Freelance Writer Files: New Recommendation from a Longtime Friend and Colleague

“Liz Craig is wicked smart and a wizard with words. Do your brand a favor and hire her.”
— Joleen K David on Jul 28, 2011

When I moved to Omaha in 1985, I worked as an Associate Creative Director for 19 hellish months at Bozell & Jacobs. I won’t go into detail, but let me say I was not the only creative there who was suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous GM who crumbled and ate writers and art directors for breakfast like Frosted Mini-Wheats. Nearly everyone in the creative department was taking Xanax, seeing shrinks, or nurturing ulcers.

So it was a sweet relief to be let go during a mass layoff. My art director partner and I rolled our stuff out to the parking lot in a mail cart, and we laughed and laughed and laughed at our great good fortune to have been set free from whatever ring of Dante’s Inferno we’d been inhabiting.

I took the next couple of months off enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas, and glory be! in January, I got hired at a local ad agency called Smith Kaplan Allen & Reynolds, aka SKAR. My colleague and head of the writers was the kind of woman some women might hate because they’re jealous. A delightfully smart, funny, gorgeous woman named Joleen. I respected her in every way—for her brains, for her client savvy, for her superb strategic thinking and writing, and most of all, for her wacky sense of humor.

These days, we keep in touch via email, and I’ve been back a couple of times to see her and the agency. As the daughter of Wayne Smith, the Smith in Smith Kaplan, now she’s heading up the agency. Under her guidance, the place has been transformed from what was a rather dowdy cubicle city to a cool, sleek, inviting haven for some of the best creatives in the Midwest. Joleen is a natural leader/innovator, and she follows the David Ogilvy philosophy of trying to hire people who are smarter than she is. Which is nearly impossible. But she finds good people and draws the very best out of them.

So thanks, Joleen, for the great recommendation, so many years since I ended my 10-year stint at SKAR., Sometimes I wish I’d stayed, but Kansas City lured me back home, and 15 years and three agencies later, here I am, happily freelancing and recalling the good people and good times at SKAR.

Joleen, I hope you continue to have fun, make money, and always remember me. I’ll remember you, I promise.

Freelance Writer Files: Back in the Saddle Again

“The best way to get a good Google ranking is to blog relevantly and frequently,” I always advise my clients. So imagine how sheepish I feel having ignored my own advice for nearly three weeks. But I have an excuse. Moving.

Multiply by 25.

And not just moving, but casting at least half my belongings overboard beforehand. Have you ever tried to fit 20 pounds into a 5-pound sack? That’s roughly what it’s like moving from a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house with finished basement to a 2-bedroom apartment. Oy! The stuff I have/had/still have/don’t know what to do with!

Boxes of photos

Who are these people??

Being an only child whose grandparents and one parent have gone to the Great Beyond, I have inherited glassware, tableware, furniture, and—most emotionally charged of all— photographs. My Gawd, my people must have documented every second of their lives on film! A friend of mine has taken four or five moving boxes full of loose photos of my family and lots of people I don’t even know and is keeping them in his dining room for now, because they wouldn’t fit into my new digs. My mission impossible is to winnow down the photos so they’ll fit in a couple of shoe boxes. Or scan and save some on CDs. I’d send some to my son in China, but (a) he doesn’t care about them; and (b) to mail them to him would cost me as much as a week in the Shanghai Hilton.

At my garage sale before the move, I netted a few hundred bucks. I admire the gritty determination of the people who dragged themselves out to dicker over my lounge chair, rusty wheelbarrow, notepads, plastic cups, lizard squeeze-toy, and various and sundry knickknacks in searing 100-degree heat. There’s no stopping true bargain-hunters when the scent of “cheap stuff” is drifting in the fetid air.

But I still have a trunk full of glassware that’s too good to simply give away, and two sets of beautiful china from my mother and grandmother. When this Saharan heat subsides, I’ll try to sell them at an antique mall. That’s what I did with my mother’s Royal Ruby glassware and gorgeous milk glass. If I’d had the time to market it online, I might have gotten more, but time was the one thing I didn’t have.

As I was fretting over getting rid of hand-me-down furniture from two generations, my boyfriend remarked, “You’re going to have to decide if you want to live in your house or your mother’s or grandmother’s house.” He stunned me with that statement, and he was absolutely right. I’m still wondering what “my house” is going to look like when their stuff is gone.

So I am moved into smaller quarters more appropriate to a carefree single lifestyle, and though I’m still surrounded by boxes whose contents I know not where to put, I am back at work as a freelance writer in the Kansas City area, approximately two miles from where I used to live. Two miles, hundreds of worries, a thousand tears and ten thousand sweat droplets away from a house that always was too big for little me. And now, I am experiencing the joy of freedom! I am liberated from lawn mowing, mulching, snow shoveling, property taxes, weed killing, tree trimming, pruning, and all the other things required to maintain a homestead in suburbia. I have no more lawn-related equipment, having traded my mower to my lawn mowing fellow for three last mows. Ah, what a relief it is!


If I might quote the Rev. Martin Luther King, I’m free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last—from home ownership! And ready to get back to being a happy freelance copywriter, instead of a hot, exhausted suburban refugee. How sweet it is to be back in the saddle again!

Freelance Writer Files: Working on a Chain Gang

If you’re an independent creative working from home, do you ever feel like a latter-day Jacob Marley, your clanking chains making you the prisoner of your computer? Or like chain-gang member Woody Allen in “Take the Money and Run?” (If you like to laugh, please check it out.) Or have you broken your bonds, like escapee Paul Muni in “I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang?”

I'm free!

The reason I feel compelled to sit at my desk all day is that most jobs come to me via email, and some must be done post-haste. So when I have to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, I feel as if I’m playing hooky, and I high-tail it back home as soon as I can to check my email.

To feel a captive in one’s own office is not good. There’s a whole wide world out there waiting to be explored! So how can I get out there more?

First idea was to get a smartphone, so I could tell when email came in, and whether I needed to tend to it right away. FAIL! Got a paygo plan that offered a free Samsung phone. Now I know why the phone was free! It stinks. Oh, yes, you can check email, but it takes flippin’ (as dear Sarah P. would say) forever. And the batteries hold power like a sieve holds water.

This phone stinks.

Okay, I know some people who have ditched their landlines and gotten iPhones or other smartphones that let them do everything but clip their toenails with them, but am I ready for that? I have both cell phone and landline, the equivalent of wearing suspenders with a belt. But someone pointed out to me that if you only have a cell phone, when the power to the cell tower goes out, you have no phone. HELP! No phone at all?

Right now isn’t the best time to think about going out on the town, or in the town, actually. I’m preparing to move a certain amount of my stuff from my 4-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment nearby. Right-sizing my lifestyle. Problem is, I’ve inherited a lot of stuff (beautiful dishes, linens, etc.) from two generations before me, that I never use. Like my mother before me, I have kept them in storage in the basement because they’re “too nice to use.” Now, there’s a silly idea. As long as I keep them, I’m chained to this stuff, too.

I’ve got some lovely pieces of Royal Ruby glassware on Craigslist, and today I’m listing my mother’s milk glass. All of that stuff is beautiful, but I have to think of the 3′ X 4″ storage cage at my new apartment, and exactly how much will go into it. Not much, that’s how much. And my son in Shanghai doesn’t give a chopstick for any of it. Not to mention, it would cost more than the national debt to send it to him.

All this Royal Ruby glass for sale!

In an attempt to downsize, I took five U-matic cassettes containing all of the TV commercials I’ve ever written and produced to a fellow nearby who is transferring them to DVD, so I won’t have to lug these obsolete plastic boxes of tape around forever. I also gave a 16mm film my dad had made back in the 50s for Purina to a friend in communication studies, and someday, he says he’ll transfer that to DVD. So I’m at least shrinking my media load.

Remember George Carlin’s terrific riff on “stuff?” It’s all true. And moving stuff is very trying. Moving while trying to get some work done is doubly trying. Oh, AND trying to organize a big garage sale (though you get more for your stuff at an “estate sale,” I’ve heard). Never have I done a garage sale, and this will be a pretty big one. Anybody have folding tables I could borrow?

Anyhow, when I am finally ensconced in the new apartment, I dearly hope I will not feel chained to my desk and stuff. As I recall from living in an apartment before, I tended to go out more. Say, tree leaves are still green, aren’t they?