BEA/BBC Aftermath: Personal Highlights…and that means people!

This is the last piece of my three-part reflection on conference comparisons. After some consideration of conversations and conference-goers in the previous post, this one gets more personal.

* Some people come for the people, and you see them talking with each other, walking around, and eating together.

There are also events that go on around a conference that have no association with brands at all. They happen when two or three bloggers meet up for coffee or breakfast; when a small group goes out to dinner together; when bloggers team up to make the rounds of the expo floor; and when they decide to take a break from the conference atmosphere and do some sightseeing around the city where it’s being held. They’re sometimes planned well in advance of arrival at the conference, and sometimes planned via text messages five minutes before they happen.

Some bloggers go to conferences primarily to nurture their relationships with other bloggers. They may be meeting people they’ve known for years online for the first time offline, and they’ll probably meet people offline who give them new places to explore online. They may be anticipating their annual meetups with people that they only get to see when they’re at the same conference.

I’ve talked before about the fact that I’m more comfortable meeting people from my online world offline than I am with other introductions, because those people aren’t strangers. We’ve already done a lot of the groundwork of getting to know one another – we’re just picking up the conversation. At dinner after Book Blogger Con, a few of us talked about the nervous reactions some of our family members had to our meeting “people from the internet” in the “real world.” (I don’t hear a lot of that myself; given that my husband and I met through an online dating site, he really can’t say too much.) But our relationships with “people from the internet” are real, even if our communications take place via computers and smartphones 98% of the time. As I commented to the group, “My online friends know me better than the people I work with – and I’ve been at the same job for eight years.”

dinner on Friday night after Book Blogger Con: (clockwise): TeresaColleenAsh, me, KimMelissa (photo via The Betty and Boo Chronicles)
I was very happy with the blogger-to-blogger time I had during my week at BEA and Book Blogger Con; it was the best I’ve ever had during a conference, period. Part of that was because the people I saw during that week are truly my community, my tribe – book bloggers are the ones with whom I spend most of my online time already, and with a very few exceptions, they’ve never been much of a presence at BlogHer’s conferences.

Dinner on Wednesday night: Reagan, Heather (the organizer), Megan, Sheila, me, Michelle, Alison, Ann Kingman, Stacy, Natalie (photo by Natalie’s husband Jason, via Age 30+…A Lifetime of Books)
Karen and me (photo via Rhapsody in Books)

The most notable exception to that rule is Karen/Sassymonkey, and I can now say I have yet to attend a blogging conference that she hasn’t been at too. I’m really glad her job as BlogHer.com’s Books editor brought her to BEA and BBC; she was great company for coffee, dinners, morning walks to the convention center, discussions about the exhibitors in the expo hall, and a memorable $1 pizza slice.

Kim’s young enough to be my daughter (and actually younger than my son…but keep in mind that I became a mother at the even younger age of 20), but it never mattered. We’ve worked together on a couple of long-term projects, most notably Weekly Geeks and the Indie Lit Awards, so we’ve gotten to know each other as peers. She was one of my dinner companions on my first and last nights in New York City, and I particularly enjoyed the tour she gave me of her favorite nonfiction publishers in the BEA Expo Hall (which netted me a book I’ve been coveting for months!).

Heather co-hosted last year’s Mary Doria Russell read-alongs with me, and we missed a couple of chances to meet in person last year, so I was glad she invited me to take some time away from BEA to visit the educational and haunting Pompeii exhibit at the Discovery Museum in Times Square. She also organized a fun dinner on Wednesday night, where I had the chance to meet Michelle, Alison, Ann Kingman, Stacy, Natalie (and her husband Jason), Reagan, Megan, and Sheila (all linked in the caption to the photo above). And while I don’t think they met during the trip, she and my son Chris ended up on the same train out of New York City on Saturday afternoon.

Jill was a member of the panel I moderated at Book Blogger Con, and although we kept running into each other in the Expo Hall, we didn’t discover that we were staying in the same hotel till the week was almost over! I had the fun of introducing her and Megan to the Magnolia Bakery one evening in Midtown (and then eating our treats in Rockefeller Center), and I spent a good bit of time with her and Teresa during the last couple of days in the city, including a very enjoyable walk across the Brooklyn Bridge just a few hours before I left for home on Saturday.

My BlogHer’10 roommate Melissa missed BEA, but she made a very long day of it at Book Blogger Con, and it was great to spend the day with her! She was one of my Friday-night dinner companions, along with Kim, her roommate Ash, Teresa, and our NYC-native public-transit guide, Colleen (all linked in the caption in the photo above), and she documented the day in pictures much more fully than I did.

I’d really like to go back to BEA and Book Blogger Con next year. These people – and those I hope to get to know during the time between now and then – are the main reason why.

BookExpo America

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