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Archive of ‘Birmingham’ category

Jane About Town: Black Nativity & Birmingham’s Best Bites

Here are two events a Jane about town shouldn’t miss this weekend:

Birmingham’s Best Bites

bham best bites
Food Network Star Martie Duncan and several popular Birmingham area chefs will be at the Birmingham Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 13 to sign copies of the new book, “Birmingham’s Best Bites: Favorite Recipes from Restaurants, Bars, & Food Trucks Around the Magic City’’ from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The book, which features more than 80 recipes from more than 60 area restaurants, is $25. Proceeds will benefit the library. Some of people’s favorite recipes are in the book like Hot and Hot’s Tomato Salad, Ashley Mac’s Mac and Cheese, Dreamcakes Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Bourbon Caramel Glaze and many others. Chefs such as The Fish Market’s George Sarris, Little Savannah’s Maureen Holt, The Gardens Café by Kathy G, Primeaux Cheese & Vino’s Ric Trent and Chris Vizinna will sign books on Saturday. Refreshments will be served.


Black Nativity


The Aldridge Repertory Theatre will present a dinner theater production of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity at 6:30 p.m. on December 13 and 2:30 p.m. on December 14. Black Nativity is a retelling of the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast and gospel music. The show was first performed Off-Broadway in 1961. Dinner at this weekend’s performances will include grilled chicken, caesar salad, grilled mixed vegetables, rice pilaf, rolls, tea, and dessert. Tickets are $35. For more information and to reserve your seat call 205-538-1828 or visit


5 Tips for Taking Instagram Food Photos


Even though I LOVE food, I am not a food blogger and never well be. You see, when I say I love food I mean I love to eat it, I love to socialize and celebrate over it, and I even like to use it as a reward for making it through a hard day. But I HATE cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I do cook. After all, hubster and I have to eat something and neither my wallet nor my waistline could handle us eating out every night. But every moment in the kitchen I’m thinking of all the other places I’d rather be.

Nonetheless, I admire food bloggers. I admire their creativity and passion and, of course, I admire their gorgeous photography.

bham bloggers brunch


Today, I attended the Birmingham Bloggers Instagram Workshop Brunch. The event featured a 4-course brunch and food photography tips from Rachel Johnson, who is currently serving as a fellow at Cooking Light magazine.

While some bloggers at the workshop, which was held at The Nest, had fancy DSLR cameras hanging around their necks, Rachel assured us that with the right light and styling you can take beautiful pictures even on an iPhone 4.

babe at brunch

1. Let your light shine. Obviously, good lighting it key, so be sure that nothing’s blocking the natural light that you could be using to illuminate your subject. If you find that the light is creating a a harsh shadow on one side of your subject, use a white book or sheet of paper to reflect the light.

2. The bird’s the word. A bird’s eye view or overhead shot is best for food, Rachel said. Get right over your food when shooting it.

3. Pile it on. If you’re shooting a bowl of granola, really pile on that granola. When photographing food in a bowl, fill up the bowl for a more interesting shot.

4. Keep it simple. Don’t photograph your food against a busy surface. Also, don’t get carried away with filters. If you do use filters adjust their intensity remembering that sometimes less is more.

5.  Hash it out. To help your food photos get more exposure on Instagram, Rachel recommended using popular hashtags like #f52grams and #eeeeeeats. A good time to post photos to Instagram is early in the morning or around 7 p.m.

Many of these tips, Rachel said, apply not just to photographing food, but can be used when photographing fashion, too.

After the tips session, Rachel had us style and photograph the first course of our brunch — yogurt parfait. It was quite entertaining and I appreciated the hands-on activity. Rachel was very sweet and said my photos looked great, but I thought they were pitiful compared to the pictures produced by most food bloggers. And obviously, I had the most fun eating the food — which was delicious!

For bad food photography and more, follow me on Instagram @writeousbabe.


What blogging & writing conferences should I attend in 2015?


Image by Dave Winer via Flickr/Creative Commons

Believe it or not, 2015 is just around the corner. Now is a good time to figure out which conferences you will attend next year. Here are ten writing or blogging conferences to consider.

Food Media South: The popular food blogging conference FoodBlogSouth (originally organized by Shaun Chavis and Jason Horn) is now being hosted by the Southern Foodways Alliance and has been renamed Food Media South. Set for February 27-28 in Birmingham, Alabama, FMS will explore storytelling in the digital era. Speakers include Dorothy Kalins, founding editor of Saveur magazine, chair of the James Beard Journalism Awards committee, and producer of beautiful books; Chuck Reece, editor-in-chief of Bitter Southerner; Erika Council, proprietor of the blog Southern Souffle; Roscoe Hall II, proprietor of the site Punk as Food; and Bill Addison, restaurant editor of Eater National.

The Southern C Summit: Connect, collaborate and create in a niche environment with like-minded creatives at the Southern C Summit, an annual conference organized by The Southern Coterie. The spring 2015 summit is set for April 30 – May 1 and will be held in Charleston, South Carolina. The conference promises engaging educational sessions and panel discussions with branding, marketing and social media leaders. Evening events and gatherings offer the opportunity to continue networking all while engaging in meaningful conversations in a fun intimate setting.

Y’all Connect: Y’all Connect Presented by Alabama Power is an annual blogging/social media conference in Birmingham, Ala. The event offers practical takeaways in corporate storytelling from the nation’s digital marketing experts. Next year’s conference will be held in June.

The Bloganista Mini-Con: Back in July See Jane Write hosted its first conference and it was a huge success! In 2015 we hope to make the Bloganista Mini-Con bigger and better offering inspiration and information for fashion, fitness, lifestyle and business bloggers. More details coming soon!

BlogHer ’15: In 2015 the BlogHer Annual Conference will be held July 16-18 in New York City. BlogHer is one of the biggest blogging conferences on the planet. Last year’s speakers included Jenny Lawson a.k.a. The Bloggess, media mogul Arianna Huffington and actor/activist Kerry Washington.

WordCamp Birmingham: WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other. WordCamp Birmingham typically takes place in late summer.

Blogalicious: Be Blogalicious is a network with three major goals: 1) to be THE go-to destination and resource for influential multicultural women social media enthusiasts from all over the world to collaborate, connect and uplift one another; 2) to showcase the value of the demographic in today’s marketplace to marketers; and 3) to serve as a think tank and mouthpiece for causes, policies and issues affecting the multicultural digital space. The annual Blogalicious Weekend conference is usually held in the fall and is one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended!

Alabama Writer’s Conclave: The Alabama Writers’ Conclave was organized in 1923 and has been in continuing existence since. The Conclave is responsible for nominating, for the governor’s appointment, Alabama’s Poet Laureate. Members include fiction and non-fiction writers, novelists and short story writers, poets, writers of business and scientific works, freelance journalists, romance writers, publishers, patrons, and teachers.Through the years, the Conclave has moved its conferences around the state to provide writers everywhere better access to its resources.

Blogging While Brown: Blogging While Brown is a conference and a community for emerging leaders in digital media and social change. Since its launch in 2008, Blogging While Brown has grown to become the premier blogging conference dedicated to education, collaboration, and innovation among bloggers of color. The conference brings Black social media experts, speakers, and independent content creators together to expand their influence in social media and technology. The conference offers an opportunity to learn tools and strategies to build engaging and dynamic online platforms, leverage online engagement for offline results, and create sustainable business and activism models. The 2015 is set for June 19 and 20 and will be held in Austin, Texas.

Romance Writers of America: If you are a career-focused romance writer, then this conference is for you. This annual event gives you the chance to get down to the business of being an author. Expect education and information, networking with fellow writers, and interaction with editors, agents, publishers, booksellers, and other romance publishing industry professionals.

What conferences do you plan to attend next year? 


How can I “shop small” this holiday season?

shop small

This year I skipped Black Friday shopping and it certainly felt good to sleep in this morning.

This year instead of standing in long lines in 30-degree weather I’m going to do more to support small businesses this holiday season.

Tomorrow I’m going to head to Fleet Feet Sports Birmingham, to get some new running gear for 2015. Discounts include 10 percent off shoes, 25 percent off winter apparel, and 40 percent off shorts. Located at 3120 Heights Village Road in Vestavia, Fleet Feet Birmingham will be open today 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

But first I’ll be paying a visit to Church Street Coffee & Books at 10 a.m. for The Localist book launch. The Localist by Carrie Rollwagen is all about Rollwagen’s year of only buying local —  why she did it, what she learned, and what she hopes others can glean from her experience.

Next month Rollwagen, co-owner of Church Street Coffee and Books, is going to make it even easier for you to shop small this season by hosting The Localist Wish List: Holiday Fair and Book Party  December 3 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Nest in Avondale.  At this event you can not only celebrate The Localist book with free beer from Avondale Brewery but you’ll also have a chance to stock up on gifts from these local vendors: Piper & Leaf tea, We Three Beeks honey, Magic City Macarons, Great Bear Wax candles, Spindle Photography lettering, Stalcup Stitchery stuffed animals, Hide + True leather goods and Sara Cannon Art.

Another great place to get gifts for the art lovers in your life is Naked Art Gallery’s Kitschmas sale, which features gift-sized artwork and ornaments made with recycled materials by over 60 artists. Kitschmas is going on now through Visit for more information.

Feel free to share holiday deals from your favorite small business in the comments.


What are you thankful for today?

Be Thankful

Image by Cindi Albright via Flckr/Creative Commons

I am thankful for so many things today. I am thankful for husband’s funny jokes and kind heart. I am thankful that I really do have the best brother ever! I am thankful that I have the opportunity to teach some of the most talented young people in the country and work with some of the most intelligent and compassionate teachers on the planet. I am thankful for family members who are also best friends and for best friends who are like family.

But today I am also thankful for the women of See Jane Write. When I started this organization in March of 2011 I only intended it to be a little writing group. I just wanted a small community of women to meet with occasionally and wax poetic about the beauty of the written word. But after nearly four years of offering workshops, seminars, social events, and conferences, See Jane Write has become a powerful network, a force to be reckoned with, and now is also becoming a business.

None of this would have happened without the support of the women who believed in my vision, who showed up to my events and helped spread the word.

And so today I thank you.

I would like to express my gratitude by offering two Black Friday deals to my Janes.

1) Get a premium membership for only $75 (regularly $100) now through Monday by clicking here. With premium membership you get all the perks of basic membership plus four one-on-one meetings with me (one per quarter) about blogging, freelance writing, or social media. Only 8 premium membership spots are available and I will not offer this program in 2015.

2) Get discounted tickets to the first big See Jane Write event of 2015. On Tuesday, Jan. 20 at The Nest, Carrie Rollwagen (blogger, writer, business owner and author of the book The Localist) will speak about how to transition from writing a blog to writing a book, how to successfully self-publish, and how to rock a Kickstarter campaign. There is a charge for this event to help cover the cost of the venue rental and food. Tickets go on sale for $25 on Dec. 2, but I am offering an early bird price of $20 now through Monday. Click here to purchase your tickets today.

Happy Thanksgiving!


How can I give back this holiday season?


If you’re looking for a way to have some fun but still made a difference this holiday season then you don’t want to miss the Safari Soiree, set for Tuesday, Dec. 2 at Olivia’ Bar & Lounge.

The Safari Soiree is a book drive and fundraiser hosted by Harper Organics in support of the African Community Exchange in Tanzania. This events seeks to raise money and collect books for children in Tanzania this holiday season.

Books are needed for children ages 5 to 18 and your support will help to supply libraries for schools in the impoverished Himo, Tanzania community.

Admission to the Safari Soiree is a new or gently used book or a donation of $10.

You’ll receive a complimentary swag bag and chance to win a raffle prize. At this event you’ll also have the chance to try a mini acupuncture spa service for relaxation on site for free and enjoy music, gourmet appetizers and a cash bar.

If you can’t attend but would still like to help, you can make a donation here.

Safari Soiree Holiday Fundraiser

Stacey Scott of Harper Organics, Global Ambassador for African Community Exchange

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 from 6-9 PM

Olivia’s Bar & Lounge, 2013 Second Avenue North, Birmingham, AL 35203


Free admission with new children’s book or $10 minimum monetary donation

For more ideas on how to make a difference, check out Seven ways you can give back to Birmingham this holiday season by Edward Bowser.

Did I hear you on NPR yesterday?


For about a year and a half now I’ve had the honor of writing a monthly column for WBHM 90.3 FM, Birmingham’s NPR station. And for the past year, in addition to writing for I also discuss my post for the month on air.

This month’s essay is about learning to love my name and learning to be proud of where I’m from.

Having a name like Javacia isn’t easy. When I introduce myself to people they typically look at me as if I’m a green girl from Mars. And there was a time when I worried that my unique name could be a liability. One look at my name and you know I’m black and I’ve been told that some potential employers might not hire me because of that. In my WBHM post I discuss how becoming a writer changed how I viewed my name.

Being from Birmingham isn’t easy either. People who’ve never stepped foot in the state of Alabama think they know what Birmingham is all about and criticize my Magic City. And to make matters worse, some Birmingham residents are ashamed of their home. But just as I had to respect my name before I could expect other people to do so, we must be proud of our city if we ever want perceptions of Birmingham to improve.

Visit to read my post and listen to my radio segment.


Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to


How can I get more involved with See Jane Write?


How can I get more involved with See Jane Write? — that is a question I love to hear!

Being a part of See Jane Write is quite simple. Here are 3 easy things you can do:

1) Sign up for our weekly newsletter. This is the best way to stay up-to-date about upcoming events and other opportunities. If you’re not receiving the weekly newsletter click here to sign up now.

2) Actually read the newsletters. Look, I get it. You probably receive hundreds of email messages a day and so those messages in the “Promotions” folder of your Gmall account are often ignored. But missing a newsletter could mean missing an event (or even an announcement about a job opportunity). For example, at the beginning of the month I hosted a four-hour blogging workshop to kick off #bloglikecrazy. Because I wanted to give the workshop attendees hands-on, one-on-one help, there were only 10 spaces available. See Jane Write members were informed of this workshop first and then those who subscribe to the See Jane Write newsletter. The workshop sold out in less than 48 hours. Afterwards, I received several emails from women who wanted to attend the workshop but said they didn’t find out about the event until after all the tickets were gone. And some of these women subscribe to the newsletter. I felt awful that I couldn’t make room for them. But this story illustrates why it’s important to not only subscribe to the newsletter, but to make time to read it, too.

3) Become an official member. Currently, membership is $25 per year but membership rates will increase beginning December 31. Advantages to membership include an opportunity for early registration for limited seating events, invitations to special members-only events and workshops, and discounted tickets to See Jane Write conferences. Additionally, perks such as job opportunity announcements, discounts to local blogging and social media conferences, and other special offers frequently extended to See Jane Write are available to members. Right now I’m also offering premium membership for $100 per year which will get you all the benefits of basic membership plus four one-on-one consultations with me about blogging, freelance writing, or social media. I will not longer offer premium memberships beginning December 31. Click here to apply for basic or premium membership.


Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to


What Should I Do This Weekend?


Marie Sutton

This weekend head out to Books-A-Million in Brookwood Village to support Birmingham-based writer Marie Sutton.

From 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sutton will be signing copies of her new book The A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Landmark.

The book chronicles the story of how Birmingham black entrepreneur and eventual millionaire A.G. Gaston created a first-class motel and lounge for African Americans. The Gaston Motel was a revolving door for famous entertainers, activists, politicians and other pillars of the national black community, and served as the headquarters for Birmingham’s civil rights movement.

Sutton will also be signing books on Saturday, Nov. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble at the Summit.

A.G. Gaston Motel Book Signing with Marie Sutton
Saturday, Nov. 15
2-4 p.m.
Books-A-Million, Brookwood Village
757 Brookwood Village, Birmingham, AL 35209
SaturdayNov. 22
5-7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble at the Summit
201 Summit Blvd., Birmingham, AL 35243


DISCO Supply Store

Also this weekend, The Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO) and The Southern Letterpress will host the grand opening of the Desert Island Supply Store.

Swing by Saturday anytime between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and stock up on message-in-a-bottle bottles, urchin decoys, water finders and other desert island essentials.

The Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO) is a creative writing center for students in Birmingham, Alabama. Based in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood, DISCO’s mission is simple: to give kids in the Birmingham area more opportunities to write.

Desert Island Supply Store Grand Opening
11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 15
Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO),
5500 First Avenue North in Woodlawn


Get regular updates on the best events in Birmingham for women writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs by signing up for the See Jane Write newsletter. Click here to join the list!

The Birmingham Jane: Carrie Rollwagen


bham jane nail art

Carrie Rollwagen is representing for the Birmingham Janes! Contribute to her Kickstarter campaign and she’ll represent for your blog or business too. She’s also offering a nail art workshop as a reward.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I have a long list of answers to this question: do a one-year blogging challenge, write and publish a book, strive to run a profitable small business, launch a Kickstarter campaign. But my list could be summed up with one statement: Be Carrie Rollwagen.

Rollwagen is a small business owner, a prolific blogger, a social media guru and much more. She also has the cutest nails in town. And now she’s about to add something else to her resume — published author.

Rollwagen, co-owner of Church Street Coffee and Books and the writer behind the Shop Small blog, is now about to publish The Localist, a book that’s all about shopping locally. Rollwagen decided to self-publish the book and recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund her project. She reached her fundraising goal in less than a month!

I had a chat with Rollwagen recently — at a locally owned coffee shop, of course — about her book project and her secrets to success.

Becoming a Localist

Carrie Rollwagen

Rollwagen’s interest in local shopping began when she managed a small book store in Mountain Brook. She believed that the camaraderie she experienced at that store was unique to locally-owned shops. But then she worked at Starbucks and found the same sense of community there as well. Rollwagen, a former full-time journalist, wanted to investigate.

“I’m a frustrated journalist,” she says.

And so in 2011 she challenged herself to only buy from locally-owned stores for one year. She launched the blog Shop Small to chronicle her adventure.

Rollwagen admits that she thought her “Shop Small” challenge would be extremely difficult and extremely expensive.

She was wrong.

“I spent far less money that year than I usually do,” Rollwagen says.

She explained that when you shop small there’s less of a chance for impulse buying. There are very few, if any, displays set up in locally owned shops to entice you to purchase things that aren’t on your shopping list. Furthermore, because local shops weren’t as easy to get to as big box stores, Rollwagen would often talk herself out of buying things. And she wasn’t eating any fast food.

Finding stores at which to shop was easier than she expected. She often found what she needed simply by asking friends or doing a quick Google search. Rollwagen was even able to go to the movies thanks to the Birmingham-based theater The Edge opening that year.

What was Rollwagen’s conclusion after this year of shopping small?

“Local is almost always better,” she says.

Rollwagen is a localist, but she’s also a realist and she makes no claims that small business owners are somehow better people than the owners of big box stores.

“It is in the financial interest of a small business owner to be a nice person,” she says. “Small shop owners have a better incentive to treat people well and build community.”

If you have a bad experience at Target most likely you’re going to go back to Target nonetheless and even if you don’t chances are the Target employee you had a bad interaction with doesn’t care. Small shop owners know that it’s good customer service and a sense of community and camaraderie that will bring you back.

While Rollwagen doesn’t recommend that other people take on her extreme shop small challenge, she does stress that we should all buy local as often as we can as this is a great way to improve your community.

As Rollwagen explains in her Kickstarter campaign video, for every $10 spent at locally owned stores four to seven dollars goes back into your community. When you shop corporately only three dollars, at the most, goes back into your city.

Think of the local place first, she says. Amazon doesn’t pay taxes in your state.

Deciding to Self-Publish

DIY Publishing

Rollwagen admits that she hasn’t been a fan of self-publishing in the past — and for good reason. As many avid readers know, a book needs good editing, good design and a good marketing campaign to be successful. Most self-published authors don’t have all these skills or the resources to hire someone who does.

But Rollwagen’s book is centered on Birmingham and she thought a book a that was this, well, “localist” wouldn’t appeal to traditional publishers.

“Just because it doesn’t have a national market doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist,” she says.

Rollwagen’s Shop Small blog was quite successful thanks to her fresh, informative content and effective social media marketing. But she knew she had more to say.

“I wanted to tell this story in a new way,” she says.

So she decided to write a book and self-publish it.

The book is part memoir, focusing on her life as a localist and even offering a few tips on how people can shift their own shopping habits to support small businesses more often.

The book is also a study of buying patterns — why you like big box stores, why they’re not all bad, and the effects of our shopping on us as individuals and on our communities.

The book also offers a behind-the-scenes look into Church Street Coffee and Books.

To ensure that her self-published book would be of high quality, Rollwagen launched her Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to hire an editor and designer.

How to Rock Your Kickstarter Campaign

Rollwagen reached her fundraising goal of $5,000 in less than a month. Now she’s working on her stretch goal. She’s hoping to raise an additional $3,000 so she can go on a book tour to spread the localist gospel to other towns.

Rollwagen offered these tips on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign:

  • Apply the tips that Kickstarter gives you and look at projects similar to yours for promotion ideas.
  • Produce a great video and in it be sure to convince people that your project is something that you can actually do. Also, explain exactly how you plan to use the money.
  • Have enticing and creative rewards and be sure to include their cost in your project budget. One of Rollwagen’s rewards was nail art! For a donation of $10 or more, Rollwagen would decorate her nails with the name of your company. Nail art was a perfect way for Rollwagen to help promote her project because whenever someone would say “Oh, I like your nails!” she could strike up a conversation about her Kickstarter campaign.
  • But these conversations could only happen if she was out and about. So Rollwagen’s other piece of advice is to be sure to network during your campaign. And carry business cards that include a URL for your campaign.


The Birmingham Jane is a See Jane Write series of profiles on women in Birmingham who are making a difference in our city. 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!

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