9 Stops to Boston: Get your ‘stacks’ right for NABJ

9 stops to BostonStop 2: Get your stacks up (résumés and business cards, that is).

Yesterday, as part of this 10-part preparation series for the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Boston, I wrote about being present online. Having a multitude of resumes and business cards goes hand-in-hand. Of course, it’s easy for someone to look you up online, but having something tangible makes you more memorable and easier for others to track back to you.

But, before you get your stacks up, you have to make sure your stacks are right.

For business cards:

  • Full name and title (multimedia reporter, photojournalist, etc. Don’t put aspiring. If you do work like a journalist, you are a journalist.)
  • Website. Preferably one that has your name in it and has a .com at the end. (If you have multiple, include one that links to all the others. You don’t want to clutter the card.)
  • Social Media handles. I’d recommend Twitter at the least. If you’re a photographer or visual journalist, you may want to include your Instagram. (Staying consistent with a username across social media also prevents cluttering the card).
  • Don’t get so wrapped up in the design. Remember, less is often more. Leave space on the back; it’s the coolest thing I ever did (see photo below). I wrote a simple: “Hi, I’m Vonecia. You met me at:” in small words across the top and left tons of space where people I meet can write some notes to help them remember me. I also added a QR code, but I honestly don’t think many people utilized it. It did help me stand out though and showed my interest in digital media. On the other hand, you should try to write on the back of every business card you receive. Include where you met them, the conversation you had, or anything that’ll simply help you remember them.
  • ORDER NOW if you haven’t already. It can probably take up to seven business days or more for them to come, or you’ll have to pay more. I usually order mine from VistaPrint. Moo is also a popular spot. Or, you can always be crafty and design and print them yourselves.

biz cards

For résumés:

We all want our résumés to stand out, but remember, that content is still King.

  • Make sure your full name and contact info is big and noticeable at the top. This could mean bolding it or adding some color to it. You may also include your title.
  • Experience is often most important than your education, so have your latest experiences at the top. Make sure you describe the places where you worked. For example, on my résumé, I included that I interned at HOME Magazine in Gainesville. No one probably knows what that is unless they’re from Gainesville or Florida, so I included “a bimonthly lifestyle magazine serving North Central Florida.”
  • Be consistent with fonts, bolding and how you list things. This article on Understanding Typographic Hierarchy explains this well.
  • Be real about your skills. If you’re an expert in something, say that. If you sorta know something, let that be known.

How many should you bring?

UPDATE: Bob Butler, president of NABJ, wrote to me in the comments that paper résumés are almost unnecessary. He said he emails his résumé to himself in the morning and periodically re-sends it to himself. Therefore, it’ll be ready-to-go if he encounters a hiring manager who prefers an electronic copy. To go along with that, I’d suggest keeping a copy uploaded in your Google Drive or Drop Box.


I remember the first year, I printed out about 100 résumés. It was waaay too many lol, and it was a waste of paper. You definitely want to have a few physical copies available– there may be people walking around randomly asking for it– but, I’d say definitely have more business cards on hand. The convention isn’t all about finding a job. It’s simply about making connections (which I’ll talk about in a later post).

And don’t wait until the last minute to print whatever you need to print. If you avoid rushing, you’ll avoid mistakes. Have a person or two proofread it. You may email me at vlcarswell [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll be happy to!

So, are you excited for NABJ yet? If you are, tweet this. And by the way, I’ll be using the hashtag #NABJcountdown on my social media accounts along with the official #NABJ14 one.

Check back to pensandpumps.com for tomorrow’s tip on dressing to impress!


10 Stops to Boston: How to win on the Web for NABJ

10 stops to BostonIn 10 days, I’ll be bouncing to Boston for the National Association of Black Journalists convention, thanks to you some of you for funding me!

This will be my third year attending, and now that I’ve finally gotten the hang of things, I’d like to offer up 10 things, one each for the next 10 days, other young convention goers should stop and consider before arriving.

And whether you’ll be attending this convention or not, keep in mind that these things can apply to any networking event you attend.

Stop 1: Be present with your online presence

These days, if you’re not online, you practically don’t exist. Sounds sad, but it is what it is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. And that doesn’t just mean to simply have a portfolio website. It means getting involved on social media and START. NETWORKING. NOW.

Frequent the #NABJ14 hashtag across social media. See who else is attending and connect with them. During my first convention, I attended multiple webinars and tweet chats in which I reached out to people such as Natalie McNeal, who took me in as her mentee, and she has helped me out tremendously to this day.

Oh, so you don’t do Twitter? You’re not a fan of Facebook?

If you’re opposed to having a specific social media account, that’s somewhat understandable. It can be challenging juggling all of them. But shoot, make one just for the convention. Turn it into a project. Sometimes, you have to go where the people are if you want to get to the people. They aren’t going to always come to you.

Plus, it’ll save you some time once you get to the convention. You’ll already be familiar with some of the attendees, making it easier to connect when you finally do meet in person. Try to remember names. That way, if you see someone walking down the hallway, you can call them by his or her name, and that’ll be a great first impression!

Furthermore, once people do find out about you, they will be all over Google. Make sure your online portfolio, LinkedIn, etc. is always on point:

  • Updated headline/bio that includes who you are, what you do and/or what you want to do
  • Links on links on links. (No broken ones though! Triple check ‘em)
  • Nice front-facing headshot. Something that actually looks like you. No heavy makeup. No bare shoulders that give the illusion that you’re naked.
  • Free from errors. Have someone look over your sites. No matter how many times you look over it yourself, you’re likely to miss something. Let a fresh pair of eyes see it.

I’m actually revamping my portfolio website now, and it’s not how I want it to be yet, but even if you are changing things around like I am or don’t have a lot of content, make sure you always have something up that is presentable and informs others about what you’re currently up to. Consider including a Twitter feed or something that stays “fresh” on the homepage. I’m not gonna lie, I snoop on people’s sites all year round, and I’m not even an employer, so just imagine…

Did I miss anything? Sound off in the comments below!

And if you’re excited about preparing for the convention, tweet this. By the way, I’ll be using the hashtag #NABJcountdown on my social media accounts.

Check back to pensandpumps.com for tomorrow’s tip!


The joys of being your own canvas

IMG_2068-eA lot of times, artists look to use others to help them make things happen when they have a grand idea. But the best canvas can be yourself.

I remember attending the Blogging While Brown conference last year in New York City, and Necole Kane said she got where she is now by using her skills on herself. She initially found it difficult (like many of us journos fresh out of college) to get full-time jobs working for other companies, so she started a blog to utilize her skills and brand herself. After proving that she could establish her own strong brand with her own skills, she knew she would have no problem doing the same for others.

If you can do it well for yourself, you can do it even better for someone else.

The ideal goal is to perform work for others and build clientele, but sometimes you have to build rapport with yourself.

Lately, as a photographer, it hasn’t been that easy to recruit someone to work with, and I have been sooo anxious to shoot. To solve that problem, I became my own model. (You can view the photos at the bottom of this post.)

Being your own canvas can be a challenge, but it comes with great benefits:

  • Forced to be creative. It may get boring working with yourself all the time, but it forces you to be creative, which is always a good thing! Don’t wait for “subjects” to come around. You’ll lose your stamina doing that.
  • Trial-and-error. You can mess up without making someone angry lol. Take advantage of trying new things on yourself, so when you finally get to work on others, you’ll be less likely to make mistakes.
  • Peace of mind. You don’t have to wait on anyone, and no one’s telling you what to do or what to change. You have the freedom to do whatever you want to do!

Let me know what you think about my shoot, and I’d love to hear about your experiences using yourself as a canvas!

IMG_2017-henry IMG_2025-henry IMG_2039-e

I shot these in a living room at around 7 p.m. Lighting is usually best at the first and last hours of the day, so I used natural lighting from two windows. One was right in front of me, and one was diagonally in front of me to my right. I made sure to position the blinds in a direction where the light was aiming directly at me. I also had an umbrella light stand handy to fill in any shadows on my face. It was placed to the right, so that’s why in most of the photos, you see me facing to my right.


I shot these in a garage. I utilized my off-camera flash because the lighting was really dim in there and it was dark outside, so I no longer had natural lighting to work with. Usually when it’s dark, people crank the ISO up a bit, but I kept mine at a minimum because I was using flash and photos usually come out grainier the higher the ISO.

IMG_2074-e IMG_2075-e IMG_2076-e

I used one light for these shots (my umbrella light stand). I ceased to use the flash because I wanted to capture an intimate mood. I kept the ISO at a low here too.


Pens and Pumps + Modish Affairs for youth empowerment

Pens and Pumps and Modish Affairs collaboration

VaVa Charlie, of Modish Affairs magazine, and Vonecia Carswell, of Pens and Pumps (Aziza Ramsey photography)

Our youth begins with you…

I partnered up with VaVa Charlie of Modish Affairs magazine for a #BeYou campaign, encouraging others to empower youth by sharing their beauty and unique abilities despite troubling times in their past.

“It’s our responsibility to reach back and support, encourage and strengthen our youth– not to soak in what happened or what should’ve happened, but to use our knowledge and wisdom to empower them,” says Charlie. “Use the gifts that you have and use your life experiences to change someone else’s life.”

Every experience happens for a reason.

We’re not saying hold onto your past, but use what it has taught you and where it has brought you to uplift someone else, which will also give you a greater sense of victory.

Whether it is by simply being a good role model– practicing what you preach– going back to speak at your high school or mentoring a child, you have abilities that can enhance the capabilities of our youth.

We hope you will join us as we say “peace” to our past and hello to a future that lasts because you are beYOUtiful. You are YOUnique.

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Feel free to share how you have already reached back to our youth, and if you need assistance in creating a public platform to share your stories, email pensandpumps@gmail.com.


Dance Africa like no one’s watching (VIDEO)

My definition of dance was totally ripped apart after I attended the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Dance Africa street festival last month.

The four-day event, held during Memorial Day weekend, returned for its 37th year and spread nothing but positive vibes. There was food and fashion galore, but it was the beat of the drums that truly made the block come alive.

These people knew how to get DOWHN! Even the babies! O_o  LOL.


This borough has become my favorite spot for entertainment. The community events always feel like a family affair.  If you missed it, fam, don’t worry! Check out a few photos below, and click here for similar upcoming events curated by I Don’t Do Clubs.

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“Stripe Out”- featuring Jeffrey Campbell Matara Sandals

Pens and Pumps:

Happy Monday, everyone! Let’s start the week off with some fresh inspiration. I’d like to introduce you to Christina, of Just Missed the Runway. I met her a few months ago in Brooklyn, and she has never ceased to amaze me with her style and her spirit. This look is by far one of my faves. It’s so clean, yet it pops! Follow her for more fabulous looks– well, I like to call it sophisticated funk!

Originally posted on JUST MISSED THE RUNWAY:


I went to my favorite restaurant in the whole world- Cheesecake Factory on Saturday which automatically put me in a fabulous mood. It was quite warm out so I decided to go for an almost all white look. This J. Crew top is pretty cool, as the sleeves fold and button up to your preference. I paired it with this striped mesh skirt from a boutique called Dor L’ Dor.

Can you believe the skirt was on sale for $19.99? It’s such a unique piece, with an exposed zipper trailing down the middle. My bag is from Forever 21.

I love these Jeffrey Campbell Matara Sandals because its unique and patent leather. I got so many compliments when I wore them!


Top: J. Crew (Similar Here) // Skirt: via Dor L’ Dor (Loveee this!) // Sandals: Jeffrey Campbell (Here and Here) // Bag: Forever 21 (Try this

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So what you don’t have money? What are you going to do about it?

National Association of Black Journalists convention

[Vonecia Carswell Photo - July 21, 2013]

For the past two years, I’ve been attending the National Association of Black Journalists convention, and it has been a huge blessing in helping me get where I am today.

This year, however, I was unable to afford it as a recent college grad living on intern pay in a big city. (The previous years, I was funded through my school.)

I initially lost all hope of attending the convention and kept giving everyone the excuse that I didn’t have money, but I should have been asking myself: “What am I going to do about it?”

This didn’t hit me until another one of my many friends asked me would I be there, and she wasn’t taking that excuse. She said I could crash in her room and encouraged me to start a GoFundMe page to raise money. Within 10 minutes later, it was up and running, and just in its third day, I’m already a third of the way to my goal!

We shouldn’t let our financial status stop us from fulfilling our dreams. There are resources and people out there who want to help and see us succeed just as much as we want to ourselves.

I am so grateful that I have friends who care so much about my professional development, and I encourage you to encourage your friends to find alternate ways to bring their wishes to life if the money actin’ funny. Whether it’s by holding a fundraiser, volunteering or entering a contest, there is a way to eventually get what you want. You just gotta work harder for it.

If you’d like to help me get to Boston for the National Association of Black Journalists convention, click the button below. There, you can also read more about why the convention is so special to me.

You are greatly appreciated!