Build Your Tribe (and Your Resume) With Twitter

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Twitter escultura de arena
Photo by Rosaura Ochoa
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

Believe it or not, there are still people who don't understand the purpose of social media. Some people still think social networking sites are just a high-tech form of teenage gossip and a colossal waste of time. These people couldn't be more wrong.

For writers, social media could be the key to landing your next freelance gig. For example, the editor for one of the websites I write for found me through LinkedIn. And last year I had the opportunity to write a few articles for my one of my favorite online magazines because of Twitter. I began following one of the site's editors on Twitter and whenever she would post articles and encouraging words that really resonated with me I would let her know by replying to her tweets and she graciously responded. Then one day I decided to ask her, through Twitter, about writing for her publication. She sent me her email address (which I'd tried finding in the past to no avail) and I sent her a few story pitches. A week later my byline was on the site. 

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Through Twitter you can not only find writing gigs, but also other writing gals! I have met so many ambitious, creative, and forward-thinking women writers in Birmingham thanks to social media. I was inspired to write this post because of a coffee date I had last week with a new friend who goes by the Twitter handle @see_clair_write. 

We met a few weeks ago at a panel discussion on the future of journalism, but we truly have Twitter to thank for our connection. This event was thrown by people who actually do understand social media, and the organizers encouraged attendees to tweet questions and comments during the talk. Those tweets were projected onto a screen at the front of the room and used to help guide the conversation. Not only did @see_clair_write catch my eye because of her awesome Twitter handle, but I was intrigued by and agreed with her insightful tweets. So I retweeted a few of her posts. Then I saw she retweeted a few of mine. 

When the panel discussion ended I leapt from my chair on a mission: I had to find this @see_clair_write. Evidently, she had the same idea and we walked straight to each other. (This is why you need a photo on your Twitter account, people. If you still have that stupid egg as your avatar please fix that right now. Go on. I'll wait...)

Clair and I exchanged information and last week sat in Urban Standard coffee house for hours talking about writing and so much more. 

This is surely the beginning of a beautiful friendship and we owe it all to you Twitter! 


Crossposted at See Jane Write


A Tribute to Edith Ward and the Birmingham Public Library

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reading Room
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons



A copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee. Dr. Martin Luther King's signature on the warden's docket from his 1963 arrest in Birmingham. A scrapbook compiled by Edith Ward, a Birmingham woman born in 1883.

These are the things I had the pleasure and honor of seeing yesterday afternoon thanks to the Birmingham Public Library.

I am a member of the new Young Professionals Board of the Birmingham Public Library and yesterday during our first meeting we were given a tour of the Central Downtown Library's Southern History Collection, which includes rare books to which only 10 people in the library have access, and the Archives Department, which preserves documents, photographs and manuscripts on Birmingham and Jefferson County history.

I was so excited I left the library shaking.

Yes, I'm a nerd.

But I have a confession. Even though I was about to faint when I saw Lee's and King's signatures I was most amazed by those scrapbooks of Edith Ward. The paper dolls she collected as a child, the letters from boyfriends she received as a teen, and other items like a dance card, clippings of her favorite poems, and playbills from theater performances she attended all offered this slice of life not found in most high school history books. And even though I know that as a black person my life would have been nothing like hers had I been alive in the late 1800s, as a woman it was still fascinating to see how other women of that time lived.

For example, we had the chance to see a restored photo of Edith with her bike. She loved this bike, or her "wheel" as she called it, and wrote about it often in her diaries. For Edith and other young women of that time period their bikes represented freedom. A girl might hop on her bike and ride from the Southside all the way to Bessemer. These bikes were such a big deal that local ministers began preaching against the evils of the bicycle, claiming they had girls going wild.

I could have stayed in the basement of the library all day learning about Edith's life.

But I left there realizing two things: the importance of city libraries and the importance of documenting your life.

These pieces of history I had the opportunity to see yesterday would be gone, lost forever, if not for the restoration and preservation efforts of libraries. And there would be no pieces of history to preserve if not for the people who took the time to document their lives.

One might think something as simple as keeping a scrapbook is inconsequential and unimportant, but those who think that are wrong. Sharing your life isn't just about you; it's about representing your generation for the generations to come. So whether it's through a scrapbook, a journal, a book, or  a blog -- tell your story.

Crossposted at See Jane Write.

Monday Motivation: Do Something Crazy

Monday, October 22, 2012

I'm not a player, I just blog a lot
Image by J. Money via Flickr/Creative Commons


Since I'm a writer, blogger and feminist it should come as no surprise that Julie & Julia is one of my favorite films. I watched this great Nora Ephron movie Friday night and by the end my enthusiasm for blogging was renewed. 

I started thinking about Julie Powell and other bloggers who have been wildly popular and landed book deals because of their websites. The one thing these writers seem to have in common is that they were willing to do something crazy. Naysayers may call it a gimmick, and perhaps for some it is just that. But when I think about Julie Powell and women like Rachel Bertsche, author of the blog and book MWF Seeking BFF, they were all willing to do something that took courage and discipline, whether that was cooking 524 Julia Child recipes in 365 days or going on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting a new Best Friend Forever.

And so I present a challenge. 

November can be a lonely month for us creative non-fiction writers because in November many of our ambitious fiction writer pals are busy with National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

So I thought, what if we bloggers had a project of our own for the month of November.

Inspired by Tarayi Jones' #writelikecrazy, in which she encouraged writers to write every day for a month, I've decided to launch #bloglikecrazy for the month of November.

Here's the #bloglikecrazy challenge: publish a meaningful blog post every single day in November. That's 30 posts in 30 days. 

I've tried to do this several times before and failed miserably. But I figure I'd be a bit more motivated if I'm actually leading this endeavor.

So are you with me?

Project #bloglikecrazy will begin Nov. 1. 

Also, if you'd like you can sign up for me to send you writing prompts throughout November to help get those creative juices flowing. Just email me at javacia@gmail.com with #bloglikecrazy in the subject line and in the body of the email simply say "I want prompts so I can #bloglikecrazy!"

So does this mean that after blogging for 30 days you'll get a book deal? Probably not. But at the end of November you will be more dedicated to your blog and it's dedication that will help you make your writing dreams come true. 


So let's blog like crazy!



Monday Motivation: You Are Appreciated

Monday, October 15, 2012


This award is amazing. The letters spelling the word "SMART" are from photographs of different Birmingham landmarks.

For example, the "S" is from Sloss Furnaces and the "A" from the Alabama Theatre. 


I'm not one who seeks out recognition and accolades. In fact, I tend to be rather embarrassed by that sort of attention. Nevertheless, I do like to know I am appreciated and I'm crushed when I feel completely ignored.

Sometimes, I fall into the trap of self-pity. I start telling myself that all the things I do for my students, for the women of See Jane Write and for my friends don't really matter; I tell myself no one really cares. I even go through phases in which I convince myself I don't have any friends.

The next time these feelings start to creep in all I have to do is remember the past few days to chase those thoughts away.

On Thursday I was honored as one of the "smartest women in Birmingham" at the Women's Fund of Greater Birmingham's SMART Party fundraiser. I was recognized primarily for my work with See Jane Write and while I was a humbled and even embarrassed to be in a group that included an accomplished archaeologist and the director of the Birmingham Public Library, it was nice to know that my city cares about the organization I'm trying to build.

On that day, however, I wasn't walking around thinking to myself, "I feel so smart." Instead, I was thinking, "I feel so loved."

My cousin/BFF/sister from another mister lives out of town and couldn't make it to the SMART Party. So she sent me a Hello Kitty-themed Edible Arrangement instead.



When I got home from work my husband had a dozen yellow long stemmed roses (and a teddy bear wearing a Hello Kitty shower cap) waiting for me.




A friend who was out of the country bought two tickets to the party just to show her support.

One of my co-workers came out to the SMART Party despite the fact that she was feeling under the weather.

A friend who recently had a baby, we'll call her A., and, therefore, had a VERY good excuse for staying home, surprised me and came to the event with one of my best friends from church. I could hear them cheering me on as I went on the stage to accept my award.



But it didn't stop there. A. planned a dinner for me and hubster (who recently got a new job) and a few of our closest pals on Saturday at the Mexican restaurant La Paz. Our friends wrote us notes of congratulations and appreciation and said we inspired them. My cousin made the drive up from Montgomery to be there and  A. even bought us cupcakes from Dreamcakes!

With my girls at La Paz


Cupcakes!


Clearly all those thoughts of not being appreciated or not having friends were gone like a vapor in the wind. And those doubts about the impact I make on students? Last week I had one student thank me for properly preparing him for senior year by teaching him how to write essays and analyze literature. And a few of my female students told me I've inspired them to start a young feminists group. They even want to publish their own 'zine!

But I'm not telling you all this to say I'm special. I'm telling you this because I am sure that just as my efforts are appreciated (even when I think they're not), your hard work is being noticed too. People are watching. People do care. So keep shining.

Girl Crush: Carrie Rollwagen

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Carrie Rollwagen
Photo Credit:  Morgan Trinker




A few weeks ago I took the hubster to one of my favorite local coffee shops -- Church Street Coffee and Books -- and while we were there I had to make a confession. 

"I have a total girl crush on the owner of this shop," I leaned over and whispered to him after we had settled at a table nestled in the corner of the shop's newly opened Reading Room. 

By the time you've finished this post you will have fallen for for Carrie Rollwagen too. 

In January, 2011, Cal Morris called Carrie with the idea to open an independent coffee shop and bookstore in a space where a Starbucks had stood for the past 10 years. After months of planning, they did just that. 

But Carrie is also a woman who loves words. She's a former copyeditor for The Birmingham Post-Herald, copywriter at Southern Progress and Willow House, and a prolific blogger. So another huge part of Church Street Coffee & Books is its blog PostScript, which features book reviews and other musings on storytelling and literature. 


What do you hope your shop will offer Birmingham? What void do you believe it's filling? 


“Filling a void” is an appropriate phrase, because that’s exactly what Church Street Coffee & Books did — our shop was a Starbucks for ten years, and the neighborhood was very upset when they decided to vacate. Cal, my business partner, was manager of the Starbucks, so he knew there was a need and a market for a coffee shop in our spot. He also knew that many Mountain Brook residents were still upset over the loss of their bookstore --Jonathan Benton, Bookseller -- a few years ago. It was Cal’s idea to open a new shop in the space. He called on me to help because I’d managed Jonathan Benton and worked as a barista. Also, we’ve been friends for years, we work together really well, and we share a desire to create a store that serves the community instead of ourselves.

One of the things I love about your blog is that you always have such high-quality content. I'm impressed you find the time to do this considering you are a small business owner and you read all the time. Any time management tips for those of us trying to balance jobs with blogging and reading? 

I think the trick to writing a solid blog is to practice, and to chose a subject that you’re passionate about. I do have a background in journalism, which was really helpful in teaching me to meet deadlines. And I worked for several years as a copywriter — writing ad copy is great practice, because it teaches you to communicate effectively and quickly to a fairly hostile audience. I really try to have daily content on my blog, but when I can’t come up with something, I’d rather skip a day than use a filler post. Of course, for PostScript, our store blog about books, I’m not the only writer — my team of writers helps me quite a bit.

As far as finding time for reading, everyone asks how Cal and I have time to read, and the fact is, we don’t have time to read. You have to make time to read. For both of us, that’s usually when we have five or ten minutes here and there — you really get through a book much more quickly than you’d think, just by reading a bit at a time. I need the escape into the world of story just as much as I need writing; so not reading isn’t really that much of an option for me.


Tell us a little bit about what you're reading right now? 

I read a lot of new fiction, especially since we opened the shop. I just finished Where’d You Go Bernadette, which is smart, funny, and a quick read — I loved it. The Sisters Brothers is one of my favorite books right now. It’s a dark comedy, and it reminded me a lot of Catch 22. I also just re-read and enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing. I’d like to read something seasonally spooky, like maybe some Edgar Allan Poe or The Last Werewolf. And I just started Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, which raises some interesting questions about e-books versus paper books.

You once mentioned on your blog  that Amazon is a "story-destroying behemoth"  which I found interesting. While I can certainly see how Amazon hurts independent bookstores, some would say that Amazon is encouraging storytelling because it offers people more opportunities to get published. Can you talk a bit about why you believe Amazon can be harmful to storytelling? 

I’m glad you asked about Amazon. I’m pretty vehement about Amazon, and a lot of people think that’s only because it’s a competitor, but that’s not true. Starbucks is a competitor, but I don’t have any problem with them as a company. But Amazon has made a business strategy of trying to squeeze profits out of the book industry without contributing to it creatively. They sell books for less than they’re worth, even lose money on them, in order to undercut competitors and put us and publishers out of business. They’re trying to get a monopoly on book selling and on publishing, and I think having one entity — whether it’s Amazon, government, or any physical bookstore — in charge of the publishing and distribution of stories and ideas is terrifying. Also, they’ve captured the market on digital publishing and made a device that will only display books purchased from them — it’s as if, when Apple made the iPod, they’d designed it so it would only play songs bought from Apple, and you could never buy an album from a local shop, or from a live show, or from the artists themselves. That kind of control isn’t good for competition, for artists, or for consumers.

A lot of people see Amazon’s self-publishing arm as separate, or as a positive entity, because it gives writers a chance to self-publish. But it’s really hard for me to understand why any writer would put their work into the hands of a company that has a business strategy so opposed to artistic expression and freedom of readership. I’m not against Amazon because I’m a bookseller — I’m against Amazon because I’m a writer and a reader, and I became a bookseller again so I’d be in a better position to try to fight what they’re doing. I don’t know if I’m making a difference or not, but I’m trying.

Carrie speaks more on this topic here

Can you speak a bit on the importance of supporting small businesses? 

There are lots of reasons to support small businesses, but I think the one that shocks most people is the impact local businesses have on the economy. For every $10 you spend at an independent shop, anywhere from $4 to $7 goes back into your local economy. Spend the same amount at a big box store, and that number is just $1 to $4. That money creates jobs, fixes schools, pays off debt. We’re so concerned about the economy, but we’re willing to sell ourselves short by buying from corporations, which I just don’t get. Shopping small probably won’t result in discounts, but your spending will mean something. Instead of buying more for less money, just buy less in the first place. The economy will benefit, and, if my experience with Shop Small is any indication, your life will be fuller and richer (both literally and figuratively) as well.  

*Crossposted at See Jane Write

Girl Crush is a new feature here at The Writeous Babe Project. If you're up to something awesome and think I ought to have a girl crush on you too, email me about your project at javacia@gmail.com. 

Monday Motivation: How to Unscramble Eggs, or A Post About Regret

Monday, October 8, 2012

Scrambled Eggs Gaia Breakfast December 27, 2009 4
Image by Steven Depolo via Flickr/Creative Commons


 "Can you unscramble eggs?"

When my pastor posted this on Facebook and Twitter Saturday I thought, "That man has been working too hard."

But it all made sense once I went to church Sunday and heard a thought-provoking message on regret delivered by one of our associate pastors.

Regret, much like fear, is something we all experience at some point in our lives whether it's regarding relationships or our career goals. And, unfortunately, regret often keeps us from going to the next level in our relationships and in our careers.

But stewing in regret is as futile as trying to unscramble eggs. Regret tries to convince you that if you feel bad long enough you'll eventually feel better. Regret tells you that if you beat yourself up enough about a bad decision you made, things will eventually improve. This is a lie.

The message to us on Sunday was this: You can't unscramble eggs, but God can.

What I took away was that the keys to getting over regret are forgiveness and focus.

As a Christian I must make sure I truly believe that God forgives me no matter how much I screw up. And all of us, regardless of our faith, must learn to forgive ourselves.

This is easier said than done. One day you think that you've forgiven yourself, that you've finally let yourself off the hook, and then the next day you can barely look at yourself in the mirror.

This is why you need focus. Those "if only" thoughts are bound to haunt you occasionally: "If only I had taken that job and not this one," "If only I had gone out on that date," "If only I had been more responsible with my money."

But when these thoughts try to creep into your mind, get focused! Get focused on your goals and dreams. Turn regret into motivation.

I believe that after God forgives us, God gives us a mission and a purpose to pursue. After you forgive yourself, you need to do the same. Get over it and then get to work!

And don't think that what you've done in the past -- no matter how awful or how stupid -- disqualifies you from doing great things in the future. In fact, you will probably find that it actually qualifies you for the tasks ahead. The lessons you learned from your mistakes can be passed on to others. The weaknesses of your past can be your source of strength in the future, especially if you're a writer. Think of the masterpieces you can create and the lives you can touch thanks to what you've endured. Never underestimate the power of a personal story.

And now you know how to unscramble eggs.

Love Letter to Journalism

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lost love letters
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons


Dear Journalism,

Some people threw you a party last night, but I doubt you had much fun. 

The event, organized by Birmingham's NPR station 90.3 WBHM, was called Issues & Ales: The Future of Journalism in North Central Alabama

So many people in the room kept lamenting about how the Internet is changing you and changing you for the worse. I can appreciate their position. The Birmingham News, the city's paper of record, is, as of this week, no longer a daily paper. While it produces and posts online content every day, it now only publishes a print product three times a week. 

One person in the room even suggested that you change your name. He said that you aren't about keeping a "journal" so why do we call you "journalism."

But Andre Natta, editor of community news website The Terminal and one of the special guest speakers at this shindig, stepped in and said, "The journal we are keeping is the journal of the communities that we serve."

And I believe this journal isn't any less important just because it's moving in a more digital-focused direction. 

Journalism, I still believe you can save the world. 


WBHM General Manager Scott Hanley (far left) with the panelists.
From left: Vickii Howell, Andre Natta, Kyle Whitmire, and Bob Sims. 

Another attendee questioned whether or not you will still be able to preserve our history, as you once did, in your new form. 

Vickii Howell, another special guest and editor of BirminghamView.com suggested that because of the Internet that recorded history can be even richer. The Internet democratizes information so that we can now see history through multiple lenses, she said.  

I must admit there were moments when everyone in the room disappeared and I began to think about us, about our rocky relationship. 

I'm not even sure how you feel about me these days. You're probably mad at me. You probably feel like you've become my #2, that I'm a part-time lover, that I treat you like the "side chick" as the kids say. 

It's true. In July 2009 I left you to become a full-time educator. 

But I missed you like crazy. So I started freelancing for every newspaper, magazine and website that I could write for because I needed you.  

I know this isn't how we imagined our life together would be when I was 15 and dreaming of starting a magazine. But I hope you'll stick with me, nonetheless. 

And I hope the people of Birmingham, and every city, will stick with you. 

Someone in the crowd wanted to know how the local paper will be able to retain high quality content amid all the changes. Bob Sims, content director for AL.com, an online hub for news from around Alabama and another panelist at this event, said he was confident that the passion of the people who work for the news organization would ensure this.

“People work in journalism because they have a passion for good storytelling,” he said.

Good storytelling – that’s what you are, journalism, and that’s why I yearn to be called one of your own. I miss being called a journalist.

These stories may be told in different ways nowadays, but that doesn’t change who you are. You are still the field I fell in love with so many years ago.

And so I write -- even if it means juggling three regular freelance gigs with a full-time teaching job and, getting an average of 5 hours of sleep a night. No matter what, I will write. 


Kyle Whitmire (far right)

Kyle Whitmire, another guest speaker and local politics and news reporter for The Birmingham News, shared that he was in high school when he decided he wanted to be “a newspaper man.” While he still obviously cherishes the newspaper, he is not na├»ve about the realities of the industry. Yet, he’s optimistic still.

“I may not end my career as a newspaper man,” he said, “but I hope I will end my career as a journalist.” 

What I'm trying to say, journalism, is I hope we can be together forever.

Writeously yours,
j.




Interview with Jeff Goins

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


If you read this blog often you probably know I'm a huge fan of Jeff Goins. I faithfully follow his blog Goins Writer. His e-book The Writer’s Manifesto inspired me to write a manifesto of my own. And the only book review I’ve posted on this blog was of his book You Are a Writer.


So it should be no surprise that I wanted to be part of Goins' blog tour for his latest book Wrecked, which is all about getting out of our comfort zones and striving to be a light in the dark places of our communities and our world. Goins says in his book that being wrecked begins with an experience that not only pulls you out of your comfort zone, but also breaks your heart and causes you to have great compassion. For him, it was a call to serve the homeless. For you, it may be something completely different, but regardless being wrecked is about being uncomfortable.

I was eager to be part of his blog tour not simply because I enjoyed the book or because I'm practically a Jeff Goins groupie. I wanted to interview Goins for you, my beloved loyal readers. I wanted to interview Goins because his words change your lives.

This summer I received an email from a reader thanking me for my review of You Are a Writer.

After reading my post she decided to check out Goins Writer. In her email to me she wrote: "Jeff Goins has changed my life... I have been inspired to embrace my writer self after reading his blog." 

And she acted on this decision. She wrote an essay and submitted it to a popular website that was published in July. 

So without further ado, my interview with Jeff Goins…




For people who aren’t familiar with the book can you briefly explain what it means to be wrecked and why we all need to have this experience?

Jeff Goins: Wrecked is a book about the life we’re afraid to live — one full of radical sacrifice and selfless service. It’s a look at how we discover fulfillment in the least likely of places. We all want a better life, but we're looking in the wrong places. Instead of inwardly, we need to be looking outwardly.

You say in your book that being wrecked is about being uncomfortable and that sometimes use certain things to try to escape discomfort, things such as social media. How can we use social media to make a difference instead of using it as a distraction?

It's all about motive. Is social media an escape or a destination? Do we lose ourselves in it or find it? A lot of people I know are using online tools to literally change the world. Check out invisiblepeople.tv for a powerful example.

In your book you state “…we find our vocations not by focusing on ourselves, but by focusing on others.” Can you elaborate on that a bit for my readers who may be still searching, trying to find their purpose in life?

Happiness is a paradox. When you seek it out, you rarely find it. Just look at rock stars, celebrities, and so forth who keep ending up in rehab. If achieving all our dreams (to be famous, to be recognized, to have the world applaud your work) still doesn't "do it" for us, what does? Simple: focus on others. Make your story about more than you (because it is, after all). The happiest people I know have built a life that is not about them, but makes room for others.

In one chapter you talk about how sad it is that some people with amazing voices won’t sing because they’re afraid to do so. And in that passage you compared music to love.  This made me think of people who won’t share their writing with the world because they’re afraid to do so. Do you think we can love the world, in part, through our writing? 

Yes, definitely. There is something powerful about art that speaks to the soul. I can't explain it; I can only surrender to it. The irony is what often feels like clunky, awkward work to you, the artist, is music to the listener's ears, so to speak. In other words, practice the fundamentals.

While reading Wrecked I felt self-centered for wanting to pursue my goals.  How can we be wrecked and still go after our writing goals?

I can identify with that feeling. I struggled with it for five years before giving into the call to write. But when I finally recognized it as a calling, it became easier. For me, a calling isn't about you; it's about others. Your vocation is a gift given to you with the intention of it being shared with others. Your words are supposed to speak to people, to help them, maybe even entertain them and make them feel not so alone in this great big universe.

If you think about writing like that, it becomes easier to start (but still pretty scary, given all the implications). I would encourage you (and others) to consider that something as seemingly arbitrary as typing on a keyboard may be about more than you and your "goals." It's about your purpose, about the masterpiece the world needs you to create. Not for you, but for them.





Monday Motivation: Let Your Light Shine

Monday, October 1, 2012

Me and my girls at reCreate 2012!


"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. 
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

Whether or not you grew up in church, you probably know the famous hymn "This Little Light of Mine." 

I have many memories of singing this song during worship services, Sunday School classes or at Vacation Bible School camps I occasionally attended with my cousin. 

Being the kind of kid who always over-analyzed things and drove my parents and teachers crazy with questions, I often wondered to myself, "What is my light, what does it actually mean to let it shine and why do I need to do it?" And to be honest I never found answers to my questions until three days ago. 

This weekend I attended the reCreate Women's Conference, an annual two-day event held at Church of the Highlands and the highlight of my fall. 

Pastor and author Holly Wagner was one of the speakers at this year's event and I was so excited to hear her message. She spoke at the conference two years ago and I left the church that weekend ready to take on the world and I was eager to have that feeling again. 

Wagner's Friday evening talk was all about being a light. What is your light? Those personality traits, talents, and skills that you have that make the world a brighter place. Your light is your wisdom, your knowledge, and your accomplishments. 

As a Christian, I believe that light comes from God, but the lessons imparted by Wagner on Friday night were, in my opinion, valuable for anyone regardless of their religious beliefs. 

Many of us aren't quite sure what to do with this light. Some of us are so shy and unsure of ourselves that we hide our light. For instance, we may be a talented writer afraid to share our work with others. And this is exactly what Jesus says we should not do. In Luke 11:33 he says, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light."

Some of us love the light, the spotlight, that is, and we think our talents and achievements are all about us. We think the light is there for us to bask in and be celebrated. Those of us who believe this have it all wrong. 

And then there are others of us, and I'm really talking to Christians here, who try to use our light to point out all the flaws in other people. Our light has turned into a blinding floodlight of judgement. That's not the purpose of this light, either.

Light brings color and beauty to dark places. Light can also serve as a guide. So that means we're supposed to do just that. 

We are meant to go out and bring light, beauty and color to places filled with darkness and hopelessness. We're supposed to live our lives in such a way that they can serve as a guide, whether that's how we pursue our passions, love our spouses or friends, or how we raise our children. 

Also, to truly be light and let our light shine we need to open our mouths and open our eyes, Wagner said. Open your eyes to the possibilities and the great need around you and then be willing to step up to the challenge. Open your mouth and use your words to right a situation whether that be apologizing to a friend or offering someone words of wisdom. 

And I believe we also need to speak up for others. This is exactly why I love using my writing skills to share the stories of others and why I created See Jane Write to help encourage women to tell stories of their own. 

And so, I leave you with this:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, 
for the rights of all who are destitute. -- Proverbs 31:8

More photos from reCreate

At Friday night's After Party. I'm not sure if this was taken before or after we hit the dance floor to do the Cupid Shuffle.

It was so crowded at this conference that we resorted to using banana peels to save seats for our friends. 

Lunch on the Lawn
I love these girls!