It’s a funny thing, when you think about it, being a guy and being invited into the world of Arkansas Women Bloggers. But I am, and I did get the invitation. I recently went to AWBU, Arkansas Women Bloggers University, their annual conference. It was a humbling and (dare I say it) enchanting experience. I’m going to wax philosophical about it for a bit, if you’ll bear with me, my dear readers. It’s utterly bewildering and revelatory, to find my tribe. It might sound odd that they’re a bunch of women bloggers, but it’s really not when you think about it. They’re remarkable. So smart. So open-hearted and warm. Accepting of me, despite the fact that I’m not a sister. If you’re getting the idea that I admire this tribe of women a great deal then you’re paying attention.
Writing can be lonely. Even if you’re writing about something as universal as the love of food, how it connects us, turns us into friends, family. Food builds community. But writing about food from the comfort of my living room can be lonely. I’ve been so thankful that other bloggers have reached out to me, let me know that I’m not alone. Loneliness can be a curse, especially for people like me. Meeting friends who show that they really care, finding your tribe, well that has soothed my soul more than you can know.
If you look at the photo above you’ll see, in addition to a large number of Arkansas Women Bloggers, Stephanie Buckley, aka The Park Wife giving the opening remarks of the conference. What she and others have built, this community of support and friendship, has frankly blown me away.
There’s really too much for me to adequately explain about everything that I learned, all the amazing people I met (or got to see again after far too long apart). I won’t go over everything at the conference (other bloggers have done a much better job at that than I can, so I’ll leave that to them; if you’re interested in their experiences just google AWBU). One of the really cool things I learned about on Foodie Friday, though, was a tutorial on more effective food photography from Heather Dissaro of Heather’s Dish. The shot above was inspired by an experimental collaborative tutorial session that she let us all engage in. The beauty of having someone share some of their tips, trying to help everyone there be a better blogger and a better food photographer is just another example of how awesome these women are.
The photo above is from Jacqueline Wolven‘s session on branding yourself as a blogger. The thing that blew me away about her session is the advice to really rock your brand, to represent your authentic self. She’s kind of a rock star. Seriously. Have you read her article on Huffington Post? No? You should. Speaking as a dude, she speaks to me too.
This is Debbie Horton Arnold (yes, she’s originally a Horton, so I’m claiming her as family) of Dining with Debbie. She is made of awesome. Go and read her blog. Every day. Just do it. It’ll be good for your soul. Trust me. (And if you’re ever lucky enough to get some of her homemade jelly you’ll be a very lucky person indeed)
It’s also the first time I ever got chocolate kisses from a social media influence marketing company. Acorn Influence gave me chocolate! Squee! (Acorn was founded by Stephanie McCratic, of Evolved Mommy). I’ll admit that my kids ate most of the chocolate.
So one of the other Arkansas dudes to be let into the fold is my brother from another mother, James, aka the Busvlogger on YouTube. He’s a video blogger (vlogger to the rest of the world) rather than a blogger. He gave an amazing presentation on video and YouTube and what it could mean for bloggers in the future (I also got to be a human tripod and hold his camera, much to the amusement of the audience, I’m sure). Very inspiring. If you’re not watching him go subscribe. Now. Do it. I’ll wait. Seriously.
These are the amazing women myself and James got to eat dinner with one night. It’s astounding, to find yourself sitting with these fearless storytellers, these vibrant and amazing women, so full of humor and acceptance and intelligence, and to feel a sense of recognition. Identity. Perhaps that’s aspirational, that feeling. The main thing AWBU did for me was to make me want to be a better blogger. A better friend. A better person. I looked around this table and for a while I kind of wanted to pinch myself (yes, I got to sit by Shannon Magsam of nwaMotherlode, and I sat across from Alison Chino!). Was this real? Did I get to do this?
I confess, I was worried. I was worried that I’d feel out of place. Or that I would experience rejection, or maybe some women would resent a man coming into what they’ve built for themselves. But I got none of that. At all. Everywhere I turned all weekend I got acceptance and warmth and friendship. And smiles. And hugs. It was awesome.