Not-so-perfect pitch

September 4, 2010

I feel so 2008 writing about off-kilter marketing pitches for blogs, but this one takes the cake. 

Check out what I found in my email box (you know, that box crammed full of THINGS TO DO and letters I’m invariably BEHIND ON?) this week:

Hi Susan,

I hope all is well and you are enjoying your week! I’ve included an idea below I thought this would be a perfect fit for your BlogHer readers — the “vertical” movement is on the rise and <<redacted>> provides the perfect record-breaking endurance sport for all. I thought this would be a great feature/trend piece for you….

Hmmm…. where to even start? 

First of all, people reading here are not necessarily BlogHer readers.  I mean, I hope you are, since BlogHer is an incredible collaborative of amazing women writers, with several new articles that make you laugh, cry, or think every day, but really?  That’s a different site.

Second, I doubt you come here to looking for new “record-breaking endurance sports.”  Other than the 504 times I have to take a chemo pill this Fall.  Which could be called an endurance sport, I suppose, but hardly record-breaking. 

Third, I may be many things, but no one has ever called this astrophysicist/mom trendy.

Ooh, and did I forget?  All is not well.  I have cancer!!!

Not only will this stair climb be held at the tallest building in the western hemisphere, participants will be given the option of two modes of doing the climb. They either scale the 103 floors of Willis Tower, or 2,109 steps by foot — or…

Oh, you had me at 2109 steps by foot!  Seeing as how I’m not strong enough yet to walk around the block alone, I seriously doubt my oncologist would approve trying to scale 103 floors OR 2109 steps by foot.  I suppose I could ask her next week, though, since the PR person writing to me today thinks this would be such “a perfect fit” for my blog.

Now’s the perfect time for your readers to learn about this great record breaking event in their own backyard…

Their own backyard? Your event is in Chicago.  I write in Washington, D.C.  My readers are all over the world.

Why do bloggers complain about poorly targeted pitches?  Because this is the kind of thing we get.  Oh, that and invitations to try out “shapewear to flatter every figure,” tampons that also balance your pH, and baby and nursing items.  There are many, many bloggers who would love this sort of thing — but if you’re constantly sending those invitations to a postmenopausal blogger with no bust, you might just be doing it wrong.

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Friendship. Community. Friendship.

August 11, 2010

“Leticia, I’m so tired.”  I admitted it, finally, at 1:00 on Friday, calling my roommate @techsavvymama from BlogHer‘s Serenity Suite, a brilliant idea organized by Heather of the EO and Maggie, Dammit.  I didn’t know Heather before I went, and when I met her, I fumbled it, but I liked her immediately, so I’ll go comment on her blog and hope we connect again.  The suite was incredible, both in concept and execution, and a lot of fine women staffed it this weekend so that everyone had a place to crash. 

I crashed.  I walked in all sparkly and nervous about my talks that day, and then I crashed on the bed.  Someone took a picture.  I was so shot by that point that I have no idea who it was or where it is, and “that is ok.”  I crashed on the bed, and I rested, my body vibrating with exhaustion from the parties the night before (although I was home by 10, Dad), the exhiliration of hearing Maggie and other activists speak in the first conference session, and more than a couple nerves about my two talks that would ensue in the afternoon. 

Oh, and an amazing evening we’d spent working with the American Cancer Society on Wednesday — nearly five hours of brainstorming, talking, and touring Hope Lodge NYC as guests, when I easily could have been a lodger there but for a) good insurance and b) incredible recovery in the week before BlogHer.  It was draining from the start, on this tour with other bloggers who have been touched deeply by cancer, when the host excitedly told us that we would be touring through the rooms during social hour, and we might see Real! Live! Cancer Patients!  We just smiled at each other thinly, recognizing the pain that briefly shot behind each pair of eyes, supporting each other lightly as we toured the facility, which was amazing, and got to understand the host a little better, grateful that she was putting herself out there for the patients, giving us the full tour and trying to help us really internalize a bit why Hope Lodge is necessary.  It is necessary, friends, and it was such a beautiful place.  I hope to talk more about that another time as well.

But let’s stipulate that I was exhausted.

“Leticia, I’m so tired.  I know we’re supposed to be in our panel room by 2, but I can’t do it,” I said, torn in two by the committment and the exhaustion, and I continued to rest as she reassured me and other women came in and out, quietly refocusing the conversation when asked I was due (argh — darn you, aromasin weight gain) and agreeing that yes, BlogHer is exhausting for everyone. 

At 2:20, I lifted myself from the bed, quietly said my goodbyes, and walked slowly to the elevator.  I walked out, in a daze, and ran into @niksmom and @iampixiemama, two friends I’ve met through @stimey.  It was the first I’d ever met them, and I was so delighted, but at this point I was too exhausted to be polite.  I reached out and asked them for help.  “@niksmom, I’m delighted to meet you in person!  How wonderful!” we exchanged hellos, and then I asked, “I’m having trouble.  Would you please walk me to my session?” And do you know what?  They did.  With just a moment to consolidate their things, @iampixiemama offered me her arm, and she supported me while I walked to my session. 

@teachmama @whymommy @techsavvymama @jessicaapiss, taken by @stimey

@teachmama @techsavvymama @jessicaapiss and I waited for the session to begin.  I stopped in to say hello to @dwescott for a second (I meant to go back and talk about science blogging more!), and then walked up to the platform for our panel.  It was incredible. 

Jessica is such an amazing leader.  She prepared questions for each of us in advance, drawing us out on the topics we felt most strongly about, and yet rolled with it when it was time for audience questions.  Leticia was so polished, answering questions calmly and clearly, explaining how she parlayed her resource blog into a consulting gig.  Amy, gentle Amy, was strong in the session, telling how she has gathered almost 700 followers for her we teach ning group by providing a free space and emphasizing community.  The panel was incredible — and, just as incredible, The DC Moms were in the front row, cheering us on, but also there to learn more about the resource blogging world, not new to @stimey and her AutMont blog, but hardly relevant to friends like @jodifur, unless she does actually form that radical shoe resource blog as she teased on twitter.

Afterwards, it was time for the Voices of the Year Community Keynote

I was now beyond exhausted.

Amy gently but firmly took my arm and walked me through the crowds to my room.  She  talked me down and gave me strength as she would a sister, reassuring me that my dress was beautiful and the talk necessary.  She politely ignored a brief call to C, and then she gently but firmly walked me down to the ballroom where I would speak.  After a quick stop in the ladies’ room, I knew that I had no time at all to make it to the stage, as the Community Keynote was about to begin.  Someone rushed up and said, “@elisac is looking for you! Hurry!”

I was trying to hurry.  And I’m never late like this.  I was just so, so tired.

I walked past friends at the entrance.  They wished me well.  I asked for help.  @mommy4cocktails dropped everything, took me by the arm, and walked me up to the stage.  I could barely see straight, I was so tired.  @elisac and @mrs_kennedy met me at the stage, asking, “Are you okay?”

“No,” I said.  “I am not okay.”  As they walked me backstage, it all spilled out.  “I am not okay.  I am exhausted.  I was supposed to start chemo last week, but I was not strong enough.  I’m not strong enough for this.  I’m sorry.” 

Shhh, they told me.  Sit.  Rest.  And I did.  I sat there, trying to pull myself together through the sea of sheer exhaustion.  I urged @mommy4cocktails to leave me, there with the other Voices of the Year.  I’d be okay, I said.  She explained again, and helped me, and then she went to join the others. 

I tried.  I did.  But, I’m almost ashamed to admit, I began to cry.  And just when I was sure I couldn’t walk out to the podium to speak, @jessicaapiss appeared backstage to sit with me.  to comfort me.  to hug me like a sister, patting my hair and reassuring me that it would all be okay.  I knew then that I looked as weak as I felt, but I no longer cared.  I just wanted to be home.  In bed.  Recovering from the last treatment, and resting up for the next. 

And then, they called my name.  @jessicaapiss and @elisac helped me to stand.  @tech4moms wished me luck.  I walked out into the lights, stepping carefully so I wouldn’t fall.  I looked at the sea of faces for a moment, wishing I were stronger, and then I saw them.  The DC Moms.  @parentopiadevra was sitting right up front, with @minkymoo and all the rest.  @lauriewhite was over on the left, taking pictures as she does so very well.  Someone nodded at me, and I began to read.

At one point, I faltered, and @delora’s sweet baby C began to cry.  I took heart from that cry, remembering why I was doing this at all, and I finished my talk, nodding with gratitude at my friends when I talked about the wall of support that they, and @canape, and so many other women and men throughout the blogosphere had formed around friends who are suffering.  I spoke the last words, looked at them, and @mammaloves stood up, tears in her eye, thinking of her bestie with cancer, I’m sure, and together we remembered the path that we had walked, separately and together.  I blew The DC Moms a kiss and left the stage.

After everyone finished speaking and I celebrated briefly with the front tables, @mommy4cocktails took my arm and ushered me through the crowd to the elevator, almost pushing me in the first one (thank you), and got me settled upstairs in bed.  She insisted I change clothes.  She brought me water.  She told me it was ok, and that I should rest.

I did rest.  I had no choice.  After a while, I rested next door, laying across a bed while the girls got ready to go out, and I smiled and smiled and smiled.  I had asked for help.  They had given it.  And the post I read rang true again. 

This is not about my story.  This is about our story.  A story of friendship.


My BlogHer

August 11, 2010

@jessicaapiss @teachmama @whymommy @techsavvymama @justicefergieBlogHer ’10 was glittery and sparkly and full of teh awesome.  There’s little debate about that.  But I dare say that everyone experienced a slightly different BlogHer — some were all about the sessions.  Some were all about the parties.  Some were all about the brands and the expos and the building of professional connections.  And some just went to hang out with their friends in the city that never sleeps.

As my three-year-old says, often, “that is okay.”

My BlogHer was a heady mix of community, friendship, altruism, and victory lap.  As you may know, I was first diagnosed with cancer  just before BlogHer ’07, and it broke my heart.  For many reasons, of course, but I found it profoundly unfair that while my internet friends (and friends in real life) were partying it up in a fancy hotel, I was partying it up in the chemo ward, getting that poision dripped into my veins in an attempt to kill the cancer that was trying to kill me. 

After a year of treatment, BlogHer ’08 was my victory lap.  I still remember standing up to ask a question in the first session, titled, “Is MommyBlogging Still a Radical Act?” and introducing myself, to cheers — cheers that every blogger got, I’m sure, but I heard as cheers that I was still alive.  I pressed on, and at BlogHer ’09 I was blissfully just like every other blogger, doing some things right, making some mistakes, but just there with my friends from my neighborhood and my BlogHerhood, learning together, and enjoying ourselves.

Fast forward to BlogHer 10.  This year was another challenge.  From the very moment I was diagnosed with a recurrence of my cancer, I worried, “What about BlogHer?”  Isn’t that ridiculous?  But for all the time I spend online, from my bed while I recover or my desk while I work away, nothing compares to the opportunity to hug people I only know by their avatar, to meet new people I love by chance, and to network with people who think in the same ways (although rarely in the same directions) that I do.  I had my surgery.  I did my radiation.  I struggled, I struggled to become well enough to join my friends on the trip, but I was never really sure that I could.

Radiation hit me hard.  Really hard.  I didn’t get out much, near the end there.  For five and a half weeks before BlogHer, I didn’t drive.  I didn’t leave the house, except for treatment and the rare dinner out with my family.  I cancelled standing Moms Club field trips (to the Building Museum! To the American History Museum! To Air and Space!) left and right, with more than a pang of regret each time.  Each week, I hoped I could make it the next week — but the next week found me confined to the recliner, doing jigsaw puzzles with the children as my mind and my body recovered from the brutality of daily radiation.  But still, I clung to BlogHer.

We planned to leave on Wednesday, @techsavvymama and I, taking the train to NY to spend the first evening with the American Cancer Society and the Blogger Advisory Council.  I bought my ticket. I made plans.  But I didn’t pack.  The Thursday before BlogHer, I went to my oncologist for my scan results.  Would there be cancer? Would it have spread? Would I have to start chemo immediately?  No.  I was blessed with clean scans, and the beautiful words, “No Evidence of Disease.” 

I celebrated.  I pushed myself. I packed, and drove, and shopped for a pretty dress to wear for our panel and my keynote speech.  I left the house every day, with the kids, and pushed so that I would be strong enough to withstand the onslaught of four days with 2500 women, women using their voices to make a difference and say, “I’m here. I exist. Even with my challenges, I am not giving up.”

That’s what BlogHer is about for me.  All of us admitting the thing that makes us imperfect, and pushing on anyway.  I want to tell you all so much about the weekend — about friends, about community, about sessions, about activists, about everyday women making a difference with their words — and I shall, but today I have just one thing to say:

We exist.  We have challenges.  And we do not give up.

On Friday night, with the help of many, many friends (which I hope to detail in the next post), I stood before an audience of 2000 women bloggers and a few men and read my post, “In the Name of Awareness.”

It wasn’t easy.  It was in fact really, really challenging to even have the strength to walk down to the ballroom, up to the stage, and to the podium.  But I didn’t do it alone.  I had the strength of The DC Moms to help me and hold me up, both physically and in spirit, and we got ‘er done.  We did not give up.

And, you may be glad to know, I wore my gold shoes.

Speaking at Blogher 10 Voices of the Year. In gold shoes. (credit: @teachmama)

pictures from @teachmama


Fighting breast cancer — with our actions, and our words

August 3, 2010

BlogHer asked me to write a post for them this week.  I dillyed and I dallyed, hesitant to dip my toe in over there, and to ask the blogosphere for a single thing more.  But in the end, I did, because the cause they asked me to write about — blogging about the Avon / Love Army of Women and the opportunity to make a difference with our words on October 1, was important. 

Here’s how it starts.  I hope you’ll click through to read the rest.

One in eight women will get breast cancer.  But you know that, right?  You walk in the walks, you do your self-exams, and you worry about your friends who find a lump or start treatment at an early age.  October floods the shelves with cutesy pink ribbons, yogurt lids, and vacuums, and you roll your eyes in private at all the attention given to breast cancer awareness.  You’re AWARE already, and lament that with all the attention and funding given to breast cancer, there should be a cure by now.

You’re right.  There should be a cure by now. (more at BlogHer)

Comments are welcome here or there.

If you’re going to BlogHer this weekend, please join me at any or all the following events:

Session 1: Stimey‘s session: 

Blogging Autism: Shattering Myths, Opening Eyes, and Finding Your Tribe 

Session 2: Change Agents: @fakeplasticfish @lawyermama Melissa Silverstein and Gina McCauley speak on

Creating Tangible Social Change: How to Move People to Action

Session 3: Change Agents:  @JessicaAPISS, @TechSavvyMama, @Teachmama, and I are facilitating a Room of Your Own for discussion and community-building:

Resource Blogging: Serving Your Community One Post at a Time

Community Keynote, BlogHer Voices of the Year Gala and Art Auction

Featuring my gold shoes, and a post yet-to-be-announced

Session 4: Our friend @punditmom, @phdinparenting, and @stephanieroberts talk about the power of women blogging online:

Change Agents: Radical Blogging Moms: Don’t Even Think About Not Taking These Moms Seriously

Morning Keynote:

The International Activist Blogger Scholarship Recipients Esra’a Al Shafei, Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipllai, Marie Tringona and Freshta Basij-Rasikh are appearing on BlogHer occasionally, and their words are a peek into a different set of worlds I was not even aware still existed. This is important, and I’ll give up a competing sponsor event for this. These women are incredible, speaking up wtih their words as their very lives are threatened.

Session 5: Change Agents: Morra Aarons-Mele and Stephanie Wilchfort are leading an intriguing action-based session that I’m really looking forward to:

Screw Work-Life Balance: We Need Work-Life Policy!

What other sessions are you going to?  Why?


Oh, yes, I did.

July 31, 2010

Women across the blogosphere are making ready for the annual conference/retreat/weekend known as BLOGHER.  Those who are going are shopping, packing, rehearsing their talks, and making a detailed schedule that will of course be tossed out the window the minute we arrive in New York and run into women we didn’t even know were going.  Those who aren’t going are probably getting ready to turn off their computers so they don’t have to listen to those of us who are going this week — because it’s about to get crazy up in here, peoples.

After shopping with @techsavvymama and @Stimey this morning (Oh, yes.  The Gap is dressing us.  And we will look awesome for our panel discussions on Friday.  Shameless plug: Please come hear us speak on Friday.  @Stimey is a speaker in Session 1:

Blogging Autism: Shattering Myths, Opening Eyes, and Finding Your Tribe 

@JessicaAPISS, @TechSavvyMama, @Teachmama, and I are facilitating a Room of Your Own panel during Session 3, in the Change Agents track:

Resource Blogging: Serving Your Community One Post at a Time

I am SO excited about the session!  Where was I going with this? Oh, right.

After shopping with @techsavvymama and @stimey this morning, we exchanged our new business cards.  Theirs look AWESOME.  (BlogHer trivia: How many different types of cards will @stimey give out?  And with her awesome swag, will anyone care about the cards at all?)  I wasn’t planning on getting new cards this year.  I was barely planning on going, since it’s all contingent on my health and we didn’t know what to plan for —

But since I am now CANCER-FREE, I’m going to BlogHer with friends.  To celebrate, I ordered new cards this morning.  They are AWESOME.  They promote the Women in Planetary Science Site (which I’m beginning to love), Mothers With Cancer (even those who cannot travel will not be forgotten), Toddler Planet (my home) and include all the appropriate urls and such.

AND they have those two beautiful words on them: 

CANCER-FREE.

Thank you all for your happy comments on the last post!  Responding to each is an impossible job, but may I thank you all together here?  I am overjoyed at the news, and overjoyed that you’re all here celebrating with me too!  HOORAY!  And if you see me next week at BlogHer (I’ll be resting til then)?  YES, PLEASE say hello!  Hug me or high five me or something — but gently, ‘k? 

Disclosure: The Gap is dressing me and many of the speakers; I’m not required to post or anything in return, but I am grateful for the opportunity.


BlogHer: Parties

July 27, 2010

Note: If you’re not interested in the upcoming BlogHer conference, please skip today’s post and come back tomorrow.  Sorry.

There is angst in the blogosphere surrounding the matter of private parties at BlogHer 2010.  It’s not like me to write about blogger drama — but the pleading in the #blogher10 and #blogher tweetstreams is making me wonder if perhaps it’s time to stand up and speak my piece about this.

I’m not suggesting that anyone do anything drastic, but here’s how I planned my BlogHer trip last week.

1. Made a schedule.  I took a look at all the sessions, the rooms of your own (ROYO), the birds of a feather meetups (there’s one for health bloggers! for moms of kids with special needs! for so many other things!) and the evening events and highlighted where I really wanted to be at any given moment. 

2. I looked at the events I RSVP’d for in early April.  Carefully.  Was I overcommitted?  Was I really going to attend two or more events in the same evening time slot?  Would I really still be awake for CheeseburgHer at 10 p.m. Saturday night?  Was I really going to be up for dancing Friday night after speaking at our Room of Your Own (ROYO), reading my post in front of thousands (eek!) at the Community Keynote, and raising a glass with friends at the BlogHer Voices of the Year Gala and Art Auction?  Was I really ok with missing a session Saturday morning for a sponsored event?

3. I cancelled my RSVPs.  Not all of them.  But some of them.  I decided that for me, it didn’t feel right to attend so many parties when so many new bloggers found out about the parties when they registered for the conference — after the parties were full — and were relegated to the waitlist.  I did keep my RSVP to the People’s Party, fwiw, because I adore the organizers and the sentiment, and I’ve had a good time there the last two years.

4. I kept my schedule close by.  When I was invited to private events that conflicted with my priorities, I said NO.  No thank you, that is, and please invite another blogger instead.

They will.  The parties and events will be packed.  They always are.  We’ll have a good time – and so will you, whether we’re at That Fancy Party, soaking up knowledge and laughing together in the sessions, or just sitting together in the lobby.  We will.   And I’ll try to remember that.  I’ll try to remember exactly why I made these decisions, keeping my head, even if I get swept along with a group here or there, and not be envious of blogger X who got into event Y.   

As I see it, BlogHer isn’t about exclusivity.  It isn’t about who got invited where, or who’s wearing what, or how busy we can make ourselves, seeing everyone and being the life of the party.

BlogHer is about forming and reinforcing a community among women of varied backgrounds, with varied priorities, and with varied lives, and seeing the beauty in community.

BlogHer isn’t about “me.”  It’s about “us.” 

I can’t wait.


BlogHer Voices of the Year!

July 19, 2010

Good morning! I have TWO incredible announcements to make today — things I’m very proud of, and which make me extremely happy!

First — This morning, I was able to get up, make breakfast for my kids, throw in a load of laundry, and take the kids to their morning event ALL BY MYSELF.  That’s right!  I drove for the first time in 3+ weeks, and I was there for my kids as they met new friends, got settled in a new place, and played with other children all morning instead of driving each other nuts (as even very close siblings are wont to do in the later days of an unplanned summer).  I even picked them up, arms open wide for their happy going home hugs, admired their beauuuuuuuuutiful crafts, and drove them home, responding to their happy backseat chatterings all the way.

Even the PB&J was sweeter for the fact that I made it myself.

And then — Little Bear and I napped, and we woke up to the announcement that I was one of the
BlogHer Voices of the Year.  I’m blown away by this, even more so when I see the incredible quality of the finalists in the Opinion/Editorial category where I was nominated.  Thank you, TeachMama, for nominating me way back in April, and thank you to the judges who pored over the 1,000 entries submitted this year to select the three speakers in each of the five categories.  The Op/Ed curators were Mom-101 Liz Gumbinner and Redneck Mommy Tanis Miller; the panel of judges included Katie Orenstein, Founder of The Op-Ed Project; Stacy Morrison, the editor-in-chief of Redbook Magazine; Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman; Heather and Jessica from Go Fug Yourself;  Annalee Newitz,  founder of IO9; Riccardo Spina, creative and brand director for BlogHer, Walmart, Sun, and Disney; and Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show — our generation’s answer to surviving the daily onslaught of depressing news while keeping our collective sense of humor.

The other finalists are amazing and beautiful and I won’t steal their thunder except to say LIZ HENRY! SCARY MOMMY! STEPHANIE ROBERTS! LIZ RIZZO! MARINKA! KGIRL! LISSA RANKIN!  I am honored and amazed to be in such good company, and I am so looking forward to speaking at the BlogHer community keynote! 

Whew. 

After a day of sessions, including Stimey‘s and the session where I’m presenting with TechSavvyMama, TeachMama, and Jessica-A Parent in Silver Spring, this will be the perfect end to a terrific day.