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April 2011 archive

Meet See Jane Tweet Speaker Erin Shaw Street

Erin Shaw Street is actually the reason See Jane Tweet ever came about. At See Jane Write’s inaugural event Street started chatting with a few of the ladies at the dinner about the many advantages of Twitter. Minds blown, they were eager to know more. Pretty soon they were all asking for a Twitter 101. Well, ladies, ask and you shall receive. 

Street, with the help of Kristen Record Heptinstall, will be leading Thursday’s See Jane Tweet seminar. (If you haven’t signed up, it’s not too late. Just email me at javacia@georgiamae.com.) Street is Associate Editor at Southern Living Magazine and board member of the Alabama Social Media Association (ALsocme). Read on to learn more about Street and why she’s crazy about Twitter. 

Tell us more about your duties as associate editor at Southern Living?
I work primarily with the Health & Beauty section, and am responsible for managing stories from start to finish. That includes pitching, story development, and managing the whole package — from writing the story to working with Art and Photo to deliver strong visuals. My focus is health and wellness, and I love telling stories about the way modern Southern women find balance in their lives. I’m also the liaison between our editorial and digital groups, working to develop our brand across platforms. 

Why and how are social media tools such as Twitter important to your job?
I am able to instantly connect with readers, which gives us an amazing opportunity for engagement and two-way communication.  I use Twitter to find story ideas, gauge reader interest in topics, and explore the South — all from my desk or iPhone. And, since my job involves a lot of travel, I use Twitter (and other tools) to find out what’s happening when I am visiting a city. Wherever I am, if I have a question about the best restaurant or gym to check out, I find an answer on Twitter. It’s where I find “The Next Big Thing.”  

Tell us more about your role as a board member with the Alabama Social Media Association (ALsocme) and how you got involved with this group?
I was approached by the founding members, and enthusiastic about getting involved. I am the Outreach Chair, which means that I work to create partnerships between ALsocme and community organizations. Our goal is to make social media accessible to everyone in our community, demystifying the notion that you need to be a tech wizard to use these tools. So, it’s important that we have partners across our community to help us broaden our reach. We are proud to have more than 15 partners so far, including the City of Birmingham, Alabama Association of Nonprofits, and many professional organizations.  

How did you get interested in social media?
Social media isn’t so different than what I’ve done my whole career; it’s just another way of connecting with people, telling stories, and building community. It’s all about relationships. Good writers are engaged with life, and social media is just another space to explore and learn. Also, on a personal note, it has helped me connect with so many people I would have never met otherwise. It’s not just about talking about what we had for lunch (though we do that!). In particular, I’ve met so many people who care deeply about Birmingham, and we rally via social media, which leads to meaningful, real-life connections.

Tell us a few of the important things about social media tools that you believe many writers don’t realize or don’t understand.
The biggest thing is that social media is accessible, and can open many doors. It does take a little effort to learn some of the tools, but there are so many people eager to help. Plus, social media isn’t just Twitter – it’s Facebook, YouTube, photo sharing tools like Instagram, and many others. Each tool serves a different purpose, but they are all about the same thing: telling stories.  So I encourage writers to stretch themselves and learn about the new way of storytelling and gathering. There’s inspiration and creation in these spaces. What could be better?

A Chat with See Jane Tweet Speaker Kristen Record Heptinstall

Kristen Record Heptinstall (@kristenheptin) is Senior Producer for Social Media and Community at al.com, executive director of the Alabama Social Media Association (ALSOCME), and she blogs at southernwebgirl.blogspot.com. So when it comes to social media, this girl knows her stuff. Lucky for us, she’ll be sharing her web wisdom with us on April 28 at See Jane Tweet. Read on to learn more about Heptinstall and the power of social media.

What you do as senior producer at AL.com? 

What the editorial team does here at al.com is different on a day-to-day basis. Our main job is keeping the website running smoothly. But here over the past few years, a few new things have popped up for us: search engine optimization, community engagement, and social media among those. I head up our community engagement and social media efforts. Community engagement is more of an internal thing — we want to keep conversation going on al.com, have our journalists engage in the comments, and make it a place to be. Social media is more of an external thing, in which we engage with users and share content outside of al.com .We have several accounts on Facebook and Twitter that we’re always looking to improve and optimize based on changes to the social networks. We also work to place content on social bookmarking sites, and we’re always looking at new ways of sharing our content socially. 

How do social media tools help you perform your job more effectively and efficiently?

I adore Twitter. I love knowing what stories folks are sharing in the Twitterverse, and oftentimes we’re tipped off to a breaking news event via Twitter. As long as you know how to use the right social media management tool, I think you can make social media work for you, and not against you.

Why do you think so many media outlets have, in the past, been resistant to using tools like Twitter? 

I’ve dealt with this in two ways. Sometimes, upper management decides that it would be cool for everyone to participate, then you have to get buy-in at the lower levels, with all sorts of variation in skill levels, and mixed results. Other times– and this situation is more common — those at the lower level are enthusiastic and more than willing to participate in social media for their media outlet, but upper management doesn’t see it as a useful way to spend working time. At this point, if your media outlet isn’t actively taking part in social media — to say you’re missing out is an understatement. And when I say actively, I mean participating and engaging — not just setting up a feed of your content and walking away.

Tell us more about your role as executive director of ALSOCME

As executive director, I see myself as closely tied to our events. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes with our five board members and their committees in reaching out to other organizations, managing our finances, procuring speakers and venues, planning for our annual conference, and managing our social media and technology needs. I work with everyone, but my main objective is that our events run smoothly and the board and our attendees are happy. 

How did you get involved with this group?

I was approached by who would become future board members back in January of this year, and once I agreed to get involved, they appointed me their executive director — much to my surprise! Once our board was set, we worked very hard to get our organization launched and our first events lined up and ready to go. I’m not usually one for the limelight, but I’ve realized that I do have time and talent to give. I’ve volunteered in other capacities — for example, I’ve been a volunteer for my sorority for several years — but this is the first organization here in Birmingham that has called upon me to give my time, and I couldn’t be happier to serve. I consider all of our board members to be friends and mentors to me.


How did you get interested in social media?

It’s kind of embarrassing, but I suppose it all started when I was a teenager. I built websites on Geocities. In college, while studying journalism, I had a Livejournal (just like Mark Zuckerberg!) and posted on greekchat.com, for sorority and fraternity members. It was through my Greekchat friends that I found out about Facebook, and signed up to be on the waiting list during my senior year of college. I ended up being the 4th person to sign up on Facebook at the University of Alabama, and I haven’t looked back since. I joined Twitter in 2008, and started training journalists how to use it in 2009. It’s been quite a ride.


Don’t miss out on learning more about social media tools from Heptinstall and Erin Shaw Street at See Jane Tweet. Email me at javacia@georgiamae.com to reserve your spot today! 



They Like Us, They Really Like Us





I would like to thank RSS Birmingham and Magic City Manifesto for showing us some love this week by helping spread the word about See Jane Tweet. And speaking of See Jane Tweet, be sure to check out a recent blog post by one of our esteemed speakers, Erin Shaw Street. Erin and Kristen really want you ladies to get the most out of this seminar, so they’re asking those who plan to attend to let them know if you have any specific topics and questions you’d like them to address on April 28. 


And if you haven’t reserved your spot at See Jane Tweet, what are you waiting for? Email me today at javacia@georgiamae.com and get signed up!


Be sure to stop by tomorrow for a special Q&A with See Jane Tweet speaker Kristen Record Heptinstall.

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

As promised, I’ll be posting poetry writing prompts occasionally throughout April in celebration of National Poetry Month. Here’s one adapted from The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux:


What do you do every day — or on a regular basis? Write a poem about showering, or jogging, or cooking, and so on. Try, in the poem, to get at the particular way you perform this activity, that might be different from someone else. 


Here’s a poem by Al Zolynas for inspiration:


The Zen of Housework


I look over my own shoulder
down my arms
to where they disappear under water
into hands inside pink rubber gloves
moiling among dinner dishes.


My hands lift a wine glass, 
holding it by the stem and under the bowl.
It breaks the surface
like a chalice
rising from a medieval lake. 


Full of the grey wine
of domesticity, the glass floats
to the level of my eyes.
Behind it, through the window
about the sink, the sun, among
a ceremony of sparrows and bare branches, 
is setting in Western America.


I can see thousands of droplets
of steam — each a tiny spectrum — rising
from my goblet of grey wine.
They sway, changing directions
constantly — like a school of playful fish,
or like the sheer curtain
on the window to another world.


Ah, grey sacrament of the mundane!

See Jane Tweet

On April 28 See Jane Write will present its second event: See Jane Tweet!


See Jane Tweet is a seminar designed to help women writers discover ways to use Twitter and other social media tools  to promote their work, connect with other writers, and get published. Our speakers, Erin Shaw Street and Kristen Record Heptinstall, will also teach participants more about digital branding. 


Erin Shaw Street (@erinshawstreet) is Associate Editor at Southern Living Magazine and board member of the Alabama Social Media Association (ALSOCME). She also has a thing for gold shoes. You can find her writing at http://www.erinstreet.com

Kristen Record Heptinstall (@kristenheptin) is Senior Producer for Social Media and Community at al.com, executive director of the Alabama Social Media Association (ALSOCME), and a Walt Disney World fanatic. She blogs at southernwebgirl.blogspot.com

See Jane Tweet will be held Thursday, April 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Matthew’s Bar & Grill. This event is free but you must RSVP by Tuesday, April 26 to attend. To be added to the participant list simply email me at javacia@georgiamae.com




See Jane Write presents See Jane Tweet
at Matthew’s Bar & Grill, 2208 Morris Ave. 
Thursday, April 28 at 6 p.m. 


6-6:30 p.m. — Networking (Time to grab some grub from the bar and mingle with other local female writers)
6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Presentation (Erin and Kristen talk Twitter, digital branding and much more)
7:30 – 8 p.m. — Q&A session


Special thanks to our venue sponsor Matthew’s Bar & Grill. 

Not someday, do it now

Most of us have our someday speech well prepared, that list of reasons that explains why we aren’t pursuing our dream project now but will do it “someday.” I’ll write that book someday, but I can’t now because I don’t have enough time or enough talent. I’ll start that business someday, but right now I don’t have the money or the knowledge that I need to do it. 


If this sounds all too familiar take a few minutes to read “The Someday Speech”, a recent blog post by food writer Monica Bhide. She says sometimes we all need a “swift kick in the behind” to push us to fight for our dreams. Read this post and consider yourself kicked. 



April is National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month, I will post poetry writing exercises and prompts throughout April. 


Today try your hand at writing haiku in English. Inspired by the Japanese poetic form, a haiku in English is usually written in three lines with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second, and five in the final line. Japanese haiku usually include a season word, but many English-speaking poets writing haiku do not adhere to this convention.   

Below is one of my favorite English haiku by Sonia Sanchez:

i have caught fire from
your mouth now you want me to 
swallow the ocean