Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dedicated to Gramma Denna

It's just a bit early,
My sweet little chickadee,
To play so repeatedly
The Flight of the Bumblebee.

My ears almost bleeding
Yes, Mommy is pleading
The dog is agreeing
The sound isn't pleasing.

If you will just stop it
My dear little poppet
I'll try not to drop it
Right off of the roof!

(You all liked the poetry so much, I thought I'd do it again!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Littlest Princess

The littlest princess was all tuckered out
From a hard day of playing and running about.
She played at the park, where she bumped her wee nose,
She ransacked the toy room, dressed in all the fun clothes.
And when our dear princess had had quite enough
Of reading and running and playing with stuff,
She covered her sweet little face with her hair
And fell fast asleep, on the dining room chair.

Sleep well, Little Princess. Tomorrow we'll play.
Tomorrow we'll have one more just-as-fun day.
Tonight let your dreams take you, follow them, roam,
And you'll wake bright and early again in your home.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Last Thing I'm Gonna Say About It All

In the 8 years that I've been married, my husband has gone to 2 or 3 professional conferences a year. I've been to several, myself.

My husband has never come home from a conference angry because one person got X and he didn't, or he got Y or Z instead.

My husband has never come home from a conference talking about who was sleeping with whom.

My husband has never come home from a conference and said anything about what anyone wore (or didn't wear).

My husband has never come home and complained that someone was invited to a party that he wasn't invited to.

My husband has never come home and criticized the behavior of his fellow professionals.

Don't get me wrong, I get a full breakdown of what happened at the conference, but you know what he's talking about, 99% of the time? He's talking about the topic of the conference. No gossip, no in-fighting, no bullshit. (The other 1% of the time he is talking about what he ate.)

And I don't think he's unique, either. I've wracked my brain trying to think of a time when my dad came home from work and said, "You won't BELIEVE who hooked up!" I'm driving myself nuts trying to remember a time when my brother said, "He had on the same outfit I did, and I died!" Try as I might, I can't think of a single time when any of my uncles have said, "And that bastard got the very last of the giveaways..."

What I'm saying, is that if we, as women, want to be taken seriously, then we need to quit with all the bashing and the gossip and the cattyness and the bullshit. WE create the glass ceiling with our behavior, ladies. At this point in history, I'm sure there are plenty of woman-friendly companies out there, but when WE act like 14 year old girls in the locker room, rather than like professionals, WE hurt ourselves.

A lot of the focus of BlogHer was on dealing with companies, "monetizing" our blogs, getting the opportunity to try products, etc. I mean this as the helpfullest hint possible - we are NEVER going to be taken seriously as professional writers or professional anythings if we don't knock it off.

I know that not everyone was there for the "monetizing" stuff - I wasn't, either (although I'm grateful to the companies I interacted with, and I believe that I behaved with dignity and treated all the vendors with respect). But I'm really disappointed that what was a really great experience, at first, is now taking on a different hue as I read all the bitching. My God, can we just quit with the bitching?

I hope by the time my daughters are adults, this sort of behavior is the exception, rather than the rule. Sadly though, more often than not, I've heard, "Well, what did you expect? When you get that many women together..."

We should expect more of ourselves.

If not for each other, then for our daughters.

And that is all I have to say about BlogHer. Next up, cute stories about the pretty babies of PrettyBabies.

(updated to fix an embarrassing typo - my proofreader is on vaca, y'all)

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Thing About The Swag @ BlogHer

A lot of people with too much free time are spending a lot of time bitching about the swag (or, more specifically, the "Swag Hags" at BlogHer). I have a few things to say about that.

#1 - One blogger, who I am going to do the courtesy of not linking to, said that you never see "A-List" celebrities grabbing at swag - it's more the Mrs. Scott Baios than the Angelina Jolies who behave that way. Likewise, she thinks A-List bloggers are "above" such behavior.

To this, I say "bullshit." The "A-List Bloggers" didn't have to grab for swag because they had it set aside for them. I personally was turned away from the Social Luxe party (even though I had RSVP'd) and I mistakenly wandered into the room where the bags were being held and I saw the names of all the "A-Listers" on reserved bags with my own eyes. It's really easy to "rise above" when your pals are saving the swag for you, isn't it? At least let's be honest about it, rather than bitching about the behavior of some while we greedily hoard our prizes in private.

There is nothing wrong with setting aside gifts for "A-Listers" or Speakers or people with pink hair or shiny shoes or whoever the hell you want, but it is disingenuous to say, "The Big Names would never behave that way." They got theirs, too.

#2 - The swag makes a lot of difference to some people. I personally know one woman who got a backpack in a swag suite, who said that she was grateful because now her son will have a new backpack for school. She came on a scholarship and had minimal travel costs, so let's not get all judgey about her being there in the first place - or I will rain wrath on your head and call you elitists. So no, a tube of lipstick or a bottle of detergent might not make a difference to most of the girls at BlogHer, but it made a real difference to some. To make them feel badly for taking advantage of an opportunity to get some nice things to try for themselves and their families is really, really low.

#3 - Do you girls also look down your noses at people at the County Fair who take the free samples, or the free popcorn, or the brochures about new siding or windows? Isn't that part of what the fair is for? Do you spit in supermarket samples when no one is looking?

I tried several products that I had never had before at BlogHer - Pepsi's flavored water (not a fan, I like water-flavored water, but I'm happy to have tried it), Quaker Tortillaz (they're not Doritos, but they're healthier, and I might buy them again in the future), ELF Cosmetics (the color of lipgloss was tragic for my coloring - I need to find someone who leans toward the orange-reds instead of the blue-reds to give it to, but I'm looking forward to trying the eyeshadow), several types of lotion from Eucerin that I hadn't seen locally... And getting us to try new things is kind of the whole point of those companies being there!

You have no idea, no earthly idea, how much your ticket would've cost if it were an unsponsored event. I've seen professional conferences where the tickets cost THOUSANDS of dollars. It's not uncommon for a professional conference in my husband's field (engineering) to cost two or three grand for a weekend, travel expenses not included. Do you have any idea how much it must have cost to rent out virtually the ENTIRE Sheraton for three days? The staff? The food? The booze? The cleanup? The space in a prime urban location?

BlogHer, the organization, knows that few people would be able to attend if it weren't for the sponsors who eat a great deal of the cost, in hopes that we'll go home and eat their Ragu. So quit being bitchy about it, already. It's ungrateful. You should be thanking PepsiCo, Walmart, etc. for subsidizing the cost of your good time, because that's exactly what they did - and they gave you free drinks and snacks and lipstick to boot!

#4 - Yes, it is regrettable that someone got bruised, and someone's baby got bumped, when someone got a little over-enthusiastic. But you know what? Those parties were really crowded, and it's entirely possible, maybe even likely, that it was an accident that had nothing to do with the pursuit of swag. We don't know the motivation of the bumper or the bruiser, so while it's easy to assume that it was swag, maybe she was wearing tipsy shoes and got bumped from behind, and grabbed that now-bruised arm to keep herself from falling? Maybe the person who bumped the baby feels really, really badly today. Let's not make her the focus of the post BlogHer breakdown, ok?

#5 - I won a bunch of stuff at BlogHer - I just found out that I won one of four prizes from SpringPad - not sure which yet. I won a set of Michelin tires when I spun a wheel. I won the Johnson & Johnson Sweepstakes before the conference, to the tune of $1200 and a Flip camera. I won a giveaway from @fruitlady for a cushion for my chair. I was able to be part of the GM carpool, thanks to my roommate. I was there on a scholarship because I liveblogged (and I worked my ass off doing it!).

I am very very lucky, and I'm very grateful to all of these sponsors for the prizes they gave away. If you can afford to turn your nose up at $1200, to rise above a free set of tires, to say, "No thanks," to a $250 booster seat or a Jet Blue gift certificate, well, bully for you. Enjoy polishing your trust fund and your heirloom crystal "vahse." Some of us would have had to scrimp and save if it hadn't been for the prizes and scholarships and help that we won, and we're grateful, and we're a heck of a lot more likely to buy products from brands in the future who were good to us. And that was why they did it! It's a win-win situation.

A sweet girl whose name I've lost walked up to me and gave me a HairZing at the conference. I wore it twice while I was there, and plan to wear it a lot in the future. I may even buy more, to match other outfits, because it's so cute and comfortable and easy to wear. I won their prize, they've won my business. I never would've tried the seat cushion thing, either, if @fruitlady hadn't given it to me. I do have back pain, though, and I expect the cushion will help. One of the bags had a Prima Princessa ballet video in it that my kids have already watched 5 times. I'm definitely going to go see if they have any other titles that my kids would enjoy (looks like I can get them The Nutcracker for Christmas - cool!). There alone are three brands I never would've tried if not for the swag at BlogHer, that I'm much more likely to buy or recommend in the future.

Prior to the conference I saw pictures of a blogger wearing her Lane Bryant-sponsored dress, and I actually went shopping there, it was so cute. That's why these big companies do it!

That's what swag means - it's a business relationship - Sealed With A Gift. If you don't need free things, or don't want them, then good for you. Please leave them for those of us who understand the transactional relationship between companies and consumers, who are willing to try new things and talk or write about them or buy them again if we like them, and who are not ungrateful, catty women with too much free time.

And those of us who did take them should do so graciously, with a smile and a thank you. We should spend some of our time listening to the vendors (I talked to the Bounce guy for a good 10 or 15 minutes, and I stopped back by the Michelin booth twice, and the J&J booth even though I'd already met them at the party, just to say "Thanks" again). We should talk to the vendors, even if they aren't giving things away, because they have paid to be there - so we don't have to (or at least, we don't have to pay as much). We should be kind and gentle and try not to hurt each other, of course, of course, but we should do that everyday, anyway.

I'm finished reading the post-BlogHer armchair quarterbacking now. I'm going to take my kids to the park, instead. I suggest that others do the same, it's a much more productive use of all this energy.

BlogHer '09 - What I've Learned

I went to Chicago not really knowing what I was looking for. I knew there were people I wanted to meet and connect with "IRL." I knew there were things I wanted to learn from the sessions. I knew that I wanted to get a little break from my kids, and do something that was about me for a change.

But, as the saying goes, what I didn't know about what I would learn could fill a book.

The thing about bloggers is that we live our lives transparently. There is artifice, sure, as evidenced by my agonizing for weeks (months) over what I was going to wear. But most of us reveal ourselves every day on the internet, where it will be available to read indefinitely - probably forever. So saying, "This is me, this is how I'm different, this is how I struggle, this is my real life," is easier for bloggers, I think, than for the general population.

I met women who are struggling with infertility, and I heard their stories and remembered the pain of not being able to conceive, and I felt so lucky to have my two precious kids. I saw women with babies and kids in tow, and my heart cried out for Mary Grace and Claire. (I have to admit that I sniffed more than a few tiny heads, and teared up just a little bit, missing my kids' smell - all sunshine and sugar and home, and I breathed them in when I returned to them like I'd been walking through the desert since Thursday, and their smell was water).

I met women whose choice of partner is not socially accepted, and who are denied many rights that I enjoy automatically as a straight woman. I learned about their struggle for equality, their desire for acceptance, and I admired their strength. I learned that I am lucky to have fallen in love with someone who is "ok" for me to love, in the eyes of society.

I met people who are struggling with the loss of their parents and in-laws, whether quickly by accident or slowly by agonizing inches toward death, and I felt so lucky that our parents are still living and healthy and able to take care of themselves.

I met single mothers, who struggle every day to make ends meet. They struggle to do the right thing by their kids, even as they watch their ex-husbands do the wrong thing and get away with it. I learned that I am lucky to have a husband who is not only here and supporting our family, but doing so cheerfully - with humor and grace. I learned that I am lucky to be happily married to a wonderful dad.

I met people who struggle physically, emotionally, and financially with chronic illness. I listened to them talk about their frustration with doctors and "the system." I heard them talk about being incapable of getting out of bed for days and weeks at a time, and how the internet has saved them from a life of complete isolation. I listened to a woman talk about being wheelchair bound in a non-accessible world, and I felt so lucky for my sore feet, my working body, my good health. I'm lucky to have health insurance, and doctors who listen to me and really care about me and my small, infrequent health problems.

I met mothers whose children have chronic illnesses, whose lives can go from mundane to dramatic at the slightest fever or infection. I felt so very lucky to have two healthy kids, a healthy husband, and to be healthy myself. And I learned that the moms with sick kids feel lucky that they have children with medical concerns to struggle with and care for and hug through hospitalizations and procedures, because we met women whose children have died. And their grief broke all of our hearts.

I met people who are so smart they made my head spin (and I hang out with rocket scientists). People who can speak so eloquently and effortlessly, and with such passion, that I felt very small and foolish by comparison. I met people who are so funny that they could keep 1500 people in side-splitting, tears-running-down-the-face laughter. I felt very boring and silly by comparison. But then those same people were interested in me, they listened to what I had to say, they laughed at my jokes. And I stopped feeling like a tiny fish in a huge pond. I realized that blogging is a democracy - and regardless of traffic or hits or stats or comments, we're all equal in the strength of our voices. All we can do is bring our best work to every post, and hope that in the end, somebody learns, somebody smiles, somebody understands.

I learned that underneath it all - underneath our differences - we're really all the same. We all love our kids and our partners and our families. We all have bad days. We all have insecurities. We all have good days. We all work, whether for pay or not. We all struggle. We all dream. We all want a book deal.

I learned that at its core, blogging is about community and connections, and about learning to really express ourselves and hear each others' voices, and I felt very lucky to have been there.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

For crying out loud...

The liveblogs have been up at all day, but it took me until 11 pm to get them onto my blog. I'm sorry!!

Today was a really HUGE day, and I am going to write a real post about it later, but right now I just have to say that I have had the best time EVER!

I ran into a friend tonight who I've known since college - she lives in Chicago and just happened to have been invited to the BowlHer party (which, by the way, was the best party of the entire weekend!!!) so she tweeted to me that she was there and I drunkenly tweeted back, "OMG WTF R U" and a bunch of other incoherent letters, and then I found her and we had a great talk. It was so good to see her again.

A table of other bloggers and I also coined the phrase "Twinking" which means tweeting on Twitter while drinking. Also, people who do this are "Twinkies" as in "OMG she is such a flippin' Twinkie!" in response to tweets such as "OMG WTF RU."

I was totally a Twinkie. I own it.

So OMG, I have so much to talk about but I am too drunkely. You will have to wait.

But I must tell you that I entered myself and MY MOM to go to BlogHer next year. Mabel's Labels is having a contest where you tell them on their Flip Camera (I totally forgot to use my Flip Camera - I have been too busy screaming "OMG" at people) who you wish could be here, and the Grand Prize is a trip to BlogHer next year in NYC.

What is up with the acronyms tonight? GMAFB!

So they asked me why I wanted my mom to come, and I said that she's a new blogger who needs to learn about blogging for her business, and how to make it work for her, and, besides that, we would have an incredible, amazing, awesome time. She would drink my a** under the table, too, which would crack everyone up.

Mom, there's the love. I didn't forget you, although it took me 2 or 3 minutes to remember that you're also a blogger. I suck. I was drinkely.

PS - Mom - I also hooked you up with Stacy Jill from Queerly Wed who will be contacting you via e-mail about a guest post on being a queer friendly vendor because you ARE SO AWESOME and PROGRESSIVE and I need to go to bed because I'm using the CAPS LOCK. Sheesh.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

LIVEBLOGGING - Vaginally Challenged Bloggers - the Men of BlogHer

Session Description: Among hundreds of women, we stand out as the men of BlogHer. We view the world differently. Some of us are single. Some of us are married. Some of us have kids, some don't, and some of us are just big kids ourselves. The male personal/life blogger is a minority among the personal/life blogging community, and our perspective could be invaluable to any blogger, mommy or otherwise, who wants to make the most of her audience. Join Avitable, BusyDad, and Child’s Play x2 in a discussion about the role male bloggers play within the blogging community, and how that impacts what they write, how they network, and why you should be on board with the work they’re doing.

The session was extremely well-attended, with women and men sitting on the floor and crowding the doorway.

Attendees are asked to use the Twitter tag #bhmen.

Miss Britt, the moderator, began the session by introducing herself and the name of the session, which got a round of applause. There will be no stripping in the session.

Avitable, BusyDad, and Matthew were introduced to the audience, to more applause. Attendees were asked to use the mic to speak, to be nice, and stay on topic. Presents will be distributed at the end of the session.

Avitable began by discussing his humor/life blog. This is his first BlogHer Conference.

BusyDad was next. He introduced his "daddy blog," but considers himself a male mommyblogger.

Matthew introduced his blog about his twins (4 years old). He also considers himself an honorary mommyblogger.

Miss Britt asked the panelists to talk about what their wives and friends think about them blogging and having online friendships with so many women. Specifically, "blog wives."

BusyDad began by saying most of his readers are women, and his friends think it's the coolest. His wife deals with it. She does have a watchlist (much laughter) of people of interest (more laughs). She has accepted his blogging because it's mainly about his kid. He connects to his online friends through parenthood, which is a different dynamic.

BusyDad blogs with Mr. Lady and she's his blogwife. She's on the list. (Edited to add that this was a joke, the list is fictional and Mr. Lady is a good friend of BusyDad and his wife. It didn't translate as a joke in the original LiveBlog.)

Avitable was asked about how important his online friendships are. He considers his online friendships as important, if not more, than "IRL" friendships. He gets along well with women and doesn't consider himself a "manly men" (no sports, no cars... waxes eyebrows). His wife is ok with it for the most part. There are occasionally issues where she feels like "Wife #2" in the shadow of Miss Britt.

Miss Britt: "This is not about your marriage."

Matthew was asked about commenting on women's blogs, and does he feel like he has to be careful to not be perceived as a creepy perv.

He said it's hard because he's obviously creepy. He's careful. He tries to be a smart ass. He mostly follows Mommybloggers.

Miss Britt asked if the guys are aware of the fact that they're men and they're interacting with women all the time.

BusyDad said that he always keeps the husbands in mind when he comments, and he's very careful, unless he knows someone well.

Miss Britt - Let's talk about the difference between a male and female blogger. Is your perspective different?

Avitable said "to some degree" because a lot of the women blogging for each other have similar, relateable situations. It's sometimes harder to relate to women when you're a dadblogger. He tries to provide support without being creepy. In the community, women tend to bond strongly.

Matthew said that he started blogging 5 years ago, and there weren't a lot of parenting blogs. He began following a lot of Daddyblogs. It was empowering to him to find men who love being dads. There is a dad community that is supportive and fun. He loves hearing from moms that he's doing a good job.

BusyDad stumbled on the community by accident. He thought he pioneered the concept of dad blogs (laughter). He looked for dad websites when he started. Afterwards he found a gazillion dad blogs. The concept of community is still the same. Similar experience comments are cool.

Avitable said that he's not a Dadblogger. He is married, but not a father. There isn't a large group of childless, male, personal bloggers. He feels like he doesn't fit into groups, so he can go anywhere and fit in.

Miss Britt asked about boundaries and guidelines, and if they're different from those for Mommybloggers.

Matthew shies away from parenting issues because he feels Mommybloggers "own that." He doesn't want to take that on. He does sometimes want to post but he doesn't want to get flames. Miss Britt asked, "Like what?" and he said that the live interaction between men and women on Twitter is interesting. He saw a thread where a woman was pissed at her husband for telling her what to do with the kids. A dadblogger said, "Isn't he a parent too?" and she said, "I don't tell him how to do his job, he shouldn't tell me how to do mine."

He has a draft post about that which he's saving. As a dad, he is trying to blast through a glass ceiling and to become equals as parents.

BusyDad said that there's nothing he hasn't posted because of reprocussions. His blog is lighthearted, because his family reads it. He doesn't want to rant because his mom may read it. He doesn't want to write anything that crosses lines.

Avitable, "IS there a line? Other than full frontal nudity...." His mother does read, but has asked him to change his last name.

Miss Britt asked if men can get away with nudity online in a way that men can't. Avitable talked about cleavage and ass contests, and half-naked Thursday. Avitable said that women can be empowered and proud of their bodies. For him, it's usually for comedy. It depends on how people do it and the nature of the post.

Miss Britt asked, as readers, what do you look for in a blog? Why do you read the blogs you read?

Matthew looks for good writing, and loves stories. He is not as interested in "I hate my husband" posts. The day to day stuff doesn't make him come back, but the stories are like opening a book and he'll come back over and over. Called out Allie from Cheaper Than Therapy as a good example.

BusyDad looks for humor. He goes online to relax and laugh. Related to that, if he gets to know somebody and he's interested in them as a person he'll be connected to them and will be interested in their life via their blog.

Avitable said he has a group of people he's invested in personally who he reads, and there are funny people who look at life with humor. When he comments on people he expects them to read him, too.

Miss Britt asked, "Why are you at BlogHer?"

BusyDad said, "10% men 90% women, and we have this!" He said this is where his friends are. His blog is a hobby. He wants to connect.

Matthew said he came because he had a tragic event in his life 6 months ago that was difficult to blog about. He reached out to people who had commented and had an amazing outreach of support. He then realized he wanted to meet those supportive people in real life. They're his friends, regardless of gender. The men who are here are friends, too.

Miss Britt asked a question about whether or not they consider the fact that women aren't allowed to be gender-blind like the men say they are.

Matthew said he grew up with a single mom and is more comfortable with women than men. He feels comfortable, and not like an invading outsider.

BusyDad has not felt like an invader or like he's unwelcome. He just fell into things. He said he's always had more women friends than men.

Avitable invaded intentionally. He came to meet friends at BlogHer. When it comes to personal blogging, men are a minority and he wanted to represent the small community of men who blog.

Miss Britt asked if we feel invaded. Casey from Moosh in Indy said that men being here starts bad rumors among women. Was asked, "Like what?" Casey said, "there's drama in groups."

Everyone talked about who was rumored to be sleeping with whom, to lots of laughs.

Matthew said, "What do we do about it, do we stay away? We're not here to hurt people, we're here to be with our friends."

Casey made sure everyone knew who was not sleeping with whom.

The problem is with the people spreading the rumors. Casey ended with "be nice bitches!" to applause.

Avitable said "We can't always worry about rumors, they're going to happen regardless."

Andrea from Mommy's Martini said to Matthew, when he said, "women owned parenting," her response was "that's really sad," and she got angry on his behalf. As a woman and a feminist and a WOHM, she feels like part of the generation that has asked for father's to be more involved, and it frustrates her to feel like people who are representatives of the best ways for men to be involved with their kids, are sitting here saying they feel like they can't own that.

She asked them to write the post that embraces that involvement. She said it's sad to deny something so fabulous.

Matthew thanked her and said that he's been a single dad for 6 months. He choked up and said that post was very personal, and he feels that he does a good job raising his kid (applause).

Matthew gets upset when he sees men not owning that part of what being a man is, and hopes through his blog to encourage other men to be involved in their kids' lives. The wife has to let that happen.

BusyDad believes that he's not going to shove anything down peoples' throats and stand on a box and say, "Men are just as good." He shows it by telling the stories, and thinks that's just as powerful.

Avitable said that if he ever has a child he'll be the one in charge and will own that. His wife is busy and preoccupied, and would be willing to let him be the primary caregiver. She is wonderful.

Kari from I Left My Heart at Preschool thanked all the men for coming to BlogHer. She would've been intimidated to go to a con that was 90% men. Asked if any of the panelists' guy friends have changed in their own parenting because they've read the panelists' blogs.

BusyDad's friends are single and read the blog for comedy. His friends who do have kids are naturally like-minded and are very involved in their kids' lives.

Matthew agreed that his male friends are very involved with their kids because he chooses friends who are similar to him. He likes to think someone might read his blog and say, "That's pretty cool."

Avitable said all his friends are female. He has no guy friends.

Miss Britt asked Avitable if it's different for him at BlogHer because he's not a dad, asked how he finds his niche.

Avitable said that's why he went with humor and envelope pushing. He likes to entertain himself and his readers.

Shari from Diary of a Crazed Mommy said that people outside of blogging don't understand mommyblogging - asked how the dads approach that question from someone outside the community.

Avitable - "I post my balls on the internet!" to laughter and woots.

BusyDad said that his blog is a hobby, so when people ask "What do you do?" he doesn't say, "I'm a blogger." When they ask about the blog he says, "I post funny stories about my kid."

He got funny looks for going to a blogging conference.

Mighty Girl is Matthew's cousin, so for him, he feels like he's "just" telling stories for family. He resisted calling himself a blogger or a writer until recently. He said it's easier now because people know what blogs are. He still gets funny looks, but he owns it now because it's a big part of his life.

Megan from Undomestic Diva asked if the panelists find themselves to be the storytellers in their IRL lives. Avitable used to be but now he has a friend who won't let him tell stories (he was talking about Miss Britt, everyone laughed).

A lot of Avitable's friends are bloggers and they'll all be telling stories.

BusyDad was always the guy who told stories in his group. It was a natural transition to blogging. He told stories via e-mail, too.

Matthew never thought about it, but he actually has always been the storyteller in his group.

Sarah runs LabelDaddy's blog. They've been trying to reach Dadbloggers. Asked if panelists think there's a place for Dadbloggers working with companies, and do they want to.

Matthew sat in on the branding session. He gets offended when he gets a "dear mommyblogger" email. He feels like he's open to working with companies, but they've got to KNOW him and who he is and why he'd be a good match for their company. He doesn't want to be used, it has to be a win-win. He lives in San Diego and has a relationship with Sea World. Male Bloggers are such a niche group, but he doesn't think a lot of the men are actively looking for those things, so a relationship has to be built, first.

BusyDad said he's not looking for partnerships with companies. He did do a thing with Pledge. Avitable said, "Oh yeah, I saw that, you're messy," and got laughs. BusyDad said he only does it if it's going to be fun, a natural fit, intersting, postable.

Avitable doesn't monetize his blog and has no interest. He does sex toy reviews for his own pleasure and benefit (laughter). He buys products for his own giveaways. He wants to remain completely objective and not waste good faith.

Miss Britt asked the other male bloggers in the audience if they're interested in the money.

Miss Britt said that men haven't been invited to things. Many of the companies just seem to be looking for women.

Matthew said that companies aren't focusing on what men can bring to the table.

BusyDad said the few companies he has worked with have sought him out because he's a guy. He appreciates that.

Avitable pointed at people to encourage them to ask questions.

A Twitter question asked Matthew "boxers or briefs." He acted like he was going to show us, to applause.

Matthew said, "I am a briefs guy, but they are not whitey tighties."

BusyDad said, "Boxer briefs."

Avitable said, "Manties."

Miss Britt asked if women have been creepy toward them.

Avitable said, "yeah, I've had stalker comments from women." Someone in the audience said "sorry" to lots of laughs.

Avitable said that he's shallow and humorous and has gotten these fawning e-mails, told Britt, and never heard from them again so it works well (laughter).

BusyDad has never had a creepy stalker. Perhaps his definition is off. (laugh)

Matthew wants stalkers, c'mon! (laughs)

BusyDad hasn't had any stalking or negative comments on his blog. He thinks it's because he's not big enough.

Someone asked about inappropriate comments, and he said they've bothered his wife more than they did him. He thinks that people have been respectful of his marriage and they admire him as a dad, but not inappropriate stuff.

Audience member "There's nothing sexier than a good dad." (applause)

Miss Britt asked Matthew, and he said only two comments in 5 years have hurt him. He deleted them and moved on. He gets a lot of supportive comments. The ones that make him sad say, "I wish my husband were more like you." He feels like he doesn't put out.... anything controversial. (laughs)

Avitable said he never deletes any comments but spam, it's fine if people get mad. He gets lewd comments. It doesn't bother him.

Jill from Charming and Delightful asked the dads if they get accused of taking advantage of or exploiting their children the way moms do.

Matthew said, "Guys don't do that." Women bloggers get personal in a way that guys don't. Guys support each other.

BusyDad doesn't advertise, so there's no point but entertainment. He only exploited his kid once, to meet Amy Adams (laughter) and OH! it was nice! (applause)

Avitable said he doesn't exploit Adam 2 and Little Britt to HUGE laughter.

Miss Britt said do you feel like you get a free pass because you're a cool minority in the community of parent bloggers.

Matthew said guys don't do that to each other, and women don't feel as empowered to call us out because they're men.

BusyDad said they have an unfair advantage and they do get a free pass. He said it is unfair, but...

Matthew feels that men don't have to be as good to get recognized.

Emma from Where there's a Willer enjoys reading many of the men because she seriously wishes her husband were like that. She appreciates their depth and thoughtfulness, and wonders if all men have that depth.

Matthew - probably not, but I don't think every woman does, either. His father died when he was very young and he feels it's important for his kids, to know how much he loves them, because he could be gone tomorrow.

Men have to want to be that, Matthew said, but we are seeing a shift toward men being more involved in parenting.

Miss Britt said her husband is very involved, but he'd never talk about it like the panelists do. Wives e-mail BusyDad and say, "I had my husband read your post..."

Miss Britt asked if the panelists think they're more vocal. Avitable thinks a lot of men have trouble communicating, and you don't see blogs from people who can't communicate, and that's why the men bloggers shine a bit.

Issa from Issa's Crazy World asked the dads if they feel like putting their kids' pictures out there crosses a line. Matt changed his kids' names at one point (when he started getting readers outside of his mother! - laughter).

She asked "where's your line?"

BusyDad will share about his family, but not about his work or what he does. Matthew made a joke about managing a strip club, Avitable said something about a greasy pole. Laughter.

BusyDad said as a man you have less fear of kidnapping, because you feel like as a man you'd kick someone's ass. He doesn't feel that danger.

Matthew's wife loves to read his stats and searches. Daddy having sex with twins is way up there. There are no bathtub/nude photos. He doesn't use real names. When the kids are old enough to say "I don't want my photos on there Daddy."

He doesn't want their friends to google their names in 10 years and get teased for what he's said (or photographed). He can let them decide whether or not they want to be a public figure.

Avitable has all his contact info on his blog - phone, address, etc. He has a Halloween party every year. One reader had the police show up at his party. He says it's fine because it allows him to have total accountability for what he says.

Miss Britt said that men don't feel vulerable the way women do. Women are taught to worry about unknowns from an early age.

An audience member who is in law enforcement doesn't see people finding children online to kidnap or hurt. She feels comfortable because of the lack of that ever happening.

BusyDad said that he never posts pictures of his wife because she asked him not to. Miss Britt suggested that she may not exist (laughs).

Dawn from Room 704 asked Adam if his friends in real life consider him the "go to guy" the way his online friends do (particularly with troll posters). He said he's extremely protective and loyal of his friends. He is Captain Saveaho to Miss Britt. (laughter)

Bossy from I Am Bossy asked if they have ever explored other avenues in writing, asked if they feel blogging is legitimate writing.

Matthew said he's taken a long time to gain the confidence, how much he's grown as a writer, now he feels he's grown and is trying to find what he'd want to pursue in a non-blogging format. Thinks blogging is an amazing tool for self-learning and he enjoys the satisfaction of writing a good post that is going to be there for a long time. He thinks blogging is a wonderful tool for skill-honing.

Audience member asked if he feels obligated to blog. Matthew said he's had to refocus as a blogger when he starts to worry about stats and who is reading. His blog is about his kids, his relationship with his children, and when he keeps to that he enjoys it the most.

BusyDad said that 80% of his day job is writing, and the blog was a different avenue for his writing. He said the only end game he had in the blog thing was something he wanted to give his kid when he becomes a dad. The other end game/ideal world thing would be that he'd love to get a book contract, and that's why he's here (laughter).

Avitable said that humor doesn't exist without an audience. He writes for the people because he wants them to laugh and enjoy themselves. He feels that humor in any medium is something he enjoys doing. He doesn't feel that his writing is writing. He feels writing comedy is harder than writing something dramatic, as in acting.

Weezel Mama asked what has been your favorite funny post that you put up.

Matthew said that he has seven favorites posted on his blog. He wrote a story about rushing to get out of the house and leaving a steaming diaper on the bookshelf. Halfway to work he remembered the diaper, and during the lunch break he wrote a convoluted story about why he left a diaper on the shelf to explain to his wife why the diaper was there.

BusyDad's favorite posts are the ones where he can use things that only parents get. One was a fake Jeopardy post, and all the q and a's were things parents go through. He likes to make the connection with other parents.

Avitable said that for last year BlogHer's "letter to my body initiative" he wrote his own funny one and posted a naked picture, and that one makes him laugh.

Stacy from Any Mommy Out There asked about balance and making time to blog and wondered if the dads have that issue, too.

Avitable is self-employed and so he can do it without balance issues.

BusyDad says he can balance by not posting for 2 or 3 weeks.

Matthew says it's a struggle, especially lately, but even before his life changed, he's an executive for a large non-profit popularized by the Village People and that takes a lot of time. There are days when he has no interest in posting, and that just has to be ok. He used to write a lot and is now down to 2 or 3 times a week. He doesn't feel an obligation because blogging is a hobby. He thinks he needs to do a better job of shutting Twitter down and spending time with his wife after the kids are in bed.

Miss Britt asked, as a last question, if the guys think they add something just by virtue of being male.

Avitable said that when you have only women, without the diversity you don't actually grow as a writer. Having a male read your blog and be interested means you're writing for a broader audience.

BusyDad said he thinks that men bring a different perspective and insight. He's interested in how women think and has always read women's magazines, etc.

Matthew says that men bring diversity that is needed. Made fun of Sean over photos and got lots of laughs. Said there were great bloggers out there.

Sean from Backpacking Dad is the one who got made fun of, Miss Britt asked him if the "because you're hot" jokes bother him. Sean said it doesn't bother him coming from this group. If all his blog comments were "people only read you because you're hot" it would bother him.

Then they passed out swag and ended the presentation.

(I've had to close comments on this post due to a ridiculous amount of Japanese p**n spam comments. Please e-mail me if you have comments.)

LIVEBLOGGING - Room of Your Own 2: Blogging as Storytelling

Session Description: If you’ve ever fought the battle between promoting your blog and spending time developing your writing craft, this session will help you try to recapture the most important aspect of the blogging experience: storytelling. Neil Kramer and Amy Turn Sharp will explore the principles of storytelling, and how they are fundamentally the same in Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, The Adventures of Curious George, and your own blog. Join this session to discuss new methods for writing, developing stories and characters, and why the best bloggers learn their craft from watching ... soap operas?!

The session began with Neil introducing himself. He thanked everyone for not going to see the Bloggess (laughter). Said this session was about storytelling and would be informal. Jen Lancaster will be here. Even someone who has only posted three times, though, is still the same storyteller.

Neil said that the keynote was beautiful last night, and it was inspirational, and so many of the seminars have been inspirational, and in this session he intends to do the opposite. He wants to be reductive, to go down to the bare bones of what a story is, and why we tell them. When he first talked about the session, someone said "I'm not a writer, so I'm not going to that," but he feels that storytelling is integral to everything.

Neil asked what the audience thinks of when they hear "storytelling." He said that an advertisement is a story. He invited Sizzle up, and they pretended they were doing a commercial (because Amy is being interviewed). The "commercial" was cut off when Amy arrived.

Amy didn't think anyone would come. They didn't give the names of their blogs to show how reductive they are. He wants us to figure out what a story is and how that knowledge can help us improve our blog posts.

Amy invited the audience to do lots of talking and participation.

Neil and Amy then performed their commercial. Even something as basic as a commercial is a story with a beginning, middle, and end, there is a main character with a problem (a headache/hangover), there's drama, the resolution is Anacin. That's how commercials try to sell you things.

Neil said that a lot of us were probably English majors and we think of stories as something humanistic, but stories are really amoral. The Nazis told stories. Religion is belief in stories that tell who you are and what your community is. Every country has stories. History books are stories.

Neil's wife is Russian and she learned different stories and history of WWII than Neil did in the U.S. Each country creates its history from its own point of view.

Amy added that your blog isn't just a chronical of life. You write to express yourself and find connection. She doesn't just write to tell a three sentence story. There is more meat and connection. She asked if the audience thinks the same way - do you write as stories? Fiction? Truth? How do you write your blog?

Neil reiterated that he wants to combine people who think they're writers and the people who say they're "just" a mommyblogger - both are telling stories.

Neil's grandfather is the best storyteller. He can't write three sentences on paper, though.

Jeannie at added that her father is the same way. She said she writes about him a lot, and she feels like she's interpreting what he has to say (about Vietnam). She also tells the stories about Vietnam from her mother's point of view. She filters it through herself, learns about them, and looks at it from the perspective of her own anxieties compared to theirs. They have great stories but they don't know how to tell them.

Amy said that when she and Neil were planning, they knew that they could have a conversation with the session about "how do you tell stories?"

Amy said that if you don't feel comfortable with the rules of stories, it's harder to write them.

Neil made the distinction that the story doesn't always have to be about WWII. He went to the women who were transformed by their blogs session and heard those stories. Neil has written posts about waiting in line at the bank, which can be as dramatic as fighting at Normandy (laughter) depending on who you are. He wants to make sure that we understand that we don't have to be abuse survivors to have stories.

A story is a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end that holds someone's interests.

Kathy, who doesn't have a blog yet, is a professional whose background is math and science, and in order to build and do the right kind of tech things, they have to tell stories about the products. What she does in her job is have people walk her through the story of what happens with products. You don't have to be Hemmingway.

Neil said that this would be the Keynote if he ran BlogHer, not the small room on the last day (applause).

Neil said that branding is a story that the business people stole from storytellers (laughter). Stories sell. Storytelling is amoral. Reducing into a story is a main character who has a problem that gets solved.

An audience member played devil's advocate, saying their commercial was not compelling. But Neil's story about the bank line is compelling because he's like Woody Allen. There's a difference between an account and a story. She goes on blogs and doesn't want to hear a laundry list of what someone did all day. She wants a compelling story.

Neil said that he wants to empower people by telling them that everything's a story. He's not trying to make real storytelling less, he's trying to show that people are ripping off storytelling.

The audience member said that you have to have some overarching idea where people are laughing or thinking, it can't just be "I went into a bank."

Amy segued into asking the audience what blogs they like because of the narrative. People mentioned Citizen of the Month and Doobleh-Vay, Schmutzie, Finslippy, and many others that I didn't catch. Amy said that those people also talk about their daily life. It's not all deep. And we like it because the writer is a character.

Some people who write blogs really are characters. Some people take a three sentence account and make it several paragraphs that leave you elated.

We should all be the character of our blog, Amy said.

Neil said he didn't know if we are taking the right approach. He doesn't want people to lie, even though he does all the time (laughter). Even if you're being totally honest, he said, you can somehow describe yourself and the character and make it a better story.

Kari from I Left My Heart At Preschool blogs about her kids, and she feels like sometimes... They took a trip to the zoo, but she made it a story of a series of unfortunate events, where she was having the worst day but her kids were having the best day, and she tried to talk about that in a story. She is the main character, not her kids. She wants her kids to someday look back and read these and hear stories about themselves from her point of view. She asked advice and Amy said, "We don't fuckin' know," (laughter).

Neil said people make mistakes by thinking they're not the main character when they are. What distinguishes one mommyblog from another is the way that each mother interprets and explains what happens, even though all kids do the same things.

An audience member said that the story is in the extra stuff, not in the bare bones of the plot.

Neil said a story is a beginning, middle, and end. A better story has all the extra stuff.

Neil and Amy did another skit where character adds to the skit.

Now the boring Anacin ad is a little bit better, because there's character in the story.

He related it back to Kari's comment.

Deb from Dirty Socks and Pizza really likes her writing style, but it kind of assumes that people will read the entire post. She likes keeping the punch line for the end. People don't always read to the end. She feels pressured to change her writing style to gain comments/feedback.

Amy feels that she gets a lot of feedback from friends and family, but she doesn't get many comments. She encouraged the audience member not to change her style.

Neil said people read too much, but he tries to really Read things.

CeeCee from 24 at Heart asked about developing herself as a character on her own blog, and how to define what is truth and what is "based on" truth.

Neil is stumped. He may no longer write risque posts having met all of the people reading (laughter).

Amy asked if the landscape of your life doesn't change. She called out Schmutzie and how her blog has changed over time.

Amy said most of us really ARE the person on our blog.

Neil said that storytelling should be troublemaking.

Neil reads posts and thinks, "This is their mind," even if the writer says she's not really "like that" - she is in her mind.

Amy who writes Inherent Passion said you shouldn't change your voice because you'll lose part of your character. Suggested we should use our own voice and write for ourselves. She thinks personally that you know someone because of their writing style, that's their character, and you love them because of that. "It's lovely to know part of that person."

Neil and Amy then did another skit. They added more character to the story. Now Amy AND Neil had personality. The point being that there was that bad commercial, but by adding even more character to it, it adds depth.

Eden from is Schmutzie's husband, he said that when it comes to storytelling and blogging, every so often they'll transcribe conversations from both of their points of view. He said the difference between blogging and fiction is a lot thinner than many of us admit.

Margaret Andrews from Nanny Goats and Pansies asked if everyone is seeking publication, and if they feel like they're blowing their wad on their blog - they want to save their best stuff for their book.

Neil feels that way about Twitter. Amy writes as daily practice at writing. She's using it to help her craft her writing. It's an archive for her children, and it's practice.

Neil then talked about inciting incident, which means when you've got a character and he does something or something happens to him. It's the incident that gets things moving.

Neil cited Star Wars as the classic journey.

Someone asked if you "have to" start with the inciting incident, but Amy said there are no "have tos" - they just want to give us an idea about storytelling.

Neil talked about a YouTube video that demonstrated that children remember things better when there's a sentence, and better still when there's a question. The point being that our brains look for questions, that's how we move - what's going on, what happened? Storytelling is integral to our being. That's why kids read stories.

The inciting incident is therefore important, because it gives you a question - what is going to happen next?

Amy said that most of us will write a BlogHer post, and that the most interesting ones will be the ones that tell the story, not the ones that just list what happened.

Neil asked everyone to imagine that we were going to jointly write a post about what they did last night, focusing on the inciting incident. He asked for inciting incidents that would make the story interesting. Audience members gave examples.

The panelists said that we all have a goal in coming to BlogHer, so we could write about whether or not we got what we wanted out of it, and that could be the inciting incident.

Megan at NotToBrag said she often knows what incident she wants to write about but she doesn't know what she wants to say, but because you know there's an audience, you have to figure out what the story is in order to blog for an audience (as opposed to journaling).

Amy said you're figuring out yourself as you write.

Amy said that we like to read things that inspire us. We care about all the shit in the middle.

Laura from agrees that she started her blog because she's a writer. She had a child and quit writing her novel, and now she blogs for writing practice. For her the blog has helped her, while drawing time away from the book, to be less precious about sitting down to write.

Schmutzie found it interesting that before she blogged she'd gotten away from writing. She found that while she was trying to create stories, what really is the story is the transformation in the character as the story unfolds. She gets transformed in the original incident AND in writing it, and then the transformation continues in others when they read what she's written.

Neil said that storytelling is really about yourself.

Eden said that the schedule would tell the plot of BlogHer, but the story is the individual voices coursing through it.

Neil said that stories are what make people care about what happens to each other.

Amy said that sometimes we don't value our stories enough. She said sometimes if you expand a little bit, we all are SO interesting.

Leah for Moms Without Blogs said watching the keynotes made her realize that she's not a Writer, but she does write. When she first started her blog it was freeing to not have readers. It's been interesting to see what's happened to her process now that she knows people are reading. She said that something shifts when you know someone is reading.

Neil said that being a writer doesn't necessarily mean that you're a good storyteller. Being a storyteller also doesn't necessarily mean that you're a good writer.

Kate from Sweet-Salty said that there are two aspects that are fascinating - the structure of storytelling makes any story compelling. In journalism you get drilled on who, what, where, why, and when. She thinks that's what the panel is getting at - sometimes we forget the structure in blogging and it falls flat. If you can go back and think of these structure aspects there really is something missing. She also went back to Schmutzie's comment. She feels that some of her writing was fiction that became real for her. She's adopted some of her stories as her way of seeing things.

Kim at Prosaic Paradise said that for a long time she said she wasn't a writer, but she is because she writes. Her voice is a documentary voice, not a lyrical voice. She told a story about a tent in her living room that was a blog post, that was ten lines. She doesn't think she can write in a different voice. She doesn't think it's necessary to write any certain way, it's ok to write in 10 lines.

Amy thinks the cool thing about the blogosphere is that there are so many different voices out there.

Neil said that in reality he doesn't follow the rules he's talking about. He just wants to talk about the topic, but that doesn't mean that he's giving instruction. He says not to compare yourself to what someone else is doing.

Black Hockey Jesus said that a challenge for him was learning how to trust himself and believe that he had stories to tell, and to have the courage to tell them. He said you can sit down and think really hard about structure, or you can sit and stare at the computer screen. Rather than worrying about what your voice is, try letting the voices come to you. His stories are more authentic when he lets the stories come to him and listens to the voice of the story. Plugged where everyone should get a book.

Neil disagreed a little, because he feels competitive with BHJ.

An audience member said that she had a pragmatic question - from a writing standpoint, do most of you try to break things up into episodes or do you put it in one post?

Neil said he's broken stories up.

He says he's learned more from All My Children that relates to blogging than he's learned being an English Major. He says the big bloggers can throw up a photo and get a thousand comments, because that photo is just one episode in their soap opera.

Jennifer at said that her blog is about pre-mommyhood, career decisions, going into motherhood, etc. She said that she knows her story has been going on for almost a year, and people may be thinking, "Is she ever going to have a kid?" There are things she's saying again and again about pre-motherhood, wants to know if that's redundant.

Schmutzie answered, saying that she's been blogging for six years. But if you've forgotten that you've written about it, your readers have too, and when you revisit you write it differently.

Eden added that you can't just say "screw you" to each element of the periodic table, you have to create backstory, but the binder was his voice/his character, and it held the whole "stupid thing" together.

An audience member said that if you ask, "Will this matter to anyone but me?" it goes a long way toward improving your writing. She also said that you should allow yourself the element of surprise. She said to play with language, explore who you are, and stop worrying. "You're all so lovely."

Amy agreed that blogging is a joy and she always should have been experiencing it. She wasn't going to come because her father in law just passed away due to a tragic accident in England. She had the choice to stay home alone or be here. Her story about BlogHer is beautiful because she's been buoyant because of all of us and our stories. She encouraged everyone to find a story for this week and write it, and thanked everyone.

Neil wrapped up with one more episode of the Anacin commercial, adding emotion to the story, too.

Closing keynote

GeoTagged, [N41.88571, E87.61923]

I am sitting in the closing keynote now. I can't believe that blogher is almost over! I have had an incredible time.

I will post my two liveblogs from today when I get back to my room. The men's session was hilarious and you really should read it. I just found out that I won ANOTHER prize!!! A bleecher cushion. I really need to head to Vegas.


GeoTagged, [N41.88724, E87.61673]

I was just waiting for an elevator and who gets off but Carson from Queer Eye - which is hilarious because I just walked back from the queer blogher party! I said "you're Carson!" as if he didn't know that and got another girl to take this picture! Too cool!

Also, the queer party was awesome and I am an honorary queer blogger now! They are the coolest bunch of people.

And coconut m& ms are really good but not very coconutty.

Friday, July 24, 2009

LIVEBLOGGING Identity/Passions: Patient Bloggers

Session Description - Chronic or acute disease can change your life overnight…and make you feel as though you’ve lost control of your own body. PatientBloggers find support, information and resources, and regain a sense of control via their blogging. But are there also down sides? Privacy concerns abound. Being identified as just a person with a disease can feel confining. And what if you’re cured or in remission? Where does your blogging (and more importantly: that close-knit, supportive community you've developed) go from there? Share your own stories with us, and find out how to manage it all from Loolwa Khazzoom, who, despite enduring chronic pain, has used dance to help herself and others find joy, Kerri Morrone Sparling, who has successfully battled Type 1 Diabetes since she was six and Jenni Prokopy, who writes about life with Fibromyalgia, Raynaud's Phenonmenon and GERD. Casey from Moosh in Indy, who has written about working through depression and infertility, moderates this discussion.

The session began with Mr. Lady of, Jenni Prokopy of, Casey of, Kerri Sparling of, and Loolwa Khazzoom of introducing themselves.

Mr. Lady asked people not to use flash photography during the panel. She read her introduction with her biographical information and assured us that she is not crazy.

Loolwa introduced herself. She runs Dancing with Pain, where she talks about living with and healing from chronic pain.

Kerri Sparling introduced herself. She has Type 1 diabetes and blogs about it at and works for dlife.

Jenni Prokopy runs and has numerous chronic illnesses. She speaks particularly to young women who are living with illness.

Casey at Moosh in Indy discusses depression and infertility at her blog

Mr. Lady asked for a show of hands, how many people write about health and patient issues on their blogs.

Jennifer toastontheceiling said that beginning last February she had chronic fatigue and migraines that would last week. Because it relates to her kids she started to write about it on her mommyblog.

Melissa multitaskingmama found the internet when she was diagnosed with MS in 2008. She blogs about her life and her illness, and has met many women with "invisible illnesses."

Lori notjustaboutcancer started blogging when she was diagnosed with breast cancer that spread to her liver. Her liver was riddled with tumors, but by June she was in remission, and has been for 2 years. Not Done Yet is her book and it's available here at BlogHer.

Elizabeth Martin of got really sick and had to sell her party planning business. She was bedridden and started to get through it. She was given a terminal diagnoses but it was incorrect, which got a big PHEW from the audience.

A gentleman from Johnson & Johnson plugged the J&J Health Channel and said all the patient bloggers are really brave for making their lives public and helping others.

Katie at had brain surgery 18 months ago because her skull is too small for her brain. The surgery didn't work and there's nothing that can be done for her. Her husband is a doctor, so she talks about health care from both sides and how to figure out how to live in spite of her problem.

After the introductions, Mr. Lady said we'd talk about the pros and cons of blogging, disclosure, and the transformation of patient blogs over time.

Anyone who has blogged about health knows that there are great things and lousy things about it, according to Mr. Lady. Jenni Prokopy said that at age 25 she was diagnosed with a bunch of different illnesses. For a few years she was unsure of what to do and all the sites she found were too highly medical or too depressing. So she made her own site -

Before she launched they had hundreds of hits per day. She saw that people really need this information. She realized quickly that she'd need to write more, because the readers really needed it. She felt responsible to her readers. She tells how to live as a total babe, even though you're sick. The whole point is to be who you are, she said. The downside was having to write all the time. The upside was receiving positive e-mails from readers.

Jenni has to combat defining herself by her illness. She meets people who don't understand that she's sick. People don't believe in fibromyalgia. She decided not to define herself by her illness. She's a writer, a community leader, and a wife.

The downside of patient blogging is that you put yourself out there, and no matter how positive she is, she still feels really crummy. Sometimes she is writing something positive when she feels really crappy, and that feels sort of inauthentic sometimes. She feels like her readers really want and need her to be positive. Sometimes being positive forces her to feel better.

An audience member said that putting pressure on yourself is unnecessary. As a reader she says it's ok to say, "I've had a rough couple of days." Then they could connect on that level, too.

Jenni is also in a forum on Ning where she complains more, and people really react to that.

Diana Lee writes about chronic migraines and depression at Asked if they could talk about the idea of having an identity outside of her illness. She feels like her illness has taken over her identity. She wanted a family, she was an attorney, and now she can't have either of those things. She feels closed off.

Jenni replied by saying, "I totally understand where you're coming from." Once people know you're sick you get a lot of "awww..." and that's the last thing she wants. She wants people to keep lifting her up. A big part of her coming back to her identity was to fall back on her support network of friends.

Jenni said that when she's whining her husband says, "Wah!" People see it and think he's a jerk, but she loves it because it cracks her up. It helps her come back to Jenni, and not be "the sick person."

Kerri said her tagline speaks to that issue. Diabetes doesn't define her. It's important to remember the whole, even when a part of who you are sucks that day.

Loolwa was criticized as a child, but it ended up being a gift that she's all over the place - she's an Iraqi American Jew and has always been self-employed. Her chronic pain started with a car accident. She moved to Isreal and became a journalist. Her whole life is freelance, and it works for her. She's built a life where she can be in bed for a week. She schedules her life around what she can and can't do so she can always promote her health and take care of herself.

She's turning her negatives into a positive. Dancing with Pain is about her healing journey, and documenting it. She does fall into the pit and write "my life sucks," and when she writes it she feels better. She thinks it's positive to turn her illness into a brand and become powerful because of it.

Jenni gains self-worth from knowing that she's helping people. She has always believed in service to her community and gets value from doing so. She was e-mailed and someone said not to use the word "chronic" because it defines her by her illness, and said her website should just be "babe." But she took a negative thing and flipped it by turning it into a blog.

Sarah Beckley is a chronic illness coach. Mentioned that newly diagnosed people are having a really hard time and it's easy to stay in a dark place. That's when you need to reach out to friends and family and work on your identity. Once you have a treatment plan you can stabilize and rebuild and focus on your identity more. She has three different heart conditions, all of which could kill her. She's had a stroke and a brain hemmorage, and she loves helping people, but there are days when she can't get out of bed. She's working on developing passive income in preparation for the day when she can't work.

Jenni's house was hit by a tornado a few years ago and she went into a major depression as a result of the damage. There were weeks when she couldn't work, and it really took its toll. Having Chronic Babe helped lift her back up again because people were sending her messages and support.

Jenni said that the upside is that she has an awesome community that lifts her up all the time.

Kerri said that just because you write about your illness doesn't mean that you're awesome at managing your illness. Everyone's having bad days.

Casey said that another great thing about blogging is sharing the ugly times. There are always those inspirational books about overcoming, everyone has a story that has a happy ending, and that doesn't happen to her, so those stories don't help. Through blogging we're able to share that it is just ugly and it sucks sometimes, and that's ok.

An audience member said that people think they're being helpful by saying things, and that it helps having a community to get support in those situations.

Casey said that as a patient blogger we can help educate the healthy on what's ok and not ok to say.

Mr. Lady steered us into Casey's story. You can see Casey's uterus at her blog. She's going to talk about feeling like you've put yourself out there too much, and what to do about it.

Ree took off her wig so Mr. Lady would make out with her. Her body doesn't make hair because her white cells attack her hair cells. She has no other symptoms. She doesn't speak well with her husband about what's going on inside of her. She wrote a post about what it's like to be bald. Her husband read it (for the first time, after 2 years of blogging) and cried and said, "Why did you keep this all inside of you?" She wants people to keep in mind that the way you react mentally to your life with your illness is your own business, but putting it out there, you will get the support you want. It will do wonderous things for you.

Someone seriously should've brought Kleenex to this thing. We're all crying now.

Mr. Lady writes a mommyblog where her health comes up eventually. She won't tell what pill she takes. Lots of women/mothers want to know what it is. She doesn't want to be the doctor and give that info to her audience.

Kerri, on the other hand, will tell you everything. She's going to talk about disclosure.

When Kerri first started blogging she didn't know about disclosure. She started blogging 4 years ago at age 25. When she was little she went to diabetes camp, but no one in her town had it. She wanted to find other people like her. So, she used her full name. Four years later she's still blogging about her diagnosis. It became an issue when she started looking for a job, but she was hired because she writes about diabetes. If she's ever in a situation to be seeking employment again, though, who knows?

When Kerri reads other information it doesn't necessarily speak to her questions. She's very specific about her treatment regimen because she teaches diabetics how to LIVE with an illness. The companies that make the devices and treatments can't necessarily speak to how to LIVE with those things.

An audience member talked about her article on how to have sex while wearing a heart monitor under her own name. Kerri wrote about how to have sex with a pump (ha ha). Everyone in her real life, including her previous and current partners, read that article and it caused a little stuff. So, she changed it to a pseudonym.

Another audience member (nomatterhowsmall) talks about infertility and pregnancy loss. One of the things the fertility community has done, via Stirrup Queens, has published a whole set of videos on how to inject yourself without pain and bruising. Half the time the stuff shown by the nurse is the worst way to do it. The non-blog medical information is dry and not really that informative. She also blogs about ADD and talks about which foods cause the meds to work poorly. She'd love it if companies would read the patient experiences more.

Kerri gets email from pharma companies. They want to be engaged, she thinks, but they can't do it publicly.

That same audience member wrote about talking ADD meds while pregnant. A Canadian organization publishes accurate info on what's safe while pregnant. Now a drug company is linking to her blog. She thinks it's weird that they haven't contacted her. Also, fertility doctors and nurses reading their blogs is uncomfortable. She only identifies health providers by name if she's going to sue them.

Casey's doctor reads her blog and thinks she's hysterical.

Jenni's providers read her site, and they give her cards out to other patients. Your blogging is part of you as a whole person.

Mr. Lady asked if we could go over the time limit, then asked the audience member if she's ever afraid someone's going to take her medical advice and die. Everyone yelled "Disclaimer!"

Casey had hyperemesis throughout her first pregnancy and lost 60 pounds during her pregnancy. She tried to commit suicide when she was 7 months pregnant. Women e-mail her asking what she took, and she refuses to tell, because she and her daughter both came out in one piece. She says that if you're not doing well, people need to listen.

Jenni doesn't talk about her specific meds because of the concern that someone will follow her advice and get sick or hurt. One of her Twitter followers started asking her about suicide after seeing a photo of a scar from a surgery. So, she blocked that user. She feels for her, but she can't take care of her. Blogger's responsibilities are not to take care of readers, but they're not responsible for them.

Kerri said it's important to put a big fat "I am not a doctor" disclaimer on every post that could possibly be construed as medical advice. Tell readers, "you shouldn't listen to me to fix you!"

Loolwa thinks that doctors are idiots. Her whole orientation is that she learned how to take care of and heal herself. She doesn't specifically tell people not to go to a doctor, she just tells her own story and her own experience. To her, writing is her conversation with God or the Universe. It's how she thinks and processes what's going on. She doesn't care what other people do with the info on her blog, it's for her. She isn't on a mission to tell anyone what to do or not do.

Dancing with Pain, though, is a company and she's done workshops with people who have chronic pain. She feels she knows more than medical doctors, and should be able to call herself Dr. Khazzoom. Most medical schools don't even have one class or workshop on chronic pain. She feels that she's an expert on chronic pain. agreed. She's a mommy/personal blogger, but started her blog from a medical institution. She's divulged every detail of her many illnesses (depression, infertility) and she has NEVER had backlash and has only gotten positive feedback. She feels that it helps hold the medical community accountable when we share our experiences.

Another audience member feels a responsibility to share her experiences because she's been there and back with chronic migraines and she's tried all the medications out there.

Jenni has a post on her site about the sexual side effects of Celexa where someone learned that her side effect was caused by her Celexa on an episode of Weeds!

Another audience member wondered, with regard to SEO (party planning professor). Some of the searches that come to her scare her to death. Her number one hit is "I hate my life." Casey's is "how to kill yourself while pregnant." Casey has called Australia because of an e-mail she got that scared her. She called the authorities in Australia to tell them the IP address and that she was afraid the writer would hurt herself.

Transformations of the blogs is the next subject. Loolwa gave her background. In 1997 she was in a car accident. Prior to that she was extremely physically active and it was a big part of her identity. The medical non-response to her pain, being dismissed as a hypochondriac, is what really changed her. It was years of hell, a maze of no one caring that her life was going to hell. Doctors injured her, doctors didn't help her, and her condition was furthered. Her spine froze and she could barely walk and doctors still didn't respond. 4 years ago she was contemplating suicide every day, as a routine. She thought it would all just get worse.

She had a mystical transformation experience in the desert in Israel. She started dancing with her arms. She was at a dance retreat, and she ended up tearing up the floor four days later, when she couldn't walk a few days before. She realized the power of dance in that experience and started healing herself with dance.

At that time she was a freelance writer and after her wrists were injured she was fired. She was a writer who couldn't write. She shelled out thousands for voice activated software and got laryngitis from talking so much.

She wanted to position herself as a blogger who writes for magazines, then the article draws health care providers, the media, advertisers, and then she can position herself as a very powerful patient.

Doctors saw her as the crazy, bitching patient (which is common with chornic pain) but by positioning herself as an authority, she could send the link, introduce herself as a journalist, impress them, and be treated with respect because they saw her as a whole, smart, accomplished person - not a name on a chart.

She also blogs to motivate and inspire herself. She wakes up every morning barely able to move and hating life. She wanted to put herself in a position where she couldn't wallow in it. She uses it to pull herself up. When she started blogging she started getting up and dancing.

Her story was one of repeated traumas. She thinks the medical profession created her condition. She needed to tell her story.

She still had fear in telling her story. She thinks there's a toxic ideaology in the alternative/new age medical movement, so that when you talk about what's wrong with the medical establishment people think you're bringing it on yourself, which adds another layer of trauma.

Another fear Loolwa had was that a lot of people see things in black and white. If she can't get out of bed one day, are they going to say "why should I turn to her?" because she had one bad day out of seven.

Loolwa said that she was in a place where she didn't know what to do and she didn't blog for a while because she was stuck. She was talking with some people who she was considering working with, and a woman she'd never met said, "You have this incredible, unique voice... What you offer is really different and really speaks to people." She encouraged Loolwa not to hide. Mr. Lady's excitement about Loolwa's story, and being invited to be on the panel validated her story and she stopped feeling afraid. She got her "eff you" attitude back, and now she's blogging again regularly and she feels like the flack can be written about, now.

Casey started a blog to update her family on the dumb stuff after a move cross country, and then she sat down and decided to write about her overdose, and she did. She then realized that she could write about depression, and she started to. She got an e-mail last year that said, "Seeing you dancing at BlogHer gives me hope that someday I can dance again." And she's here this year, and they danced last night.

Now she's in a place where they want to put her on a shot that's $2000 each. She has a card for someone at the White House, now, and has a direct line to someone to talk about how to help people like her with the health care plan. And she just found out that her insurance is going to cover her shots. It's been a big day!

Talking about it is powerful. Really powerful. And she just started blogging to talk about her kid.

Mr. Lady wrote a momblog as well, with no depth, and then her friend Jim was doing a leap of faith meme. After 30 years of denial she started taking antidepressants because of that internet meme. Then she wrote about it. It changed her blog, and now she writes differently as a result.

Jenni feels like the posts that are the most personal and raw are the ones that get the most attention, because that's when she's being authentic. She tries to put as much of herself in there as she can.

Time ran out at this point, but the discussion continued informally afterwards.

I am on a Streak!

I just won a full set of Michelin tires! I spun a wheel and was the first winner they'd had all day!!!

That totally cheered me up from the tragic loss of about 1/3 of the first session I liveblogged. I hit "submit" at the 15 minute mark, as instructed, and got a 404 not found, and when I hit "back" everything was gone. And I died.

I have never met a more wonderful group of people than the LBGTQ group that I liveblogged for this morning. I felt awkward, at first, because it's such a personal topic, and I am an outsider to their group, but they were so warm and welcoming and wonderful. People came up and hugged me afterwards, even though I totally dropped the ball, and were so sweet. I feel really privileged that they let me into their conversation this morning. I can't wait to get home and go through all the business cards I've gathered and follow all their blogs.

My house will never be clean again after this weekend, I'm telling you. It's ridiculous how many business cards I've collected (and handed, out of course!).

Every time someone walks by with a baby I get all teary because I miss my kids SOOOO much! I called BJ to tell him about the tires and I spoke to them. BJ, Lucy, and Jane are taking the girlies to the fair this afternoon, and I know they're all having fun. I ache for them, though. They drive me nuts, but if I don't see their faces I feel like some essential part of me is missing.

I need to call my mom. Does it feel like this every day when your kids are grown, or do you gradually get used to it over the course of 18 years (or 33)?

I probably just need to go have a good sob and get it over with because whenever anyone says anything even remotely nice to me, I cry. I cried when I won the tires. I cried when my roommate Piper told me she was glad I was rooming with them. I cried when I hung up from talking to the kids. I am an emotional trainwreck.

And now I'm going to go listen to a bunch of fabulous women who have faced or are facing medical crises in their lives and their kids' lives, and I am going to cry again because I am a total mush.

The update with the "Patient Bloggers" session notes should be here around 4 pm or 4:30 Chicago time.

LIVEBLOGGING - A Room of Your Own 2 - Blogqueers

Session Description - Queer bloggers are in every corner of the blogosphere. Sometimes, but not always, their identities bring many issues to their blogging because they write and live through the lens of being queer. Their community is made up of mommybloggers, lifebloggers, craft bloggers, garden bloggers, foodies, business and marketing SMS pros, political pundits, infertility bloggers, literary bloggers, special topic bloggers and bloggers who feel that they don't fit into any niche.

So let's discuss some of the things that come up when blogging, such as: What is the state of the LBGTQ community? Does it meet your needs? Do you feel accepted by straight bloggers in your niche? Do you feel safe enough to blog out of the closet? Have you experienced backlash, and if so what has helped you respond to it? How have you dealt with your partners' and friends' thirst for privacy? And perhaps most importantly, what support do you need to continue blogging with your fullest passion and truest voice? Join Kathryn Martini, Stacy Jill Jacobs and Liza Barry-Kessler as they discuss with you the answers to these questions.

The session began with an assurance that we're in a safe place, and nothing will be published without the speaker's knowledge and consent.

To follow the discussion on Twitter follow #BHQueer .

Liza welcomed everyone to the Queerosphere and encouraged everyone to participate this morning. Stacy and Kathryn also introduced themselves and their blogs. Stacy is @stacyjill, Liza is @Lizawashere, founded Kathryn is @klmartini.

The audience then introduced themselves and their blogs - Trish from and began. Alicia from Chicago Now was next - Brandy Schumaker of Dianna Mullins from . Deb Roy said we sounded like an AA meeting, and she doesn't want to recover! Plugged the party at Hotel Sax at 8:30. Lori Mayers does PR with general motors. @lkr Laura Roeder. Funky Brown Chick Twanna Hines. - @amberlrhea . @KathrinOutLoud. Zoe Gaymo - Jen Khatchatrian - looking for transgendered children in Chicago - @ecochic .

Kathryn had an e-mail on Tuesday from a woman with a trans child in Portland. Agreed that we have to create ways to find each other. People all over the world e-mail her about coming out. Assured Jen that people are out there with a similar situation. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I lost the middle - I am SO SORRY - this wifi is unreliable. The middle of the talk focused on negative comments and how to deal with them. One blogger requires commenters to register. Another deletes hate comments immediately as they appear. Others allow the discussion to occur. One woman suggested that it depends on whether or not the commenter has a real e-mail address and other identifiers.

A lot of the focus was on diversity within the queer community and how to reach out to everyone as bloggers and as homosexuals.

Stacy uses controversial words all the time, which is confusing to her parents sometimes because "queer" was a slur when they were growing up. Says it's all about educating people, saying "this word is ok." There are a lot of people who are still creeped out by the word "queer."

Kathryn said Portland used the term "keep Portland queer," and sponsors backed out because of the name (a few years ago). For her personally and online, she's careful not to identify someone as a lesbian because that's an assumption. She thinks it's important to not label others.

Polly from Lesbian Dad says that with all writing you define your reading audience by what you're saying, and you also educate your audience. The internet enables people to reach new audiences. She's careful to describe cultural references that people outside the community would not understand. She writes "bilingually."

Polly thinks that by writing in an affirming way, she helps provide more visibility for an invisible community. It opens the door for people who want to have a conversation. She had a conversation with an evangelical straight woman in Mississippi who writes the same way Polly does, and has a genuine desire to connect.

Kathrin writes on the diversity project about being mixed and transnational. She writes about being a lesbian in German. Her language and her context have changed since living in the US. Going back and forth from German to English causes comments asking for explanations of her word choice. Transnational outness is complicated.

Stacy says that it has been amazing, coming out to her family, having grown up in Chicago. They've been great. She's able to educate them through her blog.

Kathryn finds it fascinating when she gets comments from straight men who are regular readers. She got a beautiful letter that went on and on and made her cry, but she wanted to know why he reads her blog.

Polly said that when you read in private it's different from going to a bookstore or a library and getting a book. Privacy allows dimensions of people to be explored.

Liza says you can stumble on something that you wouldn't think to look for and connect with someone.

Polly talked about commonalities between people. She writes about the death of her nephew and it provides a bridge between herself and her readers who may be different. Writing erodes the divisions between people.

Kathryn spoke to someone who was able to embrace two women who came out in his life because he had read her blog.

Twanna said that's beautiful. She did a demographic study of her readers and found that middle aged white men love her site. Blog allows her to give people insight into her world.

Stacy has watched her friends from high school comment and has been surprised that people she would never have expected have been clue.

Sara Dopp from - she started it as PR for the gender queer, basically trying to reach her mother, and now it's a thriving site. She was shocked to find that she was reaching closeted and isolated gender queers who were afraid of coming out in real life. She edits for her mom and reaches the closeted and isolated, and is fulfilled by that.

Amy the mic runner reads a lot of queer blogs because she wants to raise an openminded child.

Zoe started her blog to reach a lesbian community because there isn't one in her town. She found a different group than she expected. A lot of her readers and commenters are men. She wonders how they got to her. She never realized how many straight people thought gays were so different from themselves.

Kathryn said that straight people think gay people are so much more exciting than they really are.

Trish said that afterellen's commenters will straight bash, then the straight women who read it will come out and defend themselves. Wonders if anyone has changed anything they write for a straight audience, or is more conscious of that because they don't want to be perceived as anti-straight.

Kathryn doesn't censor herself. Ever. It has caused issues, but she feels that as a writer she will write about her life. Thinks the community has a problem with bi and straight bashing. Kathryn thinks sexuality is a continuum that we're all on. She thinks that the community needs to address that.

Polly said that she feels that a national lesbian conference is necessary. There's a breakfast at West Egg Cafe - there's a post at - Sunday at 9 am. She has a badge that links to the post on her website - - on the sidebar. Look for BlogHer Mashup with spoons and the skyline on it.

Kathryn and Stacy want to brainstorm a queer blogging conference at brunch. There's also a Queer table at lunch today.

Stacy encouraged people to keep blogging! Liza brought six copies of her book for sale for $30. She has an essay about launching her blog in it.

Stacy plugged the Queerosphere party at the Crimson Lounge tonight at 8:30 pm - Hotel Sax. Encouraged people to use #bhqueer on Twitter.