Feeling Like Fiona

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nearly every poem I wrote in college was in someway inspired by singer/songwriter Fiona Apple. Many of these poems were bad, really bad, but for better or worse, Ms. Apple was my muse. 

When I heard about the deluxe edition of her new album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, more simply known as The Idler Wheel, I had to have it. Downloading some digital copy from iTunes just wouldn't do and here's why: instead of an ordinary jewel case, the deluxe version of the CD comes in a journal and with a DVD of Apple's performances at this year's SXSW festival, a poster, and two postcard-size prints. You had me at journal. 

The journal includes the lyrics to each track, handwritten by Fiona herself, some of her artwork, and even random studio production notes. I was eager to get my hands on this hoping it would give me some glimpse into the psyche of the mysterious Fiona Apple. She inspires me and I want to know what inspires her. 

As Fiona says in the refrain of the song "Every Single Night," I just want to feel everything. By delving into the pages of her journal while I listened to her music I was hoping I would somehow feel what she felt when she wrote those words. Silly, I know, but it was a fun experiment, nonetheless, as I lay in the middle of the floor (because I imagine this is what she does when she creates and because this is what I did in college) drinking in her lyrics. 

I must say I'm a bigger fan of her earlier releases, but The Idler Wheel, Apple's fourth studio album, is still a must-have for any Apple-head (yep, I just made that up) and both her voice and the music have a very raw feel to them that I love.

Fiona Apple inspires me because the music she creates is what I consider real art, not just entertainment. I've mentioned on this blog before that I believe true art inspires and transforms the people who encounter and understand it, even if only in a small way. Apple inspires me with her use of metaphor. Take, for example, this verse from "Werewolf": 
I could liken you to a werewolfThe way you left me for deadBut I admitI provided a full moonI could liken you to a sharkThe way you bit off my headBut then again, I was waving aroundA bleeding, open wound

Moreover, I believe that real art teaches us something about ourselves and Fiona Apple's music always does just that. Long ago, while listening to her lyrics, I discovered that I am not an easy woman to love. Fortunately, I've found friends and an amazing husband who are up to the challenge, but I am still keenly aware of this dark truth about myself. In "Left Alone" she writes: "How can I ask any one to love me/ when all I do is beg to be left alone."  Boy, can I relate to that. We writers can be weird that way. 

Fiona Apple was my poetic muse and later in college even inspired a number of my short stories. I hope that one day she'll influence a piece of creative nonfiction I write too. Well, actually, I guess she already has. 

What musicians inspire you? 

Why I Write

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kristen - hands
Photo by Angie Garrett via Flickr/Creative Commons

The temperature is quickly climbing to 100 degrees. I find refuge in a cool corner of a coffee shop and a mason jar of iced mango green tea.

I’m here on a mission to answer one simple, little question posed in a thick, heavy book that I’ve been toting around for a week. It’s a writing exercise composed of a one sentence prompt: Why do you write?

Open journal. Pick up pen. Ready. Set. Go.

I write for the sake of my heartbeat, to remind myself that I exist.
I write because I can’t help myself.
I write when my hand trembles in fear of the thoughts haunting my mind.
I write between lines for those cast aside to the margins.
I write to punish. I write to praise.
I write to hold tight to grudges. I write to forgive.
I write to feel sincere. I write to expose myself as a fraud.
I write to feel human. I write to feel divine.
I write as an act of prayer, each sentence a chant, a hymn, a meditation.
I write as an act of play, to feel free as a girl flying high in her favorite swing at the neighborhood park.
I write to find community. I write to escape to my own little world.
I write because I want you to love me.
I write to be immortal. I write when I feel ready to die.
I write because I believe that in the end stories are all we have.

Why do you write?

R.I.P. Nora Ephron

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Photo by Joe Corrigan
Courtesy TechCrunch via Flikr/Creative Commons

“My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have to potential to be the comic stories the next.”  -- Nora Ephron

Author and screenwriter Nora Ephron died Tuesday at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she was being treated for acute myeloid leukemia and pneumonia

While I am, of course, familiar with Ephron's movies such as Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and Julie & Julia, it wasn't until I started reading her obituaries that I realized how much more she had accomplished and the example she set for  women writers. 

As the Los Angeles Times notes, Ephron's "protagonists, who included the chef Julia Child and the whistle-blower Karen Silkwood, were often women and typically were just as capable — if not more so — than the men around them."

And as Mariam of Redbone Afropuff mentioned in a comment to a recent post on the blog, Ephron showed her that "yes, I can be a journalist, a novelist, a memoirist, and essayist, a screenwriter and a playwright all in one lifetime." 

Just to give a sampling of what she accomplished off screen, in the 1960s Ephron worked for the New York Post and then went on to write monthly columns in the 1970s for Esquire and New York magazines. Many of the pieces she wrote for these magazines were collected in three books of essays, Wallflower at the Orgy (1970), Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women (1975) and Scribble, Scribble: Notes on the Media (1979). 

Examples of more recent writings include her 2006 collection of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman and her 2010 collection of essays, I Remember Nothing, which takes a humorous look at the aging process and other topics.

Prolific is a word that just doesn't seem to fully describe her career, a career I'm sorry I didn't explore more when she was still with us. But her legacy remains to remind us to keep writing, writing, writing and to tell our stories no matter what. 

Let's Eat at AlaBlogMeet!

Alabama Bloggers

Birmingham resident Rachel Callahan had made connections with writers all over the world, thanks to her popular blog Grasping for Objectivity. But she knew very few bloggers in her hometown. She searched for a website that helped local bloggers connect, but with no luck. 

"So I decided to create one," Callahan says. 

Callahan launched Alabama Bloggers in May of 2009 and eventually took these online connections to real life with regular meetings now known as #AlaBlogMeet. The next meeting is at 11:30 a.m. Friday at The Silvertron Cafe, 3813 Clairmont Avenue in Birmingham. I'll be there and I hope those of you in town will join me. 

"When I started the site, I said that I would provide meet-ups, but I didn't really mean it," Callahan confesses. "I was scared to death to meet people in real life! But one of the original members called me on it and offered to host the first one. We had 19 people show up, and I enjoyed every minute of it."

Since then the group has had a meetup at least every other month. 

What can you expect if you're a first-timer? 

"Lots of laughter, banter, and some really good blogging advice mixed into the cracks," Callahan says. "You're sure to walk away with some new friends. And we always have at least one first-timer at every meetup, so don't be afraid!  You're always welcome."

Click here to RSVP if you plan to attend the Alabama Bloggers June #AlaBlogMeet. 

Crossposted at See Jane Write Birmingham

Monday Motivation: "You Are a Writer"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins

“I am a writer.”

Each morning when I wake I whisper this sentence to myself. It’s become a mantra, a prayer. 

This new daily meditation of mine was inspired by Jeff Goins’ latest book You Are A Writer.

Goins is an accomplished writer, blogger, and speaker based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s contributed to well-known sites like Copyblogger and Problogger and has a wildly popular blog of his own at GoinsWriter.com, which is all about writing and making a difference in the world with words.

The tagline of You Are A Writer is “So Start Acting Like One” and fortunately Goins gives his readers plenty of practical steps on how to do just that.

Sure, the book has plenty of encouraging words to help us on those days when we’re wondering if all the hard work is worth it. But Goins mostly gives us writers some tough love and reminds us it’s time to get to work. As a friend once told Goins years ago, exactly when he needed to hear it: “You are a writer. You just need to write.”

It’s time out for just thinking about writing and talking about writing, it’s time to get busy writing!

And stop writing only what you think people want to read, Goins says. Write for yourself. “Stop writing for accolades, and start writing for passion,” he advises, echoing the central message of his previous book The Writer’s Manifesto. Amazingly, what you will find, Goins says, is that “when you stop writing for readers’ affections, your work will affect more people.”

One of the points of this book that resonated with me most is the idea of choosing yourself. As writers we need to stop waiting to be picked and just pick ourselves. I sure needed to hear that. For years I’ve been waiting to be picked by my favorite magazines, newspapers, and websites and by the feminist in-crowd that I stalk follow through blogs and Twitter.

Goins says we must choose ourselves.

Goins’ book includes a very helpful and informative section on how to pitch to editors and publishers of magazines and websites, but he also gives us a formula for reaching a point in our careers where we can ditch the pitch, a point where the editors, the publishers, and the cool kids are coming to us.

To do this you’ll need three things, Goins says: a platform, a brand and channels of connection. 

Your platform is your stage, a place from which you communicate such as a blog, newspaper column, speaking career, YouTube channel, or Podcast. To build your platform you need to spend time getting good at your craft, show people you know what you’re doing, and generate buzz around your work.

Building a brand is about choosing a name (which can be as simple as the one given to you at birth or something quirky like Writeous Babe), an image (which can be a logo or just a nice headshot) and your voice (which is your writing style).

Channels of connection include email, Facebook, Twitter, conferences, meetups, etc.

None of this, however, will work without building authentic relationships. Even though Goins wants us to write for passion, not the praises of other people, this does not give us permission to be jerks. Throughout the book Goins stresses the importance of building the trust of our audience and importance of being generous. Be a resource to others, just as Jeff Goins has used his blog, his books, and his platform to be a resource to us.

GeorgiaMae.com: Natural Hair and the New Black Beauty Culture

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy Saturday, babes! I've decided to start posting some of my best content from my blog GeorgiaMae.com here at The Writeous Babe Project too. Check out this post on natural hair and black beauty culture. 


Is natural hair the end of black beauty culture? 

That's the question posed by Cassandra Jackson in a recent article she wrote for The Huffington Post. Jackson says that while she is glad to see an increasing number of black women choosing natural hair (as opposed to chemically straightened hair) she worries that the shift toward natural hair also means a shift away from the black beauty salon, which for decades has been the center of black beauty culture. 

She writes:

While many, including me, celebrate the natural hair movement's emphasis on self-discovery, I cannot help but wonder if something has also been lost with this cultural shift. For all the horrible things about hair straightening, the experiences associated with it have created a powerful thread that connects the vast majority of black women. Even if you have kinky hair now, you probably have memories of time spent with family and friends in kitchens getting your hair done by someone who loved you and who you trusted enough to wield a sizzling hot straightening comb next to your ear. You probably remember that first trip to the beauty shop where black women talked about grown folks' business, and nearly every sentence began with the endearment, "girl." It does not matter if your mother was a teacher or housekeeper, or if you were in New York or Alabama because these experiences crossed class and region. Hair straightening was a rite of passage, an entry into the world of black women.

Personally, I've never been a fan of salons. They stink, they're hot, and you're in there for what feels like half your life. So the fact that wearing my hair in its naturally curly state meant fewer trips to a beauty shop was just more reason for me to embrace my curls. But, ironically, now that I'm natural I feel more a part of black beauty culture than ever before. Black beauty culture has not died; it has simply evolved. 

One of the things I love most about being natural has very little to do with my actual hair. I love being natural because of the sense of community and camaraderie that comes with it. At least once a week I have a conversation with a complete stranger in a clothing store at a shopping mall or in the aisles of the supermarket or in an aerobics class at the gym, and those conversations are sparked because of my curls. Those conversations begin with questions like "How long have you been natural?" or "What products do you use on your hair?" 

Furthermore, some of my closest friends that I've made since I moved back to my hometown have been through local natural hair mixers organized by groups like Birmingham Natural Beauties. At these mixers conversations begin with questions like those I mentioned before, but soon the discussions move to other topics -- our careers, our hobbies, our husbands, our dreams. And soon a friendship is born. 

And thanks to natural blogs we naturalistas can forge bonds with women all across the country or even the world. Through online communities we share stories of our transition from relaxed hair, we rant about our search for a stylist who can cut curly hair, and we rave about products that keep our tresses soft. And soon even these conversations can drift to topics like exercise, as many women begin to workout more after going natural, or healthy eating, as many women begin to reconsider what they're putting in their bodies once they start to think about the products they're putting on their heads. 

So, no, many black women no longer congregate in black beauty salons as we once did, but black beauty culture is alive and well. We naturalistas may not see the black beauty shop as the safe and sacred space as our mothers did but as we gather at natural hair blogs, conferences, and meetups, we are encouraged and we are supported because we are always reminded that we are beautiful. 

Feminist Friday: Why You Need a Girl Crush

Friday, June 22, 2012

Free Two Happy Girls Holding Hands Walking to School at Sunrise Creative Commons
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt of Pink Sherbet Photography
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

Melissa Harris-Perry, Sloane Crosley, and Crystal Renn. A political talk TV show host, a humor writer, and a supermodel. It seems these three women have nothing in common, but they do. They are all atop my very long list of girl crushes.

I've written about some of my girl crushes before, confessing my love for the likes of First Lady Michelle Obama, pop icon Beyonce, actresses Zoe Saldana and Scarlet Johansson, and broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien. And lately it seems the girl crush has become some sort of phenomenon, regularly popping up in the media.

In a recent article for W magazine, Thessaly la Force explored what all this girl crushing could mean. She writes:
The “girl crush” may sound ­silly, but sometimes it takes something ­unserious to get us talking about a serious subject: the ambitions of young creative women and the need for ­worthy role models. Among my own nominees for inaugural members of the Girl Crush Hall of Fame are Zadie Smith, with her daring, brilliance, and wild success; Joan ­Didion, with her cool, spare prose; Patti Smith, with her soul and wisdom; Sofia Coppola, with her chic grace and unmistakable taste; and Tina Fey, with her goofy smile and razor wit. Each of them has accomplished something the rest of us dream of doing. And because they’ve done it, we feel we can too.
She's right. We all need role models, not superheroes, but real people doing the very things we want to one day achieve. And girl crushes are exactly that. 

Harris-Perry, an educator, black feminist writer, and host of The Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC, encourages me to hold fast to my feminist beliefs, even if they're not always popular, and shows that I can and should find a way to make my voice heard.  Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There'd Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number, is the model I look to as I dream of publishing a collection of essays. And Crystal Renn, plus-size supermodel and author of the memoir Hungry, motivates me to learn to love my body and write about my journey to self-acceptance once I've actually achieved it. 

Furthermore, Harris-Perry and Renn both teach a lesson about the importance of platform. If you have something you believe in -- whether it's feminism, empowering racial minorities, or promoting healthy body image in women and realistic beauty standards in fashion -- build a platform and get your voice heard. And you will find there are plenty of  people out there who feel the same and were just waiting for someone to speak up. 

Girl crushes can cultivate our creativity as they push us to work toward our artistic goals. 

But, wait! There's more. 

Thessaly la Force also argues that the prevalence of girl crushes could indicate a slight narrowing of the gender gap:

I can’t help but believe our current generation’s embrace of girl crushing signifies something larger: evidence that a professional world once dominated by men has evened out—maybe not totally, but to a reassuring degree. When ­Didion first set out to become a writer, she copied the sentences of Ernest Hemingway; today, my friends and I copy hers.

Young women dreaming of  hosting their own political talk TV show no longer have to solely look to Larry King. They have women like Harris-Perry as role models too. And anyone who says women can't be funny has clearly never read one of Crosley's essays. 

Who are your girl crushes and how do they help your creativity? 

Magic City Post: Ladies of Black Girls RUN! find their inner hero

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hey, babes! Check out my latest article for Magic City Post. 


Runner Olivia Affuso has completed a 50K North Face Endurance race, she’s an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and she has a Ph.D. from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Yet, even with all those accomplishments, she says one of her proudest moments is actually starting a local running club called Black Girls RUN!
According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 45 percent of African-American adults are obese. Black Girls RUN! is a grassroots effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community by providing encouragement and resources to both new and veteran runners.
“My goal as a researcher has been to find ways to help individuals become more physically active and reduce their risks of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease,” Affuso said. “This has been a difficult proposition in the past, but there is something about the BGR social running movement that just motivates our women to get moving.  And I think it’s group identification - seeing someone that looks like you doing something active.”
The Birmingham group is a spinoff of a larger grassroots effort which began in New York City in 2009.  Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks, the founders of the NYC group, have seen the organization spread into 29 states and the District of Columbia.  Affuso contacted them last August about starting a Birmingham chapter. 
Jeralyn Powell, an active runner since 2008, joined Affuso and together they launched the Birmingham group that same month hosting its first run on August 20.
Currently, Black Girls RUN! Birmingham has over 800 women signed up for its Facebook group and has accomplished a lot in its short lifetime. The group had eight teams participate in the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Relay and at least another five members who completed the Mercedes Half Marathon.

You can read the complete article at Magic City Post

100 Blog Post Ideas and My 100th Post

No 100 - flaking
Try these 100 blog post ideas.  No flaking out!
Photo by Kirsty Hall/ Image via Flikr/Creative Commons

It's my 100th post here at The Writeous Babe Project!

To celebrate I thought I'd give you a gift (aren't I generous?) of 100 post ideas. That's right ONE HUNDRED.

Now, I know you're not going to sit down and read all hundred of these at once, and that's okay. Just skim it now and then bookmark it so you can revisit it the next time you're suffering from blogger's block.

If you'd like to thank me, you can do so by joining my site through Google Friend Connect. You may think that me seeing your face in a little box on the right column of my blog doesn't mean much, but it means everything.

Without further ado, 100 "writeous" post ideas:
(psst - I will add more links to this list as I try out more of these ideas myself)

1. Write your own manifesto.
2. Write a letter to your younger self.
3. Share a recipe.
4. Write a book review.
5. Show us what's in your handbag. Every blogger needs a toolkit.
6. Share a life lesson learned while doing something seemingly mundane, such as cleaning your closet.
7. Tell us how you stay healthy and fit. We can't write if we're dead.
8. Confess your girl crushes.
9. Do a Q&A with one of your favorite authors.
10. Do a Q&A with one of your favorite bloggers.
11. Attend a conference, seminar, or workshop and share what you learned.
12. Participate in a tweet chat and share what you learned.
13. Attend a writers group gathering or bloggers meetup and write about the experience.
14. Share your goals or intentions for the month.
15. Use some Instagram pics as writing prompts and share the results.
16. Share how you find time to blog.
17. Share your editorial calendar and help your readers create on of their own.
18. Tell us about your vacation. Yes, we care and, yes, we want to see lots of pictures.
19. Make a vision board and share it with your readers.
20. Tell us how you stay looking fabulous on a writer's budget.

Why Writers Need to Get "LinkedIn"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It finally happened.

For years I’d dreamt of someone I’d never previously worked with coming to me and asking me to freelance for her publication. And last month I was approached by a local news website about being a contributing features writer.

I had imagined the editor would say, “I came across some of your work on the web and I just knew your voice was what my publication was missing.” 

Um, yeah. It didn’t quite happen that way. In actuality, the editor said she found me through LinkedIn.

Say what?!

My first thought was, “Wait. I have a LinkedIn account?”

I admit I’m not a huge fan of the social networking site LinkedIn. It’s like Facebook for grownups and even though I’m 31 I still feel like I’m 16 (except when I’m paying bills and when my back and knees ache). I prefer the bells, whistles, and complete nonsense of Mark Zuckerburg’s evil, yet oh-so-entertaining creation.

And perhaps you feel the same way, but it seems as if we writers need to give our LinkedIn profiles a little more TLC. I can’t help but wonder how many other editors visited my LinkedIn profile and chose to pass me by.

For help I turned to Samantha Collier’s Ultimate LinkedIn Profile Cheat Sheet. She recommends that you do the following. 

Use a professional profile picture, one you wouldn’t be ashamed to show your grandma or mother-in-law. Here’s mine:

I kind of hate that picture, but it should pass for professional. I have on a blazer and everything!

Create a keyword rich headline that focuses on your specialty. My headline reads “blogger, freelance writer, founder of See Jane Write Birmingham.” It could probably stand to be a bit more specific, but I suppose that will do for now. Check out Collier’s article for more tips on this. 

Update your status. Ugh. I’ll try. This will be tough for me, but I’m going to try to update my LinkedIn status at least once a day. She recommends you comment on the status updates of others too, you know, like on Facebook.

Claim your vanity URL. Mine reads http://www.linkedin.com/in/javaciaharrisbowser

Personalize your website URLs.  You can customize your links by editing your profile, clicking edit on your website links, and selecting “Other” in the drop-down menu to customize the anchor text. I have links for this blog and the See Jane Write blog

Add your Twitter account information. I have links to both my personal Twitter account and the Twitter account for See Jane Write.

Check out Samantha Collier’s Ultimate LinkedIn Profile Cheat Sheet for more detailed instructions on how to build the best profile. 

Lessons All Bloggers Can Learn From the Natural Hair Community

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

image via

Afros, braids, curls, and kinky coils – I am surrounded by hundreds of beautiful brown women sporting natural hair styles at the 2nd Magic City Natural Hair Meetup.

The increasing number of African American women who are choosing natural hair as opposed to chemically straightened hair has sparked what some call a revolution because for many of these women the choice has less to do with a hairstyle change and is more about a lifestyle change. The shift to natural hair has inspired, in many women, a shift to healthy eating, regular exercise, self-acceptance, and even improved relationships. These are the kinds of stories being told at this and other natural hair meetups that happen all across the country.

Surprisingly, a closer look at the natural hair movement also reveals some valuable lessons for writers, all writers, regardless of race or how you wear your hair. As women were making the transition from chemically straightened to natural hair some of them began to take to the Internet starting blogs about their beauty trials and triumphs. Soon these beauty bloggers became experts and their sites became the spaces to which women flocked as they sought information and support. Today natural hair blogs are some of the most successful blogs on the web. So let’s look at what they did right.

Know your niche. Blogs need focus and good natural hair bloggers know this. They stay focused on tress talk and even if they write about something other than their curly coif those posts will still be somehow related to natural hair – such as posts about those lifestyle changes that natural hair can spark. So feel free to get creative with how you approach your topic -- otherwise you’ll get bored and so will your readers -- but stay centered on your niche and research it like crazy so you can write with authority. 

Cultivate community. Sure, writers should write for themselves and for the love of the craft, but helping someone along the way wouldn’t be so bad either. Most natural hair blogs were created to help other naturalistas struggling to find the right products and styles for their hair and struggling with serious issues like “Will my boss think my natural hair looks unprofessional?” and “Will my partner find me less attractive with natural hair?” Good natural hair bloggers cultivate community by encouraging readers to comment on posts and interacting with those who do. Some natural hair bloggers like Nikki Walton of CurlyNikki.com also encourage readers to submit guest posts so that her site will feel like their forum, platform, and safe space.

Mix and mingle. This may be tough for introverted artists, but eventually you have to step away from the computer and go out and socialize. Some of the most successful natural hair bloggers have taken cultivating community to higher heights by hosting mixers that allow them to meet their readers IRL. So maybe it’s time for you to throw a shindig for your blog. I hope I’m invited. 

What lessons have you learned from your favorite niche bloggers?

Monday Motivation: The Writeous Babe Manifesto or Encouragement for Women Who Write

Monday, June 18, 2012

Miss A Writes a Song
Image by Denise Krebs via Flickr/Creative Commons

You are a writer. 

You are perhaps also a wife, mother, sister, or career woman. 

You are most likely a daughter, lover, and friend as well. 

Look back over your life. Actually, just look back over this past week. You probably can't find many (if any) examples of instances when you failed or neglected to mother or love or be the best employer, boss or homemaker that you can be. You may not have been perfect this week, but you gave it your all. 

Chances are, however, there are plenty of days when you have failed or neglected to write. You didn't go to that workshop you wanted to attend. You didn't write that poem, story, or essay in your head. You didn't jot down those ideas you had a compelling new character or blog post.

You didn't write because you just didn't have the time, because you were busy being a good mother, lover, wife, sister, daughter, or friend. You were busy being the best employee, boss, entrepreneur or homemaker. You couldn't carve out time to write, you told yourself, because that would be selfish. 

I have news: it's time to be selfish. 

Chances are, you're hesitant to call yourself a writer these days because it's been so long since you've spent hours at your favorite coffee shop writing in your journal or spent a day at your computer working on your novel. Perhaps you've NEVER done things like this. 

But you are a writer. Otherwise, you wouldn't have felt compelled to read this. And the thing that made you read this is the artist inside you, the writer inside you, and she's determined to make her voice, your voice, heard. 

So here is your simple assignment -- write every day. 

Whether that means getting up early or staying up late, write every day. 

Whether that means taking your journal with you to the bathroom, writing during your lunch break or during your kid's nap time, write every day. 

Whether it's for five minutes or two hours, write every day. 

Begin with this. Start here. 

And the longer you continue this practice of writing every day the more you will feel like a writer and soon you'll realize that taking time to write isn't selfish at all. Your writing has the potential to inspire other women to express themselves and live their best lives. Your dedication has the potential to inspire all those around you – your children, colleagues, family, and friends – to pursue their passions.

For a creative woman carving out space and time to practice your craft, to create art, to write, is not selfish; it is essential. It is your water. It is your daily bread. And after you are well-fed, you can then go out and nourish the world.

Yes, I'm Trying to Impress You

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rosie the Blogger
Image by Mike Licht via Creative Commons

Mariam, Carol, Kate, Tatiana, Traci, and the dozens of women who are a part of See Jane Write. These are some of the people I imagine are peeking over my shoulder each time I sit down to write a post for this blog.

Last month in a post for Independent Fashion Bloggers called Manfluence: A Single Girl’s Guide to Blogging, Taylor Davies called discussed how knowing her new love interest was reading her style blog forced her to improve the quality of her content. She said once her guy revealed that he’d visiting her site she made sure her posts were smart, funny, and well-edited.  

I confess that when I first read this post the feminist in me was ready to rant. And no, not because she was going ga-ga over a guy. We’ve all been there and there’s nothing wrong with trying to impress your man (or woman.) I was upset because it seemed that she was implying that when she thought only women were reading her posts there was no need to add humor, improve her vocabulary, or proofread. But upon second reading I realized I was overreacting.

Her point, as she later states, is that we should all blog to impress someone.

Many of us come to see our blogs as spaces where we are free to be ourselves and let our creative self-expression run wild. And while that’s a good thing on one hand, on the other hand we can be tempted to get too comfortable on our blogs and the quality of the content suffers as a result.

So, again, blog to impress someone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spouse, a parent, a co-worker, or a crush, but write your blog posts with that person in mind. You may even want to write your posts as if potential literary agents, editors, or publishers are reading.

When people ask me what inspires me, it never takes long for me to answer. I am most inspired by creative women, creative women like the ones I named above. And it is my hope that I can somehow inspire them. And so with each blog post I’m striving to do just that.

Just Call Me C. Jane Wright

In March of 2011 I decided to start a networking group for women writers in Birmingham, Ala. At the time I only knew two women who were interested in such a group, but I felt in my heart that there were many more out there craving a creative writing community. So I gave my idea a name -- See Jane Write -- and browsed blogs, magazines, newspapers, and websites looking for women to stalk, er, contact about being a part of this new group.

Today the See Jane Write mailing list boasts about 200 names and has a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter as well. Through the organization I've hosted six events -- three social events and three educational events on the following topics: how and why writers should use Twitter, the keys to successful blogging, and freelance writing.

This week I was honored to be featured on the website Magic City Made to talk about my work with See Jane Write.

In the interview I share the story behind the name tag you see in the picture above and my love for Birmingham. Click here to check out the article.

Monday Motivation: What Do You Want to Do?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Desire (Mnemosyne - Ana Maria Tavares)
Image by Tannematica via Creative Commons

In the wildly popular erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, author E.L. James uses the phrases “my inner goddess” and “my subconscious” about a gajillion times to describe the first person narrator’s sexual, adventurous side and pragmatic, mature side, respectively. Lately, I feel like my inner goddess has been popping so many anti-depressants that she’s gone numb and my subconscious has become an ornery alcoholic – and, no, not because I wasted five days of my life reading Fifty Shades of Grey. In simpler terms, something inside me is just not right.

I suppose I am in the midst of what some would call a quarter-life crisis, but considering I’m 31 I’m a bit late to the pity party. (I’ve always been a late adopter. I still don’t have an iPhone.)

Recently, I came across the following quote:
Your life is the manifestation of your dream; it is an art. And you can change your life anytime if you aren’t enjoying the dream. (Ruiz)
After reading this my inner goddess actually perked up a bit. Then my subconscious threw an empty vodka bottle at her head and yelled, “But you don’t even know what kind of life you want!” I realized the drunk bitch was right.

When I was 15 the vision was clear. After college I was going to head to New York, work my way to the top at my favorite magazine, then after serving as editor-in-chief for a few years, take the leap and start a magazine of my own. Now, 16 years later, I teach English in Birmingham, Alabama. Clearly, things did not go as planned.

Nevertheless, I love my job, most days. However, still I feel unfulfilled and I can’t figure out why.

“What do you want to do?” – that’s the question I need to answer. It’s probably a question you need to answer too. Even super successful folks like my girl crush Erika Napoletano of RedHead Writing are asking themselves this question these days.

In her blog post on the subject Napoletano admitted that her answer to the question “What do you want to do?” was a resounding “I. Don’t. Know.” But then she began to search for her answer by making note of what she did know.

So what do you know you love to do? I know I love writing more than anything, but I also love teaching and I love connecting with people, especially with other creative women, online and IRL (in real life).  

Well, if I take a look around I’m doing all these things. I’m freelancing and blogging. I teach a great group of teens at one of the best public schools in the region. And I’m connecting with other creative women through See Jane Write, a networking group for Birmingham-area women writers that I founded last year. So what’s my damage?! (Word to Heathers.)

I think I just want more. I want to see my byline in more places. I want my blog to reach more readers. I want my students to leave my classroom feeling more inspired. I want See Jane Write to offer more programs to more women. (And I want an iPhone.) 

Chances are you’re battling similar feelings (though you probably already have an iPhone). You want to do more with your writing, but you’re wondering if you can or if you should. Well, here’s your answer: YES!

What you’re doing now with your blog or your fiction or your journalism or your poetry is just the beginning. You are only scratching the surface. It is time to do more!

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s great but how the hell am I supposed to do that.” Well, if I knew that my inner goddess wouldn’t be on Zoloft and my subconscious wouldn’t be taking shots of Tequila right now. But I’m determined to figure this out, and figure it out soon. And I hope you’ll come along with me for the ride. Who’s in?

Words With Friends: Communication and friendship are the keys to a healthy marriage

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ten years ago in the newsroom of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky I met a man who wore a tie to work every day (even on Fridays and even though the newsroom was a casual workplace) and insisted that Keith Sweat was the greatest R&B singer to ever live. Needless to say, I thought he was weird. But soon this quirky guy became one of my best friends and eventually the love of my life.

It's quite fitting that my husband Edward and I met at a newspaper. We both have a love for words and so it's pretty poetic that, in a way, words brought us together. And words continue to be an important part of our relationship, not only because we maintain a blog together, but because good communication is what we believe is one of the essentials to building a healthy marriage.

Edward and I had the chance to share this relationship tip and several others in today's edition of The Birmingham News. We're very excited to be featured, even though this puts a lot of pressure of us to make this thing work. I mean, really, do you realize how much it will suck if we were to get a divorce after this?

Check out the article here and let me know what you think.

Defining Beauty, Defining Art

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Hubster and I at the 2012 Beautiful People Party*

With music, laughter and chatter pulsating through the air, I wander around the room searching for familiar faces and admiring chic outfits. I am surrounded by beautiful people.

Some of the guests at this party would be considered beautiful because of their gorgeous hair, flawless skin, or impeccable sense of style. Some have enviable figures, you know the kind that can get away with wearing those teeny tiny shorts that are so popular this time of the year. But tonight shouldn't be about any of that.

On this night, Thursday, June 7, Birmingham Magazine is hosting its annual Beautiful People Party to celebrate the two dozen residents selected to be featured in its annual Beautiful People issue. I'm here because my husband, Edward Bowser, was one of the people chosen this year.

My husband is the debonair fellow seated to the right. 

As you can see, my hubs is adorable and always dressed to impressed, but those things had little to do with why he was chosen. He and the others in the picture above were picked for their community service. Other people featured were selected for their creativity, entrepreneurship, or their love for the city. In other words, Birmingham Magazine understands the real meaning of beauty. A beautiful person is someone concerned about making the world around them a more beautiful place -- whether that's through art, business, or service.

As a writer all this thinking about how we define beauty led me to think about how we define art. What is real art? So much of the music, movies, and even books that are popular theses days are considered art by some but many would they're simply entertainment.

Does this mean art can't entertain? Of course not. I believe real art can entertain us, but I believe true art doesn't stop there. Just like the "Beautiful People" of Birmingham Magazine, true artists create music, paintings, films, works of literature, etc., that make the world a more beautiful place. And true artists do this by being inspiring. True art changes the people who encounter and understand it.

I want to create real art with my writing. Even here on this blog I want to craft each post so that you will leave this website not only feeling entertained and informed, also transformed, even if it is only in small, small way.

How do you define true beauty? How do you define real art?

*P.S. -- In case you were wondering, I got that awesome dress  for $19.99 from H&M!

GeorgiaMae.com: Keep Moving, Girls!

Happy Saturday, babes! I've decided to start posting some of my best content from my blog GeorgiaMae.com here at The Writeous Babe Project too. Check out this post on race and weight loss. 


Scale-A-Week: 24 January 2010
Image via Creative Commons

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that while exercise is a nearly sure way to prevent obesity in white adolescent girls, it does not have the same effect on African American girls.

From the L.A. Times:
The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that among black adolescent girls who moved the most at age 12, obesity at age 14 was nearly as likely as it was for those whose activity rates were far lower.
For white girls, by contrast, regular exercise at 12 appeared a nearly sure way to head off obesity at 14. That finding held, even when the calorie intakes of an African American youngster and her white counterpart were the same.

The article goes on to say that the study falls in line with research that finds black women oxidize fat more slowly in response to exercise, and that their resting metabolic rates are lower than those of white women.
These findings come in the midst of a national effort to fight the obesity epidemic in the United States and many of those efforts focus on black women. Four in five African American women are overweight or obese when measured by the body mass index, or BMI. Even First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign has had a strong focus on encouraging black girls to be more active since experts say the run-up in weight may begin in adolescence.

So with this new research should black women and girls just give up? Should we hang up our sneakers and head to the couch? Of course not!

In fact, Linda Bacon, an associate nutritionist with UC Davis who was interviewed for the L.A. Times article, has been very critical of the focus on things like weight, BMI, and percent body fat. She believes that people should be encouraged to exercise and eat right for the sake of good health, not a number on a scale. 

The focus on weight can discourage people from being active and eating a healthy diet if they’re not shedding pounds and can lead thin people who eat junk food all the time to think that they’re healthy. Bacon does not believe weight alone determines a person’s level of health.

In the March issue of Glamour magazine she was quoted saying that overweight people can lead long, disease-free lives. “If you eat a good diet and exercise” Bacon told Glamour, “you’re likely to be healthy, no matter what the scale says.”

About a year ago I made the decision to get rid of my scale. I had successfully shed some pounds I wanted to lose but along the way I had become obsessed with my weight, so much so that my sense of self-worth had become too tied to my size. So last summer I trashed my scale and decided to focus on overall fitness. 

That’s when I started training for a half-marathon, something I never thought I would do because even though I had always enjoyed things like dance aerobics classes I had always told myself I could never be a runner. But in February of this year I crossed the finish line of the Mercedes Benz Half-Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama donning a Black Girls Run t-shirt and track jacket. 

This summer I’m working to improve my strength, while still doing plenty of running, dancing, and cycling to maintain good cardiovascular health.

And the only time you will see me stepping on a scale is at a doctor’s office.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that for some women weight loss is crucial. If you’ve been told by a doctor that you need to shed pounds because your weight is putting you at serious risk for life-threatening diseases, then by all means follow your doctor’s orders, but do so by making lifestyle changes, not with a crash diet. And don’t get discouraged from your efforts to exercise and eat right just because you can’t reach a magic number on a chart or wear a certain size dress or jeans.

So to all women, regardless of race, out there hitting the gym to lift weights, work that elliptical or dance at your favorite aerobics class, keep moving! To all women and girls pounding the pavement training for your first 5K, 10K, or half-marathon, keep running. With each step you are making your body healthier and stronger, even if it’s not getting smaller.