Altitude Design Summit 2011

As you guys know, last week the whole APW team went to the Altitude Design Summit. It was my first official blogging conference (Mighty Summit was more of a retreat), and my first official business trip (when I worked in Theatre, I lived in New York. No one really traveled for work). Oh, and I did this important thing while I was there: I spoke on a panel.

I’m trying to figure how to sum up the whole experience for you, which lives in my mind as a flurry of glitter and balloons, business cards and not enough sleep. Here is my stab at it.

{Picture by APW Assistant Editor Lauren}

First, I spoke. I’m not big on making my life list and Mondo Beyondo goals public (practices I’ve been doing for the last five or six years), but at the end of Mighty Summit we all committed to try to make five things happen for ourselves this year. Oddly, for me the scariest thing was trying to speak at a conference. Working for myself managing a creative business full time? I figured I had that. But getting asked to speak at a conference? That seemed insurmountable.

Well. I got asked to speak at Alt on the subject of Growing Your Community. And if there is anything I know a little about, thanks to APW, it’s community. My slides were filled with so many pictures of you ladies grinning at the camera during book clubs and sisterhood of the traveling dress handoffs, that I had to explain that the pictures were not stock photos… they were my real readers who were really friends in real life. Suffice to say, you guys blew the crowd away.

{Picture by APW Assistant Editor Lauren}

So there I was, speaking at my first ever conference. And because the universe has a sense of humor, I somehow ended up being on the first panel on the first day. Well, actually, I was the first speaker on the first panel on the first day, but that is because I have an under-developed sense of fear, and volunteered to go first, before I really thought it through.

So I spoke. And people took notes like crazy, and didn’t laugh at all (which made me nervous, as someone used to doing comedy), and came up and complimented me on my talk afterward. Which made me feel useful and informative, which was lovely. But mostly? I checked that sucker off my life list. Rad.

{Picture by APW Assistant Editor Lauren}

But far more to the point, I met amazing people. I spoke with amazing people. And that, of course, was the whole point of the trip. I was blown away (again) by the generosity of the blogging community. As Lauren realized during Alt, blogging is a business, and it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are power dynamics and there is competition, and there is money to be made. But what I was struck by again on this trip is the fact that for every person that tries to tear you down, there are four other women ready to lift you up. And there are people (like my panel moderator, Sarah Bryden Brown, from Babble) who will see a spark in you, and invest time in showing you the ropes. And when that happens? That’s a pretty amazing gift (Thank you Sarah, I’ll remember that for a long time).

So what did I take away from Alt Summit?

  • Tina Roth Eisenberg, the Swiss Miss telling us that every time she had a child, she gave up on doing work she hated, and every time her business grew. Having children fueled her career, it didn’t drag it down.
  • Watching Lauren grapple with what she really wanted to do with her career, and at first wanting to take a nap and hide under the bed, and then later watching her delight in a new-found sense of possibility.
  • Meeting the excellent Kathleen, who’s writing about her trek to Everest Base Camp was some of the best writing of 2010 on the blog-o-sphere… and then finding out she’d been reading APW all along, in secret.
  • Sitting around the table with a group of bloggers I’ve respected for years, drinking bourbon and laughing.
  • Mondo (he of the amazing work on Project Runway last season), telling us that he created art with a sense of joy, to counteract a life that had been difficult.
  • Reminding myself again that being a good business woman is not me betraying my creative roots or my readers, it’s honoring those things, and allowing them the care and nurturing they need to grow.
  • Having brunch with long time readers Meghan and Ms. Loaf, and finally being able to give them hugs.
  • And laughing and posing with Maggie and Erin in short glittery dresses (because hey, lets prioritize the important stuff).

Oh, and  the Swiss Miss telling us that her first ever post was, “In all beginnings dwell a magic force.” – Hesse

{picture from the Alt Summit Flickr stream}

So from that swirl of balloons, glitter, and business cards, I emerge to ask you, what is your magic force today? Because it’s yours to grasp. I’ll be over here cheering you on. (And chatting with you up about it. Because that’s what I do best.)

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