I've tried and tried to think how I can describe the weekend's events to you in some cohesive order, and it's just too much to try to organize. So I'll start by telling you about the people, and I'll do another post with the specifics about what I learned in the panel discussions.
One might assume that a post with references to all the people I met would contain photographs, wouldn't one? One might also assume that one should not throw away that USB cable that pulls photographs off the cell phone, too. Oh, well.
The conference was held at Navy Pier in Chicago, and we stayed at the a-little-too-cool-for-itself W Hotel. If I were very hip, I would tell you how trendy it was. But I am not hip, I am middle-aged and grumpy. It looked a little like a Days Inn that had been through a giant episode of Trading Spaces, down to the elevator that was dimly illuminated by plastic cups containing lighted blue marbles. I guess I'm more of a Holiday-Inn kind of girl.
Honestly, the hotel was inconsequential, because the company was so lovely. I roomed with Chilihead, Tina and Jeana, and there was much chattering and laughing and making jokes that were terribly funny at the time. And, after nearly two of years of correspondence, I got to hang out with Kathryn of Daring Young Mom. She's even more delightful and whimsical in person than she is on her blog. She's the sort of person who, when you part at the end of a long day, announces that no one leaves her hotel room until they've jumped on the beds. And instead of regarding this as strangeness, you just quite naturally climb up and jump on her bed. Together with Kathryn's roommates Eve and Jenny, we formed a little posse and moved around like a pack of eighth-grade girls much of the weekend.
It was confirmed to me that corporate America likes women bloggers (details to come in the second post). They plied their wares and handed out free stuff at every possible opportunity. And I, being an unsophisticated sucker for anything free, took it all. I took so much that I had to check an extra bag for my flight home. I have enough notepads, pedometers, ball-point pens, martini glasses, t-shirts, tote bags, and frisbees to stock a small European country.
And I learned, if you want to sound very polished, you should know that there is a name for the freebies you accumulate at a convention: swag. And you must say it very off-handedly, as in "I need to go drop off my swag in my room." And then you will be hip. Almost hip enough to appreciate lighted blue marbles in the elevator. But not quite.
I'll tell you in my next post about the specifics of the panels I attended, but I can't finish up a "who was there" post without telling you about the keynote speaker, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards. I thought it was a little puzzling that a bi-partisan organization would host a presidential candidate's wife during an election year (to be fair, there were representatives from the Mitt Romney and John McCain campaigns at two panel discussions, but these were much more lightly attended than Edwards' keynote speech.)
Edwards is a good speaker with a gracious ease, and even though I don't agree with her on policy, I enjoyed hearing the line of reasoning that comes from someone the other end of the political spectrum. There was a bit of a strange moment when she took questions from the audience, and a speaker stood up to say, "I'm from Texas..." and Edwards responded, "I'm sorry!"
The people at our table looked at each other with puzzlement. "Did she really just say that?" I asked. It was a bit Dixie Chicks-ish. But that's okay, because Tina (ever gracious in a don't-mess-with-Texas sort of way) gently approached Edwards at the cocktail party afterwards to assure her that most Texans are not, in fact, "sorry" that they're from Texas. It was a great moment. I have a picture to prove it, and it is, sadly, stuck for in the bowels of my cell phone for all eternity. Or until I go to Radio Shack.
I met so many interesting bloggers, and I started this post with the intention of going through their business cards and linking to every URL, but then I got a good look at my laundry room, so no. Suffice it to say that I met such a varied group of women, from every imaginable walk of life, blogging their hearts out on more topics than I could ever read in a lifetime. I plan to be working my way through many of their blogs over the coming months, and I'm sure I'll be passing many of the links along to you.
More to come on what I actually learned...