On Friday night at BlogHer, I found myself in deep conversation with a woman who was in the process of reinventing herself after sending the last child off to college. You know, much like I’m trying to do. She told me she had just sold her business, which consisted of a couple of hobby and crafts stores in the San Diego area.
“You look so familiar,” she said to me. “Are you a scrapbooker?”
And that’s when I had to laugh… because just that morning, I was featured in the BlogHer conference’s opening video, where it was made emphatically clear that I am not the sort of woman who keeps a scrapbook:
(My apologies to her, and to any of my crafty friends and people who blog about crafts and scrapbooks. I do actually admire you and your creativity; I don’t simply share your abilities.)
Since 2003, this blog has been the repository of all my creative energy. There have been years when I’ve poured everything I’ve got into it, and there have been years when my bandwidth has been stretched so thin that I don’t have much left to give. That’s kind of where I am right now: This transition from being a “mommy” to whatever it is I’m becoming should be fodder for lots of emotional posts (and I might feel better if I used the blog as a kind of DIY therapy, where I could write it all out). But my kid is starting college in just a few weeks, and every hour I spend writing a personal blog post is an hour where I’m not earning the money I need to pay for said college.
So this post is going to be brief. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In 2005, when I attended the inaugural BlogHer conference I wrote a total of 22 posts about it.
Last year, I wrote just 2.
I don’t want anyone to think this is an indication of diminishing interest or returns from attending the BlogHer conference. While none of them has lived up to the magic of the first one, each has had its own energy and takeaways.
In 2005, just being in a room with a couple of hundred other blogging women was a revelation. Back then, I had to explain to most of my friends what a blog was (that is, if I even told them that I kept one)… and that explanation would usually morph into a conversation about why I would do something as crazy as write about my life in an online forum for the whole Internet to see.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a conversation quite like that. These days, I don’t have to tell anyone what it means to be a blogger — although I am often asked why I continue to do it when I don’t make any money from it, or why I continue to attend the BlogHer conference (especially when there are now so many other gatherings where women can network with brands and work on monetizing their output).
I have never been to those other confabs. I’ve got nothing against them. I simply don’t have the funds to attend more than one big conference per year (and some years, I don’t even do that). I keep coming back to BlogHer because that’s the one that made me realize I could do bigger things with my little blog. There were people there in 2005 who are still in my life, and I get to see them at BlogHer.
I am one of those people who comes to BlogHer for the sessions. I hear a lot of grumbling from folks who feel the sessions aren’t advanced enough, and when I hear that, I think that I must have a blogging disability or something, because after 11 years of being a blogger, I always walk away from BlogHer with some new knowledge or insight or skill that I did not have before.
I come to BlogHer for the connections. I’m not talking about the brands on the expo floor (although I enjoy a good trade show as much as anyone and wholeheartedly participated in this year’s “selfiebration” contests to win prizes). This year, I spent a lot of time up in a suite hosted by the folks at California Women Lead, a non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting more women to serve in public office, where I met some smart, intelligent, capable women who are making things happen. I attended a reception hosted by EMILY’s List, where I met some of the women who are running for office this year in California (including Sandra Fluke, who expressed an interest in appearing on my MOMocrats podcast! Fingers crossed!)
I come to BlogHer for inspiration. The annual Voices of the Year presentation is really the heart of the BlogHer community. The essays and images chosen by the entire BlogHer community are both funny and sad (sometimes all in the same reading). The Voices of the Year touch me deeply and make me want to be a better writer (and also leave me a little bit depressed, because — so far — I’m not there yet).
In 2012, I had the privilege of actually working behind the scenes on the conference and I got to be intimately involved in the production of VOTY with Polly Pagenheart and Shannon Carroll. This is an experience I am truly grateful for, and has made the VOTY session all the more special to me.
So you would be surprised to learn that this year, I did not stay for the entire VOTY persentation. I was surprised, too — but the most important reason I come to BlogHer is for the people I never get to see anywhere but a BlogHer conference. VOTY ran late (as it usually does), I needed to be in that California Women Lead suite at 8:00 — and there was a dinner organized for some of my favorite OG blogging women, which I did not want to miss. So I chose spending some quality time with quality friends over staying for the entire VOTY presentation (and the reception that followed).
You see, BlogHer is about hard choices. At any given time during the two or three days you’re there, you are faced with a multitude of offerings SIMULTANEOUSLY. I can’t be in two or three places at once, and frankly, I’m getting too old to handle the onslaught of information and people and products and noise without a little downtime. This year, I sorely missed the “serenity lounge” where you could escape to recharge (both your devices and yourself). Or maybe I just missed where it was? This year, whenever I was faced with a hard choice between attending a session or spending some quality time with friends, I picked the friends.
One thing I did not miss at this year’s BlogHer was the huge, overwhelming, circus-like energy I felt when the conference was in New York and San Diego. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed those conferences — a lot. But this year, back in the Bay Area, it was s smaller, quieter, more manageable event.
I liked it a lot.
There’s a lot of speculation in the community about where the conference will be held next year – or even if it will be held at all.
I hope a location is announced soon. And if I have the money in 2015, I hope I will go.
I can’t believe I didn’t see you at the conference. I agree that it was much more manageable in the smaller format.
I did see you, but you were always deep in conversation, so I didn’t want to interrupt. Yeah, this conference reminded me a lot of the one in 2008, when it was just beginning to take off (before there was so much crazy swag). The only downside was that there were no open bars this year. Maybe not a downside – I drank a lot less having to pay for it out of pocket. 🙂
Great recap! Loved you in the video too 🙂 It’s great to hear that you still get so much out of the conference every year you go.
Thanks, Kim. I gotta say: the words were mine, but the concept was totally BlogHer editor Stacy Morrison – and Jessi Sanfillippo is an awesome video director.
I’m glad BlogHer14 was smaller, because that’s what brought me back after three years away from the conference, but I think this time really will be my last time. That said, seeing you there is one of the reasons I’m glad I DID go back! (That said, we need to get more serious about seeing each other locally, and not 300 miles away.)
I do think the more book and book publishing ones are a better bang for your buck. And yes! Let’s get together (here) soon.
Hey SoCal Mom! Thanks for the link love! This was my first year at BlogHer and I LOVED every minute. What a wealth of information and networking – but mostly the connections. I left feeling so inspired, especially by the VOTY bloggers.
Glad to hear it just keeps getting better!
I agree — making those personal connections with the people behind the blogs/tweets/Instagrams/pins/FB posts was one of the best things about this conference. I’ve followed you since our Silicon Valley Mom days but this was the first time we’ve really gotten to know each other! It was a pleasure meeting you and your sister! –ana
I’m pretty sure my Blogher time is over. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s a huge expense I’m not sure I can justify considering I have abandoned all plans to ever monetize. But I’m sorry we didn’t hang together. I would have enjoyed that very much.