I’m calling this BlogFest 1 because frankly, yesterday was so amazing and thought provoking that ideas are just spilling out of me to the point that I’ve had to start writing them down because I don’t want to forget anything, and I know I’ll be writing more about it soon.
The absolute standout highlight for me was the afternoon session ‘Cracking yarns and tall tales: how to tell a better story’, chaired by Sarah Crown with a panel that featured Lionel Shriver, AL Kennedy, Cassandra Parkin and Rosie Fiore. Four incredibly talented and diverse female writers who have a wealth of experience and knowledge that they shared with us, informatively and at times, hilariously.
AL Kennedy said on the importance of writing a strong beginning to your work ‘What you’re doing is establishing trust between yourself and the reader. You’re saying ‘We’re going to start here. Come along with me (she mimed holding hands), it’s fine.’ Then gave a creepy, disturbing smile and raised eyebrow to the audience that made me howl.
But mostly it was about finding your voice, about building a bond with your reader, about really caring about and believing in what you’re saying, what you want to express, in whatever form you are writing in – a novel, a blog, an email, even just a tweet. It’s about that connection that you are creating when (hopefully) someone reads your words. Words have power (as we saw demonstrated later on during the ‘Mummy Blogger vs Feminism’ debacle – short recap: Feminist said you can’t be a mummy blogger and a feminist, uproar, a panellist talked about a personal decision, more uproar, heckling from the audience, explanation from the stage, more uproar, surge of anger, more heckling, Mumsnet break the glass and release the emergency Jo Brand).
And then AL Kennedy absolutely nailed it. Talking about books, she made the point that ‘Your words might be company for someone in a very dark place, no matter how trivial they are.’ Then talking about totalitarian regimes, she went on ‘They burn books, not shoes, because shoes don’t save lives.’ And I wanted to jump up and down and scream ‘YES! That’s it, EXACTLY!’. When I tried to kill myself nearly four years ago, I was in the middle of reading ‘Saving Grace’ by Ciara Geraghty. And even as I shovelled pills down my gullet, I can remember feeling pissed off that I hadn’t finished reading it before my demise. Not because it’s an especially profound book, but because it was so well written I was head over heels in love with it, and wanted to know what happened next. Of course I didn’t die, and I finished reading the book, so there’s a happy ending right there.
So of course, that got me thinking about writing (for a change). And why I write this blog. I said last week that writing is my therapy, that it’s a way of releasing whatever’s stuck in my head. It’s more than that though.
Later in the day, I was chatting to bloggers who make money, serious money, from their blogs because they write reviews for various companies, they have adverts, they host content. I felt a bit awkward when they asked me why I don’t have adverts on here, because I didn’t want to seem as though I thought myself somehow superior for not doing so (I don’t, I just don’t want adverts on here). I just sort of mumbled something about not really writing stuff that would attract advertisers.
And then I had a bit of an epiphany later on when I was chatting to a woman during a fag break. She said she didn’t host adverts either, because she blogs in much the same way as I do. Then it hit me. This blog for me, is about readership. I just want to be read, to have my voice heard. To maybe make a difference to the way people think about things, or to develop conversation with people. I’m not writing this to make money. Other people are, and that’s great. One woman I spoke to is a single mum with a young child, and for her, blogging provides for the pair of them, she can do it from home, bring up her son, and make money from it. If you can do that, then why the hell not? And obviously if anyone does want to throw money at me, my paypal account is….
But this is all about my words, finding people who want to read them, and hopefully us getting to know each other better. This has been an incredible year for me, all because of writing. There have been some really terrible low points in it, but the highs have made it worthwhile. And the biggest difference in it has been what Mumsnet Bloggers Network have done for me in terms of getting this out there, and read, and my voice heard. Not only that, but yesterday. Yesterday, bloody hell. Blogfest was beautiful, wonderful, empowering, infuriating, inspiring and completely surreal. To actually meet so many fellow bloggers and rejoice in the glory of blogging was pretty much transformational. But I do have one regret.
At lunchtime, I was at the bottom of the stairs, on my way up to outside and a sneaky fag break. Coming down the stairs was Kate Williams, one of the Mumsnet Bloggers team, and an absolute star. We exchanged smiles (hers radiant and warming, mine shy and starstruck) and passed each other. I really wish I’d found the courage to thank her in person. Because if I didn’t have this blog, if I didn’t have the marvellous tweeps, if the Mumsnet Bloggers hadn’t been such a brilliant support to me, then I would have missed out on blogfest. And I would have missed out on possibly the best day of my life*.
*Usual birth of children etc disclaimer applies.