Blissdom Canada takeaway messages, day 2

Better late than never, here’s my third (and final!) post-Blissdom Canada post. (If you missed them, click for posts about how I reconnected with my blog and day 1 takeaway messages.)

The first session of the second day was, for me, one of the highlights of the conference. The session was called “Taking your craft to the next level” and was a panel discussion that featured one of my first bloggy friends, Karen Green, along with Aidan Morgan and Angella Dykstra. I loved a lot of this session, including the fact that they went beyond simply blogging/writing and also talked about photography and videography. Dear Blissdom Canada organizers: More like this next year please!

I was completely endeared when Karen started off by stating why she got into blogging in the first place: because she wanted to be a magazine columnist and nobody was hiring her to do that. Me too!!!!! Later in the session, Karen made my day by saying that mine was the first blog she ever read, and I was flattered nearly to death when I tweeted that and several others confirmed that mine had been the first blog they ever read as well.

Here’s a few of the best messages I heard during the rest of the session, once again pilfered more or less verbatim from my own twitterstream. (Parenthetical comments are my after-the-fact editorial asides.)

  • Nobody will judge you for the size of your dash but you do need to learn to spell. (Can I get a hallelujah on this?)
  • When asked how to find inspiration, Aidan Morgan said, “I thrive on dissonance.”
  • Talk to the people who inspire you and learn from them.
  • Know your audience — and then try to ignore them. (This is so true, and so hard to do. I’ve lately lost the ability to forget everyone is listening, and have been struggling to overcome this. I miss the candidness of oblivious blogging.)
  • Don’t get hung up on the metrics. SEO won’t help you improve your craft. Also, don’t lose your joy.
  • What you are doing is bigger than the sound of applause. (I need to print this out and stick it on my monitor.)

At the end of the session, there was a really amazing and way. too. quick set of tips to improve your SEO from Aidan that I can’t find now but will try to dig up and share with you.

Can you see why I left the session (and the conference) vowing to blog like it is 2006? So much of this is exactly what I want to do, what I’ve always strived to do as a blogger. I can’t tell you how much I loved this session — it made the conference for me.

The next session had a lot less practical information, but my sides hurt from laughing by the time it was over. It was a panel discussion called, “What’s in a brand? The art of defining yourself and your creative work” featuring Kimberley Seldon, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Dee Brun, and Patty Sullivan, and moderated by Mabel’s Labels founder Julie Cole. It was nice to see the session start with one of my friend Justin’s “extreme family portraits” of Julie Cole’s family. ๐Ÿ™‚

I didn’t tweet a lot of takeaways from this session largely because I was laughing too hard. Who knew Gail Vaz-Oxlade was such a cut-up? She’s also an amazingly strong woman and I loved her basic theme of doing what’s important to her, staying true to herself, and not giving a &#@ what others think. Except, instead of &#@ she said pretty much every swear you could think of. I loved all of her anecdotes, including the one where she told her editor at the Globe and Mail that she writes his column while she’s sitting on the can, and that she turned down a TV show three times until they came back and completely capitulated to her terms. Clearly, the only person influencing Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s brand is Gail Vaz-Oxlade!

The few useful tweets I did manage to get out included:

  • Know yourself, know what you’re willing to walk away from, know what you’re willing to do.
  • Be true to yourself and be real or others will see through you and you will lose credibility.
  • Don’t try to create a personal brand without knowledge of yourself and where you want to be.
  • Every 140 characters comes back to you, for good or bad.
  • Your bio is a powerful tool and all your social media sites should have one, but “PR friendly” in a bio says “send me free stuff.”
  • If you don’t like how I raise my kids, that’s your problem (from Patty Sullivan, host on CBC Kids.)
  • Use the filter of “what am I putting out there” before you press send.
  • Don’t be so set in your vision of your brand that you don’t adapt based on the feedback you get through social media.
  • If you want to work with brands, you have to be cognizant of your behaviour regarding swearing, oversharing, etc.

The final panel of the conference was another highlight for me. It was a discussion called, “To Publish Or Not To Publish: Taking Your Writing Beyond The Blog (Or Not)” featuring more of my oldest bloggy friends, including Ann Douglas, Jen Reynolds, Theresa Albert, and Nadine (Scarbiedoll) Silverthorne. This was the most practical of all the sessions I attended, with professional and concrete insights into a lot of various publishing options open in the Canadian marketplace.

Jen Reynolds, Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Family magazine, said a pitch to her should be succinct at 300 words, but don’t spill your whole story. She wants to build it with you.

She also noted that Canadian Family is still paying the same rate as 15 years ago, approximately $1 per word.

Nadine Silverthorne, online editor for, says online rates are approximately 50% less than print rates.

Jen Reynolds also said to know your strength and match it to a medium.

Nadine, who was a personal blogger long before an online editor, asked the poignant questions, “How much do you love your blog?” and “Are you willing to give up your voice for money?” (This is one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to overly monetize this blog!)

Ann Douglas, author extraordinaire, offered these tips on book pitches: a book pitch needs an executive summary and a sales pitch on why YOU must be the one to write it. Address the competition, and explain why you stand out. A pitch also needs a complete bio, and a marketing plan that showcases your creativity. (Clearly, writing the book is only half the hard work! I had no idea.)

And how exciting is this? Jen Reynolds surprised everyone with a spontaneous offer of $700 for a 700 word article on finding your bliss that she’ll publish in Canadian Family.

The panel also put together a handout that Ann posted on her blog: To Publish or Not to Publish.

I should really go back and put in links to everyone’s blogs — but I’m clean out of time. Maybe later? But you can find them all online, I’m sure.

After all the years of wondering whether I’d find any value in attending one of these blog conferences, I think the answer is a resounding yes. I got to meet so many people I have admired for years, and connect with many others. I learned a little bit, but I was hugely inspired and reminded of the things that I love about blogging and how most of them revolve around connection, community and storytelling. That’s why I’ve been saying that Blissdom Canada 2011 inspired me to blog like it’s 2006.

Here’s three quick suggestions to the Blissdom Canada organizers for next year:

  1. Hashtags for each session would make it a lot easier to follow the sessions in progress and/or catch up on the ones you missed.
  2. Donation bins for food banks or something similar would be a great way for people to share swag items they can’t or won’t use. There was no room in my luggage for a loaf of bread and box of crackers, and Fisher-Price gave away a lot of diapers that might not get used but could be great to donate to someone in need.
  3. More debate would be good. Most of the panelists seemed to all be on the same page. I’d like to see a “I only blog for social good” voice take on a “I blog for the freebies and I’m proud of it” type of debate, or something similar.

I hope these notes were helpful! And if you’ve never been to one of these social media conferences before, you absolutely should go — at least once.

Karen, I will never use an m-dash again without thinking of you!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

6 thoughts on “Blissdom Canada takeaway messages, day 2”

  1. I enjoyed reading your recap, Dani. Thanks for taking the time to write it!

    In hindsight, I really wish I’d stayed for the “Taking Your Craft to the Next Level” session. It received rave reviews, including yours, but I thought the panelists’ comments on knowing how to spell were a tad condescending and so I hopped over to the next session. I guess it was just me who felt that way though since you’ve given that a “hallelujah!” — oh well, lesson learned. I will definitely stick it out for any future sessions with these same panelists.

  2. i just caught up with your Blissdom posts: you’ve reminded me of about fifteen things i wanted to be reminded of, so thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    it’s funny. since i got home, i’ve seen about four or five ppl say they feel like they’re “doing it wrong” or should quite blogging b/c they’re not getting the scale of attention that they once did or others do: it’s like a zeitgeist. wish i’d noticed it before the inspiration session as i’d have tried to address it directly. but i think your point “what you are doing is bigger than the sound of applause” is one that needs to be heard. loudly and clearly. still thinking on this…need to write more.

    and debate might be a way to get that out, actually. interesting idea. i’d LOVE to debate the purpose of social media with someone focused on it entirely as platform.

    anyhoo. one of my big joys from Blissdom was meeting you. so there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. No no no, not at BlogHer — I need to see that! Maybe SoCapOtt??

    Thanks all for your comments. Bonnie, that “what you’re doing is bigger than the sound of applause” was Aidan’s comment. Isn’t it spot on? And really, stalking you through Blissdom was one of the highlights for me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Lesson learned, always talk to interesting strangers in the airport!

    Julie, I think for someone who writes with the eloquence and panache that you do, spelling and grammar are a non-issue, and I hate to be a snob about it, but from what I read online MOST people need to remind themselves to slow down and at least get the mechanics right. Cuz I *am* a snob about it.

  4. Oh I love the idea of a food bank box. When I went to a conference last year I had tons of food I couldn’t bring home for me. I’ll take the diapers if you don’t use them LOL

    I can’t wait to see what next year brings. I missed this year but will not be missing next year.

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