As Part 1 of this post discussed, I was touched by this year’s Blogher theme of “In Real Life”. But I wasn’t the only one. And it wasn’t all smiles and feather boas either.
The first night of parties was good. Gwynne was recognized by more people than I was. That was okay, though. I drank more vodka and cranberry than she did. I believe I had just as much fun! I met many interesting people but the one who stood out that evening was a very artsy, cool looking woman who won my heart by offering me a drink ticket. The means to my first and much needed cocktail. The next day I recognized her as a speaker in one of my sessions, Melissa Lion, author and social media whatchamacallher. I went to the bookstore that day to return the drink ticket favor and buy her book. I read 6 pages of “Upstream” and was already choked up and in love with my new writer/blogger friend. By the time I finished the uncluttered, straight to the heart 150 pages I was fully completely attached to all the characters, had laughed and cried, and been left with a feeling of hope and optimism. Two thumbs and big toes up. Turns out the book is under movie option. So you should visit her website or read the book right now so you can say you knew of her when. Thank goodness I didn’t know all that BEFORE I stalked her a lil bit and finally worked up the nerve to ask her to autograph my book after lunch.
The second night of conference I was completely on my own and, you guessed it, ended up crying in my room too afraid to go to the big parties alone. I had returned to the hotel room after sessions and started getting ready. I was all excited and looking in the mirror curling my hair and I literally saw the change in my face as I realized, “Whoa, I am headed out alone”. Now I like to be alone for sure, but not GOING OUT alone in CHICAGO alone. I texted my family and they couldn’t be found. I Facebooked. I texted a few friends to try and nonchalantly suck some of their good energy. In the end, it was the sucking dry of the vodka in the mini bar that turned my frown upside down and got me out the door. Thank goodness because had I not gone out that night, I would not have received my tiara or had my first experience with a chocolate fountain. Vodka, chocolate, and a tiara. Every girl’s dream.
The natural buzz I picked up from daily sessions was made of the same stuff that gave me the energy to stay up too late and show up early to breakfast networking and each day’s classes. Women continued to recognize, hug, and support one another. We did networking speed dating which was exhausting and fun. We learned tips, teckie stuff, and held Q&As. Then it was time for Community keynote speakers. That’s when I realized. It wasn’t just me whose life had been enriched by involvement in the blogging community and by this remarkable event, but community wide, people’s lives were changing for the better. Gathered in the ballroom 1500 deep, we all laughed and cried together as winning blog authors read for us their favorite posts. I would challenge any woman to try and NOT be touched in some way by the presentation of each and every blogger that read to us, regardless of whether or not you could relate to the topic. There were a few, though, that spoke most directly to me.
As a woman torn every moment of every day between the beauty and the pain of the world as well as my own community, I cheered the testimony of one blogger’s Obama election reflections as she taught me about “racial skepticism” and related it to the barriers and stereotypes suffered by many groups. She touched us with hope that these issues would one day soon be distant memories. A blogging mommy made a change in me as she told me how my life time practice of using the word “retard” hurts her, her family, the precious son she lost, and the sweet child she later CHOSE to make part of her family. And as an adoptive mother of 2 I lost my breath as the story unfolded of the blogger on a quest to find the brother she didn’t know she had, who was given up by her mother all those years ago because she didn’t know she had a choice. If you are reading these posts as you go and could use a laugh (and a tissue?) right about now I will also share the story of this hilarious blogger as she chronicles her relationship with Diet Coke. Still others shared intensely personal stories ranging from hilarious to heart wrenching and as they laughed and cried during the presentation of their blogs you could see and feel the joy, the therapy, the pain, and the relief that their posts had brought them through not only the writing, but the posting, the community response, and the public presentation. Powerful stories, incredibly talented writers.
At Blogher ’09 we had the opportunity to interact with high profile women in entertainment, communications, and publishing. We picked their brains and they picked ours. We learned tips and strategies to get just what we wanted out of our blogging experience be it socializing, informing, or monetizing. We were treated to incredible food, samples, gifts, and rewards, feather boas and tiaras, celebrity guests and entertainment. Yet all that pales in comparison to the knowledge that soon our odd and misunderstood hobbies and businesses would one day, sooner than later, be mainstream “in real life”. And most of all we were able to meet the incredible women and feel the blogosphere’s electric vibe as we brought that amazing community into OUR REAL LIVES.