BlogHer NYC from a distance

Let’s just say, a certain male adult member of my family, the one who sleeps with me at night separated by a flailing three year-old, has come a long way. He once referred to Blogher as Geekdom, sure that my attendance had me one step away from sporting plastic Vulcan ears and keynoting a Trekkie convention.

This year he referred to the conference as Spring Break.

There were aspects of the weekend that were of course, a social cut above your average lying on the couch at home watching reruns of The Soup. Indeed, there were taquitos consumed in Soho with friends; there was champagne raised in toasts; there was enviable celebrity contact;  there were parties attended and parties blown-off; there was a Cool Mom Picks v Mamapop Dance-off complete with gory video evidence.

 Christina, Julie, Betsy, and I walk like Egyptians, and the entire mid-18th Egyptian Dynasty turns over in their graves.

Does that look like Spring Break?


I can see where anyone reading my tweets or stalking my facebook photos might think so too. It’s easy to break off from a dance floor and tweet some bit of goofiness that you witness.

What’s hard is trying to describe (in 140 characters or less) the liberating, essential, soul-restoring feeling of letting completely loose for the first time in ages to dance like no one is watching. Despite the fact that everyone is watching and most have cameras.

Dancing 101
Thanks for the photo Miss Grace. Thanks for only laughing at me somewhat, Jessica

What’s hard is describing the moments (in 140 characters or less) that have nothing to do with 80’s hits  or lounges designed to look like Big Macs. Because when you’re profoundly in those moments, you’re not always stopping to write about them.

What’s hard is describing just what the conference is

Because it’s sort of like summer camp. And a sleepover party. And the mafia. And a writers workshop. And The Oscars. And a playdate. And a tech conference. And a soap opera. And an artist colony. And an OB/GYN waiting room. And one of those weird retreats where people camp out in the woods and hug every time someone blows a whistle, or something.

The thing is, as I write about it now and I look at my words, it’s hard to prove to someone that it isn’t Spring Break at all. It’s not as if I walked away from the weekend with six signed contracts, a head full of statistics, or a worksheet on Search Engine Optimization.

Because see, that’s not the stuff that brings 2400 people together for a weekend, forsaking their families and their jobs and the premiere of Real Housewives of DC. Well, it might be. But even the SEO geniuses who I know and the tech geniuses and the entrepreneurs and the published best-selling authors come for something else.


(Just kidding.)

They come to Blogher for community.

And God, I know that sounds so touchy-feely. So horribly girlie and intangible and weird and not like a real professional goal at all.

Which is exactly the point.

Which is exactly why, I think, Lisa and Jory and Elisa made this thing. And why we come.

Women do things differently. And in our world, community is not less important than PowerPoint, and hugging a reader for the first time is not less important than exchanging business cards.

Which is why at Blogher, what I learned wasn’t projected on a screen. The learning I got came from panelists who made me think about how and why and what I blog. It came from spontaneous hallway conversations of both the deep and shallow variety. Or a cocktail party conversation that makes me think over the direction of my life.

It came from hugs and handshakes that helped me understand people I’d never have met any other way in my life. It came from a room full of like-minded women, talking politics with Senator Gilibrand for a half hour just when I needed a strong reminder that there are still people out there fighting the good fight on our behalf and maybe I should be more too.

 Photo: Julie Pippert, fellow Momocrat

And it certainly came from the community keynote.

I was honored to have been selected to read in the very first one in 2008 (not the kind of essay you might expect, by the way) and maybe I’m biased in my blind support for anything Eden Kennedy does ever. But I feel the need to say that anyone who skipped it, as about half the conference attendees did, because you were at some brand-sponsored off-site party, or trying to spin a wheel on the conference floor to win a free coupon for diaper wipes, you missed something profoundly more valuable.

You missed supporting your community, as they reach into their souls and screwed up the courage to share some of the brightest, funniest, bravest, most thoughtful, most talented, most profoundly moving, most honest, and most awe-inspiring, life-changing essays.

They are the reminder why I love blogging. They are the reminder that for the most part, the community of women who blog is one that builds itself up, not  tears itself down. They are the reminder why I try to keep my Twitter stream full of inspiration and humor and insight, and relatively free of branded hashtags and infighting. They are the reminder that behind the words on the screen are people.

So thank you, to all of you Blogher Voices of the Year, for giving that to me. Thank you to everyone I met or re-met or connected with in any way at all (and forgive me for not linking you all) for giving that to me.

When it comes down to it, I think so much of what you learn at Blogher is about yourself. That is, if you want to.

Is there any greater gift to us as writers?

And yes, the dancing part is important too.


34 thoughts on “BlogHer NYC from a distance”

  1. What an awesome, awesome post. This was my very first conference so I went into it with very little expectations (having read many pre-BlogHer posts beforehand) and what I found most that I loved about being there were the impromptu encounters I had (like with you and Kristen) that gave me the opportunity to have a face-to-face connection – and those bloggers I met that I have been blogging with for so long was like seeing one of my old girlfriends again. I know about their families, their life – I know their story because we blog together. So it wasn't like meeting a stranger, it was like metting up with some old friends. This conference also reminded me of how much I love my blog and why I am here. There was an energy there like no other and that was due in part to the many women who left that conference feeling the same way.

    Excellent post!!

  2. Beautiful tribute to a fantastic conference.

    BlogHer has evolved since we both first attended (2006), but what makes it remarkable has stayed the same. It still inspires loads of bloggers and conversation both off and online.

  3. As usual, you captured the essence of BlogHer! It IS like Spring Break without the hooking up (at least not for most of us, I think) in many ways. Maybe that's why our husbands are jealous (that we get a weekend of fun & dancing) but baffled (that's just not how they roll – it should be work specific or about getting laid). And BlogHer is all those other things, too – your paragraph about Summer Camp & the OB/GYN waiting room was a perfect description.

    The Community Keynote is always a highlight and, of course, the dancing. It was great to see you again!

  4. I agree that BlogHer is about the people, which is why it seemed everywhere I went bloggers who had been around awhile kept saying they were just there to hang out instead of being there for the sessions.

    The conference was incredibly well put together but my personal belief is that BlogHer is great with community, but lagging in terms of new content. I'm not suggesting they lose the warm & fuzzy stuff, but I think they desperately need to reformat the sessions.

    BlogHer is big enough that they can expand beyond the panel format and add professional presenters from a variety of fields: writing, journalism, tech, social media and marketing. I'd love to hear Katie Couric speak to the changes in traditional media or hear Mark Zuckerberg share the unique ways that women use Facebook.

    And I completely agree about the dancing – despite all the cameras, there's something about Sparklecorn & CheeseburgHer that makes me dance like no one was watching. 🙂

  5. Esther, I agree that the support of bloggers doesn't just have to be about letting bloggers speak, it can be about letting bloggers learn. I'd also like fewer “discussions” and a few meaty presentation topics as options, at least for those who want it. But I think a lot of the “no Powerpoint allowed” stuff really does work.

    Indeed – there's no reason Blogher can't attract another Keynote as compelling and relevant as Arianna Huffington was in 2005.

    Katie Couric for 2011!

  6. Thank you so much, Liz! You captured most of what Blogher was for me as well.

    This was my first Blogher and I loved it. Meeting most of the writers I've been reading for years is the one and only reason I wanted to go — yeah, I got a Mr. Potato Head out of it too, but the people is what made it for me.

  7. Echoing Isabel. At this year's conference, I kept reflecting on 2006 – the first time I met so many people whom are now my close friends and business associates. BlogHer10 may have been about ten times more massive in size, but it felt just as intimate to me.

    (I did miss the Community Keynote, but I was laughing and reminiscing with an old friend from work. I wish I could have cloned myself.)

  8. Thank you for writing this. I think for a lot of people we seem like silly girls, playing, and blogher is so much more than that.

    And a highlite for me, was meeting you.

  9. Your dancing was impressive, for a white chick. And this was a great perspective on an amazing weekend.

  10. So, so well put. I have a hard time explaining to people what the conference was about and why I went and all of that. But you are exactly right – it was all about the community.

  11. I'd like to frame this post. Next year when people ask me why in the world I go and what makes it special, I will just hand them this, instead of stammering a response that never quite makes sense.

    It's about community. It's about seeing friends. Friends you know, friends you've yet to meet. It's about learning you aren't alone in this crazy blogging world. Coming face to face with people you've known for years, but never met. Sometimes it's about learning new things. It wasn't that for me this year, but it was last year. I have this theory that each year, what I need to get out of BlogHer, I will get.

    This year? I just needed my friends. That's okay too. Some people have said it's not, but I don't really care. I know for a fact that I will be there next year.

  12. Ester…I just wanted to say, this year I was one of those people, who was there mostly to see friends. I'll be honest, I didn't attend a single session this year. It wasn't because of private parties, nor swag, nor anything really to do with the sessions themselves. It really had to do with me. Last year? I attended so many amazing sessions. This year? I just needed my friends. It was just the place I was in at the time.

  13. All your comparisons of what the conference is like are so great and the OB/GYN office one made me chuckle.

    This post made me wish I was there the most, out of all the ones I've read…

    p.s. you look really hot in that dancing picture lady! 🙂

  14. That was fun to read! A great post, thank you for sharing your experience in a way for the rest of us to enjoy! I'm so glad knowing that, even though I'm not quite there in a blogging sense, I can follow in some fabulous footsteps. You Ladies Rock!

  15. I wasn't a Voice of the Year, so I can't take any credit for inspiring you or anything. But I DID enjoy busting a move with you on the dance floor at Sparklecorn! Community FTW!

  16. Now this actually makes me want to attend. I began blogging because as a new mom, I needed community. These days it seems that community is disappearing in favor of writing ads for Swiffer. I know perfectly well how to clean my floors. What I want to know is does anyone else's 3 year old know just how to make you want to scream and still resist enrolling him in preschool?

    I'm here for the community. It's nice to hear it's still there amongst all the noise.


  17. It was nice to see you again!

    One of my friends' husband called BlogHer a “geeky” conference, but in our techie household, my husband jokes that it's a “girly” conference. And really, it's all about what we make if it – fun and thought-provoking at the same time.

  18. This was the best Blogher yet and I've been to (almost) all of them. The funny thing is I had low expectations. I haven't been writing as often, I've walked away from my paying gigs, I've had a low profile online. I assumed this year would be tech heavy, swag heavy, brand heavy, a faster crowd than I used to run with.

    Imagine my surprise when I came away from NYC more inspired than ever to write my ass off and more confident than ever that this IS my crowd.

    We have grown as a community, made stronger not by money and opportunity, but by our shared history. We know each other's stories, we celebrate each other's successes, and we encourage each other (read: me) to get back up when we're down.

    There's something incredible about a room full of women letting loose when we know each other's pains, joys, successes and failures so intimately. Seeing the mother who lost a child laugh again and the recently divorced woman get down with glow sticks is what really bonds us.

    Far better than Spring Break because we APPRECIATE it so much more now.

  19. I loved this (despite the picture that confirmed that I looked exactly as dorky as I felt). My short response about BlogHer to family and friends was: “it was the most fun I've had in 2 decades.”

    I don't know if it was like Spring Break, but to me it felt that freshman year at college. Where friendships were formed in an instant and long, interesting conversations comfortably flowed and very rarely involved team sport talk or “mommy speak.” We were the women we were before we got buried under all the other layers of labels and GOD I needed that.

    And maybe we were a step away from vulcan ears and capes, but it's been a long time since I've felt so completely comfortable with so many strangers knowing that whatever quirks make us want to blog, also make us soul mates.

    So I can never express how important BlogHer'10 was for me personally. And I'm not waiting another two decades to feel that way again.

  20. Ummmmm … wow. Words tend to escape me when I try to write about what BlogHer is to me, even while in the messy throes of planning it. And then I come to your blog Liz, and think THIS is what it's like. I couldn't have said it better.

    BTW: Points well taken by you and others on the content. Even if it's about community first and foremost, we're always looking at the session format and mix. I'd throw out promises of things to come, but Elisa would come after me 😉

  21. Love. Love. Love. This is the best “summary” post of BlogHer10 that I've read.

    Thank you.

  22. 1. This is a tremendous BlogHer recap. 2. I agree with Esther in that the sessions are in desperate need of reformatting or at least variety. I sat in on 3 great sessions and a bunch of mediocre Q&As. I would love to learn more about how writers write, workshop style. Powerpoints would not be my preference! 3. Making sure I met the women I wanted to meet ensured that my BlogHer experience was awesome. Liz, thank you for being so open and willing to let me stalk you. 4. I loved the Community Keynote. I lived hearing bloggers read their work in their voices. (and I'm not at all bitter that I was merely a finalist! ;). This post was perfect closure for me. Yay!

  23. I love your post NOT ONLY because it is inspired and fantabulous but because it brought me to you. I thought to myself, I'm a twee lil blog, but I'm getting all this traffic. Waddup? It's you and your fine readers!

    So grateful to make your acquaintance. Seems like I'm late to the party, but better late than never! Hope to meet you in SD!

  24. I know this post is a few days old, but I read it a few days ago and haven't stopped thinking about it. Insightful, funny, and ooh, so true.
    Loved it. And just thought I'd tell you so.

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