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Books That Matter to Abby Kerr

Abby Coterie Headshot

Abby Kerr makes branding artful, meaningful, and – most of all – effective.

But it wasn’t always so.

Abby’s journey has taken her from English teacher to cool boutique owner to founder of her one-woman show Abby Kerr, Inc. to her latest venture, The Voice Bureau – a boutique branding agency that helps entrepreneurs and micro-businesses show up with a signature vision and brand.

Abby’s take on branding captivates me for three reasons.

Taste – Abby’s artful attention to detail helps me and my patch of the planet understand why certain iconography works or flops for certain messages and messengers.

Hootzpah – Abby critiques her field and chintzy trends within it. She calls people – usually not by name – on their stuff. As she said in one interview, “Haphazardry in branding has to go.” (Plus, she admits to being decidedly un-hip, which endears instantly to my heart.)

Empathy – Abby’s perspective is research-based + heart-based, a combo we also respect at Tracking Wonder. That combo lets her critique and advise from a decidedly empathetic stance versus a purely subjective stance that equates to, “Well, this is what I think….”

I’m pleased to share with this language-loving entrepreneur’s take on Books That Matter to her. You learn about her girlhood fantasies of blond island boys, the difference between an off-brand blond Oreo book and a Laduree Macaron book, and more.

What one book most took off the top of your head (Dickinson on poetry) or was “the axe for the frozen sea within” you (Kafka) or otherwise just changed something profound within you? What did it do for you? Maybe a book that lit you up as a child or that turned you on as a young adult or last week that salved some pain or turned your thinking upside-down.

One of the first books that cracked me open as a reader, and made me see so much more of what the novel, as form, could hold, was Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I wept through so much of that book. Her poetic command of the English language is formidable. Her characters are like us: human, flawed, painfully beautiful, and yet completely mysterious. That was the book that made me want to write my own stories. I still think all the time of Morrison’s quote: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

The book I imagined/imagine living inside of is (as an adolescent), the Prince Edward Island communities where L.M. Montgomery’s novels were set: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and the rest of the Anne series in particular.

Gosh. I truly thought I was going to grow up, live in a huge rambling old Victorian house in PEI, write novels from my kitchen table while my seven children and doting neighbors held court around me (I know), and marry a sturdy blond Island boy who was putting himself through medical school picking oranges in the Summers (on PEI?) while wearing low-slung burlap pants held up by suspenders. Ah, childhood fantasies.

The kinds of books I am most appreciating or seeking these days are,

Books that take me outside of my default genre, which is contemporary women’s fiction with a literary sensibility. I know this isn’t that far outside, but I discovered Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL this past year (along with the rest of the literate universe) and now I’m turned on to psychological thrillers. (The ones that keep bloodshed to a minimum.) I just read her debut novel, SHARP OBJECTS, on a plane ride from Ohio to Washington. It made the time fly.

The kinds of books that most irritate me are women’s novels that feel hokey, cheap, and made of poor ingredients.

It’s like eating a generic brand sandwich cookie (like an off-brand blond Oreo) when what you really wanted was a Ladurée Macaron. There’s nothing wrong with light, formulaic, genre fiction — but please give contemporary female readers a little credit.

I will read anything written by,

Jeffrey Eugenides (Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, The Marriage Plot) or Elin Hilderbrand (my favorite beach read author — smart, sexy, intelligent fiction that whisks you right into Summer and into other people’s relationships).

Survey: Roughly what % of books do you read digitally versus in paper? (What’s your preferred reader?)

For someone who lives so much of her professional life digitally, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read digitally — seriously! I’m a paper book girl from way back. If I’m desperate to start on a book today (and don’t want to wait for shipping), I’ll buy it for my Kindle app for iPhone, but I actually enjoy reading that way. Reading stories or poems needs to be a much more tactile experience for me.

Check out Abby’s current project, Empathy Marketing,  a codified, holistic framework for identifying, connecting with, and converting the Right People Most Likely To Buy from you into clients who are glad and ready to pay for the excellent work you have to offer.


Share your comments, responses to the same questions, and questions for Abby here.

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