Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You went to BlogHer '13 and all I got was a bunch of lube?

BlogHer 2013.  What is it?

Kate made this darling badge.  I heart Kate.
First off, if you are not familiar with the woman-owned and operated blogging platform known as BlogHer -- and you write a blog . . . and are a woman -- I suggest you get to know it.  BlogHer is a blogging aggregator that features hundreds of blogs written and designed by women for the purpose of sharing and promoting blogs with a massive audience.  It's easy to sign up and once you do, you have the opportunity of being one of the featured blogs of the day.  I've held that honor twice and am angling for space in the BlogHer Publishing Network, which PAYS for blog posts.  Applications and your first born child are involved in that process.

Okay, so now you kinda know what BlogHer is.  Onto the BlogHer Conference.  What is that all about?

BlogHer has been convening a two-day conference since 2009 in different cities across the U.S.  The company features speakers who provide advice and inspiration (or irritation, depending on your perspective), and break-out panels, round table discussions, and writing labs for the over 4,000 bloggers who attend.  Oh yeah, and there's an Expo full of corporate and nonprofit booths peddling their wares and hoping to make connections with bloggers who might scratch their back if the bloggers scratch theirs.  In other words, I came back with a ton of swag.

I won this plant
By far the most popular booth was the Trojan "Wheel of Pleasure" game where bloggers spun and won prizes such as lube, and more lube, and different colors of lube.

But I don't need anymore lube . . . 
Probably the best question for me at this point is: Why did I go to BlogHer '13?

Initially, I hoped to learn a bit about technology and design, maybe network with other bloggers as much as my cynical and introverted self would allow, and meet the women with whom I've become friends through blogging over the last year.  Those were perfectly reasonable goals.  I did meet some lovely women and have a two-inch stack of business cards to file.  I also attended two excellent break-out sessions, one with journalists/bloggers Tracy Beckerman from Lost in Suburbia and Rosalind Cummings-Yeates from Farsighted Fly Girl about pitching to newspapers and periodicals and another with Jen Phillips April, social media trainer, about rockin' your social media.  Meeting my online friends Chris, Jen, and Cindy, and spending time with the ever-wonderful Kate was also worth the price of registration.

Me + Jen + Kate = Yay!
The Voices of the Year Awards was another highlight of the conference.  Overall, the women were good writers, had excellent stage presence, told funny, moving, and important stories, and were well-deserving of their recognition.  Here, I'm going to point you to two of my favorite posts:

1. Raising Colorado: DIY Is Full Of Danger
2. Ann Imig from Listen To Your Mother and Ann's Rants (can't find the link, but I adore her)
3. (I lied, 3 faves) Life with Roozle's I Got Saved at Jesus Camp

You may have heard (or not) that Queen Latifa hosted.  She seemed completely confused about what she was doing and why she was there for the entire event, but she was very enthusiastic.

Other speakers included Ree Drummond, the hilarious and impressive creator of The Pioneer Woman  (Her story of success is inspiring because it was unexpected, plus she seems genuine and charming.), Sheryl Sandberg (The Lean In lady -- jury is still out on this one;  I liked her better the first time around when she called herself Gloria Steinem and wasn't pulling in six figures), and Gale Ann Hurd, producer of The Walking Dead, Aliens, and The Terminator.  I'd link to the famous names I've dropped, but Google can find them, no prob.  I'd rather highlight the names you may not have seen or heard of before.

I'm just giving you a run-down of the conference because it was a lot to take in, in a short amount of time.  Also, I perpetually felt like the awkward new kid.  And I had sincere moments of doubt -- Why AM I here?  I want to write and publish my writing and EVEN GET PAID for my writing, but I'm not so sure about putting an ad for Pillsbury or Jamba Juice on my blog and I certainly don't want to do product endorsements.  I'll ho a little, folks, but I do have some dignity.

My thoughts are this: I'm not sure if I'm heading to BlogHer '14.  I'm just not sure.

Now if Wild Ophelia chocolates returns with their free bars of exotic chocolate (Um, Beef Jerky Chocolate?  Yes, yes I will try that.), I'm in.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

BlogHer '13, you're not ready for my brand of awkward

This is definitely my summer of travel.  First the River Teeth Nonfiction Conference in Ohio, then Florida with the fam, jetsetting to Ireland with my MFA peeps, and now - only one week back home - I'm roadtripping to Chicago with the sassiest blogger in the 'sphere (that's what the young people call it, right?), Ms. Kate at Nested.  Whyfore the trip to Chicago, you ask?  How is it that your loyal and hardworking husband is not divorcing you, you also may ask?  Well, I'm heading to the 2013 BlogHer Conference as a "newbie" blogger and attendee.  Kate, Jennifer over at Defining My Happy, and I prefer to call ourselves "virgins" and if we expand the crowd even more to Kate, Jennifer, Chris at Life Your Way, and Cindy at Everyday Underwear, I'm calling us The Blogfest Club.

I can't answer why my husband stays married to me.  He's kind of an agnostic saint.

Okay, so we've established that this will be my first BlogHer Conference.  What is BlogHer and why are they having a conference and who cares, you may ever so rudely inquire?  BlogHer is an aggregator blog site for women bloggers who want community and a bigger readership.  The annual conference brings thousands of blogging ladies together for an estrogenfest to learn about marketing, technical skills (SEO, Wordpress), pitching, and networking among other panels, workshops, keynotes, and dance parties.  I'm both excited and keeping calm, carrying on, and whatnot.  I've been to two AWP (Association of Writing Professionals) conferences so I know the madness that awaits me and my kooky crew.  I also have heard that some women are freaking out over what shoes to bring so they can have a cute shoe-off or something.  Me, I'm tempted to bring my vibram five-fingers, some ratty t-shirts and sweatpants.  I'm so not about the cute shoe-off.  Oh, I have cute shoes, they just are orthopedic.

Look out BlogHer, I've got Vibram mary janes and I'm not afraid to wear them!

Here's what's going to happen this weekend:

  • Kate, Jennifer, and I will be posting our before and after posts (consider this the before post).
  • If we get a break or skip lunch one day, we'll publish a during post.
  • We will take photos and possibly put them on Instagram (LitMama12, if you're so inclined) and Twitter (AmyMMiller1), maybe Facebook (ADDled).
  • Kate will be making us a nifty "BlogHer Virgin" badge for our blogs.  Why?  Because she is awesome.
  • We will be tired and goofy and overwhelmed and manic, so the blogging will be quite possibly insane.
  • We will meet friendly and interesting people.
  • We will ogle Queen Latifa at the Voices of the Year banquet.
  • I will also ogle MacArthur "genius" Fellowship, Majora Carter, because I'm a nerd and really admire her.
Here's NOT what's going to happen this weekend:
  • Participating in a cute shoe-off.
  • Talking about the royal birth.  (Sorry, don't care.)
  • Talking about politics.  (Probably best not to piss people off then hand them my business card.)
  • Schmoozing. (I refuse.)
  • Streaking.  (I'm going to leave this as more of a maybe.)
Okay, BlogHer, show me what you got.

Bring it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Comfort Zone


I returned home on Monday from two weeks away from family (although, not friends) during my MFA residency in Ireland.  Residencies are always intense:
  • homesickness 
  • long talks with dear friends 
  • new friendships 
  • a busy and tight schedule 
  • awe of foreign lands 
  • speaking or reading in front of a crowd of 77 people 
  • learning scads about writing from smart, funny and fascinating faculty 
  • listening to a workshop of 7 smart people discuss my work
This residency in Dublin and Galway was particularly good (and I will discuss some of the not-so-great moments, too) because I felt comfortable in my skin most of the time.  Does that sound weird?  On past residencies I was shy and awkward.  I hid a lot behind my hilarious friend Different Laura (that's what my son calls her anyway -- I know a lot of Lauras so he has to have a system).  Laura and I roomed together twice and both times ended up back in our room in tears.  We'd take turns, to be fair.  She missed her boyfriend; I missed my husband and two kids.  We both felt like idiots and frauds in the writing program.  And we fed one another's neuroses.  Good times.

Not this go-round.  No.  Laura graduated last spring and I'm entering my graduating semester.  Time to act like a grown-up (or at least fake it, as in until I make it).  And it worked!  I didn't cry once!  I dropped off my kids at camp the day I left and as I passed my daughter to say goodbye, instead of welling up with tears and causing her to do the same, I walked by and gave her a high five on the way to the car.  I knew I needed to keep it upbeat and light.  And it worked for both of us.  My son was fine.  Plus, I scheduled two camps for them while I was away which included an art show for the girl and a talent show for the boy, along with a gaggle of field trips.

Okay, the residency was great for other reasons, including:
  • going to workshops on Trinity College campus
  • listening to interesting lectures on craft
  • spending loads of time with so many smart, loving, funny friends
  • drinking Guinness, often
  • eating tons of fish and muscles (my new fave)
  • seeing the gorgeous west coast of Ireland for the third time
  • having a bus driver who sang traditional Irish reels and step danced during down time
Some of the not-so-great things really had to do with terribly inconsistent internet services (mostly bad for calling or Skyping home) and dorm rooms the size of a coffin (okay, that was just the shower) -- and to be fair, these ARE 17th century buildings.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I found a pair of Jonathan Swift's skivvies in the closet.  Also not-so-great, two required films that we saw as part of the Galway Film Fleadh, one of which detailed the REAL slaughter of a sheep (and that was just the third scene).  I left before the end of the film, nausea setting in.

So yeah, I wasn't always physically comfortable.  No big deal.  Some friends were much more uncomfortable than me: one broken arm, one sprained ankle, one almost-broken toe, and strep!  I consider myself lucky.

 As far as emotional and mental comfort, I think I won the jackpot!  Every residency, since my first when a third semester student told me I had to sign up for a student reading because I had to get over the fear and practice reading in front of an audience, I have done just that.  That student was right.  It does get easier.  I actually kinda enjoy it.  In truth, I worried that I hogged the stage this go-round I was up so frequently (I even moderated one of the readings).  This is a huge turn-around from my college days oh so many years past.  Back in the late 80s I was known as . . . nothing. I didn't have a nickname or a reputation because I never spoke.  Never.  In class, that is.  It cost me grades, people!  But now, I can lead a small discussion (which I did two weeks ago) on a favorite essayist, offer my opinion in a large group discussing films (two guesses on what I said about the sheep film), read from my journal in the same large group, and talk frequently during workshop.  One of my friends told me she thought I had grown a lot since my first residency three years ago.

It's all about stepping out of that comfort zone until the awkward becomes more familiar and more comfortable.  I'm certain of it.  Thank you, third semester student from 2011.  I can't remember who you are, but you gave me the best advice ever.

Without further ado, here is a photo recap of my big, fat, Irish residency.  Enjoy!

From left to right, top to bottom: Trinity College, my dorm; Guinness on draft; Temple Bar; Muscles; Oscar Wilde sculpture in Dublin; Round Tower at Glendalough, County Wicklow; Me, reading stuff

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guest postin' at Defining My Happy today!

Since I leave for Ireland today and won't be blogging for two weeks, here's a little something to keep you satisfied in the interim: my guest post at the most wonderful Jen at Defining My Happy: http://www.definingmyhappy.com/2013/07/defining-your-happy-zen-in-garden-by.html



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Birthdays & poetry

Hello ADDled readers!

Yes, I'm finally back from vacation; however, I leave tomorrow for my MFA residency . . . in Ireland!!!  I know, rough life.  If this helps at all, I'm in debt up to my earlobes so really I'm just having desert first.

Rather than catching you up on ADDled goes to the beach, I'm giving you a special BIRTHDAY EDITION of ADDled (because, as of today I am officially at the mid-point of my life).  What does this mean, you may or may not ask?  Well, it's actually a cop-out post.  I have a children's poem posted on my sister's blog, Kid's Imagination Train, which was inspired by my son's picture at the top of the page.  So click on over if you like.

See, not exactly a copy out. Happy Birthday, Everyone!!

I'll probably be out for the count until mid-July, but I promise to share purdy pictures from bonny Ireland.