Ep 228 Meet the hilarious and charming Kerri Sackville, author of ‘Out There: A Survival Guide for Dating in Midlife’.

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In Episode 228 of So you want to be a writer: Should you write under two names for two different genres? Allison Tait’s The Book of Answers is out now! We congratulate the winner of the latest Furious Fiction contest. And you’ll meet the hilarious and charming Kerri Sackville, author of Out There: A Survival Guide for Dating in Midlife.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

Listener Shout Out

podcast-artwork

Lollipop12345678900987654321 from USA:

This is such a great podcast! I have been coming up with stories since I was in 2nd grade and knew that I wanted to write someday. This podcast has introduced me to so many different types of writing. It motivates and inspires. It is so interesting and Val and Al are hilarious. AND the word of the week has expanded my vocabulary as a high schooler. It is great! Thank you so much ladies.❤ Keep up the great work.

Listener Question

From Emily:

Hi Val and Al,

Just wanted to firstly say “Thanks” for an awesome podcast. I’ve just discovered you guys and I’m working my way through the backlist and listening to the new episodes each week.

I have a question, that I thought you might like to answer on the podcast (and would be hugely grateful and excited if you did).

I’m currently writing a contemporary fiction novel that I am close to completing after seeking editorial feedback though a freelance editor.  I will then begin the querying process to agents and publishers. I also have two rom-com type, or chic-lit novels, that I am about to self-publish. The contemporary fiction and chic-lit are very different type novels.

So I have three related questions:
1. Will self-publishing my chic-lit novels affect my chances of scoring a publishing deal for my contemporary fiction? (They will be professionally edited and cover designed etc.)

2. Should I tell the agents/publishers I’m querying about my chic-lit novels?

3. Should I perhaps consider self-publishing my chic-lit under a pseudonym so not to have the two genres clash?

Thanking you in advance and I hope you can answer my question in the coming weeks.

Thanks Emily. Your questions are answered in the podcast!

Links Mentioned

The Ateban Cipher

Furious Fiction

Writer in Residence

Kerri Sackville

 

Kerri Sackville is an Australian author, columnist, and social commentator, and – according to the Daily Mail, a ‘media personality’.  She writes regularly for Sunday Life magazine, SMH online and news.com.auon topics ranging from sex and relationships to parenting, mental health, current affairs, and whether white chocolate is real chocolate (it isn’t). https://t.dgm-au.com/c/84018/69171/1880?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.booktopia.com.au%2Fout-there-kerri-sackville%2Fprod9781760681869.html

Kerri’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Age, the Telegraph, Maddison, Women’s Weekly Online, SBS Life, Mamamia.com, Grazia UK, The Sunday Times UK, Bide magazine, OK magazine and the Australian Jewish News. She has made frequent appearances on television programs including Sunrise, The Daily Edition, Mornings on Channel 9, Mamamia TV and The Circle, and regularly pops up on various radio stations including Mix 106.5, 2DayFM, 2UE and the ABC networks.

Kerri is the author of When My Husband Does The Dishes… (Random House, 2011) and The Little Book Of Anxiety – Confessions From A Worried Life (Random House, 2012). Her latest book, Out There: A Survival Guide for Dating in Midlife was released in April 2018 by Bonnier.

Follow Kerri on Twitter

Visit Kerri’s website

(If you click through the links above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission from this purchase. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

Competition

Write a caption and WIN a copy of “The Lebs”

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

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Interview Transcript

Allison

Kerri Sackville is an Australian author, columnist, and social commentator, as well as being a media personality – whatever that means. Maybe she can explain that to us. She writes regularly for Sunday Life Magazine, SMH online and News.com.au. Kerri is the author of When My Husband Does the Dishes… and The Little Book of Anxiety, both published by Random House. Her latest book, Out There: A survival guide for dating in mid-life is released this month through Bonnier. So welcome to the program Kerri.

Kerri

Thank you. Lovely to be here.

Allison

Let’s talk about this media personality thing. What does it mean, and how did you become one?

Kerri

You know, I discovered I was a media personality when the Daily Telegraph referenced one of the articles I wrote and said “media personality Kerri Sackville said blah blah blah…” And I was thrilled. I was thrilled. That was a big milestone for me. So as far as I know, it’s still the first and only time it’s happened. But I’m hanging on to it. Once a media personality, always a media personality as far as I’m concerned.

Allison

#MediaPersonality. That’s great. All right, let’s go back to the beginning of your authoring career. And just talk about your first book, When My Husband Does the Dishes… which was published in 2011. Which is like eons ago, really. How did that come about?

Kerri

Well, you can tell me, Al! Because you were instrumental in the whole process.

Allison

I only brought it up so we could talk about the fact that it was just all about me, really.

Kerri

I owe everything to you. So I had had a very, very minor writing career. I had started sending off articles to various places back in, oh gosh, the very early 2000s. And then after a death in the family I stopped writing altogether.

And then in 2009 it would have been, wow, I discovered Twitter and I started tweeting. And through Twitter I was encouraged to start blogging for my legions of three or four fans, who were saying, we like your tweets, do you have a blog? So I started blogging. And that was bag in the heyday of blogging, as you know.

It was actually really easy then for someone with talent and drive to kind of push through and be seen. It’s so hard now, because every second woman and her dog has a blog. But back then it was a smaller pool of talent.

So I started blogging. And I got some work, unpaid work, but writing for Mamma Mia. Which back in those days really did give me a boost. I know there’s a lot of controversy about unpaid work now, but certainly back then it really helped kickstart my career. And then I was approached by an agent. How did she hear about me? Well, this is where you come in!

Allison

How did she hear about you, Kerri?

Kerri

Well, this wonderful woman, called Allison Tait, who had been a Twitter friend of mine, had alerted this brilliant agent from Curtis Brown to the fact that I was writing a book. Because I had mentioned it on Twitter a few times. And so Pippa from Curtis Brown actually sent me an unsolicited email saying she’d heard I was writing a book, she loved my blog, and would I be interested in chatting to her about it.

And so really, I had a dream run where I had an agent approach me. I didn’t have to go and do the hard yards and send out my manuscript. She took me on. She sold my first manuscript, the book that became When My Husband Does the Dishes. There was a bidding war, which was just amazing. Random House bought it. They published my second book as well, which was The Little Book of Anxiety: Confessions from a Worried Life. And then it all went bad, of course. But those were the good old days.

Allison

Then it all went bad!

Kerri

It didn’t all go bad. But what I did do was very unwisely move away from what I’m good at and what I know how to do, and I tried writing a novel. And then I tried writing another one. And after some consultation with publishers and my agent, we decided I should stick to what I do very well, which is memoir writing. Hence my latest book is another work of non-fiction, and I feel very good about that, and very good about my decision to leave fiction to people who know how to do it, such as yourself.

Allison

It’s fantastic. Do you know though, I mean, as listeners will probably be able to tell from our conversation, you and I know each other quite well and have known each other for a long time, having met on Twitter. I always say Twitter is such a great place to meet great people. But do you, I mean… I personally, from my perspective, think it’s brilliant that you wrote a couple of manuscripts. You not only said, I’m going to write a novel. You sat down, you wrote a couple, and you decided it wasn’t for you. And I think that that’s a very brave and grown up decision.

Kerri

Well, I think what the brave and grown up thing to do is to talk about the failures. Because I know my perception of other people in the media and in publishing is when I see somebody with books on the shelf and I see somebody with column inches, I think, wow, they’re so successful. And they must have just had a career progression that just got higher and higher and higher.

And so I want people to know – and I’m sure there are people who look at me like that – and I want people to know that I’ve had huge battles. and I’ve had things knocked back, I’ve had columns knocked back, I’ve had work knocked back. But mostly, I had two full manuscripts rejected in between my second book and this one, my third book. So in fact this is actually my… What is it? My fifth book?

Allison

Fifth book.

Kerri

Fifth book. And it took me a while to acknowledge that in public. Because I didn’t want the public perception of me to be as a failure. And what I understand now is that it’s… People aren’t just failures or successes. We all have both in our careers and in our lives. And I think it’s equally as important to talk about the things that didn’t go well.

And I think as writers, there is something to be said for trying different genres and branching out. But I think there’s also something to be said for doing what you do really well, and exploring that fully and becoming better and better at the particular genre that you know you work really well in.

So whether that’s young adult, whether that’s kid’s books, whether that’s picture books, whether that’s nonfiction, where that’s stories or poetry. Some people can cross genres. I have discovered I am not one of them. At least at this point in my writing career.

Allison

Do you think though, that having written those two novels in the middle of your nonfiction career, do you think it changed the way your approached writing your latest book Out There?

Kerri

I think what it did, and what I really struggled with with the fiction is making things up. And I’m so grounded in reality, I’m so grounded in what really happened, that when I was trying to write fiction, I was making sure that it was so realistic and so plausible that I found it hard to diverge from reality.

But what it also taught me, I think, is to find the stories in reality. And that’s something that I do very well. And I think my latest book, even more than the first two, is there is a lot of storytelling within the book.

So this book is actually a guide book. It’s a guide book for women who are dating in midlife. And it’s full of my own stories about dating. And it really taught me to find the story arc in real stories, in real life. And they’re everywhere. And everybody has those.

And a lot of people say to me, people that I meet and people that I date, or my friends say wow, bizarre things happen to you, and the craziest things happen to you, or the funniest things happen to you. And what I always say is, no they don’t. These kind of things happen to everyone. I just look for them and I write about them.

Allison

I remember talking to you at the time that your first book came out. I think we did a blog post or a Q&A or something. And I was asking you then, you know, what it was like to draw so much of your writing from your own experiences, and to put yourself out there like you do. And we discussed the difference between writing a blog post, which kind of almost feels like it’s a five minute ephemeral sort of a thing, and writing a book. Which felt to you, I remember you saying to me at the time, much more permanent. Does it still feel that way? Do you still feel the differences now that we know that the internet is forever? Do you still feel that there’s more of a permanence in that printed word?

Kerri

I do. I really do. And I don’t blog anymore, but I’m a columnist, and some of my columns make it to print. One is the Sunday Life for example, and some others end up in the print copy of the paper. But for the most part they exist only online. And I am aware of the permanence of them. But a book does feel much more solid and much more permanent.

And I think also you have much more leeway in a book to become more personal. And I think it’s because of the feedback loop. I have to be really careful what I write online because I get immediate feedback, I get immediate pushback.

So for example, I don’t just write about dating, but if I write a piece about dating, I will immediately get feedback and a huge amount of discussion, sometimes, online from women saying yes, me too! Yes, me too! And then it’s so predictable. Then I’ll get the pushback from the men who are like, #notallmen, I’m not like that.

And it takes a lot of effort, it’s a lot of energy to respond to that and to manage the feedback. And I have to be very careful about what I put in there about my personal experiences, because I’m also aware that the people in my life, the stories that I’m mining, can see it and because of the immediacy will know that I’m talking about them.

Allison

Right.

Kerri

So there’s the feedback loop with the people who are the readers, and then there’s the feedback loop with the people who the stories are inspired by. I always change details, but it’s the inspiration.

With a book, because there’s a time lapse between writing the book and publication, two things: one is that you can use stories, you can take time to change details, and you know that by the time it’s published the people who inspired those stories probably won’t recognise themselves. They certainly won’t be recognisable to anybody else. So it gives you more leeway to explore those stories more fully. Because you know that you’re able to guarantee anonymity in a way that you can’t with online.

And secondly, the feedback isn’t as immediate. So people will read the book, they’ll think about it and they may write about it. But I’m not sitting there, at my computer, madly responding to everybody who is reading my book in real time. And so it does give me more freedom.

And also it’s a psychological thing. You know, I put so much in this book that I would never write online. So many personal details about myself, and anecdotes. And that’s purely psychological. Just as many people will read it, but because I sat and wrote it and it took a long time before it got to print, it actually feels, it creates a cycle of distance between me and the text. Which is completely in my head.

Allison

Yes. It is completely in your head.

Kerri

Yes. Because, of course, people are reading it now and I’ve got all sorts of things in there about sex life, and my love life, and my feelings. But simply because of the gap between writing and publication, it feels safer in a way that is purely psychological. But it works.

Allison

So have you ever, while you were writing your memoirs, have you ever gone back in editing and gone, oh no, that’s way too much information? Or are you sort of like happier once it’s in the manuscript form to kind of let it go?

Kerri

That’s such an interesting question. I’ve had this discussion with other writers who are writing memoirs. What I tend to do is as I’m writing it, I write it as if nobody’s going to read it. And I think that’s the only way to do it.

And then what I do afterwards is… I write with absolute truth, absolute honesty, full disclosure, because that’s the way to get the truth out. And then afterwards, when I come back to editing it, what I’ll do then is change details. Like, I’ll read it back and think, okay, this is just, this person is going to recognise themselves. I’m compromising this person.

Or, very occasionally, because I’m less concerned about myself, I don’t want my kids to read that about me. So I’m going to pull that back a bit. So I do that in the editing process. But when I’m actually writing, what I do recommend to other people when they’re writing memoir, and they’re writing personal nonfiction, is to write, at least the initial manuscript, as if nobody is going to read it. And then you can decide at the end.

But if you try and edit yourself as you go along, what’s coming out is some sanitised almost bastardised version of the truth.

Allison

So honesty is obviously… Because you need that honesty and truth of voice, don’t you, to really engage a reader, I think.

Kerri

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Allison

But I’m also thinking, you’re writing a book, well all of yours really, but particularly out there that does feature other people. What are the parameters for that? How do you know you’ve disguised, say, one of your dates enough so that they won’t recognise themselves?

Kerri

I’ll tell you how I know, because I’ve actually got a spreadsheet at home, where I have to cross-reference who I’m talking about. I change the details so much so that if I open up the book at random and there’s a story about… Oh, who is this? There is a story about Aden. I’m reading this story and I’m thinking who is Aden? You know? Because I have never dated anyone called Aden.

So of course, Aden is a pseudonym for somebody else. And I have to go back and, if I read the story now, I’ll probably eventually remember. But I change details so much that I have to reference it myself to remember who Aden was, and the real name of Aden and what he really did. So I change physical appearance, I change jobs, I often change age, as long as I keep it within a reasonable range.

But what I don’t change is the kind of truth that is the story. So for example, there is a man who broke my heart. And I write about the heart break, but I can change details that are completely superfluous to that. Like how many kids the man who broke my heart had. Or like he came on too strong, I’ll change anything about his appearance, or his work, or his previous dating life. As long as the kernel of truth that I’m writing about is accurate.

Allison

Okay. So you mentioned you also have kids, and two of them are teenagers. Do you need to have discussions with them before the book comes out? Not only about your book, even, I guess, but even your opinion columns are often very much drawn on your own experiences. Do they need to have advance warning of what’s coming?

Allison

They don’t need to have advance warning because I’m actually really honest with them about my life. And they’re really honest with me about what they want to know. So I’ll tell them anything they want to know. I’m happy to have those discussions.

But what I find with kids, very young kids and teenagers, is that they’re self-monitoring. And they’re self-censoring as well, in terms of the information that they want. So you sit down with your kids and you say, I mean, hopefully I wouldn’t actually have this conversation, but if I was talking to them about dating and if I said to them, would you like to know anything about my dating life. And they would tell me what they don’t want to know. They don’t want to know about my sex life. They have no interest.

Allison

Oh really? You surprise me!

Kerri

I know. And you can see very clearly with kids, and it’s not just these conversations, it’s all conversations. When parents are talking to kids, you learn very quickly that there are things that they just don’t want to talk about, they don’t want to know about.

And my kids have access to, they use the internet. In fact, with my teenagers, some of their friends actually do read my stuff online and have discussed it with my kids. And my kids will say, look, I’m not interested. I’m their mother. They don’t want to hear about my dating life.

Allison

No, they really don’t.

Kerri

They don’t. But having said that, I have never put anything in there, in any of my columns, that I would be horrified for them to find out. Because that would be ridiculous. They’ve got access to it. Nothing that I’m ashamed of.

And most of the stuff, even if they don’t want to know, they know anyway. They know the men I’ve dated, they know… They’ve lived through my dating life. I’m not secretive about it. In fact, I write about that in the book. What works for me as a parent is to talk to my children about my dating life. So to be honest; I’m going out on a date. Or even my ten year old will say, oh mum, do you have a crush? And I’ll say, oh yeah, but I don’t think he likes me. Or they know when I’ve been in a relationship with someone. So it’s not like I’m writing about this secret world.

But I also do say that that’s what works for me in terms of parenting, and I don’t necessarily advocate that for other people. That’s just the relationship that I have with my kids.

And that’s also inextricably tied in with the work that I do. I’m a personal columnist. So I can’t really keep secrets from them. I would have to find something else to do. And of course I wouldn’t be doing this work if I did keep secrets from them. So it’s just indicative of the person that I am and the kind of relationship that I have with them.

Allison

You don’t write about them very much, though, do you?

Kerri

No. No.

Allison

Your stuff is mostly about you. And you haven’t made an opinion career out of writing about what it’s like to parent children?

Kerri

Well, I wrote a book about parenting, but the book was very generic parenting. And I’ve always maintained and I still stand by this; anybody who has read every single word I have ever written, would not be able to pick my kids out in a line-up. Because I’ve written so generically, what I have written about parenting is so generically about parenting, I’ve never written ever about my kids’ personalities, their personal challenges, what they struggle with.

And anything I’ve ever put online about any of them has always been with their full permission. And it’s always really silly generic sort of stuff. Like, oh the kids made a mess. As opposed to, oh my child has just been hospitalised for such and such, or my child is receiving counselling for such and such. And again, my child is not in hospital or receiving counselling. I’m just giving you some examples.

Allison

Receiving counselling for being messy, perhaps.

Kerri

Receiving counselling for being my child.

But there are numerous bloggers out there and writers who have made careers out of writing about their kids in exquisite detail. And have been on the internet with pictures of their children and the personal details of the children. And that’s something that does not work for me, doesn’t sit well with me personally. And it’s something I haven’t done.

And I’ve tried really hard to maintain my kids’ privacy online. We have different surnames, I don’t mention their names online. I’ve never put photos of my kids online, except occasionally from the back, so you can see the back of a head, very, very occasionally. Because I feel like it’s my decision to go online, it’s my decision to disclose about my life, it’s my decision to become a public figure in a small way, but it’s not their decision. And I want them to be able to curate their own lives.

Allison

Okay, let’s go back to the writing process of your books. Do you approach writing a book differently than you would an opinion piece, so to speak? Or is it more just like a very long discussion?

Kerri

No, completely differently. So when I write an opinion piece, which is generally, say roughly between 650 and 800 words, I’m so practiced at it now that I will spend time obviously coming up with a topic and then thinking very carefully about my thesis and what I believe about it. And then it almost always comes out in one go. So I will sit down and write it from start to finish. It usually doesn’t take a lot of time. The time is taken with thinking about it. I’ll go back, check for grammar and spelling, maybe tighten something up, and then that’s it.

You obviously can’t write a 65,000 word book in the same way as you would write a 650 word column. So books, I will start with a few ideas that I jot down. And I do it almost like… How would I describe it? Like some kind of diagram where you start with one spot, then you go to another spot on the diagram, and fill back in, and then you come back and add a bit there, and it’s all over the shop.

Like, I start with the bare bones of it and just will go back and forth. Gradually it’ll expand into chapters. So there will be various chapter headings. And little bits will emerge. And then I might go write an entire chapter and then come back to the first bit.

And I fill it out but there’s no particular order. It just sort of grows organically. It’s a really strange process. And I always read back my books and think, I don’t even know how I did this. I can’t really remember writing this. This is, sort of like, wow, it just kind of grew.

Allison

I know. I understand that feeling. You read it and just think, where did that even come from?

Kerri

Yeah! And sometimes I’ll read it and I’m laughing and laughing, oh that’s so funny! Oh, I wrote that! I’m so clever!

Allison

#IAmHilarious right?

Kerri

That’s right.

Allison

Do you write every day when you’re working on a manuscript?

Kerri

I try to, yeah. I find if I have to take a break from a manuscript I lose my train of thought. I have to… It’s like you tuck it away in a corner of your mind, but it’s always there. So there’s one part of your mind that is always working on it. And you just know if you leave it too long, it’s going to be really hard to come back to. I mean, with columns I can’t leave them at all. If I have to put a column away, if I start it and I can’t finish it, I have to start it from scratch again.

Allison

Oh really?

Kerri

Yeah. I find it almost impossible to go and work on a column that I’ve deserted part way. So I nearly always write in one go. I just lose the groove. And so the books, there will be occasionally a day where I can’t work on it, but I really do try and write even a line or two every day.

Allison

And how long do you think then that it took you to draft out your latest book?

Kerri

About nine months.

Allison

Okay. Cool.

Kerri

Yep.

Allison

So given you do have children, and you’re a single mum, and you’re working and you’re doing all those things, is it sometimes difficult to manage the work, life, writing, dating balance? Have you got any tips for us on how to fit it in?

Kerri

No, it’s easy Al! No, I’ve got it all sorted it out. It’s completely easy.

Allison

I know you do. But surely you have tips.

Kerri

I’m hopeless! When I’m writing a book, my house is an absolute tip. The bills pile up. Seriously, I have been threatened with having the electricity cut off. Not because I didn’t have money to pay the bill, but because I just didn’t open the mail. I’m hopeless. I’m hopeless.

And yes, I’ve got kids, and yes I’ve got a home, but I’m a terrible cook. And it’s because I haven’t put the effort in because I’m just too busy doing other things. So the poor kids, even last night they were complaining. They go mum, okay, it’s food, and it’s got calories and it’s nutritious. But it’s pretty ordinary. And that’s similar to anything I do wrong, they say, well, we know that you love us. So great. That’s really good.

But you know, the house is often really messy, especially when I’m writing a book. When I’m not writing a manuscript it’s much easier to keep things under control. I will run out of stuff. As I said, I won’t pay the bills. I won’t answer phone calls, my inbox will pile up. And what will happen then is that I often get to a point where I’m incredibly stressed, because my life just feels completely out of control. And then I just have to spend two days cleaning up and trying to sort out… And paying bills because things are getting cut off and I’ve got no money.

And the invoice thing. I never invoice. That’s the other thing. I write these columns but I don’t invoice for them, because you know, if I’ve got two hours to spend at the computer I want to be working on the book. I don’t want to be invoicing. So there will be times when I literally have to invoice because I’ve got no money in the bank. So really, what can I say…?

Allison

I think you’ve covered it. Valerie Khoo would have some things to say about this, you realise.

Kerri

Valerie is the most organised energetic competent person I’ve ever met. She is… In fact, I really should put a picture of Val on my computer, just to remind me to invoice.

Allison

We just shouldn’t compare ourselves, really, should we? We should just sit over here in our corner with our curly hair and be done with it.

Kerri

Exactly. But I think, what I am trying to learn to do, it’s really, really hard, is to be more organised. And just to do things like open the mail. And invoice regularly. And that’s actually, in some sense, really challenging for me. I find it really hard to do. So that’s advice I would give other people, is to do as I say and not as I do.

Allison

That’s great advice.

Kerri

Being organised really helps. So I hear.

Allison

So over the years, whilst you’ve been doing all these things and not paying the bills, you have actually created a pretty amazing author platform. Like, you’ve got a really big community around you on various platforms that you have going on. And you started with the blogging, and then writing for other publications. And now you do speaking, you do appearances. Is it something you… You obviously enjoy it. This is something that you obviously… This is not hard for you, is it?

Kerri

No. I really enjoy it. And I respond to almost everybody. I try to respond to everybody who comments online. I try never, ever, ever to leave a comment… I try to answer all comments on my Facebook page, on Twitter, on Instagram. Sometimes if a post goes really, really well, it’s hard to… But at least I like every comment.

Because I genuinely love the interaction. I really do. I’m genuinely grateful for it. It keeps me sane. Otherwise I don’t know I’d do it, just sitting here writing all day. I’d get incredibly lonely.

And then when I’m dating, and men say so what do you do, how do you spend your day? And I say, I chat to people online. And they think I’m mad. It sounds like the crazy woman who is on all the forums talking about how you can save coupons. But I love it. It’s what feeds me.

And I know so many of the people who comment on my Facebook page, for example, because they comment over and over again. So I get to know them. And I feel like they’re part of my life. So it’s not hard for me. It really isn’t.

I mean, there are days where I think, oh, I’ve got nothing interesting to say. And inevitably something will happen that I think, oh, people will like this. And I’ll tell them. And it’s just so great getting that feedback.

Recently I posted something about a man who said to me on a date, he said, I’ve never dated anyone as old as you. And I thought, I’m 49 and he’s 51. And it made me feel really, really awful. And a little while later I thought, oh, I’m going to be brave and share that because it made me feel really bad about myself. And I shared it on my Facebook page, and the response was massive. And just having other people say to me, you know, you’re not alone, I feel the same, this has happened to me. Or even just, oh, what a douche bag. It was so wonderful, so validating to feel like I’m not alone, and feel part of a community.

So when people say to me that my writing helps them not to feel alone, I feel exactly that from people who comment on it.

Allison

Oh okay.

Kerri

So I love it. Yeah, I love it.

Allison

What sort of tips would you have for those who are starting out wanting to create a community? What would you suggest they focus on?

Kerri

I think find your niche. And I think where people struggle, where people go wrong, is where they’re throwing all sorts of things out into the blogosphere, into the interwebs, throwing out different ideas, a recipe here and a comment on life here, and an anecdote about the kids there, and a picture of their new shoes.

You need to actually focus on what your schtick is going to be. And people, it will resonate with somebody. So I’ve had different schticks over the years. You know, periods where I wrote almost exclusive funny stories about my failures as a parent. And then it was about anxiety, when I wrote the anxiety book, I wrote a lot about anxiety. I wrote almost exclusively about Nutella for about five years.

Allison

You did! There was a lot of Nutella.

Kerri

And Simon Baker. And now it’s moved on to… And of course I wrote about marriage, when I was married. And now it’s moved on to dating. But whatever your particular area, people will… You will find your readers. You will find the people with whom that resonates. But you need to have a schtick. It’s not enough just to…

Allison

Be there.

Kerri

Be there. And be random. And so the more niche you are, ironically, the more chance you have of growing an audience. And then what it’s about is then finding other spaces in which people are interested in that niche. So going to other pages, and other blogs, and other communities.

And then of course interacting with the people on your page. So growing a page by just responding to people, making them feel welcome, making them feel heard. I’m not interested in going to a Facebook page and leaving a witty comment and then having it just die.

Allison

Completely ignored.

Kerri

I love it when I go to a page and I leave a comment and someone responds. And I can say I give people that same courtesy.

And ultimately, you can’t fake it. I genuinely love what I do, and I genuinely love the interaction that I have on my Facebook page and on Twitter and on my Instagram. And if you don’t genuinely love it, you can’t fake it. People know.

Allison

No. It’s true. All right, we’re going to finish up today with our famous infamous media superstar top…

Kerri

Yeah. I go to the supermarket and I’m just bowled down by people. Totally.

Allison

Totally. We’re looking for our top three tips for writers. What have you got for me?

Kerri

Top three tips for writers.

Allison

What are your top three tips for writers?

Kerri

Okay, first of all, don’t call yourself a writer. Just become a writer. Write. Write! Anything. Carry a notebook with you. Write on your phone. Always write. Do not go a day without writing. Jot down ideas as you have them.

And write. I hear so many people say, I want to be a writer, I want to be a writer. No, no. Write. So that’s one thing.

The other thing is the same as growing community; find your niche. Find what you love to write about. Find what you’re passionate about. Find what you’re excited about, and write about that. And as I said before, it sounds counterintuitive, but the more niche you are, the more likely you are to find a place for yourself.

And of course, and then read. Read extensively. Read in fields you’re interested in. Particularly interact with other writers. So join writers’ groups. There are some terrific writers’ groups around. There are tonnes. I’m a member of about four different writers’ pages online. And talk to other writers. Get inspired by other writers. Follow them. Join writing challenges. And make yourself accountable by communicating with other writers what your intention is.

Allison

Fantastic. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time today. Best of luck with the new book. I’m sure it will be a smash hit. And we will no doubt be seeing you soon on a TV screen near us.

Kerri

Oh, I hope so. I like TV. So much fun.

 

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