PreCon Preview: The Change Yourself Track

BlogHer Original Post

Our blogs can be tremendous vehicles for life change -– whether we're trying to effect it, document it, or heal from its aftermath. This Change Yourself track explores how our blogs can trigger or support personal transformation. Want to grow? Join in to these conversations

We start off with a bang: Day One's first panel, Your Perfect Imperfections: Blogging Your Way to Self-Acceptance, goes right to the most vulnerable core of personal narrative blogs.  When we tell our stories, how much do we tell? For any number of reasons, many of us feel compelled to hide our imperfections.  Others of us take a different approach, though.  Many actively explore our imperfections through our blogs, and in doing so help both ourselves and our readers in the process. At this panel, four women who have "gone there" talk about what it has taken to embrace imperfection publicly, and what it has given back. Moderator Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project is a #1 New York Times bestseller, and her blog of the same name sustains ongoing conversation on the subject of happiness. Brené Brown's research on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame has captured the imagination of many, whether they've heard her on national news media or in their University of Houston college classroom. The emotional honesty in Mr. Lady's writing is like strong medicine to many: bracing, but healing.  Challenging, but transformative.  Her online presence has a transformed great deal too, and she'll tell you all about how and why. Like Mr. Lady, Shauna James Ahern, as Gluten-Free Girl, has shared both trials and triumphs with equal openness. The line between intimacy and vulnerability is a subtle one, join these four to examine where you draw yours.

After lunch on Friday, storied photographer Penny De Los Santos will share Food Photography That Will Feed Your Soul, a slide show of her food photography that looks at food beyond the plate, and instead as a universal tie that binds peoples and cultures and families. Her session affirms that it is not just blogging with words that can change us, but images too. Seeing the world through Penny's lens, her images and stories will speak to you, uncover your stories, inspire you to find it in you to dream big and leap

But what do you do to keep those dreams not just alive, but evolving, and continually challenging?  How do you keep it fresh? Author and blogger Kyran Pittman will ask those very questions of three long-time bloggers on Old-School Bloggers: Beginner to Big-Time to Burnout and Everywhere in Between. Jennifer Satterwhite has been online since the 1990s, when she started a small online journal after the birth of her second child. Elizabeth Thielke has been writing online since 2003, as has been Kathryn Finney.  Between them they've evolved in all sorts of directions, and learned a lot about how to stay in it for the long haul.  Sometimes -– as Kyran has found -– the solution is to stop entirely, and begin anew. If you find yourself starting a lot of sentences with "Back when I started blogging...", this session is probably for you.

Saturday morning starts with another dive into the challenges and rewards of unfettered online honesty: 'Til Blog Do Us Part takes a long look at the impact of blogging your intimate relationship, through challenges, dissolution, and beyond. Britt Reints, who blogged her way to the edge of divorce and back, moderates a fascinating discussion with a wide-ranging group of bloggers who have examined this issue from all sides. Deesha Philyaw co-founded a website and co-authored a book on CoParenting with her ex-husband. Doug French blogged through the dissolution of his marriage and over to the other side, a co-parenting blog with his ex.  And in addition to her own blog, Erin Mantz writes about parenting after divorce for The Huffington Post. Each made their own decisions about what to say, what not to say, and what role their blogging played in straining and mending their relationships. You're going to want to be a part of this conversation.

The Change Yourself track's Saturday afternoon offerings are in intriguing counterpoint: Gwen Bell works together with you to answer the question Unplug, Unfriend, Unfollow, Unwind: Is That Sacrilege?  At a blogging conference, surrounded by thousands of others immersed in social media often 'round the clock, spend 75 minutes considering and discussing why, and how, you should consider taking a digital sabbatical and realigning your online life.

The last panel in the track means to tell the truths about the joys and challenges that come with growing an online community. Your community can be there for  you when you need them, and sometimes they can be the last thing you want to deal with!"  How Do You Sustain an Online Community and Keep Your Own Sanity?  Moderator Maria Niles asks this question of four women– Eden Kennedy, Elisa Batista, Julia Roberts, and Marie “Riese” Lyn Bernard -– who know a heckuva lot about community: building it, nurturing it, sustaining it, and finding a way to keep it from driving them up a tree.

Whether you're in a rut or in a groove, each of these conversations is bound to challenge you to consider whole new ways to use your online life -– or set it aside -– as a means to grow.