Word of mouth is the best advertising, especially when that word is good. Here’s what some of my clients have to say. I would be happy to add your feedback to this list.

Art Small
Democratic Party activist and former Iowa state legislator

Labor Pains is a good read and a thoughtful and perceptive description of the work of a labor organizer for SEIU Local 73. The author, Suzan Erem, is a woman with the soul of a poet who fought on behalf of workers to organize. Much that I had read previously about such efforts to establish and maintain unions has been either inspirational, like the splendid song of the French Revolution, the Marseillaise, or tedious, like descriptions of Madam Lafarge’s knitting. This is neither: it is the well-observed descriptive account of activities of a dedicated witness to, and participant in, the efforts by the labor movement to secure power and justice. In some senses it is about love and perhaps even the ecstasy of the moment but more important it is as the title, Labor Pains, perceptively suggests, about what comes after the love and the moment and before the exhilarating and painful moment of birth.

Labor Pains is about Suzan Erem’s moments of discomfort and doubt. It is also about her persistence and her effort to maintain balance and idealism. She does not always succeed and tells us about the failure of her marriage and the organizing efforts that didn’t work. But she also provides graphic descriptions of efforts that did work and the pleasure she took in those moments.

Erem is particularly good at describing the people she worked with and the role of the media in the struggle to organize. Her primary job was not only to organize, but also to get the story out. The story is not always happy or glamorous but it is well described. In one scene a small band of organizers hang a banner over an overpass to draw the media’s attention to a strike they are organizing against a Chicago hospital. It is a very cold early winter Chicago morning on Lake Shore Drive and the effort seems almost futile, perhaps crazy. But it works and the media event draws attention to the union’s struggle and helps in the winning effort organize the hospital and bring about an improved wage scale and other benefits through the protection of the union.

Erem describes her work in the labor movement both as an attempt to “scratch our mark on history” and to tell the story of the workers, a story that might otherwise not be told. She has done this well in Labor Pains and she has also told us her own story. It was a story worth telling. I expect she will have more stories to tell us.

Chris Taylor
Leo Burnett USA
Benefit Chair, Lawyers for the Creative Arts

What can I say? You are the first writer I have ever worked with who “got it” immediately. You quickly understood the vision of Lawyers for the Creative Arts (and my expectations for the project), and interviewed numerous people to translate that vision into compelling and thoughtful writing. All in one draft!

Needless to say, we had a record-breaking event. Thank you for being a part of the team and bringing our story to life.

After close to 20 years in the creative communications and marketing industry, I do believe you are what is called a natural, and I encourage you to exploit this new talent Suzan.

Your gift with words is inspiring. Your intuition is incredible. Your patience with and understanding of the corporate world will serve you well. I wish you all the success in your career. You have found your calling!

Samples: Ryan Duval & Anna Seifert

Jan Corderman, former AFSCME Iowa president

Two years ago, when Suzan stopped by our office, we patted ourselves on the back if we got our newsletter out in a timely fashion. That very day, I asked her if she could write a couple of stories for us. With her helpful prodding, our communications have expanded to include Contract Campaign updates and a new and improved web page. We supply the rough outline; Suzan makes the calls to get the quotes and writes the articles. She is a godsend!

Andrew Stern, former president
Service Employees International Union

I’m writing to express my appreciation for your involvement on the Local Union Communicators Ad-Hoc Advisory Workgroup. Your feedback and ideas contributed greatly to our communications review. I am very pleased with the results of this process.

On behalf of the officers and executive board of SEIU, thanks again for your participation in developing a dynamic new identity and communications vehicles for our union.

I fully expect that the results of your work will benefit working people for many years to come.

Tom Balanoff, former President
Service Employees International Union Local 73

These past six years have been a time of incredible growth and change for our organization, and you have played a large part in that.

From the beginning, you developed and articulated effective messages, and were able to develop an image of the union which was consistent and well-grounded in the truth of what we were trying to accomplish. Your writing is clear and to the point. Your ability to translate quickly the events as told to you into a bulletin we then distributed at the worksite was crucial to many of our campaigns. Our bargainers were able to use the very threat of one of our bulletins to win concessions at the bargaining table.

As for the union’s image in the public realm, I am convinced that your ability to market our message to mainstream media made us the most visible union in the Chicago metro area. Nine times out of ten we were able to get our message into the media, something that few unions ever accomplish.

Samples: Building Industry Strength

Warren E. Eagle, Partner
Katz, Friedman, Schur and Eagle

In the past year, calls to our firm from union members asking about workers’ compensation have increased significantly. I attribute this success to the ad you developed for us and to the high visibility you gave it when you ran it in almost every publication the local has published.

We fight for workers injured on the job so that they receive the benefits they have a legal right to receive. Most workers don’t know their rights, and your work promoting our services has made the issue very clear.
I hope we can continue to call you in the future as the need arises.

Nick Johnson
Reader, Iowa City Press-Citizen

I have to say something about how impressed and appreciative I am with the quality of the editorials. This doesn’t mean I always agree; if I did, there’d be something wrong somewhere. But you seem to continue to hit home runs every time you’re at bat. Good subjects, informative, thoughtful and well reasoned, no puff, but a little encouragement along with the criticism and commentary, a real constructive contribution to the community dialogue, leadership. It’s very much in the tradition of the Pew Trust’s notion of “civic journalism.”

That’s all. Just a thank you from a citizen.

Mike Beck, former publisher, Iowa City Press-Citizen

I have worked with many writers, both good and bad. And I have seen few who have Suzan’s ability to take seemingly disparate thoughts and ideas and work them into a cohesive and focused piece. Suzan can weave clarity from confusion and purpose from indecision. Part of her magic, I think, is that she often sees the bigger picture. And while we may not always agree on what that picture looks like, I respect her ability to think critically.

Howard Harris, Education Director, District 1199P/SEIU

I’ve read your book and would agree that it provided an unusually frank and accurate picture of the life of a union staff member. What I liked best about it was that you did not throw out the baby with the bathwater but were able to maintain a level of objectivity even though you were clearly disappointed with the outcome. I’ve recommended it to other SEIU local education directors.

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