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Florence in Words

Jeannette Petras, Creativity in Action

When I first met Jeannette Petras in 2005, I was temporarily the director/publisher and she was working part-time at the Feminist Press, a tall, slim, attractive twenty-something, who spoke with calm energy about what marketing was possible in three days a week. I liked her readiness for laughter as much as I liked her firm sense of order. Between 2004 and 2010, she became the marketing manager at the Feminist Press, directing two junior staff members plus a raft of interns. She was responsible for marketing, sales, inventory (which included paying attention to fast-moving books for reordering), and attending to the website, that ever-growing, hydra-like realm that replaced mass mailings and advertising. For quarterly Board meetings, she produced detailed sales reports that illuminated the kinds of markets books were reaching. Several times during the six years, she was offered jobs that would have paid her far more than she could earn at a non-profit. But she cared about our mission, she said, and felt rewarded by the importance of the books themselves.

Then came down-sizing, and she was let go in the middle of 2010, just before my memoir was to come out. I promptly hired her to construct and manage a website for me, assuming that she would have a new marketing job within months. Last week—16 months later—we had lunch, and I asked her how she kept her spirits up, since there was still no job in sight, and she had not even had an interview for a prospective job. She seemed so cheerful still.

And she told me a story about creativity, her need for creative work. Even before and beyond marketing and websites, she knew she needed something she could do with her hands. I could understand that, for hadn’t I always had my knitting and crocheting? Therefore, at the same time she began to work in marketing, she also took workshops in ceramics, her part-time pleasure. And this summer she had attended a two-week workshop at Haystack on Deer Isle, Maine, where her skills had matured. I asked if I could see her work, and she gave me her site:

Jeannette at homeThe red bowl I bought
Jeannette at home
The red bowl I bought

Jeannette’s bowl, which I bought, is more beautiful than its photo as are the two mugs she never got to photograph. She showed them to me and I bought them at once. And of course there are the turtles, from which I will soon choose to add to my collection.

One of Jeannette's sea turtle boxesKennedy in the sweater I made
One of Jeannette's sea turtle boxes
Kennedy in the sweater I made

You can write to Jeannette at and of course you can comment here on creativity. I am crocheting baby clothes for Kennedy, my great-grandchild. In the photo she’s wearing last year’s sweater. I’ve also made tiny sweaters and hats for the twins of Elizabeth and Chelsea, Helene Goldfarb’s cousin. I’ll show them when they’re both finished. What do you do?
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