Why I’m Going to BlogHer – Again

going to BlogHer '13Every year around April and May in the mom blogging community a common refrain starts popping up on Facebook and twitter – “Are you going to BlogHer?”

I was on the fence this year.  It’s in Chicago so it means paying for travel and hotel.  To be honest, even though I technically went to the conference last year (it was in NYC) I didn’t even attend any sessions – they were too beginner level and didn’t really apply to me anymore.  People generally complain that it’s too big, too much about swag and just not a great place to really network anymore.

And, more and more over the past two years as my focus has been solely on building KidzVuz, I have blogged less often and been less active in the blogosphere.  So why would I go to the largest women’s blogging conference of the year?

Well, I felt the pull.  And I tried to understand why NOT going seemed kind of well, strange.

Here’s the thing about the BlogHer Conference – it’s like a family reunion, and so many of these women are my online extended family spread across the country that I rarely get to see in real life.

It’s hard to explain the mom blogging community to outsiders.  Perhaps they’ve read some of the disparaging or silly articles written in the past year.  Or they only see the free product bonanzas and giveaways, hear about the swag-fests and exclusive events, or even worse the petty infighting or bullying that occassionally happens online.

But, for most of us, particularly those of us who have been doing this since before the term “mommy blogger” was coined, there is a connection that is not quite definable.  A feeling that we’ve been in it together, built something together, watched each other grow and try new endeavors, helped define the space and sometimes even supported each other through loss and grief.

And, at it’s core, even though it’s become gigantic and slightly insane, BlogHer is still a celebration of that community – and all of the women blogging community, no matter what they write about, whom they write for or where they write from.

I’m fortunate I am able to go to Chicago this summer for BlogHer, and even more fortunate to reconnect and see so many women in person that I usually only see as a little avatar on my screen, and hopefully meet a bunch of new women whose blogs I can discover and who I will be able to add to my not so virtual circle of women I am proud to call friends – not “friends.”

Also, I’m ridiculously excited to hear Gale Ann Hurd speak.  So, there’s that.

Breakfast at BlogHer – The Blogging Angels Event

BlogHer - over 3,000 women over 3 days learning, networking, swagging and connecting.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  But BlogHer is only the star that smaller, hectic events orbit around in a mass of party hopping, celebratory, slightly insane universe.  Not content to merely attend BlogHer we Blogging Angels were fortunate enough to team up with a fantastic boutique PR firm, Zebra Partners headed by the supremely talented and knowledgeable Perrin Kaplan and throw a blogger branding breakfast.   We invited 50 awesome bloggers across niches and geography to join us for a hands-on branding workshop, learn the ins and out of media appearances, presenting yourself and creating your brand.

We were fortunate to have a slew of great sponsors like Striiv, Zuzee, Qualcomm Snapdragon, Kidzania, Her Interactive and more.  Plus two of our favorite brands who supplied us with super cool treats for our guests:  Mabels Labels who created personalized twitter handle labels and tags for our bloggers and Crazy Bitch Tea who made sure all of the ladies went home with tea to tame the most frazzled of post-conference nerves.

You can read all about it on the Blogging Angels blog – but listening to the podcast is way better.  That’s where you’ll learn all the juicy details, and hear why Eventbrite got my halo and horns this week!  Get it together Eventbrite!

Listen here!

Writes Like an Angel – Lisa Belkin Dishes with the Blogging Angels

There are certain women journalists who have inspired me as an essayist and writer waaaay before the word blogging was invented.  Anna Quindlen was one and Lisa Belkin the other.  Aside from writing for The New York Times both women had a voice that spoke to me as a young woman starting out in the world – in college and afterwards – as they wrote frankly about work/life balance, feminism and in varying degrees, motherhood.  As a Film major and American Studies major in college I was steeped in the cannon of feminist literary, social and film criticism.  But few mainstream journalists were talking about the real issues on the ground in a way that made “women’s” issues a normal, worthy part of the public discussion.

I always looked forward to Lisa Belkin’s New York Times Magazine stories and later her Life’s Work columns.  When she launched The Motherlode blog on the nytimes.com site I was thrilled.  Not only is it an enormously vibrant community but it gives further discussion to so many of ideas and stories in the paper that normally would be a “lifestyle” piece and nothing more.  It also has a way of really tapping into the current ethos (and neuroses) of our current state of parenting like nowhere else.  Last year I was such a fangirl that Amy Oztan took pity on me and swung me an invite to a lunch Lisa Belkin held for parenting bloggers at the New York Times cafeteria.  We’ve been trying to get her on the Blogging Angels podcast ever since, but coordinating schedules is never easy.  Then, last month at BlogHer, Nancy Friedman luckily attended the same session as Lisa Belkin and jumped a the chance to have her record with us right there in the hotel in San Diego.  Unfortunately Heidi had an outrageously fabulous event to attend at the same time and couldn’t make this podcast, but we did our best and Lisa Belkin was a guest angel extraordinaire!

Listen in and hear all the scoop on the New York Times and bloggers, the future of journalism and all sorts of dishy stuff on parenting, mom blogging and what it all means.  Really, all that in a mere 40 minutes.  She’s that good.

Lisa Belkin Podcast  or listen on iTunes!

The Big Toy Book & KidzVuz BlogHer Sweet Suite 2011

As if BlogHer weren’t awesome enough we threw a huge party for over 300 women bloggers in conjunction with The Big Toy Book.  Along with all of the fantastic toy and game sponsors like Adora, Leapfrog, Xbox 360 Kinect, Briarpatch, Shainsware, Activision and many more –  we were lucky enough to have Microsoft lend us 6 gorgeous PCs for the event so we could display the kid-generated sponsor reviews all over the party space.  As if super cool toys weren’t enough, our guests were also admiring the laptops in funky colors and spectacular displays.  If you’re still back to school shopping for a PC check these out!

  1. Pink Dell Inspiron 14R:  1st generation Intel Core i5 processor, 640GB HDD, 4GB RAM, Starts at $549
  2. HP Pavilion DV6 in navy blue: 2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor, comes in umber, red, blue, 6GB RAM, 750GB HDD, $749
  3. Sony VAIO C in neon green:  2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor, up to 750GB HDD, up to 8GB RAM, comes in 6 bright colors, starts at $749
  4. Acer TimelineX in blue: 2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor , 13.3” display, 4 GB RAM, 500 HDD, $793.23
  5. ASUS N53JQ:  1st generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM, 640GB HDDpremium sound, all aluminum chassis, $900
  6. Toshiba E305:  2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor, 640GB HDD, 6GB RAM, backlit keyboard, Best Buy Blue Label PC, $849

We loved getting the kid reviews for our sponsors before and after the event and now we have a little taste of what it would be like to be Santa Claus.  There is something very rewarding about handing a 30 pound swag bag full of truly awesome products to very happy and excited guests!  And we really loved working with the amazing women at The Big Toy Book: Laurie Shacht, Reyne Rice and the outrageously hard working and creative Corine Ingrassia.  Next time in New York City!!

Here’s a glimpse of the  photostream from the unbelieavably fun and fantastic Sweet Suite 11 Party at BlogHer 11.   It was a special night and a great way to kick off BlogHer 11 in San Diego!

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My 7 Links Challenge – Writing Against My Will

If you know me you know I am not a big joiner.  I never did the 25 things about me meme on Facebook, I rarely answer those emails that urge you to answer questions and then send them on to 5 more people, I hate polls, but I am writing this post because this game of virtual tag intrigued me and came from one of my real life best friends, Shari of My Judie the Foodie.  The premise behind the My 7 Links Challenge is to analyze your own blog and break it down by some interesting categories.  And if there’s one thing I like it’s a chance to analyze and dig into some metrics in a new ways.

So, here it goes:

My most beautiful post:  I don’t think of myself as a “poetic” writer or a particularly fabulous photographer so I will define “beautiful” as a post that pulled at something deep inside me when I wrote it and that is The Bittersweet Inevitability of Growing Up.  Read it and weep.

My most popular post:  This is an easy one thanks to actual data and it’s a recent one: No One Puts Women Bloggers in a Corner – Except Women Bloggers.  But I have to give honorable mention to Mona Lisa Cat because it’s ALWAYS in my top 5 even though it’s just an image!

My most controversial post:  I guess it would be The Sex Talk: There’s No App for That.  Not so much on my blog but when it went up on Yahoo! Shine the comments were crazy and belligerent.

My most helpful post:  Hmmm, I’m a big advice giver on Mom Blog Magazine and The Blogging Angels, but don’t do that much of it here.  So, I’m thinking my latest post about BlogHer parties is up there: Ain’t No Party Like a BlogHer party: Except The 50 Other BlogHer Parties.

My post whose success surprised me: Why Aren’t Parents Rioting in the Streets?  I wrote it because I had to write it or I would burst.  I didn’t think anyone else would really care.  But, I touched a nerve, leapt into the education reform debate and ended up reprinted in The Washington Post.  And the comments were even better than my post I think.

My post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved:  So many.  No really.  If you’re a blogger you know there are those posts you work so hard on and then watch as they recede into the ether while something you dash off in 15 minutes gets the limelight.  For me that post was Finding My Religion in a Bowl of Matzoh Ball Soup.  It had decent traffic but I love that post and it didn’t get the reader love I had hoped.

My post that I am most proud of:  Ick.  I don’t feel “proud” of my posts.  I think as a writer I am never fully satisfied with anything I write and I could tinker with posts forever.  It’s why blogging is still not second nature to me.  But, if I have to choose I’d say Generation Hillary is one that I wrote and feel like my daughters will read in the future and remember a part of themselves that was important and true.

Now I get to nominate 5 Bloggers I adore to name their 7 links!

  1. FromHip2Housewife.com
  2. Coast2coastmom.com
  3. selfishmom.com
  4. lovethatmax.com
  5. theculturemom.com

And loyal readers I have to ask – do you agree with my links or do you think I have no idea which of my posts resonate and which don’t?

If you tweet this (and I hope you do!) please include the hashtag #my7links.  Thanks!!

Sony Moms and Clever Girls – A BlogHer 1st Night

Rebecca & Sheila by glennia
Rebecca & Sheila, a photo by glennia on Flickr.

I feel so officially clever after hanging with one of my fab Sony Moms and Clever Girls co-founder Sheila Dowd at our BlogHer dinner. I think the auto soft focus went a little too Barbara Walters, but I guess I looked that tired to the camera!  Thanks to Glennia Campbell for the great pic!

My real BlogHer recap is coming soon but I couldn’t resist getting this pic up now.

Are NYC Parents Crazy?

96th Street subway, uptown side, Oct 2009 - 15This is a post I wrote a year ago for the Westside Independent, but after meeting so many women this weekend at BlogHer who asked me how I could raise my kids in NYC I thought I’d repost it here on Beccarama for a whole new audience.

Are city parents crazy?  This is the question that a dad blogger posted on his site last week upon returning home to the Midwest after a four-day trip to New York City. I always think that while I am certainly not crazy, this kind of question always brings out the crazy in me. First I get defensive – the knee jerk well how can YOU live in the cultural, ethnic, culinary wasteland that is the suburbs? Then I go into my why New York City is the best place ever routine – oh the museums, the landmarks, the food, the theater, and the one that always freaks out everyone, we don’t even own a car! But truth be told that routine is getting a little stale. Why do city parents really want to raise their kids here?

All of the reasons I listed above are of course true, but do they really outweigh the small spaces most of us live in, the lack of backyards and basements, the battle for kindergarten admission, the financial costs and the ever-nagging sense that city kids grow up too fast? No, I think there’s more to it.

My daughters are in second grade and their social studies curriculum is all about New York. They happen to attend a great public school that is outrageously field trip happy and this course of study lends itself to exploring neighborhoods. I love this aspect of the curriculum because the strange secret of New Yorkers is that they rarely venture outside of a ten block radius from their homes except to commute to work (and as a writer that would mean the walk to my kitchen table) We eat at the same restaurants over and over again, we go to the same playgrounds every weekend, and we shop at the same grocery and drug stores on a weekly basis. With everything at your fingertips it’s easy to take it for granted and not take advantage of all the things that the city has to offer. It takes effort not to fall into a lazy New York lull of the familiar.

And this is why it’s always so shocking to me when people ask me how I can raise my kids in New York City. I don’t really raise my kids in New York City, I raise them on the Upper West Side. We zip in and out of other areas on weekends – Flushing for dim sum, the East Side to museums and the zoo, Times Square for the theater, downtown for gallery hopping, Chelsea Piers for bowling and ice skating, Brooklyn for old friends and family, and of course Central and Riverside Parks for grass, trees and nature – but at the end of the day we come home to our small town. It’s the best of all worlds. A familiar place called home nestled inside the most exciting city in the world. And that is why I am not crazy to raise my kids in (the Upper West Side of) New York City.