some companies that want—and need—your verses, here are some of my own personal favorites I’ve sold through the years.

Woman Friendship (Louie-Award Winner...our industry’s highest honor)
O: Frazzled woman staring at her children in bed.
Verse: If only I could think of them as sleeping...
I: ...instead of recharging. (© Current Inc. 1991)

Get Well (Louie-Award Nominee)
O: Wide-eyed Dad with two small children looking at reader.
Verse: There are many reasons for you to get well. Your family loves and needs you, your family is worried about you...
I: ...your family is totally unsupervised in the kitchen. (© Current Inc. 1992)

Boss’ Day
O: I like having you for a Boss...
I: ...compared to my Mother, you hardly ever tell me what to do. Happy Boss’ Day! (© Renaissance 2002)

Get Well
I: Get plenty of rest...and rest assured, others love and care for you. Get Well Soon. (© Renaissance 2003)

Woman Friendship
O: I watch exotic male dancers for the same reason I read travel magazines.
I: I like to look at places I’m never gonna visit. (© Gibson Greetings 1995)

Is your interest piqued? I hope so. Below are a few companies to get you started. (Remember, freelance policies can—and do—change).

Tell Tale Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 5434
Takoma Park, MD 20913
Ongoing writing contest for “the art of telling stories” based on scenarios from their greeting cards.
Visit: for complete details.

SPS Studios, Inc.
(Blue Mountain Arts)
Dept. SML, P.O. Box 1007
Boulder, CO 80306-1007
Send blank email to with “Send Me Guidelines” in the subject line.
To submit work, email to (no attachments, please)

Papyrus (Formerly Marcel Schurman/Schurman Fine Papers)
500 Chadbourne Road
Caller Box 6030
Fairfield, CA 94533
For actual submissions—Attn: Text Editor

I think you’ll love greeting card writing if you give it a chance. You don’t have to do it full-time; it doesn’t have to be your end-all. However, it’s great “break writing”—something to have in front of an editor while working on that novel, short story or non-fiction article.

If you want to learn more, feel free to visit my site: or write:

Thank you, Donna, for inviting me and I wish all your readers a creative 2008 and into the years beyond.

March 24, 2008

A Fantastic Librarian and Fan Mail

Happy Monday!

I’m often impressed by the ingenuity of educators and librarians. One librarian in a Maine school came up with an inventive way to combine voting and getting students excited about reading. Check out Cynthia Lord’s LiveJournal.

One of the joys of having a children’s book published is getting e-mail from enthusiastic young readers. I received a delightful e-mail from Lily this weekend and am sharing it with the author's permission.

I just wanted to say that your book is phenomonal! Its so interesting! Some of the parts (Like Chapter 33 & 34) Had me on the edge of my seat! Usually not into non-fiction books but this one was really good. When I got it, my mom said I could get this babysitting book/kit that I always wanted, or your book. I picked your book. I know you probably get lots of fan mail saying your great, and im probably just one of "them", but you really deserve it.
Sincerely, Lily, age 9
P.S. I know you probably hear this a lot, but i'm your biggest fan.

Thanks, Lily, for making my day!

March 21, 2008

Happy Surprises!

Since the publication of AS IF BEING 12 3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!, I've gotten many happy surprises.

I was happily surprised when Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA picked my novel as their staff pick and wrote: "Fabulous middle-grade novel about an awkward spelling-bee champ whose governor mother is running for the Democratic nomination. Timely, funny and written in a great voice."

Jean Westmoore’s review in the Buffalo News made my day. “This entertaining novel offers believable middle school situations, a riproaring finale and a funny, memorable heroine.”

And twice this week, neighbors stopped by to tell me they read and enjoyed my book, and one was a retired police officer!

Janeen Mason created this fabulous, scrabbulous greeting card in honor of my Scrabble-loving character, Vanessa:

Janeen’s artwork is full of bright color, like her personality.

And my long-time friend, Jeanne --

whose name is mentioned in my book, disguised as the name of as Vanessa’s favorite restaurant: Hurricane Jeanne’s – sent me this yesterday . . .

Mrs. Perez’s Lemon Squares! And a card full of sweet, funny references to my book. Thank you, Jeanne!

And thank you to those who have given me so many happy surprises since my book’s release!

May your days be full of happy surprises, too!


March 12, 2008


I just finished revisions on my new middle grade novel!

Can you hear my sigh of relief from there? I’ll be doing the Happy Writer Dance as soon as I do the following:

1) Introduce myself to my children. “Hi, boys! Remember me? I’m your mom.”

2) Catch up on the 500 plus e-mails I need to delete, er, um, answer.

3) Play outside. “Oh, look, it’s March already!”

4) Enjoy a long overdue game of Scrabble with hubby. (Yes, he’ll probably win. Again!)

5) Return phone calls, especially that one from Oprah. Don’t I wish?!

6) And most importantly . . . clean the house. Yeah, right!

Although I can’t show you my happy dance, I’ll share these smile-inspiring happy dances, courtesy of John and Hank Green, Nerdfighters extraordinaire.

I know someone else who should be doing the Happy Writer Dance: E. M. Crane. Her young adult novel, SKIN DEEP, came out yesterday. I read an advance reader copy and loved it so much I cried. No wonder it won the Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel, No wonder the only revisions she needed to make were changing a character’s name! And the people who populate her wonderful novel stayed with me loooong after I closed the book.

A big THANK YOU to Jean Westmoore, who wrote a nice review of my book in the Buffalo News. Here’s the last line of the review: “This entertaining novel offers believable middle school situations, a rip roaring finale and a funny, memorable heroine.”

Ah, more happy dancing.

Do you have something to Happy Dance about? A bit of good news? A recent accomplishment? Someone else’s accomplishment? If so, post a comment on this blog and YOU might be chosen to be a GUEST BLOGGER. Won’t that be fun?

Looking forward to reading your Happy Dance moments. For now, though, I’m going to celebrate finishing my new novel, E.M. Crane’s exciting novel release and my book’s review in the Buffalo News . . . by cleaning the house, um, taking a nap!

Keep those pages turning,


March 7, 2008


But first . . .

Lots of exciting book news.

Scott Eyman of the Palm Beach Post did a feature about my book in their “Accent” section this past Monday. Thanks, Scott!

Nancy Gilson of The Columbus Dispatch wrote a really nice review. Thanks, Nancy!

And what a delight to see that my book was chosen as a “Staff Pick” at Havertown, PA’s Children's Book World. Here's what they wrote: "Fabulous middle-grade novel about an awkward spelling-bee champ whose governor mother is running for the Democratic nomination. Timely, funny and written in a great voice."

Now . . . onto the winners of the big button give-away.

“You get a button.” “You get a button.” “You all get buttons.”

Everyone who posted a comment on the “Big Button Blog-O-Rama” will have a "Vote for Mom" promotional button mailed to them. I'm feeling sort of Oprahish today.

Have a grand weekend!


March 1, 2008


I’ve recruited two soon-to-be famous models to show you the latest in fashion accessories – “Mom for President” buttons.

Amy (nearly 9) and Megan (11)

If you want to know how absolutely stunning these buttons look, Amy and Megan model them on their sport shirts.

Thanks, girls!

You, too, can have one of these spiffy buttons, which are part of a promotion for my novel – AS IF BEING 12 ¾ ISN’T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!

If you live near The Shops at Mission Viejo in Los Angeles or Orland Square in Chicago, bazillions of buttons are being given away March 1st and March 2nd.

If you miss the big button give-a-way or don’t live anywhere near Los Angeles or Chicago, you can still WIN one of THREE buttons I’ll be giving away. To enter, leave a comment on this blog about one nice thing you’ve done in the past month. That’s it.

Winners will be chosen at random and announced Friday, March 7th.

Good luck!