August 18, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

5 Questions with Crazy Aunt Purl

5 Questions with Crazy Aunt Purl

Today, our series of asking five questions of a non-PR blogger turns to a wildly popular blog about…knitting! Proving that blogs can delve into just about any niche category and reach a wide audience as long as they feature engaging reading and heart-felt content, Crazy Aunt Purl has been a daily read of mine for a year now. I came across her amazingly funny book, “Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair,” when I was going through my divorce, and have been hooked ever since. I’m honored that Laurie was willing to participate, and I encourage anyone who isn’t sure how influential niche blogs can really be to head over to Crazy Aunt Purl and allow yourself to be pulled in by her writing. You would be crazypants not to.

Today, our series of asking five questions of a non-PR blogger turns to a wildly popular blog about…knitting! Proving that blogs can delve into just about any niche category and reach a wide audience as long as they feature engaging reading and heart-felt content, Crazy Aunt Purl has been a daily read of mine for a year now. I came across her amazingly funny book, “Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair,” when I was going through my divorce, and have been hooked ever since. I’m honored that Laurie was willing to participate, and I encourage anyone who isn’t sure how influential niche blogs can really be to head over to Crazy Aunt Purl and allow yourself to be pulled in by her writing. You would be crazypants not to.

What prompted you to blog/use social media?

Laurie:  Long before there was “blogging” a lot of folks had online diaries, just normal folks writing about their lives in this weird new forum of the internet. It was kind of the precursor to blogging I guess. I used to do some of that, and I enjoyed it, I love writing stuff and making jokes and seeing what sticks. Then I got divorced and my life sort of revolved around being miserable and unfashionable and often crazy.

A friend of mine dragged me off to a knitting class — she told me I needed a hobby other than drinking — and before long I was totally, irrevocably hooked on knitting. At the time I had terrible insomnia and so one night I searched the internet for free knitting patterns and that was how I discovered knitting blogs. I thought, “Oh! I can do that!” I wanted to make a website where I could chatter on aimlessly about garter stitch.

And in the beginning I wrote about knitting because it seemed like a safe subject, one which wouldn’t make me seem too maudlin, weepy and crazy (I was in the first few months of my divorce and it was tentative over in the sanity department.)

But there’s only so much I could say about knitting. So I started writing about my real life and it was such a relief! Just to get it out. It evolved over time. I still think of my website as a little online diary.

Blogging seems more hip and I –sadly — am tragically un-hip.

What benefits–direct and indirect–have you discovered using this communications tool?

Laurie: My life has changed in really unexpected ways. For one thing, my experiences with the website eventually led to my first book, and “Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair” was released last fall. That certainly changed my life forever, especially the book tour where I got to meet my online fans face-to-face. I never was someone who was good at public speaking and especially these past few years I just have had frightful social awkwardness, so promoting the book has forced to me to do things I normally would never do. Going to New York City for my first Book Expo was about as far away from my normal life as you can imagine and after I had to do my speaking event there I actually ran backstage and burst into tears — and the microphone was still on! Nice job! But I did it, you know? I don’t think I could have managed that even a year prior.

I’m so grateful that anyone would make time in their day to come to an event that it makes it all worthwhile. Meeting folks who’ve read something I wrote and it resonated with them — that is by far the best feeling ever. I never expected that and I love it, I love meeting readers who were entertained, or feel connected to a part of the story, or who just love to knit. It’s hands-down the very best change in my life.

And of course being more exposed to the public has also meant that I’ve had to learn how to draw boundaries, and I’m very careful about what I choose to share and what stays private. I think this is a good lesson to learn, and sometimes a challenge for me.

Writing is tough work, and blogs, with the need to be updated on a fairly regular basis, can be particularly challenging. How do you stay inspired, and how do you keep things interesting?

Laurie: When I started writing my little website, I didn’t have a plan or a goal, I just needed an outlet. It was at a time when my life was falling apart and I was about as untethered as a person gets and I had no one to talk to and no money for therapy… so I just wrote it all down.  And I kept writing. Every day. Sometimes twice a day.

I wrote for almost a year and I don’t think anyone was really reading. But I kept writing because I loved it, and the readership grew slowly, it’s still growing. I think the secret to any kind of success is to do it because you love it and do it on a very regular basis. Kind of like sex.

Or lunch!

There are some days when I would rather do anything than write, especially when work is busy and I’m traveling a lot and I have to do laundry and want to watch “Dancing With The Stars” and whatever lame complaints I may have that day. It usually happens when I’m exhausted and feel like I am burning all candles at all ends. But that’s just whining, and there is work to be done. So I get up at 5 a.m. and write anyway, and once I start I love it all over again. I have my days where I’m not very witty or interesting and others when I am right on point and just doing the work, just typing out the words, that’s the real accomplishment for me. But here’s the thing — I never stop writing. I write all the time. (I am on occasion a bit too wordy, as it turns out!) so that even on the days when I just post a cat picture or blather on about traffic in Los Angeles, it still keeps the river of words going. You have to keep that creative stream going, it’s more important than laundry or Dancing With the Stars…

What three blogs do you read regularly, and why?

Laurie: I’m so outed here — I don’t spend a huge amount of time reading blogs. I know, they’re going to revoke my blogger card aren’t they? But I just check in on my friends’ blogs and that’s about it, I spend most of my time online working or catching up on news.

Are there any other social media tools that you have found particularly useful (like Twitter), or, if you’ve tried other tools and prefer to focus on blogging, why?

Laurie: No, it appears I’m a caveman. I don’t use Instant Messaging, I’m not on any social networks and I don’t even log on to check email on the weekends. If I go online on the weekend it’s because I need something critical like, “I’m making mojitos and this recipe is in metric so how many ounces are in a liter?” I still have a landline. Apparently in Los Angeles this makes me both an eccentric and a total loser — seeing as everyone in this city is on their blackberry even in traffic! I don’t have a blackberry. I don’t want my phone to email anyone. I don’t want fax paper coming out of my butt. I’m not sure why we have to combine all tasks at the same time, do you have to eat while texting while receiving a call and also while flexing your glutes? I need a certain amount of total unplugging in my life, because I am crazypants that way.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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