Blissdom Canada: a long, honest recap

I like to head to conferences with a goal or two in mind. Not only does this help me focus during what can be a frenetic few days, but it makes a difference when explaining to my husband (and my accountant) why spending money and time away from my family is worth the investment. And it almost always is. Blissdom Canada this past weekend was no exception.

My goals were simple, but to me, important:

  1.   Reconnect with old friends and meet new ones
  2. Gain some very practical tips to apply to my blogging
  3. Wow people with our kick-ass group costume
  4. Find that elusive nugget of inspiration from whatever source it may present itself to further fuel my writing and resolve, so that I keep at it for another year and not give up in a puddle of my own tears.

Simple, right?

I arrived in Toronto Friday afternoon (still so weird that I have to arrive in Toronto. One year in to life in the cornfield and I still forget that I am no longer a local) and almost immediately launched into achieving Goal #1. The lobby of a conference hotel is a fun place, and I was rewarded with hugs, chats and friendly faces immediately. The rest of Friday was a blur of activity, between a visit to the Naot store to connect with my very favourite brand in the whole wide world, a visit with my sister – one of my favourite people in the whole wide world, the Chevy Road Rally Challenge (waaaaay more fun than I thought it was going to be, thanks in large part to my crazy awesome teammates) and the kick-off party at The Courthouse.

I was thoroughly exhausted by time I got back to Emma’s place for a sleepover, but excitement had me awake at 5:45 the next morning anyway. I would regret that later.

*Sidenote funny story: Two minutes after we jumped in a cab to head back to the conference Saturday morning, Emma’s phone rang. It was her husband, informing us that one of us had forgotten a bag in the hallway. Oh no! Should we turn around and go get it? What’s in it, we asked.

Jumper cables and Febreze, answered Emma’s huz; was it Emma’s, or mine?

We exchanged confused looks. I assured Emma that I did not bring jumper cables and Febreze on the train. To Toronto. For Blissdom. She assured her husband that the jumper cables and Febreze were not hers either. No, not part of our Halloween costume (that was last year’s, I snorted).

So where did the bag full of jumper cables and Febreze come from and why was it in the hallway, messing up Emma’s house?

Because we inadvertently stole it out of the back of the cab removing our things the previous night, natch.

Whoops. Sorry, Mr. Cab Driver.

(The jumper cables and Febreze have been returned to their rightful owner)

Saturday morning, the energy was high at the conference, but I needed coffee. Too bad that, with 45 minutes to go in the breakfast service, there was no coffee left. So I shamelessly pushed my way to the front of the Starbucks Verisimo demonstration and got my java fix. I think I was rude. In fact, I’m quite sure I was. I budded. I’m sorry. No I’m not. There should have been more coffee.

Anyway, breakfast did not improve during the Dove infomercial. It was brutal. It might have been improved with more readily available coffee. And bacon. Where was the bacon? I don’t want yogurt and water to fuel me for a full day of conference-going. I want bacon.

In all seriousness, here’s why the Dove breakfast was brutal: Because I don’t want to sit through a demonstration of why their body wash is the best when they have so many other interesting, relevant things going on that will actually make me like the brand instead of leave, which is what I did. We could have been truly engaged. Where was the Real Beauty campaign? Where was the inspiration? I had expected that, not a pitch for body wash, which I will never use anyway, now that Dee has shown me the way and the light. (Can’t wait to send my huz out to buy my new favourite product.)

The good news is, there was nowhere to go but up. The bad news is, I missed the first microsession after fleeing from Dove.

But very quickly, achievement of goal #2 was in full swing.

I feel at a bit of an impasse with blogging. After BlogHer, I was sure that blogging was interfering with my writing, and with my writing goals. But then I revisited the advice that my mentor at The Humber School for Writers gave me this summer, and realized that blogging keeps my juices flowing, my brain thinking and my fingers typing. I need it, as an outlet personally and creatively.

So I am looking at my blog a little differently now; I want my blog to be as good as the writing; I want my effort to be a full-package effort. So I need to step up my game. I need to remove my head from the sand when it comes to things like analytics and SEO – even if I continue to not give a shit about them, I feel like I should at least have a clear idea of what it is I am not giving a shit about. I want my posts to look good, be user-friendly and have the entire medium, not just the message, be engaging. I want blogging to be fun again.

So first, I sat with the lovely and talented C.L. as she offered great tips for using photos in blog posts. As you may notice, I rarely add photos, because I don’t know my way around photos or cameras or lights or anything like that. And I don’t have a phone with a fancy camera, so I can’t rely on my BB. But C.L. helped raise my confidence enough to at least give it a try.

Next, I sat with the amazing Aidan and got the 411 on vlogging, something that I think could be fun. Me and my crew have some ideas, so it was (again, goal #2) practical, useful information. My huz is a tv editor and producer and will be a good resource for me too, but I’d like to try to steer this ship myself. So thank you, Aidan, for giving me the tools to give vlogging a try!

I could have sat in on at least 3 more microsessions. More next year, please!

The afternoon was speaker time. First up, Jian Ghomeshi, talking about his work and his book, 1982. I am a Q fan and a Jian fan, so I enjoyed his presentation immensely. We went to the same elementary school and high school (though a few years apart), so you know, we have a connection. We’re tight. He just doesn’t know it. It’s cool.

We did get to chat at the book signing about our shared alma mater. We're BFFs now.

I skipped the next two speakers because I needed some decompression time, but then I was back for Bon Stewart and her talk on identity in the online world. Lots to think about post-talk, especially about the role we allow our children to have online. I’m still mulling it over. But man, I love smart women. Long time.

One of my very favourite authors ended the day, and AmiMcKay was wonderful. She is a master storyteller and even though the room was dim and cozy and I had been up since 5:45 am with not enough coffee fuelling the day, I was rapt by her words. She gave me shivers. It was a privilege to have her address us, and a great pleasure to meet her. Can’t wait for book #3.

Next up, a fabulous dinner with great peeps (see Goal #1), then on to the annual costumes & karaoke party where we could kick ass, take names and achieve Goal #3! … only, at least 50% of the people at the party had absolutely no idea who we were supposed to be, even looking like this and bedecked with FREE PUSSY RIOT buttons.

Read this post  and this post on how to have a feminist Halloween

I will not pretend that I am not disappointed in the women that did not know who Pussy Riot were. This is about the basic rights and freedoms of women. We spend all day online. Flip to a news site for 5 minutes. It’s important.

Anway, I did not have the energy for Saturday night that I usually have, and the bar should never be in the hallway, but we had fun.

Sunday was excursion day, and it was fantastic, despite my initial skepticism. I was lucky enough to be on the Foodie excursion, led by Emma Waverman. We began with an amazing breakfast at Caplansky’s. Smoked meat and cream cheese and lox, oh my! It was a Jewish Toronto ex-pat girl’s dream.

Full of deli goodness, we embarked on a culinary tour of Kensington Market, led by Alexa Clark, who is ridiculously good at being a tour guide. I learned a ton of new information, despite a long history of time spent in Kensington.

Next, we headed to the gorgeous new Longo’s in Maple Leaf Square, where Cuisinart and Lucy Waverman hosted a Top Chef-style soup making contest. My awesome team of me, Annie and Ash cooked up a delicious Thai Coconut Curry soup, and we tied for the win! I cannot wait to try out my prize at home, and cannot say enough good things about our Cuisinart host. That is how you represent a brand. (I’m looking at you, DOVE!). I also feel seriously lucky to have been able to speak to Lucy Waverman about cooking, hear her advice on food blogging, and have her taste food that I made. She may be my friend’s mom, but she’s also foodie royalty.

Back to the hotel then for just enough time to have a drink with friends before heading to Union Station and my train back to the cornfield.

Goal #4 was achieved in bits and spurts and special moments that I am still thinking about. I’ll leave that post for another day, because it’s significant, and holy coyotes, this is a long post already.

So Blissdom Canada, I want to thank you, for a real good time. See you back online. 


  1. I went to my very first blogging conference last January after I just had started blogging "again". I say "again" because my first go-around in blogging faded away quickly.

    It was the Alt Design Summit in Salt Lake City - about 500 design/creative/arty types so not too big. I was sooo nervous as I didn't know anyone! Everyone was so welcoming and I made friends there that I now can't imagine not knowing.

    The networking and connecting online with people who share your interests and values and sense of humour is great but meeting them in person is amazing.

    And if you need some advice or direction on SEO or photography or social media or whatever to tart things up, I've got some great contacts for you. There's making/creating the best content that you can and then there's being as effective as possible to get it in front of the people who will appreciate it and "get it". There's nothing wrong with wanting to connect and get your work out there and also be continually inspired to "up your game" as a writer or photographer or designer.

  2. Thanks for coming to my vlog microsession. Your questions and comments brought a lot to the table.

    1. Thanks for having a great session :)

  3. I'm glad you had such a great time. And really did we expect much from Dove, who is only using the Real Beauty campaign to mask the fact that they are the same greedy punks that sell Axe??

    I LOVE your pussy riot costume. I may not have gotten it right away, but that's because I've only seen them photographed at court appearances (a crying shame all that nonsense). Epic!

    The soup you made with Annie and Ash sounds incredible. That's a recipe I'd try. I have kind of a soup fetish I think. This isn't water weight, friends, it's soup weight.

    1. Annie posted the recipe I think, or at least tweeted our inspiration recipe. It was gooood.

  4. As always, Karen, awesome conference recap.

    I'm glad we finally got to meet in real life after chatting online for the past couple of years. Thank you for convincing me to come to the party. I chatted with some amazing women that otherwise I wouldn't have been able to, so thank you for that push.

    And above awesome marks for the costume! You ladies really rocked it and gave a whole new meaning to group costume. Was great to see the excitement you all had for it and the knowledge you imparted to those who were not familiar with Pussy Riot.

    I hope our paths cross IRL again soon.

    1. It was great to finally meet you as well - in fact, it was one of those things where I had to really think about whether or not we had met before. Felt like we had!

  5. Great recap, thanks. I am SO glad I didn't drag my sorry butt out of bed in time to catch breakfast.

  6. That DOVE presentation was awkward like a J.F. sex scene. I had to look away. Great piece, glad you're feeling inspired. Lucky for us.

  7. I felt for the poor Dove scientist who probably had no desire to be doing that on a Saturday morning. I have some of that stuff in my shower (I fall in the category of "use whatever body wash someone gives me for Christmas/gift-giving occasions".) and it feels thick and goopy.

    I thought the breakfast was mostly picked over because I got there late-ish. Turned out it was to be a "women's breakfast" where no one admits to eating anything beyond yogurt, fruit and coffee. I suspect Dove was a last minute sponsor who said "Yeah, we'll do breakfast, but you need to allow us to subject your attendees to a 45-minute infomercial."

    I didn't hit any of the Sunday excursions but everyone who went sounds like they had a great time. Will be making sure I'm not on the hook to take Jr to a birthday party next year.

    I know I said this in other places, but I really felt dumb about not cluing into the costume right away. Like Mama P above, I had only seen pictures of them in court. Need to do more reading!

    Sorry I didn't get to chat with you more.

    1. I was still happy to see you, brief although our visit was! And it wasn't the 'not cluing in' that was disappointing. It was the, 'We're Pussy Riot!' met with the, *blink.* We need to know this shit.

      And, as for sponsorship in general, I thought it was awesome - top quality and relevant. I was truly impressed with the conduct and partnership of almost all of the sponsors. I just thought that Dove missed a great opportunity.

  8. Auntie JennoOctober 24, 2012

    Jian, Lucy Waverman, jewish deli, Pussy Riot AND a quote from a Grateful Dead song. Another great post, sis!
    So glad you had fun!

  9. Oh man. I do love you. I too was at an energetic low during the party Saturday night due to a series of unfortunate events. Anyway, didn't get to talk to you nearly as much as I would have liked. Great wrap up and sorry, but I think I drank all the coffee.

    1. Lisa, ok you deserved all the coffee. I'm sorry that it was a stressful weekend and that we did not spend nearly enough time together. Still, loved seeing your smiling face :)

  10. Someone found my blog yesterday by googling "Blissdom bad Dove presentation."


    Great recap!

  11. i love you longtime, too. and i'm glad i missed the Dove bit. ;)

    wish i'd seen more of you...next year, can we have a redo on the Korean dinner? that was one of last year's highlights for me.

  12. Great recap Karen! I agree, the Dove bit was too technical for a Saturday morning with not enough coffee... a chat on their Self-esteem Fund or Women Who Should Be Famous campaigns probably would've been much more successful. Loved your entourage's choice of costume and I'm happy to say I got it right away ;)

  13. I LOVED seeing you and actually getting some time to hang and chat with you...and loved that you called me out for not following you..that one truly was Twitter..;)

  14. I've been to BlogHer twice, but so far I've given Blissdom a pass. Most of the people I've spoken with have extolled its virtues as a great place to meet up with Canadian brands. Since I don't really do that, I wasn't sold. Your post has definitely made me reconsider.

    1. Amber, I think you would find real value in it. Connecting with mainly Canadian bloggers is the focus, as well as learning from them and hearing from other inspiring experts and members of our community. I loved being a speaker in the previous two years, but I loved being on the other side of the table(s) this year as well.

      As far it being a place to connect with brands - no that's She's Connected, and I am not a fan. The brands at Blissdom were high quality, and seem to really be into SM engagement, in a sincere and valuable way. I often do not give much time to brands, but I was impressed.

      Anyway, I think you should consider it if you're looking to add something else to the conference circuit. And not just because I'd love to see you :)

  15. I wish I'd been there.

    1. I wish you had been too, Sarah :)

  16. Loved your Pussy Riot costume! (I was the one who commented "you should not be wearing a mask in the presence of the Queen!" )(I was the Queen) (my comment was tongue in cheek -- you got that, right?)
    Anyway -- I totally agree with you re: Breakfast (at least last year there we could sit down while we ate!), and the Dove presentation was very, very dry. I totally zoned out due to lack of caffeine. I'm a tea drinker, and when I went to get more, it was gone! That Starbucks booth was no help to me! Did my best networking/ friend making at my Sunday excursion though (Movember)!


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