How You Can Carry On the Mission of Magic City Post

We were very sad to learn yesterday that Magic City Post is closing. Since 2010 the Magic City Post website has been publishing great stories about the positive aspects of Birmingham, about the passionate people dedicated to helping Birmingham live up to its nickname of the Magic City, and about all the hip happenings of the city. 

Yesterday’s farewell post by MCP founder Emily Lowrey was the site’s final post. The Magic City Post website and social media channels will shut down in a few weeks. 

It’s so hard to say goodbye, but Lowrey says it’s time.  In her post Lowrey writes:

If you’re wondering why we’re shutting the site down…well, it’s just time.  In many ways, we feel like we fulfilled some of our mission to help inform people about the bright side of Birmingham.  More often now, we’re seeing positive local content covered by other publications and that’s a good thing.

Magic City Post Founder Emily Lowrey

Still I can’t help feeling as if the closing of Magic City Post is going to leave a huge void in Birmingham’s media and blogging scene. Perhaps that is a void that you can fill. 

I asked Lowrey to share with me any advice she’d give to someone hoping to pick up where she left off by starting a website like Magic City Post. Lowrey gives these ten tips: 

1. Develop a posting calendar. For MCP, this meant working the calendar out weekly, but it’s a tool that should work for you. Adjust to fit your niche.   

2. Don’t do it all yourself.  If you can afford to pay writers to contribute, then do that because you make the local writer community stronger.  Also, rely on your writer friends for guest posts to help fill your editorial calendar and be sure to reciprocate.   

3. Find under-served communities who need to be brought together, and do that through your blog by producing content important to them.  On that same note, remember that if you and your community share common values and interests you’ll likely find content ideas or even complete stories just by asking your community for contributions.  

4. The “right” intern can make your blogging experience far more enjoyable.  Mandy Shunnarah worked well for Magic City Post not only because she was a writer, but I’d say even more importantly because she shared MCP’s mission to experience and share the positive side of Birmingham. She was absolutely invaluable to this experience. 

5.  If you choose to partner with anyone, most especially a business partner, make sure that you share those common values and that you’ve agreed upon a list of ground rules for how you’ll resolve any issues that you encounter. 

6. Be mission focused.  For you, that may mean that you are building up your presence and expertise in a particular topical area.  However, if you are blogging because you want to make a living off blogging, then you either need to become a sales expert or you need to find a sales expert partner.  

7. Extend the reach of your blog by partnering with a network.  On the content side, this could be a group like See Jane Write where you support and share information with one another.  On the revenue side, this could mean finding advertising solutions that allow you to sell into a larger network.  MCP’s real estate partnership with Zillow was one example of revenue network extension.

8. Rely on expert resources.  I still learn something new each week that I visit, a site with information that will help you identify and develop online communities.  

9. Some of my favorite experiences at MCP was meeting our readers, but nothing can ever top hearing that you connected two readers who then went on to fulfill your mission (for us that was making Birmingham a better place to live).  That, my friends, is liquid gold.  

10. Finally, you aren’t married to your blog forever; you do need an exit plan.  If you develop a community and decide to shut down that community, point your members toward new resources where they can find similar content.  

I Wrote a Book…Now What?

Have you written a novel that you’re just letting collect virtual dust on your computer? Or maybe you have an idea for a book that you haven’t started on because you have no clue how you would ever get your book published once it’s complete.
If either of these scenarios sounds familiar, then the next See Jane Write panel discussion is one you don’t want to miss.

I Wrote a Book…Now What? is a panel discussion on the publishing world and is set for Tuesday, May 7 at 5:30 p.m. This free event will be held in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Branch of the Birmingham Public Library. To register visit:

Whether you have questions about landing a deal with a major publishing house, working with a small press, finding a literary agent or self-publishing, our panelists can help.

Irene Latham
Birmingham poet and novelist Irene Latham is the author of  Leaving Gee’s Bend, published by Putnam/Penguin in 2010. That book is set in Alabama during the Great Depression and was awarded Alabama Library Association’s 2011 Children’s Book Award. Her latest novel Don’t Feed the Boy (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 2012) is about a boy who wants to escape his life at the zoo. Irene is also poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal and has authored two award-winning poetry collections, What Came Before (Negative Capability Press, 2007) and , The Color of Lost Rooms (Blue Rooster Press, 2010).

Kathryn Lang

Self-published author Kathryn C. Lang was presented with the Nation’s first Tourism Fiction Awardfor her short story, “Digging Up Bones.” The short story will be featured in the third novel of her Big Springs novels. Kathryn’s books are published in paperback through CreateSpace (Amazon’s publishing wing) and online through Smashwords and Kindle. 

TK Thorne
Teresa (T.K.) Thorne is the executive director of CAP (City Action Partnership) and a retired captain from the Birmingham Police Department. Active in the community, she also moonlights as an author, and her debut novel, Noah’s Wife won ForeWord Reviews“Book of the Year” award for 2009. Her short stories and screenplays have garnered awards as well. A film from her screenplay, Six Blocks Wide, was based on her experiences in the Birmingham Police Department and has shown at juried film festivals in Alabama and Europe. Her next book, Last Chance for Justice: How Relentless Investigators Uncovered New Evidence Convicting the Birmingham Church Bombers is being published by Chicago Press Review and will be out September 1, 2013.

Our panel discussion will be moderated by Stephanie NamanStephanie is an advertising and editorial writer with fifteen years experience. Her first book, BarCode: Your Personal Pocket Decoder to the Modern Dating Scene, was turned into segments for a syndicated dating show called “The Single Life.” In addition to writing for advertising clients like Little Debbie and AT&T, she is working on the Chloe Carstairs mystery novel series written under the pseudonym Billie Thomas. The first novel in the series, Murder on the First Day of Christmas was released in December 2012. Stephanie is also the marketing director for Indie Visible, a collective of writers working to use social media and other resources to promote quality independent work. 

Leave your questions for our panelists in the comments section of this post and don’t forget to spread the word about this event to all your writer pals! 

Letter of the Law: Keep Your Blog Legal

Editor’s Note: The following post is by Keith Lee, an attorney with the Hamer Law Group and the man behind the popular law blog Associate’s Mind. Ketih will be a special guest at See Jane’s Write Bloggers Who Brunch event set for April 7. RSVP via Facebook or in the comments section of this post. 

Guest post by Keith Lee 
Blogging is one of the greatest revolutions in publication since the printing press. It has given the ability to publish and be heard to essentially everyone with access to a computer. Almost all of the filters or barriers between a person wishing to share their thoughts, and display them in public, have been removed. Computers and the internet have given everyone the opportunity to have their voice heard.
But with this opportunity comes responsibilities and liabilities. You decide to blog about a bad experience you had at a restaurant which then reads your review and decides to sue you for defamation. Or someone makes a comment on one of your blog posts that attacks a politician. That same politician decides to come after you instead of the commentator. You decide to tweet about something that a local business gave you as a free trial – and the FTC decides to open an investigation file.
All of the above are worst case scenarios that are unlikely to happen. But at the same time, it makes sense to take some basic, and generally easy, precautions to familiarize yourself with laws and make sure you are complying with them.
Free Speech
First and foremost, you have the right to free speech. The government has no right to censor or impede you sharing your opinions. It is unlikely you will ever face any restrictions on your speech from the government.  But sometimes individuals or businesses will attempt to suppress an individuals right to free speech through what is known as a SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
To go back to our bad restaurant review as a example, the restaurant learns of the bad review by a blogger. The restaurant files a lawsuit against the blogger as a way to threaten and bully them to take the review down. The restaurant is betting on the fact that they have deeper pockets, and better lawyers, than a small-time blogger. So while the restaurant’s lawsuit would likely fail if it ran its course, it doesn’t matter. The restaurant doesn’t need to win in court, they only need to intimidate the blogger enough to take down their review. Hence, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

Other People’s Speech
Another difficult issue that can arise in blogging is the comments on a post. Comments are fantastic to receive because it indicates that your readers are engaged with your writing. But it can also be a headache it they are negative or attacking people in public. But as a blogger you are generally protected. Specifically, you are protected by a section of the Communications Decency Act passed in 1996. While much of the Act has been struck down as restrictions on free speech, one important part has survived:

Section 230 says that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 U.S.C. § 230).

Essentially, you are not responsible for the speech of others on your website. Under the law, bloggers are not liable for comments left by readers, the work of guest bloggers, tips sent via email, or information received through RSS feeds. Section 230 provides the protection that has allowed innovation and freedom to thrive on the internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an excellent infographic on why Section 230 is so important.
Paid or Compensated Speech
Many people who start blogs do so in the hopes of them becoming a business. Maybe not a full-time one, but a passive, secondary business nonetheless. The way many bloggers make money is through the endorsement of products and services through affiliate links. Affiliate links are unique links that serve two purposes: A) it directs a visitor to a sales page AND B) credits the host-blog with a commission should the visitor make a purchase by tracking the link back to them. The most common example of this is Amazon’s Associates program.
This type of activity went unfettered for many years before the government stepped in. In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission revised its rules and regulations regarding endorsements and testimonials in reaction to blogs and online advertising (warning: only read that you link if you are a glutton for punishment or a lawyer!). What these new rules mean is that there is now a requirement for voluntary disclosure of endorsements and affiliate links.
The easiest way to do this is a simple statement: “This is an affiliate link,” or “I received this product from X company – but I am endorsing it because I use it and believe in it.” What matters here is honest communication with the reader, not compliance with some obscure legalese.

Want To Learn More?
As I stated earlier, blogging is a fantastic revolution, and one that people should embrace. But you should also be aware that, like everything else, it is governed by rules and regulations. These rules should not intimidate you. You just need to take a small amount of time to learn about them and make sure you are complying with the law and keeping yourself protected. Which, admittedly, can be tough – just last week the FTC released a new set of rules that particularly affects Twitter. So it’s worth your time to keep tabs on the laws affecting blogging from time-to-time.
If you would like to learn more about these, and other issues you might face as a blogger, I’ll be speaking at See Jane Write’s Bloggers Who Brunch at noon on April 7 at Black Market Bar. I look forward to meeting and speaking with you. 

See Jane Write Turns 2!

Exactly two years ago today See Jane Write began with a small gathering of 14 women at a local Mexican restaurant. We crowded around a table and discussed our writing adventures and aspirations and I asked them what they wanted from a group like See Jane Write.  The women there that night I barely knew at the time, but some are now good friends of mine — women like Chanda Temple, Erin Shaw Street and Karri Bentley. And it’s crazy to think that some of See Jane Write’s biggest supporters currently — women like Sherri Ross Walters, Tanya Sylvan, Mandy Shunnarah, Jessica Jack Wyrick, Emily Lowrey, Darlene Robinson Millender, Jennifer Dome and Carol Marks, who has driven all the way from Huntsville to attend events– are women I hadn’t even met two years ago. 

The second See Jane Write event — a Twitter workshop — drew about 40 people; the next event — a panel discussion on blogging — drew about 65. The See Jane Write email list has grown to nearly 300 addresses. And thanks to this wonderful group I’ve been featured on great websites like Magic City Made and The Cobalt Club and I received the SMART Award, an honor given by the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham to innovative women in the city. 

It’s hard to believe that all this has happened in just two years. But I have a feeling that year 3 is going to be even more amazing. 

If you’d like to give See Jane Write a birthday gift feel free to do so via the PayPal button to the right. But if you can’t spare any extra cash there are other ways I’d love for you to be part of the See Jane Write movement. 

Here are my goals for the next year and how you can help. 

1. Start magazine.
As some of you already know, I plan to launch See Jane Write Magazine this summer. This will be a blog-style website offering information and inspiration for women writers, bloggers, and journalists worldwide. You can support this project now by following the new Twitter account @seejanewritemag

2. Create a blueprint. 
I’ve had requests to start See Jane Write organizations in other cities and even other states, which is one of the reasons I decided to start the magazine. But I want to do more. I want to one day be able to offer a detailed blueprint to future See Jane Write ambassadors in different cities. But See Jane Write is only two; she’s a toddler that still stumbles when she walks. I need your help in getting See Jane Write where she needs to be before we can start showing her off to the rest of the country. 

3. Have a See Jane Write conference.
I would really like to have a See Jane Write conference one day but the idea is so overwhelming it ties my stomach into knots. But with your help, I believe a See Jane Write conference could be fantastic. As author Jen Hatmaker says, instead of being overwhelmed let’s be awesome. 

If you’re interested in helping with any of these projects, please email me at I will be hosting a small planning party in the coming months. 

Let’s do this! 

And the winner is…

The winner of the free all-access pass to the Strength Mitzi Jane Media Social Media Conference is “Katie – Hems for Her.” Please email me so I can get you set up with your prize. 
If you didn’t win remember you can still get a $20 discount on the full conference rate until 10 p.m. tomorrow by using the code jane. Click here (affiliate link) to register. 
*I used Random Number Generator to select the winner. “Katie- Hems for Her” was the fourth person to enter.
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