When I woke up on the morning on June 4th, I admit I was a little bit excited. I was excited to officially start my BEA experience, and potentially meet fellow bloggers, and to start networking, and start learning more about my new found craft. Unfortunately, I quickly came to find myself disappointed. I did get to meet some fellow bloggers which was awesome but the “advice” I received regarding blogging was a different story because none of it even felt useful to me even as a newbie.
The BEA Bloggers Conference (BBC) started off with an author-blogger breakfast where authors “speed dated” with bloggers by speaking with them for a few minutes before moving to the next table. For me, there was only one experience that stuck out during this “speed dating” process. Our table was lucky enough to get to sit with Kitty Kelley for a few minutes during breakfast which was an enlightening experience. Not only was she fashionably dressed to the hilt but, she was also filled with interesting stories. The main story that she told us was about her friend Stanley Tretick, who was the photographer for John F. Kennedy and his family and how she came into possession of his old Marine Corps trunk which contained the personal letters and other mementos of Stanley and JFK. It was obvious that she was trying to promote her new book Capturing Camelot: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the Kennedys that is coming out in November but, honestly it didn’t matter because she was so captivating as a person. I think we all decided that we wanted to be Kitty Kelley when we grow up!
Following the breakfast portion of the BBC, it was time for the opening remarks which were given by Jennifer Weiner. Her speech was often witty and hilarious and contained several mentions to women’s studies classes which made me excited as that is what I have my master’s degree in. It was obvious that she’s a feminist which is pretty awesome but that is one of the only things that excited me about her opening remarks. In many ways, I felt that her speech was all over the place, and had no real focus on blogging, or the blogging community. There were also quite a few times when it felt like it was nothing but self promotion especially since she stated multiple times that she has a new book coming out later this year. I do plan on reading the copy of the Jennifer Weiner book which we received (Then Came You) but ultimately her opening remarks left a weird taste in my mouth. I guess I was just expecting something a little bit different.
I honestly don’t remember much about the next part of the conference because I was really hungry, and I was started to space out a bit. It also didn’t help that I could see the lunch boxes being set up for us, and knowing that I couldn’t go near them. From what I do remember, there was a panel which discussed blogging (“Blogging Today: What You Need to Know and What’s Next.”); however I believe the main questions focused primarily on the relationship between bloggers and publishers. It did seem like an interesting panel, and I wish I could remember more of what was discussed but, ultimately my hunger and the beginnings of my need for a nap got the better of me.
Next came lunch, where we were invited to another round of “speed authors”, as we ate from our box lunches. I’m not sure about anyone else but I felt bad for the authors who had to sit there and witness us eating as they attempted to promote themselves and their books. Because although this section was supposed to be more focused on authors who are also bloggers, it was still very obvious that there was a lot of self promotion going on here which also made me feel uncomfortable. For an event that I perceived to be about bloggers and about helping bloggers, I truly felt that the focus was never really on us. It was all about the author and publisher primping, and that was not helpful or useful to me at all.
Ultimately, I left the conference early due to being tired and needing a nap but also because I honestly had no interest in the afternoon sessions. On paper, they seemed like they might be a good idea but after the vibe that I had gotten all morning, I just wasn’t interested in them. Even as someone who is just starting out in this blogging world, I just didn’t find myself needing to go to the sessions in order to become a better blogger. I also had no interest in once more hearing how I could be used as a tool for publishers and authors due to my blogging abilities. I joined this blogging world for fun after being invited by April. I don’t plan on making this into a career of sorts. I’m not in this for the advance copies or any of the other “perks” that may come along with being a book blogger. As nice as those are, they are not the reason that I continue to do this. I continue to do this for the networking with other bloggers; to have the ability to discuss a book with another person who loved it as much as I did; to be a part of something that I see as important in its own little way. It was kind of uncomfortable to be made to feel like I should be changing my focus to something more about “making it big” in order to become more reliable as a blogger or more beneficial for a publisher or an author. That doesn’t help me or my perspective on blogging at all. Every blogger is different. That is what makes this community so unique and so much fun to be a part of. To me, that would be more interesting to focus on, and being able to use that would be helpful for me as a blogger both in terms of networking and also in terms of expanding upon what I know, what I blog on, and how I blog. So, in conclusion regarding the 2012 Book Bloggers Conference, I’m grateful for the brief opportunity to network with other bloggers but, I really think I could have done without the program as a whole.