This past weekend I attended a blogging/writing/social media conference known as Blissdom. I’ll be honest after registering for Blissdom some months ago, I had my doubts about whether this conference would be the right fit for me. Following the Twitter feed and Facebook pages it seemed to have a large mommy blogger following, and while I am a mom and a blogger I have never considered myself a Mommy blogger.
Regardless, I stepped out of my comfort zone. First, because I wanted to attend a conference that was blogging and writing focused and not genealogy focused. I wanted to see the blogging industry from another perspective. With all my anxieties in tow, I signed up for every event, created a costume for the costume and karaoke party and laid down my introverted tendencies for one weekend.(Thanks to Susan Cain's book )
First thing I learned upon arriving, I was not alone, alone in the sense there were so many first-time attendees and many did not consider themselves mommy bloggers. I also learned many in fact dislike the term. Once the networking began and I have to say this conference knows how to present you with wonderful networking opportunities, I found the environment to be welcoming and supportive. Standouts for me were the value of the content from the micro-sessions ( which I would have appreciated more time for) and the speakers who were incredible writers with fantastic stories. I can honestly say I have never walked away from a conference with so much swag. The brands truly spoiled us. Oh and being on the Road Rally winning team was pretty cool too!
As a family history blogger at a blogging conference my concern was how would I be received. How would I explain what I do, would it require long explanations and would others be disinterested. In fact I found the opposite. Because I was unique in the crowd, many took a sincere interest in my blog. Because the majority of conference goers were women and mothers, family history was certainly something they had thought about or will soon face as they begin to lose their parents and grandparents.
One of my most blissful moments of the conference came when I had the opportunity to listen to Ami McKay speak. Ami is the author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure. I have been a big fan since I read her first book The Birth House in 2007. When I learned she would be speaking at this conference I knew I had made the right decision to attend. If nothing else worked out for me, she was worth the price of my ticket.
You see, Ami’s first book was about a mid-wife in Nova Scotia during the early years of WWI. My great-grandmother was a mid-wife in a rural French community in Northern Ontario during this very same time frame. It has always been a desire of mine to write her story. Ami’s second book, The Virgin Cure is about a female doctor in New York City in the early 1870’s. It is based on Ami McKay’s great-great grandmother.
So I knew, I knew that Ami McKay understood the power of family history and when she spoke on Saturday afternoon I was the proudest attendee in the room. Ami shared with us how her first exposure to family history stories was as a young child playing under the kitchen table. Ami went on to share a moving and remarkable story about her family history. I won’t retell it here, but my genealogy friends will appreciate that it involved three generations of women, cancer and DNA testing. I was fighting back the tears and it was clear to me Ami was emotional in telling her own story. My bliss, my passion for family history was being expressed from the stage in the form of Ami McKay.
After she spoke I had the honour of meeting Ami during the book signing. I didn’t expect to be emotional but I was. I’m not sure why, I guess I just really felt a connection to this woman and that she really understood my perspective of family history and storytelling. When I announced to her in the book signing that I was a family historian, she leaned in and gave me a hug! That was my most blissful moment.....Ami’s acknowledgment of my passion and our bond. We talked a little more and I could honestly say it was the most pivotal moment in the conference for me if not in my writing career. I
could have spent hours sitting at a kitchen table discussing writing and family
history with Ami McKay but that few minutes she took with me re-kindled my drive to continue my journey of writing my family history stories.
While this conference did not resemble anything close to a genealogy conference, family history was represented and my resolve about the power of our family history stories remains un-waivered. So my
initial reaction to not attend Blissdom because I would not be understood or
there would be little for me to learn was unfounded. And my most important lesson probably
didn't come in the form of the sessions but from the act of stepping out of my
comfort zone and my own genealogy blogging world.
biggest Blissdom lesson: Take your message to the world, not only will others
be influenced by your bliss but you just might find others rejuvenating the bliss