Sunday, August 4, 2013

#BlogHer13: The "What I Learned" Edition

So ostensibly, I went to BlogHer to actually learn something about this craft we call blogging. For all of you non-bloggers, it probably seems like all you need to do is sit down at a computer and spill your guts, which is mostly true, but I do think there is some art to it as well. I'm hoping to spend more time writing well over the next year, and chose to attend sessions that I think will help me on that journey, as well as the keynote BlogHer experiences. Here's what I tweeted over the weekend, along with the notes I wrote in my little green notebook. Because of course green.

Get ready for a whole lotta links.

Things got started at the BlogHer Newbie breakfast, where I was fortunate to sit with the amazing Cheryl Contee of Jack and Jill Politics, where she started us off with this great soundbite. You can't not be inspired thinking you're a part of something like that.
As soon as breakfast was over, I basically attacked Dresden Shumacker of Creating Motherhood, who had the idea of starting the mentor program, and whose blog I simply love.

Kimberly and I headed over to the morning keynote, given by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Ree claims not to have had much vision when she started off, but has clearly built her own empire since then. It was encouraging to hear that someone with all that success still mostly likes taking pictures of her dog, who she also serenades with "Endless Love."

Next I attended a panel called "Turning Blog Posts Into Published Essays" with Rita Arens of Surrender, Dorothy. No time to tweet during this session as I was so busy taking notes! My favorite takeaways:
  • Be sure to define what success means for you.
  • Stop verbal throat-clearing (too much babble at the beginning - guilty.)
  • Be sure to put in the necessary context when you're submitting elsewhere - don't use names or references others won't readily understand.
  • End the post with lots of one syllable words, as they have more weight.
  • Don't ignore opposing viewpoints. It's easy to just be mad about something; be sure to be specific and have a sharp focus.
  • Don't gloss over the difficult parts.
  • It's okay to acknowledge you might be wrong.
  • Community questions are okay at the end of a blog post, but only if you really follow up and have a good dialogue.
  • Cross-post to BlogHer when you can (something I need to look into doing!).
I followed this up by attending a panel called "What You Learn When You Speak Out." Again, not a lot of tweeting as I was so busy listening to the stories of Lori Duron of Raising My Rainbow, Adria Richards of But you're a girl, Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda. Each of them have fought courageous battles and harnessed the power of the Internet for good, and I was so inspired by their stories.

I skipped the keynote with Guy Kawasaki. Turns out it was quite a controversial moment to have missed, but I needed a break, so Kimberly and I hit the Expo floor. More to come on that in my one final BlogHer post.

The last panel I attended was moderated by Courtnee Westendorf of Intel, and featured The Huffington Post's Lisa Belkin, The Chicago Tribune's Jenniffer Weigel and Stacey Ferguson of Justice Fergie. The title was "Glass Ceilings, Work-Life Balance and other Working Woman Worries." Right up my alley. As I said earlier, Lisa Belkin has been a long-time favorite of mine, and I loved getting to see her on this panel. The discussion covered everything from careers to spirituality to marital deal-breakers to making time for friends. My favorite line came from Lisa, when she said that "there are days when we can't fit in everything. That's what tomorrow is for." I need to work on remembering that.

One more shout out about the amazing Voices of the Year celebration. My good friend Jessica couldn't be there, but her post was chosen as one of the honored, and as soon as I walked in, this display was right in front of me. You can read her amazing post here, and be sure to tell her she's a rock star.

Remember when I wrote a guest post for The Outlaw Mama? I was so happy to meet her in person during breakfast on Saturday morning.

Sheryl Sandberg did the morning keynote, and I was surprised to see how tamped down her message was for this crowd. She emphasized that "Lean In" is not just for those with high ambitions, but for all women who need the encouragement to do what they'd do if they weren't afraid. I think it helped her sell a lot more books that day--I just hope her new readers aren't disappointed. But again, I'm a fan of anyone furthering this conversation of work and women.

From there I went to a panel called "The Unmarketing Manifesto" on bloggers who chose not to focus (as much or at all) on working with brands. I have a lot more to unpack on my thinking here, but since I started this blog in 2007, I've never done anything officially sponsored by anyone else. That seems to be a rarity these days, but thankfully, those were the people I seemed to meet most at the conference. Jenna Hatfield of "Stop, Drop and Blog" talked about how it's really hard not to "fall in love with the shiny" when brands are courting you. Lots to think about here. You can read the unmarketing manifestos of all four participants here, here, here and here.

After lunch and a few interesting but not particularly relevant panels, I attended "Anatomy of a Story" for a reminder on what makes blogs worthwhile--our ability to tell a good story. Panelists Tanis, Jenni, Nicole and Vikki reminded us that stories are about the thing that changes, but you need to give the readers a reason to care about why the change happened. Look for the part that emotionally resonates, or figure out what questions need answering. And when all else fails, "everybody needs a gay!" is a great excuse for writing all on its own. Sorry, you just had to be there. :)

My last official session was called "Blogging the Unbloggable" with panelists Adrienne, Alex and Cora. While I wouldn't say that my writing is hitting every hot topic, I've gotten some criticism along the way, and can probably expect more to come. They emphasized that some people are truly unreachable and incapable of seeing different viewpoints, but that we shouldn't let it prevent us from trying. And Janelle commented loudly from the audience a reminder that "some people do need to be disturbed." A great session.

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of the television series "The Walking Dead" gave the evening keynote. I was pretty fried by that point and not listening well, especially because they showed us many clips of zombies. I spent most of this panel tweeting a new hash tag.

Again, the fashion show featuring bloggers of every stripe was hugely inspiring. These women radiated confidence.

And then we went to eat some cheeseburgers and wear bag hats at CheeseburgHer. No, that didn't teach me anything, but it was kind of fun.

So in case you couldn't tell, I had a fabulous weekend. And I can't wait to do it again.
PS: To the women of the Serenity Suite - thank you so, so much. You were the very best.


  1. Sounds like a great time, and I like how you summarized the main takeaways and didn't get bogged down in too much detail. Thanks for wrapping it up for those of us who couldn't make it this year :)

  2. Oooh! Really appreciate all these details since I couldn't be there. I hope to go someday. Really seems like an incredible experience and opportunity.

  3. You made me feel like I was there! LOL. Maybe next year ;) Thanks for such a thorough wrap-up!

  4. Oh, I want to go! So badly! I love the way Lean In was connected to ANY woman's dreams and ambitions.

  5. Thanks for coming to my panel! I'm glad you enjoyed it. It looks to me like you really made your BlogHer experience work for you -- way to go.

  6. Thanks so much for coming to our panel. While some people may be unreachable, you can never tell which ones they are! I'm glad your time at BlogHer was great. Mine too. I can't wait to read the transcripts on the sessions I had to miss. (I love that they provide those.)

  7. Was SO HAPPY to finally meet you!!! You are such a wonderful and kind and beautiful person and being able to connect with you during the weekend was a highlight.

  8. I'm glad you enjoyed the panel! it can be hard not to get distracted at a BlogHer conference, but it sounds like you found some things you needed/wanted. I loved this year's conference! Hope to see you next time. :)

  9. Those sound like great sessions. I'm so glad you had such a great time and met such awesome people. And, of course, hugely grateful for snapping a pic of my VOTY. Next year!!!

  10. This was my seventh BlogHer and it was by far, my favourite. I finally hit the right balance of meeting with friends and attending awesome sessions. Thanks for coming to our panel. We had a lot of fun doing it.

  11. Great recap! I can tell the impact the sessions had on you, especially your last post on Reconciliation. Readers, if you haven't read this one, click "Older post" to read it. You won't be sorry.