How to Be a Blogging Star

See Jane Write held its second educational event Thursday, a blogging seminar I called So You Think You Can Blog (you know you love the name.) More than 50 people attended the event and I’ve received numerous emails and tweets from attendees who say they learned a lot and had a great time. 
The seminar began with a brief talk by Trish Bogdanchik of on ways to monetize your blog. I was amazed by the wealth of information she was able to pack into a 10 to 15-minute talk.

Trish Bogdanchik of
Trish recommends selling ads at about $18 – $25 per 1,000 clicks. She added, however, that you might want to charge more if your readers are affluent and more likely to do business with your advertisers than the average blog reader. 
Don’t plan to rely on ads alone. Trish recommended sponsored posts and events as other ways to generate revenue. 
If you are going to get serious about turning your blog into a business you must accept that you’re now a salesperson. You should also consider getting a lawyer and an accountant and a registered trademark. And be professional. Just because you blog in your pajamas doesn’t mean you should show up to meetings and networking events in them. 
Trish also said it’s good to have a five year plan. Sit down and figure out where you want to be with your blog in five years and then figure out how you’re going to get there. 
The feature presentation of the night was a panel discussion with Jen West of The Jen West Quest, Rachel Callahan of Grasping for Objectivity and Alabama Bloggers and Laura Kate Whitney of Magic City Manifesto. These ladies are hilarious and kept us all laughing throughout the discussion. But they’re just as sharp as they are funny and taught us all so much. 
Our lovely panelists and I

There was much discussion on the best blogging platform. The ladies of the panel and a few tech savvy audience members agreed that would probably be best if you want your blog to be a business, but emphasized that Blogger is much more user friendly. (Click here for more on versus 
But at the end of the day it doesn’t what platform you’re using if you don’t have quality content. Jen advised against blogging on a topic simply because it’s the next big thing. Blog about your passion and stay true to your voice. 
Also be consistent. If your blog is about the great people, places, and things in your city, don’t randomly start posting about famous coin collections.  Jen even said that she’s found if she’s not blogging about a specific goal she’s working toward (which is essentially the theme of her blog) she sees a slight drop in her number of readers.
Facing blogger’s block? Laura Kate keeps a notebook by her side in which she records thoughts, observations, etc., that could become future blog posts. She even had it with her at Thursday’s event!

When it comes to spreading the word about your blog, Laura Kate said there is nothing wrong with some good ol’ “shameless self-promotion.”

The ladies all agreed that social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook are great ways to promote your blog, but just be sure that you’re not using those sites solely for that purpose or your followers will probably start ignoring you.

Rachel also stressed the importance of community. Network with other bloggers through meetup groups and online forums. Comment on other blogs. Respond to your readers when they comment on your posts. Make it clear that you want your readers to stick around because you care about them, not just because you care about the page hits.

There was so much information to be shared, so much to discuss, I feel as if I should have had a blogging conference instead of a two-hour seminar.  Maybe I’ll include that in my own five-year plan. 

So You Think You Can Blog

With so many blogs out there, how can you make yours stand above the rest?
There are at least three female bloggers in Birmingham who seem to have found the answer.  
Jennifer West launched her blog, The Jen West Quest, on March 30, 2010 and, believe it or not, she’s posted something every day since. Because of her blog West has had a chance to work with Health magazine and has even appeared on The Rachael Ray Show.
Laura Kate Whitney started to make a name for herself in Birmingham just a few months after arriving in the city thanks to her blog, Magic City Manifesto.  Whitney’s mission is to find the magic in the Magic City and celebrate the hidden gems of Birmingham. Her blog has led to opportunities for her to work with B-Metro Magazine and got the attention of skirt! magazine.
Rachel Callahan started building an audience for her writing at her blog Grasping for Objectivity, but she didn’t stop there. Callahan is also the woman behind Alabama Bloggers, which she started to help bloggers network and share ideas both through the website and monthly social events.
If you have a blog or you’re considering starting one, you’re probably thinking it would be great to pick the brains of bloggers like West, Whitney, and Callahan. Well, you can do exactly that at the next See Jane Write event, So You Think You Can Blog, which will be held 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 28 in the auditorium of the Homewood Public Library, 1721 Oxmoor Road.  
This free event will include a panel discussion featuring West, Whitney, and Callahan. This discussion is all about helping you figure out how to capture an audience and keep them hooked.
We want to know how we can help you. What questions about blogging do you have for our panel? Leave them in the comments section or email them to me at
So You Think You Can Blog will also give you the opportunity to network with other local female bloggers, including our special guests Keisa Sharpe of The Natural Hair Diva and Trish and Angie of Birmingham Mommy. These three women have all taken a passion and from it created a blog and from that created a business.
To register for So You Think You Can Blog visit

Must Love Girls

image via

The folks at the skirt! Creative Conference surely know how to save the best for last. The workshops and talks on Friday and Saturday had been so informative and so inspirational I could returned to Birmingham Saturday night and felt I got my money’s worth. But, boy am I glad I stuck around.

Sunday’s keynote speaker was Claire Cook (pictured above), author of the best-selling novel Must Love Dogs, on which the 2005 romantic comedy of the same name was based.

Cook is one of the most down-to-earth writers I’ve ever met. She has this generous spirit that’s so bright it’s contagious. And she’s a woman who believes in sisterhood and solidarity. In fact, near the beginning of her talk she shared a famous quote by Madeleine Albright: “There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.” 

Cook gave us practical advice, such as: Collect email addresses everywhere you go. Add your Facebook and Twitter sites to your business cards. The best way to become a better writer is to become a voracious reader. Choose one project and work on it wholeheartedly until it’s complete instead of dabbling in too much at once.

But the real message I took from her talk was simply love yourself, love other people, work hard and play nice.

Love yourself. Stop trying to imitate your favorite author or trying to write the kind of book that seems to be popular these days. Write your story. What is the thing about you that gives you a book only you can write? Tap into that and write from that place. Novelist Emily Giffin, who wrote Something Borrowed (also adapted for film) and a host of other books, spoke at the conference and she too gave this advice.   

Love other people. When you’re trying to make it big as a writer, or whatever your career of choice may be, it’s tempting to only look out for yourself, to only focus on your goals. This is a mistake. Cook has spent years offering free workshops to people, especially women, because she wants to help others. But by helping others you often indirectly help yourself as you build a name for yourself and build a community of supporters who will be your biggest fans.

Work hard. When working on a novel, Cook commits to writing two pages every day. Period. No exceptions. Set a similar rule for yourself so you can complete your project.

Play nice. The Must Love Dogs movie almost didn’t happen, but it did mostly because Cook is a kind person. Gary David Goldberg revoked his initial offer to make the movie, but instead of burning bridges and breaking ties, Cook wrote him a thank you note showing gratitude for even being considered. This started a great friendship and when Goldberg was once again in a position to make the film he did. And Cook made enough money to put her kids through college.

Because I’m a feminist, Cook’s dedication to helping other women obviously stood out to me most and it really encouraged me too. Never again will I doubt the work I do with organizing groups such as See Jane Write. At the end of her talk one of the women in the audience said, “If it’s true that there’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women, there must be a special place in Heaven for you.” To me that is the greatest compliment a woman could ever receive. 

My hair is my brand and other epiphanies

In addition to the change-your-life, Oprah-like sessions I’ve written about, the skirt! Creative Conference also offered very practical workshops on how to promote your writing, including one on social media. Session leaders Taryn Pisaneschi and Desiree Scales echoed a lot of the things I’ve heard at similar seminars, which was reassuring.

Social media is like a hearing aid, they said. You can use it to find out what people are talking about. You can also use it to find events you might want to attend, position yourself as expert and to build your brand.

Something that Twitter rookies always wonder is What should I tweet about? I even know some people who haven’t tried Twitter simply because that question has paralyzed their efforts. Taryn and Desiree reminded the audience that Twitter is just a way to start conversations and really is no different from starting a conversation at a bar or a networking event. You listen a bit to what folks are talking about and jump in when you can with what you have to contribute.  You can make connections through Twitter by simply starting conversations with people tweeting about things you’re interested in, conversations that can sometimes lead to business opportunities.

While we can use Twitter to promote our writing that shouldn’t be all we do.  With that bar conversation model in mind, remember that no one likes to talk to the person who won’t shut up about herself. Your Twitter posts shouldn’t have that “Look at how cool I am!” vibe. Instead focus on others. What information can you share? How can you help others find the contacts they need? This may seem counterintuitive but it will pay off in the long run. In that same vein, they added that the best way to increase traffic and comments on your own blog is to comment on other blogs and feature other bloggers on your site.

Taryn and Desiree then gave a session on brand building. In addition to recommending that we all purchase the web domain for our name and use it as a landing page with links to our blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, etc., they also discussed things I’d never considered. You are your brand, they stressed, which means your physical appearance is essentially your logo. This sounded scary at first, but not so much after they explained. Basically you need some simple signature. Desiree, for example, has on a stylish necklace in every photo on her websites and therefore always sports one when she’s networking or at speaking events. Taryn usually wears something pink to match the dominant color of her website.

So I got to thinking: what could be my signature? My husband is community manager for an advertising agency and I instantly knew what his signature would be: his tie. He’s known for wearing colorful and stylish ties and he wears a tie to work every single day even on Fridays when his co-workers are sporting jeans. But I had no idea what my signature could be. 

When I told my husband that I had to sit and think about this, he actually laughed at me. It didn’t take me too long, though. In between sessions I kept meeting women who would come up to me and say, “You’re WriteousBabe!” which is my Twitter handle and the name I use for the blog I write for  “Yeah, that’s me,” I’d say. Then they’d say, “I knew it was you as soon as I saw the hair.”

Of course! My big curly coif is my signature! Ironically, as I type this I’m rocking straight hair, which I do only about three times a year. But don’t worry, I’ll be sure to bring back the curls before my next networking event. 

Why I No Longer Want to Be a Champion

The second day of the skirt! Creative Conference began with breakout sessions (that is after a delicious breakfast prepared by the wait staff at the W Hotel Midtown). I attended a session called Desperately Seeking Musings, in which, ironically, speaker Michelle Goss taught us it’s not very effective to desperately seek inspiration. And she has a point. Think about it: when you’re facing writer’s block and you’re sitting there staring at a blank page or blank screen, does it ever help to keep telling yourself, Try harder, try harder? Of course it doesn’t.

What Goss explained is that to truly unlock our creativity in a way that it becomes a way to live and not just a thing to do we must change our life perspective.

We have four choices:

1. The victim. She believes life is happening to her, that it’s a mystery over which she has no control.  She says things like “Why does this always happen to me?”

2. The champion. She believes life is a problem to solve. She’s constantly working to improve and manipulate her circumstances and fix the problems of others.

3. Spiritual Adult. She believes life is an ally that gives her feedback to grow and change. Life is a joy not a burden.

4. Soul. She believes life is a divine mystery and we are all interconnected. She knows she’s completely loved by the Source of all Love without having to do anything.

As soon as these were presented I instantly knew where I stood. I’m a champion. I wake up each morning and, in my head, immediately start rattling off a list of problems, my own and those of others, and what I will do that day in an attempt to solve them. The champion life perspective is popular and endorsed, but it’s exhausting. How on earth can I be creative when my brain is filled to the brim with problems? So I no longer want to be a champion, as crazy as that sounds. I want to be the kind of person who believes that all things that happen to me, both good and bad, can help me grow. With that type of perspective I can live at ease, setting my mind free to create.