Kristine M. Smith is a professional copywriter, a freelance writer, and the author of seven books: “DeForest Kelley: A Harvest of Memories”, “The Enduring Legacy of DeForest Kelley: Actor, Healer, Friend,” “Floating Around Hollywood & Other Totally-True Tales of Triumph,” “Let No Day Dawn that the Animals Cannot Share,” “Purposeful Christianity: Sharing the Verve and Value of the Prince of Peace,” “Serval Son: Spots and Stripes Forever,” and the upcoming “Settle for Best: Satisfy the Winner You Were Born to Be” (debuting in mid-June). This year Kris is celebrating five years in business as a full-time, professional copywriter.
As a copywriter, Kris writes copy for small and medium size businesses, from website content to radio, television, and magazine ads, to social media. Aside from the books she can put her own name on, she also offers ghostwriting (she will write books for people who want their names listed as the author of the books) and “As told to” books, which lets readers know that someone else was involved in the writing other than the title holder of the book.
Kris described her first experience as an author to me this way: “When I was seventeen, I wrote an article about meeting actor DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard Bones” McCoy of STAR TREK FAME) for my creative writing class. My teacher liked it so much that he suggested I send a copy to Mr. Kelley. Mr. Kelley liked it so much that he sent it to TV Star Parade Magazine; they published it as a holiday piece at the end of 1969.
Kris entered the copywriting industry five years ago when she saw an ad for a copywriter position online. She explained, “I interviewed three different times with the company and aced the test. They told me that I didn’t have in-the-trenches, deadline-driven copywriting experience, but otherwise I was a fine candidate, so they would put my application on file. Two hours later, they called back and told me the person they wanted to hire only wanted to work part-time; they asked if I could start on Monday. I immediately bought every book on copywriting that came well-recommended. Copywriting is a niche; you have to know how to write a sales piece without coming across as a pushy salesperson. I prayed to God that I wouldn’t fail the company or make them regret the choice they’d made to hire me. Three weeks later, they turned me loose to talk to clients and actually do what I was hired to do. I won employee of quarter twice during the year I was there.”
Kris explained: “Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “The Tipping Point” mentions that, in order to become an expert at something, one has to invest 10,000 hours studying, reading about, and/or doing it to gain proficiency. Bill Gates didn’t learn everything he needed to know in his garage when he was 20 years old; he was learning about computers, unpaid, years before, because it was his voracious passion. I have been stringing words together ever since teachers taught me how to write sentences and paragraphs. I would ask all my teachers, ‘How can I write even better?’ They’d say, “I don’t know, I’m not a writer, but I am a reader, and I know you’re really good at it, so keep going.” When I was in middle school, my English teacher handed me an issue of “The Writer” magazine with a two-year subscription attached and said, ‘Although I can’t teach you, this magazine can, and I know you can be great.’ Needless to say, I practically memorized “The Writer” magazine for the next several years! I wrote hundreds of stories and dozens of journals before I had a single article published. I had 10,000 hours in before I was twenty years old. I just needed to learn how to write succinctly while also being relational.”
Kristine discussed her career: “I love it. I get to engage with people who are passionate about what they do. At small and medium sized businesses, you get to feel and see the passion in the owners’ eyes. I get engaged and excited about what they do. That kicks my writing juices into hyper drive. I also like that I work out of my home: there are no office politics and I get to pick the projects I work on. I charge $50 an hour (minimum) for my copywriting services and can write upwards of 750 words an hour; most other professional copywriters charge $1 to $3 a word.”
Kris was born and raised in Tacoma for ten years. She attended Spanaway Elementary from first to fourth grade, then her family moved to Cle Elum where she finished junior high and high school prior to attending Central Washington University for a year and a half. Kris then traveled around the country with her parents, who were general contractors building and remodeling many of the best-loved restaurants across the south and mid-west.
When asked to describe herself in three words, Kris replied, “Passionate about what I do, good hearted, and fun loving. I have my heart on my sleeve for almost anything that can suffer. I’m an animal welfare advocate and a huge human rights person as well. I consider myself fun loving; I have two goats named Laverne and Shirley. When I worked as an animal welfare advocate, I helped rescue grizzly cubs from Canada and beavers from a bankrupt beaver ranch in Idaho.” And because Kris is an animal lover and wildlife rehabilitator, she owned a wild cat for 17 years and wrote her book “Serval Son: Spots and Stripes Forever” based on her experiences raising him from infancy to seventeen years of age (its entire lifetime).”
Aside from raising a wild cat, Kris believes her biggest accomplishment is “Having the guts to ‘hang my shingle as a copywriter’ when I didn’t know for sure it was gonna work. Taking that leap of faith; that was huge. I truly believe I’m on this planet to write and I think to myself now, what if I had never had taken that step? I know I’d be miserable now had I stayed put doing what I was doing before (administrative assistant and executive secretarial work). If you don’t try going for your goal, you’ll never know how it will turn out. This is my fifth year as a copywriter; my head is still above water and I’m still gaining speed every year. Just having the courage to live and make a living as a writer is heaven on earth to me.”
Kris says she is motivated by life: “Animals, writing, interacting with people, and feeling I’m contributing something is vital to me; since I’m taking up space on earth, I want to make significant use of the time I’m here: I want to offer value of some kind every day. I don’t have kids, but maybe my words can somehow rock the world. I love uplifting people with my books.”
Kris’s short-term career goals include meeting more people who need her services who will benefit from her decades of hard-won wisdom. She works by the hour, by the day, by the week, or by the project. Kris explained her long-term career goals: “Keep doing what I’m doing; do more of it. Right now, I make enough to keep my head above water. I’m 61 now; if I wanted to, or had to (God forbid!) retire, it would be nice to have a nest egg of some kind even though I love what I’m doing and will only consider retiring when I can no longer dance with words.”
Of her life goals in general, she smiled, “Stay above ground!”
Aside from her passion for writing and animals, Kris’s hobbies include reading (mainly non-fiction books) and learning in general.
Kris’s latest book is “Settle for Best: Satisfy the Winner You Were Born to Be,” slated to be released by the end of June. It will be available at Amazon.com. She explained, “Settle for Best is encouragement for the unemployed to ‘hang your shingle’ and be an entrepreneur; it’s also for those who feel they’ve leaned their career ladder against the wrong wall. I wrote it for anyone who has a burning desire that they haven’t realized yet. Now is the time. Instead of hunkering down and wondering ‘What’s gonna happen to me next?’ why not make something happen? This country was built by dreamers who put deadlines on their dreams. Henry Ford said, famously, ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right!’ It’s your mindset and attitude that determine how far you’ll go in life.”
For more information about Kristine or her books, please visit her website: http://www.kristinemsmith.biz/default.html.
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com