Tuesday, July 28, 2009

BlogHer virgin no more...

A lot has already been made of the BlogHer09 experience out here on the interwebs in the past several days.  People were blogging about it as they sat in break-out sessions (that were likely overcrowded and poorly organized--just sayin'), and in the lobby (perhaps recovering from bruises and other contusions suffered in a crushing incident at a swag give-away).   

So I'm not going to give much in the way of a play-by-play of the conference, especially since I only officially attended one day (thanks for the pass, Sarah!), and I'm going to try to be as positive as possible, since this was intended to be a hugely positive experience for me, as my first time at BlogHer an my first weekend of "me" time in over 4 years. 

The best part of the conference?  Getting to meet and hang out with Amy, Sarah and Becca.  We've been reading each others blogs for years and to get to actually spend face time with them (including fabulous dinners, manis and pedis, geeking out in the hotel room and navigating our way through the veritable sorority row of parties) was truly awesome.   

A huge thanks to Amy for poking me in the eyeball with "you have to come to blogher! you have to come!!" until I acquiesced and booked my flight.  I wouldn't have been there without your urging, so I am truly grateful.  Also for the whole transportation and lodging thing.  Thanks for that!  

And thanks to Sarah and Becca for letting me crash with them the first night in the hotel.   I haven't spent a girly night in the hotel room with other women (that is so going to get google-searched as something dirtydirtydirty) since the night before my wedding when my bridesmaids kept me company during my last night as a free single woman.  My apologies to Becca that Sarah and I jacked up the A/C and left you searching closets and drawers for extra blankets.  And sorry that we just watched with amusement as you tried to get the thermostat to adjust to some less arctic setting.    And Sarah, thanks for letting me try your awesome flat iron, but I just do not have patience for contraptions like that.  Wish I did, your hair always looks awesome.  

Unfortunately, my new-found enjoyment of a meatless diet came to a screeching halt on Thursday night when I essentially went face-down in a heaping plate of shredded flank steak called Ropa Vieja at a Latin restaurant (where I happened to be dining with this woman--she's kind of a big deal).  The rest of the weekend was kind of an orgy of red meat for me, capped off with a giant Burger King Whopper while I waited at the aiport to pick up Husband and Ethan (who were away visiting family while I was in Chicago).    Alas, I am paying for this debauchery now with a serious case of bloat and weight-gain (no, really???!!!), so I think I'm hopping back on the meat-free wagon, starting now......maybe.

Friday found me loitering in the lobby.  Sarah and Becca had actual bonafide passes to the conference, unlike lowly me, who said to people, not realizing it was kind of a mark of BlogHer shame, "I'm here for the parties!!! LOLz"  Ugh.  I really am socially awkward, y'all.   But I really enjoyed watching people mill about, studying faces, trying to place people from Twitter, from blogs I follow, keeping eyes peeled for the likes of Amalah and other "rock stars" of the blogging world.   I also got my first taste of disillusionment while sitting in the lobby---I hadn't realized up until this point what a commercial business blogging can be.  I'm just a little old blog, chronicling my life and the life of my kid.  I truly didn't realize until this weekend that there are women out there who have parlayed this into careers.  Everyone is in PR or is a "social media expert".   I just like to write.  I started to feel a bit out of my element.  

So I took myself on a walk down Michigan Ave, ooh'ing and ahhh'ing at the architecture and the throngs of people.  I've not been to Chicago since driving x-country with one of my best friends a decade ago.   I basked in the touristiness of it all, which I realize is wholly uncool, but whatever.  I snapped pictures and found a Starbucks and was happy to be part of a busy, rushing city.  Except for my feet.  My feet were not at all happy.  Because they were wearing heels.   Apparently I hate them and felt the need to torture them many times during this trip.  Poor little things.  They are still making me pay. 

The second day, Sarah and Becca had to leave, so gave Amy and me their passes, since they'd paid for the entire conference.  It was nice to feel legit, but at the same time, I was frustrated by the sessions.  In an attempt to do something that would be uber-impressive to Husband (the king of all Geeks), I attended two separate "Geek Labs", thinking I'd learn nifty technological things that I could use as party tricks to impress him when I got home.  And I might have--if I could have heard a damn thing the instructor was saying.  The Geek Labs were all held in one conference room, separate from each other by just a thin gauzy curtain.  I happened to want to attend the labs instructed by the mellowest and quietest of women, whereas the labs in the next "room" over where apparently being taught by Fran Drescher.   Made hearing a bit tough. 

I also attempted to attend a session featuring some of the "elite" in the blogging community.  Me, and about eleventy billion others. When I got there, I was approximately 6 deep in the doorway, craning to see into the room.  I can't think of many people in this world I want to spend an hour craning my neck in that way to hear.  So I left.  And didn't attempt to get into the next session held by equally "famous" bloggers.  Just a thought, BlogHer, don't put the most popular women in the blogosphere into the smallest room available, mkay??  

Two things really stood out to me as significant and "THIS is what I came here for".  The first was the community keynote on Friday, during which countless (seriously, I lost count, it went on forever) bloggers got up to read one of their most significant posts.  I sat in the back of the room (I had totally snuck in--it was still Friday, therefore no pass), laughing and crying as I listened to women (and a couple of men) read blog posts about everything from the agony of losing a child, contemplating suicide, sexual abuse, infertility, to the hilarity of a love affair with diet coke, and a missing tampon.  Listening to what people had written, I was truly touched.    

The other important moment for me was the last session I attended, run by her and him.  The session was entitled, "Blogging as Storytelling" and it was essentially an hour of writers talking about their writing--what motivates them, what makes a story "good", how to convey voice, ALL of the things I wanted to hear about.  I didn't get the courage to speak because I was in the presence of some really amazing writers and I was just content to sit back and listen to them talk about what I love so much.  In a veritable sea of commercialism and swag and vendors and brands and "how do I get more hits on my blog?!", it was so refreshing and re-centering to attend a session that was about nothing "more complicated" than getting words onto a page.  I loved it.   

I'm exhausted.  I woke at 4am both on Thursday to get there, and Sunday to leave.  Almost missed the cab that was taking me to the airport.  I came home to a house that reeked and was unable to find the mystery stench for 24 hours (hello, bag of once-frozen cauliflower in the beach cooler--um, WHA????!!) .  Before I found it, though, I washed everything imaginable in my house.  Ethan came home with what sounds like is going to be an awesome head cold by tomorrow. Score.  So I am going to save my pictures for tomorrow--I'll jump on the "Wordless Wednesday" bandwagon because it gives me a nice little out for today.  

So, that's it.  BlogHer09.  I met some amazing people, attended some fantastic parties, ate too much meat, was disillusioned and inspired.  And I already have my tickets for BlogHer10, in NYC.  


lonek8 said...

love your take on it (and that you had a Whopper, my fav haha) and I hope you still plan on going next year with me! I also want to focus on the writing rather than the commercial aspect - do I want more hits? yes. Do I want it to be because I shill stuff rather than because of my stellar writing? No. We'll just hit the inspirational parts and cut out during all the greedy bits. :)

Becca said...

Great synopsis! And glad you could use our passes.

So glad you came and crashed with us! I had an absolute blast with you and Sarah.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

I didn't go to any of the sessions. Had planned to, but like you, they were way too crowded. More fun meeting and talking with cool people at parties!