At American Greetings, creating successful cards requires seamless collaboration between the artist and the writer. In fact, it has been said that art attracts and verse sells which is why we decided to feature one of our celebrated writers this time around. Meet the writer Jeff Sheasley:
When did you first realize you loved to write?
I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t like to write. When I was a kid, I loved to create silly rhymes to make my friends and family laugh. I’d challenge them to give me a topic — any topic! — and I’d come up with some sort of crazy poem, and we’d all giggle. Then I’d move on to the next one. None of this was ever written down; and I’m thinking that’s probably a good thing. Anyway, I seemed to have a gift for rhyme and meter, most likely because my parents read a lot of poetry to me and my siblings as we were growing up.
What is your present position at American Greetings and what is your background as a writer?
After getting my degree in magazine journalism, I spent 5 years editing a couple of agricultural trade publications, where I wrote about everything from fertilizers and pesticides to begonias and greenhouses. I was lucky enough to join American Greetings in 1985, and (after two or more decades as an editor and a conventional writer) I’m presently a senior writer on the Editorial Studios Humor and Kids writing staff. I love being on the funnier side of the business, especially the challenge of creating humor cards and rediscovering the joy of making people laugh.
What is it that inspires you as a writer?
GOOD WRITING inspires me! Reading an exceptionally well-turned phrase from one of my favorite writers — including AG colleagues!—makes me want to sit down, grab a pencil, and start scribbling away.
Does the Christmas holiday offer you additional inspiration as a writer?
My favorite holiday card ideas have come from spending time with my Christmas-loving wife (appropriately named Carol), our daughter, Alicia, and our two sons, Jeffrey and Blaine. Cards directly inspired by things someone in my family says or does have been in every Christmas line for the past quarter century
Do you have a favorite Christmas card that you created and why?
Probably my favorite Christmas card is a religious piece that I wrote for Carol several years ago, when I was on the conventional writing staff. This piece of copy will always have a special place in my heart, because it pretty much sums up the feelings I’ve had for her through our 37 years of marriage. It goes:
What famous writers have influenced you?
I’d probably have to give that place of honor to some of the poets Dad and Mom used to read to me. I heard story poems like “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Longfellow and “The Admiral’s Ghost” by Alfred Noyes from a very early age, and I’m sure this helped me develop a sense of poetics. More recently, I’ve been influenced by writers like the great Ohio Valley poet, James Wright. I love how he was able to start with good, everyday Ohio talk and shape it into unforgettable images and emotions. Quite a few of the serious poems I write in my spare time have been inspired by Wright’s work.
What inspires you to create the words and how do you stay motivated?
Basically, I try to find inspiration anywhere I can. I’ve found card ideas in everything from YouTube videos to magazine ads to bits of conversation I might overhear at the food court. At this time of year, I have to admit I turn into a Christmas nerd. When there’s a Christmas program at my church or when “Rudolph” or “Frosty” or “Miracle on 34th Street” are on TV, I’m there!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself on a beach somewhere warm–possibly Christmas Island?!
What advice would you give to a writer just starting out?
I firmly believe that the more words you take in, the better writer you’ll be! So my advice is READ GOOD WORDS! Books, magazines, newspapers, and especially greeting cards–as many as you can and as often as you can! Your reading should also include quite a bit of rhyming verse, because a good sense of rhyme and meter comes in very handy in greeting card land!
What do you do for fun?
I like collecting old books and various other collectibles — especially (as a US Navy veteran) anything with “USN” on it. I also enjoy writing and memorizing poems. However, it probably comes as no surprise that I like reading best!