BlogHer12: Let’s Tell The Truth

In the months leading up to BlogHer12, I pored over the internet in an attempt to find advice about what to expect. I wanted the truth about BlogHer. I wanted the outtakes. I wanted the dirt. The nitty-gritty. NOT more information about shoes, or outfits, or business cards. What I found were generalizations. “Be yourself. Wear comfortable shoes. Put kindness out and you will get kindness back. Take your blogging seriously.” And something about a unicorn cake. All good information, but I could tell that something was missing.

I had no idea how mentally unprepared I would be.

4,000 women. A handful of men. The President of the United States. Martha Stewart. Katie Couric. The Feminist Breeder. A gigantic Lorax. Christy Turlington-Burns. Soledad O’Brien. An entire suite filled with Starbucks swag.  The Fearless Formula Feeder. And a very, um, interesting Malaak Compton-Rock. (Come ON people. I know we were all on our best behavior in the Tweet-osphere, but WHAT THE F was that all about??? Is the woman really OK?). Oh, and a gigantic robotic unicorn cake that apparently got punched in the head. And not one, but TWO vibrator swag booths. And a Serenity Suite.  And a place for my three year old to race HotWheels….did I mention that yet?

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This, my loves, was BlogHer12. And the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting 4000 Women in the Blogosphere” previews? Not.helpful.here.

So here’s the TRUTH about BlogHer12, at least for me.

1. You will be overwhelmed. Anyone who says that walking into a sea of thousands of women bloggers (while holding 200 freshly printed business cards in your sweaty palms) feels good, is a big fat liar. Or an ENORMOUSLY popular blogger. Of which there are maybe 20. So if you’re not one of them, you will (at times, but not all of the time) feel really fucking uncomfortable.

2. You will question yourself. Call it “Little fish, Big Sea” syndrome. Call it a confidence-suck. Call it “too many free Jimmie Dean sausage sandwiches from the Expo and not enough water or sleep”, but the end result is the same. “Why am I here? Why do I even bother to blog anyway? These people are FUCKING INSANE”.

3. If you want to feel better, you have to reach out. I was SO enormously grateful for the women that I had met online in the months leading up to BlogHer. If it weren’t for Ashleigh, I would have had a very different kind of conference experience. When 3 billion women all tried to get lunch and get a front row seat to Martha Stewart at the same exact time, Ashleigh went and saved us a seat while I got our lunch plates. When the Expo Hall multiplied into FOUR different rooms, we walked the booths together. I couldn’t have smiled wider when I realized that she was giving my elevator pitch for me, and delivering it much better than I ever could. From parties to pink hair, she was truly my BlogHer blessing….and a great new friend! Texting with Carinn, hugs with Arnebya, laughing with Christie, and sharing BlogHer truths with some wonderful new friends in the Serenity Suite meant that I was no longer just a little fish. I was in a school of fish, and if we were swimming together, it was impossible to get swept away by the current.  Find your school of fish.  Start connecting with people online before you go to BlogHer, and you won’t feel so alone.
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4. BlogHer is like living in a suspended state of reality. At home, we make rules about screen time and limit our texting and tweeting and FaceBooking so that we don’t neglect our kids. At BlogHer, it is perfectly normal to tweet your friends while they are in the same room as you (like Jennifer did when I was sitting across from her at breakfast). It is absolutely acceptable to be listening to THE Martha Stewart speak about world domination while simultaneously FaceBooking about her fabulous orange platform sandals. Imagine taking your normal online behavior (stolen texts while the kids are busy in the sandbox, quick emails from the bathroom, a Skype exchange at 11 pm) and multiply that by 3,000. Now add in a hotel room that is in the same space as the conference hall. Now subtract about 12 hours of sleep. It’s the “BlogHer Alternate Universe” equation. The real world does not exist this way. But for three or four days, you will live/sleep/eat/breathe/dance/pee “The BLOGOSPHERE”.

5. You will not go hungry. I don’t know who starved at BlogHer last year, and then wrote a whole post about packing extra granola bars, but they clearly needed some advice. It is perfectly acceptable to skip breakfast and weave your way through the Expo Hall. In less than ten minutes, you can stalk the Jimmie Dean Sausage guy for a breakfast sandwich, wash it down with a Berry Blast Jamba Juice, and pick up a coffee with Bailey’s creamer to take with you to the session being led by The Feminist Breeder and Baby Rabies. Easy Peasy. Fast and free.  Suspended reality? Remember? And don’t worry about an afternoon snack. You can make S’Mores in the Hershey’s suite. I mean, I’m not a swag whore or anything, but I would never turn down cookies cupcakes guacamole ice cream stir fry honey sticks frozen blueberries free food.

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6. The swag. Everyone talks about it, no one describes it in detail. It’s like the Malaak Compton-Rock interview. Shhhh…..but don’t tell anyone I’m talking about it. Yes, you will need an extra bag to take your free stuff home in. But you will also get extra bags. Insulated bags. Lunch bags. Reusable grocery bags. Bags that say BlogHer and bags that proudly scream “SEX TOYS IN HERE!”. Oh yes. The rumors are true. And the sponsors are onto us, ladies. This year there was not one, but TWO vibrator booths. Way to label all of us Mommy Bloggers as starved for affection sexually enlightened.  Just prepare for lots of extra stuff.  Like muppet band-aids and children’s Advil and face lotion samples and fake eyelashes and press-on nails and battery operated candles.

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7. You will have a different conference experience every single day that you are there. On Thursday I was basking in my naivete. On Friday, I was soaking up what a panel of editors had to say about pitching your ideas and turning your blog posts into published essays, while simultaneously tweeting my location to the handful of new best friends that I had met. By that night, I was in tears walking back to my room and then 7 minutes later found beautiful friendship in the Serenity Suite and all was right with the world again. On Saturday I was already jaded about the parties and the free swag, but enamored by what I was learning at a session that I had to sneak into when it was already filled to maximum capacity. Come Saturday night, on the heels of the roller coaster ride that is Voices Of The Year, I was full of warm fuzzies about blogging and writing and feminism and power and the ability to create change. I was high on BlogHer. And then I went back to my hotel room and saw this:

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And I realized that maybe I did need to go all the way to NYC, to realize that the answer to “Why do you blog?” was right there in front of me. So if you need to know the truth about BlogHer, it really just boils down to this…..

8. YOU WILL BE OK. You will be OK. You will be more than OK. And on the last night, you will find yourself sitting on the floor of your bathroom with tears in your eyes, as you type furious “blog this” notes into your iPhone because you don’t want to forget a single. moment. of what it felt like for your heart to have found it’s home. You will leave feeling understood. You will leave feeling fulfilled. You will leave feeling inspired. You will leave knowing that the family and friends in your hometown are what makes your blogging so beautiful, and the family and friends that you have met at BlogHer are what moves your writing forward. You need all of them to fuel your writing. All of them to soothe your blogging soul. And you’ll leave knowing that you should end every blog post one paragraph before you think you should (but there’s time to work on that). You will leave feeling like you forgot something back in one of the sessions. A truth. A thought. A moment in time. Because you did.

You left your fear back there. On that cold seat in the huge conference hall. You left your fear, and you’re not going to come back for it anytime soon.

Blog with honesty.  Blog with intention.  Blog with hope.

Happy BlogHer everyone.  I am so glad I had the chance to meet you!

 

 

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Comments:

  1. Too cool your family traveled with you. That must have been a lifesaver. Don’t leave me hanging on Malaak. What happened??

    • Sooo….Malaak 🙂 Funny thing is, I don’t KNOW what happened???! She completely shut down during her interview/keynote. Couldn’t form sentences, wasn’t following along with the rest of the panel. Admitted to a “brain fart” early in, but then never bounced back (and never explained what was wrong). It was horribly uncomfortable to watch, and a little upsetting (was she sick? over-tired? on something?) Maybe we’ll never know…

  2. proud of you! I think #3 is great advice, but #12 left me smiling huge. I am so glad that it was amazing for you. 🙂

  3. Well said! But based on your experience, I think I should have spent more time in the expo and the suites upstairs! Great to meet you. I look forward to keeping up with your writing.

    • Oh no! I was worried that this came across as too “swag heavy”….I think that your time is best spent in sessions/keynotes, but of course, when you’re hungry…get thee to the closest Expo Hall!

      • Oh, no, not too swag heavy… I was just referring to the fact that I was one of the hungry ones. By saturday afternoon, I was desperate for a burrito bowl from Chipotle! (So I got one.) 🙂

      • Oh, no, not too swag heavy… I was just referring to the fact that I was one of the hungry ones. By saturday afternoon, I was desperate for a burrito bowl from Chipotle! (I wish they’d been in the Expo hall!) 🙂

  4. Wow, that really sounds amazing. I’m so glad I learned about blogher this early in my “blogging career” (I’m really only months into it). Now I have the whole year to look forward to it, and plan for it. I love how, after spending all that time in blogging heaven, you got still got to come back to your two guys. Congrats on your first blogher conference!!

    • Thank you! Yes, it felt wonderful to have a slice of “home” waiting for me every evening, to balance out my blog adventure!

  5. I love this, Kim, I really do. It was so wonderful to hug you in person (and sniff your hair. Ssshh). I clearly was not mentally prepared but I adapted quickly, I think. I only made it into one session, only walked through the expo hall in its entirety on Saturday morning and didn’t wind up with much. I spent a lot of time in my room, in quiet, and outside, in noise but quiet in my head. It was truly an amazing experience. I refused to set a specific expectation for the conference, but I got out of it exactly what I needed/wanted.

    Oh, Malaak. Fifteen minutes was it for me. As much as I ADORE Soledad and as much as she tried to, um, help, I just could not endure it.

    • YOU are amazing. I wish that the rest of the conference was filled with more Arnebya moments….and now that I realize that it WAS, and I just missed Open Mic because I am lame….well, now I REALLY want to go back and get a do-over!! And did you ever get the real story on Miss Malaak, and what the heck was wrong with her???? But anyway 🙂 YOU made the conference so much more wonderful for me. Just so you know.

  6. This gave me CHILLS Kim. I agree with all of it (especially Malaak. I need someone to reassure me she was just overwhelmed). It was quite a roller coaster experience. While I might have done some things differently, I wouldn’t have traded in the experience for the world.

    I hope that someday, somewhere we get to spend more time together. I was jealous that you had your family there with you – there were times I could have just used a quiet and familiar hug.

    You are beautiful inside and out, especially with those pink streaks!!!!

    • Carinn, your friendship is something that I TREASURE from this experience. I am so glad that we got to know each other before the conference, and that you were a familiar (safe and happy) face throughout my time in NYC. Looking forward to continuing our writing adventure together 🙂 And admiring how you ventured out and rocked BlogHer with your confidence…and your bowling shoes.

  7. “You left your fear back there.” – this is the truest statement about BlogHer for me. I felt like a badass when I came home.

    It was such a pleasure to meet you in person. I hope I see you next year!

  8. This is one hell of a piece of writing. Absolutely beautiful, and it perfectly describes the whirlwind that is BlogHer.

    One of my big regrets from the weekend is that we never got a chance to hang out. We were like 2 ships passing in the night….

    Hope you come to Chicago next year – I will be there, and hopefully in better health, so we can party together! 🙂

    • Oh how I wish we could have met! Thank you for your kind words here, and for being one of those “big bloggers” who is still SO gracious, and kind, and supportive. You are such a huge role model for so many of us, and I hope to be able to hug you and thank you personally some day….perhaps in Chicago! And I am still stunned that you read at VOTY with food poisoning???? I never would have known if you hadn’t told us!

  9. Awesome post. 🙂

  10. This is a really great, fair post about the conference. You get out of it what you put into it, the potential is there for everyone.

    I’m glad you had a good time!

  11. Great blog! I found it searching for someone…anyone at all, talking about what happened to Malaak. As a person dealing with speaking anxiety, I found what happened to her to be very important, and I think it’s awful that no one is talking about it. I blogged about it in my most recent post. It may have nothing at all to do with that, but I’d also like to know what happened, and most of all whether she’s ok.

    • Mama By The Bay says:

      Thanks Lisa! Just read your post, and I’m really glad that someone else is talking about what happened with Malaak too. I feel like they owe us some sort of explanation, and I’m assuming they paid her a speaker’s fee? I can’t help but wonder if it was something more than speaking anxiety 🙁

  12. This is a beautiful post, and I love your take on the experience. It is a crazy few days, but worth it in my opinion.

    And I didn’t go to the Malaak Rock thing, and never heard anything about it going awry, so now I’m intrigued as to what happened almost a year later.

    Anyway, I hope to catch you this year at BlogHer13!

  13. Thanks for this post. I am so excited about this year. I am also quite anxious. I have an awesome bloggy buddy helping me this year so hopefully all will rock. =)

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