Cougel attends her first blog conference (I know I couldn't believe it either)

Since I’m a blogger now I thought it would benefit me to go to the annual four-day blog conference for women called “BlogHer,” held at the New York Hilton this past weekend. I had no idea what I was getting into. My goal was to learn about effective blogging and get the “Cougel” name out there. I even had cute little business cards printed at Staples to hand to people just in case.

A friend whom I credit for inspiring me to start blogging was a keynote speaker and graciously gave me a pass to the awards gala and reception. He was the only dude (outnumbered, the name of his blog) amongst sixteen women to speak, and judging by his opening remark, even he must have been overwhelmed by all the estrogen. “My penis is so confused,” he said into the mic. I couldn’t blame him, or his penis for that matter.  This blogging thing, I realized in that moment, is no laughing matter, and people who do it do it passionately. For a while I felt like I was at a Star Trek convention but instead of Clingons there were moms with bags of swag, laughing in groups or grazing at the buffet of free popcorn and Diet Coke. They all wore thick badges with their names and blogs, while I had a sad little wristband that said “Admit One Free.” I felt like the new kid transferred to a new high school sophomore year; invisible, with a lot of catching up to do.

Those of you who joined my blog when I started it in March know that I found my “writer voice” after an abrupt life change (ok, divorce), and recognize that my going to 1) a convention, 2) the Hilton in midtown, and 3) any place where I’m required to sit still and listen for over an hour, qualifies as a big step.  A new path, if you will. 

When the speeches started, I sat down at a table alone, and hid behind my only friend, Twitter, only to discover that most of the tweets were from women at the conference – possibly sitting just seats away.  This did not bode well for me, because I’m a total “tweetard,” getting only marginally better with practice.  Which at BlogHer, and as a blogger in general, is a major liability. There were people in attendance that I “follow” but have never met, so we tried to meet up, via Twitter. For example: “@cougel ur tweet says ur @#blogher10, I’m in back jeans blu jacket.” God forbid we should just call or text each other. In the world of social media apparently even texting is obsolete.

Most of them already seemed to know each other anyway, and were keen to meet the “famous” bloggers (read: the popular girls, the eligible prom queens) who have at least 3,000 followers on Twitter and are sponsored by recognizable brand names. I discovered that many are “Mommy Bloggers.”  And BlogHer is an opportunity for said mommys to leave the kids they write about at home In Iowa and come to the Big Apple to cut loose. Since I’m not a mommy, I felt like an even bigger loser.  Although I did find it inspiring to see how blogging has provided women who may feel disconnected from the world – geographically and emotionally – with a means to reach out and touch one another.  No, not in that way. Although I happened to notice that many gay women and single men were in attendance. I heard there was a sponsor with a sex toys booth that was quite popular. Too bad I missed it, but I think you need to be a mommy to get the gadgets for free anyway.

After the “Voices of the Year Gala,” where the winning bloggers read selections from their own blogs, there was a reception. Read: a chance to down some liquid courage and finally start promoting my own blog. First hurdle: drink tickets were required. Second hurdle: you could only buy them if you had purchased a full pass – a badge – not a gifted paper wristband.  That was all the motivation I needed to make new badge-wearing friends.  “Hi, you don’t know me but can you please buy me a drink ticket so I can meet more people? Great, thanks! Oh, here’s my business card. Follow me on Twitter!”

I managed to meet some interesting people, and possibly a few whose friendships could stretch beyond tweets into the sacred email address circle. I chatted with some fine ladies in a line for what appeared to be some kind of fortuneteller with a typewriter. I didn’t know typewriters were manufactured anymore, let alone permitted anywhere near an iPhone Blackberry tweeting extravaganza. A pretty woman with jet-black hair sat behind it, and asked each woman whose turn it was: “Tell me something about yourself.” Then she would think hard, look down at the typewriter and start clacking away onto a small slip of paper. She was writing haikus (“momkus,” the name of her blog) that strove to inspire or capture the essence of each person. She was like a mommy fortune cookie, making us eager to see what soothing words lay inside.

When it was my turn, I said (and I have no idea where this came from…probably five drink tickets), “Write something about the intersection of past and future…which is where I am now…I guess.” And then I realized, as I looked around the room filled with bold, talented women, that I was indeed at an intersection of sorts, professionally as well as emotionally.

When she handed me the slip of paper, I gasped. It said: 

The sign said one way,
So that’s where I went.
Now what?
Illegal u-turn to my destiny.

I think she was on to something. Is it possible that I’m finally learning how to recognize – and turn onto – the road less traveled, the road that is for me?

OK that’s probably too heavy of a question to answer definitively here, but one thing is clear. The little turn I took into the Hilton, into a world I was unfamiliar with, seemed to pay off.  I handed out at least twenty Cougel business cards that night.

Wait, is that another Twitter follower alert I hear?

Gotta go now.

PS. Insert shameless, yet expected plug here: Follow me on Twitter. Or, Facebook works too. Maybe if I hit the 3,000 followers mark I can speak at BlogHer20!
PPS. Check out Momku’s blog. This mommy blogger’s got skills: www.momku.com