Stacks of junk mail pour into my mailbox—the physical one in the lobby of my building—and I throw away more envelopes than I take the time to open. Every once in a while, stashed among the flyers and advertisements and credit card requests, I find a special treasure. Tucked inside a brightly-colored envelope, a little something chosen especially for me.
How I love to receive a greeting card….
And so does Katherine Stano. Katherine played “dress up” as a young girl. In her grandmother’s gown and high heels and pearls, she’d wobble around the house. Clutching an old handbag, stuffed with greeting cards her grandmother had saved, Katherine 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.
Nowadays, grown-up Katherine is a senior writer in the creative writing studio at Hallmark’s Kansas City headquarters. “There is no such thing as a typical day,” she says. Whether she writes emotional or funny messages for the next line of greeting cards, one-liners for mugs and wall hangings, children’s books, or scripts for tiny stuffed animals, Katherine spends her days cranking out meaningful words.
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. Katherine remembers the content she wrote right after joining Hallmark fifteen years ago. “My lucky rookie card,” she says. 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)
Although sometimes tweaked to adjust to current language trends, this message still appears on cards sold today. The company’s lettering specialists and graphic artists make changes to fonts and illustrations. 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 brainstorm and 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 engages her “quirky-sweet personality” to design 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.
She draws inspiration from pop culture, music, her own experiences, and issues others face. 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 older brother passed away when Katherine was a teenager. “I learned first-hand about empathy and what someone experiencing a loss wants to hear,” she says.
As Mother’s Day, one of the busiest holidays of the year in the greeting card business, approaches, Katherine has “all but forgotten” what she penned over six months ago. She now drafts festive verse for Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
Although I appreciate the instant ability to click and send online greetings, it makes the real card I sometimes discover in my mailbox more special. The kind of keepsake I tuck in my top drawer, smile when I 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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