On a clear day you can probably see Alaska from the top of the John Hancock building in Chicago. That’s where I spent my first night of the most beneficial conference I have ever attended. Yes, BlogHer, even with the madness and drama, the overloaded schedule and under-rested body, provided a clarity I have never experienced in a conference setting, or maybe anywhere else. I know we’re all supposed to be cool and jaded and bitch about the food and the air conditioning and the parties we didn’t get invited to. But I am too busy for that. If you can’t have a good time at BlogHer I’m not sure I want to know you. If you can’t learn something of extreme value to your business at BlogHer then you shouldn’t have wasted your time and money to show up.
The stars must have aligned for me over Chicago because by the time I left, many things had come into focus. I’ll save the stories, because they are each deserving a post of their own, and share some of my fleeting memories from the largest congregation of bloggers in the known universe.
This was the view from my room. Obviously, the trip was starting out right. Before arriving, I got to meet Tricia Oakes (Southern Spark) and Heather McDonnell (Cupcrazed), thanks to local gal Angela Belford at Theraderm, who also let me tag along in her rental car! Once I hooked up with these three the party was ON. So much for getting a little work done the day before the conference really began. Clearly this was meant to be a trip to seize possibility.
This is Lizz Porter (Am I a Funny Girl), who conceived the #HugHer13 campaign among many other things. She is also very tall. Surprise. In her marketing role for Life360, Lizz invited me to learn more about the company at dinner at the Signature Room at the Hancock building (see above!). She was also a straight-up diva in the Saturday night fashion show. And how do I know Lizz? She was a Listen To Your Mother producer. So, she’s a busy woman. It’s clear I have a new role model.
Just when all my cool new friends were headed out to sushi and I was ready to go back to the room and get some work done, the incomparable Tracy Beckerman (Lost in Suburbia) invited me to dinner with the cool kids. You may remember I was just a tad starstruck with this very funny mom author at my first BlogHer back in 2011. (You can read my interview with Tracy here.) Tracy had invited two men to dinner, too, which meant we were graced with about 50% of the male attendance of BlogHer13. That right there is Neil Kramer. Yes, THAT Neil Kramer (Citizen of the Month). I started following Neil when he started writing about his long-distance online relationship with a woman who lives halfway across the world because, who wouldn’t? Is it clear to you that I made him pose for this picture?
And here is DJ Paris (Thoughts from Paris). By the time I met DJ I was just a little tipsy and offered the jackass of all blogger conference greetings, “I didn’t recognize you from your Avatar!” Clearly it was time to switch to water. So I did.
Yay for the gorgeous Nicole Morgan (Sister from Another Mister)! I met Nicole at my very first blogger conference, SheCon in Miami in 2011. She was so sweet and welcoming and she hasn’t changed a bit. We did not do karaoke with Serena Williams this trip, in case you were wondering. We stuck to the hotel bar. Clearly we don’t need much to have a good time.
This is Ashley and Ron Mattocks (Clark Kent’s Lunchbox) . I mean really. How cute are they? Ron wrote Sugar Milk, What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka, and was super helpful when I was getting ready to publish Blacklisted from the PTA. I was thrilled to finally meet him in person. Ashley was a bonus and all weekend she kept reminding me of my friend, Brandi Barnett. They are both from Oklahoma, so who knows. They might be sisters. I’d go find out, but it’s becoming awfully clear that this blog post is getting away from me.
Here is the picture I woke up to on Thursday morning, posted on Facebook by Neil with a cryptic message that made my husband inquire as to my sake intake later. I have no idea when Neil took that picture, but when I asked him how he made it look so good on his phone he answered, “A lot of editing.” It is clear my natural beauty is enhanced with a good image software package, and I’m okay with that.
Here is my awesome roomie Lora Jakobsen (Zookies, and about a million other things), who moved OUT OF HER HOUSE in L.A. the day we met (yes, we met at the conference, it’s a blogger thing) and was headed to her new place in DENMARK after the conference. This is one very creative and clearly driven woman. See how we were all motivated and healthy on our first morning in Chicago? Totally walking along the lake. That’s some serious first day enthusiasm.
I spent the first day in the media track of Pathfinder, the pre-conference full day workshop. This was my day of learning. Focused attention on my business. Not doing interviews or meeting new friends or talking to brands. This was all about strategy. And boy did it pay off. You’ll be hearing more about what cleared up for me that day in the weeks to come. Can’t wait!
Guy Kawasaki. Clearly, I’m a fan. With a dorky grin.
And this is Kawasaki taking a picture of me taking a picture of him. This is what he does, because he can. I tried to teach him the right angle to take a woman’s picture. I told him if he learned it all the girls would like him.
“Girls already like me.”
Here is the view from the Signature Room. Enjoy my artistic shots. I’m really quite the photographer.
Is this the saddest selfie ever? I had a big day Friday and needed my beauty sleep. I went up to the room early to settle in for a lonely night knowing what I was missing out on. Then my awesomely sweet roomies surprised me by staying in. We had a great time getting to know each other and checking out each others swag.
Friday I got up early, fixed my hair, and took a cab to the Fox32 studios for my appearance on Good Day Chicago. See how professional and poised I look? Crossing my legs the right way and everything? Totally not revealing that I had been feverishly googling in the green room after something the producer said tipped me off that the segment might not *exactly* follow the notes we had discussed? Oh, I’m a social media expert? Okay, I can roll with that. Grace under pressure.
Here’s how I really felt!
Here I am with Robin O’Bryant (Robin’s Chicks) and Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat. We hooked up for a panel on self-publishing. I still can’t believe they let me play in their sandbox. I was so grateful to get a few minutes with these ladies before our panel. I learned more in 20 minutes from these women than in most of the other conference sessions I go to all year. Plus they make you laugh until you pee.
Lora and I decided to hit the DIY party. We stayed just long enough to take this picture. Although she is crafty, this was not the party for us.
Cut to– Lora and I in a bathtub with the beeeeeutiful Christina Stumbaugh. (She claims it’s the Theraderm. I call genetics.)
Here again with my fabulous new friend Abbie (All That Makes You). She is definitely one of the cool kids.
I got this close to Sheryl Sandberg. She was awesome. My girl crush was absolutely showing and I am so grateful I got to watch Lisa Stone interview her. All of us were encouraged to Lean In, and to articulate exactly what we would do if we were not afraid. Here’s what I wrote:
“Create jobs in media for women.”
I’m happy to report that 48 hours after my flight landed back in Arkansas I had hired out two freelance gigs and extended an initial offer to another woman for more extensive work with me here on the blog. More on THAT soon.
See! I told you— CLARITY!
Just hanging out with Randi Zuckerberg. The important thing to note here, especially to my authorly, writerly friends who often shirk self-promotion, is how Ms. Z is making sure her new children’s book, Dot, makes it into the shot. This is a woman who shares a Thanksgiving table with the creator of the largest website in the world. He may be running it by now. Who knows. My point: No ONE is too big to promote their own stuff. Not even a Zuckerberg. Clear?
This is Lora talking to Brit Morin. In case you don’t know, Brit is the founder of Brit+Co, and as Randi (yes, we’re on firsties now) described her. “the darling of Silicon Valley.” She’s very nice and approachable, and she’s super cute.
This is what happens hanging out with Heather. We were super excited to meet GayNYCDad, aka Mitch. Obviously.
This is Pam Moore (Whatevs), my super exhausted roommate. You’re going to love her. You’ll see.
I love Tracey Becker (Just Another Mommy Blog). I especially love when people think she is Tracy Beckerman, which happens more often I’m sure either of them appreciate.
This is the other end of Pam Moore, the part where the sassy comes out.
I didn’t go into much detail about the Friday and Saturday because they were, you know, packed with sessions and networking and a million business cards and connections. But Sunday a few of us had a chance to sit down and have a meal. Bruch at Yolk with Listen to Your Mother producers from around the country. I can’t think of a more fitting end to this conference. Except the part where I turned to Pam and said, “Are we walking? I’m done.”
After some blissfully alone hours in the relative calm of O’hare, I landed back in the Ozarks, where I had 30 minutes to unpack and re-pack for our Branson family vacation. There I was able to get all my thoughts in order and make some big plans for the future.
And THEN, something REALLY exciting happened.
But you’ll have to wait to hear about that.
I can’t tell you if BlogHer is right for you in a given year. But come ON! It’s BlogHer– how could it not be great?
If you were at BlogHer13, how was it for you? If not, will you be next year?