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Where Two or Three Gather

That’s me with our amazing speakers Erin Shaw Street and Kristen Record Heptinstall

I am a fiercely independent person. My parents raised me to be that way and I’m grateful for that upbringing because I believe I owe much of my success to it. But sometimes being Ms. Independent brings trouble, or stress headaches at least. Too often I take on huge projects and refuse to ask for help. Even when I’m drowning I won’t scream for a life jacket. 

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to begin to make a difference in Birmingham, though at the time I wasn’t really sure what that would look like. Eventually I decided to start See Jane Write, a networking group for women writers in Birmingham. This time I’m not going to make the mistake of trying to do it all on my own. 

Last night See Jane Write had its second event: See Jane Tweet, which was a seminar designed to teach women writers how they can use Twitter and other social media tools to promote their work and connect with other writers. The event, held at Matthew’s Bar & Grill, was a huge success and it couldn’t have been without the help of other women. Erin Shaw Street and Kristen Record Heptinstall were amazing speakers who kept the audience engaged, encouraged an interactive atmosphere, and filled us all with their web wisdom. And many of the attendees were there because other people helped me spread the word. 

After the seminar I had a chat with Keisa Sharpe, publisher of the website TheNaturalHairDiva.com, about the importance of collaboration. Writing for her website, for example, has brought more traffic to my blog. But this is about something much greater than self-promotion. If I’m going to transform Birmingham into the kind of city that nurtures and supports creative and ambitious women, I need the the help of other creative and ambitious women in town. I need also the help of men who share this vision, men like Wade Kwon, who actually crashed our all-girl event to show his support. 

I’m a church-going gal and in Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” I think this is concept is one that can be applied to a number of things regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof. When two or more people are gathered in the name of something greater than themselves, be that a deity or a dream, the spirit of whatever has brought them together will be present and will work wonders. And that’s exactly what happened last night as I saw my dreams for See Jane Write becoming a reality.

More shots from See Jane Tweet


Shameless Self-Promotion

State of the Re:Union is a public radio show and website that sets out “to explore how a particular American city or town creates community, the ways people transcend challenging circumstances and the vital cultural narratives that give an area its uniqueness.” The program’s latest episode is on the Magic City, Birmingham, Ala., and features writing by yours truly. Stop by the site and check out my letter to the city.  
 
There’s even audio of me reading portions of the letter in the show. My reading is about 19 minutes into the show.  
Here’s an excerpt of the letter: 
 
Dear Birmingham,
I guess you always knew I’d come back to you.
Wooed by the palm trees of California’s East Bay Area, Seattle’s cool summers and snow capped mountains, and the bluegrass of Kentucky, I left you; for six years I called other cities home.
But I came back to the rich red earth that birthed me.
I came back to taxed groceries, seemingly endless DMV lines and poor customer service. I came back to government scandals and corrupt local politicians who have nicknames like La La. I came back to crime reports that scare suburbanites away from your downtown.
But I am not afraid of you.
 
Click here to read the entire letter and listen to the show. (You’ll find links to letters to the city on the right side of the page.)

See Jane Tweet Rescheduled for May 26

On April 27 tornadoes ripped through the state of Alabama, destroying homes and businesses and killing over 200 people. Many of the women involved with See Jane Write were affected in some way, so we decided to postpone our social media seminar See Jane Tweet. That event has been rescheduled. It will be held Thursday, May 26 at Matthew’s Bar & Grill from 6-8 p.m. Click here to register. 


As our state struggles to pick up the pieces and rebuild in the face of such devastation things like social media may seem trivial and insignificant, but I disagree. It is actually because of the storms that I approach See Jane Tweet with fresh perspective and a better understanding of just how useful things like Twitter can be. 


When I lost electricity in my home I was still connected to others and still aware of when the tornadoes were getting closer to Birmingham because of Twitter updates from my friends, which I was able to access through my phone. Lives were saved as pictures and videos posted on social media sites proved to people that these storms were serious threats and that they truly needed to take cover. See Jane Tweet speakers Erin Shaw Street and Kristen Record Heptinstall will also share stories of how social media tools have been vital to the coverage of the storms and the aftermath. 


As Christy Turnipseed wrote on her blog, “with the new day of social media, it seemed as if we were all one family huddling together keeping one another informed and making sure we were all safe.”


I hope to see you all at See Jane Tweet. 


Register for this free event at http://seejanetweet.eventbrite.com/

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! 



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