Charlie Fern's Ink

Do what you say. Say it in color.

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Name: Charlie Fern
Location: San Diego-Austin-Washington-London

Charlie Fern is a former White House speechwriter who runs a full-scale communications consulting, PR and speechwriting firm. Ms. Fern is also an adjunct professor who teaches public relations at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Meet Flat Ginger

When I first saw this photo, I couldn't help but think of Flat Stanley, the paper doll that helps elementary school teachers teach children about geography, writing, and coloring inside the lines. Every year, thousands of students read the Flat Stanley book or visit the Flat website ( They trace, cut, and color thousands of Flat Stanleys and send them off to the four corners of the world. And then they wait patiently for news on Flat's whereabouts and activities.

I first met Flat Stanley when I worked in the Texas governor's office. He arrived in a letter to the Governor and First Lady from a Texas student. In the letter, the child explained how Flat came to be, and politely asked if Flat could spend the day with the first couple and be returned to the sender with photos and a full report. I helped write that report, which was enormously fun. Flat and I have bumped into each other once or twice since then. He paid me a visit at the White House, and I dutifully sent him home to his owner with another report.

Flat Ginger is the antithesis of Flat Stanley. And, it figures that she would bear a remarkable resemblance to the women on my dad’s side of the family. These ladies (cousins, aunts, grandmothers) were the defining element of summertime get-togethers in San Diego. You’d always find two or three of them sitting in a row or standing around in the kitchen. When they all got together, what a treat! It was like a Big Hair convention in technicolor turquoise and hot pink.

It was hard to tell them apart: jet black bouffants, radiant skin (well, radiated), muumuus or capri pants, festive beach heels, lipstick outside the lines, cigarette in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other. When they cooked, they wore homemade aprons just like the one on this cookie.

The cookie photo is strangely comforting. It's like seeing a long lost family photo for the first time. It is also unsettling, because it presents startling evidence that if you look like Flat Ginger, here, you’re probably the “fun” in dysfunctional.

I am told that poor Ginger met with an untimely demise. She was beheaded and eaten. I see no reason why she can't live on in infamy, though. Or, why the sisters can't make more of her.

We could send Flat Gingers all over the world, like Flat Stanley's slightly dysfunctional second cousin once removed from the oven. But instead of NASA or the White House, we'd have to send her to the Betty Ford Clinic. Or Morris-Phillips. Or to the Gallo brothers. She'd arrive with a letter from the sisters requesting her safe return, along with a bottle of wine and a cigarette. It could work. The sisters might even learn something new about geography.

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