#Cybermummy11 They’ll let anyone in!
After all the build up, I did finally make it to Cybermummy11 at The Brewery in London on the 25th June, 2011. I’m not ashamed to say I’m proud of having managed it. It must be bordering on 10 years since I’ve ventured out on my own like that, and it felt like a real statement of independence. I learnt a lot, met a lot of people, fumbled a few conversations, dragged heavy bags about, ate too much, smoked too much (don’t tell my mum!), drank wine in the afternoon and had the time of my life! It was inspirational, practical and very unifying. There’s so many ‘Mummy Bloggers’ writing their hearts out, and making what they can of their words and their web space – I felt privileged to be among them.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage sponsorship, but I’m only a little blog and suspect I am probably the equivalent of a very small mouse squeaking in a massive room. Next year I’ll squeak louder! I nearly didn’t go because of the price of the ticket and the accommodation, but my gem of a mother-in-law offered to pay for half of my Cybermummy ticket, so I bit the bullet and signed on the dotted line. SmartaCow very generously supplied my business cards and some fantastic blog flyers too. All in all, I’m very grateful to Horace’s mum and to SmartaCow for their invaluable support. Cheers midears!
The National Express coach took 8 hours, which was no hardship at all as I simply sat, read, slept and watched the world fly past the windows. Very peaceful! Whenever I go on train or coach journeys I’m reminded of the RLS Stephenson poem ‘From a Railway Carriage.’ I do love watching the scenery change and soaking the view up. I really did nearly end up with culture shock when I arrived in London though. Talk about a different way of life! I stared out of the coach window virtually open mouthed at the huge ornate buildings, the green parks with fountains, the ‘posh’ shops and the pavement cafes – I felt like a country bumpkin I have to say. The night before I set off to Cybermummy I’d joked with someone about how I’d maybe bring a wheelbarrow with me, piled up with spuds; or maybe a pig on a string, just to make me and my country roots feel at home. As it was I had a load of luggage and they wouldn’t have had room for the pig, so I just made do with looking bewildered instead.
When I met Liz from Me and My Shadow blog I was actually shaking which was very embarrassing. She sat me down in a pub, fed me half a pint of Peroni and I smoked a cigarette whilst muttering about big cities and sleepy northern towns. I’m just so grateful Liz didn’t decide I was a nutter at that point and abandon me for more sane company, I wouldn’t have blamed her. We then navigated the Tube, whereupon I walloped my bag into fellow travellers, staggered up and down endless stone steps and felt like a hamster in a massive tubular hamster den. I resisted the urge to go and buy a bag of peanuts to stuff my cheeks with to complete the image. Honestly the Tube is so manic! We’d hit the rush hour, last thing on a Friday so everyone was running around like the world was going to end. Thankfully we survived the ordeal and made it to the Travel Lodge in one piece. I threw my suitcase on the floor, breathed a sigh of relief and looked forward to meeting new people and the conference. Now for the fun bit!
Now I know I was there to learn about blogging, and learn I did – but the whole experience was the learning process for me, not just the sitting in the workshops bit. It was fascinating to meet people I’ve chatted to for years now, without having ever met them. They felt like old friends, which of course they are really. One thing that baffled me endlessly was the multitude of names that people went by. People use usernames on Twitter, they have their own blog names that are synomomous with their ‘branding’, and of course they have their own birth names too. Let me tell you, it gets confusing! It’s also very unnerving to meet people who may possibly have read your blogs, but you don’t know which ones, or in how much detail, or if they have read the blog where you admitted to horrendous nit infestations. I didn’t notice anyone backing away from me, so I’m presuming the nits blog wasn’t a very well known one, thank god!
I think my crowning embarrassing moment, was when I told someone my blog name and they nodded as if they knew of it. One of my biggest blog projects was my Fishy Dishy Cookery exploit in aid of the RNLI so I presumed she’d read something of that, and without thinking I grinned inanely and said something like ‘Yep, that’s me, the Fish Lady!’ (a nickname I seem to have acquired in some circles). This poor blogger looked at me blankly and I continued with ‘Well, it’s something to do isn’t it’ and didn’t explain any further because the conversation had moved on. I realised afterwards that was probably akin to Dirty Dancing and ‘I carried a watermelon’ – the poor woman probably had absolutely no clue about what I was on about and no doubt earmarked me as a couple of tuna sandwiches short of a picnic as they say.
The conference itself was so full on! We arrived at the crack of dawn at the Brewery, and were greeted at the door by a 7 ft bright green, fluffy dinosaur from Butlins. Personally, I thought I’d overdone the coffee in morning or something when I spotted him. The terrible thing was, when we met up with Tracy from the White Lily Green blog were were stood outside, and just before she went in, I warned her about the huge green dinosaur so she wouldn’t be overly shocked. I realised after she’d gone that the dinosaur had disappeared elsewhere and was nowhere in sight. At that point I worried Tracy would think I was hallucinating.
There were loads of workshops to attend, and there were talks from Lord Thingumajig from Facebook, Rachel Johnson (journalist & Boris Johnson’s sister), Sarah Brown (Gordon Brown’s wife) and at the end of the day there were ‘Key Note’ readings, which was essentially bloggers reading excerpts of their own work. After much deliberation I finally sat in on the Sophie King ‘Writing Workshop,’ ‘Blogger to Blogger Inspiration’ and the ‘Video Blogging’ workshops – all of which had interesting and informative points to make.
Sophie King’s workshop was ok, but she didn’t seem to understand the blogging world quite as much as I thought she might have done – although she did have some helpful hints and tips about how to write and get publisher’s and reader’s attention. It didn’t quite hit the mark, which was disappointing as this was the one workshop I was really looking forward to. In retrospect, I think Cybermummy organisers maybe didn’t quite choose the most appropriate speaker for the event,or at least she wasn’t briefed as well as she could have been beforehand. There’s no doubt she’s a fabulous novelist, but I’m not convinced she understood bloggers and how they work all that well.
The vlogging talk was entertaining and helpful, although littered with technological terms, file saving names, apps and complicated things I don’t think I’ve ever get my head around. I wish I was more technical! It seems such a brilliant resource for reviews and for putting across emotive topics – the problem is I suspect I’m simply too thick to ever suss out infuriating editing techniques. Maybe I’ll have a brainwave and ‘get it’ eventually….and pigs might fly in formation over the Thames.
Of all the workshops I loved the ‘Blogger to Blogger Inspiration’ the best. They featured a few blogs that had gone from strength to strength, each blogger spent a while discussing how they had got to where they were, the challenges they had faced and the hurdles they had to overcome. It was a grass roots kind of affair, where you felt you could really see the individual journeys they had all taken, it truly was an inspiration and as a blogger it lit a fire in my belly as they say! At the end of it all, I sat there itching to get home and ‘do something’ with the Brink of Bedlam.
The brands and the sponsors that attended Cybermummy were very many in number, and all of them seemed keen to interact with bloggers – I thought it was funny to see the goody bag frenzied mums desperately trying to harvest as many toy hippos and freebies for their kids as possible, whilst trying to do the professional thing and ‘network’ at the same time. Or maybe that was just me, although I suspect not! There were some big names there such as Boots, Hyundai, Proctor and Gamble, Glam media, to name even just a few. I was very impressed to see how innovative some of these companies were in their involvement with the mummy blogging circuit – Hyundai for example had arranged a competition for mums to win lift shares in their Hyundai cars to the event, very clever!
It does actually seem that these brands are interested in what we as bloggers have to offer, and certainly gave the impression they were keen to work alongside the blogging community. In these days of internet seo marketing and tomfoolery, maybe blogging really could be a new, innovative way of reaching new audiences? Maybe they are actually taking us seriously? (maybe not me personally though, I’m still blogging about fish and nit infestations, I don’t think Hyundai thinks I can sell cars to anyone)
I would have liked to have seen more about the power of blogging in respect of creative and descriptive writing as opposed to blog marketing and advertising, but I suppose there’s only so much they could fit into one day. Unfortunately the writing workshop which I thought would fill that gap, lacked a little – but I’m not completely disheartened, there’s still blog related opportunities to be had and I intend on digging around and finding them. Maybe next year they’ll have something a bit more geared up for that angle.
Blogging is a brave new world, and Cybermummy is at the very hub of it. The event brought together so many hopeful, questioning, passionate bloggers – many of whom are uniquely talented. The blogging phenomenon is still very young and experimental, who knows where it will be in 10 years time. I intend to hang around to watch the fireworks, and come hell, high-water, belly aches and potty training, I’ll be at Cybermummy2012. If anyone would like to be involved with The Brink of Bedlam and help me get there, please do contact me! See, I’m squeaking louder already! ;O)