Real Life – Conferences
On the Road in Birmingham – A Quest for Answers
The thing is I left with more questions than answers. Obstacles I did not even see are now thrown before me in stark reality. This writing gig has more twists than Dinky Road, a precarious path along the backbone of Phelps Mountain where you literally hold onto the hill with one hand and drive with the other, so close to the mountain you can bite the dirt, so close to the precipice your skirt swirls in the breeze. It is horrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.
Friday, I attended “Honing your Media Skills” moderated by Virginia Willis, Tamie Cook, and Lisa Ekus. I could have listened to Virginia Willis talk all day. Tamie Cook offered valuable insights. Lisa Ekus held a mirror up to attendees’ souls, making us face realities. I came away with good advice, but with self-realization too.
I am a square peg that will never fit in a round hole. That is a very lonely place.
Dinner Friday evening was at Dessert Island Supply Company, an after school creative writing project supported by donations from Food Blog South. Guests casually milled around enjoying a buffet provided by Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-b-q .
The next morning Food Blog South began in earnest. Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet rocked “How to Write a Really Great Blog Post.” He laughed about his early writings “The Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction Cupcakes” and a restaurant review done in comic strip style. These brought him joy and traffic.
He then offered tried and true formulas for traffic building, patterns well travelled and safe.
That session led to an interesting discussion over cocktails later that night. Do you blog for traffic, or do you blog for joy? Do you blog to impress the awards committees, the potential book publishers and talent agents, or do you just say the heck with it and blog from your heart hoping passion will speak to real life, real hope, and real giggles?
Finding that balance, it is a highway paved with uncertainty.
Cynthia Graubart offered a roadmap “Keep the Creative Juices Flowing: Writing Memorable Recipes.” During her presentation she discussed style, method, and of course descriptors. She reminded the audience to give attribution, to be clear in instructions, and to offer serving suggestions. Her talk was fun and equipped listeners with tools of the trade.
Taylor Mathis and his tailgating journey is one I have followed for several years. I was tickled to hear about his take on “Blog to Book” co-presented with book agent Lisa Ekus. While not the typical cookbook process, Taylor pointed out the possibilities of cross-marketing projects which is a strategy we all could learn from.
Perhaps my favorite session of the day was “Cook on Camera” with Marti Duncan, Marion Laney and Dana Popoff. It is not that I aspire to be “The Next Food Network Star.” What I want is to have confidence on the air, to invite my audience to have fun and learn something new, and to have my husband, my momma, and my producer be proud of my work. Marti was an amusing host, and I picked up several tips to carry back home to Pike-TV.
The session that prompted me to sign up for this conference was “Owning Your Brand: Strategies and Tips to Define and Increase Your Value” presented by Chadwick Boyd and Virginia Willis. Unfortunately, someone near me was wearing a very strong perfume. My lips began to tingle; my throat began to close off. I was embarrassed to leave – but what do you do breathe or die? Giggles
Ready for Fun!
Many of the sessions talked about the serious side of food blogging; and then there was Jay Ducote and Tommy Talley a humorous breath of fresh air. Jay of Bite and Booze is a character out of Louisiana. Part redneck, part frat boy prankster, part storyteller Jay is anything but serious. Yet, I believe he has perhaps one of the strongest “brands” amongst us. His “Film the Food: Tips and Tidbits for Creating Video Content for Your Food Blog” certainly lightened the day.
J. Kenji Alt-Lopez of Serious Eats was the keynote finale. Serious Eats, I think you have to be young to get it. I just don’t. There I said it, with apologies to my friend Stella Parks of BraveTart. Food that is over the top, photos of things my nephew would call “extreme” that is what the masses want and Serious Eats delivers.
The evening after-party was at Good People Brewing Company, sponsored by Visit Baton Rouge. It was an abundant spread and the beer taps worked just fine! Giggles The setting was casual and relaxed. It was easy to move between groups chatting and sharing ideas. Some conferences tout “even playing fields” but Food Blog South makes it so. Bloggers, authors, media personalities, and academics actually spoke to each other with meaningful conversations. How very refreshing!
Brunch with Kim and Friends
Sunday morning Jessica aka Urban Sacred Garden and I ventured out to the Bottletree Café for brunch and a book signing by Kim O’Donnel. I love Kim, she was one of the first people I met when I embarked on this food writing career path. We had a good meal, shared laughs with friends, then headed back to Kentucky.
Success comes in all kinds of packages; and we can choose how to navigate our way to success.
Food Blog South did not answer my questions, but it made me aware that maybe I was not asking the right ones. I will be back next year God willing. Until then, I am just going to keep on doing what I do and look for a way off Dinky Road.
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Shout outs to Shaun Chavis and Jason Horn for organizing this event and to the numerous sponsors who helped make this conference top notch. Hugs to Jessica aka Urban Sacred Garden for her Steve McQueen driving skills that brought us to Birmingham in one piece and ahead of the Kentucky ice storm.