People go to blogger conferences for about as many reasons as people blog. I went to the first one hosted by WordPress in Portland a few weeks ago with the simple goal of being inspired, and learning how to navigate Portland by bus, without a phone.
I had to leave early, but knew I’d gotten my money’s worth. On the drive back to Seattle I stopped twice at Rest Areas to write, to remind myself why I blog here, and the question of What’s Beyond.
On the first night, they had a mixer at the hotel in downtown Portland. I stopped at a bar beforehand and met a librarian who asked what I was doing there: I told her a blogger conference and she laughed, and asked what do they talk about at blogger conferences: blogging?
She was there for a librarian’s conference, on Day 3 with another day to go, so I asked what do they talk about at librarian conferences? They talk about the future.
At the mixer, they had four writers read from their works or talk about how they got to where they are. I sat in the front row and met one of the writers, who asked what it is I do. I said I write and she said for who, and I said for my readers — and she said that’s a good answer.
And it’s probably not anything like Coming Out — going to a blogger conference to talk about why you blog — but it was awkward for me, who hasn’t got the elevator speech down: and when the librarian asked me as a kind of warm-up, she said let’s rehearse so you’re ready to talk about it at the conference, it came out of my mouth like uncooked eggs: I’m a writer with a writer’s blog blogging about writing.
At the mixer, people clumped up as people do in these settings, and I overheard some of them exchange names of professors at Columbia, of MFA’s, and I immediately resented them and went to a dark place on the edge of the room. It’s good, because on the drive home I recognized that feeling for what it was, envy and insecurity, and knew were it me, I’d love to talk about my MFA, my professors at Columbia.
But there is something to sitting in an audience and watching people on stage who are just like you, but have done something remarkable that maybe you’d like to do yourself. And there was a great variety of writers and business people who’d found a way to make it, or a route where they will, by way of the blog.
I started this blog up again in 2012 after reading my step-dad’s Wiki page. He’d been dead a few years and I didn’t know the page existed, and stumbled upon it, with references to me and my mom.
And I felt such an emptiness after reading it because like all of us, our lives can be reduced down to a few paragraphs, a 60 second read. But there was so much more to him I knew, because real life happens outside of the milestones and major events. And it was that realization that made me want to pick up my own life and start looking at it differently, to think every day could be noteworthy and interesting, and if it’s not…well, that would be too bad.
I’m 10,000 words into the first draft of my memoir with 40,000 more to go to meet my goal. And whether it really happened at the blogger conference or not, I credit those stops I made at the Rest Areas off I-5, the feeling of energy and belief I had, of knowing what I need to do and doing it.
The blogger’s conference is a brilliant idea, quite affordable and worth it. It was well organized in a laid-back but dialed-in fashion which isn’t easy, although they made it appear so. You can read more about it at the Press Publish site here, with an upcoming event in Phoenix this weekend.