Friday, July 19, 2013

Get To Know: Shawndra Russell

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Self-described Savannah advocate, Shawndra Russell is a social media maverick and author of one of our favorite reads, Couple Friends. She's got some great advice for aspiring authors in her brand new e-guide, How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days, and is a craft brew expert if you need a new beer suggestion.  Shawndra is pretty awesome...and we'll forgive her for being a Cleveland Browns fan...Get To Know a little bit about Shawndra Russell below:

Founder, Shawndra Russell Communications
Author of Couple Friends
Freelance Writer, Researcher, Social Media Expert

CLUTTER FURNISHINGS AND INTERIORS: What drew you to the world of social media relations?
SHAWNDRA RUSSELL: 2 years ago, I took a leap of faith and quit my job teaching so I could become a full-time freelance writer. To do so, I quickly learned that I needed to be active on social media to promote myself and my work as well as connect with editors and media outlets that might hire me. I also spent two years as a marketing director for an international travel company right out of grad school, so I had that background and realized that social media is just a condensed form of storytelling. It's not supposed to be sales-y, but so many businesses use it basically as another advertising platform, when really it's a conversation. I knew I knew I could help business do better jobs at sharing their stories, and I love helping small business owners -- particularly Savannah and lifestyle-related businesses -- grow their audiences and teach them how to adapt to the changing online world.

CF&I: What is your favorite social media medium?
SR: I love Twitter. It's my go-to source when it comes to finding out what people around the world think about a particular topic. And so many people that I follow share amazing content that I might not have discovered myself. It's my newspaper. Plus, it's so easy to use and affords me the chance to interact with people that I might never have been able to reach through other platforms -- I was ecstatic when Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City) followed me back!

We're also big Cleveland Browns Fans -- I'm from Ohio -- and it's hilarious reading other fans' real-time reactions to plays and coaching decisions when a game is on.  I feel like I'm watching the game with a million friends. Twitter is awesome for events; I've actually live-tweeted several such as Savannah Stopover, Geekend, TedxCC, etc. and would be thrilled to see more businesses utilize the power of hiring someone like me to cover special events, conferences, openings, etc.

CF&I: As a writer, who are your influences?
SR: I gravitate to stories about human relationships of all kinds -- familial, love, friendship, self, etc. For my fiction (Couple Friends, my first published novel, was released last year and has a Savannah setting), I'm influenced by Nora Ephron, Lauren Weisberger, Emily Giffin, Jane Green, Claire Cook, Candace Bushnell. For nonfiction, I've really been getting into business books as I grow my business so I read Alexis Grant, Michael Port, and Jay Baer for guidance. But I learn from all genres and types of writers that are just plain masters at what they do, like Jack Kerouac, Markus Zusak, J.R. Moehringer, and Suzanne Collins. 

CF&I: What is your go-to, read over and over, recommend-to-friends book?
SR: I don't read books more than once because there are too many good books out there! But for anyone coming to Savannah for the first time, I always recommend Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I didn't read it until I'd already moved here, but it gives such a great glimpse into our city. I also used to teach One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, On the Road, and The Book Thief, all must-reads. But for fun, I recommend anything by Nora Ephron. She's hilarious and has such spot-on social commentary; I watch When Harry Met Sally at least a couple of times every year.

CF&I: When can we expect your next novel to hit the shelves?
SR: Actually I have two e-guides that will come out before my second novel, Keepsakes, is published (also about love and friendship like Couple Friends). The two e-guides are career-related: Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days will be out in July, and the other is a crash course in social media for small business. All three should be released before the end of the year, and I'm hoping to squeeze in a fourth -- it will be a nonfiction title, which was inspired by Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and will celebrate inspiring career women.

CF&I: What is your guilty pleasure?
SR: Craft beer. My husband and I love to try and all craft beers, and we are the beer geeks who basically only order beers we've never tried even if the bar of restaurant we're at has our favorite brew on hand.

CF&I: Describe yourself in five words.
SR: Optimistic, adventurous, travel-obsessed, Savannah advocate.

Find Shawndra Russell on Twitter and check out her blog for even more SR.  

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