Stacks of junk mail pour into my mailbox, – the physical one in the lobby of my building – and I throw away many more envelopes than I take the time to open. However, every once in awhile, stashed among the flyers and advertisements and credit card requests, I find a special something. Often tucked inside a brightly-colored envelope, the treasure is chosen especially for me.
How I love to receive a greeting card….
And so does Katherine Stano. Wearing her grandmother’s dresses and high heels and pearls, she enjoyed playing “house” as a young girl. Toting an old handbag stuffed with greeting cards her grandmother saved, Katherine already knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. “Somewhere, someone was making those cards, and I wanted to be that person,” Katherine says with a smile.
Nowadays, grown up Katherine is a senior writer in the creative writing studio at Hallmark’s Kansas City headquarters. Wearing an assortment of crafty hats, she says “there is no such thing as a typical day.” Writing the emotional or funny messages for the next line of greeting cards, one-liners for mugs and wall hangings, children’s books, and scripts for tiny stuffed animals, Katherine spends her days cranking out meaningful messages.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Stano
True to her music studies at Ole Miss, Katherine prefers to write rhythmic, metered verse – the cards we pull off the stores’ racks, the words clipping along with cadence and timing.
What are little girls made of?
Courage and grit,
Beauty and wit,
And, of course, everything nice.(Hallmark Licensing LLC)
Only about thirty percent of what Katherine (or any of the writers) creates ends up on the cards we buy. Still marveling at her “lucky rookie card,” Katherine remembers the content she wrote right after joining Hallmark fifteen years ago. Written in prose, – writing as if you are speaking – she thought of a special friend as she composed the happy birthday wish.
You’re my true friend
And I’m not saying that just because
we’ve been friends for what seems like forever.
I’m saying it because we have a good time
whenever we’re together.
We always have something fun (or funny) to talk about,
whether it’s shopping, guys,
or some random strangeness
that only we get a kick out of.
I believe we’re meant to be friends
because you get me,
because you’re there when I need someone to lean on
or listen to one of my many mini-dramas.
I think the world of you.
And your birthday reminds me even more than ever
how much I love being your friend.
You’ve taught me so much
that I didn’t know existed
before I met you...
True friends ARE friends forever.
Friends like us.
Friends like you. (Hallmark Licensing LLC)
Still sold today, some of the wording on this original message is occasionally tweaked to adjust to current language trends. The company’s lettering specialists and graphic artists make changes to fonts and illustrations. However, the main theme – Katherine’s idea – remains the same.
Photo – Tonya Dean Photography
Does she open her inbox each morning to a flood of illustrations to write content to? Or does she simply pound out meaningful sentiments? “It works both ways,” she tells me. “Sometimes we write to a given concept or focus or photograph – brother birthday, blue sky, St. Patrick’s Day, feel better,” Katherine explains. And often, she is turned loose to “simply create.”
“Technically single,” Katherine loves employing her “quirky-sweet personality” and designing for Hallmark’s lines dedicated to love and relationships, dating, single females, and woman to woman humor. You know, those cards we buy with snarky comments about gossip and texts and shoes and guys.
Drawing inspiration from pop culture, music, her own experiences, and issues others face helps Katherine come up with different angles and approaches. Laughing, she confesses her “own family gives her lots of great material!”
When I ask for pointers on writing sympathy and thank you notes, Katherine admits she learned “encouragement writing” the hard way. Her brother, four years older than she, passed away suddenly when Katherine was a teenager. “I learned first-hand about empathy and what someone experiencing a loss really wants to hear,” she explains.
As Mother’s Day, one of the busiest holidays of the year in the greeting card business, quickly approaches, Katherine has “all but forgotten” what she penned over six months ago. She’s now drafting festive verse for Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
Although I appreciate the ability to instantly click and send online greetings, it makes the real card I sometimes discover in my mailbox more special. The kind of keepsake I might tuck in my top drawer, smile when I occasionally come across it, and wonder about the writer who had a part in its creation.
Tags: greeting card, Katherine Stano, writer
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