And to think I nearly didn’t go…

Since losing my job last year, money’s tight.  With small change left in my redundancy packet, it was with a heavy heart I decided I couldn’t sanction the cost of attending Mumsnet Blogfest. Only when the tickets sold out did I realise that going would have been the platform I needed to launch my embryonic blog.

A Google search for ‘free ticket to Mumsnet’ yielded gold as Give as you Live was running a competition, offering a ticket in return for tweeting from the event and a blog account afterwards. Give as you Live is a way to shop online with thousands of stores, raising funds for charity while incurring no extra cost. (My next post will be on the concept and how you can get involved). Within days I heard I’d been chosen. I was thrilled.

Thrilled but anxious too. I had only a week to crack tweeting.  Compressing my thoughts  to 140 characters seemed like an impossible ask. Why confine yourself to just one word, when you can say it verbosely with seven?  I don’t do brevity. Or hashtags.  But I knew someone who did and does so I went to the go-to man for tweeting (DH). For my twitter handle I settled on @wishstorm.

A plethora of posts and tweets cover the conference content from the day.  Head over to Mumsnet Blogfest blogroll for those.  Suffice it is to say that all the pre-planning paid off as Mumsnet pulled together the dream team of key-note speakers, contributors, experts and sponsors.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez was an inspired choice for the opening keynote speech.  She spoke of her involvement with Oxfam’s Raising Her Voice program which empowers poor people to engage in governance yet she was still able to connect with us through our shared roles as mothers and wives as she talked us through her Saturday mornings of messy breakfasts, homework coercion and football practice.

Leaving Caitlin Moran as closing keynote speaker meant we left on a high, adeptly entertained, flattered (Caitlin handed out cards with ‘ I like your face’ on them) and inspired. She gave sound advice. When approaching a commission/blogpost, keep your subject matter in the back of your head for days beforehand so when it comes to writing it, the hard work’s been done as you reel those thoughts back in. And her snooker metaphor for original thinking – walk around the table until you can get a shot at the ball that no ones gone for.

Caitlin Moran minutes after delivering her keynote speech

In between, I sat in on some fantastic panel discussions on Finding your voice; How blogging can change the world; and How much should you reveal online.  Panelists included The Bloggess via google+, Zoe Williams, Zoe Strimpel, Natasha Walter, Stella Creasy MP, Zoe Margolis, Tim Dowling, Eliza Gray and Liz Jones.

My breakout sessions were: Social Media – a whirlwind tour with Paul Armstrong of Mindshare; and SEO techniques for beginners with the patient and very clear David Towers of MEC Global.

There were moments through the day when I felt like a timid child in a school playground and wished mumsnet had thought to provide a friendship bench. Anxious to maximise on my time there, I forced myself to make approaches and broke down walls quicker than a wrecking ball. As a secret blogger of a clandestine site (Mahogany Soup isn’t somewhere you’ll find yourself on a casual web wander) I’d never discussed my blog with anyone. And here it came with your salutation – Hi, so what do you blog about?

An early friend was Becky from How I lost weight.  I was impressed by her aptitude for SEO matters and I know we’ll stay in touch and encourage each other as we define for ourselves how blogging can best meet our needs. We chatted over the cupcakes from Beverly Hills Bakery

Becky with a Beverley Hills cupcake


In the line for lunch I stood behind Linda Geddes and baby son.  She writes a blog for the New Scientist and her book Bumpology  – The myth busting guide for parents to be – comes out in January.  What a great angle Linda has cornered with her ability to bring simple science to the masses, er the misses.

Bumpology: Linda and son

I spoke about nature v nurture with the Love2declutter sisters and they purport a clutter free life is available to all.  I wasn’t to despair.  Messiness is a bad habit and habits can be broken. Our conversation was interjected by a duo with camera and mike. I ended up doing  an interview for Mumsnet thinking to myself I can’t get more ‘out’ than this.

As the day came to a close and eager to make the most of the networking opportunity I went along to the drinks reception. Bloggers had gathered in to clusters and I lamented the absence of that friendship bench once more.  I sought Dutch courage amongst the nibbles.  With cocktail stick in hand I harpooned the smorgasbord of cheeses the British Cheese Board had assembled. Somewhere between the vintage cheddar and the Blue Stilton  I met the  lovely Rachel from  Pink Blue and You.  We spoke about how her hobby has taken off and her photo montages were in high demand. You don’t have to complicate things – often what’s needed is what’s under your nose.  Work with what you have/are.

My last encounter was with Ginger knits Clare. I marvelled at her patterned hand knit socks.  I’m guessing she’s as dexterous at unravelling SEO jargon as she is with her yarn.

Of course I didn’t want the day to end but the goody bag (so good they earned a separate post)  eased the wrench.

I hadn’t expected to enjoy tweeting live but I did and my DH texted me earlier in the day to tell me I was tweet-tastic.#agoodman.

Since Blogfest I find myself thinking in tweet sound bites with lengthier thought bubbles morphing themselves in to blog posts.

The legacy from Blogfest is belief in myself, confidence in my thoughts and words and a sense of purpose.

Bum note:  Altitude 360 is a great venue.  But the toilets! The thrones were so skinny as to accommodate only one buttock at a time. I had to do a double take to make sure I wasn’t peeing in a urinal.

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