Anyway, if you are a writer, or a blogger, than you needed to be at this event. Seriously, this is the best conference I have ever attended. No shade all the other conferences I have gone to but there is something fantastic about finally getting an opportunity to meet other like-minded people. I mean, seriously, how many writing conventions, especially writing conferences for Black folks, are there really?
Besides all the great information, Blogging While Brown proved to be an excellent opportunity to network, which is saying a lot considering my general disdain for networking. Yeah I know it is important, especially if you are trying to make moves in your respective field. However, I could never truly engage myself in the process of schmoozing and business card exchanging. And I finally figured out why.
You see, there isn’t much value, for me at least, at many of the networking events; I have attended in the past. It might be cool, if you are trying to connect with people in Fortune 500 companies or jockeying for a corporate position but for folks in more creative, less button down professions, such as being a journalist or a blogger – or a journalist/blogger - chances are you end up collecting business cards, which will amount to nothing more than clutter in the bottom of your purse.
I have been at networking events where I have told a person, usually some dude in a striped button-down shirt and bow tie, that I am a writer and the response I get back is something like, “Oh, you’re a writer? Well that’s interesting. I once wrote a poem once in elementary school about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a good poem and I got an ‘A.’ I thought about writing professionally but there is no money. Anyway, where have I seen your work?” True story. As if he hadn’t seen my writing, it doesn’t exist. But I smile politely through gritted teeth knowing damn well his poor conceived tribute to the I Have A Dream speech he performed in front of the 2nd grade class is nowhere close to the time and effort I have put into my craft. I used to take it personally but I too noticed the same reception from the bow ties when I tell them that my full time gig is in the non-profit field. Then it is, “Oh that’s interesting. I once volunteered in a soup kitchen on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” And that’s why I stopped going to these events.
Anyway, there is nothing like being surrounded by your own elk. I know I said this already but I just have to say it again. Folks, who are smart, worldly, talkative and have an opinion on just about every topic under the sun. There were relationship bloggers and fashion and beauty bloggers, political bloggers and bloggers like me, who lack a clear niche and whose personal space on the web mimics the chaotic mess that exist in their minds. Being at the conference I feel like that little girl in the film Rabbit Proof Fence, who had been maliciously separated from her family and decided walked through hundreds of miles of harsh Australian back to be reunited with her clan - except I just caught the subway downtown Philadelphia. But I did drive for the evening workshop and man, that traffic was brutal.
And so many have been able to fully capitalize off their blogging. Like Patrice Grell Yursik, who turned her passion about natural hair morphed into the very popular (and profitable) Afro Bella. And Angel Laws, founder and creator of the award winning Concrete Loop website, who site helped her to become a bestselling author. And Fred Mwangaguhunga (try saying that three times. Hell, try saying that once), former attorney turned pop-culture expert, whose site Mediatakeout has lead the web as the number 1 urban gossip sites. Blogging is a growing business. While some of us tend to neglect the business side of things (ahem me) others are making lucrative – or at least livable – careers off of their most personal thoughts. And not only is it growing but it is serious. Like, you have to have your game down pack in order to survive. You have to know about branding and monetizing your website. You have to work at it for hours and make sure that what you put out there is of good quality. You have to treat blogging like it’s a job (or a second job for those, who still have full time gigs).
Other things I’ve learned at the conference:
- Business cards. Seriously, who knew that bloggers needed business cards? Apparently I didn’t because I was the only one there who didn’t have my insignia on a 3.5-by-2 inch rectangular shape piece of cardboard.
- Know your worth. There are lots of online publications, who feel that bloggers are not real writers. Therefore they feel like they don’t have to pay you real money. If you are putting in real time to write, than you should expect some real compensation.
- It is totally possible to go from blogger to publish author. You just need a proposal and some prayer.
- I need a damn iPad or tablet of some sort. Along with business cards, everyone was real time blogging on one of those things. I mean, I could have brought my laptop but I didn’t feel like lugging it on the train. Hence why a tablet is the thing to have.
- Social Networking is a must. I have to admit that while I am very active on my personal Facebook page, I totally have neglected Twitter and PPT’s Fan Page. I should be updating every day, several times a day.
The Root has a really good rundown of events, which took place at the conference. Overall, I have to say that Gina McCauley, founder of Blogging While Brown (and founder of What About Our Daughters) and Aminah Hanan, executive director of BWB, did a bang up job putting this event together. And again, for me I really enjoyed meeting, and in just being in the room, with so many great writers, bloggers and thinkers. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
Oh, I would like to give a special shout out to a few new friends I have made, in no particular order:
Yales Smith, author of Goal Driven Woman
Fajr Muhammad, founder & chief editor of Stylish Thoughts
Ruth Kalinka, principal designer of Ruth Kalinka Designs
Monae Everett, beauty blogger
Terri Davis-Merchant, founder and blogger of Try Anything Once
Danielle J, founder and blogger of Wordyless
Shareef Jackson, blogger of Operation Cubicle
Rochelle Beard, owner and CEO of Magnolia Dreams
Aminah Hanan, executive director of Blogging While Brown
Alexis Garrett Stodghill, New York editor of The Grio.
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