It’s been a week since I returned from BlogHer ’14. It feels weirdly like I got home tonight and that it was weeks ago. I won’t regale you with tales of jet lag (oh, but there are many! I’d never traveled to the west coast) or flight fear (oh, but it exists). Last year, I wrote this about what returning from BlogHer ’13 felt like. Read that and then imagine the feelings I described there, here, but tripled.
The most marked difference this year was the size. There were fewer people and it still felt huge, but it wasn’t an I can’t find anyone massiveness. There were fewer sessions, but that was better because I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing one interest for another.
I know I said it last year, but it bears repeating: if you have complaints, voice them respectfully to the conference planners. I have zero damns to give if you’re just bitching to bitch. I am damnless. Gave all my damns at the office. I can’t. In my Luvvie voice: #unabletocan. Consider this: there is no room for a privatized experience at a conference. Look at it from the planning perspective rather than as a recipient of the experience. Think of the hours of logistics and puttingtogetherness. Think of the multitude of questions and answers, yes, no, maybe, whatthehellisthat. Think of the time, energy, money. Know that your experience is being considered when the conference is planned. No one is setting out to make sure you have a bad time, learn nothing, don’t get enough swag. If you go into it knowing what happens behind the scenes to even make the conference happen, maybe you’ll have a better time. If you think about how BlogHer employees are working even as they say hello to you, if you remember that the level of effort that goes into planning is also happening during execution, and after, maybe you’ll get a new perspective. They are STILL fielding questions a week later. I’m not saying your complaint is not justified; it might be. What I’m suggesting is you describe your experience truthfully yet politely.
What I know for sure is I respect BlogHer’s planners because I can’t be on anybody’s committee to make sure things run smoothly. The minute I hear music, all communication is lost until the DJ says time to go. You will, however, always know where to find me.
So, different from last year, I figured I’d go day by day and just give a synopsis. Good? Good. I got in early Wednesday afternoon. I sat around talking with friends for hours, then we found a nail salon because I needed my eyebrows done and it is entirely normal to walk down the streets of a city you’ve never visited, yelling at Siri to be more specific. The nail salon’s cleanliness was, um, questionable. And yet, I wound up with my eyebrows waxed (half-assedly), a wonderful pedicure, and my nails painted, all from the comfort of a massage chair that was down right orgasmic. Sure, when I took a shower that night I hopped from pain as water hit a cut on my foot I didn’t know I had. I spent the remainder of my time in CA scared that I would develop the mange from a $15 pedicure. My nails looked very pretty.
Thursday morning I did what every regular person does. I found the Walgreens, Safeway, and a Ross. I had to pay $.10 for a bag (they’re $.05 at home and I never leave home without reusable ones. Needless to say, I carried that bag every time I left the hotel thereafter because I need my dimes). Thursday afternoon I headed to Pathfinder but ran into friends and never made it because the pool was beckoning. We had our own poolside mini conference (which made a BlogHer employee tell us we made her happy). Later, we went to the party sponsored by Eppa. I don’t care for Sangria, and in fact, I didn’t have any. But I think I still had fun.
Thursday night, I walked through the expo hall once and then for the next hour and a half, I was the party.
Others joined me toward the end of the DJ’s set, but while it was just me, he started playing FOR me. He had figured out I knew everything he was playing, so then he stuck to the same genre because I “seemed so happy.” Later, he told me he’d be playing Saturday night at the Hilton. Um, OK. I won’t be there, bruh, because I need my kidneys and if anyone is going to make money off of their removal and sale, it’s gonna be me.
Friday. There is a reason The Bloggess was the welcome keynote. Hilarious and honest, she made me glad to be there. I attended the Blogging Fundamentals/Size Isn’t Always Everything: The Difference Between Page Views and Community which reminded me that numbers matter, sure, but they most certainly are not all there is to successful blogging. Tig Notaro is hilarious. How have I not known this? My sides hurt from laughing. Later that afternoon, Rita Arens and I hosted a writing lab titled Be Your Own Editor. We discussed all things grammar and punctuation, sayings, and spellings (and misspellings). I have never had that much fun talking about the Oxford comma and ellipses, I promise you. Although I had the worst set of nerves, Rita and I played off each other well, I think. Where Rita can remember rules, I can give good examples. I think it worked for us. No one stormed off saying semicolons are stupid, so I consider that a success.
The Voices of the Year community keynote remains the one part of BlogHer that is unmissable. I don’t care what’s going on, who wants to talk, or what’s on fire, I will always be present at the VOTY ceremony. The readers this year took us on such an emotional ride that a tissue company should be a sponsor next year. When the videos become available, watch all 12. You won’t regret it.
Unfortunately, Friday was also when jet lag hit (I know, I know; I said I wasn’t going to discuss it). I listened to a few readers in the open mic salon, then was forced into the karaoke room where I lasted all of two songs. I made it to zero suite parties that night, though I truly wanted to at least say hi to people in each, even if briefly. I went to bed, y’all. I am unable to find much remorse in that decision. I think I fell asleep midsentence talking to Katie before 11:30.
Saturday. Kara Swisher interviewed Melissa Barnes and I felt like I was eavesdropping on a side-hurting, hilarious conversation between friends. The Richelle Parham interview by Nellie Bowles left a bit to be desired, only because Bowles didn’t seem fully prepared with her questions. But Parham was pretty adept at handling the lulls. Arianna Huffington was amazing. She is charming and funny and relatable. I bought her book and had to write my name on the page I wanted her to sign. She said it was a lovely name. I asked her to pronounce it. She laughed, said it wrong, but then said the correct way was prettier. I went to The Future of Personal Blogging Mini-Con which left me feeling grateful that there are plenty of others who know personal blogging is not dead. Kerry Washington was incredibly inspiring, as I knew she would be. She made me want to get up, get out, and do something. The closing keynote was nothing short of magical. So many different, yet inherently the same, women discussing race and gender, feminism, writing openly, and how it all plays out online.
Overwhelmingly, I felt like this year was more about raising your voice, using your voice, knowing your voice, letting no one silence your voice. The conference always leaves me feeling determined and sure of myself, but this year, those who were chosen to speak and topics that were covered seemed to ask what more can we be doing, be it together or apart? How can I help? How can we collaborate? What is special to you and how can we bring awareness? This year was about inclusion and understanding, and most importantly, about experiences that seem vastly different but at their base, are wildly similar.
The closing party. Oh boy. Y’all ain’t ready. If I haven’t already explained, I like to dance. The closing party sponsored by McDonald’s was nothing short of incredible (seriously, if you’re upset about McDonald’s being a sponsor, you have too much time on your hands). Those DJs played the soundtrack to my life. I will say this though: those portapotties were the cleanest, closest thing to a full bathroom except not, that I have EVER been in. I was already enjoying the music, but when Rev Run showed up, he took that party to heights I hadn’t expected. I present you proof:
Afterward, walking back to the hotel, we passed the Hilton. There was music. You guessed it; there was the other night’s DJ. He hi-fived me when he saw me. Now that’s an impression. I guess this was our unofficial closing party after party. It was a stone cold bash.
Reentry this year looked like this.
The first three days were (insert expansive pause) difficult. I’m still trying not to talk about the jet lag, but I’ll say this, which seems really wrong: I adapted to the three-hour time change THE DAY I LEFT. I caught myself looking at the badges of people I don’t know at work, wanting to ask what they blog about. Things that are concerning: I unpacked within two days, y’all, and I still have the app on my phone.
BlogHer will always be about seeing old friends and connecting with new ones. But, it will always be about more too, like honing your skills, finding your voice, writing about difficult topics, supporting other writers, learning, always learning. In that sense, it seems disrespectful to suggest it’s about anything less serious. BlogHer is about continuing, pivoting when you’ve hit a wall, changing when you need to. One of my favorite parts of this year’s conference was the 10×10 presentations. Each presenter discussed her (or his, Doug French!) views on the past 10 years of blogging and BlogHer. Each one was thoughtful and insightful. Some were hilarious, but each was remarkably that person. They did such a wonderful job differentiating themselves while discussing the same topic. That was the essence of this year, and what the 10 x 10 presentations represented best. Blogging and all of its facets will continue to change, but the art of blogging, whatever that means for YOU, never should.