In 2009 — after living in Berkeley, California; Seattle, Washington; and Louisville, Kentucky — I returned to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama to teach. Despite the fact that I’d left a job as a newspaper reporter to start a career in education, I knew I wanted to continue to write.
This would be my first time in Birmingham as a working, writing adult. I knew how to be a teenager in Birmingham writing angst-ridden poetry and prose in my journal, sitting in my bedroom with The Cranberries or Mariah Carey playing on the radio.
I knew how to be a writer on the West Coast and in the Midwest. But I had to learn how to be a writer in Birmingham.
Step 1: Find your people. When I returned to Birmingham I tried to find a group for women who both write and blog to support me as I went after my aspirations. After two years of searching to no avail, I started one of my own. In 2011, See Jane Write was born.
If you’re a woman who writes or blog, the women of See Jane Write may be your people. But if not, there are plenty of other groups you should check out, like the The Sister City Connection Spoken Word Collective, Alabama Media Professionals, or Write Club at Hoover Library.
Step 2: Get inspired. American author Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Fortunately, Birmingham has plenty of places and events to motivate your muse. I asked some of the women of the See Jane Write Network Facebook group to share where they go in the city to get inspired.
“I do a lot of writing and finding inspiration at the Botanical Gardens,” says Jessica Furniss of Spiffy Eats. “Might be a little cliche, but the shade and the creek are my jam.”
Birmingham parks — especially Railroad Park — were popular picks among the See Jane Write Network, as was our god of the forge.
“I’m most inspired by nature, so sometimes I’ll go eat lunch at Vulcan and watch the city below,” says Jasmine Shaw, who writes the blog Season 26.
Sherri Ross of SherriRoss.com recommends heading to Highland Avenue. “I love all the parks along Highland Avenue – Rhodes, Caldwell and Rushton,” she says.
If you need some indoor inspiration, try attending events at Desert Island Supply Co., Alabama School of Fine Arts, the Lyric Theatre, Alabama Theatre, or Birmingham Museum of Art. Each April, clear your calendar for Magic City Poetry Festival. Make plans to attend SPARK Writing Festival set to be hosted by UAB, August 5-9. Boost your blog at WordCamp Birmingham August 10 and 11. Unlock your inner poet at the Birmingham Public Library’s spoken word and beer tasting event Bards & Brews.
Related Reading: Why I’m Attending SPARK Writing Festival
Related Reading: Meet Me at WordCamp Birmingham 2019
And, of course, one of the best ways to get inspired to write is to simply read. Bookstores like Church Street Coffee and Books, Reed Books, and the Alabama Booksmith should help you beat writer’s block.
Step 3: Just write! Sometimes to do our best writing we have to get out of the house away from dishes, laundry, and Netflix.
The women of the See Jane Write Network like to set up shop in local coffee houses. Some of their favorite spots include Red Cat Coffeehouse (both locations), Urban Standard, Woodlawn Cycle Cafe, Filter Coffee Parlor, and the Highland Park and Homewood locations of O’Henry’s.
“Look for the box on the mantle (of the Homewood location) — it’s got hidden notes!” says Halley Cotton, who is the lead organizer of SPARK Writing Festival.
Local libraries are popular writing spots, too. Cotton frequents the Linn-Henley Research Library.
“The Hoover Library has a great area with comfy cushions and chairs and a cafe,” says writer Nancy Dorman-Hickson. “There’s even a local artist gallery.”
We writers may find inspiration in our favorite vacation spots and foreign lands but, remember, home is where our story begins.