Month: May 2013

The Power of Digital Storytelling

Wade Kwon
Photo Credit: Sean Kelley

As writers we understand the power and the value of storytelling. However, far too many of us fail to realize that we can and should use these storytelling skills we possess in the digital realm through blogging and social media. 

Whether you’re a small business owner seeking new customers or a writer seeking to grab the attention of readers or editors, you need to blog and you need to use social media. If there’s anyone who can help you do this well, it’s Wade Kwon — who will be the speaker at See Jane Write’s next Bloggers Who Brunch event. 

Kwon is a well-known communications consultant based in Birmingham and the director of the upcoming blogging and social media conference Y’all Connect. Kwon will be speaking at the Bloggers Who Brunch event set for 11:30 a.m. on Friday, June 21 at Nabeel’s (1706 Oxmoor Road, Homewood). He’ll be discussing the upcoming conference and the power of storytelling. 

Kwon believes that all businesses — whether a gigantic corporation or a small mom & pop shop — should be using blogging and social media as these are prime ways to reach consumers. And the same goes for writers, too.

“If you’re trying to get the attention of editors, publishers, or readers, blogging should be a part of what you do on a regular basis,” Kwon said.

Just as social media and blogging can be used to help businesses get the attention of potential customers, these tools can help an author find new fans, a freelance writer snag new gigs, or an aspiring novelist land a book deal. 

“Don’t think that networking opportunities only happen at conferences and workshops,” Kwon said. “They can happen every day around your writing,” that is if you’re blogging and effectively using social media. 

And when it comes to social media, Kwon knows his stuff. The Poynter Institute selected him as one of 35 Influential People in Social Media. Birmingham Magazine readers selected him as Best Tweeter in the Best of B’ham 2010 and 2011 online polls.

But Kwon didn’t organize the Y’all Connect conference to show off his own talent, but to show off his hometown of Birmingham. 

“Birmingham is too talented and too rich of an environment to keep quiet any longer,” Kwon said. 

Y’all Connect, which is taking place July 23 in Birmingham, is designed to help you master the art of digital storytelling and thus boost your business and/or writing career. 

Mack Collier, author of Think Like a Rockstar, will be at the conference speaking on how you can create content that is more relevant and exciting to your customers or readers. 

Peter Shankman, author, entrepreneur, and founder of Help a Reporter Out, will teach you at least six actions you should implement so you can start seeing immediate growth in your company or career. 

Top metereologist and Twitter superstar James Spann will also be speaking, along with several other social media gurus. 

Kwon has created a special discount code for See Jane Write. Our special promo code is: SJW89.

Visit and enter the code above for $30 off your ticket. That makes your ticket just $99 and that includes the full conference, two meals, one snack and two parties. And register soon because the first 100 ticket buyers receive a free copy of  Collier’s book, Think Like a Rock Star.

And if you’re eager to learn more about blogging and social media before Y’all Connect don’t miss June’s Bloggers Who Brunch event. You can sign up at http://bloggerswhobrunch3.eventbrite.comSpace is limited so register today!

Liza Elliott to host mixer for local bloggers, authors, and poets

Birmingham-based author Liza Elliott

If you’re a blogger, author, or poet you need to be at Little Professor Book Center on Sunday at 1:45 p.m. Birmingham-based author Liza Elliott is hosting a B.A.P. (Bloggers Authors and Poets) Mixer for local writers. This event is a great chance to meet other Birmingham-area literary artists. 

Elliott is the author of 30-A Supper Club (Red Camel Press), which follows sociologist Harley McBride on her quest to identify a gold coin she finds on a Florida beach near County Road 30-A. McBride’s search leads her into a murky world where her longtime friends and members of the 30-A Supper Club protect deep family secrets dating back to the Civil War. A complicated pursuit of the true meaning of the coin begins drawing Harley into secrets about illicit affairs, murders, and more.

Read on to get to know Elliott and be sure to come out to Little Professor on Sunday. 

30-A Supper Club seems very different from books you’ve written in the past. What was the inspiration for this novel?

The beach.  On my first trip to Cape Cod when I was a child, I fell in love with the sand and water, the thrill of digging out a partially hidden shell, and the ever-changing sound of the sea, from big waves to gentle slaps on the shore. 

A few years ago, I was strolling along the beach in Seagrove Beach, Fl, and thought, “What if I discovered a gold coin in the sand?  How did it get there?  What if it was old?” Then, I began to imagine the theme of the book. What if identifying the coin led to lost Confederate gold? By the end of my walk, I had the plot.

Tell me about your writing process. Do you write daily? Do you write in a certain place or at a certain time of the day? What do you use to keep yourself inspired?

I write everyday in my home office and prefer the early morning.  In the afternoon, I critique my draft, make notes, and problem solve story dilemmas.  

All my characters have bios, which I hand-write on an index card.  These have details such as hair and eye color, where they went to school or college, their occupations, their hometowns and favorite music, sports teams or movies — in short, a brief back story. I tack them on a bulletin board, which hangs over my desk.

As for what inspires me, it is people, their stories and the contexts of their lives.  How persons individually, in a community, or in a society, interact alone and together under a variety of circumstances presents endless story possibilities.  The true ones are often more fantastic than any made up story. So I listen to or read about people with stories of good times, bad times, heroism, or foolishness.  Mix it all up and voilá — a story.

Why did you decide to publish 30-A Supper Club with a small press?

Small presses take risks.  That is their strength.  They give new writers a chance to showcase works that might be a potential mass audience blockbuster, but more often are smaller niche market books.  In addition to working with the writer to produce the best manuscript possible, a small press will handle the details of the cover, the ISBN, and so forth.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing? 
Self-publishing, to me, is no different than a musician setting up his or her own label and producing their own albums, CDs, and singles.  Many A-list actors set up their own production companies to write, star, and direct.  Each succeeds on the basis of the quality of the work and their efforts.  Technology and the Internet has made this possible for writers.  Writers should explore all options and decide what is best for them. 

The B.A.P. Mixer is a great networking opportunity. Why do you think it’s so important for writers to meet and build relationships with other writers?
It is always good to see what is going on in one’s field.  The energy from discussions of all sorts of topics can inspire and motivate those who participate.  Writers can exchange thoughts on new styles of writing, the future of ebooks, and so forth.  Being part of a community of writers reduces the sense of isolation writers sometimes feel.  Writing is solitary work.  Knowing you can call another writer for input, problem solving, or just to vent about something is valuable.
Liza Elliott will host a mixer for bloggers, authors, and poets
Sunday at Little Professor Book Centers in Homewood.
Do you think Birmingham is a good city for writers? 

A writer can be anywhere and write about anyone or anything. That said, Birmingham is a good city for writers.  It has a complicated rich history that can be mined for great stories.  

Birmingham still has bookstores, from the big chains to important independent bookstores with loyal customers and supporters. Professional recognition and support between local writers and local bookstores can be a match made in heaven.

Birmingham also has a terrific literary magazine, the Birmingham Arts Journal, edited by author Jim Reed.  He is the godfather of writers around here and is a longtime leader in the Alabama Writers Conclave. 

The Birmingham branch of the National League of American Pen Women, of which I am a member, is a longstanding organization of women writers, artists and musicians where collaboration, exchange and support has existed for many years.  Its national scope and activities helps local writers reach a national audience.

With coffee shops to suit your every mood, universities, sports fields, museums, concert halls, small club venues for music, theatres for plays and dance, there is no shortage of settings, people, and activities, here, that can inspire a writer from non-fiction to fantasy, and everything in between.

Join Liza Elliott for The B.A.P. Mixer Sunday, May 19 from 1:45 to 3 p.m.  at Little Professor Book Center, 2717 18th St. South in Homewood. A light brunch will be served. 

See Javacia Lead

Even though it was quite horrifying to see my big head taking up a whole page of a magazine, I am extremely honored to be featured in B-Metro’s women’s issue this month. The article is about my wrote with See Jane Write and you can read it here.


A Recap of Our Latest Event, I Wrote a Book…Now What?

Our Amazing Panelists:
Irene Latham, Kathryn C. Lang and TK Thorne

Another See Jane Write event is in the books! Last night’s panel discussion I Wrote a Book…Now What? was a huge success with more than 50 people in attendance. Irene Latham, Kathryn C. Lang, and Teresa (T.K.) Thorne were amazing panelists and I can’t thank Stephanie Naman enough for being such a great moderator.

Thanks to Christina J. Wade for tweeting this picture.
She was ready to take notes!


Things went so smoothly. The hardest part of the night was trying to tweet out and take note of  all the words of wisdom our panelists and moderator were sharing about the publishing industry. I learned so much.

The question that seemed to be on the minds of many attendees was if they should self-publish or go the traditional publishing route. Lang stressed that this was a question you’d really have to answer for yourself based on what you really want out of your writing career.

One of the advantages of going the traditional publishing route is greater distribution and more opportunities to get your book reviewed. Also, with a traditional publishing house you will receive help with marketing. Even if you have a book deal with a major publisher, however, Latham advises doing your own marketing in addition to what your publisher provides for you. For example, when she published her children’s book Leaving Gee’s Bend with Putnam/Penguin in 2010, she took it upon herself to arrange school visits to help market her book.

“I wanted to give my book the best shot it could get,” Latham said.


Being the English teacher that I am, as I listened to last night’s panel discussion I found myself searching for a theme and I didn’t have to search for long. The thing that kept coming up was the importance of building relationships.

If you are publishing the traditional way, one important relationship will be that with your literary agent.

To find a good agent the panelists suggested attending genre specific conferences. You should also check websites like for reviews on agents. Lang says if a literary agent asks you for payment upfront, run! Typically, the arrangement is the agent receives 15 percent of they sell for you. 

Additionally, if you read a book that’s similar to yours check the acknowledgements as writers often thank their agents. Find the agent and send him or her a query letter.

Speaking of which, Thorne stressed the importance of mastering the query (and gave me an idea for a future See Jane Write workshop) and the importance of having a tough skin in this business. You’re going to get rejected (by agents, publishers, etc.). Accept it. 
Your relationship with your literary agent is a serious one. “It’s like a marriage,” Latham said. An agent, for example, can serve as a mediator between you and your editor.
“And my agent can talk me off the ledge when I’m freaking out,” Latham said.
Nonetheless, it is still a business. Remember you hired your agent.
Moderator Stephanie Naman had plenty of wisdom to share too!

By a show of hands, most of the people in the audience last night were interested in self-publishing. There was a time when self-publishing was looked down upon in the writing world, but Naman said that’s changing. For example, self-publishing is now a huge topic at writing conferences, she added.

Nonetheless, quality is still important. Even if you’re not seeking a traditional publishing deal you still need to present your best work. Attend writing conferences and join a critique group, Thorne recommended. Get an editor and a professional graphic designer to help with your cover, Naman added.

Having a good marketing plan is essential for writers who want to self-publish. And the key to successful marketing is, you guessed it, building relationships. 

Thorne, who has found much success with email distribution lists, said having an online presence is important but reminded us not to be a pest. She said she understands how excited you’ll feel after your book is in print. “I had to resist stopping strangers on the street when Noah’s Wife was published,” she said.  
Of course, you also need a website or blog and using social media is a great idea too but don’t post about your book every three minutes on Facebook, Lang said. 
Naman recommended that authors use methods that work best for them; stick to things you’re good at. For example, Naman is not a fan of book signings. Instead she loves blogging and networking on Twitter and thus has used those platforms instead to promote her book Murder on the First Day of Christmas
When marketing remember to focus on how you can help people. This will help you build relationships and make people really care about the success of your projects. So instead of your emails and blog posts simply being about you and your work, use these tools to share valuable information (such as writing, publishing, or networking tips) with your followers. 
Marketing will be a lot of work, but don’t stop writing to focus solely on marketing. The more you write the more connections you’ll make. And the money you make from your first book can help you produce and promote your next one. 
“The key to a successful writing career,” Lang said, “is to keep writing.”