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Member of the Month

Member of the Month: Jennifer Dome King

Jennifer Dome1

On July 18 I’m going for a run with Jennifer Dome King, no matter how hot it is — and since we live in Alabama I’m sure the day will be a scorcher. But on July 18 Jennifer is hosting her second Makeshift 5K, an event series she launched this spring to encourage readers of her blog Stellar Fashion and Fitness to get out and run and challenge themselves even if they don’t have the money for or access to an official race.

Jennifer’s Makeshift 5K is just one of the many reasons I’m happy to announce that Jennifer Dome King is the See Jane Write member of the month for July. I’m also excited to report that she will be a panelist at the upcoming Bloganista Mini-Con. (In honor of Jennifer and the start of a new month, a few tickets are on sale today for only $50!)

Jennifer’s blog is one of my favorite to read due to her focus on having a positive body image at any size.

In addition to being a “stellar” blogger, Jennifer is also a magazine editor and freelance writer and still finds time to exercise. Read on to get Jennifer’s tips on blogging, freelancing, and living a stellar life.

Jennifer dress

How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to start? 

I started my first blog, which is now defunct, in 2006 when I was interning at W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily in London. I wanted a place to document my travels for my family and friends back home, but it turned into a fashion blog in 2008 because that’s always been my passion. I wanted to show how you can interpret what you see on the runways and incorporate it into your own wardrobe.

How would you describe the mission or purpose of your blog Stellar Fashion and Fitness

The current mission of my blog was solidified in 2010 when I started working on my own health and fitness. I decided then that while I still wanted to write about fashion, I was also interested in overall health — from working out to eating more healthfully to new experiences, I think all of these come together with fashion to express who you are and help you feel good about yourself. The message of having a healthy body image evolved naturally because I truly feel that leading a stellar life incorporates all of these pieces. I’m still working on that journey, on finding my healthiest self, my inner fashionista and my self-confidence, so my hope is to encourage others who are on similar paths.

You also do a lot of freelance writing. Tell us about some of your latest pieces. 

I’m lucky to work with an editor at HellaWella.com who lets me pitch stories that interest me. So I recently interviewed Kelly Creel, another Jane, about the best yoga poses for runners. I challenge myself to walk and run, but because of some issues with my knee and feet, it can be a little rough. These yoga poses help keep me limber, so I knew they would help others as well. Right now I’m also copy editing the summer issue of Filmmaker magazine, which is published by the Independent Film Project out of Brooklyn. I’ve been editing that magazine since 2011, and it’s fun to get an inside scoop on movies I wouldn’t always hear about otherwise.

Jennifer running

How did you get the idea to start the Makeshift 5K? What is your hope for these events? 

Since 2010, when I ran my first 5k (the Rumpshaker), I have run at least a dozen 5ks, the Vulcan 10k a few times and two half marathons (Mercedes and Talladega). I decided I needed to start setting goals for myself to keep my running/walking going, but registering for a 5k every few months wasn’t in my budget. So this spring I picked a date, April 25, and decided I would run a 5k that day and invited others to join me. Thankfully you came, and so did Tanya Sylvan, and y’all pushed me to beat my previous 5k time! I decided then that I wanted to make this a regular thing, and I hoped others would join me because I think having a definite goal in mind when you want to walk or run regularly is so helpful. It’s great to challenge yourself and give yourself that feeling of accomplishment. I hope that it will grow to encourage people who maybe haven’t done an official race before to try it out in a casual, fun setting. There’s no time requirement, and I really do want people who walk to know that that is just as good as running. The distance — 3.1 miles — is the goal. That and having fun!

What advice would you give to people who want to start a fashion/fitness blog with a message, people trying to live a stellar life, and people who want to freelance for various publications? 

Finding your niche is key. I cover a lot of different topics, but I always try to talk to women of all shapes and sizes and keep building one’s self-confidence as my goal. Discover what that niche is and hone in on that, and then you can broaden your approach a little to be more inclusive.

The best advice I can give for living a stellar life is don’t hold yourself back. If you think you don’t have fashion sense, go out on a limb and try a print or a design you never have before. If there’s a workout you want to try, trust me, no one in the class is really paying that much attention to you — so try it! You’ll be surprised how welcoming people are no matter your size or how in shape you are. I don’t think anything should hold us back to do the things we want — our body shape or our past. You can work with all of that and take the steps toward living a full (stellar!) life!

Use your connections to help with freelance jobs. And use your blog! I got my freelance job at HellaWella.com partly because I went to grad school with my editor and mostly because she read my blog and knew I could write about (and research) a number of different topics. I was a copy editor at Southern Living magazine when I got the job copy editing for Filmmaker, through another copy editor who didn’t want to do it anymore. So talk to other writers/editors. You never know when someone is looking to take a project off their plate, or if they heard about a job they can’t take.

Finally, tell us what you enjoy about being a member of See Jane Write?

I love the community of women that SJW has created. I love that we encourage one another and competition is the furthest thing from our minds. We all want to see each other succeed! And if you have writer’s block or a technical issue, there’s always someone you can call on. But the best thing about SJW is that we really do take each other’s work seriously. We know blogging has the potential to be a wonderful outlet creatively, but it can also be a big business opportunity. We take the business of blogging seriously, but we have a lot of fun doing it!

Would you like to be the next See Jane Write member of the month? Send your nominations to javacia@seejanewritebham.com

Member of the Month: Chanda Temple

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Aside from my husband, no one has been more supportive of See Jane Write than Chanda Temple. Chanda was one of the 14 women at the very first See Jane Write event and she’s been a part of the group ever since. There’s also hardly anyone I know who works harder than Chanda. So it was a no-brainer that Chanda Temple should be the See Jane Write Member of the Month for June.

Chanda worked as a journalist for nearly 20 years before switching gears to public relations in 2012. For the past three years Temple has crafted numerous public relations campaigns that the public and media noticed.

Her latest success was coauthoring the Birmingham’s Best Bites cookbook. The self-published paperback book sold out three times in late 2014 and earned an international gold medal award in 2015. Also in 2015, her public relations campaign for the book, and the Birmingham food festival it was connected to, won a first place state award in public relations.

This summer you’ll have two opportunities to learn from this PR pro. On June 16 Chanda will speak at our DIY Marketing for Authors event with Books-a-Million sharing tips on how she successfully marketed Birmingham’s Best Bites. (Click here for more details on this event.) And on August 1, Chanda will be our morning keynote speaker at the Bloganista Mini-Con, discussing personal branding and how to get your work covered by the media. Mark your calendar!

Read on to learn more about Chanda.

bham best bites

How did Birmingham’s Best Bites come to be and tell us a little about the success you’ve had with the book?

In January 2014, I was director of public relations for the Birmingham Public Library. I had started thinking of how I could take the library’s Eat Drink Read Write festival to the next level. This would be the third year for the October festival and my first time getting in on the ground floor for promoting and helping mold some of the events.

I immediately thought about Martie Duncan, a Birmingham native and finalist from Food Network Star.  I first asked if she would host our finale event. She agreed. We met again in February and started talking about what her involvement would look like. By the end of the conversation, we had come up with an idea for a cookbook.

We put the cookbook together in a matter of weeks. It featured gorgeous photography from Arden Ward Upton and more than 80 recipes from 60 restaurants in and around Birmingham. The food is so tempting, you want to dive right into the pages and take a bite.

We started out with it being self-published and available at the library book store and a handful of restaurants in December. EBSCO  did the first two printings in October and November 2014 and Books-A-Million used its print-on-demand machine in December 2014 for a third printing. In January 2015, a publisher loved the book and agreed to print it in hard back. Today, the book is available in nine book stores and is available on Amazon.com.

Tell us about your blog and what you enjoy most about blogging.

I worked as a journalist for nearly 20 years before going into public relations in 2012. But soon, I missed writing on a daily basis. I knew that blogging would fill that void. But I kept putting it off until 2014 when I finally launched chandatemplewrites.com. I have Javacia Harris Bowser to thank for challenging me and staying after me to “just do it.”

I write about different things that I hope will motivate and inspire people in their daily lives and careers.

What I love most about blogging is how it allows me to take someone’s inspirational story and share it with others. If that story only encourages one person that day, I’ve done my job.

How has your career as a journalist helped you in blogging, in PR and with Birmingham’s Best Bites?

As a journalist, I had to know how cut to the chase to get to the heart of what mattered in telling a story. All too often, people like to go around the world twice to explain how they do something. They like to use big words and talk in their industry lingo. What they don’t realize is that’s boring and it loses readers quickly.

When I interview people for blog posts and they start going too deep into an explanation, I stop them and tell them to just talk to me like I’m their grandmother or a person they just met on the street. What’s the most important thing they want to tell me so that I’ll remember them? Keep it simple and drop all the fancy talk, I tell them. With a little coaching, they get it. And when they give it to me in simple terms, it helps me better sell their event or product.

People don’t have time to read, which is why I stress how important it is to get to the main point and pair it with images people will remember.

Tell us a little about what you do now and what projects or goals you’re currently working on.

I left the library in February 2015 to take a job as executive assistant to the superintendent and school board for Birmingham City Schools. On almost a daily basis, I’m telling the wonderful stories of our students, teachers and supporters. There are so many amazing things happening within the district. Like us on Facebook at Birmingham City School System to keep up with what our students are doing.

What’s next for you?

Good question. I’m looking at writing another book. It won’t be a cookbook, though.

You’ve been a part of See Jane Write since the very first event. What do you like most about SJW and what keeps you so loyal to this organization?

From the start, I’ve loved the energy of this group. I’ve learned so much and met some wonderful people. I can surely say that had it not been for this group, I would have never met some of the people I admire to this day.

Also, Javacia Harris Bowser is such an inspiration. You can call, text or email her about anything, and she has an answer.

Send your nominations for the next See Jane Write Member of the Month to javacia@seejanewritebham.com.

Member of the Month: Teresa “T.K.” Thorne

TK-ThorneToday I’m excited to announce that the See Jane Write Member of the Month for May is local author Teresa “T.K” Thorne.

Teresa has had a passion for storytelling since she was a child and she says this passion only deepened when she became a police officer for Birmingham as that career taught her about what motivated and mattered most to people and gave her plenty of fodder for her writing.

Teresa has won several awards for her work including “Book of the Year for Historical Fiction” (ForeWord Reviews) for her debut novel Noah’s Wife. Her first non-fiction book Last Chance for Justice, which is about the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. Lately, Teresa has been busy with book signings and book club appearances to promote her newest historical novel is Angels at the Gate.

Teresa has been a supporter of See Jane Write for years. She was a panelist on our 2013 event “I Wrote a Book, Now What?” and she helped arrange last year’s public speaking workshop with Attorney John Saxon.

I had a chat with Teresa to discuss her new book, her writing process and her words of wisdom for other women who write.

Cover-for-Angels-at-the-Gate--Web

 

Tell us about your latest book, Angels at the Gate

Secretly raised as a boy in her father’s caravan and schooled in languages and the fine art of negotiation, Adira rejects the looming changes of womanhood that threaten her nomadic life and independence. With the arrival of two mysterious Northmen, rumored to be holy men, Adira’s world unravels. She loses everything she values most, including the “Angel” who has awakened her desires. Caught between her culture and freedom, and tormented by impossible love, she abandons all she has known in a dangerous quest to seek revenge and follow the “Angels.” With only her beloved dog, Nami, at her side, Adira must use all the skills she learned from her father to survive the perils of the desert, Sodom, and her own heart.

Angels at the Gate is a story of adventure and the power of love, a compelling saga based on historical research about the ancient biblical world of Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the woman who “became a pillar of salt.”

You’ve said before that your passion for storytelling deepened when you were a police officer. How so? 

Being a police officer exposed me to situations and people that I would probably never otherwise have encountered. The experience was a crash course in life . . . and death. Seeing how people, including myself, reacted to challenges and crises expanded my capacity to empathize and understand human nature and increased my desire to write about it.

You’ve published both fiction and non-fiction. Was your writing process vastly different for those different genres? Was your marketing strategy different? 

With fiction, I write organically from a character-oriented base. Everything proceeds from the character and is about her journey of discovery and change. For example, in Angels at the Gate, Adira’s character started with the fact that she had a little problem with obedience, and so when she stashed a puppy in her robes, it was natural that she would have “stolen” it from the litter. Then I had to figure out why she would steal it, and, as a side effect, the character of Chiram the cook—who grumbles that he is going to throw the pups in the cook pot—was born.  This kind of approach allows for the surprises and twists that make writing a joy.

Doing the research for a historical novel is very similar to writing nonfiction. The process feels like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. The more pieces you have in place, the easier, but it can be quite daunting n the first stages. My nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice, might lean toward “creative nonfiction,” as I used narrative tools to tell the story.

The marketing is the same for fiction and nonfiction in these ways:

  • Marketing is about building relationships with readers.
  • Finding your target audience and the best way to reach them is key.
  • It is important to build an email list so you can market more than once to your target group(s).

Marketing nonfiction is different in that:

  • Nonfiction is easier to market, in general because the target audience is usually more readily identifiable.
  • More opportunities exist to be invited as a speaker.

Book Club Orange Beach 2

What advice would you give to other women writers who want to publish and promote their books?

1.  The only way to guarantee failure is to quit trying.  Don’t quit.

2.  Learn your craft. Read good stuff. If you find your heart strings pulled or that you are anxious about what happens next, or you go “Wow!”–stop. Study how the author did that.  Go to writing conferences. Participate in critique groups. Write. No matter how may words you get down; a book is written word by word.

3. You must be prepared to market. The days of a reclusive writer sitting back and letting a publisher do all the work are, for the most part, gone.

What do you like most about being a member of See Jane Write? 

This community of women writers is a very special one.  I feel that we all want to support one another, and that is a rare thing in business. Having a mentor like Javacia who is focused and works constantly on finding ways to encourage us and help us reach our goals and dreams is quite unique. Writing is a solitary endeavor for the most part and it is helpful, mentally and emotionally, to have others to lean on and learn from.  I love talking to writers about the process of writing. I always learn something, and their questions make me dig deep.

Anything else you’d like to share with the See Jane Write network? 

Follow your dream.  There are many disappointments and challenges along the way, but when readers tell you they can’t put your book down or they have read it twice, or, as someone recently told me, she sat in the tub reading my book way past the hot water state, you realize it was worth all the time and effort.  My goal is to write at least one book that will move readers and continue to be read long after I am gone.  I hope Angels at the Gate, and perhaps Noah’s Wife, may do that, and I believe Last Chance for Justice has added to our recorded memory of civil rights history.  I can think of no greater satisfaction.

Send your nominations for the next See Jane Write Member of the Month to javacia@seejanewritebham.com

Member of the Month: Sharon Williams

Today I am excited to announce a new feature and benefit of being a part of See Jane Write — the Member of the Month Spotlight. Each month I will highlight a member who is busy sharing her story and empowering other women to do the same. This member will be celebrated in the See Jane Write newsletter, on the See Jane Write blog, and on social media.

Our first Member of the Month is Sharon Williams.

sharon williams

Sharon is the author of The ABCs of Real Beauty and the founder of Real Beauty A to Z LLC.

Sharon is a woman on a mission and if you visit her website you’ll learn exactly what that mission is: “To be the change agent that helps women and young girls break the bondage of negative self-image; appreciate their God-given uniqueness; and get on the path of being all they were created to be!”

Writing a book was just the beginning. Sharon maintains a blog and is active on Facebook and Twitter. She’s showcased her book (and her message) at the Visions Beauty Distributors Natural Hair and Health Expo in Birmingham and the Taliah Waajid Natural Hair Show in Atlanta. She’s appeared on ABC/3340’s Talk of Alabama and landed an article in The Birmingham Times. Sharon also offers five-week coaching sessions to help women overcome issues of low self-esteem.

ABC's of Real Beauty Book Cover

 

Tell us more about your book The ABCs of Real Beauty.

The book is a really easy read that focuses on internal character traits. Just like the title, I have taken the alphabet and assigned each letter a character trait. From there, I define the trait and support it with Biblical scripture and a few discussion points. The whole premise is to take the focus off external looks and demonstrate the fact that we are so much more than what you see. The dictionary definition of beauty speaks of something that brings pleasure to the senses. The last time I checked, we have five senses and sight is only one of them.

What inspired you to write the book The ABCs of Real Beauty?

My inspiration came from several different places — part from my own personal struggles with negative self-image as well as conversations and observations of other women. We do a great job painting on the face that says “I’m OK,” but will walk around in silent struggle on the inside. I then ran across a survey that was done by Dove. It stated that only 2 percent of women would describe themselves as beautiful. I then began to do some research and was absolutely amazed by the amount of money people spend to alter their appearance. This somewhat reassured me that I was somewhat “normal,” but it also greatly disturbed me. As I began to recall the issues I had growing up, even into adulthood, I remember comparing myself to others and this is what I suspected the other 98 percent of women in the survey were doing. I then began to wonder what God thought about all of this—and then a light bulb went off! I believe that He created us all and if the intent was for all of us to look alike, He would have designed it that way. On the contrary, when you look around, you see different skin tones, different hair textures, different physiques. How can we NOT appreciate the variations of His handiwork? It’s almost like putting your absolute best into a project and then having that project tell you that you did it wrong. My revelation was that instead of celebrating the things that make us unique, they are being wielded as flaws, flaws that must be fixed! We have certainly bought into that line of thinking — so much so that we have created multi-billionaires on one hand, and numerous internally-conflicted souls on the other. Women and girls are being ousted, bullied, ignored, and oppressed (externally and internally) because they don’t fit the mold of what’s being sold as “beauty.” Instead of just complaining about it, The ABCs of Real Beauty is my personal attempt to change a few mindsets. It’s my reminder that real beauty is not all about looks.

real beauty

What do you enjoy about being a member of See Jane Write? 

This group is where I learned not only the importance of getting on social media, but some of the fundamentals as well. I can always find helpful tips and beneficial information. The opportunities to learn and grow as a writer, as well as network, are invaluable. This group has inspired, challenged, and disciplined me, as well. I really have to put on my “big girl pants” each November for the Blog Like Crazy Challenge!

To the members of See Jane Write and to those who are thinking of joining, we have a great thing here! I have come to learn that success comes in community, a community where there is support, freedom to share, and accountability. I used to get a little intimidated when I would find myself in the presence of someone who I perceived to have a greater knowledge or skill set than what I possessed. I have since learned that it’s the only way to grow! Your comfort zone will do nothing for you but hold you back and, yes, keep you comfortable. Something greater awaits those who are willing to step outside the zone! So, surround yourself with the people and opportunities to grow you to that next level.

If you would like to nominate someone for May’s Member of the Month, send your nominations to javacia@seejanewritebham.com

If you would like to become a member of See Jane Write, click here for more information. 

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