BlogHer14: My first blog conference.

Last week, I went to my first blogger’s conference, BlogHer14 in San Jose, a three-day affair. For my readers, BlogHer is what I call the BIG BLOG in the sky, a website home to just about any type of blog imaginable in one place– a directory and community of mostly women bloggers, founded by three women. It’s been sixteen years since I’ve done anything “professional” or traveled by myself.  I was a little nervous heading into a big unknown.

 

BlogHer Founders

BlogHer Founders

Getting ready for the conference felt overwhelming: outfits, business cards, documenting family itineraries for teens and Dad.  Arrival was scary too: Where do I go? Who will I eat with? How do I talk to other bloggers so I don’t seem overanxious or naive? Will they want to talk to me? Will I learn anything? Except for the fact I left half my wardrobe at home in a hanging bag on my bed, it all worked out. Luckily t-shirts look great with skirts. I learned. I was inspired. Empowered. Enlightened. Exhausted.

 

Celebrity Speakers

I had no idea so many famous women were coming to speak at this conference. It was probably stated some place I didn’t have a chance to read before hand, so it was a nice surprise. BlogHer has grown into a powerhouse. I knew this, but I didn’t really know because I rarely look up from my own blog to “the big blog in the sky.” That’s a lot of street cred in my book.   I felt like I was at a live marathon Oprah show.

Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington: “Fund the Arts.”

 

Kerry Washington is a doll, really down to earth. Twice she looked out to the audience after hearing a baby cry; new moms do that, even Hollywood stars. Of course she is a big believer in funding the arts. Scandal wouldn’t be the same if she didn’t have drama classes to keep her out of trouble in the Bronx as a teen. Arts are the first to go in schools, a tragic loss. To me, they provide a therapeutic outlet and make the world a more beautiful place, just ask my sixteen-year-old who plays piano for study breaks. She promotes presidential candidates too, Obama and hopefully Hillary Clinton. I like how Kerry gives back to her craft and to politics.

 

I’ve only recently come to know about Tig Notaro the comedian. She had a terrible two years, a breast cancer diagnosis the biggest blow. Out of her trouble, she found a way to make breast cancer funny. She cursed her A-cups for years, only to have them turn on her, “Kill her,” Tig told us. I loved just being entertained over my lunchtime salad. Although Tig made it clear working the lunch crowd was out of her comfort zone.

 

Arianna Huffington:  Get more sleep.

Arianna Huffington: : “Get more sleep.”

My biggest surprise, how much I loved Arianna Huffington. I only vaguely remember her with her husband and the run for governor of California. She was full of funny, wise one-liners. It was all Guy Kawasaki the interviewer could do to keep up with her. My favorites: “Get more sleep. Sleep your way to the top.” And, “High heels were invented by men who hate women.” As I mentioned, I live under a blogging and motherhood rock, so I was pleased to learn Arianna wants to hear from us bloggers and promote us on her site, The Huffington Post. My tablemates commented on how “writing for free” is getting old. The flip side, if your blog post goes viral, that’s a very fair trade.

 

BlogHer Celebrities

BlogHer has its own celebrities. Since BlogHer celebrated ten years, veteran bloggers were invited to speak about how blogging changed their life. The most inspiring of the entire conference for me was Alexandra Rosas. She is like me, a mom who didn’t know what she was getting into with blogging. She didn’t believe she had the experience or know-how. Her blog gave her confidence to make her mark on The Moth, a Grand Slam Winner; Listen To Your Mother, show director and NPR, a regular contributor. I kept thinking with every statement, “me too” or “I want to do that.”  She makes me excited to be a blogger and to reach out more with my writing.  She felt real to me.  Anything is possible.  I feel like she is who I hope to be in five years.

 

I also liked the political blogger Morra Aarons-Mele. While climbing a Mayan temple in Mexico, she met one of the BlogHer founders and became a political blogger for BlogHer.  Political writing, typically a man’s world got her into press rooms with the likes of The New York Times and Washington Post writers, a place she never thought could happen.  She pointed out how much power women have, 52% of the vote; a force not to be ignored. At a BlogHer conference during a presidential election, the candidates were invited to speak; Michelle Obama and Ann Romney came not the candidates. Women have questions about Iraq and the state of economy, do they really want their wives to answer for their husbands?    It’s scary to think male leaders in the new century are a hundred years behind understanding the power of women. Women need to be taken seriously—especially bloggers.  We are smart, articulate, well-networked voices.

 

BlogHer hosts an “academy awards” of sorts, Voices of the Year, recognizing top 100 blog posts of the year out of hundreds and hundreds of entries.  A few of the top winners read their posts on stage, the prize.  I was blown away at the heartfelt stories about racism, a son asking his mom, “Are we still slaves?” and race envy, a Korean mom’s honesty, “I wish I was white.”  Both took a lot of nerve to state their truth and gave the rest of us a glimpse of a world we may not know or might be afraid to say ourselves.

 

Breakout Sessions

Between sessions, we could pick a topic we wanted to know more about, like the techie side, writing or monetization. If I were to do it all over again, I’d spend more time with the tech people because how often can you make human contact for tech help? It was like finally getting to meet the Wizard of Oz.

Surprisingly I got a lot out of the mini conferences, specific to your blog category; Shoezle.com is a personal blog. After two and half years of slice-of-life posts, I’ve wondered if I should specialize my blog, like a fashion or cooking blog. The panel pointed out how even the specialists get bored with specializing and start writing personal posts. I worry about making a post too long but apparently Google loves long posts; I thought only carefully placed key words upped the Google rating. I learned even the most popular bloggers write posts that don’t generate comments. A small following is a strong community and generates conversation, like shoezle.com.

In short, my blog is just fine as long I as love what I do.

 

Blogger Friends

My LYTM and BlogHer "sister."

My LYTM and BlogHer14 “sister.”

Before the conference, I read posts about how many friends I could make. I pictured a big love fest where everyone swapped business cards and hugs. Instead, I became better friends through my Listen To Your Mother connection. I really love these women. All of them are genuine, kind-hearted people. I swear my twin lives in San Jose: hair, glasses and wardrobe. The pack of bloggers I expected to befriend at the conference, are connecting because of the conference via facebook. The event is so big it’s tricky to find each other and find time to talk. We will meet locally to swap ideas, cards and hugs.

 

Takeaway

I will blog with more confidence. The BlogHer conference made me feel important, validated and capable of doing more.   Being a mom was an important goal for me but I never expected writing to come from it and enhance my motherhood experience. Maybe I won’t make millions, but I can make a difference for me, others and someday my kids. I started my blog because I like to write funny accounts of daily life. I am lucky, lucky, lucky I have a loyal following, pushing two hundred. Quality over quantity applies to followers and content.   I feel like I’m part of a new frontier with women in the lead.  I am LIT!

 

Hubby asked what I would do differently. He’s focused on justifying the effort and investment. I will look into monetizing, supporting products I believe in and just happen to be in my posts. A partnership with Kate Spade would be nice. I will try adding video clips, 15-60 seconds, a blog hip tip and trend. Now I want a phone upgrade to take better photos and now video. How about it Apple? I can always dream.

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