This post is a valentine. I learned at the Blog Her 07 Conference - in a story telling panel, that a story is a series of unanswered questions - answered gradually over time. But I have to start with the answer today because it informs everything else.
That answer begins with the three women in this photograph - (left to right) Elisa Camahort, Lisa Stone and Jory des Jardin, whose vision led to the gathering of almost 800 women who streamed into Chicago for the third annual BlogHer Conference. From its small beginnings in 2005, this conference and the community surrounding it has become something far more than the sum of its parts. The reason for its success and for the remarkable warmth and commitment to the community from the community emerges from this trio's commitment to building concept, content and structure from the ideas, perspectives and attitudes of the bloggers -- us -- ourselves.
It's tough to describe the high of so many powerful, rebellious women gathered in one place - dressed up, made up (this photo is from Suburban Turmoil) and smart as whips. Why begin with "dressed up, made up?" Because I'm old enough to remember when women only got dressed up when they were dressing for men. Now we dress for one another; our joy in one another's company is boundless. Most of the women I spent the weekend with are too young to remember that, but for me it's one of many wondrous facts emerging from this conference. Times have changed.
Then too, the entire conference empowers us. In fact, one of the major BlogHer initiatives is the product of an idea from just two bloggers: Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann (That's Cooper on the left.) They and BlogHer's founders have created BlogHers Act and it's about to become a year-long initiative on global health issues -- topic and focus chosen by BlogHers. How did it happen? A survey seeking nominations for topics and then a vote that chose global health. It's an exciting enterprise -- all generated from within the BlogHer community
The rest of the conference was also quite wonderful. Some details:
*That Art of Storytelling panel I mentioned, which I attended almost by accident, was moving in its honesty and support of artfully structured storytelling rather than the impulsive writing that blogging can become. Birdie Jaworski, Claire Fontaine and Ree were the generous, inspiring speaker and their words will stay with me for a long time.
*Another, on branding and promoting yourself and your blog, was fascinating. I've been in journalism most of my life and know all the obvious "tricks" people use to get attention, but there's lots of thought and planning beyond that stuff and, even more importantly, serious discipline.
*Since the Presidential election is [only?] a year away, there was a Get Out the Vote panel too - with some real heavyweights brought together by BlogHer political editor Morra Aarons: Kim Gandy from NOW, and BlogHer's own Lisa Sabatier (seen together in this photo) and others.
There was a second political panel, Earn Our Votes - also organized by Morra - to select issues women bloggers wanted to see the candidates focus on.
*I co-chaired a Media Training - which I had proposed because blogging women are of so much more interest to reporters but aren't all experienced in managing those relationships- with Rachel of Sarcastic Journalist. We had great questions - the audience set the agenda for the panel and we got lots of positive feedback, which felt great.
Most of all - beyond the sessions and the very interesting keynotes was the community that BlogHer is. If I write too much about it I'll get all goopy (I do do that) but in an era of Third Wave and post modern and generational blah blah these few days bring together women of all sorts in a common space, help them find common ground and just plain have a wonderful time - with one another.
If that doesn't deserve a valentine, I don't know what does.