I'm Ready to Eat Drink Read Write

Friday, August 31, 2012

Last weekend I rededicated myself to a promise I made years ago. 

No, I didn’t renew my wedding vows.  I decided to renew my efforts to fall in love with the city of Birmingham. I spent last Friday night and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the Sidewalk Film Festival, an annual independent film festival held in various venues of downtown Birmingham. (I wrote stories on the film Our Mockingbird and the short documentaries produced by University of Alabama at Birmingham students for Magic City Post.) I had a blast and the weekend made me realize that Birmingham really can make me happy if I give her a chance.

So, this fall I plan to attend as many events as I can. Just around the corner is the Birmingham Public Library’s second Eat Drink Read Write Festival, which is set for Sept. 8 - 15, 2012. The Birmingham Public Library has joined forces with several Birmingham food organizations to present this year’s event. Presentations will include good food and good conversation from national and local food and beer experts. All events are free and will feature food tastings, a cooking class, a food documentary and more. Events will be held at the downtown public library, Pepper Place and the Desert Island Supply Co. in Woodlawn.

Five reasons I’m excited about this event:
I love food. Saturday, Sept. 8 I plan to head to the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market where Birmingham storyteller Katie Elkins will perform stories related to food. The Desert Island Supply Co. will lead informal produce-themed writing workshops for children and adults. The library will offer food-related crafts. And, of course, while I’m there I can buy fresh food to cook up that evening.
I love stories. I can’t wait to attend Food Stories on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at the Desert Island Supply Co., 5500 First Ave. North. For this event participants will have five minutes to tell a true, personal story about food. No notes allowed. This presentation is modeled after National Public Radio's "The Moth: True Stories Told Live.'' Birmingham Originals member restaurants will provide refreshments. Reservations are required so visit http://foodstories2012.eventbrite.com/ to register today.

I love movies. Unfortunately, I missed the screening of the documentary Eating Alabama at the Sidewalk Film Festival this weekend, but I will get a second chance on Thursday, Sept. 13. Tuscaloosa filmmaker Andrew Beck will share his documentary Eating Alabama: A Story About Why Food Matters and then lead a discussion about it. The film is about a young couple setting out to eat the way their grandparents did, locally and seasonally. However, they soon realize that nearly everything about today's food  system has changed from the past. To reserve your spot at this screening visit http://eatingalabama.eventbrite.com/.
I love poetry. It’s really a shame that I have yet to attend the library's popular Bards & Brews monthly poetry performance and beer-tasting event. But on Sept. 14 I plan to finally check it out. On this night  Chef Corey Hinkel of MIX Bakery and Cafe will discuss beer and cheese pairings. Chef Chris Dupont of MIX Bakery and Cafe and Cafe Dupont will prepare appetizers, using ingredients donated by Whole Foods Market. There will also be a poetry slam and prizes to the top three winners. Avondale Brewing Co., Back Forty Beer Co., Bell's Brewery and Good People Brewing Co. will furnish the beer. The Reflections, a band made up of library employees, is also set to perform.

I love wine. I’m not proud of this but last year I unlocked the wino badge on Foursquare. But I was pretty excited when I learned that at most events attendees can get two free drinks (craft beer or wine), courtesy of The J. Clyde.

If you’re in Birmingham and would like to attend any of these events with me, give me a shout on Twitter @writeousbabe.

Click here for a complete list of events.  

See Jane Co-Write

Thursday, August 30, 2012

When Texas socialite Joanne King Herring, the woman portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, wanted help writing her memoir she didn’t choose a big shot author from the New York Times best seller list. No, it was Birmingham’s own Nancy Dorman-Hickson who was selected for the job, thanks to her Southern roots and her ability to find common ground with people.

The importance of being able to relate well to others was just one of the many tips Dorman-Hickson offered Tuesday evening during her presentation “A Ghost Story: My Life as a Co-Writer and Print/Web Writer.”

At this event, hosted by my organization See Jane Write Birmingham, Dorman-Hickson discussed ghostwriting and collaborative writing, freelance writing, and personal branding to a crowd of 30 local writers. 

Is co-writing for you?

The primary difference between ghostwriting and co-writing is with ghostwriting you won’t receive any credit for helping with the book. Your name won’t appear on the cover and you’ll even have to sign a contract stating that you won’t reveal your connection to the project. With co-writing, you will receive credit, but it’s still important to check your ego at the door. As Dorman-Hickson explained when recounting her experience with Herring,  the person you’re working with gets the final word when making creative decisions.

With co-writing, you may be paid a flat or hourly rate. Dorman-Hickson said that on average the hourly rate is about $73 per hour. Flat rates run the gamut and can range from $6,000 to $150,000, but typically average at about $22,000.

To be a successful co-writer you need much more than good writing skills. This is a job that will call for you to be an editor and to manage people.

If you think co-writing is for you, one of the best ways to land co-writing gigs is by networking with other co-writers. You should also place a profile on PublishersMarketplace.com, Dorman-Hickson recommended. And don't be afraid to approach prominent people and offer to help them tell their story.
The Truth About Freelancing

During her talk, Dorman-Hickson was very honest about the realities of freelancing. It is nearly impossible to survive as a full-time freelancer these days because most publications pay writers such meager fees. But don't be discouraged. Learn to maximize each assignment you get and also think outside the box. Market your writing services to companies that haven't been hit as hard by the economic downturn.

Buidling Your Brand
Dorman-Hickson also discussed personal branding because whether you want to admit it or not, to be a successful writer, you have to build a successful brand for yourself. This may sound like a daunting task, but it can be easier than you think. A few things you'll need: business cards, a website and/or blog, and an e-newsletter.
You can even use your email signature and your voicemail greeting as promotion tools.
Give presentations to writing groups and book clubs.
And work on your elevator speech. Be sure that you can give a short, yet captivating description of what you do at a moment's notice.
One of the things from Dorman-Hickson's talk that stood out to me most is the idea that one of the best ways to help your writing career is to help other writers with their careers. That's exactly what I strive to do with See Jane Write. It's nice to know I'm on the right track.

Scenes from the See Jane Write August Event

Guest Post: Why I Feel Bad About Being Good to My Body

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hey babes! Today’s post is by one of my favorite writeous babes, Mariam Williams of RedboneAfropuff.com.  Mariam shares her struggle with balancing fitness goals with her writing aspirations and her feminist ideals.

I wish I had the kind of metabolism that would allow me to abandon exercise all together. Including round-trip travel time, I spend about ten hours a week in pursuit of fitness. That doesn’t include the time it takes to wrap up whatever I was doing before the gym and change clothes, cook healthy meals, or sleep so that my muscles can recover and so I won’t use food to replenish the energy that rest should.

I shouldn’t feel bad about this, but truth is, it’s not all about health and fitness. The Writeous Babe’s post about pole dancing and feminism reminded me that my top priority in working the gym like a part-time job is to look good. I want to feel confident in my own skin, and having been about 50 pounds over the recommended weight for my height, I know I don’t feel confident about all the brilliance I have to present if I don’t think I look good.

As a writer and as a feminist, this causes a real conflict for me. A recent television appearance on a local talk show put all the negative thoughts I had 35 pounds ago—I never lost the last 15—back into my mind. I listened to myself on the half-hour broadcast, because after looking at me for 30 seconds, I was picking myself apart. Next major purchase: braces and shaving off those vampire teeth. I look better with glasses. I should’ve worn my hair in a style that shortens and frames my face.

I went after my sound, too. I wish I had the host’s voice. I should’ve done a vocal warm-up on the drive up there. Too much nervous laughter. Should’ve phrased that differently. I’m so not cut out for everything I claim to be.
Some of my self-deprecation is genuine criticism I can use to improve and grow. The rest is me engaging in the very behavior I shake my head at on the show: feeling so incapable of achieving unrealistic beauty ideals that my confidence in my intelligence and the craft I should nurture and take pride in gets shattered. I was telling myself I’m not good enough to be the writer, performer, public speaker, etc. the host introduced me as, even though those titles reflect the skills, talents and accomplishments that got me on the show in the first place.

And that’s why I feel bad about my “pursuit of fitness.” I’ve known since I hit that ugly pre-pubescent stage I sometimes feel I never grew out of that my face and body wouldn’t be my way into magazines and onto television. Writing would be. But am I writing 10+ hours a week? Pursuing it like the part-time job it’s become?

No. After a long day of working one of my six other part-time gigs or before starting them, I often have just enough energy or time for one activity: writing or exercising. I usually choose exercise. And as a sedentary (read: low calorie-burning) activity, writing is even less appealing when I’ve already sat for most of the day. Yes, it’s life-threatening to have a sedentary career, but I know that’s not why my workout trumps my writing time.

So I’m admitting it and challenging myself to find emotionally healthy ways to be a fit feminist writer.

How many other writeous babes out there have felt this way? Is a writer’s sedentary lifestyle a genuine health concern for you? Does your body confidence influence your writing confidence?

Mariam Williams is a body-conscious feminist and artist using the power of the pen to change her Louisville, Ky. home and the world. She blogs at RedboneAfropuff.com. Follow her on Twitter at

Intentions for the New School Year

Monday, August 20, 2012

When I found this print online last month I had to have it in my classroom this year.
You can get it here

I can't believe that today is the first day of school. Seems like just yesterday I was dancing down the halls blasting Alice Cooper's "School's Out for Summer" on the last teacher work day of the 2011-2012 school year. (Yes, this is what teachers do when students aren't around.)

Yesterday a friend asked me what my expectations were for this school year and I answered honestly: "I have none." I've learned that things never turn out the way you thought they would. I did, however, decide to write down intentions for the new school year, just as I do for the new calendar or as my birthday approaches.

Here are my intentions for the new school year:

Be a good role model. Whether we want to be or not, teachers are role models, so I'm going to make it a point to be a positive one, especially for my female students. Aside from working to ignite a love for reading within my students and working to inspire them to write, I want to help them be confident too. And, along with encouraging them, one way to do that is to lead by example. I don't want my students, especially my female students, to ever overhear me speaking disparagingly about myself. We need to be careful to never say things like "I'm so stupid" or "This makes me look fat" or "My hair looks awful today" around teens.

Read for pleasure. This is another instance in which I need to lead by example. I'm constantly encouraging my students to read things other than the books I assign them, but most of the time I also push aside the reading I want to do because I spend so much of my free time rereading what we're studying in class as I try to revamp my lesson plans. This year I'm going to make it a point to read at least one book that isn't on my syllabus each month.

Let bad days roll off my back. Last year I had one class (actually one student in one class) that was extremely challenging for me and whenever I'd have a bad time in that class I'd let it ruin my whole day. Even if my other classes went along famously, I would go home focused on that one bad class period. This year I'm not going to let small challenges take the joy out of teaching.

Manage my time wisely. About four times a year, usually around the end of the 9-week grading period, I become a complete basketcase as I'm overwhelmed with papers and projects to grade. And this stress usually leads to me neglecting my writing and my exercise regimen for a few weeks. I'm determined to stay on top of things and not let this happen this year.

Set long-term career goals. I'm constantly thinking of my future as a writer, but because I'm so happy with my current teaching position I rarely think about my future as an educator. By the end of this school year I want to establish concrete goals for my teaching career.

Be positive. This year I am going to do my best to stay upbeat and optimistic regardless of what's going on at school or at home. I want to have fun while I'm teaching because if I'm having a blast my students will too.

Be myself. I have a tendency to not be myself at work. I can be shy and quiet around certain colleagues for fear that they'll get the wrong impression of me. Well, this is my fourth year at my school and I think it's time everyone met the real me. And, yes, this means my co-workers should  expect more dancing in the halls.

3 Selfish Reasons to Be Selfless

Sunday, August 19, 2012

give and share
Photo by Denise Carbonell
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

Sometimes you need to take a break from taking care of everyone else. Sometimes you need to put yourself first.

But sometimes being selfless is the right thing to do. Sometimes by being selfless you can actually help yourself after all.

I present to you 3 selfish reasons to be selfless:

Being selfless is a great distraction when your life sucks. My family and I have been facing tough times lately. I have exclaimed the phrase "Life sucks!" more times than I care to admit. But, pushing my cares aside, last weekend I threw myself into being a good bridesmaid for my cousin who was marrying the love of her life. On Sunday and Tuesday I made time to hang out with gal pals who have recently given birth and were in need of some adult conversation. I found that when I stopped wallowing in worry and self-pity and decided to focus on other people instead, I was suddenly happier.

Being selfless is more fun than being a jerk. No, really, it is. Earlier this year James Spann, a renowned meteorologist here in the Southeast who has also been recognized for his superb Twitter skills, gave a talk on how to make a difference with social media. During his presentation he said something that really stuck with me: he said that when you start to put other people first that's when life gets good. And he's right. My organization See Jane Write is a perfect example. That networking group for women writers is truly a labor of love. I don't do this for money. When there's a venue to be rented or refreshments to be bought for an event I spend my own cash, cash I don't get back because I'm determined to never charge for See Jane Write events. I don't do this for fame. Most people don't even know who the founder and organizer of See Jane Write is. Frankly, it would probably be easier for me to accomplish my goals as a writer if I didn't spend so much time working on See Jane Write events. But I do it nonetheless. I do it for the sake of the women who attend  the programs and social events and I do it simply because it's fun! I honestly didn't start enjoying my life here in Birmingham until I got connected to the community through this organization.

Being selfless is the pathway to peace. This is something difficult for me to explain, but when I am pouring my energy and time into others without reservation or complaint everything within and around me feels calm. And soon enough, I start to see rewards for my good deeds. I see my work bear fruit. Whether you call it gifts from God, blessings from the universe, good karma or good luck, when you do good things for other people, good things happen to you. Perhaps not immediately, but eventually things start to work out and that sucky life you needed a distraction from becomes an awesome one.

It's Not Just Hair: Why I Write About My Curls

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"It’s just hair!" she said in frustration. My friend, we’ll call her K., was sharing with me how out of place she feels at natural hair meetups. K. just didn’t understand why other black women who had decided to stop chemically straightening their hair felt this was some spiritual experience. “I didn’t know I was part of some movement,” she said. “I just decided to cut my hair and stop getting a perm.”

I understand her gripes, but the truth is it’s not just hair, at least not for many women. I started wearing my hair in its naturally curly state over 10 years ago, long before it had become the hip thing to do and at a time when there were no natural hair blogs or YouTube videos to guide me. I wasn’t trying to be part of a movement, either. But once I started to embrace my thick, curly mane, I started to embrace my quirky, offbeat personality too. 

This is a movement because it's a stepping stone toward the goal of creating a new standard of beauty. I've been told by people, people of my own race, that not only is my hair is too curly but my nose is too wide and my skin is too dark. Natural hair, however, is giving so many women, the confidence to define beauty for themselves. 

Now to be clear I'm not implying that black women who chemically straighten their hair are doing so because they're suffering from self-hatred. That's ridiculous. But for me natural hair was a gateway to self-acceptance and I know many, many women who can tell a similar story, stories I've been privileged to share in articles for publications such as Weld for Birmingham

Furthermore, natural hair can be the common ground needed to bring women together. I can’t keep count of the number of times that while at a mall, a restaurant, or a grocery store I’ve been approached by a complete stranger who wanted to ask me about the hair products I use. I’ve met women at natural hair meetups hosted by Birmingham Natural Beauties who have become some of my best friends.

In spite of all this, however, I will admit that sometimes I wish it was just hair. Then maybe we wouldn’t have had so many people more focused on Gabby Douglas’ ponytail than her performance at the 2012 London Olympics when she made history and became the first African American to win the all-around gymnastics gold medal.

And if it was just hair perhaps U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin wouldn't have needed to issue a public plea last year asking black women to stop forgoing exercise for fear of a bad hair day. 

And there’s the rub. How can we celebrate our tresses without allowing our hair to dictate our lives? 

This question seemed to be at the heart of a recent Birmingham Natural Beauties meetup held last Tuesday that focused on health and fitness. A few ladies gave tips on how naturalistas could manage their hair and still remain active. Also, Dr. Mia Cowan of MiBella Wellness Center gave diet and exercise tips, speaking on the importance of eating breakfast, getting enough protein in your diet, and adding strength training to your workout regimen. 

While we were all brought together that evening because of hair the message was clear: do not live your life constantly worrying about the cuteness of your coif. How you feel on the inside is much more important than how you look on the outside. 

Feminist Friday: Am I Still a Feminist While Dancing on a Pole?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pole Dancing in Lagoon
Image by Lululemon Athletica via Flickr/Creative Commons

Reese Witherspoon lied.

A few years ago in an interview with Glamour magazine, the Academy Award winning actress said that she felt much sexier as a 30-something than she ever did in her 20s. Inspired, I cut out this quote and glued it to my vision board, certain that once in my 30s I’d finally feel sexy. But 30 came and went and no such luck.  
So it was on to plan B in my quest to feel sexy – pole dancing classes! And to live up to my nickname Writeous Babe, of course, I wrote about my experience. You can check out the article here on My Scoop. 
While twirling my body around that vertical steel bar, however, I got to thinking "Is this anti-feminist?" 
Some of the feminists I admire most have argued that the sexiness offered in striptease aerobics classes is fabricated and based on the male gaze.
Sure, many women may attend pole dancing and striptease aerobics classes with a man in mind. Some of the women I interviewed for the My Scoop article admitted that they wanted to leave the class with a few ideas to bring home to their husbands. But is that really so bad? 
And with all the girlish giggling that goes on at these classes, they feel more like a slumber party or a ladies night out than anything and seem to have very little to do with impressing men. 
Furthermore, I believe that unorthodox fitness classes like these encourage women to make the time to exercise because these classes make getting fit fun; and I believe that they can help stressed-out moms feel sexy again.
What I do struggle with, though, is the idea of sexiness. When we say these classes make women feel sexy how exactly are we defining that word? I frequently ask myself: Does sexy simply mean men find me attractive or does sexy mean I love my body because it’s healthy and strong?
What I've realized is that all these years when I've been saying I want to feel sexy what I've really meant is I just want to feel confident and comfortable in my own skin, regardless of how much I weigh or what I'm wearing. Obviously, I don't need to take pole dancing fitness classes for this to happen. But while I was twisting my hips in that mirror I realized that I'm a lot more self-confident than I thought and I realized that maybe Reese Witherspoon was right after all. 

The Daily South

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cypress Gardens Southern Belle
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

If you're like me you're always looking for a new blog to follow. This week I added a new site to my list of recommended reading: The Daily South

Launched by Southern Living magazine, The Daily South is a new blog that Southern Living editors hope will become the go-to destination for Southern culture, food, home, travel and style.  

As a Southern fried feminist I'm not only dedicated to empowering women but also celebrating and promoting the South. 

And as Erin Shaw Street points out in the inaugural post, "The South is hot." And we're not just talking summer weather. From our award-winning chefs and emerging musicians to our decorators and trendsetters, the nation just can’t get enough of the South. 

But you don't have to take my word for it. The Daily South has all the proof you'll need. 

Be sure to check out The Bees Knees, a list of things to watch for in the South this week. This will likely be a regular staple of the blog. This week's list features Man in the Blue Moon, a new novel by Alabama-based Michael MorrisSet in World War I-era ApalachicolaFlorida, the story follows Ella Wallace as she struggles to defend her land, home, and peace after her husband disappears. The book is set to be released Friday, Aug. 17.

Oh, how I wish I had time to drive over to Atlanta this weekend. Also on the list is the world’s first all-female street-art conferenceLiving Walls, an organization that promotes urban art in Atlanta, hosts its second The City Speaks conference, August 15-19. This year’s conference will feature film screenings, block parties, and a focus on female street artists with 27 women taking over the walls of Atlanta. 

So swing on over to The Daily South and let me know what you think. 

What do you love about the South? 

See Jane Write Birmingham presents A Ghost Story

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Are you looking for new ways to earn money as a writer? 

If so, and if you live in Birmingham, Ala., you need to mark your calendar for the next See Jane Write event, set for Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at Matthew's Bar & Grill

Author and freelance writer Nancy Dorman-Hickson will present "A Ghost Story: My Life as a Co-Writer and Print/Web Writer."  She'll include fun experiences she's had as a writer such as the strangest places she's taken her laptop or conducted an interview; techniques for capturing a personality; and the ego-boosting (and ego-crushing) acts of creating personal bios and author photos and participating in book signings. 

Before freelancing, Dorman-Hickson was an editor for Southern Living and Progressive Farmer magazines during which time she received praise for her writing from Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, Naomi Judd, Fannie Flagg and many more. She is the ghostwriter of a book on family violence and the co-author of Diplomacy and Diamonds, the best-selling memoir of Texas socialite Joanne King Herring, who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War. You can learn more about  at Dorman-Hickson at www.NancyDormanHickson.com.

Ghostwriting may be something you've never considered because there's no fame or glory in this line of work. "In fact," Dorman-Hickson said, "ghostwriters sign contracts agreeing not to tell anyone that they worked on the book at all, thus the term 'ghost.'"

So why would anyone want to be a ghostwriter? For the money, honey! 

"It can be a lucrative field," Dorman-Hickson said. "The figures are all over the board. I've heard everything from $2,500 to $100,000, but those high-figures come about only after a writer has deep experience and a lot of luck."

Still, if ghostwriting is completely out of the question for you, there's always collaborative writing, such as Dorman-Hickson's project with Joanne King Herring. On the cover of that memoir you'll also find Dorman-Hickson's name. 

"It can mean good money in a time when writers are having a hard time getting assignments and being paid adequately for their work," Dorman-Hickson said. "Also it is fulfilling to complete a book, especially when it bears your name."

For those wondering if ghostwriting or collaborative writing is for you, Dorman-Hickson said, "If you are a writer who enjoys knowing what you're going to be writing and what you're going to be working on for a long period of time, book-length projects are ideal. They provide security in the topsyturvy world of freelancing. You use the same skills you use with other types of writing. You just use them for a longer period of time focusing on the same subject."

Dorman-Hickson will have copies of Diplomacy and Diamonds for sale (cash or check only) for $25 at the event. 

In addition to information on ghostwriting and collaborative writing, Dorman-Hickson will also discuss how to freelance for magazines, websites and other publications and how to build your brand as a writer.

See Jane Write August Event 
What: Nancy Dorman Hickson presents A Ghost Story: My Life as a Co-Writer and Print/Web Writer
When: Tuesday, August 28 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Matthew's Bar & Grill, 2208 Morris Avenue, Birmingham, AL 35203

This event is free, but registration is required. Register by visiting aghoststory.eventbrite.com

Special thanks to our venue sponsor Matthew's Bar & Grill. Please support Matthew's by purchasing food and/or drinks at this event. 

Feminist Friday: Writing as a Feminist Act

Friday, August 10, 2012

image via
I am convinced God placed me on earth to write and to empower women. For years I've struggled with trying to figure out a way to balance both of these great passions of mine.

To be a true feminist, I thought, I needed a women's studies degree and to get involved in politics and policy change. To be a feminist meant to be an activist. 

But I wanted to be a writer, not a politician, and I have since I was 7 years old. 

Then one day I realized that writing is a form of activism, that writing is a feminist act. 

Just a cursory review of history will reveal that one of the primary ways society has sought to oppress and objectify women is simply by silencing them. So as a woman the very act of writing, the very act of sharing my story, has been an attack against patriarchy, whether I realized it or not. 

But this isn't just about me and my voice. I've discovered that when I share my story something wonderful happens -- other women are encouraged to share their stories too. 

For example, about two and a half weeks ago I shared a post about not wanting children -- a very difficult piece to write, indeed. But after I wrote it, several women reached out to me about also not wanting to be mothers and about being afraid or ashamed to share these feelings publicly. I urged all these women to share their stories and at least one actually followed my advice. 

Yesterday, Dawn Keable featured my post "Why I'm Reluctant to Write About Not Wanting Kids," on her blog, and introduced my article with a story of her own, a story about how she and her husband have built a beautiful and full life together, without children. 

I love that in her writing, Keable challenges the common notion that women who don't want children are selfish. She writes:
"And if you're judging my character or basing my self-worth as a person on whether or not I'm a parent, then that's an incredibly sad reflection. On you." 

What story do you need to share? Will you do it? 

My Southern Fried Feminist Manifesto

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feminism, VDay 2007 and Me
Photo credit: Julie Jordan Scott
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

I often describe myself as a Southern fried feminist and not simply because that phrase is catchy and cute. I was born and bred in Birmingham, Alabama and now that I've returned to my hometown I find myself constantly striving to reconcile my feminist ideals with Southern values. 
At the risk of perpetuating stereotypes about the South, there are a few themes that are highly important in Southern culture. Those things include faith, family, food, and fashion, as well as issues of race. With that in mind, here is my Southern Fried Feminist Manifesto...
I am a Southern fried feminist and this means I have faith. I am a Jesus-loving, church-going gal, but I refuse to buy into the lie that I am somehow a second class citizen in God's kingdom simply because Eve was made from Adam's rib and took the first bite from that forbidden fruit. 
I am a Southern fried feminist and this means I value family. I cherish my relationship with my husband and I strive to honor him in all I do, but I did not trade in my voice or my dreams for a wedding ring. My husband and I are partners. We believe the Bible teaches mutual submission, not the idea that "virtuous woman" is a synonym for doormat. 
I am a Southern fried feminist and this means I love to eat. But I love food because it brings people together. Because I love to eat, "I be up in the gym just working on my fitness," as Fergie says. A feminist girl can't save the world if she's unhealthy and out of shape. 
I am a Southern fried feminist and this means I love fashion. Yes, fashion. Sure, the South isn’t home to any fashion capitals of the world, but down here below the Mason-Dixon line taking care of your appearance isn’t about vanity, but good manners. In the South, dressing inappropriately for any occasion is considered just plain rude. 
I am a Southern fried feminist and I am black. With regard to what race and feminism mean to me, I believe poet June Jordan said it best: 
"I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black: it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect."
What's your manifesto?

*Originally published at GeorgiaMae.com. 

I Can Do Anything, But Not Everything

What do you want?
Photo Credit: Jessica Mullen
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

Unlike many of my friends, I did not approach turning 30 with dread or dismay. I spent my late 20s rather excited about this monumental birthday because I was certain that once it arrived my life would finally make sense. I would turn 30 and instantly have the confidence that eluded me in the days of my youth. I'd finally know who I was and what I wanted.

You can stop your hysterical laughter now. 

If you're over 30 you know that none of this happens. 

But now, at the age of 31, I can say that one thing has become abundantly clear; I have learned one lesson that I think will help guide me the rest of the days of my life:  I can do anything that I want, but I can't do everything that I want -- at least not all at once. 

Thanks to God's grace and the work ethic instilled in me by my father, I believe that I can accomplish any goal I set for myself, but only if I stay focused. The minute I get distracted by some other lofty aspiration, it's over.  All bets are off. And this year I've realized that I am often trying to juggle far too many projects to truly excel at any of them. I'm a Jill of all trades and master of none. 

Today is my half-birthday (yes, I still celebrate those). In six months I'll be 32. No, I don't expect all that confidence and clarity I mentioned earlier to descend upon me then. But by my 32 birthday I want to have decided on that one big professional goal that I'm going to wholeheartedly pursue. Will I write a book? Will I launch an online magazine? Will I strive to be a blogging star? Will I go after a secret goal of mine I have yet to mention to anyone? Only time will tell.

What is the one lofty goal  you want to accomplish right now?

Counting My Blessings

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

true to form
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

I've been on the verge of tears or the brink of letting out a bloodcurdling scream for the past few days. Sometimes life sucks.

But don't worry, this isn't one of those posts where I word vomit and tell you all my problems. Instead this is a post where I try to change my attitude by focusing on what's right, not what's wrong, in my life. This is a post where I give thanks. 

Today I am thankful for: 

God's grace, provision, and unconditional love
the lessons God teaches us through life circumstances
the blessings that come from seemingly bad situations
my loving, selfless, hardworking husband
my parents
my little brother
my cousin who is my best friend and the sister I never had
my job at an amazing performing arts school
the strength and abilities my body possesses in spite of a health condition that says I should be fragile and weak 
shelter, food, clothing, and reliable transportation
my passion and talent for writing 
See Jane Write 
all the ladies who take the time to comment on this blog so that I know I'm not talking to myself 

What are you thankful for today? 

Reading Fiction Could Make You a Better Writer and a Better Friend

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book and Plant Sale 2009
Photo Credit: University of Scranton Weinberg Memorial Library
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

If you happened to catch Part 1 or Part 2 of my summer reading list you probably noticed I don't read a lot of fiction. Well, actually, as a teacher of early American literature I read plenty of fiction by the likes of Kate Chopin, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But when it comes to what I read in my free time it's usually non-fiction such as memoirs or collections of personal essays. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm one of those pretentious pricks who say things like "It's such a waste of time to read fiction. I need something real." But because I consider myself a creative non-fiction writer, I mostly read creative non-fiction.

This needs to change. I need to add more fiction to my reading repertoire. Essayists, journalists and memoirists can learn a lot from fiction. Regardless of genre, every writer and every artist is striving to tell a story. What better way to learn the art of storytelling than from great novels and short stories? Fiction, for example, teaches us that stories don't always have to be linear. It's OK to start in the middle or even at the end. 

But wait there's more! 

Reading more fiction might also make you more popular. It's true. From the Harvard Business Review Blog:
“Over the past decade, academic researchers…from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness.”
So reading more fiction could make me a better writer and a better friend. That's a pretty sweet deal.

What are some of your favorite works of fiction? 

Monday Motivation: Enjoying the Journey

Monday, August 6, 2012

Journey of Discovery | Cholpon-Ata to Naryn
image via

Last week a friend I greatly admire told me she's proud of me. She said she's proud of the work I've done through See Jane Write, the success I've had landing new freelancing gigs, and my efforts to grow this blog.

This really meant a lot to me because she is a very accomplished journalist and a social media guru.

Then she asked, "so where are you going with all of this?"

I had a very profound response to this question: "Uh, I dunno."

And it's true. I have no idea where I would like all this to lead. I have no grand goal in mind. There is no 5-year plan. I wanted to be part of a networking group for local women writers so I started one. After leaving my full-time reporting job for a new career in education I missed seeing my byline, so I started freelancing. I love blogging so I blog. But ask me what's next and I've got nothing. I often talk about making my writing dreams come true, but at this point I'm not even sure what that means.

After our conversation, after this revelation, I proceeded to have a come-apart once my friend and I went our separate ways. "You're 31, Javacia! That's way too old to not have a clear life plan!" I told myself.

Enter U.S. Olympic swimmer Brendan Hansen. (Yes, I'm writing about the Olympics again. We only have one more week. Indulge me.) At 30, Hansen came out of retirement to compete in the London games this year. In an interview with Glamour he talked about the importance of appreciating the journey when you're training for the Olympics:
"I swim four hours a day for two years to prepare for one race that's 59 seconds long and another that's less than two minutes. People are like, 'Why would you do that?' But to me, it's not just about the outcome. When you're in a sport like this, so much of it is the journey and so little of it is the race."
This quote brings me comfort even though swimming has very little to do with writing. I'm enjoying blogging. I'm enjoying organizing events for See Jane Write. I'm enjoying reporting and writing. I'm enjoying this journey.

This doesn't mean I don't need a plan. I still think I need one and hope to figure that out soon. But in the meantime, I'm going to keep having fun.

Do you have a life plan? What are you doing to enjoy the journey?

Delicious Reader Engagement Tips from Blog Brunch

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Farmers Omelette presentation
Photo Credit: Waferboard
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

I have discovered a calorie-free brunch! 

Well, actually, when I participated in the Twitter chat known as Blog Brunch yesterday it wasn't as healthy as it could have been because I was snacking on Tropical Chewy Lemonheads & Friends the whole time. Nevertheless, the blogging and social media tips I gathered from the chat were plenty good for me. 

Blog Brunch is "a collaborative network powered by bloggers wanting to share, dream and learn with other creatives in the blogging community" that hosts Twitter chats on various blogging topics. 

Yesterday's chat was about reader engagement, something that's very important to me. This summer I've been fortunate enough to have had several of you comment on nearly all of my posts. You have no idea how much that means to me. When I decided to make The Writeous Babe Project more than just a place to post teasers to articles and essays I'd published, I decided I wanted to make this a blog that would encourage and inspire other women writers. But I have no idea if I'm doing that unless you leave comments and send me emails letting me know. And you have. And for that I thank you. 

Because commenting on posts is such a huge part of reader engagement, it's important to make commenting as easy as possible. I know that's probably not the case here. You have to get through that annoying CAPTCHA crap which usually takes me three attempts to get right when I'm commenting on other blogs. Hold tight, I plan to switch to Comment Luv or Disqus soon. 

Social media is obviously another way, if not one of the best ways, to engage with readers. But make sure you're not all business all the time. If you do nothing but post or tweet out links to your blog posts your followers are going to get bored pretty quickly. It's like having a friend who only talks about work. Use social media to share personal tidbits of your day that aren't blog-worthy but are still fun and interesting, suggested Lisa Butler (@elembee). 

I try to tweet at least four times a day --- sharing a link to my blog, sharing a link to an interesting article I've read, promoting someone else's work, and showing a bit of my personal life and personality. Some days I fail miserably at this, but that's what I aim for each day. 

Another thing to remember: bloggers must support other bloggers. Visit other blogs and leave meaningful comments. Naomi Anselmo (@ofanselm) said it perfectly: "Blogging is about connecting with others. Nobody makes friends by waiting for everyone else to visit them at their place." 

How do you engage with your readers? 

Write On Birmingham

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The cover story in the latest issue of Weld for Birmingham, one of my city's weekly newspapers, examines 10 provocative quotes about my hometown. The piece is called Write On Birmingham and I picked up the paper with this plan to read the quotes and then pen some compelling piece of my own about the Magic City and post it here. But that didn't happen. 

Besides, how could anything I write compare to this quote from the late Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth: 

There’s no place like Birmingham in my heart. I love Birmingham, and not just because some of my blood was spilled in its streets. I love it because it’s a place where we can look out and see where we’ve come from and how far God has brought us.

After being away for about 10 years, I returned to Birmingham in 2009. When people ask me if I like being back home I'm honest: "No. But I want to." And I do. I really, really want to fall in love with Birmingham. But it feels like I'm in a relationship with some guy who keeps cheating on me, who keeps breaking my heart and I keep giving him chance after chance. 

As we all do in rocky relationships that we want to salvage, I try to focus on the good things -- the wonderful performing arts school at which I have the honor to teach, my favorite coffee shops and restaurants, my church, the supportive community of women writers I've discovered through See Jane Write, Black Girls RUN! Birmingham. But not even all of this is enough to drown out the sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic voices screaming in my ears. This city's extreme colorism even has me feeling like an ugly duckling. 

Nevertheless, I'm going to stick around. Birmingham has scars and scabs but has made progress. It is a place where we can see how far we've come as a nation. And Birmingham motivates me to use my writing as activism because it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go.