Friday, August 13, 2010

The Conference

So. About BlogHer.

I went into the city last Thursday, a day early, in order to get started bright and early on Friday, when the conference officially began.

This is how I spent my time getting ready for four days I would be away from home:

Monday – did nothing
Tuesday – did nothing
Wednesday – did nothing
Thursday – ran around like a lunatic

By the time I got into New York, because I had totally overdone it, I was doubled over in pain and exhaustion. The SheWrites get together in a swanky bar downtown? Scratch. All I could do was take a load of pills and fall face down on the bed.

Thanks, Multiple Sclerosis. Well, technically, thanks you procrastinating knucklehead. But if it wasn’t for MS, I just would have been tired, not incapacitated.

On the plus side, we had lined up a last minute third roommate, a delightful woman from D. C. Debbie blogs at Legal Speaks and is a fascinating person.

Then there was Hurricane Danielle. Except that I saw her sleeping with my own eyes, I never would have believed it. That child did not stop for one single, solitary second. She won more stuff than seemed humanly possible, including two laptops. And she found swag under every rock and in every cranny. Evidence:

So I started out with two wonderful, considerate, thoughtful partners in crime. We all have totally divergent backgrounds and interests, but we really hit it off.


The conference opened with two separate breakfasts, one for all attendees and one for women attending for the first time. Comic relief: Danielle kept running into the original roommate who ditched us and continually practiced giving her the evil eye.

The breakfasts were sumptuous, no kidding, and the welcome was warm. Everyone was happy to be there as we headed off to our first workshops.

There were three workshop blocks each day, each segment containing multiple tracks: Bloggers as Change Agents, Passions, Personal, Professional, Geek (tech stuff), Writing and Job issues. The subjects were very comprehensive, with sessions such as Creating Tangible Social Change, How to Build a Community Around Your Cause and Writing Inspiration: Stoke Your Creativity.

I found that the sessions I was most interested in were the writing ones, and that was the track I pretty much stuck with. It was awe inspiring to be in rooms filled with women who had published books already (one panelist actually even had one of her books made into a movie) or had projects in the works, most resulting from blogging.

I met many wonderful women, but I was especially happy to meet Kamy Wicoff, the founder of SheWrites, a marvelous online community for women writers of all sorts, not just bloggers. That was the party I missed on Thursday night. She was incredibly down to earth and friendly. Of course, on the site I announced I had been thrilled to meet her and spelled her name wrong in my gushing comment. Mortifying. But honestly Kamy! You have K’s where there should be C’s and C’s where there should be K’s. Way to addle a girl’s brain!!

Friday evening was punctuated by a frantic call from my sister regarding my parents, whose train has been coming off the tracks for two years now, a slow motion horror show. The situation was deteriorating and would get even worse over the next days.

My perspective of the conference was completely affected by having to use a wheelchair. The wheelchair determined where I sat in the dining room or at a workshop. Since all the meals were buffets, it determined what I ate and drank (although the staff was VERY helpful; one manager even made me a cup of tea and brought it to my table for me). As the elevators were in banks, there were only three serving the conference floors and the twelve floors above, where our room was. At busy times, I sometimes had to wait through five or six elevators before there was one with room for me and my chair. The second floor of exhibitors was completely inaccessible to me.

Without the chair the conference would have been impossible. But with it, it was still daunting and, at times, the chair was very marginalizing.

More to come...

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Danielle said...

HURRICANE Danielle checking in! Marie, it was MORE than a pleasure to meet you. It was like making a whole new friend, a second mother, a lifelong friend. I am so glad we met!

Margaret said...

You should totally write an in depth review about accessibility. Not only will that be helpful for others who wanted to attend but didn't want to face the unknown, but the conference planners can make adjustments for next year.

Marie said...

Hey Hurricane Danielle!! You slowed down long enough to leave a comment! I am impressed. lol

I feel the same way about you, that I have know you forever. I feel very lucky to have connected with you. :)

Margaret, you are absolutely right. That would be a good article for a number of venues, too. Great idea, thanks!!

Kamy said...

I loved meeting you too -- it was such a treat to finally meet some wonderful She Writers face to face! Looking forward to more chats and lots of good writing adventures together. Warm best, as ever, Kamy

Janiss said...

What Margaret said! I didn't think about it much while I was actually there, but after reading your post and looking back on it, yeah, there were a number of things about the hotel, and the way the conference was laid out that weren't very wheelchair-friendly.

BTW, it was great meeting you, and Margaret! It was one of the highlights of the conference for me.

Junk Drawer Kathy said...

Part of me thinks that it's out of reach for me to get a book out of a blog (much less a movie!), but then again, when you are around people who an make it happen, it gives me hope about the possibilities.

p.s. I love how you plan and prepare. We are cut from the same sad cloth!

p.p.s. I wrote BlogHer last year to suggest that they provide MUCH better signage and directional help for the sessions. Maybe I'm just that directionally-challenged, but I think other people would benefit too. Be sure to speak up about your difficulties. Chances are someone else will appreciate it too.

Jen said...

I agree with Margaret, you should write all about accessibility. It sounds like you had a great time. I wish I had gone. Sorry to hear about your folks. I hope that turns out okay or as well as possible.

Becky said...

Wow. Sounds like an adventure. Would be very interested to read about hte accessibility of it all. Next year in San Diego - my daughter lives there so could be fun.

Marie said...

Kamy: Down to earth, a good sport and a good sense of humor. You are the whole package! :) Looking forward shared writing adventures as well.

Janiss: Ditto!! As I said in my latest blog post, I felt like a groupie around you both! lol But as comfortable as if I had known you forever.

Kathy: We talked about that part of us that is such a naysayer to our goals. You DO have a book in your blog, it is wonderful. That is the benefit of writers sticking together. We need to support and encourage each other.

So you pack like you're leaving a sinking ship too, eh? lol

Jen: Thanks for your kind words about my parents. It is a mess. Come to the conference next year. Although with the conference center separate from the hotel, it sounds like a whole new set of challenges.

Becky: Hi! I have so much to say about the accessibility issue, I am saving it up for a separate post. I take a long time to process things. lol

Thank you ALL for stopping by and leaving comments!!