Kari Kampakis is a mum of four daughters who writes about everyday events and significant moments that reveal a divine movement in life. She loves girls and believes many world problems can be solved by slumber parties, late-night chats with your best friends, music, and dancing.
When Kari wrote a blog post titled 10 Truths Young Girls Should Know, the post went viral and was shared 74,000 times on Facebook and pinned 20,000 times on Pinterest. Her blog’s success prompted her to pursue her dream of becoming a writer and soon she was offered a chance to publish a nonfiction book for teen and tween girls that expanded on exactly those 10 truths that struck a chord in people’s hearts, aspiring to reach out to both mothers and daughters. Filled with practical advice, loving support, and insightful discussion questions, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know offers a timely and approachable list of guidelines that will help young girls navigate a broken world into adulthood.
Her truths did not take long to become a bestseller which led to yet another book for girls in the digital age, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? Teen girls deal daily with cliques, bullying, rejection, and social media fiascos in a time when desire to be perfect starts early. What Kari wants girls to know is that they don’t have to compromise their integrity or their future to find love, acceptance, and security.
The need for approval, the longing for acceptance and being liked by a lot of people are being constantly channelled online, thanks to social media. Girls can curate an image, build a following, and test-drive identities until they find one that draws attention and applause.
But in this quest to be liked and noticed, girls often fail to feel loved and known. The result is a generation of girls who hunger for real and authentic relationships – yet are unclear on how to create them. We found Kari and had a chat on motherhood, writing, girlhood and viral success.
How did you get into writing? What did you do before that?
I always loved to write, even as a little girl. After college I worked in public relations and did a lot of corporate writing, and then in motherhood, I took up photography. While pregnant with my third daughter I realised my true passion was writing, so I quit photography and started writing fiction at night as an escape. It took seven years of writing diligently to reach my dream of being a published author, and my first book came about because of a blog post that went viral and caught the attention of a publisher.
You mention it took you a few years until you managed to garner some local readership and start your own blog before catching the attention of a publicist. What was it that kept you focused and going? Did you ever feel like giving up?
Yes! I wanted to give up all the time. My husband can attest that many tears were shed over the rejections I received and the doors that closed. What kept me going was my love for writing, and how I’d never enjoyed another hobby to the same level. Deep down I knew God wouldn’t give me the passion for writing and desire to be a writer without a reason, so I clung to the hope that one day the hard work and perseverance would pay off. Thankfully it did.
How hard is it to be a successful writer and columnist while being a mother of four (or should I say five) and a wife?
Being a mum is hard, whether you’re working or staying home full-time. My work would not be possible without my husband, who wholeheartedly supports me and takes care of the kids when I’m working on a deadline or have a speaking engagement. We’re definitely a team, but it’s not perfect. Like every mum, I have days I can’t get it together and accomplish all that I want to. I’m learning to show myself grace and lower expectations for what I can do in this busy season of parenting. Keeping my family first often means keeping my commitments light and only taking on projects that align with my kids’ schedules.
What inspires you? Is it everyday life?
Everything! I’d say my biggest inspirations are family, friends, and God. I’ve found that if I approach life and people with a healthy curiosity, and stay open to discovering whatever they’re meant to teach me, I’ll walk away feeling enlightened in some way. Even though God is invisible, His fingerprints are everywhere, and I love to write about His work in my life and the world around me that may be not obvious at first glance.
To you, what is the most challenging part of writing books for teens?
Trying to understand the realities they deal with. Although I remember being a teenager and can relate to much of what today’s girls go through, I must also keep in mind that they face more pressures and higher expectations than I ever did. When writing for teens, it’s important to be empathetic and have a heart for what they’re juggling. They’re much more likely to listen when they know you truly care and aren’t just trying to preach/tell them what to do.
Do you predominantly focus on girls or are boys part of the equation, too?
Since I have four daughters, I primarily write for girls and mums, and the issues we deal with at every age – especially in relationships. Occasionally I’ll write an article for boys, but that’s rare.
What’s the best advice you could give to a young girl, a young woman, a mother?
Stop beating yourself up. Women and girls alike tend to be very self-critical, often speaking more harshly to ourselves than we’d ever speak to a friend. Just as it’s important to be kind and merciful to others, we should be kind and merciful to ourselves.
Kari’s thought-provoking books have seen great success and her columns featured on The Huffington Post, The Today Show, EWTN, Yahoo! News, Ann Voskamp’s blog, Hands Free Mama, and other national outlets.
To find out more, head to karikampakis.com