Image   A couple of weeks ago I got an invitation from the Smucker’s Jam Company. They were launching a “Breakfastime Story Promotion” and they wondered if I would like to write a five page, 250 word story for an in-store booklet.

             I was tempted for four reasons. I like jam.  I always enjoy the challenge of writing to a strict formula. As a cereal box reader from way back, I’m in favor of insinuating narratives into unlikely places.  And, finally, you’ve got to hand it to a company that bravely continues to call itself Smuckers.  (I noted right away that they did not want the story to be in rhymed verse.)  So I sent away for more information and guidelines.

The story was to feature a six or seven year old girl.  Easy-peasy; these are my people.  It was to include a reference to Smucker’s jam.  Well, duh.   Two to three sentences per page. Okey-dokey.  Three of the five scenes were to include a “special moment.”  This was getting a bit tougher.  I’m allergic to the word “special,” but hey, I can pop an antihistamine.

             Small print:  they would retain copyright in the universe in perpetuity.  Well, all right, I just won’t tell the Writers’ Union of Canada.  The writer might be asked to make television and/or live appearances.  Steady on!  For a 250 word story that will be sitting on the edge of a grocery story shelf??  Isn’t this being a bit grandiose? But the possibility is also kind of kicky. I’ve never been on a genuine talk show.

             But then, dear reader, I hit the wall.  It was this line:  “The story should be brief but meaningful and resonate with moms of children aged 6-7.”  What about the children?  Shouldn’t it resonate with the children?  Not a mention. 

            Of course, silly me.  This is not about children at all. If you’re clever and lucky when you write a picture book you can do an end-run around the commercial popularity of mom-stroking and mom-reassurance and actually write for the child but not when you’re writing a shelf-ender. I bailed.           

            By the way, I was telling this story to a friend in the grocery business and she told me the name of the product ads as pictured above.  They are called “wobblers.”  Don’t you feel enriched knowing that?



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6 responses to “Jam

  1. Martine Leavitt

    Why does this story seem to encapsulate almost everything I don’t like about the publishing biz? So glad you bailed, Sarah. So glad you shared this little story with us, full of Sarah-humour. It should be on jam jars everywhere!

  2. I especially liked that I could hear your voice and see you in my mind’s eye as if it were open-mike, story-slam night at residency.

  3. So wait. Now we have a story slam???!!!

  4. This made me laugh out loud: ” Of course, silly me. This is not about children at all.” But like Martine said, I’m glad you dodged this bullet. It’s their loss.

  5. So funny — and yet sad. I agree that bailing was the right choice. I’d be curious to see if anyone could do an end-run around Smuckers — SEEM to appeal to the moms but actually appeal to the kids — but I’m guessing you have more pressing jobs to do…like find another way to get on television!

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