About Erin

Deputy Editor, Southern Living Magazine. Digital and social media girl who learned everything with a pen and a reporter's notebook. Mom. Florida native celebrating all things kitsch, accidental Birminghamian. Is probably getting back from somewhere or heading somewhere. Knows: Elvis, journalism, pop culture, Southern artisans and emerging neighborhoods, vintage clothes, pugs, Yacht Rock. 


Entries in storytelling (11)


Southern C Summit 

Just back from the inaugural Southern C Summit. I had the honor of being a speaker at this incredible event on beautiful Jekyll Island, Georgia. Walking around the property of the Jekyll Island Club, I had to pinch myself just thinking how lucky I was to be part of such a cool event in a beautiful place:



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I spoke about SL's digital evolution. I get real joy sharing best practices on blogging, social media, and storytelling in general. And I learned just as much from the business owners, bloggers, artists, and creatives who swapped stories over barbecue and Goo Goo clusters. Seriously, we had a Goo Goo Cluster pie break. How great is that? And yes, after all the delicious snacks they served, I'm wearing my stretchy pants.






Major kudos to the founders of the Southern Coterie, Whitney Long and Cheri Leavy. They founded the Southern Coterie as a place for women to connect and share their love of all things Southern, and the summit as a counterpart. There's a magic when people have a chance to connect online and then forge relationships in real life (stay tuned for another blog post about that coming shortly).

Whitney, Cheri, and their team made that possible for a whole bunch of creative business women and doers. (And are going to do it again at two upcoming gatherings -- one in Athens and one in Nashville.)

Bonus: Whitney hosted the Summit wearing what? A different pair of gold shoes every day. (Her foot above). I knew I'd like her! 



Writing advice: keep believing

I woke up this morning to see the headline that Eugene Patterson, the Pultizer Prize winning journalist who chronicled some of the most important events of the 20th century, died yesterday. Known for his courageous Atlanta Journal Consitutition columns during the Civil Rights struggles, he also served as editor of the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) for 17 years, among many other notable positions.

The headline in the Times today reads: "Former Times Editor Eugene Patterson, who championed cvil rights and journalistic excellence, dies at 89." (Full story)

If you read one thing today, may I suggest it be his most famous column: "A Flower For The Graves," written after the church bombing here in Birmingham.

Gene Patterson influenced on my life, even though I didn't know it at the time. That's because he lead the writers who wrote for The St. Pete Times, the newspaper I devoured as a child. I wanted to be a journalist just like the ones I read. From today's Times story:

"He also instructed his staff to use "shoe-leather, doorbell-ringing reporting" to get tough stories ..."

Remember that kind of reporting?


After I saw the news, I pulled a compliation of Patterson's works off my bookshelf. "The Changing South of Gene Patterson: Journalism and Civil Rights, 1960-1968," edited by my mentor (and another storytelling guru) Roy Peter Clark. I thought about how different things are now for the young journalist. And I kind of cringed. It's hard out there for people who want to make a living telling stories like this.

I thought of the discussions that surely took place in newsrooms on Tuesday when editors must have chatted with their staff about how to cover a football player's girlfriend picking up 150,000 Twitter followers. SEO and click-throughs. These are the conversations that take place every day. The stories are different. Or are they? 

This week I spoke on a panel about the intersection of blogging and journalism. (Through the excellent Birmingham group See Jane Write. Recap here.) It was a great discussion, and all of the panelists were in agreement when it comes to the importance of reporting, ethics, accuracy, transparency. But I quietly struggled with the unease of knowing the realities of how difficult that can be, and how tough it is to keep that going when an industry built on those values has imploded. 

What I tried to convey to the room full of writers at that talk was this: we're part of a bridge generation, a time between old school journalism and the new era. Some will walk away from the industry, and I do not blame them. It's a frustrating. It's scary. But I still believe there's opportunity for those who can take the values of storytelling that will never change and transform them for now.

I'm not sure how to traverse this path, other than to read really good writing and carve out your own path. That's all. 


I met Gene Patterson only once and briefly, when he and Roy Peter Clark visited The University of Alabama to speak about "The Changing South." I pulled it off the shelf this morning and started re-reading it.

I can't remember what I told Gene Patterson that day, but I'm sure it was about my writing, and trying to find my voice and place. Maybe I was having a crisis of faith about my future. You know, run-of-the-mill writer angst that we go through all the time occasionally. 

"Keep believing." 

It's really the best advice. Journalist, blogger, journalist-blogger, or old school storyteller. Keep believing. 


Keep believing


Support WBHM and I'll Make You A Pie 


It's not exactly a secret that journalism is having a moment. And it's not the best moment in our history. Birmingham, like everywhere else, is trying to figure it out. 

I'm of the mindset that good will come out of this time of great transition, and that journalism will survive. 

In the meantime, as we sort out where we are heading, it's vital to support people who continue to deliver great content. Which is why I'm going on air on WBHM 90.3 at 4 p.m., next Tuesday, October 16, to ask for our community's support in keeping our public radio tradition alive. 

You know the deal: content costs, and they bring an amazing array. Among my favorites: listening to the masterful interviews of Diane Rehm and Terry Gross, who, thanks to listener contributions, bring us hour-long interviews with authors and scientists and newsmakers. Hour-long -- that's major in a time where we're struggling to keep people's attention on a page for more than a few seconds. We listen because it's dense, intriguing conversation. 

Wherever I travel, tuning into public radio is a must (in fact I'm writing this from Tampa, where I loved listening to WMNF 88.5 -- my first public radio listen). When I moved to Birmingham, 90.3 was one of my first sources of information to find out what was happening in this town I'd call home. And now, when I tuned in each morning and afternoon, I hear the voices of the Birmingham I've come to love. The voices now are of my friends and people working to move the Magic City forward. (Including the ever-awesome Tanya Ott, whose voice is often the first I hear in the morning. How that woman gets up so early! Props to you, Tanya.)

WBHM tells many stories that otherwise wouldn't be told. Last year they brought StoryCorps here, capturing hundreds of personal stories that otherwise may have never been captured. I got to interview my Dad (which I wrote about here). It was an incredible opportunity. 

The list of WBHM contributions goes on and on, but I'll stop here, and simply ask, if you believe in storytelling and Birmingham, please support WBHM. I'd love it if you would consider doing it through my pledge page here

And though I'd be happy to try to make you a pie, you probably wouldn't like the outcome. But I'll buy you a cup of coffee! Let's keep the stories going. 






The How To Do It Encyclopedia 

It's Saturday night and I'm Googling things like "Skin Care for 35 and Up." Oh heyyyy. Let's get this party started, Retinol! 

I feel like I need some anti-aging miracle after this week. It was a long and trying one. When a friend asked how a recent trip went, I told him that it had been more challenging than usual. He said he was suprised by that, because I sounded really upbeat about it from my status updates.

But that's what I do -- I am an editor. I research, report, write, and edit. And then re-edit. (I've written about this subject before, and it's a line I walk daily. What to say, what to keep?)

I try to be positive, posting photos of pork belly tacos (yum) and cool old books. I tell the funny stories of things that happen along the way, even when the laughter comes at my own expense.

Because who wants to read about someone's back hurting as she tries to find an Internet connection in a McDonald's parking lot/hotel room/airport? Who wants to read about the lonely parts? 

Truth: sometimes I'm looking for this (as spotted in a Charlotte bookstore):


And many days I feel like this (also seen in Charlotte):


But that's part of the drill. And the good outweighs the bad.  


Even this week. A week ago tonight the inspiration for the gold shoes met -- Stephanie and Christopher. That's a lot of gold shoe power:


And today we celebrated my nephew Henry's first birthday in Jackson. Happy Birthday Henry!  

Henry's first birthday On our way out of Jackson we ate at Babalu: Babalu

Tomorrow begins a new week. The good outweighs the bad. Let's go. 


What I Learned From Teaching a Food + Writing Workshop to Elementary Students 


Today was Nate's last day of kindergarten. I never got when parents were weepy at the last day of school, or said, "Wow, this year went by so fast." But now I get it. And when I see my friends post about their kids graduating -- from elementary, or middle, or high school -- I want to pat them on the back. It's the parents that do the hard work. OK, the kids studied. Maybe.

I struggled over where to send Nate to school (public v. private). Had a  bad start at the school of choice. But nine months later, I have to say I'm pleased with the education that he's gotten. He's reading and has the critical thinking skills of a champ. 

I learned too this year, both as a parent and as an occasional teacher. Leading a food and writing workshop for third through fifth graders (with a lot of help from my friends Lindsey and Amy, who taught for me days I was out of town), was a lot of fun. We used food as a device to explore creativity, culminating with our final class earlier in this month. 

We made and decorated chocolate covered strawberries and collaborated on a story about how to make said strawberries. Of course I was nervous -- would the chocolate melt properly? Would the kids be excited or think it was lame? 

In the end, they had a blast. So did I. Here's what I learned:

1. You don't have to be an expert to make a difference in the life of a kid -- I am not a food writer. But I know that food is the perfect jumping off point to explore language, and it's a common denominator that transcends all backgrounds. We all have to eat. Most of us like to talk about that. The "curriculum" (part of which included writing stories about Justin Bieber meeting a vegetable and Big Al meeting a Coke can) was quite, how shall we say, "improvised." The kids loved it. 

2. Showing up is half the battle -- Yet I still struggled with this. The four dates for the classes were set in stone. My work schedule is anything but that. So try as I did to arrange things differently, I had to be out of town for two of the classes. My friends Lindsey and Amy went above and beyond to step in and teach for me. (The students loved them and talked about them all year.)

3. Showing up with chocolate is the other half -- I fretted a lot about the foods we'd use. Chocolate wins. Always. 


4. Photographers always get the cool points -- For one session, I brought along a colleague, a talented professional photographer at the magazine. The students thought he was a rock star. The photographers are always the rock stars.


5. Bring lots of wipes. -- And don't forget to enjoy.


Related Links:

Delicious Storytelling