The answer to the question I posed in my last Toddler Planet post is just as I had (not-so) secretly hoped. There is no one BlogHer. BlogHers — and women who blog — come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. BlogHers have different accents, different backgrounds, and different perspectives. BlogHers have different interests. Some of us are mommybloggers. Some of us are techbloggers. Some blog about personal finance, and some blog about infertility. Some blog their life and will sort it all out later. All approaches are valid, and that seems to be one of the core principles of the BlogHer community.
This weekend was at once better than and different from what I had imagined last year, after reading the recap posts. There was indeed a lot of hugging and squeeing, and oh-my-gosh did-you-see who-just-walked-by?, but there was also a great deal of serious networking. Of considered thought. Of asking, “How can we take this common interest a step further and grow together?”
Yesterday was one of the most powerful conference days I’ve ever experienced. I chose three sessions to attend that worked together amazingly well; the panelists and participants inspired me to be a better blogger, and to use my powers for good.
The very first session, “What We Believe: Beautiful Blogging and Positive Posting,” featured five lovely and talented bloggers who are making a difference in their communities and in the larger world, in many case just by the careful choice of words that they sending out into the world. Kyran Pittman reminded us that beautiful is not just about pretty, and that we can blog about difficult topics in a positive way. Krysten Heide, who writes Hope Revolution, spoke about the Hope Note project, and how she inspires women to reach out to others in their online or offline communities and encourage each other with words and notes. Jen from One Plus Two talked about the Just Posts, and enouraged us all to submit our favorite posts on social justice — or write one for the first time and submit it — to her this month, so that she can help expand their reach. Lucrecer Braxton talked about beauty and freedom through art, and the Art Slam initiative. Alyssa Royce gave us a preview of her new initiative, Just Cause It. Just Cause It is an amazing idea that I’ll be talking about more in the coming days. But it wasn’t just the speakers in this panel that blew me away. It was the audience. They were lively, interested, and engaged. They were polite to each other, but serious as they urged each other on to good works and beautifully composed essays. Chookoolonks reminded us all of Jen Lemen‘s works, and then inspired us with one of her own. When she sees a blogger rift happening in the blogs she reads, where one blogger gets upset with another, and unhappiness ensues, she makes a special effort to send good words and thankfulness out into the blogosphere, and asks her readers to join in the thankfulness. Several of us loved that idea, and I suspect we’ll be seeing more of that in the future. Another blogger made the point that words can be beautiful even if the situations are not pretty; that there is usefulness in writing about the difficult times too, particularly if there is a positive coming out of it. That leads us nicely into the next panel —
What we believe: Tools For Online Fundraising and Activism.
One of the things I learned this year is this: there are no little blogs. There is no such thing as “just” a personal blog. Every one of us has a unique perspective and an important set of talents. And her own sphere of influence. Beth Kantor, Her Bad Mother, and Donna Callejon gave wonderful talks about their approach to online advocacy and fundraising. From awareness-raising to writing for a cause to raising cold hard cash (Go Beth! $93k for Cambodian orphans this year!), these women have it going on, and they spent their time well, telling us how to do it too. Moderator Marnie Webb created a Wiki for this session, and the talks are posted there in their entirety — I highly recommend a thorough reading, or at least a listen to the podcast if you have interest in this topic.
The last regular session of the day was the panel that I participated in: “What We Believe: Blogging Communities as a Healing Force.” I’d like to cover this one in a little more detail tomorrow, but I have to say that I was so impressed with my fellow panelists’ honesty and dedication to painting the picture for us of their experience, no matter how difficult. The audience was friendly and respectful of our stories, and I really felt the love in the room. We dedicated the session to Andrea, PunkRockMommy, and Julia, who we lost this year, and who have left gaping holes in the mommyblogging and adoptionblog communities.
This morning’s unconference provided an opportunity for us to follow up on points from yesterday’s sessions and network on specific issues that will help us all to be better bloggers. We called the sessions that I went to “Using Our Powers For Good: Making a Difference On and Offline,” and “Group Blogging and Guest Posts.” I was totally blown away by the willingness of the participants to share best practices and to offer one another hope and help. You can bet that Laurie and I will be talking to them more as we (the 19 of us) set up Mothers With Cancer as a full resource site and safe haven for moms — and friends and family who come to support, help, and understand what life is like when mom gets cancer.
The other sessions were great (Mommyblogging as a Radical Act, anyone?), networking was popular, almost all the bloggers were really friendly and open, the parties were fantastic (oh, the parties.), and there was even good swag. But really, what I walked away from BlogHer08 with was invaluable — and I don’t mean the t-shirts, stuffed animals, USB drives, software, or even the DVD of me and Grover chatting on Sesame Street (but seriously? that was awesome). I walked away with a greater appreciation of what can be done with this medium we call blogging, and of the amazing diversity and reach of the 1000 women and men present.
If we put our hearts and minds together, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.