#BlogHer14: Traveling, Enjoying, Returning, Continuing

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.

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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.

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Nancy Davis Kho pretending to be too good for laughter, Tarja Parssinen, and Ann Imig

Thursday night, I walked through the expo hall once and then for the next hour and a half, I was the party.

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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.

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Yes, I edited my name. What?

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.

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Three-time VOTY!

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:

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Grace Biskie, Stacey Ferguson, Brandi Riley, Jasmine Banks GETTING DOWN

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.

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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.

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Top down: Kristin Vanderhey Shaw, Angela Youngblood, Greta Funk, Jennie Goutet, Tonya Wertman, Elaine Alguire, Jennifer Williams, Katie Sluiter, Leigh Ann Torres, Poppy Marler
This deserves a post unto itself. Jasmine Banks, Kelly Wickham, Grace Biskie, Luvvie Ajayi, A'Driane Nieves, my belly button
This deserves a post unto itself. Jasmine Banks, Kelly Wickham, Grace Biskie, Luvvie Ajayi, A’Driane Nieves, my belly button

Comments

  1. says

    OMG we spelled your LAST NAME WRONG? #totalfail also, #figures. lol

    Flying east to west is hard. Very hard. It’s especially hard when you’re doing it for a BlogHerCon. But, let’s not talk about it.

    • says

      One of my favorite things was seeing you walk out onto that stage. Isn’t it amazing how you can read something online and adore it, but then when you hear the author read it in person it takes on a completely additional sense of wonderfulness? That is what you were for me. Wonderfulness, in person and words.

  2. says

    Yes to all of this. Especially the photos. Even though they make me homesick for my friends. And I have no idea what else to call it but homesick.

  3. says

    Fantastic wrap up. I love that you still take so much from the conference. It was a great conference for me, and I know that that was primarily because I had a little built-in tribe there. And I’m so glad I got to hug you in person.

    • says

      I think it really can give you back the amount of interest and effort you put into it. And yes, having our people there helped tremendously. I’m glad I got to stroke your hair.

  4. says

    You speak so eloquently, you writer, you. I regret not going to the grammar clinic. I adore Rita, too, and should’ve just said “to hell with learning anything.” Heh (you know what I mean, right?). You’re gorgeous and hilarious and I’m so glad I got to hug you (even if you don’t remember saying goodbye).

  5. says

    Oh, how I adore you! Totally hear you on those who complain about conferences- there are SO many moving pieces to be taken care. It’s impossible to please everyone, especially when people get really nit-picky.

    East to west about kills me every time, so I chose to sit this one out. Seeing all the pics on instagram and facebook during was a little rough- I wanted to be there with all my blogging friends!

    It looks like you had a fabulous time.

    I have to know: where do you stand on the Oxford comma? I’m a fan and hope we can still be friends. ;)

  6. says

    My goodness, I love this. And I’ve read ALL! THE! RECAPS!

    You ARE the party, lady. Even when you’re not dancing to the music of a lone DJ.

  7. says

    How I wish I had joined your party of one! But the office beckoned – or maybe it was food, or sleep. I can’t remember. Reentry is something awful that everyone should experience at least once so they can understand our pain. Blogger problems are real.

    Thank you for being such a kind and determined voice in our community. You can do a lot with those two traits, except get your name spelled correctly. I kind of like you as Lena Horne, anyway.

  8. says

    We met briefly during one of your romps thru the Expo hall (I was the dork hanging/working with Melisa and Momo). This post is awesome and you are an absolute treasure! Thank you :)

  9. says

    Oh you. I was already feeling a hole because I couldn’t make it this year and now? Now it is a huge void. I missed the laughs, hugs, inspiration, and love. (Tell me you see that comma there, please.) As always, I could read your words forever. Thank you for taking me there the Arnebya (it IS such a beautiful name) way.

  10. says

    Thank you. You nailed it.

    And I didn’t adjust to the Pacific time until Saturday night either, so I was wrecked for all of last week. WRECKED.

  11. Jana says

    I want to take a grammar course from you so badly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also, I’m glad you said something about your belly button or I would have had to! LOL! xoxo

    • says

      I think it’s the width, Poppy. If you click on the photo, you’re there. But I don’t know how to fix it in the actual post. And I don’t remember being dragged into Slim Shady’s nails, so I take (a portion of) the blame if I got hepatitis c.

  12. says

    While I don’t share the same sense of excitement over semicolons the Grammar Clinic was just as good for me :-) It was actually the best session I attended. Thank you.

  13. says

    I’m still a tiny bit in denial that I’m not going to BlogHer 14.
    I know. It happened already.

    But I try not to think about that.
    (Why why why did my big family reunion have to be at the same time? WHY?!?)

  14. says

    Okay, the fact that they spelled your name wrong in the EDITING panel is really effin’ hilarious, you HAVE to admit!!! ;D

    I love this recap and you (and your dancing!). But I was REALLY hoping you would include your awesome photo I took of you withe Neil. Fine. Whatever.

    xoxo

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