About Karen

I’m Karen M. Black, an AWAI Verified direct response copywriter. Plain language writer and consultant. And a few other Writer Hats that might surprise you...

I’m doing this “About Karen” section a bit differently...

I start with some personal and professional facts about me.

Then I’m going to tell you a story. Yes, I know this is kind of unusual.

But I hope that this not only shows my natural writing style. But gives you a glimpse of who I am... so you can decide if we might be a fit.

And... here is me at-a-glance if you prefer...

Some personal and professional facts about me

I grew up in Collingwood, a small ski and cottage town on Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada.

Way back, I got a BSc in Biology and English at the University of Toronto. Then later, an MBA from Rotman in Toronto.

I’ve been writing for insurance companies since the early 90’s.

In 1999, I became a communication consultant, writing about group life and health benefits, pensions and investments for employees.

And in 2006, I went freelance: emphasis on free.

Since then, I’ve been honing my skills in plain language writing.

That is, unraveling complex information for Mere Mortals.

And I've also become AWAI Verified in direct response copywriting.

Which means that I can not only simpilfy complex products and services. But I have the skills to sell them, too.

Not many people know this. But for 43 years, I lived two separate lives...

A dependable, buttoned-down life.

And this quiet, rebellious life that I’ll get to shortly.

For a long time, I hid one from the other.

Because my two lives colliding felt dangerous to me...

I always felt writing was “cheating” somehow

When I was 16, I wanted to be a dentist. So I took Biology.

Then I realized I didn’t want to slave over people’s mouths all day. So I got a quick major in English.

So yeah. I've always had this "technical" and "creative" thing going on.

But I always felt that writing was cheating somehow…because it came so easy to me.

This didn’t line up with my beliefs about Work.

Because wasn’t Work supposed to be hard?

Instead of climbing the corporate ladder… I watched it fall apart

The first company I worked for ended up $120 million in debt and went bankrupt.

I know because I helped out in the Treasury department.

Years later, I learned the owner committed suicide (sad, true story).

Through a headhunter, I landed at an insurance company in the marketing department.

What happened when I landed at the doomed Confederation Life

It was at Confed that I got a taste for financial and insurance writing.

Strange I know, but I liked it.

And in 1994, Confed rose to fame as the largest North American insurer to collapse.

Yep. Losses in the billions. You can read about it here: Who Killed Confederation Life? The Inside Story

Evidently, not too big to fail.

For me, two jobs. Two companies dead.

I was batting 100.

For a time, I felt cursed: I wanted out

After Confed collapsed, I had a hard time for a while.

I was done with big companies. On a deep level, I wanted out.

Doing my MBA was a temporary escape.

At Rotman, I made some good friends.

Worked hard. Earned The Degree in 1997.

My first post-MBA job included direct response copywriting.

Though I had no idea that this style of writing had a name…

I ditched my suits, and turned my back on “corporate”

For a year or so, I was a conference developer at a company that’s still around today.

I could walk to work. I could wear jeans most days. I loved that.

I researched business trends.

I came up with conference ideas for financial planners and pharmaceutical execs.

Got the speakers on board.

And part of my job was writing the direct mail brochures.

At the time, persuasive writing was new to me.

But I have to admit, it was kinda fun…

Out of the blue, I got The Call to be a consultant

Literally it was The Call.

From a friend of a colleague.

It was a fab opportunity. A nice bump in salary.

So in 2001 a few weeks before 9/11, I started as a communication consultant at an actuarial firm.

My specialty was simplifying benefits, pensions and investments for employees.

Technical, huh?

And how far, far away from direct response copywriting.

Watching two employers crumble had a real effect on me

I put on my pumps each morning and worked hard. But I took it all with a grain of salt.

It was work. And I enjoyed it.

But it wasn’t who I was.

I have to admit, consulting gave me a decent living.

There were some fun times. Good people, too!

But after a few years, I realized the 9 to 5 wasn’t for me.

In fact, it dragged me down.

Every day, I felt more and more trapped.

Outside the office, what interested me was, well. Weird.

You think Psychology is deep?

Ha! That’s nuthin’.

I spent four years studying karmic astrology.

Unusual, huh?

But it’s kind of cool as well.

Because it helped me move past some things that were perplexing to me.

And it helped me create meaning in my life.

It’s not for everyone, of course.

But it's an example of the kind of thing I've been drawn to.

Away from the office, I was drawn to the fringes

And on weekends, I quietly wrote (telling no one).

Years later, I'd publish Moondance, an addictive spin on life, love and the nature of reality.

Moondance is intense. Sensory.

A bit edgy for the Love and Light genre.

But it won a few indie awards.

And this was where my love of writing emotionally-charged content was set.

In 2008, I got burned – and got curious

When the financial crash happened, I didn’t panic.

But I did wonder.

The bail outs. Madoff.

None of it felt right. So I began to dig.

Discovered fractional lending. The Federal Reserve.

Met The Creature from Jekyll Island.

Of course, I’m skimming over research that took years.

What I'm saying is that I’m naturally curious.

And I question.

I left my job with nowhere to go

You read that right.

It was scary and exhilarating.

A leap of faith!

From the get go, I was busy with freelance work - emphasis on "free".

This gave me time for my Sensory Writing.

Creating more... and promoting it.

And shortly after, I found Ken Evoy’s SiteSell.

How I learned to write SEO friendly web content

SiteSell is like a university course in creating your own web business.

It covers everything. From researching viable concepts. To writing SEO optimized content.

In 2009, I launched Heart Explorations.

Followed by an inspirational e-newsletter Moondancing.

Over a few years, I created a 5,000 person list using only SEO.

Modest perhaps, if you're a pro.

But remember, I was doing this part-time.

Sometimes, with months of neglect.

But even then, my life was still split

By day, I was Karen "Communication Consultant, MBA".

Doing straight up plain language writing and consulting… and unraveling crazy complexity.

By night, I wrote emotionally-charged content that brought (some) people to tears.

The two worlds (and writing styles) were so different.

Some days, it still felt I was living two different lives.

I waded into the hypey world of online marketing

Talk about overwhelming!

For a time, I was distracted by Shiny Objects.

Fascinated and repulsed all at the same time.

At first I thought direct marketing writers were a bunch of hucksters!

They all sounded slick. A bit too smooth.

I knew I had it in me to write that way.

But I also recoiled at the style.

I hated the hype. I didn't trust it.

Yet, these people measured like crazy. What they did worked.

Yes, I knew I could go down that online marketing road.

But for a while, I wasn't sure I wanted to...

Along the way, I made some humiliating mistakes…

Working freelance hasn’t always been easy.

If you've ever worked on your own, I'm sure you get it.

But going back to full-time was out of the question for me.

So when my Feasts turned to Famine, I tried a few things.

I took a high-priced Platinum Program to be a coach

It was an excellent program. Great people.

I learned what a multi-million dollar coaching practice looked like.

From the start, I got some traction with great clients.

But coaching wasn’t a fit (I’m too much of an introvert).

INFP according to Myers Briggs, if that means anything to you...

Then came the Big Fail that I am almost too embarrassed to write about…

The MLM wasn’t Amway… it was worse

I threw thousands of dollars way, hoping for “passive income for life”.

It was called the Global Information Network.

A non-descript name.

But the concept they were selling was compelling to me.

Empowering self-growth.

Peace between people with different worldviews.

And I have to admit even today...

This group brought together some remarkable people from all over the world.

But the Founder was a Black Hat pretending to be White

He was an info-mercial pitchman. Used direct marketing to grow.

But life caught up with him. A few years in, he was sent to jail for fraud.

No shit.

Sad thing, he was a talented guy. Created some good stuff.

He could have done it all on the level.

Done some good, and still got fabulously rich!

But he was greedy.

Didn’t care about his customers… just about control.

Used NLP, hypnosis and every trick in the book to wrap people around his little finger.

I was repulsed and horrified.

I had just witnessed the dark side of direct marketing… up close and personal

Luckily, I didn’t swallow the Cool Aid. I wasn’t all in.

While I lost thousands, there were those who lost much more.

For me, The Lesson went deeper.

I wasn't supposed to get behind someone else's vision.

I wasn't supposed to hock someone else's "talents".

I was never, ever to give away my power.

I was to commit to... and express my own.

But persuasive writing? Still wasn't convinced...

You know why, right?

Because sales was for shady people.

And direct response writing was for fraudsters and hucksters.

Control-driven hypnotists.

Hypey, slimy salespeople... who deserve to be in jail.

After the Shady MLM, I felt embarrassed and almost gave up

I even toyed with going back to work full time.

(that would have been a disaster)

Then one day years later, it was as if I was hit over the head…

… and the sound that bounced off my thick skull was Duhhhhh.

My way forward wasn’t coaching.

It wasn’t doing the fist-pump MLM hustle.

It was writing.

It had always been writing.

The question was... what kind of writer was I?

My tipping point came when I discovered there are White Hats

When I found them, I got on their lists.

For a while, I watched multi-million dollar coach Ali Brown, who started out as a copywriter and The Ezine Queen.

I studied million dollar copywriter Dan Kennedy.

Perry Marshall, engineer turned online marketer and consultant.

I read Robert Skrob’s Official Get Rich Guide to Information Marketing.

And many, many more.

This was heartening to me.

I began to imagine: how could I use my skills...for good?

Financial and insurance writing.

Plain language writing.

An uncommon understanding of the human psyche.

Sensory, emotionally-charged writing.

SEO and web writing.

An understanding of internet marketing.

My love of research and my endless curiosity...

Why reading my first AWAI course made me howl with laughter…

If anyone had watched me reading AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, they’d think I was nuts.

Because while reading… I was laughing out loud!

Not because the course didn’t resonate.

Because it did.

AWAI teaches persuasive writing, with integrity.

Intuitively, I had been writing this way for years.

Just not for clients.

A fire in my belly growing... I finally knew what to do

I got AWAI Verified.

Bought The Secrets of Writing Blockbuster Financial Controls.

Then Dan Kennedy’s course on writing for large Information Marketers.

I began collecting letters by the masters, wrote them out by hand.

Quietly, I registered a website for folks in direct marketing who don't know me yet.

… Extra Sensory Selling.

Life has taught me how powerful direct response sales writing can be... and how dark it can be, too

For some clients... I Just Simplify.

For others... I Simplify and Sell.

And when I write to sell…I wear a White Hat.

I write to connect and convert.

But I'm not into hypey "huckster copy".

High-pressure MEGAPHONE copy.

NLP...without permission.

Made up proof.

Instead, I simplify copy for Mere Mortals.

And sell powerfully and honestly.

Presenting a product in its best light.

If we work together, I will throw everything I have at your business

Do you Sense that we’re a fit?

Copywriting Mantra

Simplify. Get real. Be More Human.

So that’s how I became an emotional direct response copywriter for financial and insurance…

Offline, I live in a gorgeous 160-year-old heritage home, east of Toronto.

I garden. I write outside as often as possible.

My latest Emotionally Charged Writing is an intimate memoir.

The book's about family and getting free from the past.

Unless you’re the odd duck in your family.

And a curious, free-thinking seeker...forget about reading it.

I share this only to say: I still wear a few Writing Hats.

It's true: I look at life through an unusual lens

It's just the way I am.

And finally through Extra Sensory Selling, my "two separate lives" have come together.

But I no longer think that it's dangerous.

It's the difference I had to offer all along.

As I type, I’m sitting cross-legged on my deck

In bare feet, of course.

And I’m wondering who’s going to respond to this story About Karen.

And who has already clicked away.

I'm kinda curious about that.

But here's the thing.

I did not come here to fit in.

"Normal" doesn't really interest me.

Never has.


Do you have an unusual product or service?

Is your business somewhat complex to explain, but valuable?

Do you have a pioneering idea whose time has come?

Do you wish that more people knew you were the Real Deal?

Are you a rebel in your industry?

Do you genuinely care about your customers?

Do you surround yourself with good, honest people?

Do you need to simplify your documents for Mere Mortals?

Or are you using direct marketing to grow?

Do you have a desire to…

Just Simplify to increase comprehension, transparency and trust?


Simplify and Sell to attract more of your best customers in a way that’s simple, real and human?

Okay, so now you know a bit about me…

Does this sound a bit like you?


Not ready to reach out? I get it.

Consider signing up at my home page. That way, I won't fall off your radar. And you'll be politely notified when I have more to share.