Every time I attend BlogHer, the largest social media conference for women, a theme emerges. The first year, it was about finally meeting my online blogging friends and inspirations in person; a year later it was realizing that I’d moved beyond the beginner blogger sessions and was ready to take my little corner of the Interwebs to a more professional level. Last year, it was bra cups.
During BlogHer2014, held just down the road a piece in San Jose last weekend, it took a bit of time for the theme to present itself.
Would it be celebrities who photobombed my selfies?
The fabulous speakers?
The thrill of seeing my Voices of the Year post blown up billboard size, and my effort to get it home?
The fact that the people living in Room 1119 at the Fairmont Hotel are pissed at my roommate and me because when we invited a bunch of people over for a glass of wine Saturday afternoon, we neglected to tell them that we were in Room 1119 at the Marriott, thereby interrupting their Grown Up and Sexy Time?
Nope. In 2014, the message was this: stories still matter. And that blogs play a unique role in widening perspectives, by sharing authentic, honest stories that invite readers inside our lives.
My favorite part of BlogHer every year is the Voices of the Year Community Keynote, when twelve bloggers read a piece that a panel of judges and peers deems representative in the arenas of Humor, Heart, Exploration and Op-ed. This year’s work had a through line of how it feels to be judged: for your race, your addiction, your sexual orientation, your side ponytail.
I will never be black, Asian, or gay (though comedian Tig Notaro’s set made the latter very tempting.) But the searing, truthful writing from bloggers who fall into these categories means that, if I choose to stay open, I can learn how it feels, and gain an understanding that runs bone deep. The more different you are from me, the more important it is that I’m reading your work. My heart feels cracked open a little wider whenever I do. And I’m just one reader. There are millions of people out there who may be isolated, hurting, lonely, who yearn to read something and say, “Me, too. That’s how it is for me. I thought I was the only one.”
This year’s BlogHer was validation that I, too, have a story to share. I hope that when readers come to Midlife Mixtape, they’ll understand why it is that the forty-something white lady in the floral dress at the BlogHer closing party dj’d by Reverend Run from RunDMC knew EVERY.SINGLE.WORD. to every ‘80s hip hop song he played. And performed “Going Back to Cali” by LL Cool J at the Killer Karaoke party, without needing the lyrics. Do you still get an electric thrill when you hear the music you grew up with, a moment when you’re 20 again? Me, too. That’s how it is for me. You’re not the only one.
I feel lucky that I got to visit with so many of these writers in person at BlogHer last weekend, but the good news is you guys can go visit them anytime. Here’s a list of some new and old favorite writers who do a phenomenal job of bringing a unique voice and perspective to the Blogosphere. I hope you’ll check them out.
- Awesomely Luvvie: I actually squealed when I heard she would be speaking at BlogHer, and I’m not a squealer. I can’t explain Luvvie Ajay’s writing, her evolving glossary of terms like Pay #Amish and #Crine gleaned from inventive misspellings on her other website DumbestTweets.com, or her magical touch with .Gifs. I can only suggest you dive in, maybe starting with Whose Brother Is This with the Best/Worst Excuse Ever?
- Renegade Mothering: Janelle Hanchett’s VOTY piece about being an addict and the excruciating work it took – still takes – to move beyond it and become a mother had me sniffling into my dress hem. Later in the conference I saw her with her adorable baby boy and insisted on pushing her baby carriage to the Lactation Station for her; I felt like I had to do something nice for her, even if she was all, “Um, strange lady, it’s ok, I can handle this.”
- FiftyFifty Vision: another anchor of BlogHer is the Open Mic night hosted by Ann “Imig Azalea” Imig, founder of the Listen To Your Mother show. You never know what you’ll hear there, and this year it was the piece by Kim Tackett, a letter to her grown daughters about what she’d learned “at fifty and then some.” Gorgeous writing and I’m eager to read more.
- Debi Jackson: Ok, technically I didn’t hear her at BlogHer, but she’s a fellow Listen To Your Mother alum and I heard about LTYM at BlogHer so that’s my segue. This video of her reading in this year’s show, about being mom to a transgender child, is so profound and important, I really hope you’ll take six minutes to watch.
- The Flying Chalupa: And last but certainly not least, my BlogHer14 roommate and friend, Tarja Parssinen of The Flying Chalupa. I’ve always admired her distinctive, poetic comedy stylings – check out her “A Mom’s Guide to the Game of Thrones” for proof. What I didn’t know is that her ability to pick an accent and hold it for long, long minutes of conversation was so highly developed. Even if all I’d done is sit in my room and listen to Tarja expound in her British Man on Helium voice, I would have laughed all weekend.
So, here’s to another BlogHer full of stories. May you always stand in your truth, as Luvvie so eloquently put it, and may you always be a sharer of and listener to stories.
You talk too much? No. You talk just the right amount.
And hey! I’m sharing a new story tomorrow night at Oakland’s inaugural Literary Death Match! Come here me battle it out with Mac Barnett, Tim “Toaster” Henderson, and Jaz Sufi. Hope to see you there…tix available here. I’m punching slabs of meat in anticipation.