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Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Luddite Walks into a Conference...

I took exactly seven photos at BlogHer this past weekend. Two of them were of me with Frankie, the mascot from the online gaming world called JumpStart, because I thought such a picture would tickle my son. Two more contain me sporting my trademark Most Unphotogenic Human on the Planet face, which involves half-closed eyes and a half-open mouth and an awkward stance halfway between a pounce and a faint. For the rest of the weekend, despite the leaden weight of the bag on my shoulder, I kept forgetting to pull out my camera. So this won't be a post full of pictures of grinning people in tiaras (yes, there were tiaras).

Also? I went to BlogHer without my laptop.

I do not own a Blackberry or any device that starts with i and ends with Phone.

As a result, I sent precisely one tweet the entire time I was in Chicago. (Thanks, roomie, for letting me jump on your computer!)

I did learn how to text people. Sort of. Nearly all of my messages were some version of "Where are u?" or a garbled answer to that question, as in "i cant come into book panejkj l where r u" -- because of course my cell phone does not have a letter keypad, and it was not until I was in the airport on the way home that I figured out where the "backspace" button was, so any mistakes I made while texting simply stayed in the messages. Also, I didn't figure out how to add punctuation until I was waiting for the interminable delays of my home-bound flight to be over.

Hence I texted questions like: "call me after ok" and simply hoped the recipient could read my mind rather than my text and understand that I was not issuing a royal command.

So, I am a blogger who went to a blogging conference at a schmancy hotel with wifi everywhere*, and I basically spent the entire weekend as un-wired as if I'd gone camping (plus indoor plumbing and really really nice beds).

And let me tell you: It was fabulous.

Instead of being all bloggery, I talked myself hoarse. I came home last night with a scratchy voice and a dozen new reusable faux-canvas shopping totes**, bouyed rather than tired from the incessant conversation.

The only thing I regret is that my plane home was late, and I could have stayed in the hotel lobby and talked some more, and met a few more of the people I was hoping to run into but never did, before I dashed off to the airport.

Here's what happens at a blogging conference: there are panels, some of which are thought-provoking, others informative, others deeply moving. But in between and around those panels, and sometimes in place of them, you meet people. People whose faces you have up until now had to invent and whose voices you have only imagined. You are swooped up into the strong-armed hugs of women whose writing you adore. You have quiet chats with people who swear they are nearly incapacitated by social anxiety, and you want to never stop talking to them because they are so real, so sincere, so friendly, even though they are famous and you are anything but.

You laugh. A lot. You sit up until three o'clock in the morning laughing and only go to bed because all the lights are coming on in the bar.

You talk. You cannot stop talking. You talk with people who sort of feel like old friends whose life stories you know but who also feel a little like first dates with the most desirable single guy in high school. It is incredible the grinning high you feel over the simple act of sitting across the table from someone you've had a writing crush on for months (or years) and talking.

You meet new people whose blogs now glimmer on the edges of your mind like a shelf of carefully chosen but still unread new books. You already know the cadence of their voices; now you will get to lunch on their prose.

I know there are some stories from the weekend worth telling -- ones that involve chocolate fountains, green paper bracelets, random encounters with potato chips, and promises to run a remote Iron Chef competition.

But for right now, I simply want to celebrate the sense of community, the exhilarating exhaustion that is friendship forged over the internet and solidified in a marathon of conversation. Everyone who makes a connection online should be so lucky as to be able to hug those people in person.


* a debatable assertion in that the wifi didn't work very well, and was clearly not equipped to handle 1800 people all trying to send Twitter messages over the network at the exact same moment

** yes, it is true that there is vast amounts of "swag" (free stuff) being thrown around; it is equally true that at least half of it is product placement, and another quarter of it is in such limited quantities that it's only available to those willing to leap over less agile members of the crowd to get it; that is not me. I came home with a small pile of kid toys and a giant pile of reusable shopping bags, which I call awesome.

12 comments:

LceeL said...

You make reference to your "Most Unphotogenic Human on the Planet" face. I must take umbrage at that remark. You, my dear, are an absolutely beautiful woman. Don't sell yourself short. Be proud. I have spent so much time admiring your mind - now I have a memory of physical beauty to attach to that mind. I LOVED meeting you - I am so glad we had the chance to hug.

AnnetteK said...

I just love you! I wish we could have spent more time together but I'm soooo glad I got to meet and hug you. This post completely speaks to my experience there too. I loved every minute of it.

Expat mum said...

But you Twitter! I have just posted about the fact that I was the only person there not Twittering! Great to meet you.

blissfully caffeinated said...

It's so great to read a Blogher post from someone who truly enjoyed it and was energized by the experience. It's barely Monday and I'm already hearing grumblings and rumblings from people who maybe didn't enjoy themselves, or are thinking about deleting their blogs after their Blogher weekend. So this is refreshing. And really makes me sad that I couldn't be there. But in a good way.

Marinka said...

You are one of the people who made BlogHer so much fun for me. Where R U?

mep said...

It was a pleasure to meet you in person! You are so kind and interesting. Plus, great smile, hair, and shoes!

I am still thinking about how fantastic your Michigan to Miami book is going to be.

Momisodes said...

I am SO glad to have met you there. You are simply stunning!

I hear you on the swag. I gave back or re-gifted half of the stuff.

p.s. I was very sad that wi-fi did not exist in the hotel rooms as promised.

BusyDad said...

I beg to differ, as you look quite ravishing in the picture of us on my Flickr page. Complete with tiara, I might add.

And that Iron Chef thing - let's get it on!

Judith Shakespeare said...

Sheer envy has kept me from leaving a comment on any of the "Blogher was so wonderful blah blah blah" posts...

But you actually used the word "bloggery" in this post.

And I simply cannot let that bit of awesomeness pass by without a word.

(Next time, stop by and pick me up, mmm'kay?)

Deb said...

Wanted soooo much to spend time with you. Need more time! Great recap!

Anna See said...

Aaaah. Not that's my kind of blogging conference. I don't text, or tweet, but I would LOVE to meet the women behind the blogs.

Jaina said...

I didn't know what luddite was until they used the word on an episode of Bones. It sounds like you had a fantastic time at the conference, I wish I could have gone. Sounds fabulous!

 

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