Get To Know Our Speaker: Abby from Twist Me Pretty

Twist Me Pretty

Hello there!  My name is Abby and I blog over at Twist Me Pretty.  I have two small children and our days consist of dance parties in the living room, Mickey Mouse pancakes and an unhealthy amount of Batman legos and little people princesses!  Boston and Savy are my whole world.  My blog started as a hobby.  It was my nap time escape where I could turn on my creativity and feel that wonderful satisfaction you get from designing or creating something.

My success as a blogger started with my thirty do's in thirty days segment.  I was seeing fashion bloggers all over the place blog and be successful posting pictures of themselves and their outfits. I thought, man, I wish someone would do this for hairstyles!  And the light bulb just went on.

A year and a half later my blog has grown from 50 followers to 4,300 followers.  I have released and sold over 3,000 copies of my hairstyle ebook.  That ebook is now being published and distributed by Amazon where my book sales are pushing 800 per month.  This "hobby" has become my part time job and our only paycheck.  I don't know everything there is no know about blogging or making and marketing ebooks, but I do hope to be able to share with you a few of the things I've learned along my journey!  If there is a need, your books will sell and you will make money doing something that you love!

I am so excited and super nervous to meet you this Saturday!!  If you'd like to learn more about me you can visit me at Twist Me Pretty or follow me on Instagram @twistmepretty

Get To Know Our Speaker: Ashton from Something Swanky Desserts & Designs

Hi there! I'm Ashton from Something Swanky Desserts & Designs. And I am over-the-moon excited to be speaking about DIY Blog Design at the Build Your Blog Conference in two weeks!  Can you believe it's coming up so soon?? Wow!

I want to tell you a little bit about me and my blogging "experience"so that you'll have a better understanding of the perspective I'll be taking when speaking to you at the conference, which is: you don't need need a fancy design degree or expensive software to create a blog design that is beautiful, functional, and completely custom!

Here's the deal: I have absolutely no formal training, education, or experience in web and/or graphic design.  None. And, to be completely honest with you, I can't even find my way around Photoshop. It makes
me dizzy. I am completely, 100% self taught.

Still interested?

I've evolved quite a bit as a blogger and as a designer. My site, Something Swanky, was originally meant to be a website for my home-based cupcake catering business. But as I began to network and get to know other bloggers, I became completely engrossed in the blogging community and wanted to be more involved. So I broadened my blog to include all dessert recipes. It wasn't long before I stopped catering all together in order to focus 100% on blogging. As I searched for ways to drive up my traffic, I realized my blog was seriously lacking something really, crucially important: a good design.

I hired a designer. And she did a wonderful job creating a very cute look for my blog. But within a week of making that purchase, I found myself itching to move things around again, and to adjust this element or that. I knew I couldn't afford to hire a designer every time I wanted a change. As my husband and I live on a pretty modest
still-in-school income, I couldn't afford to buy some fancy illustrating program to create my own graphics either (even if I had known what I was doing)!

So I began to dig around Google, just doing simple searches for things like, "how to make a blog button?" and "why won't my header center?" and "what's the best way to organize my blog layout?" It didn't take long before I had a pretty decent grasp on how to use HTML in blogger.  I could put the different blog elements where I wanted them, and could even manipulate some of them to be a little more custom.

My next big challenge was, how do I make this design LOOK GOOD and look like ME?

And that's when rocked my world.

PicMonkey is an online photo editing site. Many of their tools are free, but you can sign up for a monthly membership (they'll have a yearly subscription soon too) to access even more of their awesome stuff. Every design I create is done in PicMonkey, and I big, fat, puffy heart them!

Why? Because I don't feel like a moron on their site. Because I can use their tools without needing to learn some special graphics language. It's super user friendly and very intuitive. And once you know one tiny, little technique-- the blog design world is totally at your fingertips!

So what is this magical technique I speak of? I don't exactly have a name for it, but I've heard it called "white washing." White washing is awesome. It's an easy way to create a blank "canvas" for any design. All you need is one white washed image to keep on your desktop, and using the overlays and text features on <a
PicMonkey you can use it for all sorts of designs-- from headers to social media icons!

Here's how you do it:

Step 1: Go to

Step 2: Upload ANY photo. It doesn't matter which photo, just pick one :)

Step 3: Click on "Overlays"; Geometric; select the rectangle shape, and change the color to white.

Step 4: Stretch the rectangle to cover the entire photo, and click on "merge."

(Note: the location of the "merge" button has moved to the top center of the screen since I took this screen shot)

Step 5: Save this photo to your desktop and name it something you'll recognize, like "blank" or "white." Naming it will also ensure that you don't accidentally replace your original photo with a white rectangle!

Now, any time you want to add a new element to your blog, you can open up this "photo" (be sure to re-size it to the specific dimensions needed for your element) and start designing!

Here are a few of the design tutorials on my blog that use this trick as a starting point:

Get to Know Our Speaker: Kari from U-Create Crafts

We are beyond excited to be speaking at the Build Your Blog conference and can't wait to meet YOU.   
Becky, Danielle, and I blog over at U-Create Crafts, where you'll find thousands of free tutorials and patterns in home decor, crafts, parties, kids crafts, recipes, and more!

What will you learn in our class?

 When I started U-Create there were a handful of crafty bloggers and fast forward to 2013....there are literally thousands.  Blogging has become a career for so many and the competition to be seen or STAND OUT is becoming more difficult.

We’ll share some fabulous ways to put on your blog so you can get noticed in a crowded niche. Topics include…

Content Strategy
Getting featured/exposure

U-Create Q&A

1. Why did you start a blog?
Purely selfish purposes. I started a blog in 2008 as a way to collect FREE {are you kidding me?}  tutorials on the web without taking up storage space on my computer.  Word slowly spread that I shared "cute" things and next thing I knew I was gaining what were called "followers".

2. How long have you been blogging?
5 years. Ucreate was born in 2008 when there were only a handful of crafty bloggers!

3. Who is your inspiration?
I cannot tell you enough how inspired I get from the amazing bloggers who submit their projects to me daily. I find myself constantly saying, "that is a genius idea" or "how do people think of that"? I am truly blown away by the talent in this blogging world.

4. Hobbies other than blogging?
I am a 100% book nerd. I always have a book with me {you never know when you'll have the chance to be bored or your car might break down right?} I love to read young adult fiction, religious, classics, etc.  I also have a passion for traveling, marketing, and creating all different types of craft projects!

5. What is one thing you wish you had known when you started your blog?
Just because everybody else is blogging a certain way does not mean you need to do the same in order to be successful.  In the beginning I became worried about what "the right way to blog" there one? I was caught up in SEO tactics {that are constantly changing by the way}, social media platforms {ya, there are a gazillion out there}, bloggin hosts, etc.  Sure their are great tips that can help, but when it comes down to it nothing compares to rockin' awesome content!

6. Who is your celebrity crush?
Hmmm....I don't really have one, but I will not deny that Blake Shelton is super handsome!!!

Make sure you register to come to the Build Your Blog Conference because its going to be filled with so much great blogging knowledge and advice.  We can't wait to meet you there!

Get to Know Our Speaker: Heidi from Foodie Crush

In early 2012 I was talking with my friend Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod about cookies. Her cookies in particular. Maria and I had been talking for a while about creating a project together outside of the blog, something that be of interest to her readers and possibly generate new revenue for the both of us. So we decided to create an ecookbook, and Cookie Cravings was born. Did we think we'd make money? We hoped so, but we had no idea. But we knew that just by creating a new product to talk about, promote and offer our readers would benefit our businesses whether we made $5 or $5,000. 

With traditional print publishing changing daily, self-publishing is a hot topic.Self-publishing your own ebook can be a rewarding experience, both financially and creatively and the tools to do so have never been more readily available than they are today. In the land of self publishing you can cut out the middle man—editors, publishers, distributors—and create the content YOU want to create, the content your audience is eager to pay for. Your book is in your control.

Maria and I are thrilled to be speaking at the Build Your Blog Conference, and we're even more excited to share the strategies of how we created Cookie Cravings, and it's follow-up ecookbook Holiday Cookie Cravings

We'll answer the questions you might be asking yourself right now:

Why should I create and ebook and what should it be about? 

How do I schedule my time to create it along with the other projects I have on my day to day plate? 

Which format should it be in? 

What's the production process and how long does it take? 

How big should it be? 

Should I work with a designer or collaborate with another blogger? 

How do I get it to the customer?

How much should I charge? 

How do I promote it once it's done?

So, should YOU write an ebook? Maybe, maybe not. But from our in-person discussion you'll learn all of the ins and outs of what it takes to do so, have your own questions answered and decide for yourself.


1. Why do you start a blog? 
I had a blog before starting FoodieCrush, a document of my husband and I remodeling our home, but time got in the way and I quit updating it in 2008. As a magazine Creative Director and photographer, I became a fan of blogs in their early stages and quickly became enamored with several food blogs. I realized there was a niche to be filled in showcasing the talented food bloggers beyond the blog and thought it would be cool to start an online magazine about them, featuring their lifestyle, recipes and photography. I started my blog FoodieCrush because I quickly realized that in order for me to connect with food bloggers, I had to become one of them, build an audience to introduce myself to them and build an audience that wanted to learn more about them. 

2. How long have you been blogging?
I'll be celebrating FoodieCrush's two year anniversary in April 2013 and the magazine's in June. 

3. Who is your inspiration? 
My inspiration stems from my family. First my mom because she is my number one fan, amazingly encouraging yet realistic and has instilled in me from the time I was a nugget that hard work will get you everywhere. When creating recipes I love the suggestions that my daughter provides. As an 8 year old her perspective is fresh and honest, and gets me away from focusing on what's trolling around the web and Pinterest, and instead create recipes that just. taste. good. 

4. Hobbies other than blogging?
Well, even though I'm a food blogger and recipe developer, I still love to cook! I love skiing with my daughter and husband, snuggling with my dogs and traveling to create new memories to last a lifetime. 

5. What is one thing you wish you had know when you started your blog?
It's pretty much the same thing I wish I knew now. CSS and HTML. I'm a designer, but I am not a coder. My life would be so much easier if I had time to immerse myself and learn it so I could customize my site the way I want to see it. 

6. Who is your celebrity crush?
It used to be Brad Pitt, hands down. But I feel like he jumped the shark when he hooked up with Angelina. These days I'm more of a Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights played by Taylor Kitsch fan. His character is totally hot. Actors who are self effacing with beautiful smiles get me too, so Bradley Cooper and Tim MacGraw are nipping at Tim's heels.  

Heidi Larsen is the founder, editor, creative director and chief dish washer of FoodieCrush, the online magazine and blog featuring food bloggers, their recipes and photography. With over 20 years of publishing experience creating and photographing content ranging from health and fitness, home and interiors, celebrity profiles and most recently as Creative Director for Salt Lake Magazine, Utah Bride & Groom and Utah Style & Design, Heidi has now set her sights on celebrating food bloggers and the virtual buffet they deliver across the world wide web. In addition to creating content for her online magazine FoodieCrush, Heidi is a food photographer and stylist, recipe developer, digital ebook content creator, designer and adjunct university professor. She is also the co-creator of the Cookie Cravings eCookbook series. Heidi has received publication awards from the Society of Publication Designers, Folio, HOW and the Maggies. Her work has been featured on The Kitchn, Saveur, Gourmet Live, Bon Appetit, PBS Food, Huffington Post Food, Mint Design Blog, Say Media, Foodista, Matchbook Mag and Babble. Heidi lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, daughter and their three rescue mutts, all of whom make occasional appearances on FoodieCrush.   

vine: @foodiecrush