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:
- Reconnect with old friends and meet new ones
- Gain some very practical tips to apply to my blogging
- Wow people with our kick-ass group costume
- 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.
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.