writing, wellness & women's empowerment

Crazy Just Might Work

Posted on January 18, 2015

By Javacia Harris Bowser



At the start of 2014 I announced that I planned to exercise every single day for a year. I even made the declaration on WBHM 90.3 FM and all across social media. And guess what…

I DID IT!!! I exercised for at least 30 minutes every day for 365 days!

But wait there’s more!

Tomorrow morning I’m going to be featured on the ABC 33/40 television show Talk of Alabama. One of the show’s producer reads my blog (!) and saw my post about my 365 days of fitness. So tomorrow I’ll be on the show discussing exactly how I pulled this off.

When I told people I planned to exercise every day for year some folks said I was “crazy” to set such a goal. But I did  it anyway. And now I’m going to be on TV because of it.

Sure, I’ve been on Talk of Alabama before. In fact, I was on the show summer of 2013 to discuss the launch of this magazine. But this time I didn’t have to send a pitch. This time they came to me. And that makes this opportunity even sweeter and even more of an honor.

The moral of the story is this: Do something crazy!

Do something daring and bold that other people wouldn’t even think about doing. I am convinced that this is the key to making your dreams come true.

Each November I challenge the women of See Jane Write Birmingham to blog every day for 30 days. Lots of folks think that’s crazy, too. In fact, I even call the challenge #bloglikecrazy. But it was through this challenge that the See Jane Write began to transform from just an ordinary writing group to a thriving community.

So what crazy thing am I doing next? My personal fitness challenge this year is to run/walk 1,200 miles by December 31. With regard to writing blogging and business I want to see my byline in at least one of my favorite national magazines, I want my website to be recognized by Forbes magazine, and I want to earn $100,000 in my business.

Do you think this sounds crazy? I sure hope so!

What “crazy” thing will you do in 2015? 




It’s time to #bloglikecrazy!

Posted on November 1, 2014

By Javacia Harris Bowser


Each November I challenge the women of See Jane Write Birmingham to publish a new blog post every day for 30 days. I call this challenge #bloglikecrazy.

If you decide to join the fun, be sure to use the hashtag #bloglikecrazy when you share your posts on Twitter.

Usually, I #bloglikecrazy on my personal blog WriteousBabe.com. But this year I’m going to publish a new blog post every day for 30 days at the See Jane Write Birmingham blog.

I’d love for you to follow along.

So each day I will update this post to include a link to my latest entry to my See Jane Write blog. I hope you enjoy!



Nov. 1 – Why should I #bloglikecrazy? 

Nov. 2 – What if I run out of blog post ideas?

Nov. 3 – Can I overcome stage fright? 

Nov. 4 – How can I get more done?

Nov. 5 – How can I build an authentic brand for my blog?

Nov. 6 – How do I find my ideal reader?

Nov. 7 – Do I need an elevator pitch for my blog?

Nov. 8 – Should entrepreneurs take a day off?

Nov. 9 – What blogs do you read?

Nov. 10 – Blogging – What’s the Point?

Nov. 11 – Why did you start See Jane Write? 

Nov. 12 – Why do you call yourself a feminist?

Nov. 13 – What should I do this weekend?

Nov. 14 – How can I improve my blog?

Nov. 15 – What should a writer do on her day off?

Nov. 16 – What is a Twitter chat?

Nov. 17 – Do I need business cards?

Nov. 18 – What should I include in my blog’s media kit?

Nov. 19 – What is Bloglovin’?

Nov. 20 – How can I get more involved with See Jane Write?

Nov. 21 – Have you heard the new Beyonce song?

Nov. 22 – Did I hear you on NPR yesterday?

Nov. 23 – What do you want for Christmas?

Nov. 24 – Can I touch your hair? 

Nov. 25 – What are you thoughts on the Ferguson grand jury decision?

Nov. 26 – How can I give back this holiday season?

Nov. 27 – What are you thankful for today?

Nov. 28 – How can I “shop small” this holiday season?

Nov. 29 – What blogging and writing conferences should I attend in 2015?

Nov. 30 – What did you learn from this year’s #bloglikecrazy challenge? 

The Birmingham Jane: Carrie Rollwagen

Posted on October 19, 2014


bham jane nail art

Carrie Rollwagen is representing for the Birmingham Janes! Contribute to her Kickstarter campaign and she’ll represent for your blog or business too. She’s also offering a nail art workshop as a reward.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? 

I have a long list of answers to this question: do a one-year blogging challenge, write and publish a book, strive to run a profitable small business, launch a Kickstarter campaign. But my list could be summed up with one statement: Be Carrie Rollwagen.

Rollwagen is a small business owner, a prolific blogger, a social media guru and much more. She also has the cutest nails in town. And now she’s about to add something else to her resume — published author.

Rollwagen, co-owner of Church Street Coffee and Books and the writer behind the Shop Small blog, is now about to publish The Localist, a book that’s all about shopping locally. Rollwagen decided to self-publish the book and recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund her project. She reached her fundraising goal in less than a month!

I had a chat with Rollwagen recently — at a locally owned coffee shop, of course — about her book project and her secrets to success.

Becoming a Localist

Carrie Rollwagen

Rollwagen’s interest in local shopping began when she managed a small book store in Mountain Brook. She believed that the camaraderie she experienced at that store was unique to locally-owned shops. But then she worked at Starbucks and found the same sense of community there as well. Rollwagen, a former full-time journalist, wanted to investigate.

“I’m a frustrated journalist,” she says.

And so in 2011 she challenged herself to only buy from locally-owned stores for one year. She launched the blog Shop Small to chronicle her adventure.

Rollwagen admits that she thought her “Shop Small” challenge would be extremely difficult and extremely expensive.

She was wrong.

“I spent far less money that year than I usually do,” Rollwagen says.

She explained that when you shop small there’s less of a chance for impulse buying. There are very few, if any, displays set up in locally owned shops to entice you to purchase things that aren’t on your shopping list. Furthermore, because local shops weren’t as easy to get to as big box stores, Rollwagen would often talk herself out of buying things. And she wasn’t eating any fast food.

Finding stores at which to shop was easier than she expected. She often found what she needed simply by asking friends or doing a quick Google search. Rollwagen was even able to go to the movies thanks to the Birmingham-based theater The Edge opening that year.

What was Rollwagen’s conclusion after this year of shopping small?

“Local is almost always better,” she says.

Rollwagen is a localist, but she’s also a realist and she makes no claims that small business owners are somehow better people than the owners of big box stores.

“It is in the financial interest of a small business owner to be a nice person,” she says. “Small shop owners have a better incentive to treat people well and build community.”

If you have a bad experience at Target most likely you’re going to go back to Target nonetheless and even if you don’t chances are the Target employee you had a bad interaction with doesn’t care. Small shop owners know that it’s good customer service and a sense of community and camaraderie that will bring you back.

While Rollwagen doesn’t recommend that other people take on her extreme shop small challenge, she does stress that we should all buy local as often as we can as this is a great way to improve your community.

As Rollwagen explains in her Kickstarter campaign video, for every $10 spent at locally owned stores four to seven dollars goes back into your community. When you shop corporately only three dollars, at the most, goes back into your city.

Think of the local place first, she says. Amazon doesn’t pay taxes in your state.

Deciding to Self-Publish

DIY Publishing

Rollwagen admits that she hasn’t been a fan of self-publishing in the past — and for good reason. As many avid readers know, a book needs good editing, good design and a good marketing campaign to be successful. Most self-published authors don’t have all these skills or the resources to hire someone who does.

But Rollwagen’s book is centered on Birmingham and she thought a book a that was this, well, “localist” wouldn’t appeal to traditional publishers.

“Just because it doesn’t have a national market doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist,” she says.

Rollwagen’s Shop Small blog was quite successful thanks to her fresh, informative content and effective social media marketing. But she knew she had more to say.

“I wanted to tell this story in a new way,” she says.

So she decided to write a book and self-publish it.

The book is part memoir, focusing on her life as a localist and even offering a few tips on how people can shift their own shopping habits to support small businesses more often.

The book is also a study of buying patterns — why you like big box stores, why they’re not all bad, and the effects of our shopping on us as individuals and on our communities.

The book also offers a behind-the-scenes look into Church Street Coffee and Books.

To ensure that her self-published book would be of high quality, Rollwagen launched her Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to hire an editor and designer.

How to Rock Your Kickstarter Campaign

Rollwagen reached her fundraising goal of $5,000 in less than a month. Now she’s working on her stretch goal. She’s hoping to raise an additional $3,000 so she can go on a book tour to spread the localist gospel to other towns.

Rollwagen offered these tips on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign:

  • Apply the tips that Kickstarter gives you and look at projects similar to yours for promotion ideas.
  • Produce a great video and in it be sure to convince people that your project is something that you can actually do. Also, explain exactly how you plan to use the money.
  • Have enticing and creative rewards and be sure to include their cost in your project budget. One of Rollwagen’s rewards was nail art! For a donation of $10 or more, Rollwagen would decorate her nails with the name of your company. Nail art was a perfect way for Rollwagen to help promote her project because whenever someone would say “Oh, I like your nails!” she could strike up a conversation about her Kickstarter campaign.
  • But these conversations could only happen if she was out and about. So Rollwagen’s other piece of advice is to be sure to network during your campaign. And carry business cards that include a URL for your campaign.


The Birmingham Jane is a See Jane Write series of profiles on women in Birmingham who are making a difference in our city. If you know of a woman who is making a difference in Birmingham please send your nominations to javacia@seejanewritebham.com. And don’t be ashamed to nominate yourself!

This story was originally posted Oct. 6, 2014 at SeeJaneWriteBham.com.

Man of the Hour: TJ Beitelman

Posted on September 17, 2014

By Javacia Harris Bowser

TJ Beitelman

TJ Beitelman

Though TJ Beitelman is a published author and poet he often refers to himself as “a frustrated visual artist.” As soon as you begin to read his latest novel John the Revelator you will understand why. The book is packed with rich images that captivate you, pull you into the story, and haunt you in your dreams. Black Lawrence Press, Beitelman’s publisher, describes the book this way:

Part reluctant Tiresias, part locusts-and-honey outcast, teenaged John stumbles into the darker thickets of human insight—the high arts of vice and violence—and the small Alabama town he calls home will never be the same when he comes out the other side.

Beitelman is a native of Virginia and though he has lived in Alabama for 18 years, he admits that it has taken a while for the state to feel like home. John the Revelator, oddly enough, has helped.

“For that novel in particular the sense of place is so important,” Beitelman says. “It was a way for me to connect with this place and to put my emotional truth squarely in this place.”

john the revelator

Each scene of the book plays out in your mind like a movie reel. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that Beitelman first wrote John the Revelator as a screenplay.

The idea for the novel was born of a short story titled “Tiresias the Seer” that was published in 2004 in the New Orleans Review. First, Beitelman tried to expand the short story into a novel, but with no luck. Then he got another idea.

“I’ve always wanted to write a screen play and I also subscribed to the theory Alfred Hitchcock once said that films are more like short stories,” Beitelman says. “So I figured maybe I will go back to the original short story and try to make that into a screenplay.”

Beitelman completed the screenplay but then considered the reality of both the film and publishing industries. He knew it would be much harder to produce a screenplay than it would be to get a book published.

“I thought this might be an outline for the novel,” he says. “So I went back through the screenplay and fleshed it out into a novel and it worked. I wouldn’t recommend that process. It took a long time and it was very frustrating and I probably wouldn’t do it again, but it worked.”

Along with its rich imagery, John the Revelator also has a distinct lyrical quality that you would expect from Beitelman considering he has an MFA in poetry from the University of Alabama.

“Things like how it looks on the page is important to me and white space is important to me,” he says.

Furthermore, Beitelman says he typically writes his narratives in pieces. The “frustrated visual artist” says he would even describe John the Revelator as a collage.

“There are different voices in the book,” Beitelman says, “So it’s a collage of voice as well as narrative and images.”

As a high school student in Springfield, Virginia, Beitelman took all the visual arts classes he could as they were the only creative outlet at his school. Though, he admits he wasn’t the greatest artist in the class, he appreciated that his teacher treated all the students like artists and took their work seriously.

“I still think of my teacher and the things he said about visual arts,” Beitelman says. “He always used to say that if you’re going to draw a crooked line on purpose, make sure it’s really crooked. Otherwise people are going to assume you were trying to draw a straight line and you couldn’t do it. It’s surprising how applicable that is to all forms of art.”

TJ Beitelman teaches creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. And sometimes he rides a skateboard in the hallway.

TJ Beitelman teaches creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. And sometimes he rides a skateboard in the hallway.

Beitelman teaches creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine – a public institution in Birmingham, Alabama for gifted junior high and high school students. I teach English at the school and, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Beitelman is one of my favorite colleagues.

Curious, I wanted to know how Beitelman found time to write while working such a demanding full-time job.

“Early on I felt like I had to have the Stephen King attitude towards it where you have to write a certain amount every day,” Beitelman admits. “I thought that was the only valid way to be a writer. I discovered I am the other kind of writer. There’s at least two. There’s that writer that sits down and invites the muse to come every day and it’s very compelling when you hear that, but I’ve been doing this for 20 years now and I have produced work and I am the type that writes in bursts. I need a burst to create raw material and then I tinker with it for a long time.”


For writers stressing about not writing daily, Beitelman says you should let yourself off the hook.

“I don’t worry myself over when I’m not writing anymore because I feel like the stuff that happens when I’m at the keyboard is only 10 percent of it,” he says. “Ninety percent is feeding the process.”

Beitelman says he feeds his writing process through reading and traveling and even doing things as simple as taking walks.

“Mostly it’s something more nebulous and vague than that,” Beitelman adds. “It’s a mindset of not turning off the impulse to the create something. I filter everything through that creative impulse. So there’s a permeable wall between the real world and the art you make from it.”


Javacia Harris Bowser is founding editor of See Jane Write Magazine. 


For our Man of the Hour feature we take down the “No Boys Allowed” sign and share stories of men who are doing great things in the writing world. Send your nominations for Man of the Hourto seejanewritemag@gmail.com.

Blogging 101: Lessons Learned From One Year of Blogging

Posted on September 7, 2014

By Javacia Harris Bowser

When Birmingham-based blogger Bertha Hidalgo started her style blog Chic In Academia one year ago she didn’t have much of a plan and didn’t think her site would be much more than an outlet for her love for fashion.

But when she threw a blogiversary party for Chic In Academia late last month she had plenty to celebrate. Thanks to her blog Hidalgo has had the opportunity to work with a number of brands and has even been featured in B-Metro magazine.

We had a chat with Hidalgo at her blogiversary party about the lessons she’s learned from one year of blogging.

Bertha at Blogiversary

Bertha Hidalgo at her blogiversary party for ChicInAcademia.com

“Because I started my blog for fun I didn’t invest in a camera and I didn’t put much effort into my pictures,” Hidalgo says when asked what she wishes she had done differently this past year. Hidalgo says she also didn’t realize how important it would be to frequently post fresh content.

Finding time to blog can sometimes be difficult for Hidalgo. Not only is she a wife and mother of two, but she is also a PhD-level genetic epidemiologist. Hidalgo firmly believes that it should be socially acceptable for a woman to be both intelligent and fashionable, and that those two qualities should not be mutually exclusive.  She started her blog, in part, to show the world that a woman can indeed be both.

Hidalgo usually find time to blog in the evenings after she’s put her two sons to bed.

Hidalgo believes that one thing she has done well this past year is be original. Chic In Academia is not just another fashion blog simply featuring one “Outfit of the Day” post after another.

“If I just did that I knew I would be a guppy in a sea of Shamus if I did that,” Hidalgo says. “I talk about how I shop and how I find deals.” And, as the blog’s title might suggest, Hidalgo also blogs about fashion for the workplace. Sometimes she also blogs about fitness.

Happy birthday Chic In Academia!

Happy birthday Chic In Academia!

Though she’s only been blogging a year, Hidalgo has already garnered much attention for her site. Betabrand included her in a campaign that featured women with doctorates. B-Metro magazine recognized her as a style icon in its July 2014 issue. And when Hidalgo announced on social media that she was attending this year’s Birmingham Fashion Week, Lotus Boutique offered to provide her with outfits for the week.


Some of the opportunities she’s landed has been through social media. Hidalgo is very active on Instagram, for example, and uses this platform to engage with brands. Her Instagram tip: hashtag, hashtag, hashtag.

Hidalgo is also a great networker although she doesn’t see it as networking. She’s just passionate about blogging and passionate about fashion, so she loves to talk about both.

“I talk to everybody about what I’m doing,” she says. “If you do that enough with the right people then you’re at the forefront of their thoughts when opportunities arise.”


Javacia Harris Bowser is founding editor of See Jane Write Magazine.