It's hard for me to express why I go to BlogHer every year. Invariably I spend the first day wondering if I'm going to get the experience I am hoping for and over the course of a few days I then can't believe how enriched my life has been because of it. For my own reference, I'm going to try to list some of the highlights for me. Spending time with Laurie reminds me how a chance encounter can turn into a friendship. We happened to sit at the same cocktail table at BlogHer 2006 and traded cards. We then discovered we live in neighboring states and have the ability to pick up and chat about anything over the last two years. This is the second year we've been roommates and I look forward to those moments with her, both for the fun of it and as a constant reminder of how BlogHer does good things for my soul.
The photography session was incredibly worthwhile for me (and not just because I won a free copy of Lightroom). Me Ra Koh went over a lot of photography essentials, most of which I knew deep down already, but it was refreshing to hear them again. She and her husband Brian had one of the most polished presentations in one of the worst rooms in the hotel (giant columns in the middle of the room, hard to see people from all areas of the space, etc.). Me Ra was friendly, genuinely enthusiastic, and knowledgeable without being condescending. As an added bonus, it was nice to see how she and her husband have built a business and seem to have a great partnership in all things. It made me miss my own husband. I bought her DVD series both because I believe in what she's doing to teach photography and it may help me be more brave in my own photography.
The community keynote organized by Eden Kennedy blew my mind (and occasionally broke my heart). About a third of the entries read out loud I had already read myself before, but it was just so powerful to hear them read by their authors. I've never laughed and cried so much in the same hour. I only wish that if someone ever asked me why I blog, I could just sit them down and make them watch a video of that evening. Eden put the list of readings up on her site for your perusal.
I loved going to the Saturday morning yoga session (once I got my ass out of bed at 6:30am to do it). I really should start going to yoga more often at home, but particularly on a weekend like this that is so fraught with intense emotions, it was a welcome relief to get all that stress out of my hips and heart. By the end of the session I found myself in a corpse pose with silent tears streaming off my face, just so tired and emotionally spent. It didn't help that my blood sugar had plummeted (from 298 to 58 mg/dL), but I don't think it was just the hypoglycemia that brought on the tears. I had had a bit of an emotionally stressful Friday and yoga was the best way for me to get a clean slate for the rest of the weekend. I hope they have a yoga session every year so I don't have to do it in between the beds in the hotel room while my poor roommate tries to sleep.
I was unsure what to expect from Maggie Mason's panel on passionate blogging, but was so happy I went. It was another great example of why I blog. I have been to the sessions on building traffic and monetization, and they tend to leave me feeling disheartened by my blogging. I left Maggie's session ready to kick ass and really proud of the seven (!) years worth of my life I've chronicled on the internet. It was really one of those Field of Dreams moments for me that if I just do what I'm passionate about, then the community will come on its own and the ones that do come will be incredibly high quality. Maggie even mentioned that an overwhelming majority of blogs have under 20 readers, so to me that said a lot about why people blog - not for the popularity, but for the passion of writing.
The panel on taking back naked blogging really spoke to me as well, as I struggle with my own boundaries on the internet. I felt like a bit of a LiveJournal evangelist as I gave it such high praise for multiple filter options and security features (I'm sure Vox is very nice too, but that's not where my peeps are.). I enjoy having multiple outlets for my writing and I think others would like it too. My heart broke to hear one blogger (who I'm not linking to for privacy issues, but her site is great) talk about being terrorized by trolls on her blog saying awful things about her. It's so infuriating to think how a space that should give her so much joy can be sullied by one or two assholes. But I really do like the idea of having someone else moderate your comments for you in a situation like that just so you don't even have to read them before they're deleted. We should start a service for bloggers to do that as needed.
I stayed for the Unconference this year, solely on Laurie's recommendation from attending last year. It really was exactly what I needed after such an intense weekend. I spent about 20 minutes giving a short tutorial on LiveJournal options to one fellow blogger and then put my feet up and surfed the web for an hour or so. It was so comforting to be in a room of women I had gotten to know better over the last two years and just listen to their keyboards click or hear them chat with each other. It's that same thing where I love to be in a room when someone else is cleaning it; it makes me feel calm in a very zen way. I rallied for a discussion about WordPress and all the snazzy plugins that are available, and stumbled upon a fellow Genie. We met up with the intention to talk shop about WordPress, but ended up trading life stories. It was a fantastic way for me to end the conference "sessions," just touching base with a very nice woman from across the country. Like I said in the wrap up session that day, I have 6000 business cards but now I also have a new friend. I'm such a goodie two shoes about staying in sessions and taking notes and "getting my money's worth" when I go to things like this, that it was fantastic to have a very non-structured day to wrap up my experiences.
One of the highlights of my entire weekend was dinner Sunday night. It evolved very organically and that's exactly what I needed. We had very fine $11 mojitos with my new friend (and relative neighbor) Kristen and wandered down Geary street til we found the world's best Mexican restaurant. I got to meet and talk in person with people whose blogs I have read before but now feel much closer to and it really gave me a great perspective on how a blog is only a slice of a person's life and personality, no matter how much they're "living out loud." I found out that Schmutzie and I have taste buds that were separated at birth since we find all the same menu features irresistible, I was able to finally put a face to the very sweet Elke, and I feel lucky that Emily [mle] shared so many beautiful parts of her life with us. All that and table-side guacamole!
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention my newest BFF Erica from Crummy Cupcake. She didn't ask if we wanted to go to a bar, she walked up and demanded we go to a bar. What bar? The Gold Dust, which she described as this little dive of a place across the street with cheap margaritas. She bought me a drink, she handed me her business card and we all danced and laughed for hours. I don't know that I've closed a bar in the last ten years, but I did Saturday night. I wussed out and went to bed at 3:30 Pacific time while they all left for "breakfast," but I was able to get the full experience of the Gold Dust, a man named Peter from Germany, and the kindness and camaraderie of strangers. So on that note, I leave you with some photos from our evening at the Gold Dust. I fucking love San Francisco.