Why Poetry Matters To Me

Friday, April 26, 2013

April is National Poetry Month and Birmingham-based poet and blogger Gabriel Gadfly has invited his readers to create and submit video on why poetry matters to them. Gabriel has been posting this videos on his blog all month. I just had to join in on the fun and figured I'd post the video here too.

So here is why poetry matters to me...

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like

Monday, April 22, 2013

A feminist in a dress! Gasp!

Can a black woman be a feminist?

I've been told on more than one occasion that the answer to that question is "No!" Last week I shared my story of being told I can't be a feminist because I'm black in a blog post for Birmingham's NPR station WBHM. When someone tells me, however, that I don't look like a feminist -- and I get that comment a lot -- they usually aren't talking about my race. 

Back when I worked for a weekly lifestyles magazine in Louisville, I frequently wrote articles that might have caused female readers to raise their fists in the air and yell "Girl power!" I quickly became known for as the paper's resident feminist. 

Yet, when a young woman from another department came to our office to discuss an idea she had for a women's empowerment project she went to the female reporter who sat in the cubicle next to mine.  She even said to my colleague, "I know you write a lot about feminism and that it's something very important to you." Everyone in the office, including my colleague to whom she was speaking, stared at her with confused looks on their faces. Then my colleague pointed to me and said, "Javacia writes about women's issues. Not me. You're probably talking about her articles." The look of shock on her face was priceless. 

When this woman came to our office in search the resident feminist she didn't even bother asking anyone to point her in the right direction. She walked directly to my colleague. Did she assume that I couldn't have been the feminist writer because I'm black? Possibly, but I doubt my race had much to do with it. 

My co-worker only wore neutral colors and never wore makeup or heels. She also refused to shave her arm pits or legs. Meanwhile, I was probably sitting there in a floral top, trendy jeans and pumps. I'm sure my eyeshadow was perfectly color coordinated with my outfit and my cubicle looked like the color pink had thrown up all over it. In other words, I'm sure that woman didn't come to me because she didn't think I looked like a feminist. 

Can a woman be both feminist and so-called feminine? Absolutely! And frankly I'm tired of having this conversation. It's getting old, people.

Julia Gazdag recently addressed this topic quite wonderfully in a post for Hello Giggles and in that article referenced a quote from Caitlin Moran who reminds us that "the purpose of feminism isn't to make a particular type of woman." 

Gazdag goes on to say: 

The idea that women cannot express their femininity and be autonomous is really saying that women must emulate men to have a voice, when in fact, the goal of feminism is for every woman to feel empowered as a person instead of feeling gendered.


I believe in the equality of the sexes and this is what makes me a feminist. Period. Writing and empowering other women to write is what I consider my calling and this calling has become my form of feminist activism. The validity of my work should not be questioned simply because the finger tips typing my feminist texts are adorned with fuchsia nail polish. 

You Are More Beautiful Than You Think

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I wonder if this video will make you cry too. 

Please share your thoughts and reactions. 

Press On and Live

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yesterday after the word of the Boston Marathon tragedy reached Alabama, a colleague and Facebook friend posted this status update:

I think that the way we counter fear-mongers is we press on and live the life that's intended for us. Fully. Fearlessly. It's not easy, but it beats the alternative. By a lot.
These words struck something within me and convicted me too. When tragedies strike I often go quiet and I did just that yesterday. Even though I, as usual, obsessively followed the news for more information in an effort to try to understand why something so horrible had happened to these innocent people, I didn’t want to talk or even write about what happened.

This silence begins as an act of reverence. What good will a 140-character tweet do for the families mourning the loss of loved ones? How will a blog post help the injured heal?
So I sit in silence and do the only thing I feel I can do: pray.

But then my silence morphs into something else – fear. It’s because of fear, for example, that I started locking my classroom door after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. And yesterday when I glanced at my running shoes in the corner I wanted to throw up and I in that moment I never wanted to run again.
For years I’ve believed that it’s disrespectful to “press on and live” after there has been national tragedy or a great loss in the life of a family member or friend. But I'm starting to realize that not pressing on, that living in a state of overwhelming sorrow or paralyzing fear is actually most dishonorable. By not pressing on we let terrorists -- or the terminal illness or whatever it is that has rocked our country or our family to its core -- win.  

So I will press on. I will write. And I will run.
As Jennifer Dome of Stellar Fashion & Fitness states, anything I write today will not be enough. Anything I write will seem like complete folly compared to what has happened. So, as Dome writes, “All I can do right now is pray. And run. I want to run in honor of everyone who was injured or scared or anyone who responded to the scene to help. I want to run because we have the freedom to do so. We have the ability to do so. And no one can take that away.”

Monday Motivation: Amazing Things

Monday, April 15, 2013

Church Street Coffee and Books
Image by Ralph Daily via Flickr

As I write this I am sitting in Church Street Coffee & Books where I just finished up a photo shoot. 

As a former full-time journalist I have been part of dozens, maybe hundreds, of photo shoots. But I was always there to be the assistant to the photographer who had been assigned to a story I'd written. But for this photo shoot I was actually in front of the camera. One of my favorite magazines is planning to publish a story about me and the work I do for See Jane Write. 

This feels surreal. Honestly, I've been a bit overwhelmed by all the amazing things that have been happening to me lately because of See Jane Write. 

Last Sunday, for example, Wade Kwon showed up at See Jane Write's Bloggers Who Brunch. At the end of the brunch he gave away two free passes to the social media and corporate storytelling conference Y'all Connect. One pass went to a lucky Jane whose name was randomly pulled. The other pass went to me to congratulate me on the success See Jane Write has experienced during its two years of existence. I was as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve. 

Katie of Hems for Her and I showing off our Y'all Connect passes!

And, of course, the magazine I've wanted to start since I was 15 years old is finally going to happen this summer.  Just as See Jane Write Birmingham seeks to inspire and empower women in my city, See Jane Write Magazine will seek to inspire and empower women writers all over the world.

I look back at the third paragraph of this post and notice that I wrote that these things are happening to me because of See Jane Write, and that is partially true. But I am a woman of faith and thus I believe these things are happening to me because God has blessed me with so many great opportunities. So today, I'm counting my blessings and today I am filled with optimism that this is just the beginning. 

And I leave you with a piece of Scripture that I call my life verse and that seems quite apropos as I'm on the brink of seeing my dreams come to fruition:

 “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
- Joshua 3:5

I hope that today you believe amazing things are in store for you too. 

7 Years Ago I Started a Family

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cue Tony! Toni! Tone! It's our anniversary!

Today hubster and I have been married for seven years. We've been celebrating for the past few days trying to relive our first few dates. This has been hilarious because in our old age we're forgetting things  and can't quite get the details right. (Did we have burgers or hotdogs when we had our first indoor picnic?)

For about six of the seven years we've been married I've had people constantly asking me "When are you two going to start a family?"

This question drives me crazy, and not just because I don't want kids. This question bothers me because it implies that a married couple isn't truly a family until they have kids. And I have to disagree.

No, we don't have kids, but we are still a family. We have traditions, great memories, and unconditional love for each other -- and that's what family is all about. I honestly think that more marriages would last longer if couples would see each other as family the moment they say "I do."

I'm obviously no expert. Seven years feels like a lot to me but is nothing compared to the 31 years my parents have been husband and wife or the 67 years my husband's grandparents have married. But I think I'm on to something.

My pastor once shared a story about a couple he was counseling as they struggled to deal with the wife's infidelity. The wife was unfaithful only once, but the husband was ready to call it quits (and understandably so). He just couldn't bring himself to forgive her. Ironically, at the end of one of their sessions the husband asked my pastor for rehabilitation recommendations for his brother who was addicted to alcohol and drugs. This man's brother had messed up time and time again, and even stolen money from him. But he forgave his brother each and every time. Why? "Because he's my family," the man answered. "Well, isn't your wife your family too?" my pastor asked.

Many of us remain dedicated to our families no matter how much they screw up. We love them in spite of their mistakes and imperfections. How strong would our marriages be if we did the same for our spouses? Now don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that you stay in an abusive relationship or turn a blind eye to self-destructive behavior. But a spouse is a family member you chose to have. Shouldn't they receive the same grace and mercy you extend to the family members you didn't get to choose?

So don't ask me when I'm starting a family. I already have.

And now a few family photos!

Lofty Aspirations

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I've been seriously breaking one of the 10 Commandments lately. I believe this would fall under the the charge to not covet your neighbor's donkey or something. As a Christian I am not to envy others, but if you live in a loft in Downtown Birmingham, I envy you -- especially if you live in Athens Flatts. 

I began to discover the awesomeness of Birmingham's re-emerging downtown a few years ago and when I turned 30 I decided to celebrate with my city by doing a downtown bar crawl. We had burgers at Rogue Tavern, cupcakes at Urban Standard, and capped off the night with drinks at Wine Loft. Those are three of my favorite places in this city and they're all within walking distance of Athens Flatts (which I took an inside tour of last year). In fact, if hubs and I lived there he could walk to work! And my job is only about a five-minute drive away. 

But alas, I am a teacher and freelance writer. My husband is a newspaper journalist. We are obviously too broke to afford a loft at Athen Flatts. But a girl can dream, right? 

Next month, I plan to attend Cool Spaces, Downtown Places an event sponsored by REV Birmingham that's meant to encourage city living. This will probably only make me long for a loft even more, but at least I'll be supporting my city! 

Looking for Some Pinspiration

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pinterest 101 - Things
Image by Jeffrey Turner via Flickr/Creative Commons

When it comes to social media, I am a true believer. I jumped on the bandwagon long ago. I drank the Kool-Aid. And I believe that if you're trying to promote a book, business, or blog and you're not on Twitter or Facebook, you're crazy. 

But there are some social media outlets that even I don't use as much as I should or as effectively as I could -- Pinterest is one of them. 

As with Twitter, I was an early adopter with Pinterest. I joined because I saw Pinterest as a way to create online vision boards. How could I not love that! But Pinterest soon became a pit of procrastination as I started to waste hours browsing photos of clothes I could never afford and decorations for a house I don't have. So I quit and left my account sitting around collecting virtual dust. 

Then suddenly all my favorite bloggers began to rave about how Pinterest was helping them increase traffic to their sites. For fashion and food bloggers this made sense. I'm not the only one coveting the cute outfits posted to the site and nearly everyone I know goes to Pinterest for recipes. I understand why Pinterest would also be great for DIY bloggers too, but I saw folks who blog about writing and city development raving about Pinterest. Wait, what?

My blog is not a photo-heavy site in part because I'm a horrible photographer, but mostly because I'm a writer. I blog to show off my words, not my photos. Thus, I figured that sites like Pinterest and apps like Instagram would just be for fun, not tools to help me promote my projects. 

But mom blogger Rachel Callahan of Grasping for Objectivity garnered such an increase in traffic from Pinterest she had to move up to a more expensive website hosting plan for her blog (which she could afford because she also started making more money from her ad networks). 

Thanks to conversations with and observations of other bloggers, I now know I can do a lot with Pinterest if I just put in a little more effort. I need to create graphics with tips, lists, quotes or even just catchy titles to go along with my posts. You can find great examples of what I mean on Beth Bryan's Blogging and Web Tips Pinterest board

So I'm starting a See Jane Write Pinterest board to promote and inspire women writers and bloggers and once the magazine launches I'll be using this board to spread the word about the articles we post. I just hope I don't get trapped in the vortex of Feminist Ryan Gosling pins.
What's been your experience with Pinterest? 

Define Your Blog in 7 Words

Friday, April 5, 2013

No 7 - 3D
Image by Kirsty Hall via Flickr/Creative Commons
Yesterday I had a meeting with the awesome artist who is designing the logo for my new magazine. Before our meeting she gave me a homework assignment. She wanted me to find 5 logos I like, 5 logos I don't like, and she wanted me to write a list of 7 words I want my logo to convey.

It was the most fun I've ever had doing homework! And I think the 7 words exercise is a valuable one for bloggers whether we're talking logos or content.

What seven words do you want to come to readers' minds when they think about your blog? How can you design your header and layout and develop your content in a way that will help convey those words?

And in case you're wondering, here are the seven words I chose:


Your turn!

You're a Feminist, You Just Don't Know It Yet

Thursday, April 4, 2013

You would never call yourself a feminist.

But the fact that rapists can garner more sympathy from mainstream media than rape victims makes you sick to your stomach. 

And you can't believe that women still only earn about 80% as much as men. 

Sheryl Sandberg's new book Lean In is on your nightstand. And Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" is still your favorite song. 

But you would never call yourself a feminist. 

"Feminist," to you, is the other f-bomb; it's a dirty word. You would never call yourself a feminist because you believe it would mean that you could never show any emotions (except anger) and that you'd have to hide your love for cooking and the color pink. 

You believe being a feminist means you can't love your husband, mother your children, or shave your legs. 

In fact, you are sure you can't be a feminist because you want to be a stay-at-home mom and you know feminists hate housewives. 

And perhaps it was even a woman who calls herself a feminist that told you this. But she was wrong. 

Feminism is simply the belief in the economic, political, and social equality of the sexes. And the bottom line is this: feminism is about choice. Feminism is about creating a world where a woman (and a man) has the choice and freedom to create the life she really wants, not the one society (and family, friends, etc.) tells her she should live. 

Does this mean I'm going to advise a friend who says she wants to be a housewife to be sure this is what she really wants? Absolutely. But I'm going to give the same advice to a friend who says she wants to be a politician, doctor, or lawyer. Regardless of your ambitions you need to be sure they're really your ambitions, and, to me, that's what feminism is all about. 

You may be thinking, "Why does it matter?" Even Beyonce asked that question in a recent interview with the British version of Vogue magazine. Bey said that yes, she is a modern-day feminist, but asked, "Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything?"

And Mrs. Carter has a point. But here's the thing: I don't actually care if you ever call yourself a feminist. All I ask is this -- help a sister out and don't give those of us who do identify as feminists a hard time. The next time you're talking women's issues and the f-word comes up don't fall back on stereotypes and misconceptions to make your point. I believe it matters because as long as "feminist" is seen as a dirty word the causes we feminists stand for will continue to be disparaged or dismissed. And remember that it was feminists who fought for many of the rights you may easily take for granted today.

Jen Hatmaker is messing up my life, again

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jen  Hatmaker
This month I'm participating in a blogging challenge with my friend Carol at GirlGadabout.com. Today's prompt asks us bloggers to write about a person we admire. The woman who immediately came to mind was Jen Hatmaker, even though she is constantly messing up my life.

First, she had me eating a horribly boring diet for 21 days. (I never want to eat almonds again.) Now, thanks to her, I plan to give away 210 of my possessions by the end of the month.

I had been planning to do this for a while, ever since I started reading Hatmaker's book earlier this year.  7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excessdetails Hatmaker's attempt to fight greed, materialism, and overindulgence in hopes of living a more Christ-like existence. The idea was to choose seven areas -- food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress -- and spend 30 days on each topic boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, only wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in only seven places. Her plan also called for her to eliminate use of seven types of media,  adopt seven green habits, observe “seven sacred pauses” and give away seven things each day for one month -- which is what I'm attempting for April. 

My plan was to do this months ago. I was going to set up a box in the teacher's lounge at work and bring in items daily after raiding cluttered closets and overstuffed drawers. But things kept coming up and I could never get around to sorting through my stuff. And now I think I know why.

By giving all those items to co-workers I was just going to transfer them from one person who had way more junk than she needed to another.  I believe God wants me to give those items to women who really need them and recently it was placed on my heart to do just that, all thanks to the writing of Jen Hatmaker. 

Jen has inspired me to seek out women who will benefit most from the things keeping me from living the streamlined life I desire. In the meantime I'll be stashing stuff on this futon. 

For the sake of my neat freak of a husband, who's being driven crazy by this pile, please let me know of any women in Birmingham who might benefit from this possession purge. 

Open Letter to Jillian Michaels

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dear Jillian,

You're mean. Very mean.

But that's exactly why I recently purchased two of your DVDs -- 6 Week Six-Pack and 30 Day Shred.

Even though I never really watched the television show The Biggest Loser, I was still well aware of your reputation as TV's toughest trainer and I needed some of your tough love to reach my fitness goals.

I love the 30 Day Shred DVD because it's challenging but never makes me feel like I'm about to vomit up my heart like the 6 Week Six Pack workouts do. But as you constantly remind me while yelling through my television screen, if I want a six pack I have to earn it. So I guess I need to just get used to feeling my heart in my throat.

I believe this DVD will work because it acknowledges that crunches alone won't give me awesome abs. Intense cardio is in order as well, and these workouts serve up plenty of that. I like that the workouts include exercises to strengthen the back muscles as well, which is so important for everyday life.

So I'll be staring at your mean scowl (and amazing body) five days a week for the next six weeks. I plan to do some extra cardio and weight training each week as well. Here is my workout regimen for the next six weeks:

Monday -- 6 Week Six-Pack DVD 
Tuesday -- 6 Week Six-Pack DVD and upper body strength training
Wednesday -- Spinning
Thursday -- 6 Week Six-Pack DVD and upper body strength training
Friday – Spinning
Saturday – morning jog or 1.5 hours of Just Dance; 6 Week Six-Pack DVD 
Sunday -- 6 Week Six-Pack DVD and upper body strength training

I'm not even allowing myself a rest day. That's pretty intense, right? I hope you're impressed.

I'm sure you're not.

Javacia "No Days Off" Bowser

This month I'm participating in a blogging challenge with my friend Carol at GirlGadabout.com. This was my creative twist on today's prompt to write a product review. 

What's Next for Writeous Babe?

Monday, April 1, 2013

This month I'm participating in a blogging challenge with my friend Carol at GirlGadabout.com. Today's prompt: introduce yourself. Do an interview of why you started blogging or have another blogger interview you for this post.

Image by Filipe Ferreira via Flickr/Creative Commons

Even though I haven't published a new blog post in over a week, the past several days have been an exciting time for me on the Interwebz. The Twitter account for See Jane Write Magazine has garnered more than 160 followers in less than two weeks and, speaking of that little magazine idea of mine, Magic City Post recently interviewed me about See Jane Write and the upcoming launch of the magazine. Click here to check out the article. 

Through all my excitement about this project I have had one worry -- will I still be able to blog?

Finding time to sleep is already a problem as I juggle freelancing, See Jane Write, church, family, fitness, and friends with my full time teaching gig. Add running a magazine to that and I'm not sure how I'm going to find time to shower. So how on earth am I going to also continue to maintain this blog?

This all has led to some soul searching as I try to figure out what I want this blog to become. I asked myself: Why did I ever start blogging in the first place? The answer came to me quickly. I wanted to empower women and I wanted to do something that would fill that void in my soul caused by the fact that I'd given up on my dream of starting a magazine. But I am starting a magazine and that magazine is going to (I hope) empower women. So now what?

Should I now use this blog to celebrate Birmingham? Should I use this blog to cover feminist issues more frequently? Or should I just use this blog as a place to post updates on my writing career? 

I have no idea. 

But for now, I know I will continue to write regularly in this space even if only for myself. Maybe it's time to go old school and just make this an online journal -- which is all blogs were back in the day. I still believe in the value of journaling as it is a way to practice writing. And I'm motivated to keep this blog going, even if only for myself, by these words:

“The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.” 
- Virginia Woolf