As featured in Bay Area Bites, September 28, 2009.
Founded in 2005, BlogHer’s mission is to create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community and economic empowerment. Today, it reaches more than 15 million women each month via a Web hub with a listing of over 22,000 blogs by women (ranging from topics on politics, news, and technology, to food, health and family), a publishing network of more than 2500 blog affiliates, and annual conferences like the inaugural BlogHer Food ’09 which took place Saturday, September 26th.
I felt giddy as a school girl as I ran my finger down the list of speakers lined up:
David Lebovitz, David Lebovitz: Living the Sweet Life in Paris
Diane Cu and Todd Porter, White on Rice Couple
Elise Bauer, Simply Recipes
Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks
Helen Dujardin, Tartelette
Jaden Hair, Steamy Kitchen
Matt Armendariz, Matt Bites
Pim Techamuanvivit, Chez Pim/Menu for Hope
Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman Cooks
These are the blogs I turned to for inspiration and guidance when I first decided to create my own. These are the people I looked to and thought, yes, that is what I want to do! To carve out a little space of my own, building my own story with each scrap of experience, word, or crumb I shared with the world.
As I sat amongst 300 fellow food writers/bloggers, rapt with attention as our blog crushes talked about the trials and tribulations, joys and inspirations of food blogging, I felt a wonderful sense of community. Regardless of where we were from, what we liked to write about, how long we’ve been at it, we had at least one thing in common…food. And the inexplicable need to talk about it.
And talk we did.
The day was divided into three tracks: Visual, Vocation, and Values, with speakers represented from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
The Visual Track focused on food photography – developing your visual voice, basic principles and techniques, and how to take your photography to a new level.
The Vocation Track delved into best practices on building a better blog, blogging as a profession, developing business relationships online and offline, and protecting yourself and your work. Bay Area Bites’ very own, Amy Sherman from Cooking with Amy moderated a panel in this track all about letting your blog lead the way to new opportunities.
BAB also represented on the Values Track, with Jen Maiser, the woman behind the Eat Local Challenge, leading a discussion on “The Politics of Food…and Food Blogs” – the very deliberate movement to change minds within and about the food industry. This track also explored “How Food Blogs Can Save the World,” with discussions on how bloggers can support issues they care about, and how to take that action offline as a volunteer or activist.
And, of course, there was food.
While overcooked pasta for lunch left much to be desired for, it appeared that Rocco DiSpirito did some damage control with his amped up charm, flying from table to table (dizzying as it may have been).
The concept of the Chocolate Adventure Contest is to create an inventive recipe using Scharffen Berger chocolate and least one of their 17 listed “adventure ingredients.” Chef Faulkner demonstrated her confectionary prowess by using 11 of them in her Chocolate Adventure Box, layering all sorts of goodies like homemade pandan-flavored marshmallow, peanut butter, cumin, and corn nuts, among other things.
And then we got to dig in…quite literally
After we were sufficiently sugar-high, the Closing Keynote treated us to an open discussion with Elise Bauer, Ree Drummond and David Lebovitz – three accomplished bloggers who have been at this a while. With very different styles and approaches to blogging, it was interesting to hear how they responded to similar challenges of sustaining momentum and avoiding burnout. It was also reassuring to hear that 1 post typically takes them anywhere from 4-6 hours to complete…and that it doesn’t always come easy to them.
BlogHer Food ’09 was very much about community, support, and growth. More coverage on the conference can be found in the live-blogging forums, but for a quick recap, here are my 5 take-aways from the sessions:
- Create opportunities — Put yourself out there. Talk to people. Network. Step away from the computer.
- Come from a place of authenticity — Sincerity goes a long way.
- If a business is what you want, treat it like a business — Have a plan, make goals, create a vision that will keep you inspired.
- Share more than just the sugar and the flour — People want a person and a life behind the blog. Don’t be afraid to share your story.
- Writer’s block and burn out — Happens to the best. Remind yourself of what you want. Do what makes you happy.
At the end of the day though, the highlight was getting to meet so many kindred souls. The weird and beautiful thing about blogging is how well you get to know someone from a distance. It was a real pleasure meeting many bloggers I’ve been following for months, and in the end, I guess that’s what it’s really about. Human connection (over something good to eat).