#BlogHer12 was trending nationally on Twitter and it may have seemed like the entire Internet was at the world’s largest blogging conference. So who were all of these women who were able to drop everything and fly across the country (after finding time to pack) for a BLOGGING conference? (I mean, come on – it’s blogging.)
5,000 women descended upon the New York Hilton for the grand carnival of discussing the craft of spewing ones thoughts into the digital ether.
And also parties. (There were also a bunch of guys – most of whom suspiciously showed up for the parties. But I can’t fault them for thinking that’s probably a good place to pick up chicks. However good luck to the guy needing to use the bathroom; us girls took them over.)
There were mommy bloggers <waves hi>, sub-species of us – adoption, loss, fertility, special needs, MoMs (mothers of multiples <waves hi again>), stay at home moms, working moms, single moms, moms with batshit crazy stories to tell <still me over here waving>. There were daddy bloggers, humor bloggers <indulge me on this one>, political activists – from both sides, boomer bloggers, foodies – chefs and vegans, alternative lifestyle, sex bloggers (which explains why Trojan was there giving away vibrators to “try out”), anonymous bloggers, business bloggers, writers about culture and identity, and the list continues. On and on and on.
Some were there to grow their business, make more money. Others were just there for the experience. Because remember – nothing is ever a disaster, it’s simply blog fodder. I went for the adventure.
The idea was to share our stories. In person. To meet the voices we read so often face-to-face. Divulge the tactics we take and have a conversation. Because that’s kind of the whole point of social media. And in the case of the Voices of the Year event – share our stories literally.
And also network. Because I think every single one of us is writing a book. This is going to make it more difficult for me to find my adoring agent who will sell my book to a major publisher and earn me a pittance.
I had a list of bloggers I was stalking and determined to meet. I was going alone. I didn’t know a single person at the conference, but I “knew” a ton from online stalking.
I landed at JFK airport and hopped in a cab. “Manhattan please,” I causally told the cabbie. “New York Hilton on Avenue of the Americas.” We were off. I was staring out the window taking in the New York skyline and we sped through Queens toward Midtown. I was a big girl now!
Then I took a deep breath, strung my conference registration lanyard around my neck and headed to the Grand Ballroom. This was when I experienced the inevitable, “Oh shit. What have I gotten myself into?” moment.
(Also the hotel wifi was down. This was hilariously ironic to me.)
President Barrack Obama appeared on the screen. The leader of the free world opened the conference via a live feed. I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum; witnessing history like that is awesome. (And clearly this many bloggers have a reach. Well played in an election year, Mr. President.) But just the fact that a man clearly with a few items already on his to-do list (and a full fucking dance card) took the time to address our audience makes a big statement about the influence of bloggers. As a fellow attendee tweeted, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it next time you think my little hobby’s ‘cute.’”
Friday’s keynote was with Martha Stewart – a very very crowded event that kind of made me want to flee the premises. Saturday was Katie Couric. Who is 50 shades of awesome, noting, “Every woman needs to decide what works for her family without judgment. We have to get past these mommy wars.” And also mentioning that to the Internet trolls who seek only to spew vitriol, “Block their ass.”
I attended sessions comprising panels of fellow bloggers, which really became more about group discussions because – shockingly, I know – we all have a lot to say.
Oodles of us publicly telling the interwebs, “I’m the brunette in the green polka-dotted sweater with the “You are absofuckingtabulous!” sticker. What are *you* wearing?!” as we used our social means to identify those we’ve spoken to so often online. Because that’s not creepy at all.
There were parties galore! I am not a party person. I stand awkwardly in the corner tweeting about “how the hell did I find myself at a party?” But it was time to suck it up and network. Throughout the days, individual blog business cards were handed out to everyone you met. People scribbling notes about where they’d met such a person.
And all of us with our “elevator pitch.” Because who knew when you might meet a publisher or agent for that book. But mostly, because everyone there needed away to sum up the story they regularly tell.
Stream of the Conscious.
I write about my twin boys who were born three months premature. It’s the story of our journey to where we are now. Highlighting the headaches and hilarity involved in raising tiny twins.
At one point I actually found myself at a club. With dancing toys. I am not making this up. Hasbro threw a party. I spoke with Starbucks about their new espresso maker, played with HotWheels and made s’mores in a hotel suite. (I set nothing on fire! Yay me!) Friday night culminated in the big Sparklecorn party.
Glow sticks were involved. A unicorn got punched. No joke.
The true highlight for me? Any time I smiled, gave my spiel, handed over a card and heard my new friend exclaim, “Oh my god! I totally know you! You’re awesome.”
Because well, with that many bloggers, sometimes it’s easy to feel pretty tiny. An event like this reminds you of the strength of voices, but also spotlights what a tiny krill you are in the expansive ocean.
I won’t lie. There were moments of overwhelming magnitude where I wanted to simply shut my computer and succumb to the fear that what I have to say doesn’t matter. Why bother? Who cares. These were scary moments, as I’m pretty sure the conference is supposed to inspire the exact opposite.
But other moments made me laugh. And remember that we’re all just doing our own thing. Blogging for the love of it – I’ll explain later. So I’m gonna keep writing for now. Mostly because Search and Destroy crack me up. And I can’t keep those stories from you.
So did I learn a ton of new secrets? No. I met many of my heroes. They are not famous (except Katie Couric, by the way – Katie, if you’re reading this, a group of us have a great idea for your show. Our people will call your people. Seriously. Repeatedly if necessary.)
They are storytellers. And they’re good at it. And they’re just as anxious and awkward as me.