Helen Dujardin never thought she'd be penning a cookbook. Sure, the French ex-pat loves to make pastries, but with no formal culinary training, a career as a food writer seemed like a distant dream.
That all changed when Dujardin launched a blog, tartelette.blogspot.com.
She began posting humorous baking anecdotes, recipes and lush photos of her kitchen masterpieces on the Web.
"The blog grew and grew until I was getting 5,000 hits a day," said Dujardin.
When her site caught the eye of an editor at Fleming Ink last year, Dujardin was offered a book deal. She's still marveling at her good luck.
Plenty of other women are jumping on the blogging bandwagon. According to a 2008 Social Media Study conducted by BlogHer and Compass Partners, 15.1 million women in the U.S. are publishing at least one blog post each week. Many are hoping that, like Dujardin, their blog will lead to some form of success.
There is a lot to be gained by those who write and maintain their own Web sites. A well-known blog can be the catalyst for fame, career advancement and financial success. Plus, there are no start-up costs. Anyone with Internet access and a dash of ambition can launch a blog using free host sites such as Wordpress and Blogspot.
From parenting blogs to sites that trace the latest fashion trends, the Lowcountry is home to a handful of standout bloggers. These five women have created unusual sites that are updated frequently.
If you like what you see here, check them out on Moxie, where you can launch a blog of your own.
When Nikki Seibert, 26, sold her gas-guzzling sedan and bought a bike, it raised a few eyebrows. Friends were wondering how the West Ashley resident would manage without a car. Seibert is a graduate student, and her classes are downtown. She also works at the Sea Island Habitat for Humanity office on Johns Island.
"I'm not just a student who lives downtown and bikes a few places," said Seibert. "I have work and school, and I need to be there on time. It's important."
The biker got so many questions about her lifestyle change that she launched a blog to chronicle the journey, livingcar-free.blogspot.com.
Seibert's transition hasn't been easy. She's written about being sunburned, sweaty and late for class. She's even been run off the road by cars. But those are just minor inconveniences. Seibert is more focused on the positives, such as the new group of friends she's met through biking and blogging. Plus, she's busy saving the world from harmful carbon emissions.
"In sharing this, I might inspire somebody else to do the same," she said.
Caroline Millard, 20, already has launched one successful blog. Now she's ready for another. As the writer and editor of holycitystyle.wordpress.com, Millard posted daily about Charleston's social and fashion scene. At its peak, the site was getting 500 hits a day.
This past summer, Millard began to scale back on blogging.
"I was tired of telling people what to wear and what to do," said Millard.
She began to study personal blogs, visiting Web sites where people wrote about their daily lives.
Inspired, the College of Charleston senior launched a new site, thisiscaroline.com. The fashionista still posts about style, but "This is Caroline" also chronicles Millard's life.
"People are inherently interested in what other people are doing," she explained.
Millard also considers her Web site as a big boost to her resume. She landed a summer internship at the Charleston-based PR firm Rawle Murdy partly because of her successful blog.
"Blogging puts you apart from the crowd and shows employers you have initiative," she said. "It's great for anyone who wants to market themselves professionally."
Conseula Francis is not your typical mommy blogger. On her Web site, afrogeekmom.blogspot.com, the English professor and mother of two addresses the serious challenges of being a black parent in what she describes as a "predominately white world."
Although she scoured the Web for parenting blogs, Francis couldn't find a site that tackled the issues she was interested in.
"I wanted a space to express my frustration about wanting to find children's books with little black people in them, or a space to write about my daughter being the only black kid in her class," she said.
The blog is also a place for Francis to celebrate her self-proclaimed geekiness, including a penchant for "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" and obscure comic books.
"Afrogeek Mom" has led to a few new friends for Francis as well as a recurring freelance writing gig with a local publication.
"Toni Morrison said you should write the book you want to read," said Francis. "So I'm writing the blog I want to read."
For Susan Lucas, blogging is a full-time job. But it hasn't always been that way.
Until last year, Lucas was the owner and operator of The French Hare, a home decor shop at 418 King St. She wanted to start a blog to promote her store, along with other local businesses.
"One little locally owned store can't afford a big advertising plan or have a big Web presence," said Lucas. "Together, I knew we could attract some traffic."
The marketing-savvy businesswoman coined the moniker "Upper King Design District" and launched the site upperkingdesigndistrict.com.
Each participating business pays a small membership fee to be featured on the blog. The site is updated daily with drink specials, sales and other happenings on King Street north of Calhoun.
It's safe to say that the project has been a runaway success. Since her site launched, the Design District has become the Holy City's hippest shopping area, and the site gets around 7,000 visits each day. In the past few months, the district has been featured favorably by CNN and Southern Living magazine.
Earlier this year, Lucas closed her shop to manage the site full time. She's also launched two similar blogs, one for the Lower King Antique District (lowerkingantiquedistrict.com) and another for the Middle King Fashion District (kingstreetfashiondistrict.com).
"This is all about people having a very inexpensive shared ad source with their neighbors," said Lucas.
The Pastry Chef
"I have a passion for baking," said Dujardin, 33. "I literally breathe it and dream it."
When she's not dreaming about petits fours, the Provence, France, native is writing about them on tartelette.blogspot.com.
Dujardin's attractive photos and snappy food writing skills have helped her build a sizable fan base. More than 5,000 readers flock to the site daily, snapping up recipes for elegant treats such as Algerian Almond Tarts and Persimmons Tarte Tatins.
Launched in 2005, the blog has led to a full-time freelance career for Dujardin in food styling, writing and photography. She's busy writing a cookbook to be published next year by Fleming Ink, and frequently contributing to the online magazine Desserts.
The baker couldn't be happier with her unexpected success.
"I love my job," she said. "It feels like Christmas every morning."
Caroline Millard runs her personal Web site from her downtown apartment.×
Conseula Francis, an English professor at the College of Charleston, writes about topics as varied as motherhood, Kwanzaa and Indiana Jones on her blog.×
Susan Lucas writes and maintains three Web sites devoted to promoting King Street. Here, she composes a blog post while sitting at the bar at Fish Restaurant.×
More than 5,000 readers visit Helen Dujardin's baking blog each day. Above, she whips up a batch of petite madeleine cakes in her kitchen.×