My bucket list includes becoming a published writer, so I thought it would be a good idea to attend BlogHer ’13 in Chicago this year. I had some reservations, as it is somewhat expensive what with the flight and hotel, and I worried that I would feel overwhelmed and discouraged at the conference. Add to that the fact that I would be rooming with a friend I had never met in real life, and my anxiety that I would be the Worst Dressed Blogger, or voted Most Likely To Act Like A Spazz In Front of Someone Important, I was a tad nervous.
My fears and reservations were all for naught; the BlogHer conference exceeded my wildest expectations. I’m going to break it down for you according to areas of importance:
- Educational: I attended only sessions about writing, pitching, and publication, as those were the areas I wanted to focus on. There was only one session that I didn’t find particularly helpful (I am too nervous to list it specifically, but feel free to visit the braver Alyson’s blog and read what she thought of that session here) and all the others offered practical and specific tips. I learned about how to pitch a nonfiction book proposal, how to query a magazine or newspaper, and techniques for essay and memoir writing.
- Networking: I met some of my favorite blog friends in real life, but I’m going to talk more about that in a minute. One of the most unexpected things for me was that I got to meet some of the “big girls” (I’m speaking metaphorically, this is not a commentary on plus-size bloggers) and even had the privilege of listening to them share their wisdom. I met published authors, magazine editors, and bloggers whom I have never read before who have never read me. This was, for me, one of the only opportunities to meet important people in my field in real life.
- Inspiration: One of the highlights of the weekend included the Voices of the Year Reception. Not only was it hosted by Queen Latifah, the 12 speakers shared incredibly diverse, entertaining, and inspiring posts that had been selected from over 3000 submissions. I will likely remember some of those speakers for the rest of my life. Additionally, we had the honor of listening to Guy Kawasaki, Gale Ann Hurd, and Sheryl Sandburg speak- all were extremely inspiring, and I admit that I got a lot more out of their interviews than I was expecting to.
- Socializing: Perhaps the most striking aspect of my conference attendance was the fact that I met some of my favorite bloggers in person. Before the conference, I wondered if they would be as I imagined them, and I worried that my initial response would be, “Wow. You are not what I thought you’d be.” (Or worse, that they would think that about me!) I managed to find “my people” first thing in the morning, and I wasn’t alone for even a minute of the remainder of the weekend. I felt like I truly knew these people; it was a combination of making best friends at summer camp and experiencing a class reunion. It was more like I was spending time with women I had known for a long time- because I have known them for a long time. If anything, it validated the fact that it is possible to form friendships online, and really get a grasp on who a person is, even though you haven’t shared physical space. I laughed with these friends, danced with them, overshared with them, drank with them, and sent inappropriate text messages to them when we were sitting next to each other during presentations. And when I left them, I was sad. I even cried a few times. It felt like summer camp ending. Or how it would have felt, if I didn’t detest summer camp with every fiber of my being.
If these 4 things are reason enough for you to consider attending BlogHer ’14, let me give you some tips.
- Find your tribe. Don’t go it alone. Before you leave for the conference, make sure you have networked with other bloggers in Facebook or Google+ groups, and even had private conversations with them via email, phone, or video chat. One of the things I was most grateful for was the fact that when I walked into the newbie breakfast, I had a pack of 6 other bloggers at my side. We accumulated more people from our online tribe, took over the whole table, and walked out of the breakfast early because we were too busy talking to each other to listen to the speech. It was empowering to be there with them, to feel like I belonged. While trying not to make myself cry, I will thank Kate, Carisa, Sarah, Katia, Deb, Jen, Julie, Natalie, Sandy, Norine and Jessica, and Pam for being my blog tribe. Who did I forget? Did I mention I’m still exhausted from the trip home?
- Don’t be afraid to talk to the popular girls. You might be surprised by how friendly they are, and how much knowledge and encouragement they have to share. Some of the most unexpected moments of my weekend included randomly bumping into Jen of People I Want To Punch In The Throat, Kim of Let Me Start By Saying, Leslie of The Bearded Iris, and Nicole Leigh Shaw. They were warm, welcoming, and wise. Oh wait, and witty. And white. Ummm…
- Have a plan for what you want to get out of your sessions. I had heard complaints that people “didn’t really learn anything” or attended a session where they already knew everything being discussed. As I said, there was only one session I attended that, while entertaining, wasn’t particularly instructive. I had a very clear picture of what skills I wanted to focus on, and I highlighted the sessions in advance to help prioritize and organize my schedule. I was a bit conflicted when choosing between a few of the Day 2 sessions, but after the first day, I had the added perspective to help me weigh my choices. Be as deliberate as you can.
- Don’t worry so much about what you’re going to wear. I went home with 4 outfits that I’d packed and never worn. I had intended to change into “evening wear” for the parties, and just never got around to it. I saw suits, dresses, jeans, shorts, skirts, and every type of shoe imaginable. The fact it, people just aren’t looking that much, and they just don’t care. I wasn’t self-conscious at all. I realized after the first day that there was a full rainbow of fashion choices, and I would fit into the spectrum somewhere. I didn’t even care that I was the lady carrying two bags with clashing floral patterns. People have better things to focus on, like how much free food they can consume in the Expo.
So there you have it- my BlogHer ’13 experience all summed up. In case you actually read this whole thing, having not succumbed to the glazed eyes of one who has read a few too many BlogHer wrap-ups, make a note that we have a special guest host for next week’s Finish the Sentence Friday, as I will be on a family vacation. (Oxymoron? Discuss.)
You can link up with Kristi of Finding Ninee in addition to your regulars!
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