Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Feb 1, 2012
I’m really glad to get this interview, and y’all need to pay attention to it. I first came across Shai Coggins many years ago on Ryze, and she was a big deal even then. She was traveling all over the world speaking at blogging and social media conferences, being interviewed in newspapers, and showing up on TV shows. She worked with B5Media and was one of the earliest contributors to About.com, where she had her own column. At the same time she was starting motherhood and studying for a masters in Applied Psychology (Singapore) and Teaching (Special Education). She’s also an artist, photographer and model. I know you’ll enjoy this interview and will learn a lot from it:
1. Tell us something about yourself.
It’s always interesting to figure out the best way to introduce oneself in these situations. A life summary is always different, depending on who you’re talking to.
In this case, I think I’ll go this route:
I’ve been a web professional for over a decade now. And I love the online world. But, I do have a life outside of that, including being a mum to two young kids, a wife to an Englishman, a postgrad student, and a manager of content and community at a nonprofit organisation. But that last bit also has a lot of online stuff involved, so maybe that doesn’t count as an offline life.
Oh, and I love travel, reading, movies, writing, art making, food, baking, the beach… Wait, hang on. That’s another life summary for a different purpose. If you’re keen to find out more, I Tweet (http://twitter.com/shaicoggins) a bit, I FB (http://facebook.com/shaicoggins), and I’m in just about every other social media platform you can think of. And, just between us (and your wonderful readers!), I’m about to launch my new professional blog, http://enkindlers.com (currently at http://enkindlers.wordpress.com/). Still a bit sparse in there, but at the moment, I’m hoping to put all my blogging, social media, and other content and community-related tips in that one central location, primarily for the community sector.
2. How did you get into blogging?
I’ve always loved writing. I kept journals from a young age. And, I’ve loved the idea of travel and other cultures all my life. That’s why I enjoyed having pen pals, especially from overseas.
So, when I heard about this thing called the Internet, where I can connect and talk to several people from anywhere in the globe, I knew immediately that I had to go on it. Never mind that I was no techie and I hated my computer classes in high school and college.
When I finally got online around 1997/1998, I started a website shortly after I got the hang of using email and IRC. There was a section in that Geocities website that I allocated a journal-type area, which looked very much like the blog we know today. Except it was hand-coded using the built-in web editor and FrontPage. And a lot uglier, with those horrid graphics and blinkies.
3. What was it like writing for About.com and many of the other organizations you wrote for and participated with?
I had two rounds of being an About.com Guide. First, I became the Language Arts for Kids Guide, back when they had a children’s channel. I loved the creativity that was involved in building that site from the ground up. Plus, I really enjoyed learning from and working with my fellow kids channel guides. They were a wonderfully smart and creative bunch. Unfortunately, that came to an end shortly after 9/11 and the dot com bust.
The second time I became a Guide was in 2004, as one of the first blogging guides around. I enjoyed the challenge of staying up to date with technology and writing for a different demographic. Particularly, ones who were pretty much the pioneers of the world that we now know as the social media universe. It was great, experimenting with the latest blogging software and being one of the first to get in to podcasting and video blogging.
Writing for About.com in particular was a really great time for me because I did learn a lot from them. Many of the things I know about SEO, web architecture, and content strategy, I learned first in that place. So, I will always be grateful that I’ve had that experience.
About.com also helped me to launch my own blogging network, which later merged with b5media, which then became a VC-funded online venture that brought a lot of interesting experiences too.
4. You added video early into blogging; how did that come about?
It was primarily through my work at About.com, as I said. I learned about video blogging and decided to give it a go. And later on, About.com encouraged its Guides by launching this video making competition, where I won 2nd place and $1,000 cash prize for making a video on video blogging. Yes, very meta, I know. Fun times.
5. At one time about 5 years ago you were known as one of the most powerful women in blogging, and you’ve had so many accolades and awards; how does that make you feel?
Uhmm… thinking that it was all 5 years ago make me feel old and out of touch. Was it really that long ago?
Okay, seriously… Of course, the accolades and awards were great because they acknowledged the work I did. But, I also know that they weren’t the end all and be all of things. I’m grateful for those things because I know a lot of people work really hard and they don’t always get the recognition that they deserve.
I think I’m just lucky that I got in to blogging quite early and so I was part of the excitement at the beginning. It was incredible to think that once upon a time, I was able to say, “Hey, have you heard of Google?” and the answer back then was “No, what is it?” many times. I really should have bought shares then!
And yeah, in the early days, whenever I talked about blogging, podcasting, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, people’s eyes glazed over. Now, it’s all mainstream. So, it’s much, much harder to stand out. Now that many people have discovered these tools, we’re seeing an influx of great talent all over the world. It’s great.
6. For a short time you weren’t blogging much, working on some other endeavors. Did you find it hard getting back into blogging?
Having a break from blogging was something I needed at the time. With everything that went on, I felt burnt out from my online life.
And yes, every time I do stop blogging for a while, I find it harder to get back in to the groove of things. In fact, I have to admit that I think I’m still not blogging as much as I would like. Definitely nowhere near like I used to. I keep hoping to change that eventually.
7. You’ve spoken at social media conferences and at blogging events. Is that exciting, and do you love meeting people?
At first, I found it terrifying. I really don’t consider myself a public speaker, even though I do enjoy teaching and meeting people. It’s weird, but when I started presenting again, I was freaking out so much, it literally hurt. However, people’s response to what I have to say had been incredible. And, it became easier as time went by.
I love visiting new places and sharing ideas, especially with people who enjoy learning and discussing their own views about social media, blogging, and all these other things that I care about so much.
To me, the best part about speaking and attending conferences and other events is the ability to meet the many wonderful people that I’ve met, which I never would’ve come across otherwise. Even though I love the web, being able to make real life connections is just wonderful.
8. I remember when your son started his blog; is he still blogging, and has your daughter picked up the bug yet?
Wow. Great memory! Yes, my son who just turned 8, still blogs occasionally. He has had his own blog for almost two years and even started setting up other blogs by himself. I think he still would like to keep blogging, but he has new obsessions at the moment, so we’ll see how he goes.
And no, my daughter is only 4 (about to turn 5), so she’s a bit away off from blogging still, I think. Although she has already started learning how to read, write, and make her own video movie clips using an iPod Touch, I think she probably wouldn’t ask for a blog for another year or two at least. Maybe.
9. This might not be a fair question but hey, let’s ask it anyway. Do you think the fact that you’re attractive helps people feel a connection to you as a blogger?
Haha. I have no idea, to be honest. Maybe that’s a question best answered by my readers and subscribers?
Actually, I never really considered looks as the best way to “hook” people. I know that may sound really lame, especially since I’ve been looking like a real narcissistic flake, ever since I discovered the concept behind self portraiture and the 365 days project back in 2008. But, I have to say that I never went around thinking I was pretty all my life, believe me. I even recall thinking, as I was growing up, that even though I wasn’t particularly attractive, at least I looked “okay”. So yeah, when compliments started coming in, I was really taken aback. Had I known I was considered attractive, I may have had a completely different view in life! Maybe I would’ve tried to do something more glamorous than blogging. Or not. Heh.
10. What’s left for you to accomplish, both in and outside of blogging?
I’m an INFJ – so apparently, it’s my curse to want something more, something better, always.
Plus, I have a long Dream List and an even longer To Do List, both of which will probably outlive me, as I don’t think I can ever check off all the boxes in my lifetime.
Right now, I’m going just trying to make the most of the blessings I’ve been given both personally and professionally. I’m doing some work on my “what’s next” plan, which hopefully includes finishing my 2nd post-grad degree, taking more time to write and blog, and indulging some of my other passions and dreams.
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 27, 2011
I’ve known Beverly at least 6 years now. We met on Ryze when it meant something, although I’m not sure how well she remembered me. But I did recognize her immediately on Twitter years later and we connected. I’ve been on her Blog Talk Radio show many times, and was on her regular radio show once. Now she’s got a TV show as well. Who is she and how does she do what she does? Read below:
1. How did you first get into TV news, and was it your first stop in media?
My very first television job was in 1987 — when I was hired by one of the NBC Affiliates in North Carolina. I always wanted to do television but was convinced I didn’t have the right “look.” By that, I mean my skin color. During that time, any black anchors or reporters on TV looked like Jayne Kennedy so I figured that ruled me out. I didn’t have long hair nor was I tall. But I decided to take a chance anyway since I was in North Carolina and saw women who actually looked like me. I owe everything to my start in TV to my former News Director, Jim Bennett, who was willing to take a chance on me with no previous television news experience. I didn’t disappoint him I’m happy to say and I got promoted a few times while there.
My media career actually started in radio right out of college. I went to work for a radio station in Beckley, West Virginia and soon realized they hadn’t gotten the memo about affirmative action. When I started questioning the arrest of a black man on charges of murder when he had a stone cold alibi, the Sheriff kindly told me “my kind didn’t belong there and shouldn’t be sticking my nose in business where it didn’t belong.” When I told my boss what happened, I ended up being the one who got fired because he said I was disrespectful to a law enforcement official. I took my case to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for discrimination and WON! I got a severance package out of the deal, which helped me while searching for another job.
2. What’s it like doing a daily news program? Is it as glamorous as many people think it is, and does it pay well in local markets?
There’s so much that people don’t see when it comes to gathering the news. All they see is the end result where we come into your living room. They don’t see the daily grind of how to find news on a slow news day or how to track down credible sources for a big story. They don’t see the many phone calls made and people we have to talk to before we can put the story together. They don’t see the editing or the newsroom battles we have over why we choose to do one story over another. It can get pretty intense at times. The glamorous side is being recognized on the street by someone who treats you like a celebrity.
3. When you left TV, what made you decide to go into public relations?
I don’t really call what I do “public relations.” I am a Media Trainer and what I do is teach people how to self-promote to give themselves more visibility so they will be recognized by different media outlets. I know how challenging it can be to get exposure because I was once on the “other side” combing through press releases and listening to media pitches and I know what it takes to break through and catch a reporter or producer’s eye. I LOVE doing it and I’m good at it!
4. What drove you back to media, first with Blog Talk Radio, then your radio program and finally your new TV show?
I love being a “voice” with a message. I enjoy interviewing interesting people and sharing their stories with the world.
5. I listened to your interview with Jane Velez-Mitchell; how do you get big time guests to show up for your programs?
People are always looking for exposure. It doesn’t matter how big of a celebrity they are. If they are trying to promote a book or movie or whatever, they want the opportunity. I truly live by the scripture that says you receive not because you ask not. If they turn me down, I can always find someone else. I might also add being a part of the Radio and TV groups on LinkedIn helps because we’re always trading information and being a Radio Host at a traditional radio station also helps. It also helps to have gone to school with a few celebrities like Nancy Cartwright (voice of Bart Simpson). She’s been my guest a few times and we’ve stayed in touch since college.
6. You once got someone onto Oprah; how’d that happen?
Answer: It wasn’t Oprah — I WISH! It was the Today Show. I went to college with Matt Lauer and that’s all I’m saying
7. In January I reviewed your book Don’t Ask; tell people why you wrote it, how sales have been, and how it developed into a game and how that’s been going for you.
I wrote the book because of a lie I told my doctor that nearly cost me my life. I haven’t actively promoted it as much as I did the first two but sales for the card game have been tremendous!
The card game came about one evening when a few girlfriends and I were sitting around talking about the book. Each one shared their own story about what they would have done in some of my situations. From there I got the idea to create a card game. It is definitely a deck of dialogue. Rarely do people get through the entire deck because they’re so busy discussing their responses or recalling their own “Don’t Ask” stories. The game has far exceeded my expectations. I think the card game sells the book.
8. You gear a lot of your stuff towards baby boomers, which includes me. How do you see us overall taking to social media, what are we missing, and how can we be better?
I think the majority of us are doing a pretty good job in social media because we clearly understand who we’re talking to—each other. Our messages are clear and concise and we are easy to find, especially on Twitter.
For me personally, I still struggle with the technical side of it all and I think that may be a problem for other boomers. Instead of dealing with it, some just refuse to stay up-to-date. In social media, it’s hard NOT to because it’s changing all the time. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with others who know and understand more than you about different aspects of social media — even if they’re younger. Luckily I have you, Mitch along with Heidi Caswell to help me.
9. Tell people other stuff about you that I might not have covered here.
I’m married — just celebrating our five-year anniversary in June. He is my soulmate and I am so blessed to have been given a second chance at love after living 18 years in a nightmare. I have a five-year-old grandson and a daughter, who’s a rising senior in college. Want to know how I felt about having a teenage daughter get pregnant? Read about it in my book!
10. If you get Mariah Carey to appear on any of your shows, can I be there with you?
I’ll be sure to call you well in advance!
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 18, 2011
Yasmin Shiraz does everything I mentioned above and more. Yes, she’s made movies, and she’s written books. She does speaking engagements. And she’s helped to spread both her message and her reputation through social media. I met her on Twitter and to me she’s proof of the good people on Twitter who need to be better known by the masses. She’s also one of the people I highlighted in my post on 21 of the Top Black Social Media Influencers. One of these days I’m going to be in one of her films (okay, she didn’t say that, but who knows right ).
1. Can you tell people all that you’ve done and do?
I’ve written 7 books that have been published — a couple of best sellers, an award winner, and even a critically acclaimed book that was taken from my teenage diaries.
The Blueprint for My Girls: How to Build A Life Full of Courage, Determination & Self Love; Retaliation: A Novel, The Blueprint for My Girls in Love: 99 Rules for Dating, Relationships & Intimacy; Exclusive: A Novel; Privacy: A Novel; Teens, Handle Your Business: 24 Tools for Motivation & Success; and The Blueprint Guide to Success & Motivation: Identify, Focus On, & Achieve Your Goals.
I’ve written, directed and produced 2 films – one a 4x award winner – Can She Be Saved? is my documentary film about teen girl fights. It won several awards including Best Documentary at the NC Black Film Festival. They Call Me Dae is a short film that explores the life of a teen bully.
I’ve keynoted and conducted speeches for the Essence Music Festival, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, Congressional Black Caucus, and at least 60 colleges throughout the US.
I’ve owned several businesses including a hip hop magazine, Mad Rhythms. I’ve interviewed more celebrities than I care to recall – though Johnnie Cochran and Martin Lawrence are among my favorites. I’ve been to Diddy’s house in the Hamptons and Jay-Z once threatened to throw me out of his dressing room. (He has a wicked sense of humor.)
2. Where did you get the passion to do all these things?
I love LIFE. I love doing things that I enjoy. I love music. I love being creative. Every day I push myself to enjoy myself through work. I feel that if I’m alive, I should use my life to enjoy myself and be happy.
3. What’s it like putting a movie together?
Wow! Putting together a movie is fun, creative, grueling, exhilarating. It pushes you to your limit. Just when you think you have nothing left, a film lifts you up and you feel satisfied that you didn’t give up on yourself. Its one of the best experiences of my life.
4. Your stuff is so edgy and real; do you ever worry that people will stereotype minorities because of it?
No. I don’t worry about stereotypes. My goal is to educate and give a voice to the voiceless. I want young people’s pain to be heard, seen and felt. If you look at one of my films and are not more in tuned with a young person’s experiences then you have missed the message.
5. You’ve written seven books, even winning awards. What awards have you won, and how did you get your first book published?
My first young adult fiction book, Retaliation won the Top Ten Reluctant Readers Award from the American Library Association in 2009. It was a major moment for me. My Blueprint books have been on various bestseller lists. After numerous agents rejected my manuscript, I wrote The Blueprint for My Girls and published it myself. 6 months after I published it, Simon & Schuster offered me a book deal.
6. You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. I find fiction difficult; how have you broken through in your mind to be able to write both?
I love writing. I don’t overanalyze it. But, I love writing. I love expression. If I have an idea that I need to express in a non-fiction format then I work it in that medium. If I decide that the message will be better expressed in a fiction medium, then I go with it. I never limit myself or my writing. I’ve written poetry, raps, biographies, screenplays, interviews etc. You name it, I’ve written it. Most writers who truly love writing, love it in all forms. I am a writer’s writer.
7. Which social media outlets do you use and how have you seen it help you?
I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn… I love the concept of social media and so I’m always game to try it on.
Twitter has helped me reach new people and meet new people. I love it. Facebook has helped me to show people in a sorta intimate way what I really do. It has made me more familiar to people. LinkedIn has brought me new business customers.
8. You also do speaking engagements; do you enjoy that as much as I do?
I don’t know how much you enjoy it, but I am thrilled with it. I love writing speeches and delivering them knowing that I can capture a phrase, or a word in such a way that it punctuates the moment. I love how speeches allow me to be part comedian, part actress, part activist, part showman. I get to do it all when I’m speaking.
9. You do a lot; how do you script your time?
I keep to-do lists and every day I make sure I “to-do” what’s important. (LOL)
10. You’ve already done it all; what’s left?
Getting really paid for it. LOL. But also, I love to continue to stretch myself. Who knows what tomorrow brings? So, I push myself to see if I can make tomorrow a little bit different from today.
To follow Yasmin on Twitter: @yasminshiraz
To Visit her site: www.yasminshiraz.net
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Yasmin-Shirazs-Still-Eye-Rise-Friends-Fans/139699712763511
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 2, 2011
Isaac Bidwell is a local artist whose work I happen to like a lot. He’s starting to garner a lot of attention both in the central New York area and in other parts of the country. His art is being shown all over the place; he’s going to be a big deal one day and I get to go to a big fancy party on his behalf. Okay, I’m allowed to dream, right? Take some time to learn about Isaac, and if you like this and want to learn more then check out this first interview I did with him on my other blog.
1. Why graphic art instead of any other type?
That’s a hard question to answer. Personally I think my work is part Graphic Art and part Fine Art. Fortunately the lines a blurring.
2. How does the creative process begin?
First I think up a concept, then I start to sketch. After that I draw a detailed pencil sketch. At this point I either scan the image into my computer to digitally ink and color the image, or I use a quill pen and ink the art and then add watercolor.
3. How long might it take you to fully complete a work?
Anywhere from an hour to a couple of years. It all depends on the deadline for the work. This week I created 4 images for two gallery shows. I also have a comic I’ve been working on here and there for the past two years.
4. When you don’t have models, are you thinking about famous people, people you know or are you making them up?
I’m a big believer of using references. I used to be against it, for some stupid reason. But with a couple of references, the work simply looks better.
5. What kind of genres does your art fit best?
Before I would say Comic art, but after talking to an art rep, I realized that’s not really the case. I feel my work is more ornate, similar to Art Nouveau or sometimes to old ink illustrations of the late 1800s.
6. What kind of clients would you look to work with, or do you want to just be independent?
I’ve tried freelance and it didn’t work out well. My mistake was I thought local, not national or global. Currently I’ve been exhibiting in some amazing galleries. I now realize I can do anything I put my mind to. I honestly feel it’s just a matter of time before I go out and land some big clients.
7. Where can people see more of your work or even purchase some of it?
My work can be seen on isaacbidwell.com or thecreativefinder.com/isaacbidwell. I also have some works for sale on my publishing site: lestylemoderne.com. And I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. Close with a pitch; tell people who you are and why you’re going to be the next big thing.
My talent. Now when people read or hear that they may think I’m full of myself. But here’s the thing, I don’t mean the art. Granted, I believe in my work, but my true talent that will make me successful in this field is the business part of my brain. I realize this is work and a business. Too many artist forget that if you want to create art for a living, it’s a job. Luckily for me about 99% of the artist out there are lazy, they just want it handed to them. I want to go out and get it.
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 3, 2011
What a strange week this seems to have been. It started out with my buying my first couple of pairs of shorts ever, with my wife’s help, and finding out that I can actually wear a waist size of 42; I haven’t worn a size 42 waist in 20 years! Working out seems to be doing at least part of the job; glucose isn’t down though.
Then a consulting gig I’m supposed to be working hasn’t started yet; I haven’t even heard from the client in about a week. That’s how it goes sometimes when you’re an independent consultant, which is why I was so key on my earlier post this week about getting some money upfront; it’s not always the fault of the people trying to do work for you.
And now this; I’ve been interviewed again, this time by Christian of Smart Boy Designs. I was kind of surprised because I actually did the interview back in April, then forgot about it until I was going through old emails yesterday and started to wonder about it. And then there it was this morning; nice timing, eh?
Of course, it was also fun being a part of Ileane’s Basic Blog Tips this week with my post on 5 Ways Your Blog Might Be Irritating People. I really put out for that post because I always believe that you give as much to others as you’d give to yourself, and if you can you should give more since you’re reaching out to a new audience that you’re hoping you can drive to your site.
All that and tonight I’ll be staying in a hotel about 5 minutes from my house in a room with a jacuzzi… all by myself. My wife is holding a large garage sale with her friends and asked if I not be present; I can take a hint. So I’ll be pampered tonight on my own, then heading to the casino in the morning. Yes, I do live a strange life; but it’s pretty fun as well. Is it any wonder why I smile so much?