Wednesday, July 29, 2009

BlogHer '09 - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

My trip to BlogHer '09 was a birthday gift -- from me, to me!

As I headed back home on Sunday, my actual birthday, after two full days attending a conference with bloggers from all over the country, and the world, I thanked myself. What better gift to give me, I thought, than something that will keep on giving, with the potential to make me better at what I do. That's because the best thing I took away from BlogHer ’09 was a challenge. Well, several challenges, actually -- plus a few mini USB flash drives.

First was the challenge to put myself out there. I am too easily overwhelmed by crowds and my instinct is to retreat into a safe and quiet corner to observe, rather than participate. I know from my first BlogHer mini-conference last fall that bloggers are warm and generous people -- my kind of people. However, just the thought of spending two days with 1400 other bloggers tends to kick my corner-seeking instincts into high gear. But just showing up to sit and observe is not enough, so my food blogger friends became my safe haven, allowing me the necessary comfort level to move into the crowd and join the conversation at the conference. Now to carry that through to my blog.

Second was the challenge from the Keynote Community Speakers, who were all bloggers, selected to read one of their posts for the hundreds of us seated in that enormous ballroom. Their words stunned me and compelled me to become a better writer – a much better writer. I was also challenged to look into my own world more objectively, more passionately, more tenderly and more openly. I was moved beyond my own lexicon -- just when I wanted perfect words to describe the feeling their words stirred inside me. This was the highlight of BlogHer '09 for me!

Third was the challenge facing my own blog – to find my focus, my niche and my readers. I’ll admit, there is a tendency to think I must be doing something wrong if I don’t have the legions of readers of, say, Ree at The Pioneer Woman. Or the depth and breadth of recipes of Elise at Simply Recipes. Or the discipline and devotion of Kalyn at Kalyn’s Kitchen. Or the curious mind and generous spirit of Lydia of The Perfect Pantry. Or the multi-tasking skills and kindness of Kristen at Dine and Dish. Or the youthful exuberance of Maris at In Good Taste. Or the travel and cultural intrigue of Sara in MsAdventuresInItaly. Or the energy and business sense of Jaden at Steamy Kitchen. But spending time with these women, and so many others like them, is exciting and encouraging. And the food blogging panel discussion led by Elise from Simply Recipes generated a brainstorm of much-needed ideas for my own food blog.

And, finally . . . the technology challenge! I’ve recently shared my personal failures, and now limited successes, in the world of technology. Daily challenges continue to bombard me from all sides in a world full of computers, iPhones, Twitter, Facebook and others evolving in the blogosphere. I was delighted to be able to identify all the mini USB flash drives in my swag bag, but somewhat intimated by all the social media terminology that zoomed past me like, well, foreign languages. My MacBook Pro is my faithful companion. I’m waiting for ATT service in my area before I get an iPhone. I’ve dipped my big toe into the social media pool. And now I want to concentrate on my camera skills, or lack thereof. I love taking pictures! And, with the help of Kristen Doyle’s new Culinary Snapshot blog (and maybe a photography class or two), I see improved skills in my future.

So that’s why I went to BlogHer ’09 – to go face to face with my personal blogging challenges.

Attending BlogHer ’09 was my birthday gift to myself. And I came away with new friends, a few ideas, renewed energy and more confidence in myself and my blogging future.

Wow! I give really great gifts!

P.S. – Behind this successful blogger is a man who chauffeurs me to conferences, buys me cute hats (in my absolute best color!) for my birthday and hands out my cards to curious onlookers at the Navy Pier embroidery shop (and any co-pilot who happens to land in the seat next to him in the cockpit) -- just a few of the many reasons why he is My Favorite Husband!


Kristen said...

What a fantastic post, Cora. I came away with many of the same goals as you. Since I became pregnant with Leah, I lost my passion and drive for my blog. I was so tired from the pregnancy that I let a lot of the things go (like the personal connections I had made through it) and I want to get back to that. That's my #1 goal.. to make Dine & Dish a place where friends can meet.

Your blog is great. We can struggle through the tech stuff together because it is all a blur to me as well. Anything involved with the back end of blogging is way over my head!

Love you, your blog and am so glad to have met you at BlogHer!

Kalyn Denny said...

What a great post! This was just how I felt the first time I attended BlogHer in 2006. Every year I am grateful for the experience and I always leave there with more than I came with.

Katerina said...

Great post, you were certainly lucky to attend though. I would definitely have similar feelings in that sort of crowd.

Kristen said...

and by the way, Happy Birthday, Cora :)

Elise said...

Ah, Cora, thank you for your wonderful post. I really enjoyed meeting you and soaking up your warm and generous spirit.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What a wonderful present to yourself, and this post is a wonderful gift to those of us who read and enjoy your blog. It was great to see you at BlogHer.

lynn @ human, being said...

Excellent storytelling. And Happy Birthday!

Debra said...

CORA!!! Have you read the reviews in the Wall Street Journal & NY Times on Julia/Julie - everybody loves it!

At Winterthur we have the M&M's nights - Movies & Margaritas - & I've sent out the invitation to 25 or so of the near & dear to do this movie, but with something a little nicer than The Hitching Post where dinner can be $9.95 + a watered down Margarita - o no! - for THIS we go to Jasmine for great asian rolls, sushi, soups, & a big ole glass of wine. Wish you could be with us - Friday the 14th!!!