I had the opportunity, thanks to the generosity of a friend, to attend the first ever Oklahoma Women Bloggers Mini-Con the last weekend of February. The OKWB Mini-Con took place at Sequoyah State Park in Hulbert, Ok, and was just one night. Their goals were for it to be small, inexpensive, and not difficult to get to. I say it was a success!
I’ve been a member of OKWB since fairly close to its start-up, I think. Some of you may also recall that I was their Blogger of the Month for December.
I meant to get a post up about it sooner, but, well… life.
I’m very glad I was able to go, despite being utterly exhausted and my introvert-battery drained by the time that weekend arrived. Because that was the week when my friend was in from Alabama, and so there was a lot of time spent socializing. Before this, I’ve met up with a few other local bloggers in the same group, but never this many of them.
I was also physically drained, because we’re still adjusting to hubby’s new job where he has 10-hr shifts 5 days/week that start at 6 am. I did pretty darn good to stay up until 9:30 pm AT the Mini-Con. (Shout-out to Nicky at Little Family Adventure – I don’t think I could have been matched with a more perfect roommate! That pre-breakfast hour spent sipping tea and coffee while chatting about healthy food, urban farming, and chicken-keeping is definitely among my favorite memories of the conference!)
Sadly, because of my exhaustion, I missed out on Karaoke Night, but I’ve never been a night owl. I hear that the others had a blast, though. The evening was mostly socialization, but there was some learning!
We had one speaker for the evening, and that was Stephanie Buckley, who created The Women Bloggers in the first place! She talked a lot about monetizing your blog, which is something I’m still not sure I want to do (or even do heavily, if I ever do), but my two main takeaways from her talk were the reminders that “it’s not possible to blog without a community” and “quality over quantity.”
The community aspect is something I’ve already been trying to work on personally, and I felt like I made a lot of connections at the mini-con that I’m really going to try to maintain. Quality over quantity is a thing I’ve struggled with, but am gradually working on giving myself permission to not post if I don’t have anything worthwhile to say. I’m also going to try to cut back on being rambly.
Our first speaker the next morning was Jacqueline Wolven. She was fun, and most of her workshop focused on branding. It’s a concept that I’m slowly beginning to tighten my grasp on, but I definitely still struggle with knowing my audience. I’ve definitely made many friends on my blogging journey so far, but my audience is lacking overall, and I need to tighten that up. I have lots of notes/thoughts from her session to start guiding me.
Probably the best advice I got from her, though, was that you need to live your brand – and I’ve slowly but surely been reshaping my blog to reflect that. I think a lot of my burnout the past year or so came from blogging how I’d been told a writer needs to blog, instead of just being me.
Marisa Mohi was up next to talk about the “10 Reasons I Stopped Reading Your Blog.” Most of them were things that would make me stop reading, too, and a couple of them I have been guilty of, but everyone fumbles sometime, somewhere along the way, and they are things I’m aware of to fix, and that’s the most important part.
With that, though, I do want first off, my site be easy to use/read. I avoid things like the plague that I know I hate, but I especially want to ask any of my long-term readers to not be afraid to contact me if something just doesn’t work for you, whether it be navigation, layout, or font. Or if something is confusing!
Allison Griffith of Refunk My Junk was our last speaker before breaking for lunch, and her topic was “The Business of Blogging.” I’ll be honest, this is probably the session I felt the most disconnect with. Not for any fault of Allison’s, though – but a lot of it was information that I’d researched very recently on my own for setting up my home bakery business.
I also felt a little frustrated, because a lot of what was discussed were steps I’d LOVE to take, and of course people love to say things like, “You really have no reason NOT to do XYZ!” and I have to sit there and look at my budget and go, “Yes, I have a very good reason not to.” There’s about five bazillion top priority things that have to get taken care of soon – and an LLC might be one of them. Maybe. Buying my own domain is certainly not – though it might be a good birthday present to ask for, along with self-hosting!
On a slightly-related note, Allison is in the running for Trendsetter of the Year from Home + Garden Events. If you’ve got five minutes to spare, please go watch her video and consider voting for her!
After lunch, we picked back up with Mari Farthing, who was reaffirming that, “Yes, You are a Writer.” One of the topics she covered was that to create, we have to invest in ourselves, and that has definitely been a point of failure for me the last few years. I spend a lot of time helping others – whether my husband (cooking, laundry, etc), my elderly grandparents, or friends. It’s okay to take a weekend off from ‘real life’ to be creative.
One of her tips, also, was something I’ve found helpful already – go offline. Whether that means finding creative resources away from the computer or tv, or literally going offline to accomplish something. In all honesty, if a blog post isn’t link-heavy (like this one is), I’ve found I can better draft them in a notebook, sitting on the sofa. Or, like often happened on the most recent Ferret Retreat, sitting outside at a picnic table.
Note to self: Acquire picnic table.
Our very last session was “Letting Go of Blog Envy,” with Stephanie Clinton.
Envy is something I’ve struggled with for a very long time, in many different ways. Sometimes, it happens because of a legitimate frustration, or even wrong. As a survivor of verbal and emotional abuse, I feel I’m often more prone to it – because I have suffered unjustly under some situations, and it’s very easy to just go, “But I’ve lived through ABC, why can’t I just have XYZ already?!”
Other times, it’s working my butt off for something and not quite reaching a goal despite all my own efforts, and then seeing someone else put in the exact same effort (or less) and get massive returns for it.
And that latter one is really something I struggle with when it comes to blogging. It’s so easy for me to sit back and go, “But they didn’t follow The Blogging Rules! Why do they have 10k monthly hits, and sponsors galore?”
Letting go of blog envy is really letting go of fear, and one thing I’ve come to realize lately is that I’ve been letting a lot of fear into my life. Whether it’s fear that if I leave the chicken coop open one night, something will get in and hurt them all (even though all the chickens we have lost in the last year weren’t caused by any predators ), the fear of Mr. Loper losing his job again and actually being in danger of losing the house (we were one month away from not being able to pay the mortgage by the time he found another job), or the fear of maybe I’m just not supposed to write. Either blogs or books. Ever.
I don’t know how to tackle all these fears – and even more, honestly – but I’m starting one step at a time. Like leaving the chicken coop open a couple of nights this week because I was just too tired to go shut them in. It’s not like they were exposed to anything, since the coop is LOCKED INSIDE their enclosure. (Re: the pit bull incident.)
Overall, though, my blog and my writing need to be something that fulfill me and that brings me joy, and not someplace where I do things a certain way because I’m afraid of breaking The Blogging Rules.
But I’m a work in progress, so it may take some time.
The Tulsa Crew
Also, we had some awesome sponsors!
In addition, The Women Bloggers were obviously a huge part of the conference. Eastside Design Co. provided the awesome shirts, and there were more goodies/necessities from Vacant Wheel, Moore Liquor, and Total Beverage Services.
heylookawriterfellowMarch 8, 2016 - 3:05 pm ·
It sounds like a great conference.
But tell, me, what was the most unexpected of the reasons someone stops reading a blog?
Rebekah LoperMarch 9, 2016 - 6:14 pm ·
For me, it was “You sold out poorly.” Though it made sense. In this case, when bloggers are sometimes approached by a company to do a sponsored post featuring a certain product, it was a reminder that one should stick with things relevant to their audience, and make sure the whole post doesn’t read like a commercial. It needs to connect with your own life, and thereby connect with your audience.
It’s not a bit of advice quite relevant for me yet, but definitely something to think about as I start deciding if monetization is a route I want to take.
heylookawriterfellowMarch 11, 2016 - 9:04 am ·
Oh, for the opportunity to consider “selling out”! 😉
Jean Marie BauhausMarch 8, 2016 - 5:15 pm ·
“I also felt a little frustrated, because a lot of what was discussed were steps I’d LOVE to take, and of course people love to say things like “You really have no reason NOT to do XYZ!” and I have to sit there and look at my budget and go “Yes, I have a very good reason not to.””
SO MUCH THIS. Seriously. People assuming everybody’s got disposable income lying around has gotten to be one of my biggest peeves. Or they’re like, “Well, you could maybe stop going out for coffee or cut back on–” No. Everything there is to give up or cut back on has been given up or cut back on so that we can pay bills and buy groceries. There is no extra. STAHP!
(Can you tell I’ve been living with this for a while?)
“the fear of maybe I’m just not supposed to write. Either blogs or books. Ever.”
Oh sweetie, I’ve been there. Laid awake many nights and cried myself to sleep over it. When I finally got to a place where I was like, “Okay, God, I surrender. If You don’t want me to be a writer, then I trust that You’ve got something better in mind for me,” it started to become pretty clear after all that no, really, I’m supposed to be a writer. I think, for me, it was about holding onto that dream too tightly and almost making an idol out of it. Once I learned to let go things started falling into place.
Anyway, I’m glad you had a nice time and learned some new information. And on a side note, having had a self-hosted WP blog for years, if I ever go back to having my own domain, I’ll probably either pay for the pro up grade here on WP.com or set up my site on Squarespace. Self-hosted WP can be a pain in the butt.
mariazanniniMarch 10, 2016 - 7:27 am ·
I’ve never been to a blogging conference. It’s way out of my budget at present.
All conferences are draining though. There is so much information and it takes a while to process it all. I’ll bet three months from now you’ll be writing a post and then pow, something from the conference will reveal itself in that moment because it finally becomes relevant.
Rebekah LoperMarch 10, 2016 - 8:27 am ·
This one was very small and local, and they specifically worked to keep the cost under $100 (and considering they fed us three meals, I find that very impressive!)
Re: information – Ha, and yeah, probably so. I know that’s how it goes for the writing conferences I’ve been able to attend!
Hugs, Kisses and SnotMarch 10, 2016 - 2:12 pm ·
I’m SO glad you were able to come and had so much take away from the conference. Community is so huge for me right now and that’s a tough one b/c I’m an introvert at heart and have a tendency to do everything myself rather than rely on others. Slowly I’m learning how to ask for help.
Lissa ClouserMarch 15, 2016 - 9:27 am ·
Community is by far the toughest thing about blogging for me. I like talking to people. I like it when people talk to me. I like reading other people’s blogs. But there’s something about the extroverted effort of ‘being involved’ that makes me panic. I think I make it into a bigger thing than it needs to be!
Rebekah LoperMarch 15, 2016 - 9:39 am ·
You should look into joining the OKWB group. You have to register on their website to get into the FB group, but it’s very low maintenance overall, and a great connection point.