Within the span of the last month I have been on safari in Kenya, a water park in Lafayette Indiana, a friend’s house in Easthampton NY, a small rental apartment in New York’s East Village, and BlogHer12 in midtown Manhattan. After careful consideration, I’d say that in terms of sheer stimulus overload, BlogHer12 wins, hands-down.
Throw whatever metaphor you want at BlogHer–prom, high-school lunchroom, convention, sideshow, circus–and you’ll find that almost any of them will work to explain at least some aspect of the conference, which pulled in more than 4000 writers/bloggers over the span of three days. That’s a whole lot of bandwidth. The blue BlogHer banner commands enough respect that President Obama addressed the crowd (Mitt was invited but apparently couldn’t fit it into his schedule. Something about having to attend a mandatory “how not to offend foreign heads of state” remedial seminar or something).
Why did I go to BlogHer? Well, I was curious, mostly; and I was going to be in New York that weekend anyway; and I figured that after four years of writing this blog, I should try to swim in the big kids’ pool.
What did I expect? Um…that I’d write a book proposal at the Pathfinders Session on Thursday, sell the proposal on Friday, be on the “Today” show on Monday, best-seller list on Tuesday.
Can you believe? It didn’t happen.
The stimulus overload, though? Yeah, that happened.
Was it Obama addressing the conference on live video feed? Katie Couric, Martha Stewart, Christie Turlington, Soledad O’Brien, Malaak Compton-Rock, talking about how women can change the world? Or the readers from Voices of the Year, who made me laugh, cry, and consider taking up embroidery because they were so intimidatingly good. And then, of course, there was swag that ranged from toys for kids (Hot Wheels) to toys for adults (did you know Trojan sells a whole line of “personal vibes?” Not sure I’d have the guts to ask the teenaged cashier at Walgreens to grab it off the shelf, but maybe you will.)
Oh and also? There were panels on every topic from video-blogging to podcasting, from writing about kids to writing erotica, but the professionalism of the panels varied as widely as the topics themselves, from wow that’s really exciting to did you plan your talk on a napkin at breakfast? (Ado at the Momalog has a great post here about the panels.)
I learned a few things in the midst of all this stimulus overload: I learned that there are bloggers who write, and writers who blog. It’s a bit like “vacation” and “family trip“: on the surface, these things might look the same, but each has a very different purpose.
I also learned that even though the BlogHer Sparklecorn party is justifiably famous, living on the north side of forty (as I do) makes it hard to sparkle your corn (even if you’re wearing your favorite gold clogs) in a room jammed with loud music, long bar lines, and twenty-somethings in tutus and glow-sticks. Even unicorn cake couldn’t tempt me:
Here’s what else I learned: If a willowy blonde comes over and says something to you while you’re frantically trying to save seats for Obama’s opening speech, you shouldn’t be embarrassed about saying “I didn’t hear you.” Because if you just nod and smile and continue to scan the room for the fifteen different people you’re trying to find (in a room that holds hundreds), then later you’re going to feel like a complete ass. Because when you sparklecorn yourself out of the party and down to the more civilized hotel bar, a blonde in a fantastic dress will say “oh yes, we met,” and you’ll say “no we haven’t,” and she’ll say “yep, we have,” and then you’ll realize that the woman you ignored at Obama’s speech is none other than the marvelous Marinka, who had been on your list of people-I-hope-I-meet-but-probably-won’t-because-she’s-one-of-the-cool-kids.
What else did I learn at BlogHer? I did learn something quite fantastic, and it wasn’t the advice I got about writing and publishing. Much of that advice I already knew, although it’s always good to be reminded.
What I learned at BlogHer came from the generous, funny, intelligent writers I met during my three days, with whom I had fantastic conversations about politics, families, writing and shoes; we took silly photographs and drank too much mediocre wine (and a few pink martinis, courtesy of the Mouthy Housewives and Aiming Low). I’m talking to you Suniverse, and Empress, and Squashed (who read her piece so beautifully during the Voices of the Year celebration that she reduced the room to tears); and to you Mutterschwester, Book4MyDaughter, Millenial Monster, Outlaw Mama, Momalog, and Random Handprints. I’m talking about bonding over the brilliance of Crowded House with Midlife Mixtape, being flattered beyond belief that Wendi Aarons had heard of my blog, and laughing until I cried at Arnebya’s hysterical Chipotle post.
These women and the many others I talked to taught me that the phrase “the blogging community” is not a metaphor. It is what my almost-eight year old would call a “true fact.”
Alexandra (aka The Empress) suggested I let people know that I respond to comments. My responses to your comments should pop up in your email box, but if that doesn’t work (yeah, I skipped the panel on tech-administration, yep, I did), please check back to continue the conversation. Thanks!