First, the nutshell: It was amazing. Amazing.
And it was the perfect mix of amazing – amazing people, amazing experience, amazing opportunity.
So, I guess I’ll break it down that way, although really, everything overlaps.
Was it one big bloggy love-in? No. Yes. No. Kind of. Everywhere you looked people were being introduced, reunited or most often, finally putting a face to a twitter handle. Every time I stood still I had the opportunity to shake a hand or give a hug; share a laugh or swap a card. Make no mistake – this is a very social conference, which I guess can be weird for a group of people that prefers to hide behind a screen or an alias. I was in heaven, being a mostly social being, and if you are somebody that I met that thinks they aren’t – you’re wrong. We all have our foibles, our filters, our fears, but I think anybody that goes to BlogHer must be willing to transcend their social anxiety (or just put it out there and not care), or else there’s not really a whole lot of reason to go. So, what I’m saying is, despite the tweets I saw about quickening pulses and popped ativans, y’all did great from where I sat.
I was with my people, you know? (I have a whole ‘nother post on that, my people.)
One other thing I’ll say about going to BlogHer – it’s a seriously good way to pull back the curtain on the personas we assume people live. I was surprised in both directions. Some people that I had judged as opportunistic or egotistical fucking tore my heart apart with their realness, and some people that I thought were totally friendly and egalitarian turned out to be, well, not so much. Or maybe I caught them at the wrong moment. Or misinterpreted what was going on. See why it’s good to share real space with someone? I’m guessing I probably surprised some people as well.
I’m not going to talk about swag, except to say that some of it was useful, and some of it was useless. I didn’t go to any of the private corporate parties, so I kept the crap to a minimum. I don’t mark my self-worth by the number of private invites I got, and even though I know that lots of people only had party passes and therefore had many free hours in the day, I was grossed out that so many of the corporate things overlapped with conference hours. And I think that if you chose to go to a private swag party instead of listening to the closing keynote on Saturday than sister, you missed out, but do what you gotta do.
Disclosure – I was part of the whole Gap Magic thing, because they offered speakers the opportunity to get styled. I went on Thursday, before the conference, and I loved every second of it. Again, my issue is more with the stuff that was going on at the same time as the conference.
As for the experience – Elisa Camahort Page, Lisa Stone and Jory Des Jardins have built us something unbelievable. BlogHer was whatever you made of it. To me, it was about power. About inspiration. About understanding. About words. I know I’ve said this many times, but I’m a blogger because I’m a writer, and I need a place where my writing can be for me. I write for others on a full-time basis, but I need my outlet, my column in a make-believe magazine where I am writer, editor and publisher. And if you wanted to find inspiring, beautiful, brave wordsmiths, this was the place to be.
I actually only attended one session on Friday, and I found it most helpful. It was in the Job Lab, and recommended ways to merge your online accomplishments with your employable skills to make yourself marketable as a job seeker. I thought it was fantastic, and as someone that has not updated my resume in 10 years, walked away feeling confident, with pages of notes to review.
The rest of the day was spent trying to calm my nerves as the clock ticked down to my time onstage. My chillout regime included picking at my lunch, a fitful nap that was put to an abrupt end by heartburn, some wardrobe insecurity, and a lot of deep breaths.
And then it was 4:15, and I gathered in the Grand Ballroom with my fellow presenters, and we kept each other sane with jokes and high fives and more deep breaths. Finally, we queued behind the stage curtain, and one by one, faced our fears and our audience.
You’ll have to tell me how it went. We couldn’t hear each other reading, being sequestered behind a heavy curtain as they projected their voices in the opposite direction, and when it was my time to read, I went on pure adrenalized auto-pilot. I caught fleeting glimpses – of my peeps up front; my words coming out; I think I even caught a few of you dabbing your eyes, which signified to me that I must be doing my job. Then it was over, and I grinned and took a moment to enjoy the applause and walked backstage, where the camaraderie was palpable. As each reader came backstage, we passed our posts around, reading the words that the audience had just heard, and I was floored by the pieces. They were funny, they were sad, they were smart, they were creative. They were amazing. And then to walk into the gallery, where 90 pieces of art were on display, and there was one – the best one, the most beautiful one – that was inspired by my words, well, I was overwhelmed and I started to cry a little.
The keynote is part of the 75% that I’m still processing. it meant a lot to me.
And that wasn’t even the end of the conference. It was certainly the peak, for me, but there was more.
Day two, I had an adrenaline hangover (sure, let’s go with that) after spending the night first on stage and then at the party and then in the Lower East Side at a hipster bar which was just so much cooler than the hipster bars in Toronto. At breakfast, I listened to the most fucking unbelievable women I have ever heard, describe what it was like to write in a place where you could be killed for what you wrote; where you had to find and trust a man to put your words on the internet because you were not allowed to have words or the internet; to photograph atrocities and humanities caused by war and disaster; to celebrate women and freedom and fight for their continuance in the shadow of a not-forgotten dictatorship.
Then I attended the session with Jory Des Jardins and MomSlant and the Bloggess about crossing lines and white lies and finding boundaries in writing, and holy shit. Those women are pretty awesome, like I had to tell you.
After that, I went to the session on Grief, Loss, Tragedy and Community, and it wrecked me. It wrecked me, and all I had to do was sit in the audience and listen. I wept for an a hour and a half straight, in sadness, in awe, in empathy, and I wondered if I should be there, if I was being a voyeur by being there, but I’m glad I was there, because those stories, heard face to face, are even more powerful than when I had read them. That panel deserved to heard, to tell their stories, face to face, so I am glad I was there. But it wrecked me.
I had to leave the next session on humour writing, and it was hilarious, because it was such a 180 from where I had been 10 minutes earlier, that I couldn’t pay attention. I couldn’t think or talk or absorb what the women on the panel were saying, so I took a nap.
And then it was matzo ball soup and corned beef on rye and pretty dresses and fancy shoes and unicorns and sparkles and dancing and drinking and soul-cleansing fun that lasted well into the wee hours of the night, which is truly the only place that one would ever find a room with two kinds of cheesecake and darth vader and a fiddler on a bed and a dozen women that rock my world.
I heard a lot of people talking about the ‘theme’ of BlogHer – some say it was finding your power; finding your voice; finding your inspiration. For me, BlogHer was an incredibly affirming experience, giving this gold-star junkie the fuel that I seem to run out of so easily when it comes to sustaining my writing; my place in the community.
And it was a weekend away, to recharge, to walk the streets of NYC, to connect with my dad, who I heard in every native accent, to learn things and watch people, god I love watching people, and I didn’t want it to end, until it did, and then I just wanted to be home. Home, with my family, where my family was waiting for my delayed flight, one child groggy with arms open, one asleep, bare bum in the air, head on the couch.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to San Diego next year; I’m too