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?