I returned yesterday from the BlogHer 2013 conference in downtown Chicago. The weekend was blissfully exhausting, full of emotion, learning, and connecting. My roommates (and honorary roommate) and I spent a small snippet of time each day discussing our “highs and lows” (terminology credit: Jen). So, I will use the same method to recap my BlogHer experience as it seems the only way my brain can filter through this amazing mess inside my head. You will notice a certain imbalance between the highs and the lows, as I was mostly high all weekend.
Wait. That didn’t come out right.
BlogHer 2013 Highs
Having a few safe people to share your highs and lows (and toilet, shower, and bed) makes putting yourself out there into the blogging abyss a bit easier. I am so grateful to Kari, Jen, Jeanette, and (honorary roommate, Marianne) for being my people.
All of the PEOPLE
Okay, maybe not ALL of the people. Whenever, you get 5,000 people together, there are bound to be some jackasses, but almost all of the people that I encountered blew me away with their kindness, warmth, and welcoming spirit. It thrilled me to meet some of the bloggers I have followed since starting this whole journey, and some new (to me) bloggers, as well. I wish I could have sat down with each one of them, had a cup of coffee, heard their stories, and learned all of the things.
If this was all BlogHer was, if this was the only perk, if there was no swag, no keynotes, no sessions? This would be enough. The people would be enough. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for all of the other parts of this conference, but the PEOPLE, the relationships, are the reasons that I hope to return next year.
The Voices of the Year
By far my favorite keynote. Hearing the stories of others feeds my spirit in a way that very little else does. Having Queen Latifah emcee was a bonus…
…but I am afraid she was a bit overshadowed by the readers. I couldn’t pick a favorite, so don’t even ask.
Then there was this:
BlogHer mounted all of the VOTY honorees’ stories in a massive way and put them on display in the reception hall. I’m not going to lie. Seeing my story in all this big, bold glory gave me a bit of a rush.
Read This Story
Okay, so I was walking through the expo hall and I hear someone say,
“Hey, are you from Celina? Are you Shannon Duffy?” The voice came from a woman working inside one of the sponsor’s booth.
She informed me that, when she was eight years old, she watched my high school basketball team win the State Championship. She told me how it was a big deal to her and that she had even gotten my autograph. We spoke briefly about our lives, then and now, and about our shared coaches and history. I cannot begin to tell you how much this chance meeting thrilled me and shocked me.
First of all, I am thrilled and shocked that she recognized me. After all, I looked like this when she last saw me.
Secondly, that 20+ year old experience is still so important and fresh in my heart and it makes me happy to know that it meant something to others as well.
Thirdly (is that a word?), my post that was honored by Voices of the Year was about winning the State Championship and basketball’s role in my life. It was part of the reason that I was there, at that conference, strolling through the expo. I don’t know if that’s serendipity or fate or what. I’ll just call it awesome.
The Sessions and the Swag
I attended a session during every available time. Most of my sessions were in the writing track. I enjoyed seeing inside the creative process of other people and learning about their motivations for sharing their stories.
I came home with a small bag of swag from the expo hall. I am not one who likes a lot of stuff. Not a minimalist, but tilting in that direction. But who doesn’t like a can with your face on it?
Sorry I kept looking at the screen rather than the camera, Melisa.
And the other best swag item that never made it into the bag? Ice cream sandwiches. When I told Cheerio that there was a freezer full of free ice cream bars, her response was:
“I want to be a blogger.”
BlogHer 2013 Lows
I got nothing, really.
There were several people that I really wanted to meet that I either couldn’t find among the masses, or I was too shy to approach. I won’t make that mistake next time. This event bolstered my courage.
I didn’t take enough pictures and the ones I did manage to take were pretty blurry. Next time, I will bring a better camera and make a point of using it.
That’s it. That is my BlogHer 2013 experience in less than 1,000 words.
I offer my genuine gratitude to every person there who offered me a smile or open arms.
It was an honor to meet you all.