Karen Andrews is an award-winning writer, author, editor, poet, blogger, and publisher. Her work has appeared in journals and publications throughout the country. Ahead of her one day course, Making Your Mark Online, we spoke to Karen about craft and inspiration, and creating an online presence.
You write in a lot of different forms: poetry, essays, short stories, blogging. What sparks an idea for you, and how do you choose a medium to express an idea?
Ideas come to me all the time – when I was a child, I was told I was ‘too sensitive’ a lot. In a way, this is absolutely true. I observed people, watched their reactions. I monitored my own as well. This triggered many ‘what if?’ or ‘what happened there?’ questions, which I first wrote into diaries and then – much later – started to develop further in different forms. I suppose it comes back to a need to want to understand the world.
It’s harder to answer why I make certain medium choices and why, but here’s my best attempt: Blogging is much more of a documentation, a ‘telling, not showing’; personal essays are the opposite. Poetry begins with an image or a phrase. Short stories (and my longer fiction) are more rooted in the ‘what if?’ question and I’m fascinated by the choices writers make – the HOWs of craft, the tension between story and plot, etc. There’s always more to learn.
How important is building an online profile for authors?
I think it is as important today as it has ever been. Statistically, when I teach, many of my students are either wanting to establish some sort of online presence before their writing careers take off, or they are already signed up for a book deal and their publishers have told them to get one pronto. I think it’s better to be in the former camp because it’s not really that easy. Either way, the internet can be a wide, overwhelming place if you are new to it, but I always say there’s nothing wrong with starting small. One social media channel. Start a newsletter list or a blog. Stick within your comfort levels. Don’t feel like you need to do everything.
What inspired you to get into blogging?
I tell this story a lot – I started for three reasons. The first was because I had two babies and my husband and I live a state away from our families, so I would post photos and amusing little updates for them as to how the kids were doing. The second reason was because I was experiencing severe post-partum anxiety issues after the birth of my youngest. I was in therapy and my therapist suggested I get a hobby to help get better. At the time, I was just learning about this new thing called ‘blogging’ that other mothers in America were doing, accounting for their own difficult experiences. It was as simple as plugging my email into Blogger to get set up and going, so that was what I did. This is because – reason three – I knew Australia wouldn’t be too far behind. I wanted to be an early adopter, in case that would later help my writing career. (It did.) So as I approach my blog’s twelfth anniversary (probably making me a centenarian in internet years!), I like to stop to reflect on how it all began, how far I’ve come, and be grateful for that decision!