Hallmark writer Keion Jackson is known for his big laugh, quick wit, and filmmaking skills. We’re really excited to introduce you to him today, in our first ever Artist Spotlight post.
Name Keion Jackson
Current Role Senior Writer, Hallmark Cards Creative Writing Studio
Education Background B.A. in Mass Media Arts, Clark Atlanta University
What’s your Hallmark story? When I was a senior in college, Hallmark held a writing workshop on my campus. At that point, I hadn’t thought about a career in greeting card writing. Honestly, I didn’t understand that actual people wrote the cards. I thought the cards just happened. Like precipitation. The workshop seemed interesting, so I checked it out. I really got into the writing prompts they gave us and thought Hallmark might be a cool place to work. I started as an intern in 2008. I loved the work. It let me put my male sensitivity to use without having to join a boy band. I am currently a writer in The Creative Writing Studio. I write greeting cards, children’s books, and copy for gift products.
What’s your creative process like here, as a writer? I pretty much write freely. I have accepted that everything I write will not be beautiful. I have accepted that everything I write will not be clever. And that’s fine. I’m sure if you found Shakespeare’s old notepad, there would be some pretty awful stuff in there, too. It can’t all be Romeo & Juliet. There’s a Romeo & Tammy somewhere in his parents’ basement. Understanding that some of my stuff will suck gives me the freedom to experiment, which sometimes means failing. But I’ve found that when we create freely, we often stumble into something wonderful within ourselves we didn’t even know existed. And so I take chances.
Where do you go or what do you do to feed your brain/soul/spirit? I have become very protective of my peace. I need quiet for thinking, praying, and napping. Sometimes it means saying no to party invitations, or pretending not to feel my phone vibrate when I get a text. But it’s necessary. I’m at my most useful when I’m well-rested and balanced. Which means I’ve got to chill out every now and then if I want my head and my heart to operate at maximum potential. However, I need community too. There are times when I need to be around friends and family. They keep me grounded. They enhance my capacity to care. It feels great to be on the receiving end of love and acceptance, but there are also great personal benefits of extending kindness to others. That cycle is super rejuvenating. I’m sure science would back this up. (I am not a scientist.).
Have you spotted any recent trends that interest you? Yep! I’ve noticed that most people online express themselves in extremes. For example, if a new movie comes out, it’s either called an “instant classic” or an “epic fail.” This is bleeding over into real life. Perhaps, in an effort to validate our voices in an increasingly noisy world, we feel that we’ve got to be intense to be heard. I worry about the future of the middle ground. What about the in between? What about the “meh”? Why is nobody talking about the “meh”?! I fear that we’ll miss out on a lot of information, emotion, and meaning if we ignore the middle and only communicate in terms of “best” and “worst.” There’s a lot of life between the extremes.
Who are your artistic heroes or influences? When I was in college, a friend randomly gave me her copy of Chris Rock’s book Rock This! I didn’t know it at the time, but that book would change my approach to writing. Up until that point, I didn’t understand voice. I didn’t understand how much an artist’s personal perspective could shape their creative identity. But when I read Mr. Rock’s words, I could hear his high-pitched gravel yelling jokes at me. I realized that his key to writing such brilliant material was being himself and writing from his perspective. The book also helped me understand the power of conviction and the inherent originality of simply writing the way you talk. I still look to his work for creative inspiration and lessons in structuring really tight concepts. While reading Rock This!, I had another epiphany: The written word could be funny. Not just witty, or clever, but actually funny. I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. Then I put the book away because my health comes first.
Tell us about a favorite Hallmark product or line you’ve been a part of. I really enjoy writing for Mahogany, Hallmark’s African-American card line. It’s cool because I get to take a deeper look at my culture and try to figure out how to help people connect. As a writer, I’m always chasing authenticity. But being real isn’t enough—there also has to be an element of artfulness. And I love working to marry the two.
Photo by Ashley Gaffney, quote lettering (left to right, top to bottom) by Amber Goodvin, Lynn Giunta, and Sarah Cole.