The Britmums Live Conference is the premier UK event for Parent Bloggers (don't forget those Dads!), I was also a finalist in the Brilliance in Blogging Awards, and while I didn't win I was suprised, flattered and honoured to be in the final eight in the Inspire category. Incredible when you consider that I am only one among thousands of other women writing about their lives. Congratulations to Mummy Whisperer on winning and also to another of my favourite bloggers Tania who blogs at Special Needs Jungle for winning in the Change category and the amazing Mammasaurus for winning in the Fresh Voices Category. She is one amazing lady who gives so much back to the blogging community not least her Love all Blogs site which is a great place to go to find a blog you would like to read - they are all there.
But the conference was so much more than the awards ceremony, it helped me crystalize what I love about writing, why I write and what I want to do with my writing. I got so much out of all of the sessions but over and over it kept coming back to the powerful force the blogging community is to influence change and shape opinion.
The media and policy makers are looking to us Kitchen Table Revolutionaries as they realise the public can see through agendas and spin. A blogger tells it as it is, based on their experience.
The keynote speakers, Ruby Wax and Sarah Brown reinforced this. Ruby is using social media to break the stigma of Mental Illness by telling her own story, no agenda, no book deal, just a woman driven to make a change. I have always admired Sarah Brown - forget about the fact she is the wife of a former Prime Minister, she like many other women I know is a bereaved parent and she is a parent of a child with a chronic, life limiting disease who because of who she has married has had her life thrust into the spotlight. But she uses her own experience and what it has taught her for the greater good, she is a twitter queen because it helps her connect with real people at the coal face.
I was fortunate to attend the workshop on Blogging for the Greater Good where Camilla Batmanghelidjh spoke - she is passionate about her cause, Kids Company, the charity she founded to support "hard to reach" children in the UK, she devotes her life to this and it was inspiring to hear her speak. And the Crossing the Chasm session gave me a huge amount of practical advice (and a "to do" list) on how to take my blogging up to the next level.
The best session for me had to be "Sod the stats- Blog for Happiness" it was the real wake up call session when I reminded myself why I had started doing this in the first place. It all began as a way of capturing in print the mad world of special needs I had found myself in and as it evolved I hoped that I would be able to help other families on their journey as well as educating all the professionals that we encounter, now I want the wider world to know what it's like.
Blogging for me is definitely about being a Kitchen Table Revolutionary, it's about using my voice to tell people about what it is like parenting children with additional needs, the good, bad and ugly. It is always my hope that professionals read the blog occassionally and my words and experience impacts how they deal with families like ours. I am passionate about changing perceptions and ultimately hoping that by doing that policy makers sit up and listen to people like me, people with real, coal face experience of trying to support and care for children with a wide range of special needs.
For all those revolutionaries out there who blog or want to blog here's a summary of some of the tweets I sent and notes I made over the two day event:-
crap content = crap blog, be authentic, be true to yourself, be consistent - you have an implied contract with your readers, have confidence in your self - your blog is no less than the big divas writing about the same subject, post from the heart, not for stats otherwise you will potentially set yourself up for failure, you can lose site of what you enjoy about blogging, it's easy to get caught up in stats and awards, it's like having a conversation - if you wouldn't talk about it, don't blog about it, use your authentic voice and experience to blog for the greater good, Trolls - there's nothing cool about a bully with a blackberry, people are online because they want to make a difference, maintain trust and authenticity online, mums are naturals for social media, if you don't have many comments it doesn't mean you don't have a superior blog
Use blogging to say what YOU think and raise issues that are not on the mainstream media agenda
I met some amazing people at Britmums Live, women like me, who sit at their kitchen tables, night after night, while their husbands are snoring in bed, pouring out their view of the world, and what I heard last week is that the world is taking notice.
Here's a namecheck of a few more of my fellow Kitchen Table Revolutionaries who are on the same wavelength:-
Big thank you to the very special Steph Curtis from Stephs Two Girls. We arranged to meet up beforehand and attend the conference together, it was great to have moral support and fellow prosecco drinker. Please take a look at her blog about life parenting two girls, one with autism.
Kate from Kate on Thin Ice chaired the Blogging for the Greater Good session, she runs the Groovy Mums Blog Hop and is a legend in her own lifetime among bloggers
Similarly Melinda from Her Melness blogs and speaks about life with a hefty dose of common sense, I was quite in awe of her because she is such a brilliant writer. If you have teenagers you need to read her blog - she tells it as it is!
I'm not very good at crafts or homemade stuff and don't follow crafting blogs but I was so impressed by Maggie Woodley from Red Ted Art she has taken blogging to a new level altogether and must be one of the country's top bloggers
It was great to meet up with special needs bloggers Renata from Just Bring the Chocolate (we realised we have only ever met eachother in hospital situations so it was nice to have a glass of wine together for a change!), Hayley from Downs Side Up (someone I felt like I had known for years) and the inspirational Sara from Walking with Angels
And of course, no conference is complete without the obligatory goody bag - Daisy in particular was delighted to root through the goody bag and take out the things she wanted, she particularly enjoyed making ice lollies with the free lolly moulds, so here's a final pic of a one happy mum home from the conference actually doing some crafting with a happy daughter.