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About Writing 5

Saving 25-feet of the

best 4-ply writing (continued)

Or, how my work got into the Duke University Library


     I became a two-time winner of the prestigious International Broadcasting Award (IBA) for creativity which meant that more than 200 Art Directors and Creative Directors from advertising agencies from New York to Paris to London to Berlin to Stockholm to Zurich to Los Angeles, to Tokyo to Moscow to Rawalpindi judged my  commercials to be “best” in the world. In addition, I was a finalist for the CLIO award, considered to be the “Emmy” for Advertising. Also, I took home the coveted Art Director of New York (ANDY) award and dozens of local and regional awards by regional advertising associations.  And, I never forgot the English Department at CSU for starting me off right!  Ever.

      After more than 20 years of writing, I had amassed a trove of material – more than13 file-boxes of scripts – that’s over 25 linear feet of paper, ½” audio tapes, cassettes, ¾” video tapes, VHS tapes, 35-mm films, script disks, print ads, story boards and other materials. There were also two huge portfolios of print ads, story-boards and the like.  I had boxes of awards, certificates, trophies and memorabilia.  I could prove to myself that I had become a writer!

      My successes enabled me to move my family so we could live in England for a while. I had an agent in London who got me writing jobs with top U.K. companies: Esso (U.K.), Northern Telecom, British Rail, the London Zoo and Her Majesty’s Government, to drop a few names. You want to know what I learned living and writing in England?  I learned I couldn’t write English. What a shock that was! That’s right. They speak English in England and we speak American in America. Their sentence structure AND spelling was like nothing like the “English” I learned at CSU. It was like they had their own culture and everything! It was the ONLY time my beloved English degree failed me. I felt I had been “bait and switched” – CSU promised English and delivered American. They pulled a real “switcheroo”. So, if there was ever ANY room for improvement in the CSU English department, it would be to get a good copywriter to write a disclaimer that would say something like: “the ‘English’ degree which you receive is may contain up to 99% ‘American’ and may not be the equivalent to an ‘English’ degree actually earned in England”, or something like that.  But, as one who was an expert at “bait and switch” and who really sold the hell out of some truly lousy 4-ply carpet, the CSU English degree, as a metaphorical carpet, ought to wear nicely even in high traffic areas. It’ll even resist stains. But, don’t let your dog soil the product, okay?

      I would pinch myself regularly and say, “I AM a writer, everywhere but England! I made it!”  I tell you, I was grateful. I put lots of words on paper – LOTS of them. And weighty? Let me tell you, I almost threw my back out moving that stuff around when my wife took a hospital job and we relocated to Vermont.  So, another thing to suggest to CSU students who also dream of becoming successful writers is to stay in shape! Exercise. Now, I am retiring.  Oh, I still keep my hand in by writing the occasional diner advertising placemat here and there, church newsletters (no humor there, or here), and I set about last year to write plays. I’m the most prolific, but unproduced playwrite in the U.S. Over the last coupla years I wrote nearly 30 plays.  Some nearly were semi-finalists in big-deal regional contests, too. But, only a few staged readings. Zippo produced. I have taken this to mean that basically I am “history.” I am, apparently, long past my sell-by date.  I can’t pass the “whiff” test.

     So, recently, I was whining about lugging all those boxes of my legacy to the landfill when my wife suggested, “Maybe somebody wants that stuff?”  I asked her who in their right mind would want 25-linear feet of scripts, advertisements, shows and speeches? What did she want from me? That I should go on Ebay and try to SELL the stuff? Then she says, “Maybe some undergrad would want to skim through and learn how to be a writer like you. Try to give it to CSU.”  That Creative Director was right! She’s great.

      Wow!  What a concept. My legacy not shredded but instead ADDING VALUE to the CSU English Department! “What symmetry!” I thought. “What poetic justice!”  I decided to ring up my old alma mater, the English Department at CSU to see if they had any interest in receiving my collected works – my legacy – for research and edification of undergraduates or graduates.  After all, it’s the least that a successful writer can do for his or her alma mater, right?  ENDOW them with the good stuff?  The creatively juicy stuff?  The fruit of my creative loins, so to speak? Who wouldn’t want THAT?

     So, I called up the CSU English department and the bright, young receptionist answered.  I told her that I was a proud 1970 B.A. graduate of the English department and that I wanted to donate my collected “papers”… the “fruit of my loins” to the department, and could she please transfer me to someone who could help me with the transaction. When she stopped laughing she said she would transfer me.

      After a moment, a much, much older woman came on the phone.  She sounded like she was either late for a meeting or late for a re-dose of Preparation H or both.

      “Can I help you?” she said with some urgency.

    “Yes, I’m Jean Yeager, I graduated in 1970 with a B.A. in English. I spent 20 years becoming a very successful writer and I’ve got more than 25-linear feet of written work I’d like to donate to the my alma mater… it’s my LEGACY GIFT to the CSU English Department.” I said with considerable pride. Really, I felt as proud as a hen who has laid an egg.

      “Oh, so you say you’re a writer?”

      “That’s right.”

     “I don’t recall your name. What was it?”

      “Yeager. Jean Yeager.”

      “Well, Mr. Yeager, how many novels have you written?”

      “Well, none.”

      “Short stories? Where have your short stories been published?” 

      “No, no short stories.”

      “Poetry?”  I could tell she was growing weary of this conversation. I imagined a half-eaten sandwich on her desk beckoning her.


      “In your 25-linear feet of so-called written works did you write even one COUPLET in iambic-pentameter?”

      “Not that I can remember.”

      “And you call yourself a WRITER?” There was a long pause after which she added with a smirk: “You DO remember iambic-pentameter, don’t you?”

      “Don’t be silly. Of course I do… I’m an English major! It’s long-short.”

      “Trochee!” she choked. “Trochee is LONG-short!” She seethed, “Iambic is SHORT- Long!” I imagined her attempting to control the urge to squirt Preparation H into the phone to make this pain the rear end alumni (me) go away. Through clenched teeth I heard: “And you say you’re a WRITER?” she said with a derisive tone that sounded a lot like the Wicked Witch of the West confronting Dorothy.


      But, she DIDN’T drop the hammer on me. She said with her best patronizing attitude: “You know, Mr. Yeager, YOUR English Department FORGIVES YOU. We want to HELP YOU! We now have on-line classes.” I could hear her nibble-nibble on her sandwich to calm her nerves.  She continued:

      “Lots of SENIOR CITIZENS like YOU, who would like to BECOME writers, can now go online and become a part of our English Department community!”

      “But what about the 25-linear feet of work I’ve already written?”

      “To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “putting words on paper no more makes you a writer than standing in a henhouse makes you a chicken”! You can print out your writing assignments on the backs of those pages!”

      I think I gagged or choked at this moment because I had just been a proud pullet clucking to myself over saying bye-bye to 25-linear feet of legacy and shipping it to the English Department. I knew what she meant.

      “Mr. Yeager, I ASSURE YOU that it IS POSSIBLE, that with some HARD WORK, you might still BECOME the writer you always dreamed of becoming!”

     “But, I AM a writer!” I said. “I have 25-linear feet…”  She was having none of this. She cut me off but in a very sweet way.

      “Oh, Mr. Yeager, Corporate Communications is not REAL writing, is it? So, if you’ve only written corporate communications and advertising, you’re not a REAL writer, are you?  Follow the logic here…?” she said with a lilt in her voice. “Mr. Yeager, you don’t even know Iambic Pentameter.” In that moment I felt that in her mind, I was “disappearing” like the Cheshire Cat vanished in the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. “I’ll put you through to the School of Business.” her voice hissed the s-s-s’s on business, then I was gone, almost.

      “School of Business?” my smile asked.

      “Who else would want Corporate Communications, ummmm? NOT the English Department.” I had vanished from her mind.  She was happy now. “Good-bye!” Then, she was gone.

      The phone began was ringing in my hand when I snapped-to. I was disappointed, let me tell you!  Not a REAL writer, indeed! Well, sir, I still had 25-linear feet of the finest 4-ply business writing ever produced! There was a Business Department, so there was still hope!  I would save my legacy from the landfill!

      The phone was still ringing. But, in that moment, I suddenly had a flash-back -- the first flash-back I’d had since that bad acid trip when I was a freshman. I remembered that CSU was originally called Colorado A&M – they were the “Aggies” – all of the business courses I had ever taken at CSU were AGRICULTURALLY oriented!

      The bright, young receptionist answered: “How-dy!” she said with a Minnie Pearl hollar, “School of Bidness, this Tanya!”  The flash-back persisted. I told Tanya that I was a proud 1970 graduate of CSU and that I had a successful career in Corporate Communications and that I wanted to donate  my collected papers -- the fruit of my creative loins, so to speak – to the School of Business and could she transfer me to someone who could help me with the transaction.”

    “The fruit of yor WHAT?” she said with a big horsy laugh.

     “Loins. CREATIVE LOINS,” I added hurriedly, “Not my ACTUAL loins.” I assured her.

      “I thought you said the Fruit of your LOOMS!” she giggled.  “I said to myself …‘what-ever!”

      “Oh, good grief!” I thought. “Can you transfer me?” I said.”

      “Su-re! Let’s see…” she said, sounding like the selection of recipient was based on Tanya’s personal insight rather than departmental protocol. The phone went silent, then clicked and after a few moments I heard:

      “Colorado State University School of Bidness,” said a man said with a country twang “this is D-wayne.”

      “I’m Jean Yeager, I graduated from CSU in 1970 and I’ve spent 20 years as a very successful BUSINESS writer. I’ve got more than 25-linear feet of written BUSINESS communication materials I’d like to donate to the CSU School of BUSINESS.” It was mandatory to say the client’s name or product three times in a 30-second commercial so I wondered if I said “business” enough on that sentence.

      "Tanya said you’re a Corporate Communications writer?” he asked.

      “Yes. That’s right. I think that’s what I just said.” I said. “BUSINESS writing.”

      “She said somethin’ about ‘Fruit of your Loins’? I hope that means you write about BAIT.”

      “BAIT?” I parroted. “What’s that?”

      “Bovine Artificial Insemination Technology.” He said. “I sure need a 15-minute Power Point on the ‘Suck & Blow Method’ and the ‘Two-Fisted Implant to Heifers’”.  Ooooh boy, we sure could use THAT! I’d take all 25-feet if you have those!” 

      God, I LOVE corporate communications! Where would you EVER get this kind of request in the English Department?


      “Ummm. Suck & Blow, eh? I’ll have to look.” I said, and then to myself: “Lis-ten… lis-ten to the mojo.”

      “Well. Hogs are hot. Got any sales material for “Neighborhood Hog Feeding Operations”?”


      “Executive speeches for Farm Implements – sellin’ lots of Cats & John Deers to China these days!

      “Mmmmm. Afraid not.”

      “Grain Bins?” I could tell he was growing weary of my lack of SPECIFIC experience.  I was becoming a pain in the butt and I was imagining him reaching for a tube of Preparation H.


      “Thought you said you were a WRITER, is that correct?” he said with a tone of disbelief.

      “Award winning. International. Including, the FAR EAST.” (Thank you, International Broadcasting Awards.)

      “Well, in your 25-linear feet of so-called BIDNESS writin’ did you write even one COUPLET about ‘Manure Pond Management Systems’?” There was a challenge in his voice!

      “Trochee or Iambic couplet?” I replied.  

      Like I said, I’m GOOD at the old “switcheroo” and I wasn’t about to landfill my legacy!

* * *

(Mr.) Jean W. Yeager, B.A. CSU / English (1970), Radio-Television-Film studies at CSU (1971) is pleased to announce that the Duke University Rubenstein Library Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections intends to house Yeager's collection of original scripts for corporate presentations, executive speeches and shows as well as radio and television commercials, print ads, sales collateral and other materials documenting the career of Jean W. Yeager as part of Duke’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History.