Thursday, November 29, 2012

See Jane Move




Ironically, one of the best things that have come out of the #bloglikecrazy project has nothing to do with blogging.

Throughout the month members of See Jane Write who have participated in the challenge have been sharing links to their posts on See Jane Write Facebook group page. Through these posts we quickly realized that many, if not most, of us have a strong interest in fitness.

So Tanya Sylvan had the great idea of organizing See Jane Move -- an event to both celebrate the completion of #bloglikecrazy and help us all in our quest to stay or get in shape.

On Saturday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m. we will meet at Railroad Park, 1600 1st Ave. S., Birmingham, for a walk/run. Feel free to roller skate or dance or do whatever you please. Just keep moving.

Bring a healthy snack to share. After exercising we will sit down and enjoy a little picnic brunch.

I hope those of you in Birmingham this weekend will join us. You can RSVP here or leave a comment on this post letting me know you'll be there.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: why should writers care about fitness? You can't write a best seller or an award-winning blog if you're dead!

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time Management Tips from Moms Who Blog

As #bloglikecrazy comes to an end you may be thinking, “OMG! I need a blogging sabbatical after this!” But please resist the temptation to take a hiatus. Most likely, you’ve picked up a following of new readers or won back old ones this month. This is no time to give them the silent treatment.

Please know I’m mostly talking to myself here. And so, I recently turned to a few of my blogging buddies for some time management tips. I decided to specifically ask bloggers who are also moms for help. Why? Because I figure if they can find time to blog with kids running around the house I really have no excuse.

Rachel Callahan
Time management has become increasingly important for Rachel Callahan of the blog Grasping for Objectivity.

At the beginning of this year, Callahan embarked on a study of how to successfully utilize Pinterest as a blogger. (The results of her studies can be found on Birmingham Blogging Academy here and here.)

Callahan explains: “When I wrote those posts, I only thought I had experienced virality, with about 20,000 pins of my posts.  A month later, I found myself getting 1 million hits on my blog in a little over a month, up to 88,000 hits in a day, and eventually leveling out to 10-15,000 visitors per day.  Before the summer, I was getting 1,000 hits a day!  As of today, I have nearly 300,000 pins of my posts on Pinterest and adding around 2,000 pins a day, with my Inconvenient Gap of Truth post creating most of that traffic.”

More hits, however, mean more work.

“I am determined to answer all emails and question comments, and a million hits create a LOT of emails and question comments,” she said. Also, in addition to making a lot of money from her ad networks after this boost in traffic, Callahan was contacted by a major denim manufacturer for consultation for their lines.

So how does she find time to do it all and be a wife and mother of two?

“I try to get as many posts done on the weekend as possible, because of the demands of simply keeping up with my emails and comments during the week,” she said.

And throughout the week Callahan always takes advantage of her kids’ nap time.

“Those couple of hours every day is when I accomplish blogging, working from home for my husband's company, answering email and comments, and everything else that has to be done,” she said.

Another piece of advice Callahan offered for all bloggers: “Try to capitalize on your brain when you're in the right mindset to write. I have learned to sense when writing will come easily and when it will be excruciating.  When I'm in the right mindset, I try to write as much as I possibly can.  When I'm in the wrong mindset, I use my time more efficiently by answering emails, comments, and other administrative tasks.”

Amber Wright
Amber Wright started her blog The YeYo Diaries to document her journey of pregnancy and motherhood and to use as a virtual scrapbook for her family. She also writes about marriage and relationships, easy recipes, pop culture, and other topics.

Wright juggles blogging with a full-time job and a part-time job, along with being a wife and mother. She stressed the importance of consistently setting aside time to blog, “even if it’s only an hour to get one or two posts done,” she said. “It will leave you feeling focused and accomplished!

Wright usually writes on Sunday and she keeps a running list of topics for inspiration.

“A couple of time management tips I’d offer other bloggers are to know why you’re doing it,” Wright said. “Is it for fun and leisure? To grow an audience? Promote a cause? Knowing why you’re blogging will keep you from wasting time on it.”


Laura Kate Whitney

Laura Kate Whitney, author of the popular Birmingham-based blog Magic City Made, gave advice specifically geared toward mothers, but tips that any of us could use. She suggests that you set aside a certain time and place to blog. 

With little ones around, there will never be a good time to blog, so just assign yourself a time and place to get it done,” Whitney said. “But unless you're getting paid to post on time, don't fret being a bit late. You are, after all, a mother. The job tends to pull from all angles. It's okay.
                  


That said, Whitney stressed that it is important for moms to be vigilant enough to get in time to write, even if it means getting a neighbor or your spouse to watch the kiddos while you steal a few quiet moment alone with your laptop.

“Sometimes we mamas put everybody else first, and our own interests take a back seat,” she said. “Make time to get those words out, Mama. You deserve it.”

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What FoodBlogSouth is cooking up for 2013

Guest post by Shaun Chavis 


When Jason Horn and I started FoodBlogSouth three years ago: 

I thought it would be a one-day workshop with about 50 to 75 people. 

I didn't think we'd have a sell-out crowd the first year. 

And I had no clue how many great friendships and opportunities it would create… not just for me and Jason, but for the bloggers, speakers, and sponsors who have been a part. 


High Road Ice Cream of Atlanta served ice cream samples at the last FoodBlogSouth Conference
and they'll be back in 2013!


Jason and I started FBS for two reasons: Reason #1, most of the food blogging conferences were either in New York or somewhere on the West Coast. If you're in the South, you can easily spend $1000 or more to attend a 2-day conference in either of those spots. We wanted something we, and our other food blogging friends in the South, could attend without breaking the bank. We also felt like Southern food bloggers in general have something unique to contribute to the entire food blogging world, and we wanted a conference that could support and call attention to that. And we realized Birmingham had a lot of great resources to be able to do it. The talent here alone is a hidden incredible gem.

Reason #2: We wanted to support a local non-profit children's writing project that was just starting up, Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO).

So here we are, just a few months from our third event! For FoodBlogSouth 2013, we've got three tracks. A half-day beginning track, a full day creative track, and a full day tech & business of blogging track. If you attend, you don't have to stick to one track, you can hop back and forth. 

The Pecans Project from Greensboro, which helps high school dropouts learn business skills,
served spiced nut samples and pecan butter samples at FoodBlogSouth 2012. 

Ready for the highlights? 
  • Our keynote speaker is J. Kenji-Alt Lopez, of Serious Eats. His Food Lab posts are great, and he's got a Food Lab 2-volume book coming out in 2013. 
  • Bloggers told us they wanted more about how to be unique and creative, and I don't think any blogger does that better than Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet (any food blog fan who's been around a while remembers his Janet Jackson Cupcake post after the infamous Superbowl halftime wardrobe malfunction —that post got him a few minutes on CNN).  He'll talk about writing. 
  • We've got two photography sessions: #1, a camera phone session with Beau Gustafson, a local freelance photographer who's done a lot of work at Southern Progress Corporation. (If you've ever tried to take a picture of a restaurant dinner with nothing but a candle on the table for light, this is the session to attend!) #2, an advanced photography session, led by two previous FBS attendees—Helene Dujardin (Tartlette)  who is a professional photographer, awesome blogger, and author of Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling. She's working with Tami Hardeman of Running with Tweezers, who is a professional food stylist. 
  • We've got a fun twist on recipe writing this year, and it's starting with a game for bloggers that's already starting (wanna play)? The game is called Recipe Telephone, based on the game Telephone (remember that game as a kid)? Bloggers are taking turns changing a Roast Chicken recipe one at a time, and passing it on to the next blogger. No telling what it'll turn into! Cookbook author Cynthia Graubert will use the recipes from the game in her recipe writing session. (And, the recipes will be published in a chapbook.) 
  • Martie Duncan, of Martie Knows Parties, and a contestant on Food Network's "The Next Food Network Star," is doing a session about How to Cook on Camera. 

Goo Goo Cluster was a proud sponsor of FoodBlogSouth 2012.
Can you think of a more iconic Southern candy?
We've also got sessions on how to brand yourself as a blogger, how to write your own cookbook, a session where experienced bloggers share how they juggle blogging and the rest of everyday life, SEO and tools for bloggers, and more. Plus there's going to be some good food: Look for some delicious cheeses for breakfast, and we've got a crew of chefs from Baton Rouge coming to cook for our after-party. 

FoodBlogSouth has always had another mission, too: Proceeds support the Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO), a non-profit children's writing center in Birmingham. FBS 2012 raised $13,000 for DISCO, which just had its grand opening the weekend before Thanksgiving. I'm on the board of DISCO, and anyone who knows me knows I have personal reasons for supporting DISCO. My paternal grandfather was illiterate—as an adult, he couldn't write his own name. No one should grow up without knowing how to read and write. Knowing how to write and communicate ideas on paper is power. And, my other reason is that reading and writing has always meant so much to me. I grew up an Army brat, which meant moving around a lot and losing friends. (No email, Facebook, Skype, or FaceTime back in those days!) Books and writing were the companions that I'd never lose, no matter where we moved.

I hope you'll join us for FBS 2013… for the sessions, for the chance to meet other bloggers and make new friends, and to support a place that gives kids opportunities to write. We've had great support from bloggers all over the South, from the City of Birmingham, from colleagues at Southern Progress / Time Inc., and from Alabama businesses. All of our speakers have been great, too. 

If you plan to sign up, use the code "SeeJane" to get 10% off your registration. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Bitchie" Blogging Advice

Necole Bitchie
Image via iamnecole.com



While cruising around in Twitterville last night I happened upon a link to an interview with celebrity gossip blogger Necole Bitchie. If you've been reading my blog, The Writeous Babe Project, even for a week you probably won't be surprised to know that celebrity gossip isn't really my thing. I frequent blogs about feminism, writing, faith, and living your best life. But the tweet about this article caught my eye because it mentioned Ms. Bitchie "falling out of love with her blog." 

I've been there. 

It happened with my previous blog Georgia Mae. And one of the reasons I have yet to make any moves toward starting an online magazine is my fear that eventually I'd lose passion for the project. So, I was interested in what Necole had to say about this and about blogging in general. 


Interviewer Jerrod Hobbs of CarltonJordan.com asked Necole if people need to live in a certain area to be a successful blogger. Ms. Bitchie stated that if your goal is to be an entertainment news and celebrity gossip blogger with exclusive coverage then being near a major city like Los Angeles, New York or Atlanta is probably your best bet. But she went on to say, "The good thing about living in other cities across the nation is that you can be that ‘It person’ for your city." 

I think this doesn't just have to apply to celebrity news. I've heard and read advice from successful bloggers in a variety of niches recommending that emerging bloggers seek to take a local approach to their topics. I've been considering this myself. Could the See Jane Write blog become the source for news and information on Birmingham's literary and media arts communities?


Later in the interview Ms. Bitchie told Hobbs that between March 2011 and May 2012 she had to take a break from her site to deal with some personal issues. Meanwhile, her brand was changed into something different from what she created and that's what caused her to fall out of love with blogging for a bit. 

I think there's a valuable lesson we can all learn for this and I think it goes back to the idea of having a mission statement for your blog or any project. You need a clear vision for your work and you need to stay focused on that always. 

This, perhaps, is the solution to staying motivated and committed, the key to staying passionate about what you do. In the interview Necole Bitchie discussed the importance of following through and said the secret to sticking with it is to do what makes you happy. Don't chase blogging trends; tackle topics you truly care about. 

Being true to your mission and to your voice will also help you keep readers. These things will make your blog and your brand consistent which will make your readers loyal. Ms. Bitchie explained it this way: "A good brand makes people feel a certain way and gives a certain experience.  People are loyal to things because of the way they make them feel."

To read the CarltonJordan.com interview with Necole Bitchie click here

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Friday, November 23, 2012

You Need an Elevator Pitch

Elevator
Image by robinsonsmay via Flickr/Creative Commons


Yesterday after stuffing myself with turkey, dressing, macaroni & cheese, greens, and yams, I somehow resisted slipping into a food coma and started chatting with my dad about my future. During our talk I announced that I had plans to start my own business, sort of. I saw his face light up. My father, who's always been my biggest cheerleader, was eager to know more. So I started to tell him a bit about See Jane Write and how I had plans to transform my little networking group into a non-profit organization. "OK, tell me what it will do," my pops asked.

I had an answer, a very looong and detailed answer. As I was explaining what See Jane Write has done in the past and what I hope the group will do in the future I felt I was rambling. My father listened intently, hanging on my every word, and showed how confident he was in my future success, but that's because he's my daddy. If I were pitching my idea to a potential sponsor or to a woman I hoped would be part of See Jane Write I would have been tuned out after my first few sentences, I thought.

Immediately after this conversation I decided I needed to draft an elevator speech for See Jane Write. Chances are you need to draft one for one of your project as well, whether it's a business you hope to start, a blog you recently launched, or a book you'd like to publish.

An elevator pitch, as I'm sure you know, is a brief speech that you can use to spark interest in your organization, project, or idea. Obviously, it should last no longer than a short elevator ride of about 30 seconds -- hence the name.

An elevator pitch should answer three important questions -- WHO, WHAT, and WHY -- and should state a goal. Who are you? What do you do and what problem do you seek to solve? Why is your organization/project/idea unique? Explain your short term goals.

Here's what I've come up with:

See Jane Write is an organization for women writers of Birmingham. 
It offers free programs, such as workshops and panel discussions, to help fiction and non-fiction writers sharpen their skills and to help women writers learn how to promote themselves and their work. 
This group also strives to build community among women writers through social media and networking events. 
My hope is to register See Jane Write as a non-profit organization within the next year so that we can be eligible for grants that will allow the group to do even more for local women writers and launch a program for teenage girls interested in writing careers. 

Clocking in at 39.1 seconds, it's a bit long, but I think it will do the job for now. Feel free to leave tips for improvement in the comments.

What's your elevator pitch? 

Cross posted at The Writeous Babe Project.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"I do it for the joy it brings"


 

In a post about why she blogs, Birmingham-based blogger and editor Erin Street quoted my favorite Ani DiFranco song, “Joyful Girl,” and inspired my blog post for today.

For years I've thought that this song, particularly the first verse, describes perfectly my love for writing. It explains why I've wanted to be a writer since the age of 7 even though it's a rather thankless and low-paying occupation that most people regard as a hobby. 


But last week as I was listening to the song (on repeat) in my car I realized the first verse also explains why I'm so determined to build up See Jane Write. I've been asked plenty of times why I bother organizing events for local women writers even though I'm not making money off my efforts. In fact, I usually spend money to make these events happen. And yes, the time I spend on these programs I could be using to work on my own writing. But the joy, the downright giddiness, that I feel when working on See Jane Write activities is invaluable. 



I do it for the joy it brings
Because I'm a joyful girl 
Because the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world. 
I do it because it's the least I can do 
I do it because I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to
Because I want to
-- Ani DiFranco, "Joyful Girl" 

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why I Love Being a Woman




Last week Glamour magazine hosted its annual Women of the Year Awards. Honorees for 2012 include the likes of actress Selena Gomez, photographer Annie Leibovitz, Girls creator Lena Dunham and USA gold medal Olympians. (Click here for a complete list.)

As Evette Dionne mentioned on her blog, The Huffington Post's women's website, Huff Post Women, captured the spirit of the evening at a reception dinner, asking several honorees and attendees this question: "What do you appreciate most about being a woman?"

This got me thinking: What do I love most about being a woman? It didn't take long for me to reach an answer.

The thing I appreciate most about being a woman is sisterhood.

I believe in the power of sisterhood.

Most women understand that when we band together we are an unstoppable force.

In my nearly 32 years on this earth in this female body I have learned that your good girlfriends make accomplishing goals more manageable and a lot more fun -- whether you're working toward artistic or professional aspirations or a goal to get in shape.

My #bloglikecrazy challenge is a perfect example.

I've now blogged for 19 days straight even though I've been juggling my full-time teaching job, freelance writing assignments, and church and family obligations. I've also had to make time to develop writing prompts to send to other bloggers participating in the challenge. One of the primary reasons I've been able to do this is because of ladies of See Jane Write and other female bloggers across the country who've been blogging like crazy with me. Their posts keep me inspired; their energy keeps me motivated.

And what I've seen happen this month on the See Jane Write Facebook group page has been fascinating.
I've mentioned before that the women of See Jane Write have been sharing their blog posts with the group and have been forming incredible connections, even with women they've never met IRL, as they discover things they have in common. But what I've also seen is women who were intimidated by blogging or had left their blogs sit dormant for months getting in on the action too. They've started or relaunched blogs because they saw we were having so much fun.

All this has inspired me to strive to take See Jane Write to even higher heights and I know I can do it because my sisters will be there to help me along the way.

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project

Friday, November 16, 2012

Reaching for a Helping Hand


Helpful Leader
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons


I don't like asking people for help. 

My parents say I've been this way since I was a child. I've been called "fiercely independent" and I carry this label around like a trophy; I wear it like an "S" on my chest. 

But sometimes, actually oftentimes, two heads are better than one. Sometimes I need help. 

A member See Jane Write recently wrote a blog post on this very topic. In her post she stated: "One of the biggest lessons I learned when it came to goals is that to achieve you have to know when to ask for help." 

My fellow Jane went on to challenge the other ladies in the group to post their goals on our Facebook group page so that we could help one another realize these dreams. I often write about my goals on my blog and mention them on various social media outlets, but usually for the sake of accountability, not for assistance. 

But that changes today. 

I have a major goal for 2013 and I need help! Next year I would like to take all the steps necessary to make See Jane Write an official non-profit organization. I have such big dreams for this group. I want to offer more programs, a conference, and a writing camp for girls. But to do these things I need money and sponsors, and to get money and sponsors I need my group to be a 501(c)(3). But the very idea of this is so overwhelming it makes my stomach hurt. 

So I'm asking for help.

Now, it's your turn. What's your major goal for the next year? Leave it in the comments so I and the other women of See Jane Write can give you a helping hand. And I leave you with this: 

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. 
Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Finding Your Blog's Voice

What is “voice” in writing and how is it created? Why is it important to add voice to your writing? (Danny's Symbolic)
Image by Danny Getz via Flickr/Creative Commons 



A few months ago I discovered the virtual blogger meetup known as Blog Brunch.

Blog Brunch is "a collaborative network powered by bloggers wanting to share, dream and learn with other creatives in the blogging community." Blog Brunch hosts Twitter chats on various blogging topics the first Saturday of each month. 

This month's chat, held yesterday, was about finding your blog's voice and couldn't have come at a better time for me as I strive to do exactly that this month during the #bloglikecrazy challenge


Ironically, even though I participated in the chat because I have so many questions about the future of my blog, during the chat I realized I already had many of the answers I was seeking. 


For example, during the chat I began to think about and shared with others the importance of having a clear vision for your blog. This vision will help you stay focused, can help you develop an editorial calendar and regular features, can keep you from being preoccupied with traffic and page views, and can even help you when trying to select the right guest bloggers for your site. I'm going to work on drafting a mission statement this week. 


But even after you've figured out a focus for your blog, you may still have trouble finding your voice. Here are some great tips from other bloggers I picked up yesterday: 


Don't be afraid to show your personality. Write as if your reader is a pal having coffee with you, one blogger suggested. 

One thing so many of us agreed on was the importance of blogging about your passion. If you're just writing on a topic simply because it's popular, it shows. 

If you want to know what's working and what's not, just ask. Several bloggers recommend doing reader surveys. And don't rely simply on comments to gauge if your content is resonating with readers. Pay attention to what they share on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets as well. 

And speaking of readers, it's important to truly engage them. "I make sure that I end every post with a question or two," said @alliepal. "I don't blog to hear myself talk -- I'd rather hear from readers." 

It's important to engage other bloggers, too. Leave comments on the blogs that you read. Don't be a "phantom reader" one blogger said. 

If you're looking for ways to improve your content and writing skills remember good writers are also avid readers. Read other blogs, books, magazines, and more for inspiration. You may want to try free writing workshops too, @mspinkandblue suggests. 

Work on expanding your vocabulary. Not everything can be "AMAZING!" And remember that sites like Grammar Girl are your friends. 

While reading blogs and other online publications can be helpful, if you've fallen into a rut you may need to unplug.  "Nothing gets unique content rolling like being away from your computer and living in the real world," @thecuisinerd said. 

Others agreed and talked about how writing about local events can really boost traffic. I can say that some of my best content and most popular posts were those written after attending inspiring events, such as the post I wrote after attending a panel discussion on the future of journalism

Other traffic tips included using titles that are similar to a Google search, which @stacyandcharlie recommended. And @mspinkandblue offered this great tip regarding post length and SEO: "Shoot for at least 250 words to get Google's attention."

That said, be sure not to get too focused on traffic. "Try not looking at your stats or ad sales for a month. See if that changes the way you blog," said @passionfruitads. Obsessing over numbers, @passionfruitads said, is like "looking in the mirror all night and forgetting to go out and have fun!"

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project

Friday, November 2, 2012

How To Blog Every Day For a Year




This month I am striving to publish a meaningful blog post every day for 30 days over at The Writeous Babe Project. I’ve never been able to pull this off in the past so I must admit that I’m a bit nervous, especially since I’m leading this #bloglikecrazy challenge.

But then I look at bloggers like Jen West of The Jen West Quest and I’m reminded that anything is possible.

Jen West blogged every day not just for a month and not just for a season, but for nearly two years!

She started her blog simply as an accountability tool to lose weight.  “I was in desperate need to find motivation and excitement in the process of such a mundane task,” West said.

But in the process of losing weight, West gained an intense love for blogging, which she discussed with me recently and offered great advice for those of us ready to #bloglikecrazy. 


Jen West
Photo by Angela Karen
You blogged every day for over a year. Was this something you set out to do or did it just happen?

When I first started my blog, I committed 100% to blogging every single day until I lost every pound that I wanted to lose.  Four and a half months later when I achieved my goal of losing 47 pounds, I decided that I still loved to write on a daily basis.  I continued on to blog every day for almost 650 days.




How did you manage to do this? How did you find time to blog daily? Did you have a certain time of day in which you would write?


I found that with a daily commitment, writing in the mornings made it much easier to knock out.  My brain is at its best when I first wake up.  Plus, it's a great feeling to know that you've finished it as you go on throughout your day instead of rushing through it later on.  I also gave myself an hour a day to write, edit and post.  Having a time cap made me concentrate better.





Did you ever face writer’s block?

Yes, I faced writer's block often.  I would have really "on" weeks where I could write with ease, then others I would really struggle with content.  I found that the days I struggled, though, were the days

I had the best posts.  I forced myself to dig deep, because it wasn't an option to skip.  When I get stuck I ask myself questions like, how am I feeling right now and why? What are my current goals and dreams?
What are my plans?  Where am I in life and what's in the future? What do I love?  You can always find things to write about when you have passion and are in touch with yourself.


I remember when you decided to stop posting daily you mentioned on your blog that it was actually difficult for you not to post as often. Why was that?


When I stopped writing every day it felt like a big chapter of my life was closing.  I actually still wonder what it would be like if I had continued on.  But here's the thing: I can always start it back up again.  I will never stop writing in my blog. The daily part was just an exercise in discipline more than anything else.  I write for myself, and I should do it as much as I want to.  I'm at a similar place with exercise in my life, it is no longer about a schedule, but for an experience.


And at the end of our interview West reminded me of something that we can not only apply to blogging but anything meaningful and healthy that we do for ourselves: “You will never regret it once it's done.  It might be a challenge in the beginning, in the middle and in the end, but damn if you won't feel good once you're done. Blogging is a confidence booster, and most importantly a reminder that you are worth the time and effort!”

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project.