Okay, finally I’m getting around to posting a grand recap of my time in Chicago. I spent the first two days after getting home sleeping and, just in general, not getting much done because I was worn out after my adventure in the big ol’ city. Now I’m playing internet catch-up, furiously posting comments on new friend’s pages and writing emails thanking people for their sessions.
Since this whole experience is massive, I’m just going to divvy it up into various sections: People I Met, Places I Went / Things I Did, and Sessions I Attended. Be advised, this is a long one, but I do have pictures to liven up the party.
The People I Met:
Above the beautiful skyline, the real impact is always from meeting the new people. Everyone is a new unique vessel of stories and information and wit, plus in this environment they are all engaged in the same community of activity as yourself so when you blab on about your blog they actually understand that you’re not a crazed individual.
The hostel crew was: Jen, Shonnie, Me, Adrienne (left to right) and Janette (not pictured). Shonnie was the first honest-to-goodness blogger I met after woefully texting E, “There is nary a blogger to be found yet.” She was my bunkmate, is a life coach, and is really out-going and friendly. She took a liking to the idea of free wine and also was my savior with the Ibuprofen I needed, yet forgot to bring.
Adrienne has a blog about gadgets for parents and we had an interesting discussion about how she has actually more a following from dad’s around the net. Jen was our guide during the Thai food adventure and was the quickest to write about /link to all of us from the hostel. She is originally from Malaysia and was bubbly and quick to laugh; her pictures from the conference are also really good. Janette was a quiet gal who actually had the best success story, her blog and soon to be book, chronicles her two hundred pound (!!) weight loss in the last two years.
Lisa I indirectly met first since she sat next to me on the bus to the conference on the first day. She noted our jolly hostel group excitedly skipping (okay, I was skipping) and asked if she could join us. She and I kept sporadically meeting during the day and had a good conversation over lunch. She got me to wait to go sailing and I followed her to my other favorite session of the weekend, on craft-blogging of all things. We took this picture at a booth promoting picture tools for bloggers. Or we were performing a skit from an acid trip, either works.
On the first day, during the ice-breaker meeting, the very last person I spoke to was another English graduate student in the middle of her dissertation. We commiserated on our educations, and Pearl told me how she picked up the drums and starting a band while working on her dissertation. This girl is rather hardcore, especially in the light of her dissertation topic. (The perception of Africans in the Middle Ages, if I remember correctly.) She invited me to come to a gig in a coffee shop in the suburb of Chicago the following day. Of course I said yes! Not only did I enjoy her band, Short Punks in Love, music, but the cab ride out to itty, bitty coffee shop was incredible, along the shoreline and through the actual living, heart of the city.
Joined with this, for all those that went to high school with me, here’s a blast from the past. I had been talking with Jamiah who went to college in Chicago and he was kind enough to meet me at the coffee shop to hang out a bit. He’s taller now, but looks exactly the same. I told him that my hair lightened over the years and he in total, completely real surprise asked, “Wow! How did that happen?” To which, when I realized that he was serious I said, through laughter, “You…walk into a store and buy a box and poof!” to which his face fell before he also realized his mistake and laughed.
After I decided that there was just too many people for an introvert like me to handle at one time, I decided to go look out at Lake Michigan and snap some pictures. A small girl walks up to my side.
“It’s very pretty here isn’t it?” She says politely.
I eye her and nod, “Yes, very much so.”
“I’m here from Japan.”
“Wow. That’s a very long way.”
Before I knew it Tajee asked to interview me for her video podcast and after five minutes I walked away telling E about it and he mentioned that I was now on to international fame and glory. Sadly, from viewing her site, I did not make the cut.
And lastly, I got to meet one of my personal blog celebrities, Miss Zoot. I was terrified of actually going up to her but I timidly tapped her on the arm after the first session. She was super great and even asked me for my card before one of her friends took a picture of us. I’m a great big dork and can’t remember most of the brief conversation I had with her because I got all shaky. I saw her in various sessions later and out and about in the conference, even sometimes alone, but did I go have a decent non-fawning talk with her? No. Again – dork. *sigh* But how cool is it to put a 3D image to a person you know from online? See my smile – that cool.
The Places I Went / Things I Did:
Let’s do pictures for this, shall we? Remember those gargoyles I was talking about?
We had 800 bloggers in attendance. Can you believe that mess? I was thinking, oh, 300 – tops. Nah, the estrogen was through the roof. Thankfully, we had a dome.
You can’t be on the Navy Pier all day and not be tempted by all the purdy boats. I skipped out on a session on day two to take a cruise.
Mojoe’s Hot House. Cute, quaint, and oy, a relief after being packed in a tourist trap with 800 opinionated woman for 7 hours.
Sessions I went to:
And finally, since I did go to a conference, I should talk about it, right?
From Day One:
Digital Exhibitionist or Chroniclers of their Time: Will Naked Bloggers Make History?
Notable here was that two of the panelists were the founders for Indiebloggers to which I subscribe, and I have to say, I have a total crush on them now – they’re stunningly gorgeous.
Oh yeah, spurred my inner archivist with great ideas about blogs as art versus blogs as historical records.
Our Bodies, Our blogs
This was the session I was a bit leery about going into, because, as much as I joke about my child-bearing hips, I don’t really struggle with my body image and women can be total hyenas when it comes to girls that really should just have-a-damn-sandwich-already, but I really wanted to see another blogger I really like to read, Yvonne from JoyUnexpected. She didn’t get to talk much because one of the panelists hijacked the conversation a bit to promote her book on nekkid people. [We did have an exchange in another session when she apologized for passing me while handing out the microphone which made me all giddy. Once again, I am a dork.]
The best part of the panel was when a woman, who got a bit of a murmur when mentioning her alias and blog*, in the back noted herself sitting in the back for the reason that she was ashamed of her weight. She noted that she came to a realization when coming to the session. She had always been sad and embarrassed that she was not a “hot” mom, but always the one to take care of her kids and the kids of the Hot Moms. She remembered feeling angry that she didn’t have the time to take care of herself, like the Hot Moms did when she gave them the time to do that by playing mom to their children. She told all this to her daughter who said offhand to her, “But you know… you were to all of us our Real Mom” before the daughter ran into the IMAX theater. Her comment ended with her having conversations with the Hot Moms as they relate to not getting anything for their birthdays from their kids when and she would say said, “Oh, that’s funny, my birthday was last month and I got a present from your kid.”
*It was interesting to hear the hum in the sessions when “famous” bloggers made comments. When they would mention who they are, you could get anything from gasps, surprised murmurs, to a rock star shout of, “I LOVE YOU!”
From Day Two:
It’s Your Passion, Not Size, That Matters
This was probably my favorite session of the conference and I may talk about the theories from this panel is another post. Amongst other things, it talked about retaining the authenticity of blogging, the art of it. The best quote from one of the bloggers in the room talked about how she didn’t want to hit the heights of blogging success and have too many comments. “I don’t want careless people in my space, because I have a lot of breakables,” she said.
Overall, I have not even completely digested the whole experience yet. I survived a trip I planned all by myself in a metropolitan city, I met people I hope to be able to stay in contact with, and I learned things that I hope I can not only apply to my online workings, but also to other various areas of my life.
And also, now we can turn to our regularly scheduled programming, because I’m quite sure my posts about IM conversations and horses are severely missed by all.