What FoodBlogSouth is cooking up for 2013

Guest post by Shaun Chavis 
When Jason Horn and I started FoodBlogSouth three years ago: 

I thought it would be a one-day workshop with about 50 to 75 people. 

I didn’t think we’d have a sell-out crowd the first year. 

And I had no clue how many great friendships and opportunities it would create… not just for me and Jason, but for the bloggers, speakers, and sponsors who have been a part. 

High Road Ice Cream of Atlanta served ice cream samples at the last FoodBlogSouth Conference
and they’ll be back in 2013!

Jason and I started FBS for two reasons: Reason #1, most of the food blogging conferences were either in New York or somewhere on the West Coast. If you’re in the South, you can easily spend $1000 or more to attend a 2-day conference in either of those spots. We wanted something we, and our other food blogging friends in the South, could attend without breaking the bank. We also felt like Southern food bloggers in general have something unique to contribute to the entire food blogging world, and we wanted a conference that could support and call attention to that. And we realized Birmingham had a lot of great resources to be able to do it. The talent here alone is a hidden incredible gem.

Reason #2: We wanted to support a local non-profit children’s writing project that was just starting up, Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO).

So here we are, just a few months from our third event! For FoodBlogSouth 2013, we’ve got three tracks. A half-day beginning track, a full day creative track, and a full day tech & business of blogging track. If you attend, you don’t have to stick to one track, you can hop back and forth. 

The Pecans Project from Greensboro, which helps high school dropouts learn business skills,
served spiced nut samples and pecan butter samples at FoodBlogSouth 2012. 

Ready for the highlights? 
  • Our keynote speaker is J. Kenji-Alt Lopez, of Serious Eats. His Food Lab posts are great, and he’s got a Food Lab 2-volume book coming out in 2013. 
  • Bloggers told us they wanted more about how to be unique and creative, and I don’t think any blogger does that better than Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet (any food blog fan who’s been around a while remembers his Janet Jackson Cupcake post after the infamous Superbowl halftime wardrobe malfunction —that post got him a few minutes on CNN).  He’ll talk about writing. 
  • We’ve got two photography sessions: #1, a camera phone session with Beau Gustafson, a local freelance photographer who’s done a lot of work at Southern Progress Corporation. (If you’ve ever tried to take a picture of a restaurant dinner with nothing but a candle on the table for light, this is the session to attend!) #2, an advanced photography session, led by two previous FBS attendees—Helene Dujardin (Tartlette)  who is a professional photographer, awesome blogger, and author of Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling. She’s working with Tami Hardeman of Running with Tweezers, who is a professional food stylist. 
  • We’ve got a fun twist on recipe writing this year, and it’s starting with a game for bloggers that’s already starting (wanna play)? The game is called Recipe Telephone, based on the game Telephone (remember that game as a kid)? Bloggers are taking turns changing a Roast Chicken recipe one at a time, and passing it on to the next blogger. No telling what it’ll turn into! Cookbook author Cynthia Graubert will use the recipes from the game in her recipe writing session. (And, the recipes will be published in a chapbook.) 
  • Martie Duncan, of Martie Knows Parties, and a contestant on Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star,” is doing a session about How to Cook on Camera. 

Goo Goo Cluster was a proud sponsor of FoodBlogSouth 2012.
Can you think of a more iconic Southern candy?

We’ve also got sessions on how to brand yourself as a blogger, how to write your own cookbook, a session where experienced bloggers share how they juggle blogging and the rest of everyday life, SEO and tools for bloggers, and more. Plus there’s going to be some good food: Look for some delicious cheeses for breakfast, and we’ve got a crew of chefs from Baton Rouge coming to cook for our after-party. 

FoodBlogSouth has always had another mission, too: Proceeds support the Desert Island Supply Company (DISCO), a non-profit children’s writing center in Birmingham. FBS 2012 raised $13,000 for DISCO, which just had its grand opening the weekend before Thanksgiving. I’m on the board of DISCO, and anyone who knows me knows I have personal reasons for supporting DISCO. My paternal grandfather was illiterate—as an adult, he couldn’t write his own name. No one should grow up without knowing how to read and write. Knowing how to write and communicate ideas on paper is power. And, my other reason is that reading and writing has always meant so much to me. I grew up an Army brat, which meant moving around a lot and losing friends. (No email, Facebook, Skype, or FaceTime back in those days!) Books and writing were the companions that I’d never lose, no matter where we moved.

I hope you’ll join us for FBS 2013… for the sessions, for the chance to meet other bloggers and make new friends, and to support a place that gives kids opportunities to write. We’ve had great support from bloggers all over the South, from the City of Birmingham, from colleagues at Southern Progress / Time Inc., and from Alabama businesses. All of our speakers have been great, too. 

If you plan to sign up, use the code “SeeJane” to get 10% off your registration. 

“Bitchie” Blogging Advice

Necole Bitchie
Image via iamnecole.com

While cruising around in Twitterville last night I happened upon a link to an interview with celebrity gossip blogger Necole Bitchie. If you’ve been reading my blog, The Writeous Babe Project, even for a week you probably won’t be surprised to know that celebrity gossip isn’t really my thing. I frequent blogs about feminism, writing, faith, and living your best life. But the tweet about this article caught my eye because it mentioned Ms. Bitchie “falling out of love with her blog.” 

I’ve been there. 

It happened with my previous blog Georgia Mae. And one of the reasons I have yet to make any moves toward starting an online magazine is my fear that eventually I’d lose passion for the project. So, I was interested in what Necole had to say about this and about blogging in general. 

Interviewer Jerrod Hobbs of CarltonJordan.com asked Necole if people need to live in a certain area to be a successful blogger. Ms. Bitchie stated that if your goal is to be an entertainment news and celebrity gossip blogger with exclusive coverage then being near a major city like Los Angeles, New York or Atlanta is probably your best bet. But she went on to say, “The good thing about living in other cities across the nation is that you can be that ‘It person’ for your city.” 

I think this doesn’t just have to apply to celebrity news. I’ve heard and read advice from successful bloggers in a variety of niches recommending that emerging bloggers seek to take a local approach to their topics. I’ve been considering this myself. Could the See Jane Write blog become the source for news and information on Birmingham’s literary and media arts communities?

Later in the interview Ms. Bitchie told Hobbs that between March 2011 and May 2012 she had to take a break from her site to deal with some personal issues. Meanwhile, her brand was changed into something different from what she created and that’s what caused her to fall out of love with blogging for a bit. 

I think there’s a valuable lesson we can all learn for this and I think it goes back to the idea of having a mission statement for your blog or any project. You need a clear vision for your work and you need to stay focused on that always. 

This, perhaps, is the solution to staying motivated and committed, the key to staying passionate about what you do. In the interview Necole Bitchie discussed the importance of following through and said the secret to sticking with it is to do what makes you happy. Don’t chase blogging trends; tackle topics you truly care about. 

Being true to your mission and to your voice will also help you keep readers. These things will make your blog and your brand consistent which will make your readers loyal. Ms. Bitchie explained it this way: “A good brand makes people feel a certain way and gives a certain experience.  People are loyal to things because of the way they make them feel.”

To read the CarltonJordan.com interview with Necole Bitchie click here

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

You Need an Elevator Pitch

Image by robinsonsmay via Flickr/Creative Commons

Yesterday after stuffing myself with turkey, dressing, macaroni & cheese, greens, and yams, I somehow resisted slipping into a food coma and started chatting with my dad about my future. During our talk I announced that I had plans to start my own business, sort of. I saw his face light up. My father, who’s always been my biggest cheerleader, was eager to know more. So I started to tell him a bit about See Jane Write and how I had plans to transform my little networking group into a non-profit organization. “OK, tell me what it will do,” my pops asked.

I had an answer, a very looong and detailed answer. As I was explaining what See Jane Write has done in the past and what I hope the group will do in the future I felt I was rambling. My father listened intently, hanging on my every word, and showed how confident he was in my future success, but that’s because he’s my daddy. If I were pitching my idea to a potential sponsor or to a woman I hoped would be part of See Jane Write I would have been tuned out after my first few sentences, I thought.

Immediately after this conversation I decided I needed to draft an elevator speech for See Jane Write. Chances are you need to draft one for one of your project as well, whether it’s a business you hope to start, a blog you recently launched, or a book you’d like to publish.

An elevator pitch, as I’m sure you know, is a brief speech that you can use to spark interest in your organization, project, or idea. Obviously, it should last no longer than a short elevator ride of about 30 seconds — hence the name.

An elevator pitch should answer three important questions — WHO, WHAT, and WHY — and should state a goal. Who are you? What do you do and what problem do you seek to solve? Why is your organization/project/idea unique? Explain your short term goals.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

See Jane Write is an organization for women writers of Birmingham. 
It offers free programs, such as workshops and panel discussions, to help fiction and non-fiction writers sharpen their skills and to help women writers learn how to promote themselves and their work. 
This group also strives to build community among women writers through social media and networking events. 
My hope is to register See Jane Write as a non-profit organization within the next year so that we can be eligible for grants that will allow the group to do even more for local women writers and launch a program for teenage girls interested in writing careers. 

Clocking in at 39.1 seconds, it’s a bit long, but I think it will do the job for now. Feel free to leave tips for improvement in the comments.

What’s your elevator pitch? 

Cross posted at The Writeous Babe Project.

“I do it for the joy it brings”


In a post about why she blogs, Birmingham-based blogger and editor Erin Street quoted my favorite Ani DiFranco song, “Joyful Girl,” and inspired my blog post for today.

For years I’ve thought that this song, particularly the first verse, describes perfectly my love for writing. It explains why I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of 7 even though it’s a rather thankless and low-paying occupation that most people regard as a hobby. 

But last week as I was listening to the song (on repeat) in my car I realized the first verse also explains why I’m so determined to build up See Jane Write. I’ve been asked plenty of times why I bother organizing events for local women writers even though I’m not making money off my efforts. In fact, I usually spend money to make these events happen. And yes, the time I spend on these programs I could be using to work on my own writing. But the joy, the downright giddiness, that I feel when working on See Jane Write activities is invaluable. 

I do it for the joy it brings

Because I’m a joyful girl 

Because the world owes me nothing

And we owe each other the world. 

I do it because it’s the least I can do 

I do it because I learned it from you

I do it just because I want to

Because I want to

— Ani DiFranco, “Joyful Girl” 

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project.

Why I Love Being a Woman

Last week Glamour magazine hosted its annual Women of the Year Awards. Honorees for 2012 include the likes of actress Selena Gomez, photographer Annie Leibovitz, Girls creator Lena Dunham and USA gold medal Olympians. (Click here for a complete list.)

As Evette Dionne mentioned on her blog, The Huffington Post’s women’s website, Huff Post Women, captured the spirit of the evening at a reception dinner, asking several honorees and attendees this question: “What do you appreciate most about being a woman?”

This got me thinking: What do I love most about being a woman? It didn’t take long for me to reach an answer.

The thing I appreciate most about being a woman is sisterhood.

I believe in the power of sisterhood.

Most women understand that when we band together we are an unstoppable force.

In my nearly 32 years on this earth in this female body I have learned that your good girlfriends make accomplishing goals more manageable and a lot more fun — whether you’re working toward artistic or professional aspirations or a goal to get in shape.

My #bloglikecrazy challenge is a perfect example.

I’ve now blogged for 19 days straight even though I’ve been juggling my full-time teaching job, freelance writing assignments, and church and family obligations. I’ve also had to make time to develop writing prompts to send to other bloggers participating in the challenge. One of the primary reasons I’ve been able to do this is because of ladies of See Jane Write and other female bloggers across the country who’ve been blogging like crazy with me. Their posts keep me inspired; their energy keeps me motivated.

And what I’ve seen happen this month on the See Jane Write Facebook group page has been fascinating.
I’ve mentioned before that the women of See Jane Write have been sharing their blog posts with the group and have been forming incredible connections, even with women they’ve never met IRL, as they discover things they have in common. But what I’ve also seen is women who were intimidated by blogging or had left their blogs sit dormant for months getting in on the action too. They’ve started or relaunched blogs because they saw we were having so much fun.

All this has inspired me to strive to take See Jane Write to even higher heights and I know I can do it because my sisters will be there to help me along the way.

Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project