BlogHer 14: A Redhead’s Recap

Thursday: Fairy Tales Don’t Come True

Salem to San Jose is supposed to be a drive of just under two hours. I did it in just over three. There was an accident. And rush hour. And stuff. So I missed the Sangria Soiree.

Sad Robyn.

On the bright side, I found parking and made it to the San Jose Convention Center on the first try. That never happens.

BlogHer signs at the convention center

Welcome to BlogHer!

There was a party in the Expo Hall, where tons of swag was being offered by a wide variety of companies. There were also “heavy hors d’oeuvres,” including an apricot and goat cheese egg roll that tastes soooo much better than it sounds. Alcohol was available. I had a mimosa, a Sonic slushie (non-alcoholic, but oh so tasty), a Twisted shot (where were these things when I was in college?!?), and… some other alcoholic beverage. See? It was so good, I’ve already forgotten. Or something.

Robyn with a sign that reads "Happiness is 12 years of marriage"

Mimosas at Bridgestone

egg rolls, bruschetta, pineapple, and chicken

Yummy BlogHer Food

I met a woman named Nicole who palled around with me for awhile. However, we ended up going our separate ways at the Little Remedies and Chloraseptic booths. The presence of Little Remedies has inspired me to do a separate post about their products – and unique packaging – as well.

I also met Jenna Hatfield, after I accosted her husband, but I have decided to write a separate post about that.

I found that a lot of people were there as “couples,” or, perhaps “BFFs” would be a better term. My bloggy friend, Rain, was unavailable that night, having just returned from The Death Trap, so I was on my own. Though I did try to be more outgoing than my usually introverted self generally allows, I still found it difficult to connect with anyone.

So, once again, sad Robyn.

Friday: How Do You Like My Pants?

Friday morning, I rolled in late to the Newbie Breakfast. (I had to iron my pants at my friend’s place. We still haven’t found our iron, though I do have the ironing board.) Upon arriving at the Convention Center, I read that parking was $1 per hour, and I found a great space right near the elevator. Score! (I forgot my handicapped placard in the minivan.) But, when walking into the Convention Center, I realized that I had forgotten something at home – my belt. My pants kept falling down, just enough to be annoying. And the shirt I wore, I had only worn once before. It was a button down shirt. I have size D boobs. One of the buttons kept popping.

Robyn and the Baskin Robbins mascot

Baskin Robbins and me – see the button?

Annoyed Robyn.

Breakfast, by the way, was sad. There were some acceptable pastries, fruit, some watery eggs, something with meat, and breakfast burritos. Honestly? I’ve had better at the Holiday Inn. I didn’t bother to go to breakfast on Saturday, but I heard that breakfast was fabulous. Of course.

I didn’t intend to go to the morning keynote, but I wandered in. I’m so glad I did! All of the speakers were engaging, interesting, lively, even inspiring.

Being able to speak is not the same as having something to say.” – Shannon Des Roches Rosa

Although she was talking about her son, who has autism, clearly, that line has so much more meaning.

Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, was the keynote speaker. I’d never heard of her. She is so hilarious! I should definitely check out her book at some point – you know, after all of these boxes are out of my living room. My favorite of her quotes:

“Writers write always.”

“This woman has no boundaries. What it really is is, I have no filters.”

Exactly.

After the morning keynote, I chose to go to a seminar on publishing a book, mostly because I don’t know anything about publishing non-technical books. I’ve had a text book published, I’ve edited a particular published book for three  years in a row, and several of my technical manuals were published, of course, but I know nothing about publishing “real” books. I was disappointed in the panel. Someone on Twitter said it was “elitist” and I tend to agree. There was one woman there, Kamy Wickoff, of She Writes, who seemed interested in encouraging new writers. The other panel members were like the parents who tell the kids “You’ll never be as good as (insert published author name here).” I think there’s a fine line between realism and discouragement. They crossed that line.  I don’t think they intended to be mean, I just think they came off as harsh.

Lunch was served, family style, in the Grand Ballroom. During lunch, there was another set of speeches. I ate my Greek salad (perfect size), gourmet sandwich (a little too much aioli, but otherwise, quite good), and fruit tartlet (overdone, but still yummy) while the first speaker spoke, but I didn’t particularly feel like staying for the whole thing, so I went back to the Expo Hall for more swag, and to potentially learn more about some of the sponsors that had been swarmed the night before.

A girl holding a Sonic slushie

Sonic Slushie #2

Robyn in a star

At the TIggly booth

I then attended a Writing Lab. I had thought that the seminar was going to be in three parts – one about grammar (clearly not what I needed, but it never hurts to refresh one’s skills), one about headlines, and one about first drafts. Instead, the room was divided into three tables, and everyone had to pick just one topic. I waffled between first drafts and headlines so long that the choice was made for me – women crowded the first draft table. I’m quite glad headlines was chosen for me. For the first time, I actually got to talk to other bloggers, in a meaningful way. We all exchanged business cards (confession: I made mine Thursday morning on the Staples web site) and I do hope some of them will become bloggy friends. I’ve already subscribed to some of their blogs and read their latest posts. I do feel that I learned a lot from the headline workshop.

At this point, the fact that my pants were falling down and button was popping open aggravated me so much, I had to go back to my friend’s to change. However, I got lost on the way, and ended up getting stuck in traffic. Long story short, I missed the Voices of the Year. (I also found out that parking was $1 for every 20 minutes, and that “the elevator” is relative – there are lots of them – and the doors from the convention center to the parking garage are crazy difficult to find.)

Rain and I did go to the VOTY reception – decent food and drink, though not enough of it, I think – and we read many of the bigger-than-life (literally and figuratively) blog posts of the year. I saw Jenna again and got to hug her.

Jenna and her VOTY

Jenna and her VOTY

Rain wanted to read at the Open Mic event. I did not. Yet, somehow, she convinced me to put in a post from last year – The Choice Myth. We decided in advance that we would leave at 8:30 to go to the suite parties. Somehow, I was chosen to read, while Rain was not. I’m not sure how the post went over. It’s a rather long one, and somewhat angry at that. Anyway, the posts that the other ladies read were all stellar. Really. The ones that stand out are “My Mother Thinks I’m a Porn Star,” a post by Little Miss Perfect, and a letter from a young woman to her newly deceased husband. However, I remember hearing them and thinking that they were all great.

I’m sure it looked terribly self-centered when we left right after I read, but we wanted to check out the suite parties. I’m really sorry we did. Our first stop was Goldie Blox, engineering toys for girls. I wanted to see what they had done to make the engineering toys “for girls” specifically. Turns out, they made them pink and purple. Yay.

Our next stop was California Women Lead, where Rain and I were chatted up by a representative from Fresh and Easy, a supermarket chain. I don’t even think we went to any of the others. We had thought there would be representatives from the groups there, talking with the various bloggers, engaging us… but no. There really wasn’t any interaction.

Although I would have loved to stay for karaoke, we decided it was late, and went home.

Saturday: Did You See That Episode of Psych With Gus’s Ex-Girlfriend?

I decided not to go to breakfast Saturday, instead getting to the convention center coincidentally at the same time Rain did. We went back to the Expo Hall until it was time for the morning session – Social Media Optimization. Again, this is something I knew very little about. I do feel like I learned a lot, though I’m not sure how many of the suggestions I will actually implement. For example, I’m not hooking up LinkedIn with my personal blog. Not gonna happen. I may, however, start blogging once a week at Robyn’s Writing, about tech writer topics, and hook that up. We’ll see.

My main goal on Saturday was to see the keynote with Kerry Washington. I watched the first two seasons of Scandal, before it became clear that Olivia and Fitz weren’t going to get together. Rain had no idea who Kerry Washington was, and had never seen Django Unchained, so I had to go to the episode of Psych from the second season in which Washington played Gus’s bipolar ex. She still didn’t remember. Ultimately, Rain chose not to go to the keynote, but I did.

I sat next to a representative from Monsanto, who was very nice, which made me feel guilty for wanting to put Round Up in her tea. On my other side was a woman from Turkey who was also a pleasant conversationalist. Lunch was a salad with various proteins to put on top, and dessert was cut up fruit. Rather boring really. But we did get to see the band The Mrs. perform their new single, “I’m Enough” – all of the women at our table were disappointed we couldn’t hear more.

The Mrs. performs

The Mrs.

The first speaker was political blogger and pundit Morra Aarons-Mele. She talked a lot about women and the vote.

“Women decided the vote in 2012. And women will decide the vote in 2016.” 

“Women are 52% of the population, not a special interest group!”

Another speaker was supposed to appear, but instead, they moved the keynote up, and Kerry Washington was on stage, being interviewed by Demetria Lucas, I believe.

Washington was great, but I was disappointed that the questions focused on Scandal instead of Washington’s activism, political background, or even how she was handling new motherhood. Still, I had a great seat – I could actually see without the benefit of the huge TV screens.

Demetria Lucas and Kerry Washington

Demetria Lucas and Kerry Washington

After the keynote, I left for a quick bathroom break before the “mini cons.” These were breakout sessions for specific types of bloggers. I went to “The Future of Personal Blogging Mini Con” with A’driane Nieves, Kristen Howerton, and Elan Morgan presenting. I was hoping for more of a dialogue, a mixer of all the bloggers in attendance. What I got was a Q & A. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. Remind me that I have something to say about “the pivot” and Howerton’s blog, Rage Against the Minivan. Also, “shilling” is totally a thing. But that’s another story entirely.

I should have stayed for the closing keynote. It was really up my alley. But if I was to make it home before my kids went to bed, I had to leave San Jose by 5:00. It took me about 20 minutes to find the damned door to the garage, and then my car wouldn’t start, which threw me into tears. I actually said a prayer, and it started. So there, all my atheist friends! :P

I didn’t feel too bad about missing the closing party. I am apparently the only blogger who things that McDonald’s is a totally inappropriate sponsor at this point in time.

The Verdict

I’m glad I went. I would go again. If I do, I will make a more concerted effort to get to know people ahead of time. Due to the move, I just couldn’t put any effort in to BlogHer preparation. I almost bailed entirely, but I sold my Oracle stock to be able to go, I wasn’t going to miss meeting Jenna Hatfield when she was this close, and I really wanted to see what it was all about.

Rain asked me what I hoped to get from BlogHer. It took me awhile to put it into words. I wanted to get a sense of community. I wanted to learn how to be a bigger voice in the adoption blog-o-sphere. I wanted to learn more about the parts of blogging I didn’t know anything about. And I wanted to meet Jenna. I know that I got two out of four, and I feel that I got some of each of the other two. I’d give my experience a passing grade, and I hope to be able to attend again.

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7 thoughts on “BlogHer 14: A Redhead’s Recap

  1. I really felt like I was there with you! I wish there had been a “singles” board or a meet up of people who were alone so we could have palled around together like you commented on my blog. (For some reason, my blog won’t let me reply to your comment, weird, so I thought I’d comment on mine and yours at the same time) you are someone i really wish I could have met and spent time with. i never ate the food cos I hate to eat alone and sit alone and I’m not that outgoing although people think i am. Overall, more good has come out of expressing how I felt about why I left and I’ve met (online) a lot of people I wish I could have met at BlogHer! Maybe one day? How’s Salem? My brother lives in Portland.

    • They had a buddy program via Skype, but I wasn’t able to do that because of the move. But yes, a singles board – great idea! I hope the BlogHer people do read this.
      Salem is the pseudonym for the town I live in now. Because I blog with my real first and last name, I decided that when I moved, I would stop using my real town name, to maintain just a tad of privacy. We’ll see how well it works. I’m really in the North San Francisco Bay Area. So maybe we will meet someday, because you’re in CA too, right?

  2. I’m looking forward to your other posts! Sorry we didn’t get to meet (I don’t think…). I missed the Saturday breakfast, too, since Friday’s was so bad.

    • I saw you – I think – in the Expo Hall, but I was engaged in conversation and thought it would be rude to say, “Pardon me, but there’s someone I want to meet more over there.” You were one of the two people I hoped to meet at BlogHer, so I was bummed that I didn’t get to at least say hi.

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