Thanks to blogging, I’ve had a reason to be in Atlanta the past three consecutive falls. In 2011, I was a newbie conference-attender at a Bloggy Boot Camp at the Meliá Hotel. Last year, I attended Aiming Low’s laid-back Non-Conference at Callaway Gardens. And this year, I was a speaker (!) at Type A Parent at the Westin Buckhead.
I have never had any desire whatsoever to live in the South, but I wouldn’t mind having a yearly timeshare in Atlanta for one week every fall. It’s just wonderful there this time of year.
The temperature inside the conference hall was Siberian, as usual, but the weather outside was spectacular. Warm, not humid, with an occasional touch of a cool breeze. It was perfect. I wish I had better pictures, but I’ve realized that there are two types of people in this world: People who live life, and people who photograph it. I’m clearly in the first category.
The people in Atlanta are the best. You will never find a more hospitable people than Atlantians. If Sherman wasn’t already dead, I would kill him for burning down such a lovely town.
Speaking of hospitable, I’d like to give a special shout-out to Kevin, the Westin shuttle chauffeur, for taking me all around my two-mile, free-shuttle radius. Kevin, I hope I tipped you okay. I wasn’t really sure what the protocol was there. And Crystal at The Dry Bar, thanks for making my hair look and feel its best. And to every waiter at every restaurant I ate at who had to prepare separate checks for dozens of women, I apologize.
I over-packed because I hadn’t had the time to really think it through, and I wasn’t sure about the weather. I wasn’t entirely sure about me either.
I arrived in Atlanta jet-lagged and exhausted, and the situation never improved. I’m taking my anti-depressants again, but they don’t help much when I’m rundown. These last two months of commuting to Oregon and working full-time, while trying to keep up with Generation Fabulous, and traveling back and forth across the country to conferences, has done me in.
But I woke up bright and early on the first day and made it downstairs in time for breakfast.
The opening Keynote Speaker, Amber Naslund, spoke on The Other Side of Courage, Embracing Fear, Taking Risks, The One Truth You Need to Know.
Unfortunately, I’ve already forgotten the one truth I needed to know. That’s me, forgetting the only thing that actually mattered.
I do remember that when she ended her speech, though, I was feeling very inspired. In the crazy world of professional blogging (Ha!) it is easy to lose your spark, and forget why you got into blogging in the first place.
Even in my exhausted haze, I’ve started remembering.
The BEST part of this conference for me is that I spent almost no time explaining my blog to anyone. I did talk about the community of Generation Fabulous, but I never had to give anyone the dreaded elevator speech. I listened to some others though, which I never, ever mind. I am simultaneously fascinated and horrified that we live in a time when it is considered reasonable to expect a person to explain their entire raison d’etre in the time it takes for an elevator ride.
The other session I attended that meant the world to me was Writing, Yes It Still Matters by Katherine Stone and Anissa Mayhew. I already love Anissa; she knows me better than I wish she did. And now I have a mad girl crush on Katherine Stone and want to bear her lovechild.
It felt like the both of them were pouring water over my parched blogger spirit, which has been drier lately than any post-menopausal vagina could ever be.
Of course, the midlife panel I spoke on was a huge high-point of the conference. Wearing a Speaker Badge at a blogging conference is one of the biggest thrills a blogger can experience, but it doesn’t compare to that moment when people actually show up at your session to hear what you have to say.
We had a great turn-out, and unlike BlogHer, which I felt was more like a pep-rally for the midlife channel, this time, thanks to Anne-Marie Nichols, we seriously discussed the realities of ageism in the blogosphere.
Since blogging has been taken over by advertising, it is no surprise that midlife bloggers trying to make money in the space are experiencing ageism. The question is what can we do about it?
Money, Money, Money
Since my reason for blogging has never been about making money, it is no surprise that the sessions I loved the most weren’t about monetization, but about the art of blogging. Blogging for money is extremely hard work, and I already have a very hard job. Blogging is supposed to be my way of coping.
It has been extremely difficult to resist the call to monetize. In fact, I haven’t resisted. I have succumbed.
My excuses? Why shouldn’t I make money from something I do all of the time anyway? But even more to the point, it is extremely hard to feel like everyone else is getting invited to the ball while I sit in a pile of cinders.
Who doesn’t want to get the invitation to the ball with the Prince?
I didn’t want to be left out. Now I’m not so sure I want to be let in. I’m like the cat who can’t decide which side of the door she wants to be on. I don’t want to be locked outside, but I don’t want to be trapped inside, either.
I managed to make it outside of the conference at least twice for no other reason than to take a long walk. Those walks felt wonderful, but I could really tell how exhausted and out of shape I am from working too much, sleeping too little, and not eating right.
Not eating right for me means mostly just not eating, but I did have some good restaurant meals in Atlanta. Of particular note was Maggianos Little Italy where I ate two dinners, back-to-back, (don’t ask), and the Brazilian steak house Fogo de Chão Churrascaria where I had a lovely lunch with an old friend who is not a blogger. I also ate at the Red Pepper Tacqueria with Cecily Kellogg, Robyn Wright, and, Lizz Porter, among others.
The Friday night GenFab dinner party at Maggianos was a marvelous time. Lots of ladies showed up, including some who weren’t able to make it to the conference. I had an especially good time talking Romance with Pamela Mason and meeting Valerie Hoff who is one of those women who is as beautiful inside as out. Our community has the nicest people in it.
Saturday I woke up with a splitting headache, and didn’t leave for almost the entire day. I ordered room service, and they brought this lovely sandwich with a salad and a huge pot of hot tea.
Because of my headache, I missed most of the Town Hall meeting with all its accompanying drama. I have only one thing to say. You bloggers who make your living off of attacking other bloggers ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Seriously. Why don’t you get the hell off the internet and go donate your time–because you obviously have plenty of it–to a charity or something?
After the Town Hall meeting, I went to the Feedblitz session taught by Phil Hollows. This session was excellent, and I learned a lot about email marketing.
The closing keynote speaker, Erika Napoletano, was frustratingly scattered, and yet mesmerizing at the same time. She had the amazing gift of giving me an existential out-of-body experience, and then snapping me back into analytical-mode almost instantaneously. It was dizzying.
Erika bookended the conference by bringing it all back to taking risks, which is obviously the hardest thing there is to do or everybody would be doing it, and we wouldn’t need keynote speakers snapping our souls around the room like that.
The last night was the best. The crowds had emptied out, and most of the bloggers left were women I’ve come to know and love. Several GenFab ladies were in attendance (Jennifer Conet Wagner, Sara Broers, Kay Lynn Akers, Nicole Morgan, Judy Freedman, Kelly Pugliano, Leisa Hammet, Melanie Herring, to name a few). At one point GenFab had the dance floor. I am very proud of our community.
I was able to fake being fit and fabulous after 50 for about an hour and half before I had to give it up and go to bed. My body finally reached the point where it is said, “No more.”
I want to thank Kelby Carr for inviting me to be a presenter this year, and for honoring the midlife tribe with a session all its own. It was truly a great honor.