The Best Moment, PDX Edition

Conferences are filled with so many great moments — that a-ha moment when a speaker says something that just clicks, the moment when you meet someone who shares your interests and goals, the moments (or moments!) when you suddenly are filled with a thousand great ideas for what to do next with your blog.

I had a few of those moments today! One of them was getting to see and catch up with speaker Ariel Meadow Stallings when she arrived. As we reminisced about our early blogging days in the 2000s, there were a lot of funny memories I got to relive. Another was at lunch at the table with Doctor Who as the discussion topic. It went from Doctor Who to companions to Fringe to acupuncture to privacy vs honesty in blogging, and a few other places that were just as interesting, with mostly people I’d never met before, so that was pretty fun. And getting to see someone’s face light up when they learned about a feature in WordPress that they hadn’t known about, but had been wishing existed, was awesome, as it always is.

Did you have a best moment today? Tell us in the comments!

Going Pro: What Do You Want to Know?

Erick in Romania
Erick Prince-Heaggans

At Press Publish in Portland next weekend, we’ll be ending the day with two panels — one about book publishing for bloggers, and one about going pro with your site. Our Going Pro panel will be made up of Erick Prince-Heaggans, Ariel Meadow Stallings, Kathy Cano-Murillo, and Kelly Bejelly.

Ariel Meadow Stallings
Ariel Meadow Stallings

These bloggers have all made the transition from personal bloggers to professionals whose websites are their business. Between them, they’ve done all the things tied to monetizing a blog: selling advertising, doing sponsored posts, getting paid to write for bigger outlets, running a store on the site,

Kathy Cano-Murillo
Kathy Cano-Murillo

working with brands for promotion, creating product lines, and even running a multi-city expo. This brain trust knows what it takes to be successful and wants to help you get there. In a few years, maybe it will be you speaking on this panel!

Kelly Bejelly wearing a striped shirt in her kitchen
Kelly Bejelly

As you think about wanting to make a living with your site and related opportunities, what questions do you have? We’ll try to answer as many questions as possible during the session, so tell us what you want to know! Questions can specific or broad, whatever you think would be helpful in your journey to success.

Ask away!

Speaker Spotlight: Ariel Meadow Stallings

This last featured blogger announcement for the Portland is pretty special to me, and really brings home how small the world can be when you’re a blogger and able to make connections through your website. I am beyond pleased to announce that this speaker is Ariel Meadow Stallings, the founder of the Offbeat Empire lifestyle sites.

I met Ariel back around 2001 when I moved to Seattle. We’d “met” through our blogs, and then met in person at a bloggers meetup. Back then, there weren’t very many people calling themselves bloggers, and it was easy to know the few dozen people doing so in your city. We became friends, and I have fond memories of hula hooping on the roof of her apartment building at sunset. She was a raver with multi-colored hair, editing a couple of zines and sites and writing reviews for to supplement her income. If you had asked either of us then what she would ‘grow up’ to be, it wouldn’t have been the head of a wedding industry business.

When she got married, Ariel wrote a book called Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternative for Independent Brides, and started a site to go with it.

In the years that followed, she grew it into a business, added more sites to complement other areas of the Offbeat lifestyle, and developed it all into today’s Offbeat Empire. Now running a successful web content business with a small, dedicated staff, Ariel is also a mom (hello, Offbeat Families) and recently renovated her Seattle home (and hello Offbeat Home & Life). In short, my old raver friend has totally grown up into an amazing role model for anyone hoping to build a business starting with their blog.

Her session in Portland will be an interview/conversation rather than a presentation, and will really give you a chance to get to know her and how she accomplished what she has. If you would like to suggest questions for the interview, please leave them in the comments — note that we won’t answer them here, we’ll save it for the interview at the Portland event. In the meantime, here’s a little Q&A to get you started.


Q. What made you start blogging?

A. I was editing a rave magazine in 2000, and got an inquiry from a freelancer who linked his blog as his writing sample. I was immediately struck by the immediacy of self-publishing… I was sick of being beholden to the magazine model of printers and distribution, of having to wait months to hear feedback about the work I was producing. Thanks to the joy of ye olde, I was able to have my own blog within an hour of being introduced the the concept.

Q. You started as a personal blogger and now have your own Empire running on WordPress. What made you shift from a personal site to professional ones?

A. I came of age with the early wave of personal bloggers, and was totally focused on first-person writing. After a couple years, I started exploring more topical publications, first with in 2002 (dedicated to hula hooping) and then with in 2007. I shifted to WordPress when I launched, which was originally just to promote my wedding memoir that I was oh-so-excited about. Within a few months, it became clear that no one cared about my stupid memoir, but everyone loved the website.

Part of this shift to more topical writing was getting sick of talking about myself, but part of it was also in response to some pretty intense trolling that I dealt with for several years. While my desire to be a publisher never slowed, my patience with personal attacks got pretty thin. I made my personal blog members-only in 2009.

Offbeat Bride eventually grew to be a whole network of lifestyle sites (including and, and while the writing is remains personal and first person, it’s most definitely NOT my personal story. I still write on my personal blog a couple times a week… while the readership is about 100 people vs 1 million people on my work blogs, it’s the best 100 people ever.

I wish more of my old-school blogging colleagues had members-only blogs. Personal blogging is still awesome.

Q. What kept you (and still keeps you) posting regularly?

A. First answer: Revenue. HA! Just kidding. (Sort of?)

Second answer: Chartbeat! I’m addicted to watching real-time reader counts after publishing something.

Third answer: New toys. I cannot lie! Nothing like a fresh WordPress update with new functions to fiddle with to keep me excited. I did a HUGE redesign of all my site templates last year, and the new format made writing on the same old site feel new.

Q. What’s your most popular post?

A. I got left at the altar: turning heartbreak into artwork
This post was carefully engineered to hit a sweet spot… Just negative enough to get the drama-hounds on Facebook sniffing the air and baying into the wind… but not so negative that it’s out of line with our mission — which is all about empowerment.

Ultimately, the story garnered huge mainstream media attention — the bride ended up on the Today Show — and even made waves internationally.

I wrote all about the strategy behind this post over here:

Q. What are some of your other favorite posts?

A. There but for the grace of pageviews go I: where blogging and my business are going,

See it, click it: getting over my RSS/old school blogger brain, and

Clicks don’t lie: people gravitate toward drama (and who am I to deny them?)

Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. Over the years, I’ve got some truly amazing feedback about how my publications have made real, tangible differences in readers’ lives. Offbeat Bride isn’t curing cancer, but the site’s commitment to inclusivity and tolerance is downright revolutionary in the wedding industry, and knowing that we’ve changed people’s minds about trans* issues, or marriage equality, or how they communicate with the people around them… it’s hugely motivating.

I also love that as a publisher, I’ve been able to get my contributors noticed on a national level… in some ways, I consider myself as much a publicist as a publisher, and nothing makes me happier than when one of our stories blows up in the mainstream media. I love being the person who delivers offbeat culture to the mainstream’s consciousness.

Q. What are you hoping to share with the Press Publish audience?

A. A sense of wonder at the unexpected paths your career can take. I thought that getting a book deal was going to be my ticket out of web writing… and instead the blog supporting the book grew into a publishing company that now supports a staff of six. I found the wedding industry exhausting and stupid, and yet now here I am, not only a part of it, but actively working to improve it. Life is weird. Make plans, but enjoy the ride!

Q. Is there anything you’re hoping to learn at Press Publish?

A. I’m mostly stoked to talk to other people who spend as many hours a day living inside WordPress as I do!


New Sessions Added to Portland Schedule!

There were already a lot of great sessions and classes on the Portland schedule, but we’ve gone ahead and added some more! Those last TBDs are filled in, and we’re pretty psyched about how it’s all come together. Some of the new sessions:

  • An interview and Q&A with Ariel Stallings of Offbeat Empire on how she went from personal blogger to running a network of successful lifestyle sites.
  • $$$: Ads, Affiliates, and Stores. Because everyone wants to know their monetizing options, right?
  • Blogging 101 — Planning Ahead. A hands-on workshop to teach you how to set up an editorial calendar, schedule posts for publication, and keep a drafts folder for quick and easy posting when the well runs dry.

There’s more, and you can see it all on the updated Portland schedule.

Portland Press Publish schedule grid

This event is only two weeks away, so get your tickets now!


Speaker Spotlight: Kelly Bejelly

Kelly Bejelly wearing a striped shirt in her kitchenIt wouldn’t be a blogging conference without at least one food blogger, right? Portland local Kelly Bejelly is the force behind the popular Paleo blog A Girl Worth Saving. Her site is filled with recipes, gorgeous food photos, and general cooking and baking tips, like how to make ingredient substitutions or how to freeze peaches. Her work includes vegan and allergy recipes as well, to make them accessible to the greatest number of people.

A sample of her photos:

Now I’m hungry. Must have chocolate! Er, cacao. 🙂

book cover of Paleo EatsLike many, Kelly started blogging as a hobby, but over time has not only turned her blog into a business, but has branched out into other sites, like meal-planning resource 20 Dishes. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Redbook, Parade, and Natural Solutions Magazine. On top of all that, she recently completed a cookbook, Paleo Eats: 111 Comforting Gluten-Free, Grain-Free and Dairy-Free Recipes for the Foodie in You, that’s available now.

One of the things that Kelly does really well is tying her blog into social media. She has a strong presence on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, produces a regular newletter, a podcast and the occasional webinar, and even has a store on her site for recommended products. She’s going to be talking at Press Publish Portland about how to turn your blog into a business, sharing what has worked (or not) for her in her path to (successfully) monetizing her blog.

Get to know her a little bit right now, and get your ticket to Press Publish to see her in person!

Q. What made you start blogging on (your main blog)?

A. This is highly embarrassing, but true. I was new mom in search of helpful information about how to wrangle my newborn, so I turned to mom blogs to figure out if the lack of the sleep was normal. I noticed that most mom bloggers work with brands by reviewing products. I quickly became a giveaway junkie. One day a light bulb went off, and I realized that I could do this too. At that point, my blog was born again.

Q. What kept you (and still keeps you) posting regularly?

A. A Girl Worth Saving transitioned from “Mommy-life” to a food blog that shares about my grain-free/paleo lifestyle years ago. I’ve found that knowing that my recipes are helping others in their lifestyle (especially the kids) keeps me creative in the kitchen and leads to regular posts.

Q. What’s your most popular post? 

A. A paleo slow cooker round up. This goes to show how much people love their slow cookers!

Q. Is that also your favorite post? If not, what are a few of your favorite posts, and why?

A. No, while I adore my slow cooker, my favorite post is my recipe for a Raspberry Pop Tart. I was really trying to push the idea of “Paleo” and do so in a way that everyone with allergies could enjoy. The recipe is nut-free, egg-free and dairy-free, but it’s tasty and a well-loved recipe.

Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. In my line of work, it’s the recipe, not the writing. I get praised on how easy and quick, as well as delicious, my recipes are. Is there anything you’re hoping to share with the Press Publish audience? I hope to share my journey as a blogger and the tips and tricks I have learned along the way.

Q. Is there anything you’re hoping to learn at Press Publish?

A. I’m always on the lookout for the newest trends and how to better serve the paleo community.

Workshops, Classes, and Clinics — Oh My!

You may have checked out our speakers and sessions before, but check again! We’ve added a track of Blogging U. classes to both the Portland and Phoenix events featuring a variety of formats, but all of these sessions are hands-on, not lectures. Some classes are the same in both cities, while others will vary based on who’s teaching. Most classes last half an hour, while the more advanced workshops/clinics are an hour long. But enough with the logistics, here are the class descriptions!

Writing 101: Storytelling
Blogging is just another way to tell a story. Join Mike Dang and Mark Armstong, editors of Longreads, for a 30-minute writing class focused on practicing the art of storytelling. A combination of writing, sharing, and providing feedback, this class will get your creative juices flowing. What’s your story?
Portland, 30 minutes

Writing 101: A Daily Practice
In this 30-minute class, we’ll talk about how to build a writing habit, give yourself the space to write, and try different techniques to unlock your mind and tell your story. This session will be led by Cheri Lucas Rowlands, a story wrangler for and Longreads.
Phoenix, 30 minutes

Blogging 101: Planning Ahead
One of the most important things when trying to grow a blog — posting regularly — can also be one of the greatest challenges. What if some days you don’t know what to say? Or don’t have time to write? We’ve got your back! In this class we’ll take a look at some of the programs on aimed at helping you get the creative juices flowing, like Blogging U, Daily Prompts, and weekly Photo Challenges, and we’ll help you set up a posting plan for your blog. We’ll also create a few draft posts and learn to use the post scheduling tool, so that you can put your plan into action! This class will be led by Josepha Haden.
Portland, 30 minutes

Photography 101
Get photography tips, learn how to use the WordPress media editor, and optimize images for the web! Taught by Sheri Bigelow and Ash Rhodes.
Phoenix, 30 minutes

Design 101: Customize
The first thing people notice when they visit your site is how it looks. In this workshop, bring your laptop or tablet and begin the process of making your site feel more like you by using the customizer to update things like taglines, fonts, and theme options. Taught by Kathryn Presner in Portland, and by Kathryn Presner and Erick Hitter in Phoenix.
Portland & Phoenix, 30 minutes

Design 102: Menus and Widgets
Dig deeper into customizing your site. In this session, you’ll use the WP Admin screens to set up custom menus for your site navigation, and widgets to bring more shazam to your sidebars. And yes, you’ll even try out the custom menu widget. Worlds collide! Taught by Kathryn Presner in Portland, and by Kathryn Presner and Erick Hitter in Phoenix.
Portland & Phoenix, 30 minutes

Writing 201: Clinic
For this one-hour session, bring some writing with you (your blog on your laptop or other device counts!) that you think could be better, and participate in a writer’s workshop led by Longreads editors Mike Dang and Mark Armstrong. They’ll guide the group in giving feedback, and will provide their own constructive criticism on how to improve the elements of your writing that you want to improve.
Portland, 1 hour

Writing 201: Clinic
In this open and informal discussion session, editor Cheri Lucas Rowlands will talk a bit about what makes a great post. Be sure to bring your laptops, notebooks, or drafts to work with: you can ask specific questions, learn about others’ techniques, and brainstorm story ideas with the group.
Phoenix, 1 hour

Design 201: CSS Basics
How many times have you heard, “You can change that with custom CSS,” but you didn’t know how to get started? In this half-hour class, learn the basics of working with CSS as our teachers walk you through the process of making some simple CSS changes on your blog. You’ll want your laptop with you for this one! Taught by Kathryn Presner and Michelle Langston in Portland, and by Kathryn Presner and Erick Hitter in Phoenix.
Portland & Phoenix, 30 minutes

Design 202: CSS Clinic
You understand the basics of CSS, like how to change a color or the size of your headlines, but what about the more complicated stuff? In this open clinic session, come prepared with your CSS hopes and dreams, and our teachers will walk through how to make people’s dreams come true in a classroom setting so everyone can learn together. What kind of dreams can be solved by CSS? Move your sidebar to the other side, add a new border around all your photos, hide elements from being displayed — dream big. Led by Kathryn Presner and Michelle Langston in Portland, and by Kathryn Presner and Erick Hitter in Phoenix.
Portland & Phoenix, 30 minutes

The full session schedules are posted on the city event pages for Portland and Phoenix. Don’t forget, your ticket includes a year of the Premium upgrade or the VaultPress backup bundle, so get your ticket today!

Speaker Spotlight: Cecilia Gunther

Cecilia Gunther headshot
Cecilia Gunther

Once upon an time, in a land across the oceans, a girl named Cecilia was born. If that sounds like the start of a fairy tale, it’s on purpose. Though speaker Cecilia Gunther’s life hasn’t actually been a fairy tale, its zigs and zags have been so fascinating that it could easily be written up and sold as fiction.

Mother of five. High school drama teacher. Director. Photographer. Film industry professional in London. Quite honestly, any of those roles could be easily be a subject tackled by a script developer (another former career), but the shift from where she was to where she is now — down home on the farm in Illinois, growing her own food and raising animals with the moral support of her blog’s community of farmers — sounds like the kind of Amazon or BBC series I’d binge-watch in a weekend (well, if the writing was good, obviously).

We discovered Cecilia when we asked on the official Hot Off the Press blog if readers could suggest any great bloggers that we should consider for Press Publish. We’re so glad someone brought her to our attention! Her photographs are amazing, and seeing the connections that have formed in her commenting community is an example of the social richness that blogging can bring into your life.

But back to that fairy tale… this isn’t the first time Cecilia has been on the farm. As a teenager, she came to the U.S. as an exchange student. Cue a meet cute on the farm followed love, loss, travel, and all the other things that come with living. Fast forward a few decades to London, reconnection, more love and travel and another wedding, and back to the farm! I’m leaving out lots of details, but you get the idea that Cecilia has kind of an incredible story, right? Don’t worry, she’s going to tell you all about how she wound up where she is, and how her blog has helped her succeed and make great friends along the way. You won’t want to miss this session, and you definitely don’t want to miss her photographs!

Here’s our usual interview to help you get to know Cecilia, and you can also chat with her in her community conversation on how blogs evolve over time.

Q. What made you start blogging on

A. I came to live in the Midwest of America from London (though I am a New Zealander) about nine years ago. I was used to being surrounded in people and the prairies felt very wide and very lonely. Not being happy with the food in the supermarkets I decided to grow my own food embracing the challenge of self sufficiency. I took advantage of the land around my house and began to grow my own food. I started blogging to document the development of my little piece of land, taking photographs so that my own grown children and friends who do not live anywhere near closeby, could still drop in on any given day and see what I had been up to. I continue to blog with a growing readership of like-minded and very clever individuals who are always ready to help a lady farmer.

Q. What kept you (and still keeps you) posting regularly?

A. I promised myself and them that I would tell the truth of every day and that every post was about what happened yesterday and that the images would be what I saw that day. When I travel I take the readers with me, but 99 percent of the posts are just me pottering through an ordinary day farming, raising and cooking my own food using old fashioned methods. Mostly Organic. Mostly sustainable. Always tasty.

I post every day at about the same time. So, routine has a lot to do with the continued posting of the blog. I work on the images in the evening and write and post early morning – usually around dawn just before I go out to start my chores. The blog is a soap opera. Slow moving, the dialogue is not terribly challenging and there are lots of pretty pictures. I have made it easy for myself. And easy for my readers too.

Also the blog has developed a life of its own. All day as I work in the fields and the barns, usually completely alone but for the animals, I find myself collecting images and anecdotes to tell my readers the next morning. The blog itself has become a dialogue, my cup of tea. I guess you could call my readers my neighbours and we meet for a cup of tea together every day. I am no longer lonely out here.

Q. What’s your most popular post? Is that also your favorite post? If not, what are a few of your favourite posts and why.

A. Do you remember the morning we skyped (when you were at the beach in Hawaii and I was at the beach in New Zealand) and you asked me what my favourite post was? I was totally stumped. Each post is a continuation of yesterday’s post, they work as a unit (I have had new readers start at the beginning of this blog’s life and read every single post to get up to date) and I have TOO MANY favourites because few posts stand alone.

So I asked my readers this question this morning. Here is what they said. If you have a moment – zoom down to the Lounge of Comments.

Firstly the most popular post (which is not my favorite post by the way).

How to Steam Eggs — No Need to Boil at All. This post is an old post in the previous free WordPress format so it has been squeezed into my new format and is now kind of awkward. But many people seem to want to know how to steam eggs!

Also for you, with the help of my readers, here are three good favourite posts that might help you get a handle on what my blog is all about.

My Enemy. We had been having trouble with an animal killing chickens and I had put a wildlife motion activated camera into the hen house to see what was doing it. This is the day we realised that we were up against minks. I chose this one as it is in fact an ordinary post about the day to day running of an old fashioned farm but shows the drama of ordinary farm life and the dangers faced by pasture-raised animals.

The Day I Almost Married the Marlboro Man. I wrote a series of stories about my life as a child growing up on a beach. These rose from the ‘I can’t do it because I don’t know how’ discussion. Many of my readers were saying that they could not do what I do. They could not grow their own food because they had never done it before. One of the main aims of this blog is to show that we can all be involved in the growing of our own food — no matter what our background is — even if it is only herbs on the windowsill. I did not grow up on a farm you see. I grew up literally just above high tide on a beach. Laying about in the sand. The day I met the Marlboro Man still makes me smile.

Feeding Sugar Water to Bees — This post carries some of my most favourite images of the bees that I have on my property. Chosen because of its beauty. Bees are magic, having them down in the back is always a joy. They are hard to keep alive here too, because we are surrounded in the GM crops of corn and beans. But the honey is magnificent and we have excellent pollination levels in the gardens.


Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. My readers respond with kind and informed support — always. My readers are called The Fellowship. They play a massive part in supporting me and keeping me informed on farming practices. They are an integral part of the blog. Many are actually so emotionally invested in the blog that they read daily and make intelligent and informative comments daily.

Very early on in the ever-developing life of the blog The Kitchens Garden, they began to form into a very strong collection of real people, soon naming themselves The Fellowship. This was such a tidal movement that none of us can even remember who came up with the name. We call the comments section The Lounge of Comments. This is where the commenting members of the fellowship gather every day. And I mean gather, often they will pop in and out a number of times to read each others’ comments. Sometimes when I am busy on the farm they even answer each others’ questions and if one of The Fellowship is ill or needs support, or has a farm question, this is where they support and inform each other.

We have a page called Join Us — pop in if you have a moment. It is a startling collection of personalities: this is where many of The Fellowship introduce themselves to me and each other. Even the ones that seldom comment.

Letters for my Little Sister book coverThe Fellowship have published one book already — Letters for my Little Sister — and are working on another. The books began when I wrote a post about menopause and the comments in the Lounge were so full and so interesting, that I decided to make the comments into a book. My readers expounded on their initial thoughts and sent these letters to me and with the help of another member I produced a lovely book (It is on its third print now and is sold on Amazon)

The second book is underway: I am presently collating Letters for my Baby Girl this winter and then we will begin the third in our series. The Letters Books are a direct result of the Lounge of Comments and the honesty and wealth of information that the readers of The Kitchens garden share with each other. So, you see, the readers of my blog are like a huge engine chugging along underneath my farm, moving us all forwards.

Q. Is there anything you’re hoping to share with the Press Publish audience?

A. I take it that you mean the talk that I shall give?

I am hoping to talk about the relationships that we build throughout our lives that strengthen our blogs. I believe that everything comes down to relationships. The ones we develop with our readers, our screens, our writing, the weather, our images – our content – even our time management- the people in our lives and from our lives – even our relationships with the people who have left our lives. Even the relationships we develop with technology. To develop a clear linear thread between these relationships creates a clarity of thought that, as bloggers riding the waves of the interwebs and as People in a fast moving world, ENABLE and feed a curious strength.

Once that strength is collected and fed and decanted we can draw on the strength created from these relationships.

I call this energy The Benevolent Monster. It has become a kind of THING. Once we have done our home work, made our plan, put the pieces of our plan in order and pushed Play we climb up onto This Benevolent Monster, we have informed him and fed him, now we trust him and HE begins to carry US through. This is paramount in a blog. Trusting ourselves and our readers.

For example: think about your work on this conference – you are developing a clear series of relationships, you collect the people, you carve out the time, you reach out with your fingers and gently cajole the information from your team and knit it into a cohesive mass. Soon you will have created a beautiful Benevolent Monster, and when your gathering work is done – you climb up his weathered and elderly hide (you might need a ladder!) kick your heels in and then TRUST The Benevolent Monster to walk forward unaided and bring your work to fruition. Everything is in place, your work has gone Live, the conference begins and The Benevolent Monster takes over. An idea has become an entity. From then on you say Yes to each problem as it pops up confident in the Monster. I love the Monster.

This is what I will talk about and extend for the people of Press Publish. This and more! What do you think?

Q. Is there anything you’re hoping to learn at Press Publish?

A. I need to learn so much! You mentioned that you were bringing people to speak about technical matters. I am deeply low-tech at the best of times. I live a very sheltered life out here on the Mid West. I don’t even have TV. And I know I am not using the WordPress machine as well as I should be. So I am excited to be able to listen to your speakers and streamline and clean up a lot of my own antiquated practices.

As an example I shall go over to your earlier email right now and try to work out how to do an online signature!!

I am also looking forward to your other speakers. Learning how they approach their days and their own time management and motivations. How they power their own Benevolent Monsters. Bloggers are inherently solitary so it will be good to cross the divide and discuss this medium with other bloggers.

Cecilia will be speaking on March 28, 2015 at Press Publish Portland.

Get tickets!

Speaker Spotlight: Ananda Leeke

Ananda LeekeAnanda Leeke will be joining us as a speaker in Portland from her home in Washington, DC. Published author, founder of the Digital Sisterhood Network, artist, yoga practitioner, social media professional…. Ananda’s accomplishments are so many and so varied that it was almost painful trying to to summarize them into a short blurb for our speaker’s list. Needless to say, we feel privileged that she’ll be part of the inaugural Press Publish this March.

One of the most enjoyable parts of organizing a conference like this is getting to know the speakers a little bit as you prepare for the event and flesh out their session ideas with them. Working with Ananda has been great fun, and hearing the story of how she has evolved personally and professionally since she began blogging 10 years ago is truly inspiring. She’ll be talking about this evolution, and how you can both create and find opportunities for yourself, so I don’t want to give away the session altogether, but here are some fun tidbits:

  • Digital Sisterhood book coverShe began blogging to try and cure writer’s block while working on a novel, and it worked. Ananda is a published author several times over in both fiction and memoir, including a memoir about her development of the concept of digital siterhood. (Ananda’s books on
  • She made connections and found professional opportunities through blogging conferences. One such opportunity led to her becoming a Blogger Ambassador for Macy’s, which ultimately led to her trip to Haiti.
  • She campaigned for Obama with her dad, and blogged about it.
  • She became a social media leader for the White House.

I can’t wait to meet her in person, and I know she’s really looking forward to meeting our attendees here in Portland (where I happen to live). She’s hosting a community conversation here on Press Publish this week about blogging burnout, so pop in and get to know her!

And it wouldn’t be a speaker spotlight without a little interview so you can hear Ananda in her own words.

Q. What made you start blogging?
A. When I started blogging, I treated it like a personal diary. It was a life jacket in my sea of writer’s block during my novel writing journey for “Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One” (Amazon). Each day I blogged, I was able to exercise my writing muscles. As they gained strength, my diary entries grew into character descriptions and dialogue I could experiment with before giving them a permanent home in my novel.

Q. What kept you (and still keeps you) posting regularly?

A. I love the power of storytelling through blogging, the capacity to share massive amounts of information (since I’m a lifelong information junkie), and the beauty of connecting and building community with people I would not otherwise. These aspects of blogging light up my creative spark.

Q. What’s your most popular post?

A. My most popular post is titled, “My Digital Citizenship Valentine: 4 Reasons to Love #WHSocial Events.” It discusses why I love serving as a White House social media leader. It is one of my favorite posts.

Q. What are some of your other favorite posts, and why?
A. My favorite posts include my blog series on traveling to Haiti as a Macy’s Heart of Haiti Blogger Ambassador in 2011 and serving as a social media for the White House and U.S. Department of State in 2014. They are my favorites because they demonstrate how powerful blogging can be in someone’s life and the magical and memorable opportunities that arise when one person shares her voice and passion with the desire to serve others. I think they also encourage bloggers to define and pursue their own definition of blogging success.

Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. Some readers have told me they were inspired to write and publish their own words in a blog or book. Others have thanked me for sharing my stories and passion for yoga, creativity, and all things Internet geek.

Q. What are you hoping to share with the Press Publish audience?

A. I am hoping to share inspiration and encouragement with the Press Publish audience. I hope my talk, panel discussion participation, and interactions with audience members inspire them to fully express their authentic voices online, embrace digital wellness moments in their blogging life that honor when their energy and interest levels in blogging fluctuate and/or disappear, define and follow their own definition of blogging success, and have fun telling and sharing their stories online.

Q. Is there anything you’re hoping to learn at Press Publish?

A. I want to learn how to transform my free WordPress blogs into fabulous and fierce web sites with WordPress templates and plugins. My sites need a facelift like yesterday!

Ananda will be speaking about blogging, opportunities, digital wellness, and whatever else comes up with the Portland audience.

Get your ticket today!

Poetry in Motion

Are you a poet who doesn’t know it?’s Blogging U begins its Writing 201: Poetry class tomorrow. Lasting 2 weeks (with weekends off), each day the course will provide a prompt for a poetic experiment that you can share with other class members via your blog and discuss on the private course site, the Commons. Despite the 201 label, you don’t need any specific writing experience, just an interest in trying poetry for yourself in a no-pressure environment. If you miss a day, nothing bad happens. 🙂

To prove how painless it is to try out a Blogging U course, I’m signing up myself. Will it be potentially embarrassing to share poetry on my personal blog? Yes, possibly. I’m not a poet by any stretch, as evidenced by the Doctor Who-themed song I posted once that was a result of a Coursera songwriting course.

Based on what I’ve seen in the Blogging U Commons from past courses — I’ve not taken one myself yet, I’ll be a newbie just like you! — I have a feeling that it will be a lot more fun than the student assignment forums in that Coursera songrwriting course, where people seemed to be really anxious about “getting it right” and tended to sound really stressed out. In the Blogging U Commons, everyone is there to have fun, learn a little something, and create blog posts in the process.

Who’s up for 2 weeks of writing poems? Silly or serious, anything goes. Will you take the challenge and join me in Writing 201: Poetry for the next two weeks?

I leave you with a poem that was written by a trumpet player in my high school band that has stuck with me for going on 30 years now:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
You think this will rhyme
But it won’t

Blogging U logo 
Sign up for Writing 201: Poetry

(And tell me in the comments on this post so I can keep an eye out for you in the Commons!)

Premium Upgrades for Attendees

The original idea behind Press Publish was to create an event dedicated to blogging with and Jetpack, that would help people take advantage of built-in features and create sites that better expressed their personality. Our speakers are a combination of featured bloggers sharing their stories of how their lives were changed by their blogs and people who work on, Jetpack, and related products by Automattic.

Since a number of our speakers are on the Premium plan, using upgrades like custom design, custom domains, and no ads, as we started planning out the tutorials the Automattic speakers would be leading, we realized it would be best if we could ensure everyone had access to the same tools. So! Pemium

We’re excited to announce that every Press Publish ticket will come with a one-year Premium upgrade that you can apply to your site. The Premium plan includes the following upgrades:

  • Custom domain. Instead of your site could live at
  • Custom design. Use custom CSS and custom fonts from Typekit to make your blog better represent your personal style and aesthetic.
  • VideoPress. Upload videos right to your website without having to go through a third-party site like YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Space upgrade. An additional 10GB of storage so you have plenty of room for your videos, photos, and other files.
  • No ads. No more ads on your blog. No. More. Ads.

The Premium plan normally costs $99, but with the purchase of a Press Publish ticket, you will receive a coupon code in your ticket confirmation email that you can use to upgrade your site.

Akismet + VaultPress

What about self-hosted attendees? We’ve got you covered, too! If you prefer, you can trade your Premium upgrade coupon for a 1-year subscription to the VaultPress Backup Bundle ($99/yr plan), which combines VaultPress Lite + Akismet Business with the following features.

  • Spam Protection
  • Daily Backups
  • Automated Restores
  • 30-day Backup Archive
  • Safekeeper Support

If you would like to get the VaultPress Backup Bundle, when you get your ticket confirmation email, just reply to that email and let us know the URL of your self-hosted site that you want to use the VaultPress plan with, so the VaultPress team can get you hooked up.

Anyone who hasn’t redeemed their coupon before the event can get help at the Happiness Lounge during Press Publish, but we encourage you to go ahead and redeem it right away so you can start playing with the extra features and can bring any questions with you to the event for answers.

Get your Press Publish tickets today!