The BlogHer conference was two weeks ago, meaning that in the blogworld, this posting is about as timely as me writing about witnessing the Hindenburg disaster (which I didn't; I'm old but not that old). As Grace Davis put it "blogtime is something like reverse geologic time."
I've been reading all the recaps and commentary since we got back from vacation on Sunday. I'm not sure there's much I could say that hasn't already been said. I started to title this "I Was a Fly On the Wall at BlogHer", since I probably spent the least time there of any of the participants. I went down for the opening session, stayed for a Birds of a Feather discussion on Community Blogging, raced home to prepare for my son's martial arts birthday party, hosted said party, cleaned up, then raced back for the closing session. I wasn't going to go at all, but when I read that Arianna Huffington and Grace Davis were speaking, I signed up. Friday was already sold out.
I came in late and joined a table near the front. I was one of maybe 5 people in the room without a laptop. I sat down next to Frank Paynter of Listics, one of maybe 10 men in the room. He is a lovely person, and was kind enough to answer my stupid questions like "who is that? what did she say?" whenever someone stood up to comment. He seemed to know who everyone was, when I had no idea. All around, people were blogging or surfing the internet while the Be Janes did their schtick. No one was listening, and I felt a little embarassed for them. They had a job to do, and they did it. Someone at our table whispered, "we need to get an anonymous benefactor to support BlogHer next year so we don't have to listen to this." I agreed, but for the most part, it didn't bother me that much.
After the commercials, the real conference began. Someone who called herself an "accidental relief worker" got up and talked about Katrina Relief. My ears perked up then--I could relate on so many levels. The woman from Eggbeater and talked about food as politics and got a great reception from the audience. Millie Garfield, the only person who's blog I had read of all the speakers from the floor, talked about how blogging has changed her routine. This stuff was what I came for, and I was not disappointed.
I joined the Birds of a Feather discussion about Community Blogging on behalf of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. It seemed like half of the people were people who were studying bloggers, marketing to bloggers, and not that many were bloggers. I found out the person sitting next to me works across the street from me and we know people in common. I enjoyed finding out who everyone was, and hearing about their work and their blogs, but I don't think I got much in terms of how our little start-up blog can improve.
While we were in the group, I spotted Karen of Chookooloonks, someone I really wanted to meet. I thought it might be rude to just leave and go over and gush to Karen about how much I love love love her blog and her photography. I once met John Irving at a book signing and was struck absolutely dumb at the sight of him. I think I drooled a bit. I once forgot my own name when introduced to Anna Quindlen. So, it would probably not have been a pretty sight for me to have tried to introduce myself to Karen.
Here's what I have to say about BlogHer and the Women Who Blogged about BlogHer: If you want to feel marginalized and alienated in a group of people there is ample evidence of how any one of us is different from others. I'm a half-white, half-Korean, middle class mom who works. Some would say that this conference was geared towards me as a relatively white middle class mom. I could also say, where was the biracial panel? the panel for fat girls with bad attitudes? travel bloggers with small kids? Long-winded, never-get-right-to-the point bloggers? The one for women with gapped teeth? Huh? And just like that, I feel left out.
Instead, what I saw was a roomful of "sistuhs doin' it for themselves". Women who were taking charge by expressing themselves, educating themselves, holding themselves up for public consumption and possible scorn and saying, "screw you; I am who I am. You can read what I write and like it or click on by. You're not going to stop me from writing, photographing, drawing, or creating, because it's what I do." Being fearless, as Arianna said. That spirit was inspiration enough.
A couple of months ago, when Jill & Pamela started the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, they invited me to contribute. Jill wrote a description of the group, saying that "we are a group of writers and mothers who live in Silicon Valley." I read that and thought "Hee. Jill called me a writer. Hahaha. She so crazy."
I never thought of myself as a writer, because, well, John Irving is a Writer, Anna Quindlen is a Writer, Karen from Chookooloonks is a Writer. Me? I'm a lawyer. A volunteer. A mommy. A wife. A chunky gal with glasses. A writer? No freaking way.
I started this blog after Jill and I went to Louisiana to deliver a semi-truckload of clothes, baby gear, and backpacks we collected in our community for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. I needed to tell the stories of what we saw and the people we met there, and the profound impact the experience had on me. Page after page poured out of me, like the storm surge that rolled through Slidell. I continued blogging to chronicle my family's travels to some pretty extraordinary places so that I could really answer my friends who ask, "how was your trip?" But, I'm not a writer. I'm just a mom with a hobby.
So here's the essence of what I took away from BlogHer: At the closing session, a woman spoke up and said, "I'm not really a writer, but..." and one of the panelists said, "You have a blog. You're a writer." As simple as that. Suddenly, I wasn't just a mom with a hobby. I wasn't just someone who gets some small thrill out of playing with words. I'm a writer. Even if no one who is not related to me by blood or by law reads this. Even if no one except my mother thinks I'm a terribly good writer. I'm still a writer. That little nugget of inspiration was worth the price of admission.