Happy #DigitalSisterhood Wednesday!
Today, Digital Sisterhood Network DSN) is celebrating the fourth anniversary of #DigitalSisterhood Wednesday on Twitter. DSN launched the weekly celebration of women in social media and tech on October 13. 2010. Click here to read about the launch. Watch the video too!
It’s Day #9 of the Digital Sisterhood Book 11 Day Countdown Campaign. Today’s blog post features an excerpt from Chapter 12 of Ananda Leeke’s new book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online. The title of Chapter 12 is BlogHer Conferences Rocked My Digital World. Enjoy!
Chapter Twelve: BlogHer Conferences Rocked My Digital World (Copyright 2013 by Madelyn C. Leeke)
“The story of BlogHer is about a lot of things: it’s a narrative about women, blogs, and influence, a story about the rise of social media, and even a commentary on how social technologies are shifting the balance of power in the media industry. But above all, BlogHer portended the wave of women that would flock to social media and technology shortly thereafter.” Jessica Faye Carter, author of The Coming Wave: Exploring Women, Innovation, and Social Technology and Double Outsiders
The first time I heard about BlogHer was on Myspace in 2006. One of my Myspace friends posted a link about it. My Internet geek curiosity drew me in and forced me to click on the link. What I discovered was women who flocked to social media and technology to connect and build community for the same reasons I spent time hanging out online with women I met through iVillages in the 1990s and NiaOnline.com and Netnoir.com’s Women’s Channel in the early 2000s. To be honest, I made that one visit and did not return until two years later.
Here’s what happened that brought me back to BlogHer in 2008. While I was attending the first Blogging While Brown conference, I met BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page. We had several conversations about the BlogHer community and conferences. Page encouraged me to revisit the site and set up a profile page with a short bio and photo. I took her advice and spent my first year in the BlogHer community following the 2008 Presidential election campaign. I enjoyed reading First Lady Michelle Obama’s blog posts and other politically inspired posts written by BlogHer members.
My second year was very different. That’s when my full blown blog-affair with BlogHer began. It was born during the Fem 2.0 conference. I attended a session that featured Page as a panelist. We chatted briefly after the session about the value and benefits of attending the BlogHer conference. Our chat was the reason I registered for the conference a week later.
The BlogHer 2009 conference that was held in Chicago exposed me to a new world of women bloggers. I interviewed many of them with my flip video camera. I visited the Geek Labs and learned new technical skills to support my video blogging, podcasting, and community building strategies for my Talkshoe.com podcast and lifestyle social networking sites on Ning.com. I gained many tips during the sessions that discussed how to own your expertise and transform your blog into a book. I expanded my network through conversations with Deb Rox, author of Five Ways to Blank Your Blog, That Black Girl site founder Corynne Corbett, and SheWrites.com founder Kamy Wicoff. These women became peer mentors. Rox’s comments made during a session on transforming your blog into a book lit a fire underneath my creative feet and provided many tips I later used when turning my author blog posts into a creative memoir. After Corbett participated in the Voices of the Year by reading her blog post about First Lady Michelle Obama, she spent time sharing with me how she was using her blog, online community, Internet radio show, social media platforms, and speaking opportunities to build her brand. She also gave me tips on how to develop and improve my brand. While I was sitting next to Wicoff in a session, she pulled out her laptop and gave me a tutorial on how to use SheWrites.com. She also shared blogging and publishing resources, convinced me to become an active member, and encouraged me to host local She Writes meet ups in D.C. as a way to build community and network with other women writers. The beautiful thing about these women and the connections we made is that they still exist today!
When it came time to register for the BlogHer 2010 conference, I wasted no time. I headed to New York City for another great experience. I attended the White House Project, a one-day pre-conference seminar, and learned how women could use their online presence to affect political change. Throughout the conference, I used my smartphone and Cinchcast to interview a diverse group of women bloggers I met during sessions. Many agreed to participate in my Talkshoe.com interview series. Right before the conference ended, I met BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone in the Expo Hall. We talked about the importance of self-care in the blogger community. Stone encouraged me to submit a blogger wellness session proposal for the next conference.
By the time 2010 ended, I submitted my blogger wellness session proposal for the 2011 conference. Having it accepted was one of the things that made BlogHer 2011 mega special. It was also a trip of several firsts. My first trip to San Diego. My first time as a speaker for two sessions, Blogger Wellness and Peer Mentoring. My first time using the BlogHer conference board to find my hotel roommate, Lilian Chang, founder of the Chinese Grandma blog. My first time participating in an unplugging workshop facilitated by Gwen Bell, yoga teacher and author of Digital Warriorship.
The BlogHer 2011 conference inspired me to step up my game and submit another series of session proposals for the 2012 conference. Once again, BlogHer selected me to speak. There was a slight twist to the invitation. I was asked to moderate a Podcasting 101 Panel with two digital media rock stars, Jasmin Singer and Deborah Shane. I never would have proposed that topic, however, the BlogHer team saw something I could not see: my thought leadership as a podcaster and Internet radio host.
Incroyable (incredible in French) is the best word to describe BlogHer 2012. First, I was able to see President Obama’s live address. Second, I roomed with Arnebya Herndon, founder of What Now and Why blog, who rocked the Voices of the Year when she read her blog post about Trayvon Martin. Third, I gained tremendous insights and inspiration during the luncheon keynotes featuring Katie Couric and Martha Stewart, and the sessions on the brand-blogger connection, how to price and value your services, and travel philanthropy. Fourth, I attended the first-ever BlogHer fashion show that featured women bloggers. Fifth, I had an amazing time celebrating with mis hermanas at the Social Fiesta party sponsored by Latinos in Social Media. Sixth, I spoke about the impact the BlogHer and Blogalicious conferences have had on my digital life during the Brunchalicious event.
A few days after I returned home from the conference, I woke up with a deep sense of gratitude for the things the BlogHer team and community have done and continue to do for women. I reflected on how I am a direct beneficiary of their efforts. I smiled at how much I have been able to dream and do as a result of the lessons learned, skills developed, connections I have made, and speaking opportunities I have had. So I wrote an email to the BlogHer co-founders and team members that stated how much I valued what they do to build and nurture its ever-growing and evolving community. I acknowledged how hard it is for them to build a movement, community, business, and economy. I reminded them because they invest in me I invest in them, and we are ONE!
You can purchase Digital Sisterhood on Amazon.com.
If you are in Washington, D.C. on October 19, please plan to attend Ananda’s author talk and book reading from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street, NW (three blocks from the U Street/Cardozo Green Line Metro Station). Click here to register for the event. See you on October 19th!