BlissDom 2013: The Good, The Very Good, and The Awesome

There is something special about spending almost an entire week with people who speak my language. People who speak Online Storytelling and Sparkle. It’s a fairly specific language. Even better is how very different everyone is from each other. How – on paper – we shouldn’t click, shouldn’t like each other; but, somehow through this creative thing we all do, we fit. There are so many things I want to say about BlissDom 2013, but I will try to keep it somewhat simple.

There was so much really great knowledge shared in the sessions I attended and in conversations in the hallway. So much that I think they each deserve a post of their own. I’ll give you an overview of the brain part and then I’ll tell you the heart and spirit part.

Soaking Up Knowledge

There were so many opportunities for learning this year at BlissDom. The keynotes were fantastic and the sessions I attended were well worth my time. The keynote from Scott Stratten was entertaining and affirming (in the, I’m-glad-I’m-doing-it-right kind of way). I look forward to reading his book The Book of Business Awesome (which he gave everyone attending the conference). The next keynote, an interview lead by the wonderful Danielle Smith, was with Susan Cain. You might have heard of Susan’s new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (which I will be buying soon!) Her discussion about introverts and extroverts was fascinating. I’ve always thought I was more of an extrovert, but I’m finding that I lean toward the introvert side, and listening to Susan and Danielle speak was so interesting. The last keynote was with Jon Accuff, who I saw at last’ year’s BlissDom. He was great as usual, and gifted the BlissDom attendees with a special pre-press copy of his new book, Start.

I was really happy with the breakout sessions I was able to attend. Shelly Kramer gave fantastic tips for writing for the web, Wendy Scherer talked about using data for marketing, CC Chapman shared his view on living an amazing life, Lisa Leonard shared so many ways to tell your story without apology (and let Bridget and me take what may be the best speaker photo every), and Lucrecer Braxton gave us simple and effective tips for better portraits. I learned so many different things from these great people, and I love that I can use Shelly’s and Wendy’s tips at work in some ways. When you listen to CC you can’t help but be inspired, and Lu is the same way. I was really looking forward to Lisa’s session because I do a lot of self-censorship when I write, and it’s something I want to change.

Road Trips & Roomies

You guys. I can’t really put into words how awesome the roadtrip to BlissDom and my roommates were. I drove the 8 or so hours to Dallas. I was supposed to pick up Ellen (@BloomMaternity) in San Antonio, but she had to change her plans at the last minute, it was the only really bad part of the whole week. I did get to pick up Kim (@prairiemama) in Austin, so I got to spend some great time with her the rest of the way. Luckily, Bridget (@iveyleaguemama) was landing as we were getting in to Dallas, so Kim and I decided to swing by and pick her up and then head to the hotel. Y’all, this was the first adventure of the weekend. Pro tip: When you go to DFW, make sure you know the flight and/or airline your friend is coming in on. Because you can’t tell tollbooth guy, “Do you know where flights from Atlanta are coming in? Do you know Bridget? She’s a blogger?” So doesn’t work. The roadtrip back home wasn’t as eventful, but I learned so much from Kim about her faith, and I got to stop in San Antonio and visit with Ellen (and give her the fun bag of goodies from BlissDom).

My roommates were fantastic. I know a lot of people say that, but mine were truly amazing. I met Bridget and Katie (@motherbumper) last year at BlissDom and we connected right away. My abs still hurt from the laughing we did over the four nights we were there. Let me give you this list of words that describes our hotel room for those days: Canadian candy, maple syrup, cupcakes, laugh crying, ADD, cake, men-with-hooks, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Poo-pourri, Single White Female, needless apologies (Katie being Canadian and all), laugh crying, ending blogging, kids, bothering our neighbors with laughter, and awkward introductions to speakers in the hallways. And laughing.

Heads on a stick

There were so many wonderful friends who couldn’t make it to BlissDom, so we made some Heads on A Stick so they would feel like they’d been there. These girls got rowdy y’all. They were drinking and eating and feeling up the other attendees. Out of hand.

Handmade Marketplace, Entertainment and Sponsors

As it was last year, the Handmade Marketplace was fantastic! The lovely Sara Sophia did an amazing job getting all of those vendors together and offering such great stuff for attendees to buy and fall in love with. I have so many of the vendors marked as new favorites. The entertainment at BlissDom was a little different this year. I think I would have enjoyed the interviews with the All My Children cast if there hadn’t been so much talking around us. Chris Mann and Amber Riley did a fantastic job and have incredible voices. As a bonus, the Spazmatics were playing at the Glass Cactus on Girls Night Out after Chris and Amber and I danced my butt off while screamsinging songs from the 80s. At Girls Night In, we got to hear from Jeremy Sisto, Ana Gasteyer, and of the writers (I feel like a jerk for forgetting her name) from Suburgatory. Ana Gasteyer was accosted by Nichole and me while she was innocently trying to watch the episode of the show that was being screened for us. I love Ana. A lot.

As always, the BlissDom folks bring fantastic partners/sponsors who take the time to connect with the attendees. Please take a minute to check out the partners, as they really help make the conference one that I can afford to attend!

Reconnecting & New Friends

I love the time I got to spend reconnecting with people I’d met before and making new friends. I restrained myself from being a total fangirl in that I didn’t actually scream when I met Meagan Francis, Kyran Pittman, Christine Koh, Lisa Leonard and Laura Mayes. I did however, take a minute to get pictures with most of them as they are all women/bloggers/authors/entrepenuers who I admire.

That’s the thing about BlissDom for me, the connections. I met so many people I admire, whether they are a “big deal” or not. I met women who had fought hard to be there, women who were about to launch a new blog or a new business, women who “just” have a little blog whose biggest reader is their mom. I met Nichole who Robin match me with before BlissDom, and who made me snort laugh with her Sling Blade voice; and I met Piper in real life, finally, and she was just as wonderful as I thought she’d be! There are so many more people I wanted to meet, but just didn’t get a chance. I’m hoping to meet them at a future BlissDom, or at least get to know them online this year.

And now, here are way too many photos from BlissDom! And if these aren’t enough for you, I’ll be adding more to my Facebook page!

BlissDomSponsors

Some of the wonderful sponsors: Johnson and Johnson let us make promises; The Minion hung out for photos; and the Office Candy Girls let me drool over pretty office supplies

SherryRobinBridgetBlissDom

Robin O’Bryant makes me laugh. In real life, not just with her words.

SherryChristineLauraBlissDom

Christine Koh and Laura Mayes. A lot of awesome in one picture.

NicholeAnaSherryBlissDom

Nichole and I forcing Ana to take a photo with us.

NewFriends

New friends: Piper, Ellen, Meagan, Megan, Katie, Sara Sophia (last photo courtesy of Jana)

BridgetandSherrySquishLisaBlissDom

Lisa Leonard lets us take what might be the best conference photo of all time.

HeadsOnAStickBlissDom

Greis, Robin, Ellen, and Rachel couldn’t make it, but their heads came on a stick!

FriendsBlissDom

 

 

What’s In It For Me? Or Why I Have A Blog

When I was getting ready for BlissDom ’12, one of the many questions that came up was what my blog was about. There are people who write on blogs who have very specific niches, and some, like me, who don’t (although I have more of a niche than a lot of people). I have a little blog, I don’t have advertising, I haven’t done any sponsored writing, and the giveaways I’ve done have been wonderful things from friends. I think all of those things are fine, I just haven’t done them.

The other version of “what is your blog about” is what my goal is for my blog. Perhaps because I’m not selling anything or supporting my family with revenue from my blog, I answer, “to have a place to write.” That’s what I want from my blog. If the stories or posts touch someone, then I’m good. If they don’t? And only my mom has seen the post? Then I’m good there too. I feel better in my mind and my spirit when I’ve gotten some words down on paper or screen. One of the things I loved about BlissDom was finding other writers who still use their blogs as a place to write (whether they made money from their blogs or not). I was glad to find that I wasn’t the only one without a big ol’ goal for my blog.

Do you have a creative outlet? Write, craft, sing, dance? Why do you do it? What’s in it for you?

The Post-BlissDom Swirl

There are a lot of things swirling in my brain post-BlissDom. Not comparing my beginning to someone else’s middle (@JonAccuff). The difference between popularity and likeability…and not having to choose between being likeable and being respected (@ssmirnav). The amazing connections and brilliant women I met. Being asked if I was bi-racial (@mrlady). At least I thought that was Shannon’s question. And looking for my hinge moment.

And here’s the one that I really need to get into my head: I’m a writer (@JeffGoins). I tell people I like to tell stories, but I shy away from saying I’m a writer. But Jeff seems to think I’m a writer. Maybe I just need some more practice.

I think it’s interesting that both Jeff and Jon talked about using the hours that nobody else wants to do what *I* want. So (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), I’m going to get up early to write and read and scrap. Because the time when my family is awake and I am home? That shouldn’t be the time when my face is lit up by the screen.

In the middle of the glitter and the laughing and the celebrity sightings (I’m talking about you, Lorax), these seeds of change found their way into my brain and my heart. It’s up to me now to nourish them. And, apparently, that nourishment will be happening at 5:00 a.m.

Jumping In To Bliss

I’m finally doing it. And I can’t believe it. And I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for Ellen. I’m going to Blissdom ’12! I’ve been watching other blogging folk talk about, cry about, laugh about and tweet about Blissdom for four years. And this year, I get to be one of them!

Here’s the deal about Blissdom, it’s about inclusion. Inclusion of new bloggers, experienced bloggers, women who use blogging to express a hobby, women who make a living with their blogs, all races, all abilities, and more. Since the conference started the speakers have been invited because they are inspirational and educational. Blissdom attendees learn and network and grow. Partnerships are built and friendships are made. And, like other blogging conferences, Blissdom is often the only time when some online friends see each other in real life. Basically, Blissdom is awesome covered in glitter.

What do I hope to get out of Blissdom? It’s not as lofty an aspiration as some attendees have, but I’m most excited about meeting some of the people I’ve been talking with and reading about for years. I’m really hoping I’m not a total fangirl who completely flips out and makes a fool of herself. Or, if I can’t manage to keep it together, that my victims will take it in the spirit in which I flip out.

I also have a goal of learning. Many of the other attendees have been writing and blogging a significant amount of time and I am anxious to learn from them. Mistakes, lessons learned, whatever they want to offer, I’ll soak it up! The speakers this year are writers, lawyers, public relations counselors, life coaches, photographers, artists and business people. If there is a topic I could possibly want to learn about, it’s in this one (giant) conference area.

Like any good organization that learns from the years before, the Blissdom ladies change things up to improve the current year’s event. This year’s big change is the addition of Community Leaders.  From the Blissdom Conference site:

This year Community Leaders will help facilitate hands-on, small-group discussions during each session within all four tracks. They will use their extensive experience to lead round-table workshops based on the top-level professional advice given by speakers so attendees leave with practical take-aways that relate to a variety of niches.

Why is it a big deal to have Community Leaders? To me the answer is simple, to help take some fairly high-level information from the speakers and help attendees understand how they can apply it to their lives. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we’re trying to absorb a lot of information (especially if it’s particularly inspiring) and we feel sort of overwhelmed. I love that in the same session where attendees have heard all this fantastic information they’ll have a chance to digest it, brainstorm it and talk it out in a facilitated discussion with a small group and a Community Leader. Genius!

I’m honored that I’ve been asked to be a Community Leader in the Entrepreneur/Business/Social Media/Tech Niche. I’m excited at the prospect of helping other attendees (especially those who may be newer to blogging or social media) digest and absorb the information they’ve gotten. I hope I can make the Bliss Chicks proud!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m also excited about getting to stay at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville; excited about getting to hang out with Ellen (an old friend from San Antonio who I haven’t seen for years); and excited about the Handmade Marketplace which will be at Blissdom for the first time.

I would love to hear about your conference experiences (whether work or fun). What should I make sure to do?

 

I’m baaaack!

Hopefully someone noticed I hadn’t written in a while. Between it being “that time of the year” for me and life, I just didn’t make time to come over here. But, I’m back. You can all rest easy now! Because I have lots of minutiae to share. That’s right, I just used “minutiae”. Aren’t you glad I’m back?

Oh. Hi.

So I have all these things I want to write about…but nothing comes. I have five or six posts started, things I want to chat about or am angsty about or think are funny; but, something stops me from finishing them or hitting publish. There are other things I’m finding myself postponing or avoiding. Nothing earth-shattering…I’m paying bills and feeding my kids and working…but other things, not so much.

So there’s that.

Mighty Job Hunter!

I love my job. I mean, I really, really love it. My colleagues are amazing, I do creative work, I feel like I’m making a difference to the people in my community, and I am good at my work. But here I am, looking for another job.

It’s a strange feeling to be looking, I feel like I’m cheating on an wonderful spouse. Despite that cheaty feeling, I’m looking for another awesome job, this time in Austin.

Here are some things I look for in a new job (in no particular order):

  • Located in the general Austin area (I want to live with my husband!),
  • I want to write and create,
  • I want to make a difference in my community,
  • I want to have fun at work,
  • I want to work in Public Relations, Social Media, or Marketing, and
  • I want to be excited to go to work every day.

If you’d like to pass my information on to someone, feel free to share my LinkedIn profile (www.linkedin.com/in/sherrycarrsmith)

You can also pass along my information from my About.Me page (www.about.me/sherrycarrsmith)

 

Hopes for 2011, February & March Update

I know we’re into April, but I still wanted to update how February and March went. You can look back to my January update if you’re *really* that into my list!

Feeling 16 again. This one is the general health one. The biggest thing I did here was go see my doctor for a physical. The good news is that my body isn’t falling apart (always a positive, yes?) I also did this alternative therapy to try to get rid of  some pain in my heel/ankle. It hurt really bad, the treatment was expensive, and it hasn’t worked that well…so I guess my next move is to power through. So, now I just have to get off my rear and start working out. For me the fitness thing really kicks in when I start working out because I don’t want to mess up all my hard work by choosing the wrong food.

Don’t over commit. This one has been more difficult than I thought it would be. I did give up a gig that I have been hanging on to (and feeling guilty about) for too long. It was a huge relief.

Drink more! I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit here. I’m definitely having more water, but I’ve also been slipping on the diet soda. I’ve been trying really hard not to have it after noon though, hoping it will help both Tobin and me sleep.

Budget. We’re doing pretty well on this one. With our tax return we paid off some big chunks and did some other necessary things. Now we’re working on figuring out where we are, what our new costs are, and budgeting accordingly.

Give. After my friend, Ronny, died in March, we gave to The Livestrong Foundation. I’ve also been exploring Love Drop which is a fairly new organization, but one that is helping its donors (team) feel connected in their giving.

Get Green. I’ve been doing small things here and there for this goal. Not as much as I hope to work up to, but it’s slowly happening.

Follow directions. Following directions is hard, y’all. After visiting with the doctor in March, I’ve gotten better at this, but still not the most compliant patient.

Scrap. I haven’t scrapped much, but I did a lot of crafting for Tobin’s birthday party the first week of March, so that counts, right?

Write. I’ve been writing more here, but not my other outlets…so I’ll get right on that.

Remove distractions. This has probably been the one goal I’ve been the most proactive in reaching. We’ve cleaned out our closet, cleaned out Nicholas’ closet, posted items we aren’t using anymore for sale, I’ve cleaned out a couple of email accounts, and recycled a ton of old magazines. Still more to do, but I love the feeling of not have so much around.

So, how are your resolutions or goals for 2011 coming? I want to hear all about it!