Month: April 2014

5 Lessons Bloggers Can Learn from Fashion Designers

Milo Beloved of Harold&MOD

Last week while covering events for Birmingham Fashion Week 2014 I had the opportunity to interview Milo Beloved of the locally-based vintage lifestyle brand Harold&MOD. Located at 2323 1st Avenue North, Harold&MOD is a unique shop offering fashion, art, jewelry, gifts, and home decor all locally designed and produced and they specialize in revamping vintage clothing.

While chatting with Milo I was struck by how so much of what he said could be valuable advice not only for fashion designers but for bloggers too.

Here are five lessons bloggers can learn from fashion designers like Milo Beloved of Harold&MOD.

1. Tell a story. In a recent video interview with Ivette Thomas of, Milo said that he and his partner Heidi Smith try to tell a story with their store and with their designs. Likewise, you need to tell a story with your blog. Even if you’re simply trying to pass along information, tell a story with each post. Furthermore, think of your entire blog as one big story. And the next time you’re struggling with your blog’s focus or theme simply ask yourself: What story do I want my blog to tell?

2. Find out what’s missing. Milo says that he wants to design for a variety of women from “the business woman” to the “fun, flirty college girl.” So he makes sure his inventory reflects this goal. “When I see one end  (of the spectrum) start to dissipate I try to provide for that,” Milo said. Take a look at the different aspects of the mission of your blog and see if you’ve been slacking a bit on one of those objectives. Did you start a fashion blog that you hoped would tackle tough industry issues but lately all you’ve been doing are outfit posts? Then step up your game! Also, if you’re trying to refocus your blog figure out what’s missing in your niche. What is the blog you want to read but can’t find? That’s the blog you need to write.

3. Embrace being in the South. Birmingham-based bloggers, this tip is for you. Birmingham may seem an unlikely place for a shop like Harold&MOD but Milo thinks it’s just right. The Harold&MOD line debuted last year with a pop-up shop during Birmingham Fashion Week 2013. That was a huge success and soon the brand was being featured in magazines and Milo and Heidi were being asked to help with video shoots. “There was this collective energy around it that pushed us forward and launched us in a way that I don’t know I would get in a bigger city,” Milo said. So instead of thinking you need to move to New York for your writing career to blossom, decide to bloom where you’ve been planed and know that you can find the support in Birmingham to do just that. In the South, Milo said, “We’re friendlier, we’re warmer, we’re a little bit more relaxed in a lot of ways. There’s something sweet about Southern fashion that you don’t necessarily see in other places. You can make up your own rules if you’re daring enough to do it.” Be daring enough to not only make up your own fashion rules, but make your own rules about your writing career too.

4. Pay attention to people. “I watch our customers very closely,”  Milo said when asked how he decides what he will design next. And he said he feels a true connection with his customers, too. Likewise, bloggers should get to know their audience and be sure to produce content that will add value to their readers’ lives.

5. Keep moving up. “I always want to think up and think bigger,” Milo said. He went on to say he’d like to see the Harold&MOD shop offer more local art and that they’re working on creating a product that they can mass produce. So what’s next for you? Figure out how you can take your blog to the next level. Maybe it’s a new feature. Perhaps your blog needs a new look. Or maybe you want to completely change the focus on your site. Decide what you need to do to get bigger and better and then do it!

A few looks from the Harold&MOD featured at this year’s Birmingham Fashion Week:

Want more from Birmingham Fashion Week 2014? Check out the Birmingham Jane feature on designer Elizabeth Singleton at

How I Landed My Own Column (Without Writing a Pitch)

Photo by Sherri Ross Walters

Just as I do at the end of every year, this past December I wrote down a list of goals for 2014. This time, though, I did things a bit differently. This time I wrote my goals as declarations not aspirations. So instead of writing “I want to land my own column in a local print publication,” I wrote “I will land my own column in a local print publication.” And by January 31 I had done exactly that.

I am now a columnist for B-Metro magazine. My first piece ran in this month’s issue and addresses the issue of whether or not there is a feminist aesthetic. In other words, can you tell a person is a feminist by looking at her?

My column, called Write Like a Girl, will tackle everyday feminism and women’s issues each month. You can read my debut piece “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” here.

When I wrote down my declaration last year I also determined that once I did snag this column opportunity I would write a post about how I did it. In the post I would examine the anatomy of the perfect pitch. But I didn’t write the perfect pitch. In fact, I didn’t write any pitch. I was actually offered this opportunity before I had the chance to ask for it.

Nonetheless, I do have a few tips to offer.


Why Women Writers Should Love the Birmingham Public Library

Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

This week has been National Library Week and thus I’ve been thinking a lot about why I love my local library. When I asked myself that question the answer came to me quickly: My local library empowers me both as a writer and a woman. 

I could talk about the hours on end I spent as a teenager in the North Birmingham, Titusville, and Downtown branches of the library reading books to help me with everything from figuring what religion I truly believed to applying for college, scholarships and financial aid. But I don’t have to look back that far. 

Just this year my local library has done plenty for me. 

In February the downtown library hosted its annual Local Authors Expo and gave me an opportunity to lead a workshop on social media and talk about See Jane Write to other local writers. 

In March at the Smithfield library I attended a motivational talk by Eunice Elliott on pursuing dreams, a talk that helped me focus on the goals that matter to me most and figure out the kind of legacy I want to leave. 

The library also opens its doors to local organizations that want to host events of their own to empower Birmingham residents. 

A few weeks ago I attended Power In Heels, a program for female entrepreneurs sponsored by Operation Hope and hosted at the downtown library. I left that program feeling fearless. And last year See Jane Write hosted a panel discussion on publishing.

Women writers should love their local libraries because libraries are buildings rich with inspiration for great stories, and that inspiration doesn’t only rest within the pages of novels or short story collections. Visit the archives section, step back in time and watch your imagination run wild. 

Ask to see old scrapbooks of early Birmingham residents like Edith Ward. Take a look at the paper dolls she collected as a child, the letters from boyfriends she received as a teen, and other items like a dance card, clippings of her favorite poems, and playbills from theater performances she attended. Look at photos and read diary entries about her love for her bike, or her “wheel” as she called it. For Edith and other young women of the late 1800s their bikes represented freedom. A girl might hop on her bike and ride from the Southside all the way to Bessemer. 

I don’t write much fiction, but learning about Edith’s life had me itching to try my hand at a historical novel set in Birmingham. 

Birmingham Public Library staff members after collecting signatures
at City Hall for th
Declaration for the Right to Libraries

As National Library Week comes to an end show your appreciation for Birmingham libraries by signing a declaration of support. The national campaign known as the Declaration for the Right to Libraries is simply a good-faith effort to show how important libraries are in empowering and building communities, strengthening families and changing lives. 

You may visit any library in Jefferson County and ask to sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries. Or you may go online and sign by visiting
For more information, visit 

Time Management Tips for Writers

Image by Courtney Dirks via Flickr/Creative Commons

How do you do it all?

This is a question usually posed to career-oriented women who are also fantastic moms. Ironically, this is a question I am asked at least once a week despite the fact that I don’t have kids (unless you count the 89 students I teach at the Alabama School of Fine Arts). 

Irene Latham author of books such as Don’t Feed the Boy and The Sky Between Us
recently invited me to speak to a meeting of the Birmingham chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and she wanted me to speak on the topic of time management, on how I do it all. 

So what all do I do? I run See Jane Write and See Jane Write Magazine. I maintain a personal blog at I freelance for Birmingham magazine and USA Today’s custom publications. I write a monthly column for B-Metro magazine and a monthly segment for Birmingham’s NPR affiliate WBHM 90.3. And all of this is in addition to my full-time teaching job. I also exercise every day, stay active in my church and community, and I have a husband who would like to see me sometimes. 

So how do I do all this and stay sane? Well, firstly, I can’t guarantee that I’m sane, but there is a method to my madness. 

Here are some of the tips I offered the group last night: 

1. Keep a detailed to-do list every day. I actually keep an old school paper planner and in it I not only keep record of important dates for the month but also daily task lists. On especially busy days I set specific time brackets for each thing I must do. I even write down when I’m going to shower or take a break to grab a bite to eat. 

2. Know your “non-negotiables.” I have an ideal schedule for each day, a picture of how much time I would spend not just on writing but also on things like exercise and hanging out with my husband if I could. But then I am willing to adjust this schedule as things come up. The things you place on your ideal schedule, however, should be what I call your “non-negotiables” — things you must do daily. So I may have to adjust the amount of time I spend on these things or when I do them should speaking or networking opportunities pop up, for example, but I must get these things done nonetheless. My “non-negotiables” are work, exercise, showering, eating, writing or working on See Jane Write, and spending time with my husband. 

If you are a mother or a caretaker for an elderly parent and feel you don’t have much control over your day, get up early, stay up late, or carve out time in the middle of the day that you can devote to your writing. 

3. Trust the Pomodoro Technique. If I have a huge project or several tedious tasks to tackle in one day I use the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo is simple, yet brilliant. You break down your work in 25-minute intervals, taking five-minute breaks after each one. After four work periods you take a longer break of about 20 minutes (enough time to grab a sandwich or a shower). The technique is based on the idea that the frequent breaks will keep you sharp. And it works!

4. Be social. I attend several networking events a month. It’s a good way to be very career-focused and still have a social life. Also, make time for social media. This doesn’t mean you have to stare at your Facebook feed for hours. Just take a few minutes throughout the day (such as during lunch or breaks) to engage your networks. Scheduling tweets and Facebook posts is a great timesaver, too. 

5. Remember that balance is a unicorn. If you want to know how to have a well-balanced life, let me know when you figure that out. During her Birmingham visit last fall, superstar journalist, entrepreneur, wife and mother Soledad O’Brien was asked how she balances it all and her answer was simple: “I don’t.” She said that sometimes she’s a bad mother to be a good journalist, while other times she’s a bad journalist to be a good mother. Those comments lifted tons of weight from my shoulders. Sometimes I am a bad blogger because I need to be a good teacher. Sometimes I’m a bad businesswoman because I need to be a good wife, daughter, sister, or friend. And that’s OK. 

How do you write and still have a life? 

Introducing The Birmingham Jane

“What will do you do to help others rediscover the magic of Birmingham?” That was the question posed to attendees of the March 1 TEDxBirmingham conference. We were each given a commitment form to fill out answering that question and invited to share our plans on the TEDxBirmingham commitment wall. I sat for hours pondering what I would do. I sat holding my commitment form in my hand, crumpling it to the point that I had to ask for another one.
But as the conference continued I began to notice a clear theme: the power of storytelling. Though the topics of the talks ran the gamut — from cyber crime and medical research to improving education and supporting the arts — each speaker was inspiring me to make a difference because of their captivating stories. And in some cases they had even made a difference and brought about significant change simply by telling stories.
And so I knew what I would do. I would start The Birmingham Jane project — a See Jane Write series of profiles on women in Birmingham who are making a difference in our city. My hope is that by sharing their stories I will inspire readers to strive to make a positive impact in their spheres of influence as well.
I launched this series last Monday at See Jane Write Magazine. I felt it was only right to begin this series with a woman who not only spoke at TEDxBirmingham but has been a cheerleader and champion for Birmingham for years: Laura Kate Whitney. You can read her profile here.
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!