Long, long ago in a year that had a nine and a seven in it, I was working at a small television station in Idaho. I was a master control switcher, directed newscasts and interview shows, put together local commercials, dubbed videotapes, and performed various other production tasks. One day a coworker, who worked downstairs and wrote local commercials, left for a job in radio.
“You have a degree in journalism,” the boss said. “You must know how to write. Do you want to write commercials?”
I said yes. But I knew nothing about advertising—how and why it worked, who did it, where, how, or any of that stuff. Learning that stuff seemed like a good idea, so I visited the library and started home-schooling myself.
One of the books I read was From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor, by an irreverent and accomplished New York City advertising agency copywriter (and later agency owner) named Jerry Della Femina.
He made the advertising agency business sound fun—and frustrating, challenging, annoying, and exasperating.
But mostly fun.
The book led me to pursue work as an advertising agency copywriter. I’ve been at it nearly forty years since; now part-time. While not as glamorous as Madison Avenue, working at agencies in Idaho, Nevada, and Utah has been much as Della Femina described it in that influential book I count among my favorites.
Besides all the fun, the job hasn’t involved much heavy lifting and seldom requires breaking a sweat. And, somehow, it led me to wonder—after writing advertising for some twenty years—if maybe I could write a poem.