It’s Day #8 of the Digital Sisterhood Book 11 Day Countdown Campaign. Today’s blog post features an excerpt from Chapter 11 of Ananda Leeke’s new book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online. The title of Chapter 11 is Finding My Tribe of Digital Sisters. Enjoy!
Chapter Eleven: Finding My Tribe of Digital Sisters (Copyright 2013 by Madelyn C. Leeke)
“The new world of online media, social media, blogs, and virtual communities has brought like-minded women closer together than ever before.” Joanne Bamberger, author of Mothers of Intention: How Women & Social Media Are Revolutionizing Politics in America
Throughout my online journey, I have discovered my tribe of digital sisters on social networking sites that focus on niche areas, blogs that maintain an active and supportive audience, and at conferences, events, and meet ups.
Finding My Tribe on Social Networking Sites
After I published Love’s Troubadours, I realized I needed the support of women entrepreneurs who were using the Internet to market and grow their businesses. One of my friends from Black Author Showcase networking site gave me a link to the Black Business Women Online (BBWO), an online network for African-American female entrepreneurs established by LaShanda Henry, an author, web entrepreneur and work-at-home mother.
When Henry launched BBWO, she worked hard to build and encourage a strong sense of community. She made sure the site was filled with an abundance of blogs, discussion forums, groups, and videos that provided information, resources, and training tools to support entrepreneurs at all levels in their businesses. She even added her own e-books including some of my personal favorites, Black Women Online, Create Your Own Ningalicious Network, and Internet Marketing Power.
Today, BBWO is home to over 9,000 members who are some of the most diverse and successful women entrepreneurs. They are unique because they support other women business owners as they promote their businesses. That means they share advice, connect other women to people in their networks, and purchase each other’s products and services. Pam Perry, a PR coach, BlogTalkRadio show host, social media strategist, and chief visionary at Ministry Marketing Solutions, Inc., and Jai Stone, founder of TheBrandCoach.com, are two great examples of BBWO members who give back to the community.
When I started using BBWO on a weekly basis, I read Perry’s articles and watched her videos that were packed with information and strategies that helped me to serve as my own publicist and tap into my network for PR support. One of the biggest treats I got was meeting her in person during the 2010 Blogalicious Weekend Conference where she facilitated an informative session on how to use blogs to market your book and build a tribe. Since then, I have faithfully watched her YouTube channel, listened to her BlogTalkRadio show, and read her blog, SlideShare presentations, tweets, and Facebook status updates for additional advice.
Stone’s strategies on how build a brand and gain brand recognition through the use of social media were instrumental in helping me identify and express my brand in the digital space. In 2012, I finally had a chance to meet her at the Digitini blogger meet up sponsored by Everywhere, a social media firm, in Atlanta. I was able to personally thank her for helping me develop my brand and business. We reconnected and had a peer mentoring session a few months later during the Shop Your Way “Fashionista” Afternoon Tea at the Blogalicious Weekend Conference in Las Vegas.
Finding My Tribe in Blog Communities
While I was writing my memoir, That Which Awakens Me, I discovered Pink Heels, a blog established by Jennifer Moore, a business and career coach and yoga teacher, to empower women to find their passion in their business, career, and lives. Moore’s blog was a cozy digital sanctuary that often found me sipping tea as I read blog posts. Each week, her blog featured interviews with inspiring women including artists, authors, branding specialists, business owners, coaches, marketing consultants, tech professionals, and yoga teachers. They offered best practices and wisdom on a variety of topics.
The Pink Heels blog community was very friendly, helpful, open, positive, and welcoming. They were generous with their kind, insightful, and witty comments. They asked and answered questions and offered feedback that included tons of information, life lessons, and resources. That’s why it was so easy for me to join in the fun!
Through the Pink Heels community, I met women who became my peer mentors. They included Tara Joyce, communication designer, founder of The Rise of the Innerpreneur blog, and writer; Leah Piken Kolidas, founder of Art Every Day Month, an annual art challenge that encourages bloggers to add more creativity to their daily lives by inviting them to make art and post it on their blogs each day in November, and Creative Every Day blog; Jennifer Lee, author, coach, and founder of Artizen Coaching and Life Unfolds blog; and Jamie Ridler, creative living coach and founder of Jamie Ridler Studios and The Next Chapter, an online book blogging group.
Joyce’s Rise of the Innerpreneur blog helped me embrace my identity as an innerpreneur, a person who uses her business to find personal fulfillment and satisfaction through her work. Her blog posts provided resources and tips that guided me in redesigning my business’ mission so that it aligned with my personal growth goals. Her monthly profiles introduced me to a community of like-minded innerpreneurs who shared how they were redefining and achieving success on their own terms.
Kolidas’ Art Every Day Month (AEDM) challenge was just what the art doctor ordered for me in 2008. I was in the middle of making a collection of artwork for That Which Awakens Me and reached a point where I was overthinking my creative process and taking myself way too seriously. My joie de vivre in making art was nonexistent. I needed to rediscover my creative play mojo. So I dived deep into Art Every Day Month and abandoned my thinking cap. I purchased a small sketch book, crayons, magic markers, glue sticks, and construction paper from CVS and placed them in my purse so I could create art on the go. I made whatever my heart felt called to create. I stopped judging my process, criticizing my artwork, and proudly took photos of my artwork and posted them on my author blog and the AEDM Flickr group. Each week, I visited the AEDM blog and Flickr group to read about other bloggers’ creative experiences. I also left comments on their blogs. They began leaving comments on mine. I noticed how our comments created a kindred bond. By the end of the month, my creative heart was wide open.
Lee used her Life Unfolds blog to express her creative heart’s journey from Corporate America to a more authentic life as an artist, author, coach, and entrepreneur. It remains one of my favorite blogs to read. When I first started reading it, I was inspired by how she used her yoga practice and intuitive painting to take better care of herself; reviewed books that gave her golden nuggets of wisdom to share with her blog audience; received guidance and support from her team of advisors, a personal coach, business coach, and mentors; participated in Kolidas’ AEDM Challenge and Jamie Ridler’s The Next Chapter online book blogging group for community and inspiration; utilized collage techniques to chart her goals and develop a vision of her first book, The Right Brain Business Plan: A Creative Visual Map for Success; and shared how she was coping with her book writing process. My connection with Lee was strengthened when we commented on each other’s blogs, discussed her creative journey on my Go Green Sangha Radio show, and had dinner at Teaism while she was visiting D.C.
Joining Ridler’s The Next Chapter online book blogging group was directly influenced by Lee’s earlier participation. Ridler organized the book blogging group by setting up a blog that served as a community gatherings space for women bloggers. They were free to visit, post comments about their experiences and takeaways, ask and respond to questions. The group read a series of creative and self-development books, ranging in topics from creativity to spirituality to money.
The book blogging group was reading 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin when I joined in January 2009. At the time, I was in search of a community that could encourage and support me as I finished writing That Which Awakens Me. Even though I read McMeekin’s book when it was first published in 2000, reading it with the group was more powerful because we were committed to sharing how each chapter impacted us and our creative journey for twelve weeks in a row. Each week when I read the blog posts written by my fellow group members, I learned I was not the only one who experienced a range of highs and lows during the creative process. I also learned how to take better care of myself and nurture my authentic expression.
The next two books that we read included Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith, a book that encouraged the spirit of play and silliness in art making, and The Joy Diet by Martha Beck, a book that helped me identify, embrace, forgive, listen to, and set healthy boundaries with my inner critic. I continued to use the book blogging group as a source of support during my final editing process for That Which Awakens Me.
Finding My Tribe at Conferences
2009 marked the year I witnessed the power of women in social media in real time. It started with an email I received from my digital sister, Jessica Solomon, founder of The Saartjie Project, about the Feminism 2.0 Conference (Fem 2.0). After visiting the Fem 2.0 web site and learning that it was a pro bono project of Turner Strategies that examined the presence and power of women online, and the connection between new media and women’s advocacy, I made the decision to attend the conference.
Fem 2.0 conference organizers worked with 14 women’s organizations, new media entities, and online networks to produce a one-day conference that took place on February 2, 2009, at George Washington University in D.C. Their efforts gathered over 250 diverse women of African, Asian, European, and Latina descent. It was truly powerful to witness the interaction of every generation of modern womanhood: baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and millennials. Women who defined and embraced their own definition of feminist, womanist, and empowered woman were present. Women who chose not to identify with any labels were also there.
During the conference, I attended the “At the Cross Roads: Organizing the Next Generation of Feminists Online and Off” session. The energy surrounding the conversations in that session reminded me of the conversations I had with women during the UN Conference for Women in 1995. It was inspiring to watch women having a “meeting of minds” across generations and media platforms. I carried this feeling with me throughout the rest of the conference. When I ended my day, I realized I had found a community of sisters and tapped into a powerful network of women online.
You can purchase Digital Sisterhood on Amazon.com.
If you are in Washington, D.C. on October 19, please plan to attend Ananda’s author talk and book reading from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street, NW (three blocks from the U Street/Cardozo Green Line Metro Station). Click here to register for the event. See you on October 19th!