Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Have you ever thought about writing a book?
About every other week someone asks me this question. My answer is always the same: "Yeah, I've thought about it, but I simply don't have the time."
And I've also feared that I don't have the skill or the expertise. And I doubt I have the platform to really push sales. These are the voices in my head convincing me to ditch my dreams of authorship.
But now I have a a new voice in my head. At BlogHer'14 I met an awesome blogger named Ariane who blogs at The Force Expansive. When discussing self-doubt in her BlogHer recap post she gave fellow writers a charge to "Shut that noise down!"
I've decided to do just that and I've decided to write an e-book.
Here are three reasons you should too.
1. You have ideas worth spreading. You're an expert at something whether you realize it or not. You may feel you're not qualified to write about a particular topic because you don't have a degree to back up your knowledge. But sometimes passion can make up for that piece of paper. I often feel that way about blogging. I may have a two journalism degrees but I don't have an award-winning, highly profitable blog so why should anyone listen to my social media tips, I'll think. Then I'll attend a blogging workshop or a seminar on Twitter and realize I already know everything being taught. Sometimes I even know more than the presenter!
2. You have a story worth telling. As I shared yesterday, my main takeaway from this year's BlogHer conference was to write like my life depends on it. Sometimes I'm hesitant to write about feminism because I don't have a degree in women's studies. But every time I write an essay or blog post sharing my experiences as a southern fried feminist, I receive email after email from women thanking me. Women tell me they didn't know they were a feminist until they read my writing. Women tell me they weren't sure if they could be a good feminist and a good wife but after reading my work they know they can.
3. You have a blog or business worth promoting. An e-book could be what you need to take your blog or business to the next level. While blog posts are quickly pushed to your archives, an e-book can have a much longer lifespan. Simply add a graphic promoting your e-book to your website's sidebar or promote your book at speaking engagements. You can choose to give away your e-book for free as an incentive for joining your email list or simply as a way to get your name out and expand your influence and reach. An e-book can, however, generate extra revenue, too. You could sell your e-book on Amazon, iBooks, or with a company like Shebooks, which publishes short e-books by and for women. Shebooks is a curated collection of short fiction, memoir, essays, and long-form journalism, available by subscription or one by one. (Between now and July 30, 2014 you can get a free Shebook simply by using the promo code FREEBOOK at checkout at Shebooks.net.)
If lately you've been feeling like a writer who doesn't write, working on an e-book may be just what you need to get out of your rut.
Monday, July 28, 2014
At the start of this year I had no plans to attend BlogHer '14. I had attended several major blogging conferences in 2013 and decided that this year I'd take a break. But two words changed my mind:
When I found out Kerry Washington would be a keynote speaker I snagged early bird tickets and started dancing around my apartment singing "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" and "I'm Going Back to Cali."
Even though I am a huge fan of Washington's hit TV show Scandal, I mainly wanted to hear Washington the activist, not Washington the actress, speak. I felt confident that Washington's words would inspire me and she did not disappoint. And when asked about using her celebrity status as a platform to speak out on issues close to her heart, Washington said:
I don't speak out because I am a celebrity; I speak out because I think everyone should speak out! @kerrywashington #BlogHer14
— Javacia HarrisBowser (@writeousbabe) July 26, 2014
And with that Washington echoed the message I received over and over again at BlogHer'14: Speak out. Lift your voice. Share your story.
|Kerry Washington takes a selfie with the BlogHer'14 crowd.|
You can only see the top of my head, but I'm in this photo. I promise.
The day before the conference officially began I attended a pre-conference event called Pathfinder. On this day I attended sessions on how to be an agent of change. The session was led by Dannielle Owens-Reid of the blog Everyone Is Gay and by AIDS activist Rae Lewis Thornton.
Both of these women have saved lives by telling stories. Owens-Reid has created a virtual safe space for LGBT teens. I can only imagine how many young people have contemplated suicide and then changed their minds because of something encouraging they read on Owen-Reid's site. Nor can I imagine the number of black women saved when Lewis Thornton had the courage to be featured in Essence magazine and speak up about living with AIDS.
|It was an honor to meet Rae Lewis Thornton and learn more about her story.|
One of the women celebrated during this year's BlogHer was Katherine Stone of the blog Postpartum Progress. This time I could imagine the lives saved by her words as BlogHer founders surprised Stone with a video that featured several women telling her that they were certain the wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for her blog.
Tell your story and start telling it right now. And take this advice from Stone:
You don't have to be an expert to make a difference. Just give a crap. @postpartumprog #BlogHer14
— Javacia HarrisBowser (@writeousbabe) July 27, 2014
To make a difference you don't need permission. @postpartumprog #BlogHer14
— Javacia HarrisBowser (@writeousbabe) July 27, 2014
To make a difference you don't have to be fearless, but you must have purpose. @postpartumprog #BlogHer14
— Javacia HarrisBowser (@writeousbabe) July 27, 2014
Though the conference was full of informative sessions about monetizing your message and building your brand, overall I was reminded that what I've been saying for years is true: Blogging is about people, not page views.
And people made my experience at BlogHer '14 fantastic.
|With my rookie and conference buddy Williesha|
I went to the conference with my pal Williesha and I'm so glad I did. I usually go to conferences solo and when I do I have a laser focus on my goals and what I want to learn from the event. But Williesha reminded me to let my big hair down and have some fun.
At the closing party, hosted by Rev. Run of the legendary Run DMC, I danced so hard and sang along to the 80s and 90s tunes so loudly that my feet were sore and my voice nearly gone the next day. Also, my ears are still ringing even as I type this.
|Best Table Ever -- for real!|
I also met an incredible group of smart and funny ladies include Monica Barnett of Blueprint For Style, a blogger I've admired and followed for a long time. We ladies deemed ourselves the Best Table Ever and the energy from our table was so electric we later learned that one of the speakers -- Richelle Parham, chief marketing officer for eBay -- actually noticed us from the stage during her talk! We started tweeting about our little girl gang with the hashtags #BTE and BFTE (use your imagination on that one) and Yoplait yogurt, one of the conference sponsors, started tweeting us wanting to know more about the #BTE crew!
|Took a pause from dancing to snap a selfie with Lashaun of the #BTE Crew|
Oh and did I mention that I left BlogHer with Arianna Huffington's business card, a signed copy of her book Thrive and a few snapshots with her!?!
Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some of the information I learned at BlogHer '14 sessions and keynote addresses, but today I just want to encourage you to keep writing, to keep sharing your story.
I went to BlogHer '14 in a writing rut. I hadn't felt very inspired lately and I was afraid I was going to become a blogger who doesn't blog.
But I'm ready to jump back in the saddle. I'm going to write and blog and blog and write as much as I want regardless of hits and clicks. I'm going to write for my life. I'm going to be the write or die chick I used to be.
I need to tell my story.
And you need to tell your story -- whatever it is -- because someone else is going through the same thing you are and they need to know they are not alone.
But you also need to tell your story for your own sake.
One of the most powerful things I heard at BlogHer wasn't from a panelist or celebrity speaker. It was from a woman in my Pathfinder session, a survivor of domestic violence, who said that by sharing her story she saved her own life too.
So write. Write as if someone's life depends on it because that life might be yours.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Last night I went to Beyoncé and Jay-Z's On the Run show in Atlanta. I want to pretend to be music writer like my husband and give you a concert review, but it's hard to find words to describe such an epic experience.
I want to tell you all about the set list. I had so much fun I didn't sit down during a single song. Beyoncé not only performed songs from her new album -- like “Partition,” “Haunted” and “Pretty Hurts” -- but also older cuts like “Why Don't You Love Me,” “Single Ladies,” “Baby Boy” and many others.
I want to convey how impressed I was by Bey’s performance, but I think my husband summed it up best in his review for his blog Soul In Stereo. He writes:
Beyonce…proved to me that she's the best performer of our generation. Bey's arena-rattling performance of feminist anthem "Flawless" nearly had the crowd in hysterics. Her ability to connect with fans up in the rafters is truly a sight to behold. Bey morphing from enigmatic specter on "Haunted" to acrobatic pin-up girl on "Partition" is one thing, but her true talent lies in her immaculate vocals. She sounded studio perfect on every single song - never out of breath, never off key. It's mind-blowing that a woman who spent nearly three hours stomping around a stage and swinging from chairs could pull of the simmering ballad "Resentment" without a flaw.
I want to tell you about how I got chills during the performance of “Flawless.” I worried Bey would omit the second verse of this song for the concert and not let us hear Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wise words on gender inequality. But I not only heard Adichie's words booming across the Georgia Dome but also saw them displayed before me on the Jumbotron. For me, seeing the word FEMINIST displayed larger than life at a mainstream music concert is nearly a religious experience.
I want to tell you about how I felt like a teenager again during the show. The beat dropped for “Run the World (Girls)” and Beyoncé asked all the women in the audience who make their own money and buy their own shit to make some noise. I screamed until my throat was sore. In that moment I was 19 again, which is how old I was when I saw Destiny's Child live. It was the same day I purchased my first car with money I saved from working two jobs. When they sang “Independent Women” I felt like they were singing it just for me, like the whole world was celebrating what I had accomplished that day.
|View from Row 11|
Bey did a cover of Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor" and memories of high school heartbreak came flooding in. But then I looked to my left and saw my amazing husband standing next to me. No more heartbreak. No more wondering “who I have to be to get some reciprocity.” I closed my eyes for a few seconds to thank God for sending me a man who truly loves me for me.
|On the Run Selfie with My Boo!|
My husband went with me to the show because he's a huge Jay-Z fan and because I figured this show could and would be the ultimate date night. But I worried the show would be Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z and that hubster wouldn't have a good time. I worried for nothing. The show was definitely a shared ventured and I was so impressed with Jay-Z. He was so charismatic and energetic and such an overall great performer that I found myself enjoying his sets just as much as Bey's. I was jumping up and down like a chick in a mosh pit as soon as I heard the first few notes of "N*ggas In Paris." I was brushing my shoulders off and I was singing about my hard knock life.
Mr. and Mrs. Carter’s collaborations were golden. They had amazing chemistry on “Upgrade U,” “Drunk In Love,” “Part II (On the Run),” “Young Forever” and more. Bey even joined Jay on tracks like “Holy Grail.”
As my husband described in his review:
“They looked like they were having the time of their lives bouncing on stage like teenagers during "Drunk In Love" while, later, coming off like the mature married couple on "Young Forever." They didn't sound like two artists sharing a concert billing, they sounded like two lovers sharing their experiences with the world.”
I want to tell you about all of this and more. But none of this is as important as what I want to tell the young women in my life. Many of my female students are big Beyoncé fans and I swear some of them were more excited about the fact that I was going to the show than I was. On my little black dress for the show I wore a glittery red star with Beyoncé's name on it that was made by one of my girls.
I went into the show thinking about them and how I wanted to leave with something inspiring to tell them.
When I arrived at the Georgia Dome the words THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE were displayed on the Jumbotron. I stared at the statement for a moment wondering what it meant but as soon as the show began I got lost in the magic. I got lost in the music and the Bonnie and Clyde-inspired cinematic scenes that played out in the background.
But at the end of the show while Bey and Jay performed “Young Forever” the movie reel changed. Images of the Carters shooting guns, robbing banks, and speeding down highways were replaced with video footage from their wedding and the birth of their child. We saw scenes from family vacations and adorable moments of Jay-Z doing push-ups with Blue ivy on his back and pretending to sit on her back as she attempted to do push-ups too. And then these words filled the screen: THIS IS REAL LIFE.
And suddenly I knew the message I wanted to convey.
It's fine to admire celebrities like Beyoncé. I think it's even OK to be interested in their lives to a point, but don't forget about your real life in the process. Don't become so obsessed with watching Beyonce live out her dreams that you neglect achieving yours.
Be your own Beyoncé.
|Feeling flawless the morning after the show -- even with frizzy hair!|
If you admire Beyoncé because of her body confidence, don't strive to look like her. Strive to love the skin you're in and to love the body you already have. If you admire her for her talent, figure out your passion and strive to cultivate a talent of your own. And if you admire her simply because she's rich, then, dammit, get rich yourself!
When Sheryl Sandberg interviewed Beyoncé for her feature in Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world she asked her the question she loves to ask all women: What would you do if you weren't afraid? Bey's answer: “Watch me. I'm about to do it. You can, too.”
Yes, you can, too.
So sure, watch Beyoncé for a moment but then go out and be fearless (and flawless) yourself.
Monday, July 14, 2014
The other day a reader asked me, " How are you doing these poster type things you've been using as the main photo on your blog?" This question made me happy because it meant that this reader had noticed my swag, my Word Swag, that is.
Word Swag is an app that allows you to create beautiful custom text layouts in a matter of seconds! No, this isn't a sponsored post for Word Swag. I'm simply telling you about this app because I love it and I think you'll love it too.
I learned about Word Swag last month at the social media conference Y'all Connect. In her talk, social media guru Kim Garst spoke a lot about the value of visual content. Articles with photos get 94 percent more views, she told the audience. In fact, Garst believes every brand should develop a visual content plan. She even wrote an e-book to help you do that. (You can download 17 Quick and Easy Ways to Create Visual Content here.)
As I mentioned in my Y'all Connect recap post, while listening to Garst's talk I realized that if social media is like a cocktail party (which people often say), visual content is your little black dress. It makes you look good and gets people's attention. And once you have it you can show that you're beauty and brains.
Lately, Word Swag has been my favorite place to shop for a little black dress for this blog and for the See Jane Write blog.
When I wrote about the inspirational networking event Cupcakes and Conversations I used Word Swag to highlight the main message I took away from this event.
I've also been using a website called Canva to create graphics for my blogs and even for fliers for See Jane Write events.
I used Canva to create a graphic for the Bloganista Mixer that See Jane Write hosted last month. You can check out pictures from that event here.
And I used Canva to create a graphic for the Bloganista Mini-Conference that's set for Saturday.
What apps and websites do you use to create visual content?
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Last year, I left BlogHer ’13 feeling like a loser.
In fact, I wrote a blog post about it. But I must admit that after that post was featured on BlogHer.com and was one of the site’s most popular posts, I certainly felt I was #winning.
In a couple weeks I’m heading to San Jose for BlogHer ’14. I’m determined to leave this year’s conference feeling on top of the world. To make that happen I must do some things differently and I think any BlogHer newbies should consider following my lead.
Don’t compare yourself to others. I left BlogHer ’13 feeling like a loser because I was surrounded by women bloggers who had landed major sponsorships and book deals through their blogs and women who complained about having "a paltry 5,000 Twitter followers." I spent my 48 hours at BlogHer comparing myself to these women instead of focusing on my own mission, plans, and goals.
|Check out the Writeous Babe logo I designed for my new business cards.|
Don’t forget your business cards. Last year I ordered new business cards just for the conference and I left all 50 of them sitting right on my nightstand. So if you are heading to BlogHer ’14, go put your business cards in your suitcase right now. They will especially come in handy during Friday morning’s BlogHer Style Speed Dating.
Don’t forget to party. Last year I didn’t wholeheartedly participate in conference activities. I was in Chicago not only for BlogHer but also to visit a friend. I often skipped the parties so that I could head back to my friend's place. While I don’t regret this because my friend and I had a blast, this year I’m staying in one of the official hotels and I plan to hit every party. Sure, this conference is about advancing my writing career, but it’s also about having fun!
Don’t arrive without a plan. Before heading to the Silicon Valley, figure out what you want to get out of this conference and use this to determine what sessions you will attend. Knowing your overall objective for the conference can also keep you from getting caught up in the comparison game. With a solid conference plan, you will know your path and you can stay in your lane. My goal is to figure out what’s the next step for my blog and who I want to be in the blogosphere.
Don’t leave without a plan, either. I am a teacher and I am a nerd so when I attend a conference I leave with pages and pages of notes. Then I come home, put my journal on my bookshelf and leave it there to collect dust. Not this year. In addition to taking notes, I plan to draft an action plan, too. I will compile a list of steps I will take based on what I learn on each session and give myself deadlines by which to complete them.
|Kavitha and I reunited two months ago in Birmingham!|
Don’t be shy. Whether you’re going to BlogHer alone, with your best friend, or with a group of blogging buddies from your hometown, be sure to use this conference as a chance to meet someone new. This is the one thing I did right last year. I met the wonderful woman behind the blog Kavi360 and we still keep in touch today. At BlogHer don’t look at the women around you simply as potential followers, see them as potential friends.
What are your tips for making the most of a blogging conference?