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 Amazon.com 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.

ariel-chairs

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 Blogger.com, 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 Hooping.org in 2002 (dedicated to hula hooping) and then with offbeatbride.com in 2007. I shifted to WordPress when I launched offbeatbride.com, 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 offbeatfamilies.com and offbeathome.com), 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:
http://offbeatempire.com/2014/12/taint-week-2014

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!

 

Rules are Made to be Broken

In the weeks after my blog first went viral, I had no idea what to do next. It’s a strange sensation — looking at your blog’s statistics, seeing the traffic climb higher and higher, and wondering what to do about all of it. I googled phrases like “Tips for a Successful Blog,” and took careful notes, ignoring the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. So much of the advice out there is common-sense, and one of the biggest “golden rules” seems to be: narrow down the focus of your blog. Keep your blog clear, direct, and specific.

It’s great advice. And continues to be great advice. Only problem is: I completely ignored it. 

The most popular post I have ever written, by far, was a semi-drunken rant in which I used the f-bomb fourteen times and encourage everyone to fart more. It’s pretty funny, and I’m proud of it.

My second-most-popular post was about racism in America and the events in Ferguson, Missouri. It’s not at all funny, and it grapples with extremely challenging and deeply sensitive issues. I am also pretty proud of it.

In between, I’ve blogged about anything from fashion and boyfriends to social justice issues and depression. I’ve experimented with format — some posts are almost entirely pictures and images, while others are lengthy three-thousand-word affairs. It makes my blog difficult to categorize — am I a humor blogger? A feminist advocate? A graphic designer? A satirist? A memoirist?

To be honest, I think in some ways I am all of those things, and I’m so grateful that my blog can be a platform for my voice, no matter what forms that takes on any given day. Maybe it’s just that I was a really straight-laced, rule-oriented kid and this is my adult act of rebellion, but sometimes … I think rules are made to be broken.

Weigh in! Have you ever ignored or broken a rule about blogging? 

Speaker Spotlight: Christine Lee

Christine H. LeeTo say Christine is a veteran blogger is an understatement. She’s had a website since 1993, and has been blogging since before WordPress — heck, since before the term “blog” was coined! With more than 20 years of online writing under her belt, Christine says, “Blogging kept me writing.”

Christine’s experience of interacting with the community built online is unique. In 2006, she started a blog under a pseudonym.  A few months later, at the age of 33, she suffered a stroke. She didn’t recognize her symptoms as a stroke, but she knew something was off. A few days later, she wrote:

something in my brain burped. most of what i want to do is just out of my grasp. i feel like i know how to do them, but then when i go to do them, i just…CAN’T. day by day, i’m regaining my abilities, so i hope this is just temporary.

Her readers urged her to seek medical attention, in comments on the post as well as — for the few readers who knew her personally — in emails. A day later, she commented from her hospital bed:

I had a stroke! Will be better.

She continued to blog at jadepark.wordpress.com through her stroke recovery, for the next two years. Throughout her blogging, she maintained that close relationship with her commenters.

Eight years after her stroke, Christine wrote an inspirational personal essay on BuzzFeed, and that post went viral. Again, commenters reached out — this time in overwhelming numbers, creating — notice a theme here? — yet more connections. In a post about the essay going viral, she wrote:

When I was going through stroke recovery, I felt incredibly alone. Each stroke is unique, so that just furthers the isolation. And while recovering, I basically sat shiva for the person I lost, unready to face the person I’d become. So if this piece eases that solitary for others, I’m so happy.

Christine recently signed a deal with Ecco Press, an imprint of Harper Collins, to publish two books: WHOLE, based on her BuzzFeed essay, chronicling the debilitating stroke she suffered at the age of 33 and her subsequent transformation; and THE GOLEM OF SEOUL, which follows two Korean immigrants in 1970s New York City in search of a lost relative who take a cue from Jewish mythology and make a golem from Korean soil. We’re so happy for her!

Christine will be speaking at Press Publish Portland on March 28, delivering a talk entitled “Comments Saved my Life.” (Tickets are now only $150get yours today!)

Get to know Christine a little bit better by reading the traditional Speaker Spotlight interview:

photograph by Kristyn Stroble
photograph by Kristyn Stroble

Q. What made you start blogging at jadepark.wordpress.com?

A. While my current main WordPress blog is part of my author website, and relatively new, and I had a blog before that at czilka.wordpress.com, I’ll define my main blog as jadepark.wordpress.com, where I blogged anonymously in the wake of my stroke. I started blogging at “Writing Under a Pseudonym” as a place where I could write without judgment, without high stakes, and where I could chronicle my recovery. I didn’t have an agenda other than it be a semi-private space where I could be honest and frank and speak my mind in the wake of trauma.

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

A. Engagement with my readership. The writing. There’s twitter, but I’ve always blogged, because it’s the blog where I feel I have more liberty. Also, my blog is key to refining my voice as a writer, especially with my nonfiction.

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

A. When I first had my stroke, I put up a blog post. It was an aphasia-ridden nonsensical post, and it was a very short post. It has since become my most popular post—and in a sense, it is also my favorite. In so many ways, it is genuine, because I lost the ability to organize thoughts and filter information.

Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. The response to my writing has been phenomenal. I have made lifelong friends from my blog once I came out from behind the curtain—and it has driven so much support for my narrative.

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

A. Well–! I’ve got a literary agent now, and I’m writing a memoir about my stroke. Jade Park; Writing Under a Pseudonym has been an invaluable resource as I write my book, because my memory was very affected in the wake of the stroke. That I wrote everything down has been helpful in recovering facts. At Press Publish, I just hope to connect with others, and promote blogging.

Come see Christine speak in Portland on March 28!

Get your ticket!

Press Publish Price Drop!

We’ve been working hard on the upcoming Press Publish events — Portland on March 28 and Phoenix on April 18 — fine-tuning the programs, spreading the word, and putting the finishing touches on some outstanding conferences that will be educational and entertaining at the same time. We’re so happy with the way these events are shaping up that we don’t want anything standing between you and the amazing talks we’re bringing to the stage — nothing we can control, anyway.

I’m very excited to announce that Press Publish tickets are now selling for $150 each! Each ticket still comes with a one-year WordPress.com Premium upgrade (a $99 value) or VaultPress Backup Bundle ($99/yr plan) that you can apply to your site.

There simply isn’t another conference in existence that offers this unique combination of WordPress.com know-how and successful bloggers describing how they made their mark. Inspiring stories + intensive workshops + helpful tutorials + one-on-one help with your blog + a year of WordPress.com premium = what are you waiting for? 🙂

Get your ticket!

Speaker Spotlight: Jerry Mahoney

What happens when a great writer has a great story to tell? Well, in the case of comedy writer Jerry Mahoney, you get a great blog, a great book, and a great speaker for Press Publish Portland on March 28!

jerry mahoney holding his newborn twinsJerry’s story of how he and his partner Drew had twins via gestational surrogate has been told in a Modern Love column Jerry wrote for the New York Times and in this Today Show piece from October 2012. Like many of us, Jerry blogged regularly for a while and then took a hiatus. When he came back to his blog after becoming the stay-at-home dad of twins, he found himself writing the kind of blog that he couldn’t find but wanted to read — and as it turns out, it was the kind of blog that a lot of other people wanted to read, too! It’s hard to imagine Jerry cooking up those hilarious posts about playground etiquette, minivans, and The 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad and gathering over 16,000 subscribers during naptime, but I guess they don’t call him Superdad for nothing!

Jerry’s blog has a somewhat unusual, “you get what you give” comment policy. He doesn’t require comments to be approved before publishing, because he doesn’t want to discourage anyone from writing. He warns, “When I do respond to a comment, I try to do so in the same tone and spirit of your original comment.  If you’re nice, I’ll be nice.  If you’re snarky, I’ll snark back.”  The comment threads on many Jerry’s posts read like a fun dinner party, with a lot of interchange between Jerry and his readers, and between his readers as well.

Jerry Mahoney will be flying in from New York to speak at Press Publish Portland on March 28 about his experiences in publishing, including how he mobilized his blog’s community to shoot his book to the top of the Amazon charts. And in the time-honored tradition of our speaker spotlights, here’s a great interview with Jerry:

Q. What made you start blogging on jerry-mahoney.com?

jerry mahoney signing books at a tableA. I was working on my memoir, the book which eventually became Mommy Man: How I Went from Mild-Mannered Geek To Gay Superdad, and my agent told me that if I wanted to get it published, the best thing I could do for myself was to build an online platform. At the time, there were not a lot of gay dad bloggers I could relate to, so I figured I had a perspective people would appreciate hearing. I loved the idea of writing something, publishing it instantly to my site and within minutes, getting feedback from readers. My book took over two years to write, with no guarantee it would get published at all. I probably would’ve gone crazy trying to get it done — and who knows if I ever would’ve finished at all — if I hadn’t had the blog along the way to provide instant gratification for my creative itch and to reassure me that I had a voice people wanted to hear. So at the same time I was building an audience for the book I hoped to publish, I was learning just what that audience wanted to hear from me.

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

A. The more I wrote, the more I realized I had to say, and the more I connected with followers, the more encouraged I was to say it. I really felt like my blog was adding to a bunch of conversations — about parenting, about LGBTQ people, about twins, about raising kids in the 21st century. And people seemed to appreciate my sense of humor. That’s the great thing about having your own space online. The people who think you’re funny/informative/interesting will stick around and the people who don’t will find other sites to read. So you end up writing for a very supportive and appreciative group of people.

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

A. My most viewed post is called “I Won’t Be Your Gay Friend If…” I wrote it in response to people like Kirk Cameron and Sarah Palin defending their anti-gay remarks by saying, “I have lots of gay friends.” I figured people like that deserved a little refresher on just what friendship means. I’m very proud of that post, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite.

Jerry mahoney's familyI think the most representative of my blog is probably “How to Talk to Your Children About Gay Parents, By a Gay Parent“.  My kids are still very young — they’re in kindergarten now — and I know my family probably confuses a lot of their friends. When my kids tell people that they have two dads, it introduces a topic into a lot of families that they weren’t expecting to discuss with their kids so young, so I figured it was only fair that I offer some suggestions on how to deal with it. That post got lots of attention and was reprinted a lot, which made me feel like it struck a chord with other parents. That definitely makes me feel good.

I also like a post called “The 10 Biggest Secrets I Keep From My Kids“, including “I was an even pickier eater at your age than you are,” “I don’t know how we’re going to pay for your college,” and “While you’re napping, I shove my face full of chocolate chip cookies for two hours straight.” It’s one of my more fun posts, and at the same time really honest about some of the hard parts of raising kids.

Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. When I first started my blog, I was a little nervous what I might be opening myself up to. There are homophobes out there, obviously, but beyond that, parents are some of the judgiest people on Earth. I wasn’t sure what kind of response I’d get for, say, confessing that I let my kids watch TV before the age of 2. The amazing thing is that the comments on all posts are usually 90% positive, if not 100%, and the ones who disagree tend to at least be respectful. Trolls are few and far between. That’s because people usually share stuff they agree with, which brings in other people who appreciate what you’re saying. Over time, the people who keep coming back to your blog are the people who relate to your perspective.

There are exceptions, of course. Every once in a while, something I post will anger some community or other and a bunch of people will come in and rant. I get the feeling that someone’s riling people up and saying, “Hey, this guy said this. Go let him have it!” The good thing is, if it becomes disruptive or abusive, I can always shut down their comments.

Overall, having a blog has been a great way to connect with people who think like I do, relate to my struggles and laugh at the things I find funny. I feel in some small way like I’ve built my own community online. Now when a hater swings by to leave a nasty comment, five other commenters swoop in and smack them down before I even can.

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

A. I’d love to share everything I’ve learned about using my blog as a platform to publish a book, finding your niche and your point of view, writing share-friendly posts and using humor to connect with an audience. Of course, the main thing I want to share is my URL!

I’m looking forward to meeting other bloggers and hearing about their experiences. I’m always looking for ways to make my blog look better and to reach a wider audience, and I’m sure I’ll pick up lots of great tips on how to do both.

Get your ticket today!

Phoenix sessions announced

I’m excited to announce that today we published 13 sessions to Press Publish Phoenix’s schedule!

When you buy your ticket for Press Publish Phoenix, you’re signing up for useful tutorials on WordPress.com tools like widgets and themes, tips and tricks from SEO and marketing experts, and a panel of successful bloggers discussing the many different financial opportunities that have come to them through blogging.

Successful bloggers of many stripes — humor, food, parenting, and crafting — are represented in our lineup, and they’ll each be talking about how they made their mark using WordPress. Plus, the Happiness Lounge will be staffed all day with WordPress.com experts, available to give you one-on-one help with your website.

Tickets are available now, and come with a one-year WordPress.com Premium upgrade or a one-year subscription to the VaultPress Backup Bundle ($99/yr plan).

Don’t miss out on any of these great sessions or the other fun stuff in store for you on April 18 at Press Publish Phoenix — get your ticket today!

 

Portland Sessions Announced

We are proud to announce that 19 sessions have been posted to the Portland schedule!

From “Around the World in 80 Posts” from featured blogger Erick Prince-Heaggans to “DIY PR & Social Media” from Marjorie Asturias, Press Publish Portland is jam-packed with uplifting and informative talks from outstanding bloggers and WordPress experts.

Featured bloggers will talk about how blogging helped them build a business, get published, and even learn to farm. We’ll have tutorials on podcasting, mobile blogging, SEO, choosing a theme, widgets, mastering the dashboard, making the most of your upgrades, and more!

Tickets are still available and come with a one-year WordPress.com Premium upgrade or a one-year subscription to the VaultPress Backup Bundle ($99/yr plan).

Don’t miss out on these great sessions or any of the other cool stuff in store for you on March 28 at Press Publish Portland — get your ticket today!

 

Speaker Spotlight: Erick Prince-Heaggans

We got so lucky on this one! The hard part about getting travel bloggers to speak at a blogging conference is that they’re likely to be, well, traveling. When we first spoke to photojournalist and travel writer Erick Prince-Heaggans to see if he would be interested in being a part of Press Publish, he’d recently landed in Bali, and had a travel schedule planned through the end of summer that was going to take him through Europe, Africa, and Asia. Luckily for us, the stars (and flight schedules) aligned just right for us to bring him to Portland by way of Bangkok to share his experiences with you.

There are so many reasons I’m excited to have Erick join us. Where to start?

Erick makes his living as a photojournalist and travel blogger, visiting places all over the world. That’s a career I know many people would love to have — being sent to Bali during our rainy Portland winters sounds pretty great, right? So far he’s traveled to 71 countries on 5 continents.

The story of how he first experienced travel in the military, went to college, started a travel blog at minoritynomad.com, and built his career is inspiring. While that alone would be worth hearing about, Erick also has a social justice inclination that will resonate with many people in Portland. In addition to making a living from travel, he gives back to help others, especially students, learn about the opportunities that exist when you open yourself up to possibility.

As the founder of A World Beyond Youth Exploration, Erick is developing mentorship programs for low-income teens to learn skills like photography/videography and to experience international travel, with the first cohort planned for 2016. On a more individual level, every three months Erick offers a free U.S. Passport: he will cover the costs of obtaining a U.S. passport for a reader of his blog or a student in good academic standing from a U.S. minority community, to help increase the possibility of international travel for these people. While he’s in Portland for Press Publish, we’re also trying to help connect Erick with local high schools serving low-income populations and groups like iurbanteen.org, so that he can speak to students about travel and making the most of opportunities.

Another reason we’re so happy to have Erick speaking is his photography. His photos are good. He takes beautiful shots of everything from architecture to landscapes to portaits, and you look at them and think (or at least I do), “Wow, that’s gorgeous. I want to go to there.” At the same time, he shoots with such a natural style that you feel like if you were traveling to these places and had a little bit of training and a decent camera, you could get these kinds of shots, too — they’re not overburdened with the filters and special effects some photographers use that make their photos seem out of reach. If our luck continues, hopefully Erick will include some tips on how he approaches photography in his Press Publish presentation. Here’s a sampling of some of the photos you can find on minoritynomad.com (I picked some of my favorites — click on one to see them in the photo slideshow):

As with all our speakers, we asked Erick to respond to a set of questions to help our attendees get a feel for his blogging experience before the conference.

Q. What made you start blogging on minoritynomad.com?

A. I started blogging to share my travel experience with other people of color. At the time I started, there were very few travel blogs by people of color that were getting any kind of attention. I believe it’s important that low-income youth see someone traveling the world that comes from a background similar to theirs.

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

A. Direct feedback from readers. Early on the emails were spaced out. Thanking me for posting and sharing my experience. As time went on, the messages starting coming in daily with a wide range of conversations. Some questions, some travel stories, and some just thanking me. I’m inspired by people. Running a successful travel blog isn’t easy by any stretch. But knowing I’m helping a marginalized people gather the courage and information they need to make a big step in life keeps me publishing content.

Q. What’s your most popular post? 

A. How Travel Can Save the Lives of African-American Men

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

A. It is. Several of my photo essays have done well in terms of coverage and comments. My photo essay on Dubrovnik was the last feature I had with Yahoo Travel. But my piece on Travel and African-American men has taken off since its publishing in mid-January. I think it’s my favorite, and others’ favorite as well, because I say some things not many others are saying. I’m not only pointing out the benefits that travel has but what needs to be done in the U.S. to promote an equal society.

Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. Overwhelmingly positively. I think it’s because most of what I write about people can relate to. I don’t really care much about offending people. I say what I believe and always explain why. I think the problem with “blogs” and lots of social media “activists” is that people have an opinion but can’t defend it. Saying, “Well, that’s my opinion,” isn’t justification. If you look at all the opinions I write they are defended with historical, observational, or at least anecdotal evidence. That way people can see why I believe what I do and challenge me if I’m out of bounds.

And believe me, they do all the time.

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

A. My passion for helping others. I hope anyone listening to me speak will leave feeling inspired to help someone do something. Be it knit a sweater or build a school for orphans. Just do something to benefit another.

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

A. I’m always looking for new ways to better myself as a writer. I hope to learn how to possibly do that. Or at least care more about my grammar. lol

If you want to be there when Erick shares his experiences at Press Publish in Portland, get your ticket now! 🙂

Portland Lineup Confirmed

We’ve been busy behind the scenes working on the details for our first two events in Portland and Phoenix this spring, and I’m happy to announce that our Portland lineup is confirmed! We’ll be rolling out session descriptions and speaker spotlight posts over the coming weeks, but here’s an overview of what to expect in Portland.

On Friday, March 27th, we’ll open the weekend with an evening mixer for conference participants. You’ll be able to pick up your registration packet to save some time on Saturday morning, and can start meeting some of the speakers and your fellow attendees. The mixer will include entertainment in the form of a storytelling/reading event by Longreads. Longreads is part of the WordPress.com/Automattic family, a site for finding and sharing outstanding storytelling. I like to think of it almost as our magazine, and the similar storytelling event they put on in New York was great fun and received excellent reviews from attendees. This evening event will be open to the public, so feel free to bring a friend or significant other!

On Saturday the 28th, we’ll have speakers all day in the ballrooms, a mix of successful bloggers sharing stories of how their blogs helped them get to where they are today and members of the Automattic crew giving practical tips and instruction on how to make the most of your site. We’ll also have a smaller classroom running smaller hands-on classes and clinics, and will have Happiness Engineers on call all day in the Happiness Lounge to help you with your own blog if you have any questions or site problems in need of solutions.

I’m especially excited about the breadth of experience we have among our featured blogger speakers. They range in scope from Kathy Cano-Murillo, running a virtual crafty empire, to Cecilia Gunther, running a farm in her own backyard. They come from as close as our backyard, like Portland food blogger Kelly Bejelly, to travel blogger Erick Prince-Heaggans, who’ll be coming to Portland during a break in his Europe/Asia/Africa spring tour and flying in from Bangkok. They are writers and published authors in a variety of genres — memoir, humor, fiction, non-fiction — like Ananda Leeke, Christine Lee, Mary Laura Philpott, and Jerry Mahoney. We believe each one of these speakers has an inspiring personal story, and their successes can provide conference attendees with a guide on how to grow their own blogs.

We’ll be putting together the schedule grid, including each speaker’s topic, over the coming week and posting it here on the Portland event page. If you want to be inspired, want to grow your blog, or just want to be around other people who enjoy blogging as much as you do, get your ticket now!