Do you know what zombies say when they moan? SuZSie @ShitZombiesSay on Twitter does. But until a few weeks ago, when the Kickstarter for “her” upcoming book 1001 Things Zombies Say started, few knew who was behind the Charleston, SC based Twitter handle. It’s me, Rebecca A. Frierson. As SuZSie, I also leave zombie apocalypse travel tips on foursquare, post zombie memes on Facebook, and have three bloggers (Ashley F. Miller, Nicol Cabe, and JT Eberhard) who speak zombie and apocalypse at ShitZombiesSay.net.
In less than 10 months, SuZSie’s 35,000+ zombie tweets have @ShitZombiesSay frequently ranked in the Top 20 Twitter handles worldwide associated with the hash tag #Zombies. She has nearly 5,500 followers with about 50 percent located in the UK. She now averages 200+ new followers weekly. The handle also ranks in the top five percent of influential Twitter users. In the past month, when Zombie fans talked they mentioned @ShitZombiesSay 10,000+ times. The average Twitter user is mentioned 20 to 30 times.
As SuZSie, I’ve written so many comments, one-line jokes, and travel tips as a zombie I pretty much channel how zombies, if they retained a sense of humor, would think and talk. So yeah, now I speak three languages: English, French, and Zombie. Much to my surprise, I’ve found that not only do people on Twitter dig trilingual zombabes with big hair, but when @ShitZombiesSay talks, global zombie fans listen!
The Kickstarter for 1001 Things Zombies Say, which closes August 8, 2013, passed its goal of $5,000. Now 115% funded, it is approaching the $6000 mark. I’d like that number to be $10,000 so a stretch goal was added last week.
The Kickstarter’s main purpose is to pay for illustrations for lines in the book and we’ve connected with zombie artists around the world. We’re up to 15 artists but want as many as possible included in the book, but that depends on how much is raised in the end. We’re now getting submissions almost daily. I received one from Ireland, yesterday.
By now, you’re probably wondering how one becomes a zombie on the Twitter. In the beginning, it was all academic. Between 2010 and 2012, I worked on a policy recommendation grant with colleagues from the UK, Sweden, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Iowa on whether higher education in the European Union and US was adequately preparing students to work in digital creative industries. We joked often about including zombies in the final paper as a metaphor for faculty and institutions shuffling about mindlessly rather than embracing disruptive technology. I never managed to work zombies into the grant. However, midway through the grant, I had to write a journalism history paper for my MA. I challenged myself to link zombies to journalism and present the research at a conference. Once the research started, it felt like kismet.
Why kismet? The paper, which did become a presentation delivered at NYU in March of this year, was on Willie Seabrook, a world-renowned journalist during the 1920s and 30s. He is not remembered for his journalism. He is remembered for introducing zombies into modern culture in 1929. Seabrook lived in Newberry, S.C for several years and was first published while living there. When my research began, I lived in Newberry.
The grant and the history paper had me primed to work zombies into my day job. I’m a social media campaign strategist. Twitter is my specialty. In October of 2012, I did a social media campaign for one of the largest Halloween events in Charleston. The event’s Twitter account was not tracking like I wanted, so I created @ShitZombiesSay — a loose take off on @ShitMyDadSays — to banter with the event’s account.
The persona I envisioned for @ShitZombiesSay was a Southern Belle zombie who was part debutante and part siren making her a lusty mix of nice and naughty. She physically would not degrade past her initial wounds so the gore would stay gore-geous. She would have a wicked, dark sense of humor and would often wax nerdy. She would be well-read and double entendre adept. Her fashion taste would be edgy and provocative. She’d be so cool and fun you might forget she was a zombie if she didn’t have the wounds. In short, if there were a hip, sexy zombie you could pal around with, it would be @ShitZombiesSay.
Ah, but now for the avi… what to do? I had a recent picture of me in an Amy Winehouse wig at a Halloween party where my appearance was so altered people thought it could not possibly BE me. I took that picture and doctored it with an app on my iPhone that makes you look like a zombie by placing wounds where you want them. As the project progressed, we decided the wound I used on my forehead would be @ShitZombiesSay’s trademark look.
As early as 15 days into the campaign we could see the handle getting global legs. I began fleshing out how to grow the brand in November and by December, we could see doing a book of the one-liners SZS tweeted..
Around December, Dave Madore of @Necropology (world-renowned zombie science experts … yes, they exit) decided we needed to give our ZomBelle a first name. Dave, who I met on twitter as myself while tweeting about Willie Seabrook and reconnected with later as @ShitZombiesSay, pointed out that people weren’t going to be comfortable addressing a hot female zombie as “Shit”. Seeing an opportunity to tweak my sister Susie’s nose, I named her SuZSie.
I love to collaborate and envisioned this as an opportunity to work with cool people outside my realm of expertise. That’s exactly what @ShitZombiesSay has done so far. I’ve connected with people around the world who have a passion for film, publishing, music, and art. My path would never have crossed theirs without SuZSie and “her” upcoming book.
While tweeting jokes and schmoozing as SuZSie, I’ve met and become fast friends with some of the most interesting creative people I have ever known. If you watch the 1001 Things Zombies Say Kickstarter video, you’ll meet SuZSie’s twitter friend and now my real life friend, Michele Mulkey, an amazing special effects artist from Pennsylvania who is in the UK right now working on an indie zombie movie. Michele, after a few phone chats and emails, recreated the wounds in SuZSie’s picture as prosthetics I use to, er, become SuZSie in the flesh. Then she came to Charleston and we shot the video in February.
You’ll also see some amazing photography in the text about the project. That was staged and edited by SuZSie’s twitter friend and now one of my BFFs, author @Cat_ONine. I’ve been to NY and Rhode Island to visit with Cat.
Anyway, that’s how I ended up a zombie. I hope you’ll join me for the ride by following SuZSie on Twitter and the other social platforms she’s on. If you do, expect a personal tweet from her. It will most likely say, “Welcome to #BiteClub, MEAT!”