Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts on BlogHer'12

You'd think that someone who has lived less than an hour from New York City for most of her life would go there once in a while.  And as you've read here before, I do occasionally venture in for a foodie tour.  But when I was growing up, our twice-yearly trips to the city involved a lot of stress and swearing (at least, in the way my parents would swear, not using four letter words).  My father hated driving there, but would drop us off on a street corner, urging us to sightsee while he circled the block.  My mother hated my father driving there, and hated being dropped off at said street corner in an era before cell phones, not knowing when we would see my father again.  I would sit in the back seat, gripping my door handle and my seat, white-knuckled, sure that this time we were GOING. TO. DIE., and once outside, I'd cower in my mother's shadow, certain that my father would be swallowed up by the traffic at Rockefeller Center, and that we would be trampled by the fashionable crowd.  To this day, I mentally prepare for a trip to the city as if preparing to do battle.
 
So it spoke volumes about how I felt on Thursday, after braving the drive through the Lincoln Tunnel and across town, that I checked in, got my badge, and ducked back outside into the city to breathe for another hour, and to wrap myself in a sense of ... safety and security?  Laptop clutched to my side, I was surprised to find I felt more calm in the visual noise of Times Square than I did in front of the Grand Ballroom on that first day at BlogHer.

It's not that I haven't been to big conferences before.  But something about BlogHer is different.  Because not only have you just walked into a "wall of estrogen," as Katie Workman put it on that first day when I was trying to get a handle on lightning-fast #blogher12 twitter feed, but you've walked into wall of estrogen where everyone, it seems, has been reading everyone else's most intimate thoughts for years.  People were squealing at the sight of each other in the lobby on that first day, and I started to wonder if I'd made a mistake.  Did I mention I'm still recovering from going to an all-girls Catholic high school?

But soon enough, I found my tribe, too.  I met up for dinner that night with some of the bloggers I admire most (Stirrup Queens, Too Many Fish to FryWrite Mind Open Heart, Bereaved and Blessed, Dragondreamer's Lair, A Blanket to Keep and Kir Corner), and though I'd worried that might be all I'd see of them at the conference, it turned out that I got to bask in their company a lot throughout the weekend, at meals, in sessions, at parties.  Being with them was like coming home.  I felt grateful to be there with them in person, to touch them, to know that they were real.  I felt embraced.

As much as BlogHer is a place to find your tribe, it's also incredibly diverse, and it's a good opportunity to move outside of your comfort zone. I had breakfast with some self-described "slice of life" bloggers (hello, Linda and Wendy!); laughed out loud at Shari Simpson and wept listening to Susan Goldman and Barbara Becker read at Voices of the Year; danced with an expat Wellesley grad who lives in Turkey (hi Jules!); exchanged cards in speed dating with a nurse who gives advice to teens girls about sex (hi, Elaine!) and a woman who interviews people about their neighborhoods (hi, Kate!); repeatedly stood in line for the bathroom with a mother of triplets (hi, Kristin!); ran part of the psuedo 5K with the race director and founder of the Rose Run (hi, Jessica!); sat in a Writing Lab next to a woman who lives in the woods and cooks on a hot plate (hi, Ally!); mingled at a party with someone who has been doing NaBloPoMo since January (hi, Dawn!) ... you get the idea.

And I rubbed elbows with fame: Katie Couric gave a fabulous down-to-earth keynote, and Martha Stewart practically made me pee myself when she said that the only things she wasn't good at were things she hadn't yet tried.  (Oh, Martha.  I'll have what you're having.)  As I passed by the Land O Lakes booth at the Expo, there was Ree Drummond, smiling and shaking hands.  Unfortunately, I don't think I won her cookbook.  Oh, well.

BlogHer is known for its parties, swag, and offsite events.  You could spend all weekend just attending these things (and some people did).  Jjiraffe and I couldn't stop laughing when someone approached us at the Expo, asking if we wanted to have our picture taken in toilet paper.  (Why, yes!  Yes, I do want my picture taken in toilet paper!  However did you know?)  I confess I visited the Starbucks suite for a cake pop and a demo of their new coffeemaker.  And somewhere, there are pictures of me at Sparklecorn, wearing glow sticks on my arms.  But you could also spend your weekend talking about writing and technology and social media, which is mostly what I did.  I came away, I think, with some new ideas, with a more sophisticated approach to blogging, and with a willingness to be both more experimental and more critical towards my own work.

Wait a minute.  Did I just call blogging my work?

Um.  I did.

I lingered longer than I had intended over a walk and coffee on Saturday night with Stirrup Queens and Bereaved and Blessed and Write Mind Open Heart (and her amazing daughter who melted my heart by holding my hand as we walked up Broadway), not wanting to leave, not wanting the experience to end.  When I finally couldn't stay any longer, knowing that I had a long drive ahead of me, I said my tearful goodbyes (sappy, sappy, sappy, but true), collected my bag, claimed my car and turned right onto 53rd st., flipping on the radio to keep me company through the madness of Times Square on a Saturday night.  This time, the city felt less like the retreat that it had been on Thursday; now I'd left that place behind me.  And I kid you not, the station in my car came on in the middle of the Beatles' "Yesterday": "Why ... she ... had to go, I don't know ... she wouldn't say ... I .... said ... something wrong ... now I long ... for yesterda-a-a-ay..."

Of course, like the retreats I went on in high school, the afterglow of BlogHer only lasts for so long.  Then it's up to us to do the hard work.  Time is never on my side, it seems, but I'm rolling up my sleeves nonetheless.
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16 comments:

KeAnne said...

I loved this. I, too, have been to huge conferences for work but there is something about a blogging conference that reduces you to jelly.

I have enjoyed reading the various takeaways and I am
a little awe-struck at the magic. So many write about crying upon leaving or the next day and the extremely important personal connections made. Very magical!

Will you return next year?

Jjiraffe said...

You totally made me teary-eyed with your description of holding Lori's daughter's hand.

It was such a pleasure meeting you and I miss hanging out....

Esperanza said...

I'm so glad you had such a good time. It sounds like you really took advantage of the situation and learned a lot. I see you have instituted some changes here! I like the new look? Was the redesign inspired by BlogHer as well? It looks amazing!

Mud Hut Mama said...

The part of my adult life that hasn't been spent in Africa has been in NY (Queens, then Washington Heights, then Brooklyn). I loved your description of your childhood visits to the city. I always found visits to NYC overwhelming before I lived there. Now it always feels like home and I'm always sad to leave. I love reading all these post BlogHer posts. So glad you met so many people that you have known for so long.

Grubarazzi said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful time, even if you had to brave the NYC streets. Ugh, I hate driving on those darn streets with my husband. Your parents sounds like us...screeching and holding on for dear life while hubby drives like a maniac. The horror. The Blogher conference sounds like an absolutely great experience, and I would love to go to one myself. Maybe next year I will get the courage! ;)

rebecca said...

Loved hearing about your experience, it sounded like an incredible conference & am so glad you were able to go and take with you such wonderful memories!

loribeth said...

Glad (albeit slightly jealous...!) that you all had such a good time. : )

Lollipop Goldstein said...

This may be my favourite BlogHer '12 post so far. The conference really is what you make of it, and you did it really well.

I considered gripping your legs as you walked away on Saturday night and being dragged across the floor on the way to the car.

geekbabe said...

What a beautiful post, it sounds like you not only got a lot of good from the conference but you also gave much that was good.

Oh and the toilet paper thing made me giggle, those tweeps are fun & yes I too am the proud owner of a pic of me wearing a toilet paper banner.

Thanks for this great post, it was fun to see blogher again from the eyes of a newcomer :)

Emily @ablanket2keep said...

I wish I could have gone the whole weekend. Sounds so awesome! Glad you had a wonderful time.

Kate said...

Loved this reflection and great to meet you! As a neighborhood nomad, I especially enjoyed your memories of venturing into the big city. Feels like I only scratched the surface at my first BlogHer conference -- looking forward to next year!

Audrey said...

Great post. I will make it to a conference one day, though I am extremely nervous about the whole "people who seem to have been reading each other for years" part. Because, well, my readership is so tiny I think that half of you were AT BlogHer this year. ;)

Kathy said...

What wonderful wrap up post! It was awesome to get to spend so much time with you this weekend at BlogHer! Like you, I went into our dinner on Thursday evening soaking up every moment, as I didn't know how much we would all see each other after that. It was a welcome surprise for me that we hung out as often as we did.

I too have been energized by my experience at BlogHer and it has me feeling more motivated to write and work on projects connected to writing and my blog.

I am impressed how much you remember about those you met this weekend and like the tidbits you shared about some of them. I look forward to clicking through and checking out their blogs.

There is more I could probably say here, but for some reason my brain feels fried today (even though I haven't done that much to make it so). So just know that it was was incredible to get to meet you in person at BlogHer and I look forward to continuing to grow our friendship. xoxo

Lavender Luz said...

Mel's comment made me laugh. I had the same thought. DON'T LET THIS NIGHT ENNNNNNNNDDDDD!

I so enjoyed hanging out with you, glow sticks and all. My ONLY regret about the whole experience is that there was no time to go to the labyrinth with you in Battery Park.

Next time!

Kristin said...

I am so very glad I finally got to meet you and wish I'd had a bit more time with you.

And, I'm with Lori...next time we MUST make time for the labyrinth in Battery Park.

Love, love, love this post.

Stephanie said...

I'm really late to this recap. That's what happens when you stop reading blogs for the entire month of August. Anyway, I've been reading BlogHer recaps (some by friends like you, others found through google) and everyone talks about how great it was to meet people and be social. My question: do you feel that you learned anything about blogging? Was it a chance for you to think about what and how you write? Or was it more like a social event?

(Don't know if you'll ever answer this question, since it's about 3 weeks too late. Ha!)

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