One month later ... my BlogHer '13 memoir

It's been a month since I attended the BlogHer '13 conference in Chicago. Procrastination award goes to (thumbs in) this gal. My brain filled up at an alarming rate -- like bubbles in a beaker -- so many words to get out! Inspiration! Motivation! Amazing writers everywhere around me! Brainsplosion! It was a serious chemical reaction set off by the bold and effervescent ingredients of simply being at BlogHer. While I won't give the Martinelli play-by-play in its chronological and in order of appearance credits, I will spell out the bold and effervescent ingredients that had me using the phrase "game-changer" repeatedly in BlogHer's wake.

1. The Serenity Suite + Twitter 

I had no idea what I was doing at BlogHer. I have my personal blog, which has been scattered in its aim and post frequency. And I have the gDiapers blog, which is a project that I want to do better. And so I was off to a conference to try to make some sense out of both of those things. I had little agenda except to see what this was all about, to meet some blogger friends in person, and to search for new voices to woo as guest bloggers. My flight wasn't going to get in in time for me to go to the opening events at the conference hall. So I got to my hotel room and I turned to twitter. I searched simply "#blogher13". Quickly I saw a tweet that included #blogher13 and #serenitysuite. So I searched #serenitysuite and found a recent thread of tweets saying to come to room # whateveritwas and say hi. I timidly tweeted back something like #reallycanicometo? And got a pleasant response that yes, all were welcome! I threw on some deodorant and headed out the door. I was warmly nervous, like when you're about to jump off rocks into a swimming hole, which you've done before, but now your bladder is telling you the time might not be best, but then you shrug and go in anyway cause you know you can pee in the river. Yes you can.

I found the right room. Thankfully it had a sign outside that said "serenity suite", so I was at least fairly confident I wasn't about to be abducted by a tricky tweetster. I poked my head in. What did I say? Probably hello. Or "Serenity NOW!!!". More likely hello. There was a smattering of ladies lounging on the floor, in chairs, milling about eating chocolate and cheesy popcorn. The chit chat started off small and awkward, but rapidly gained momentum and soon we were howling at a story told by Heather, who writes the blog The Extraordinary Ordinary. And then Kimberly of Red Shutters loaned (accidentally gave) me a pen.  And Cheryl of Busy Since Birth had us break the ice with some introductions, though we quickly got distracted and abandoned them (sorry Cheryl!). And Sarah of Bluegrass Redhead pulled out a pic of the world's most perfect pink prom dress and her wearing zombie makeup and the whole room swooned. I was in love. I pulled out PugHer, my daughter's stuffed pug in the kittycat nightgown, and I captured the scene so as to remember it forevah. My BlogHer Origins began in The Serenity Suite courtesy of Twitter and Heather's inviting tweets. And I wrapped up the weekend there as well, with baby gawking thanks to the kind uterus contribution of Melissa of Peanut Butter in my Hair. And a Candy Crush confessional with Ellie of One Crafty Mother. Ugh. #fishshakecandycrush

2. Familiar + Faces 

this guy rocks. 
pug on over here, kim.
Now that I had legitimately met bloggers with human names and faces, I felt at home. I journeyed downstairs to the opening night cocktail hour alongside my new conference buddy, the zombie prom queen. Crammed into the hotel lobby bar was a swarm of dolled up and dressed down bloggers, one of whom I actually recognized and I was 73% confident she might know who I was, too. That partial confidence couldn't outweigh the urge to blurt out "Hi Kim! It's me, Kelli, from gDiapers" thereby succinctly smooshing together both my personal and corporate social identities. Kim (of Let Me Start By Saying and "I Just Want to Pee Alone") either actually really recognized me or is alarmingly responsive at the game of sympathetic play-along. Moments later and I got a text from my daddy blogger friend, James, impressively known as The Rock Father. He was on his way over to the party. I was so giddy it was like I was on The Muppet Show and I just got invited to do a duet with Kermit. Amidst this sea of socially familiar faces and brand new faces from The Serenity Suite, I began to collect interactive tidbits. This wasn't your normal networking event. The kind where it's what can you do for me and if nothing then get out of the way. This felt like friendship. Like storytelling. Like summer camp. Conversations were happening around me that were filled with hilarity, depth, and a common tie of a passion for writing.

3. Rule + Relatability

They would meet again, casually, over breakfast the next day.
There was a breakfast for us newbies. I love breakfast. I grabbed my buffet plate and loaded it down with scrambled eggs, yogurt, pastries and carefully selected strawberries and grapes that weren't touching cantaloupe on the fruit tray. The founders of BlogHer introduced themselves and welcomed us. They told the story of the origins of BlogHer. I was shocked by how normal it was. There was no grand corporate structure. No celebrity backing. This stemmed from women who loved to blog, and who thought it might be great to get other women who loved to blog together into a conference. It emerged out of shared passion and a lot of credit card debt. And now here we were in one place, 5,000 women with a reach of 9,000,000. Seriously. Then Sandy took the podium. She had written a book about the whole networking conference thing. She laid down some ground rules for us newbies, one of which was like the invitation that let the whole party happen: Don't sit alone. If you're heading in to a room with only one other person there, sit next to them. If you're the first in a room or at a table, look up and smile, have a body language that welcomes others to join you. And this is exactly what happened the entire time I was there. The relationships that were struck and built in on-the-spot moments were THE relationships of the conference. I met Deb of Urban MooCow on the escalator to the shuttle bus between the hotel and conference center. I met the phenomenal Angelique of Moms Rising on a bus ride, too. I braved the most personal stories with my table-mates at the Cheryl Sandberg/Lean In keynote and workshop. I could do this because there was an invitation and understanding that we were all here to be growing, and to support each other in the process. We will emerge that much stronger if we're holding each other up. I could do this because there was a "what happens at BlogHer, stays at BlogHer" code of respect. No one was going to go air my dirty details just to make an interesting blog post of their own. But what was being discovered was that we all have our own stories that are equally fascinating, hilarious, ugly and terrifying. And being the exhibitionists that we were (if you're a blogger you have to be pretty damn okay with baring it all), we were figuring out how we could ask bigger questions of ourselves to get to stories worth sharing. Even though we were all so different, we could relate. We were there and put to the same challenge. Be inviting. Be present. And don't sit alone. Because of that one simple rule, I had the honor of conversing with these women: Sara of Toddler Summer (who I also met in The Serenity Suite), Meg of The compost cook, Bev, who makes stunning jewelry, and my new adopted ma, Deborah Shane, who convinced me to pull the trigger and legally change my last name (coming soon ...). We all had different stories. But we could relate. We were all there. Completely present. We chose not to sit alone.

4. Speakers + Zombies

From the serenity suite to empty pig seats.

I'm not trying to jump on the keyword "zombies" bandwagon, but zombies help things. They really do. Helpful zombies get more brains. When you're desperately hungry and sitting next to other hungry bloggers, and you're listening to the fantastically creative and powerful Gale Anne Hurd (producer of The Walking Dead) and two of the other hungry bloggers are impossibly afraid of zombies, and so you hashtag #zombiesarentreal #zombiesarentreal #zombiesarentreal, it simply is the perfect concoction. Another chemical win cooked up by BlogHer. We had only an hour to get food in between Hurd and the fashion show (which was amazing, so amazing that I'm not going to write about it. Google it. It hath already been written by others.). So naturally we attempted to get a seat at the most touristy joint in the city and ended up eating in a mall food court.

The right ingredients.

I'm sad that between the supercharged momentum immediately following BlogHer and the vacation time that I've cashed in on so that I could finally blog this, I've lost many of the details that were screaming to be written earlier on. And so here are final parting thoughts, tidbits, mentions, and more pictures of PugHer, in no particular order. Read on, but I'll sign off here with this: I will sell a kidney if I have to in order to attend BlogHer '14. 

Thought: Twitter is actually useful. I'm hereby using it more. I've even made LISTS! And if you've read this far, you're probably on one.

Tidbit: "Use your voice like a condiment." Sage advice from a workshop I attended. Perfectly applicable to my own writing, but more time-relevant to the evolution of the gDiapers' blog.

Mention: Thank you to Listen to Your Mother for hosting the Open Mic. I'm a fairly brazen writer, but a timid out-loud reader (except to my kids, then it's all out there all the time). I read this post to the group, and nearly lost it on tears. But I pressed on and was greeted at breakfast the next morning by fellow bloggers who had heard me, and they encouraged me to blog more, that I didn't suck so hard at it and should give it some credit.

photo: I kissed The Pioneer Woman

Thought: So I'm giving my blog some credit. I changed the domain from Sunshine Daydreams to It's Me, Kelli. And here we are. I added social icons! I used pics from a produce photoshoot that I've been dying to do ever since I realized my invented game of produce-holding would never take off. I added a napkin background and updated my url in most places. I am even referring to myself now as a blogger (though I still might be whispering it and looking over my shoulder to make sure no one is listening).

photo: gRegal product placement

Tidbit: Be consistent with your branding. In retrospect it's such a "duh" piece of advice, but only if you know you want to be a blogger from the outset. I never set out to brand myself. I set out to write a blog that was named for my daughter and would capture the wordy overflow of my brainpipes. My twitter handle was created on the spot because a colleague pressured me in 2008 to start a twitter account and I digitally barfed out the first thing that came to mind. *barfitsmekellidone* But the realization that I had at BlogHer was that that barfed out twitter handle really told more than just barf. It speaks to my identity. Kelli is the part of me that I know the best. As I go through the legal process to change my last name from McKee to Martinelli, a name of my own choosing, I struggle with who knows me as what last name. The legacy of a last name is lost on me. But my first name has been mine since Charlie's Angels held social influence. I will forever be Kelli. And I will kick the ass of any transvestite who comes at me with a knife in an alleyway.


Heather said…
You are the best.

I'm so glad you came across the Serenity Suite tweets and then wore deodorant.

Then I also loved your reading at the LTYM Salon. Beautiful.

You kissed the Pioneer Woman! One time, I met her and I just kept saying that I was Heather! HI, I'm Heather! (Like she's supposed to know me.) "Heather King!" (Um...okay? Hi!, she said.) (I'm so lame.)
Someone asked me to kiss her. So I did. Next time you need to do something and you're not sure how to proceed, just let me know. I'll ask you to do it and then you'll have to.
You got this post syndicated on BlogHer! Congrats.

My only complaint with this post is that you didn't include the PugHer picture of you lying on the dance floor.
It got syndicated? Hmm. I hadn't heard! And I did consider including the dance floor pic but somehow ended up going the Charlie's Angels route ...

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