How to find content writers

searchWhen your company is expanding into a new market or trying to establish itself as an expert source for information, setting up a blog (or blogs) can be the fastest way to do so. Starting a blog also creates the need for quality content. In the STEM fields especially, knowledgeable writers with accessible style can be difficult to find. That said, knowing where to look can be half the battle.

  • Ask your friends and colleagues. Here in Birmingham, it's hard to walk more than ten feet without tripping over a writer. Chances are that one of the people in your network knows at least one person with the desired expertise. If not, they might know someone who could learn it quickly.
  • Seek out talent in house. Does one of your employees run a top notch blog? If so, would they be interested in a modified set of responsibilities? It's a win-win; you get to recognize your employees' abilities and they get rewarded for going above and beyond.
  • Find blogs you like in your field. Search them out on Google or look through trade articles. Even if they're not local, they might be able to produce quality content at an affordable rate. It never hurts to ask.
  • Look through freelancers' portfolios. Sites like Contently, Pressfolio and Writerfolio offer solid samples of writers' work. Many freelancers also host portfolios of published work on their websites. These tools can give you a solid sense of a writer's ability to mould her writing style with a publication's.
  • Search social media profiles. Searching keywords like "freelance writer" on Twitter or LinkedIn can yield an abundance of professional writers. Chances are that one or more of them will fit both your budget and your vision for content creation.

I could be a part-time model

Baby trying to drink. c/o Keith Gillard When I meet most people for the first time, they tend to notice I'm 6'1". Their first three questions are, without fail, "Did you play basketball?" "Did you play volleyball?" and "Do you model?"

Y'all, stop asking. I lose my balance and am easily disoriented in brightly lit noisy places. There's a reason Adam started calling me Baby Giraffe, and it's not the length of my neck. I didn't even make the school's basketball team in middle school. I started into band and honors/AP classes instead.

Yes, I remember Michael Jordan's story. Yes, I wanted to be the first rocket scientist/WNBA All Star player when I was a kid. And yes, I now recognize that the two careers might be slightly incompatible.

At this point in the conversation, the other party is usually either laughing or edging away nervously. I've found that reactions to this line of questioning are really good for weeding out those who don't belong in my life. They wouldn't last long anyways.

One of the reasons I love social media is that it removes my height entirely from my social interactions. In the online world, my height isn't intimidating. It's not a factor available for judgment. I can be perfectly average until I prove myself witty or otherwise interesting.

It's also easier to make friends through the use of my brain in this medium because I am an ambivert. Though I have no fear of talking to new people and make friends fairly easily, I also require time to myself to remain fully functional. When I get overstimulated on social media, I can simply turn off my computer and the notifications on my phone.

Most people don't take that news as well in person. For some reason, telling people you need to go sit by yourself doesn't make many friends. That said, it's time for me to go drink a "Space Balls"-inspired beer and curl up with a blanket.

Title today from Flight of the Conchords "Most Beautiful Girl In The Room."

Remind us our days are all numbered, not spent

Fair. I have officially broken all of my New Years resolutions except my vow to turn off the radio (more on that in a later post). Internet, I have not worked out three times per week, I have not been practicing mindfulness and I sure as heck have not kept to a regular editorial calendar. For the past two weeks, family, work, tutoring and freelance deadlines have taken priority over writing and social media work. Excluding writing, at my last count I had clocked around 125 work hours over those 14 days.

Each night afterwards, I parked myself on the couch and did not move until bed time. Social media has afforded me the chance to stay in contact with family members from parts abroad and friends I miss. In some ways, the immediacy of Twitter and Facebook makes that feeling more difficult, as you can see what that person is doing without actually being able to physically hang out.

During trips and ventures abroad, social media allows you to keep in contact with your friends at home. However, that amount of distance complicates the most special aspect of social media -- the need to connect in person to cement a relationship. It's very easy to change your wording and appearance online, but it takes a different set of skills to connect offline.

Recently, I have also stayed off social media because I'm tired and I don't anything interesting or positive to say. I've been marathoning episodes of Psych after work, so my pop culture references are pretty limited. As for blogging, I've started and deleted quite a few posts over the past couple weeks, but I aim to change that trend.

Title comes from "Bleeding Out" by The Lone Bellow. This line has been stuck in my head for three out of the last five days.

All my lovin', I will give to you

Ben King's nerdy Valentine When Adam and I had been dating for about six months, a friend told me that he wanted the kind of online relationship that my beau and I had. Ladies and gents, I present to you the social media contract we signed when we started dating.

I will leave you notes on your Facebook wall and send you articles I think you would appreciate. I will travel to the ends of the Internet to find witty cat pictures that will make you smile. I will never post the pictures I took of you that time you were sleeping. I mean, what?

I will occasionally post things that make me laugh hysterically but that don't amuse you. Deal with it. If you're nice, I'll offset those posts by making you dinner. If not, I'll carry on posting. Outside of Facebook, you can have your forum memberships if I can stay on Twitter. I don't have that much to say about cars or fashion outside of "Ooo. Pretty!"

If you watch television shows that I do not or cannot, I promise to read summaries so we can discuss the broader points of the show. I will get angry about people posting spoilers even if I'm never, ever going to watch the episodes. I promise to find funny related memes and post them where all our friends can see.

Most importantly, I promise to keep the personal details of our relationship off of social media. Any information I wouldn't freely share with my grandmother does not belong on the Internet. I care for you, and that means respecting your privacy ... even if I start a blog.

Title today comes from one of my favorite Beatles songs, "All My Loving." 

Author's note: Adam and I joke about having signed this type of contract. It's not a literal document.

Keep your sickness off my newsfeed

Image credit here During the past week, I've drunk more tea than a British grandmother and fallen asleep during two movies. Yes, I have the sinus-y ick that's going around, and yes, I'm taking lots of vitamins and herbal supplements to fight it. I have also made a short list of bodily functions that should never, ever be put on social media.

1. Snot talk If I wanted to know the details of your illness, I'd go to med school and specialize in family medicine. I haven't yet, so use your text messages and voice minutes to tell your friends and family your symptoms, not your Facebook or Twitter feeds.

2. Bowel movements I don't want to know what goes on in your bathroom. Neither does your mother.

3. Updates from your tear ducts This item is directed to all the people who tend to emotionally word vomit on my feed. If you want to talk about your breakup or have a problem with me, call or private message me. I'm less sympathetic to your personal plight if it is so personal you have to share it with your social media networks. Also, if you live Tweet or Facebook your feelings about anything other than concerts, movies or other performances or events, chances are I've already hidden your posts. I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm not.

4. What you eat Unless you're making an special meal or something that is really, really delicious, I don't care. "OMG my yogurt and granola was super healthy this morning LOL" would make me want to scream. If you aren't sharing a homemade yogurt recipe along with your terrible grammar, don't make the post at all.

This Rockwellian Life

Norman Rockwell, Portrait of John F. Kennedy Norman Rockwell's most reproduced works depict idyllic American family interactions. Until recently, I was almost convinced that these familiar paintings represented the totality of his talent and subject matter. The Birmingham Museum of Art hosted the Norman Rockwell’s America exhibit from Sep. 16-Jan. 6, and Adam and I made it out on the last day of the exhibit.

Boy, was I wrong. Though some of his works may be the basis for "traditional American values," many of these iconic images also demonstrate the artist's understanding of irony and sense of humor. When Rockwell turned his attention to the national and international rapid political and social change in the 1960s and 70s, his style also shifted. His new detailing techniques and slightly different color palette create a different type of emotional experience for the viewer.

His second portrait of John F. Kennedy stood out to me from the other works of this era. Painted on a dark canvas with reddish undertones, the contrast and outlines that don’t create his suit are done mainly in light shades. Rockwell’s loose brushstrokes and contrasting create a tension that mirrors Kennedy’s troubled expression. The shadowing around and on the subject’s face is deep, making him appear tired and older. This depiction emphasizes the difference between this and Rockwell's previous portrait of JFK.

This style is worlds away from most of the artist’s “Saturday Evening Post” covers. Though those pictures are technically perfect, the evocative use of color in this painting draws a completely different emotional response from the viewer.

To be honest, I would have missed the exhibit entirely if it wasn’t for the museum’s social media presence. The posts about upcoming events, giveaways and community involvement repeatedly piqued my curiosity about Rockwell’s work. Even two days later, the experience is still fresh in my mind.

Our world-class museum has hosted exhibits from very different backgrounds over the past few years. If you missed out on Normal Rockwell’s America, be sure to attend the next visiting exhibit. You never know what you’ll learn from the art until you experience it.

Letter to my 16-year-old self

Dear 16-year-old self, You are beautiful as you are, and you will get better with age. As you build muscle and your curves fill out, your weight will redistribute itself. Building a personal style will get easier, so dress to your shape.

Your heart may be broken now, but you are not. Over the next few years, you will love more deeply than you think possible. Friends are going to cycle through your life and some will leave it for good. Though it's a cliche, it's a cliche for a reason.

The work you're doing now is worth it. Right now, you're learning how to write and how to write in very short form on social media. You'll make it out of high school before Facebook gets so creepy you can't start over elsewhere. You'll learn how to start over closer to home, and you'll form a community there.

Best of all, it gets better. People share your sense of humor and taste in music. In a couple years, you'll be interviewing the bands you love now. Don't limit yourself to one career possibility and try everything when you have the chance.

It may be self-serving for me to tell you to live long and well, but I'll do it anyways. Love you.


My Manifesto, OR How I accidentally stopped drinking coffee

Two weeks ago, right before I stared this blog, I accidentally gave up on drinking coffee. The brewing system at work is A. a drip maker B. cheap and C. lacking cream. It's also $9 per month to drink. Yes, I'm aware that the cost is equivalent to that of three cups of coffee at the local shops I frequent. Yes, I'm an insufferable coffee snob who would rather forgo her morning coffee fix than drink poor quality coffee. And yes, I should probably wake up 10 minutes earlier to make my own damn coffee and stop complaining.

Honestly, I would rather forgo doing a lot of things than do them poorly. I have a case of what I call creativity stifling perfectionism. It's not a technical diagnosis, but every time I begin a project, it sneaks up on me. If the hook isn't right, I'll rewrite it until it's passable (my personal record is 23 discarded drafts).

When it comes to the case of writing and social media use (or tweeting about writing or writing about social media), I'm the same type of stickler, and my autocorrect doesn't always watch my back. Wording may be what forms the meat of the post, but it's the intention behind the crafting that makes the whole creation meaningful.

What follows is my manifesto: This blog is a record of the people and opportunities I encounter through social media, and as such, a testament to its connective power. It is an ongoing love note to the city of Birmingham and its citizens. It is an attempt to teach effective personal social media usage as I learn it.

My caffeine headache may have abated, but my desire to work more towards focusing this blog on social media has not. I haven't blogged without the structure of Blog Like Crazy, but as the blog starts to take shape and gain direction, my manifesto will be there as a reminder to stop, think and share the meaningful connections social media has facilitated in my life.

Activity vs fitness

Fitness is inherently social. From weight rooms to running groups to spin classes, the gym can be a great place to connect with others who share your goals. Like social media, it can be a good place to start conversations that require further face time to complete.  I, on the other hand, am active. During office hours I move as much as possible and probably burn hundreds of calories from the stress of mini-commutes between tutoring lessons.

In the world of new media, social media is becoming an integral part the fitness process. The same people who over share about their lives in general usually treat physical activity the same way (“Headed to the gym! LOL #workinonmyfitness”). Others use social media networks to build a network of accountability.

Likewise, gyms and groups have begun using Facebook and Twitter to connect with potential clients. The new Inspire Fitness in Southside is just one of those places. I got invited to try Inspire through Gabe Rios, a librarian at Lister Hill Library and one of the co-owners of the gym. I took one of his Friday Happy Hour spin classes and (miraculously) made it through. After giving up my short-lived attempts at running because of my knees, Gabe’s class gave me a runner’s high for the first time in too long.

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of writing an article on Magic City Cycle Chix, a local women’s cycling group. Kim Cross started this Facebook group in January 2011, this community has grown to almost 600 members in the last two years and has put on some awesome programs. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to attend any of the workshops they've hosted, but I have it on good information that these events were awesome.

Here in Birmingham, local writers have started blogs like The Jen West Quest and Who Ate My Blog? to document their weight loss journeys. Putting this information on the Internet has allowed them to build a supportive community for their goals and publicly document their progress.

At this point, I’m seriously considering adopting a similar system. Over the past two years, I have repeatedly struggled back into something resembling fitness, gotten busy and fallen out of the habit. It’s just easier to reach for my knitting needles instead of the dumbbells after a 13 hour day. For the rest of the year, I am going to lift weight and do cardio at least twice a week. As a change of pace, I’m going to try to do at least one fun class a week, whether it is yoga at the Yoga Circle or Spin at Inspire. Let’s hope that shaking up my routine drags me out of this workout funk.

On becoming socially active

Shortly before I began interning at Birmingham magazine, I made my Twitter account public. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I began meeting up with some of the people I met through social media. In the months that followed, the city and its opportunities opened up. I learned how to ask for opportunities, and haltingly began using social media as a connector. The targeted fearlessness that I learned has resulted in freelancing gigs and some really incredible interviews with artists, musicians and chefs I admire.

As a member of Gen Y, the Internet is comfortable and easy to navigate. I can point you towards grammar jokes or find you the latest in Fitzgerald scholarship. My Google fu is strong. I have a penchant for nerdy web comics, and love sharing funny things with friends.

It comes as no surprise, then that social media (especially Twitter) has fundamentally shaped my interactions with others. Despite warnings against the superficiality of social media, its use has resulted in friendships and enduring inside jokes. Most recently, I had coffee and beer “meetings” with people I connected with through Twitter thanks to WBHM’s Issues and Ales. Those two stories will get their own post later—Javacia and Alex are both people you should know.

Social media can be an amazingly effective way to connect with people. Few other forms of media are as efficient at conveying so much information, and if used safely and correctly, can result in such stimulating and satisfying conversations.

This blog will be my documentation of my adventures in social media, both personally and professionally. My hope is that it might even convince others to try connecting with new people through social media. After all, you’ll never know who you’d meet unless you try it.