Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Women Writers Should Love the Birmingham Public Library

Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

This week has been National Library Week and thus I've been thinking a lot about why I love my local library. When I asked myself that question the answer came to me quickly: My local library empowers me both as a writer and a woman. 

I could talk about the hours on end I spent as a teenager in the North Birmingham, Titusville, and Downtown branches of the library reading books to help me with everything from figuring what religion I truly believed to applying for college, scholarships and financial aid. But I don't have to look back that far. 

Just this year my local library has done plenty for me. 

In February the downtown library hosted its annual Local Authors Expo and gave me an opportunity to lead a workshop on social media and talk about See Jane Write to other local writers. 

In March at the Smithfield library I attended a motivational talk by Eunice Elliott on pursuing dreams, a talk that helped me focus on the goals that matter to me most and figure out the kind of legacy I want to leave. 

The library also opens its doors to local organizations that want to host events of their own to empower Birmingham residents. 

A few weeks ago I attended Power In Heels, a program for female entrepreneurs sponsored by Operation Hope and hosted at the downtown library. I left that program feeling fearless. And last year See Jane Write hosted a panel discussion on publishing.

Women writers should love their local libraries because libraries are buildings rich with inspiration for great stories, and that inspiration doesn't only rest within the pages of novels or short story collections. Visit the archives section, step back in time and watch your imagination run wild. 

Ask to see old scrapbooks of early Birmingham residents like Edith Ward. Take a look at the paper dolls she collected as a child, the letters from boyfriends she received as a teen, and other items like a dance card, clippings of her favorite poems, and playbills from theater performances she attended. Look at photos and read diary entries about her love for her bike, or her "wheel" as she called it. For Edith and other young women of the late 1800s their bikes represented freedom. A girl might hop on her bike and ride from the Southside all the way to Bessemer. 

I don't write much fiction, but learning about Edith's life had me itching to try my hand at a historical novel set in Birmingham. 

Birmingham Public Library staff members after collecting signatures
at City Hall for th
Declaration for the Right to Libraries

As National Library Week comes to an end show your appreciation for Birmingham libraries by signing a declaration of support. The national campaign known as the Declaration for the Right to Libraries is simply a good-faith effort to show how important libraries are in empowering and building communities, strengthening families and changing lives. 

You may visit any library in Jefferson County and ask to sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries. Or you may go online and sign by visiting

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Time Management Tips for Writers

Image by Courtney Dirks via Flickr/Creative Commons

How do you do it all?

This is a question usually posed to career-oriented women who are also fantastic moms. Ironically, this is a question I am asked at least once a week despite the fact that I don't have kids (unless you count the 89 students I teach at the Alabama School of Fine Arts). 

Irene Latham author of books such as Don't Feed the Boy and The Sky Between Us
recently invited me to speak to a meeting of the Birmingham chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and she wanted me to speak on the topic of time management, on how I do it all. 

So what all do I do? I run See Jane Write and See Jane Write Magazine. I maintain a personal blog at I freelance for Birmingham magazine and USA Today's custom publications. I write a monthly column for B-Metro magazine and a monthly segment for Birmingham's NPR affiliate WBHM 90.3. And all of this is in addition to my full-time teaching job. I also exercise every day, stay active in my church and community, and I have a husband who would like to see me sometimes. 

So how do I do all this and stay sane? Well, firstly, I can't guarantee that I'm sane, but there is a method to my madness. 

Here are some of the tips I offered the group last night: 

1. Keep a detailed to-do list every day. I actually keep an old school paper planner and in it I not only keep record of important dates for the month but also daily task lists. On especially busy days I set specific time brackets for each thing I must do. I even write down when I'm going to shower or take a break to grab a bite to eat. 

2. Know your "non-negotiables." I have an ideal schedule for each day, a picture of how much time I would spend not just on writing but also on things like exercise and hanging out with my husband if I could. But then I am willing to adjust this schedule as things come up. The things you place on your ideal schedule, however, should be what I call your "non-negotiables" -- things you must do daily. So I may have to adjust the amount of time I spend on these things or when I do them should speaking or networking opportunities pop up, for example, but I must get these things done nonetheless. My "non-negotiables" are work, exercise, showering, eating, writing or working on See Jane Write, and spending time with my husband. 

If you are a mother or a caretaker for an elderly parent and feel you don't have much control over your day, get up early, stay up late, or carve out time in the middle of the day that you can devote to your writing. 

3. Trust the Pomodoro Technique. If I have a huge project or several tedious tasks to tackle in one day I use the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo is simple, yet brilliant. You break down your work in 25-minute intervals, taking five-minute breaks after each one. After four work periods you take a longer break of about 20 minutes (enough time to grab a sandwich or a shower). The technique is based on the idea that the frequent breaks will keep you sharp. And it works!

4. Be social. I attend several networking events a month. It's a good way to be very career-focused and still have a social life. Also, make time for social media. This doesn't mean you have to stare at your Facebook feed for hours. Just take a few minutes throughout the day (such as during lunch or breaks) to engage your networks. Scheduling tweets and Facebook posts is a great timesaver, too. 

5. Remember that balance is a unicorn. If you want to know how to have a well-balanced life, let me know when you figure that out. During her Birmingham visit last fall, superstar journalist, entrepreneur, wife and mother Soledad O'Brien was asked how she balances it all and her answer was simple: "I don't." She said that sometimes she's a bad mother to be a good journalist, while other times she's a bad journalist to be a good mother. Those comments lifted tons of weight from my shoulders. Sometimes I am a bad blogger because I need to be a good teacher. Sometimes I'm a bad businesswoman because I need to be a good wife, daughter, sister, or friend. And that's OK. 

How do you write and still have a life? 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Introducing The Birmingham Jane

“What will do you do to help others rediscover the magic of Birmingham?” That was the question posed to attendees of the March 1 TEDxBirmingham conference. We were each given a commitment form to fill out answering that question and invited to share our plans on the TEDxBirmingham commitment wall. I sat for hours pondering what I would do. I sat holding my commitment form in my hand, crumpling it to the point that I had to ask for another one.
But as the conference continued I began to notice a clear theme: the power of storytelling. Though the topics of the talks ran the gamut — from cyber crime and medical research to improving education and supporting the arts — each speaker was inspiring me to make a difference because of their captivating stories. And in some cases they had even made a difference and brought about significant change simply by telling stories.
And so I knew what I would do. I would start The Birmingham Jane project — a See Jane Write series of profiles on women in Birmingham who are making a difference in our city. My hope is that by sharing their stories I will inspire readers to strive to make a positive impact in their spheres of influence as well.
I launched this series last Monday at See Jane Write Magazine. I felt it was only right to begin this series with a woman who not only spoke at TEDxBirmingham but has been a cheerleader and champion for Birmingham for years: Laura Kate Whitney. You can read her profile here.
If you know of a woman who is making a difference in Birmingham please send your nominations to And don’t be ashamed to nominate yourself!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bloggers Who Brunch Roll Call

Thanks to everyone who came out to today's Bloggers Who Brunch event at the Egg & I in Vestavia. We didn't have a formal program. I just wanted to give local ladies who blog and write an opportunity to nosh and network. We had a blast (and so did that adorable little boy you see in the picture).

Here's a list of who attended:

Javacia Harris Bowser (that's me!)
In addition to this website, I also blog at

Chanda Temple

Bertha Hidalgo

Vanessa Culpepper

Lissa Peterson

Jane Bussey

Shella Sylla

Abiola Sholanke

Mandy Shunnarah

Cathy Porterfield

Media White

Wade Kwon

During brunch I enlisted a few ladies to help me with a fabulous event I'm planning for the summer. Details coming soon!

If you'd like to be informed about future events, email me at

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Join Us for Bloggers Who Brunch

You've heard of ladies who lunch, but the women of See Jane Write are bloggers who brunch!

Let's get together on Sunday, April 13 for a casual brunch to discuss blogging and any other writing matters on your mind. There will be no formal presentations. This will just be a good opportunity for you to network with other women who write. This event is open to all; you'll just need to cover the cost of your meal. (Guys are welcome to come, too.)

We'll meet from noon to 2 p.m. at the Egg & I in Vestavia Hills, located at 700 Montgomery Highway. 

So if you're a church-going gal, go to an early service and then come join me for good food and good fun. 

And don't forget to bring your business cards!

PLEASE RSVP BY FRIDAY, APRIL 11 via Facebook or in the comments section of this post.

See you Sunday! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Blogger's Guide to Birmingham Fashion Week 2014

Calling all fashion bloggers! 

Birmingham Fashion Week 2014 kicks off Saturday, April 19. If you'd like to apply for a media pass to cover this year's events, you'd better hurry. The deadline for media registration is April 1. 

Don't be daunted by the word "media." You don't need to be a reporter for a major magazine or newspaper to be considered. The organizers of BFW show plenty of love to independent fashion bloggers too. They're looking for blogging who consistently post relevant and timely fashion stories and bloggers who are very active on social media.Bloggers who provide pre-event coverage and those who provided significant coverage of last year's event will be given priority. 

If you don't snag a media pass you can still cover Birmingham Fashion Week without breaking the bank. Simply attend the event(s) best suited to the theme of your blog. If your blog focuses on local style then you don't want to miss Grassroots: A Local Fashion Evolution. This event, set for Tuesday, April 22, will feature local emerging designers vying for the title as emerging designer of the year. This event will also include designs by Elizabeth Singleton, last year's emerging designer winner. The local vintage lifestyle brand Harold & MOD will be featured as well. 

If your blog covers both fashion and fitness then Lifestyle: Mind, Body, and Soul is the event for you. Set for Wednesday, April 23, this event will feature fashions from Pure Barre, Mountain High Outfitters, and lululemon athletica. 

For a complete schedule of events visit

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reconnect with Your Fearless Self

Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans signed a declaration
of her support of Birmingham libraries.
(Photo Credit: Chanda Temple)
What do you want to be when you grow up?

Do you remember what answer you gave to that question when you were a child? I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. Alabama legislator Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans had this same dream as a girl and shared this with me and the dozens of other female entrepreneurs who gathered for the Power in Heels business workshop on March 28. The free event, hosted by Operation HOPE Birmingham, was held in the Arrington Auditorium of the central branch of the Birmingham Public Library

Coleman-Evans was the keynote speaker at Friday's event and she talked to us about being fearless and fierce. Like many of us, Coleman-Evans had plenty of fierceness and fearlessness as a girl dreaming presidential dreams. 

But she not only talked the talked, but she also started making strides toward achieving her lofty aspirations. In 2002 Coleman-Evans was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives when she was only 28 years old. 

But that's only part of the story, Coleman-Evans told us. Along her road to success, she faced a speed bump: fearfulness. She began to to doubt herself. 

Perhaps you're dealing with doubt too. Perhaps you're dealing with a significant other, a family member, a co-worker, or a friend who is discouraging you from pursuing your writing or business goals. Perhaps you're doubting yourself because you've faced rejection. 

But Coleman-Evans gave us a simple charge: Don't let anyone else dim your light.

She urged us to remember that boldness we had as girls and to reconnect with our fearless selves. Coleman-Evans closed her talk with a song many of us knew from childhood: "This Little Light of Mine."

She invited us all to stand to our feet, clap and sing along. She wanted us to declare, in song, that we will let our lights shine everywhere we go. 

When you were a child what did you dream of becoming? Why did you let that dream go? 

Sometimes we let go of dreams because our goals and interests change. I realized I wasn't interested in politics enough to run for any office. I realized writing was my true passion. But sometimes we let go of dreams because we start to doubt ourselves as we grow older and face failure, rejection and fear.  But what would happen if we chose to believe in ourselves anyway? 

Dare to have childlike faith in yourself.