swag from the international food blogger conference

When my head finally hit the pillow last night in my hotel room in Seattle, about two hours later than I planned, I found that sleep didn’t come easily. My body was fatigued – I could feel it in my calves and in my back – but my mind was wired. Thoughts and images raced through my head, and it felt as if I’d been connected to an intravenous drip of pure caffeine, with maybe a hefty dose of amphetamine thrown in for good measure.

I had just wrapped up a weekend at the second annual International Food Blogger Conference. It’s going to be difficult to put the weekend into words that will describe accurately – using all five senses, if I learned anything from the lesson from the IFBC writing session – how wonderful the experience was for me. But I’ll give it a go.

I think you’ll find on other blog sites the details of what individual sessions were about. There were the basics of recipe writing – a great session by Amy Sherman, Dianne Jacob, and Kristine Kidd – and a fairly mind-numbing session (to me, anyway) on blog traffic and SEO (search engine optimization). Someone will have all the details of the legalities and ethics of blogging session in a post somewhere, but I can sum it up quickly: be transparent and disclose, disclose, disclose. There will be great posts on the session on Modernist Cuisine and on James Oseland‘s keynote address at the Saturday evening dinner. And I’m certain there will be beautiful posts on my two most favorite sessions – the two that nearly brought me to tears – the specialized diets session featuring Shauna Ahern and Alexandra Jamieson and the photography session featuring Penny De Los Santos.

As I write this – seated in seat 22D on my Delta flight home from Seattle, next to a young blonde woman who leaned over, staring at my laptop and asked, “Do you take photos of food for a living?” – I realize I’m bringing home just a few messages after the onslaught of information that came into my already filled-to-the-brim brain this weekend.

First, I am not a flowery writer, the way Kathleen Flinn’s session seemed to be headed, with ornate and over-the-top descriptions of the lemon without using the word lemon. That is not my style, and it is not the voice of this blog. It is not MY voice. I’m not going to change that. But I do promise to write more, to practice the art of writing, because THAT is important to me.

The second message that I heard and chose to walk away with is one that came from several people, and it basically is this: write about – or photograph – what you love. Shauna said that blogging is about “sharing the meaningful stories that move us,” Penny essentially said the same during the photography session – “Be inspired. Love what you do.”

The final message that I came away with – and the most profound of three – is this: the food blogging community is the most amazing group of people I have ever met.

Maria, Mardi, Jen, Marie, & Kelly

This is the sentiment that I have the hardest time putting into meaningful words. The thoughts that were racing through my head last night at 11:00 – and 11:10, and 11:20, and 11:30 – when I knew I should be sleeping since I had a 3:30 am (!) wake-up call, were not of recipe development or how to get published or how to get Molly Wizenberg to follow me on Twitter. The thoughts in my head were about all the simply fantastic people I’d met. People whom I’d met on twitter or through their blogs, people who I’d only known through their words, sometimes only in 140 characters or less. I felt like I’d known some of these bloggers for years, not just months. There was a connection there, a real connection.

That human connection was the real gift – the swag, if you will – that I brought home with me from the conference. That’s the swag that I value the most.

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51 Responses to “swag from the international food blogger conference”

  1. 1
    Allison Jones — August 30, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

    Awwww. What a great post! I’m similarly in awe of the collective effervescence of that group of talented people. It feels like the day after Christmas… I just want to do it all over again! It was so good to meet you, and I know we’ll see each other again!

  2. 2
    Adrienne — August 30, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

    Love your photos and post on IFBC! It was such a great experience and I’m so glad to have met you!

  3. 3
    Maria at Fresh Eats — August 30, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

    You so beautifully captured exactly been in my overfilled, overtired mind since I left Seattle. Lovely, lovely post. And, it was just wonderful experiencing it all with you by my side.

  4. 4
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — August 30, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    Best. Swag. Ever. Friends. Now in real life!

    I am having a VERY hard time figuring out how to post about IFBC….

  5. 5
    Dianne Jacob — August 30, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

    You just keep on writing the way you are doing it now, Merry-Jennifer. It’s working for you.

    Great to meet you at IFBC and I hope you enjoy my book. Thanks for the link.

  6. 6
    Jenny — August 30, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

    LOVE this post <3 Was so nice meeting you!

  7. 7
    Fight the Fat Foodie — August 30, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

    I really wanted to go, but just couldn’t swing it. Maybe next year, it sounds like it was a great experience.

  8. 8
    JulieD — August 30, 2010 @ 3:48 pm


    Great post…loved reading your tweets as well as everyone else’s…I wish I could have been there. You’re right about the food blogging community, they are awesome! I can’t wait to meet some of them at FBF in ATL in a couple of weeks and I hope to meet you this Dec or some day! Hope you get some rest this week. πŸ™‚

  9. 9
    Carol (CGtheFoodie) — August 30, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

    While I could blame it on the lack of sleep, your writing made me tear up a little. Beautifully captured!!! Best swag ever! (#ruke)

  10. 10
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — August 30, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

    A beautiful post! I wish I could have been there with all of you!

  11. 11
    Jenn — August 30, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

    Awesome post – it is exactly experiences like that, that I can’t join in on only via twitter and live streams! I’m having a serious case of food blog conference envy right now, and so would have liked to meet you and many many of the others at IFBC this year! I def. have to coordinate next year to get to a conference! Glad it was so rewarding for you!

  12. 12
    Liren — August 30, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    What a wonderful post! I followed your tweets and posts to FB intently, and absolutely lived vicariously through you! I can just imagine the energy and the passion behind this exciting conference, and hope that we get to meet in person one day πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  13. 13
    May Ling Wu — August 30, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

    Sounds like a great time! Loved to hear about it.

  14. 14
    Sara — August 30, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

    Great Post! Looks like you had a great time! I would love to attend the IFBC someday! Thanks for the post! πŸ™‚

  15. 15
    Sara — August 30, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

    Great!!! Looks like you had a great time! I would love to attend the IFBC someday! Thanks for the post! πŸ™‚

  16. 16
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — August 30, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

    And the real reason I wanted to be there; I’m sure there were some great sessions but my desire has all to do with meeting people I’ve met and tweeted with, worked with (yes, that would be you on all counts!) and have come to know as friends.

    I’ve promised myself…if for some reason, my leg injury isn’t miraculously better by next summer? No matter…I will trick out a cane and make it anyhow…I’m missing, really MISSING, people I’ve never met!

  17. 17
    bridget {bake at 350} — August 30, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

    Great post!!! And now I’m really jealous! πŸ™‚ I recognize some of those faces, too! πŸ™‚

  18. 18
    Elizabeth Howes — August 30, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

    What a wonderful summation of an entirely awesome (and, yes, exhausting) weekend! I’m fairly new to the “blogger community” and wasn’t able to meet everyone I would have liked to during this whirlwind trip. But one thing I can say is, from what I did see, it is such an amazing group of inspiring, passionate people.

    I definitely hope to meet you — and many others — next year!

  19. 19
    RJ Flamingo — August 30, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

    MJ – You said it perfectly! My thoughts have been spinning around and around and I have yet to put one word to blog. The warmth and joy I felt from meeting you and some of the others I’ve become close to by Twitter and blog, is indeed the best swag I’m coming home with.

    xoxox (#ruke)

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  21. 20
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — August 30, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    Loved this post!! You nailed it. I wrote a similar piece on the plane last night (having had no sleep, it needs some serious editing before I can post it!), and I think we got the same things out of the conference.

    It was so lovely to finally meet you and get to spend time with you this weekend. Looking forward to the next time our paths cross!

  22. 21
    Maria — August 30, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

    Glad you had a great time. I followed the tweets:) Great recap post too!

  23. 22
    Winnie — August 30, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

    Lovely post! I too followed all your weekend tweets and am quite envious to have missed out.
    Thanks for sharing about your experience πŸ™‚

  24. 23
    Lynda — August 30, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

    What a lovely post, thank you! I wish I could have been there…will you be at BlogHer Food in October?

  25. 24
    Kim-Cook It Allergy Free — August 30, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

    Beautiful post! Very true! I walked away with the same feeling. I am so glad that I was able to be a part of the weekend. And I am so glad I was able to meet you!
    You portrayed your sentiment perfectly! Loved it!

  26. 25
    merrygourmet — August 30, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

    Thank you everyone for your kind comments! All I can say right now is that my heart is just so full. Seriously. It is to the point of bursting.

  27. 26

    What a terrific post. Sounds like a great event. Thank you for sharing, so we can feel like we were there if we were not able to attend. Nice Job!!!

  28. 27
    Sunchowder — August 30, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

    Beautiful post! I loved going through the weekend with your tweets. I have so much to learn.

  29. 28
    Mary Platis — August 30, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

    Love your words describing this weekend! Your photos give me a small pull at my heartstrings…missing all my new friends at IFBC!
    Memories of all the speakers and facts to remember are somewhat blurry today!
    Need some sleep and chocolate!

  30. 29
    shauna — August 31, 2010 @ 12:09 am

    I absolutely adore that photo of the two of us. And I love that I had a chance to spend some time with you this weekend. Not enough, of course. But a start.

    My heart has been full from these days. Jen (from Use Real Butter) is staying with us for a couple of days, and we have been talking about the joy of the weekend. I completely agree β€”Β it is the people who have made my heart feel full to bursting. Thank you

  31. 30
    Gail — August 31, 2010 @ 9:06 am

    The photo of you and Shauna says it all. You are positively BEAMING! MJ, you definitely came away from IFBC enriched in ways that words can never describe.

    • 30.1
      merrygourmet — August 31, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

      Gail – I think I’m mostly starstruck in the photo with Shauna. And absolutely giddy. In fact, I was pretty much giddy the entire time.

  32. 31
    megan @ whatmegansmaking — August 31, 2010 @ 9:20 am

    What a great post. I can’t wait for the chance to get to meet some fellow bloggers in person. Loved your description πŸ™‚

  33. 32
    The Duo Dishes — August 31, 2010 @ 11:28 am

    Staying true to yourself is what we believe too! Too bad we couldn’t make the conference this year. You guys clearly had a blast. Connecting with everyone in real life is what makes it so great.

  34. 33
    Joy — August 31, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

    Always fun to hear my presentation was mind-numbing.

    • 33.1
      merrygourmet — August 31, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

      The topic, Joy, the topic! You did great with what you were given. πŸ™‚

  35. 34
    Kathleen Flinn — August 31, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

    Great post. Such an awesome weekend.

    I did want to clarify that it was not my intent to drive anyone toward flowery, poetic descriptions in my writing session. That’s not how I write, either. It’s tough to imagine a situation in which a five-sentence description on the scent of a lemon could keep a reader’s attention.

    The point is simply to get people to consider a phrase or description for each of the five senses when describing a commonplace object such as a lemon. As you know, rough drafts tend to be long and unfocused. The folks who had the courage to read their prose aloud were simply reading the roughest of drafts, penned off the cuff. Hence, the responses tended to be longer and more exaggerated than any of those folks would normally write.

    In my workshops, I do another exercise in which I read off a longer description that someone had offered in this one, and then ask participants to distill the idea down to one word. But I didn’t have the time for that on Saturday.

    Love the voice of your writing. Keep up the terrific work.

    • 34.1
      merrygourmet — August 31, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

      Kathleen – Thanks so much for your comment. It’s great to have you here! I valued the session for its intent, and I think your goal was a wonderful one. I took a lot from that session, even if the audience (me included!) did get out of hand. I remember writing something about the inside of the lemon as feeling like a “cold, wet blister, ready to give way under the slightest pressure.” Ugh!

      It was easy to get carried away in the session. We food bloggers are a competitive bunch, and the urge to out-write (and over-write!) took over I think. πŸ™‚

  36. 35
    Carol Peterman/TableFare — August 31, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

    The best part of the conference was meeting people and making great connections. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to meet you, but now I know where to visit you. I enjoyed your post.

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  38. 36
    doctorbob — August 31, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

    Beautifully stated, MJ, capturing what was clearly a singular and memorable event. Your writing stands proudly with all others.

  39. 37
    Megan Gordon — September 1, 2010 @ 2:30 am

    Nice post. I share many of your thoughts and feelings…namely, the people! My favorite part of blogging, hands down, is meeting the great largely like-minded folks who you can immediately relate to. Great meeting you Friday night. Look forward to staying in touch with your blog!

  40. 38
    bunkycooks — September 1, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

    What a nice post and I am glad that you had a nice time there, especially meeting other bloggers. Maybe next year I will try to attend. I have been just a wee bit busy with Food Blog Forum Atlanta! I look forward to hearing what is said in Atlanta by our panelists and how different it will be.

    • 38.1
      merrygourmet — September 1, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

      Gwen, it’s killing me that I can’t attend Food Blog Forum Atlanta. I hope it turns out wonderfully, and I know that it will since you’re involved!

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