The BlogHer Conference: One Starfish at a Time

BlogHer Original Post

This moment defines BlogHer '15 for me. I looked down at my hand and my ring wasn't there. IT WASN'T THERE.

I immediately flipped out, tossing everything out of my bag and crawling underneath the table. But here's the thing. No one sat there and watched, but only one person at the table knew me before I sat down with my plate.

In other words, a bunch of strangers helped me search for my ring. Two people looked around the top of the table. A woman turned on the light on her phone and held it out while Journeywoman crawled on the floor beside me, calmly repeating that we would find it.

And we did. It had apparently fallen into my bag when I went to pull out something.

And that's BlogHer. You keep running into that impulse throughout the conference, whether we're talking about lost rings or getting someone to connect you with the right person to make your dream project a reality.

You meet up with people you know or you sit down next to people you never met before, and you immediately find yourself in a supportive environment. It is immediately collaborative. You will find people who will help you look for your ring, or you will find people who will champion your project. And it's all part of the same story.

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There were so many good keynotes. The conference kicked off with the brilliant and moving #BlackLivesMatter keynote. It's really hard to summarize the talk into a quick paragraph, so instead I will focus on a single moment.

At the end of the keynote, Patrisse (one of the founders of BlackLivesMatter) led us in the chant done at every BlackLivesMatter event: It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but out chains.

We started with a whisper, then spoke the words in a normal volume, and finally shouted the words. It was a really powerful sound.

The one that made me dive for my iPad and take the most notes was the one with Shireen Mitchell and Brianna Wu. Such smart, articulate women. My brain is still churning around everything they said.

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My mother made Gwyneth Paltrow choke up. So here is the story. My mother once heard that Bruce Paltrow took Gwyneth to Paris so that her first experience in the city would be with a person who loved her completely. And my mother wanted me to have the same experience. She didn't want me to throw away my first Paris experience on a backpacking trip. She wanted me to go to the city in love -- whether that was romantic love or familial love. Just love.

Elisa told Gwyneth the story during the keynote, and Gwyneth filled in her end of the story. I didn't think to record it for my mum until it was half-over. This version cuts off the first part which gives you the context where Elisa told Gwyneth my mum's story, but SheKnows got the rest of it (thank you, SheKnows!):

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I got to hang out a lot with Journeywoman from Pages, Stages, and Rages, whom I've read for years and years and years. It was amazing finally getting to be in the same room with her.

Melissa and Journeywoman

And I got to meet Hopeful Luna, too, but realized we didn't take a picture until I had sat down for the next session and couldn't find her again.

That is one of the best parts about BlogHer, walking around and meeting people face to face that you've been reading for years. I've said it before but I'll say it again. It feels a little bit like falling into Wonderland.

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There's this game, Wishbringer, where there is a seahorse dying on a wharf. If you toss the seahorse in, you can solve a different puzzle later in the game. In other words, the action makes a difference.

Soledad O'Brien told a similar story about starfish. The sea washes in millions of starfish, and they're dying on the sand. A little boy goes down the beach, tossing as many starfish as he can back into the water. A man stops him and points out that it is an impossible task. So many starfish will still die regardless of how many he tosses in. It doesn't make a difference.

The boy looks at the starfish he's holding and says, "It makes a difference to this one."

And that's sort of the point of BlogHer, too. You go and realize you can make a difference for another person. You can connect them to someone else or help them with their project or just give them positive feedback so they continue to use their voice. And you get that back, too.

Does it solve the problem for ALL the women who are inadvertently and purposefully silenced online? No. But it makes a difference to this starfish, and I like to think that my actions make a difference to other starfish.

That is BlogHer -- the conference and the site -- making a difference one starfish at a time.

I'm back. I'm recharged. I have a bit of a BlogHer Hangover this morning; that feeling when you thud back to reality and you're wondering how to take that energy and run with it. But yeah, it was a really really really good conference this year and I can't wait to see what's on the plate for BlogHer '16.

What was your experience at the conference?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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