Month: February 2015

How to Write and Have a Life


Yesterday morning I once again had the honor of being featured on ABC33/40’s Talk of Alabama. I was on last month discussing how I managed to exercise every day for 365 days. This time I had the chance to promote my e-course How to Write and Have a Life. (For a limited time you can view my segment here.)

People constantly ask me “How do you do it all?” because I juggle managing See Jane Write with teaching full time, freelancing part time, blogging, exercising daily, being active in my community and church, and spending time with my husband, family, and friends. And so I developed this e-course to show people exactly how I get stuff done.

TOA tips

Yesterday I offered four time management tips to Talk of Alabama viewers:

Multitasking is ruining your life.  Many people believe that multi-tasking will help them get more done and that’s actually not true. You can get more done and in a shorter period of time if you simply focus on one task at a time. Whether I’m grading papers, writing a blog post or cleaning my apartment, I can do those things in half the time if I focus on doing just one thing. And in my e-course I share a technique that I use to help with focus.

The magic is not in your planner but in the planning.  People always ask me, “What kind of planner do you use?” And I always tell them “The magic is not in your planner but in the planning.” To get more done you must be intentional about how you spend your time. In my e-course I show you have to make to-do lists that will help you set priorities and even plan out each hour of your day when you are especially busy.

Remember that “No” is a complete sentence.  Even though I do a lot, I believe in taking a day off. Each week I set aside a day when I do no work and I just relax or spend time with family and friends. If you’re consistently unable to take that day off, then you’re doing too much. In my e-course I write about the importance of realizing that “No” is a complete sentence. And when trying to determine when to say “No” it’s about vision and values. If something doesn’t move you closer to your vision for your life and doesn’t align with your values, ditch it! In the e-course I walk you through exercises to help you determine your vision and values.

Stop sleeping through your life.  I am a believer in the old saying that the early bird gets the worm. Getting up early is a great way to get more done, especially if you are a parent. If you wake up before your family does, you can have time to yourself to work on that book you always wanted to write or update that blog you’ve abandoned.

But to be honest with you, my #1 secret to getting stuff done isn’t something I can teach — it’s simply gumption.

I’m not feeling well right now and didn’t get much rest the night before my segment. Snow was in the forecast for yesterday (which as you know for Alabama is a HUGE FREAKING deal) and thus there was a chance my segment would be canceled. A part of me wished that it had been because I was so exhausted that morning. But then I stopped being a big baby and stopped feeling sorry for myself. And sometimes this is exactly what we need to do to make the time to pursue our dreams. Sometimes you just have to put on your big girl panties and do the work!

Stop making excuses and just do what needs to be done.

Click here to enroll in How to Write and Have a Life today!


Cross-posted at

How to Get a Book Deal

Anne and Marie
Marie Sutton and Anne Riley

Skittles, Red Bull and Kanye West’s College Dropout — those are the things that helped Marie Sutton write a book in seven months.

On Saturday, Feb. 21 See Jane Write hosted the workshop How to Get a Book Deal with local authors Marie Sutton and Anne Riley.

Marie Sutton is the author of The A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Landmark, which was published November 2014 by The History Press. Anne Riley is the author of the young adult novel Shadows of the Hidden, published December 2012 by Compass Press.

Marie and Anne helped workshop attendees craft a rough draft of a pitch letter to sell their book idea to literary agents and publishers.

Before putting participants to work, Marie and Anne shared the stories of how they landed their book deals, gave tips on how to bring a book idea to life, and discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly about publishing.

marie teaching

Before committing to writing a book there are some important questions you need to ask yourself, Marie said: Why do you want to write a book? What are you willing to sacrifice? Can you be disciplined enough to complete the task? Do you have a support system? Can you write? 

For folks who want to write a book but aren’t sure what they want to write about, Anne said simply consider what you like to read.

Marie and Anne are both wives and mothers and they work full-time. So finding time and space to write wasn’t easy for either of them, but they did it anyway. Marie would “get in the zone” around 9 p.m. each night. She’d sit at her dining room table and write while listening to Kanye West, snacking on Skittles and sipping on Red Bull. She even had a comfortable outfit she’d wear that she called her writing uniform.

Anne finds it impossible to write at home — distracted by laundry, dishes, etc. — and prefers to work in a coffee shop or library instead.

Anne stressed the importance of perseverance. She revised her last novel two dozen times! It’s OK if your first draft is terrible. It probably will be. “Dare to suck,” Anne said, causing the crowd to burst into laughter. To be a good writer you must also let go of your pride. Get people to critique your work and welcome criticism. It’s the only way you’ll get better.

If you decide you want to go the route of self-publishing, beware that to successfully sale your book you will have to make marketing your full-time job, said Anne, who self-published her first novel before it was later acquired by a small press. Anne had a lot going on when she was trying to promote her book. “I was giving birth and self-publishing at the same time,” she said with a laugh.

Whether you have a book deal or not, you still need to promote yourself. A few simple things you can do to promote your book include: Get a Facebook page for your book and use other social media like Twitter, get business cards, tell EVERYONE about your book, establish new relationships with people who could help promote your book and work the relationships you already have.

The Perfect Pitch

janes at work

When crafting your pitch letter, particularly for a non-fiction book, consider the following:

  1. What is the working title of your book?
  2. Write a one-line description of your book.
  3. Who is the book’s primary reader? Who is this book for?
  4. Why do readers need this book? What void does it fill? For non-fiction writers, consider the mission of your book. For fiction writers, consider how your story is unique. Are there other books on this topic (for non-fiction) or other books that tell a similar story (for fiction)? If so, why is your book different? If not, is there a need or desire for this book?
  5. Why are you the right person to write this book?
  6. Do you have enough to write a whole book? Would this be better as an essay, blog post, or short story?
  7. List the chapters of your book.
  8. What will be your book’s word count?
  9. What sources do you need for this book? Do you have access to information about this topic or to resources you need to flesh out your story?
  10. Do you have access to built-in audiences? If so, who? Be specific.

Anne teaching

For fiction query letters, Anne offered the following tips:

1. Don’t simply send a form letter. Start by explaining specifically why you chose to query this particular agent. Did something you read online attract you to this agent? Do you know someone who works with this agent?

2. Next offer essential information such as your book’s title, genre, and word count.

3. Then offer a summary of your book’s plot. Include setting, conflict and an introduction of your main characters. You want to be very interesting and intriguing here. If the agent isn’t hooked here, your query is toast, Anne said.

4. Include information about yourself. Offer anything interesting and relevant. Anne said you should leave out generic things like “I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil” or “I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer.” Explain why you stand out from other writers. What makes you special?

5. Close your letter with any information the agent needs to know (such as if other agents are reading your manuscript) and a quick thank you.

Remember, Anne said, agents will judge your writing ability by the strength of your letter. After all, if you can’t write a good letter, why would anyone think you could write a book.

You Need a Professional Headshot


“Man!  You look like a boss!”

That was my husband’s reaction the first time he saw the portrait of me pictured above. It was the first professional headshot I’d ever had done and my husband’s reaction was exactly what I wanted.

If you want to start taking yourself seriously as a writer, if you want to transition from blogger to businesswoman, you need a professional headshot. Whether you have been asked to speak at a conference or you are being featured on a popular website, people will constantly ask you for a headshot. You also need a nice photo for your social media channels, especially professional ones like LinkedIn.

As photographer Lynsey Weatherspoon wrote in a recent blog post,  “LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network on the Internet, deserves more than the selfie you shot in the car on the way to your job.”

Lynsey was the photographer behind my #likeaboss headshot and she’s currently booking headshot sessions in the Birmingham area for March 1st and 2nd. Book your session here. Once you book, make a note of your preferred day. Send inquiries and questions to

This is not a sponsored post. Lynsey didn’t ask me to share this information with you. I just really loved my first professional headshot and I want you to have a headshot that you love just as much.

I’d love for you to share your headshots in the See Jane Write Facebook group


A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

bbj ceremony

A rising tide lifts all boats.

On Thursday evening the Birmingham Business Journal celebrated its 2015 class of Top 40 Under 40 with an awards ceremony at Iron City. I was among those honored, chosen for the work I do through See Jane Write. The evening was nothing less than fantastic.  I walked in the door and was greeted by several people I’d never met before who wanted me to know how much they loved my picture — the one that ran with my article in the Birmingham Business Journal, the one I was once insecure about because I’d opted to wear a trendy Olivia Pope-inspired outfit instead of a traditional black or navy business suit. “Your picture was hands down the best,” one fellow honoree said to me. This was a great lesson in daring to be different and daring to be myself.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

A table with my name on it and people stopping and asking to take my picture all made the night feel surreal and unreal. I tried to soak it all in. I tried to figure out what I would write in my blog post about the night, but I just kept hearing the same thing in my head over and over:

A rising tide lifts all boats.

As each honoree received his or her reward, a video recorded the day of our photo shoot was played for the crowd. I’ll be honest — we were all dreading this moment. Seeing yourself on camera is bad enough. Seeing yourself on a larger-than-life screen while hundreds of other people look on is much, much worse. In the video we were each asked what helped our career take flight. Again, I dared to be different. My answer wasn’t about a partnership or promotion. Instead I spoke about getting over my impostor syndrome and self-doubt. I talked about the importance of believing you deserve success and I declared that if I want people to take me seriously as a businesswoman I must do so first.

As the ceremony continued several women made their way over to my table to thank me for what I said in my video, to thank me for saying something they believed all women needed to hear.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

Ironically, even though Thursday’s ceremony was in part a celebration of me, it was also a reminder that my successes aren’t about me. In fact, that’s why I call my organization See Jane Write, not See Javacia Write. It’s not about me. It’s about empowering all Janes; it’s about empowering all women writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs.

In my video and article for the Birmingham Business Journal I talk about the importance of women taking themselves seriously and this week I plan to help the women of See Jane Write do just that. Each day this week I’ll be posting inspiration and information to help you take your career to the next level.

Perhaps you’re not sure where to start. If that’s the case, then let’s chat. I’m currently accepting appointments for one-on-one consultations for March. During these consultations you can ask me whatever you need to about freelance writing and publishing, blogging, personal branding and marketing, building a community organization and more. Get more details here. There’s also one additional spot available in next month’s Blogging Boot Camp, which has been set for March 15.

Remember, I’ll be posting here every day this week giving you something big or small to help your career take flight, too. Or maybe consider this information the moon pulling the waters of your work toward the sky. But don’t forget: A rising tide lifts all boats.

Jane About Town: What to Do This Weekend and Beyond

book deal

There’s only one ticket left for Saturday’s workshop How to Get a Book Deal. Local authors Marie Sutton and Anne Riley will help you write the perfect pitch to sell your book idea to literary agents and publishers. Marie and Anne also will share the stories of how they landed their book deals, give tips on how to bring your book idea to life, and discuss the good, bad, and the ugly about publishing.

marie sutton headshot

Marie Sutton is the author of The A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Landmark, which was published November 2014 by The History Press.

anne riley

Anne Riley is the author of the young adult novel Shadows of the Hidden, published December 2012 by Compass Press.

Get your ticket now at

If you don’t snag that last ticket here’s another event for your consideration:

Author Denise George, wife of Dr. Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School, will be hosting two all-day Book Writing Boot Camp seminars at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham on February 20-21 for current and aspiring authors.

Memoir-Writing Magic!

Exciting New Ways to Turn Lifetime Memories into Book-Length Memoirs

Friday, February 20, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Canterbury United Methodist Church, Mountain Brook

Lunch provided


Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

The Major Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

Saturday, February 21, 2015

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Canterbury United Methodist Church, Mountain Brook

Lunch provided


If you register for BOTH all-day seminars, you’ll receive a special discounted price of $285.

To register, visit and click “Register.”

Looking Ahead

arc light

The next Arc Light Stories event is set for Saturday, February 28.  “LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD – Stories About Love” will be held at the Avon Theater.  The cost is only $5 at the door.  Doors open at 7pm, and stories start at 7:30pm.

Save the Date


The Y’all Connect social media conference has been set for June 12, 2015.