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Best of BlogHer ’13

As a blogger, it is impossible to come back from BlogHer, the Kilimanjaro of social media conferences, and not feel a deep need to write about it.

Sheryl Sandberg and Lois Alter Mark at BlogHer 13

Before I go all warm and fuzzy on you, though, here are a few facts: Over 4000 bloggers attended this year’s event in Chicago. Bloggers have become such an influential group that President Obama took time to welcome us via live feed last year and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was a keynote speaker this year. (Notice Cathy Chester and I are taking her advice and leaning in to her, above.) According to one estimate, the BlogHer hashtags generated 334 million impressions over the conference period. Understanding the power of that reach, more than 130 top brands sponsored, exhibited and filled our suitcases with samples.

This was my third BlogHer and every single one has been a completely different experience. Although the workshops are always educational, the parties Awesome (literally) and the Expo fun and valuable, I’ve come to realize it’s the totally unexpected moments – and there are oh-so-many of them – that really define BlogHer for me and make it so meaningful.

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

* Spending an amazing, impromptu evening in an empty area of the hotel with eight of my Generation Fabulous soul sisters, talking and laughing for hours, after we missed the Austenland screening we were so looking forward to. I’m sure the movie was great but this night turned out to be so magical and I love these women more than I do Mr. Darcy. Remember their names and go read their blogs: Lisa Carpenter, Cathy Chester, Helene Cohen Bludman, Ruth Curran, Janie Emaus, Nancy Hill, Connie McLeod, Virginia Sullivan. I would share some of what went on that night but, despite our TMI blogging tendencies, what really happens at BlogHer stays at BlogHer.

Bloggers at BlogHer 13

* Having coffee with the awesome James Oliver of the equally awesome WeMontage and, with the help of my new friend, Jane Boutelle, introducing him to the song that inspired this site. James is too young to remember Midnight at the Oasis, so when he found the video on my home page, he pumped up the volume, jumped out of his chair, held his laptop up John-Cusack-in-SayAnything style, and screamed out to everyone in Starbucks, “Hey, do you all know Midlife at the Oasis?” The mommy bloggers smiled indulgently and I beamed.

Donning Steve Harvey mustaches at BlogHer 13

* Standing on stage next to Queen Latifah during the Voices of the Year Awards. Listening to the winners read their posts is always the best part of the official BlogHer conference because it’s what it’s really all about. I cry, I laugh, I admire these women for writing and speaking so beautifully about the subjects they are passionate about, from poverty, racism and gun control to orgasms, crafting and worms. I am so proud to have won a People’s Choice Award two years in a row, and it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I managed to climb onto that stage (which, by the way, is not a great idea in an audience of Instagram-happy bloggers) and park myself next to the Queen herself, where we discussed her upcoming talk show. (Okay, I told her how much I was looking forward to it and she said, “It’s going to be great.”) I also tried to bring home the eight-foot tall foam core board featuring my winning post but that’s a story better kept between the women mentioned above.

Lois Alter Mark with her BlogHer Voices of the Year award

Queen Latifah at BlogHer 13

* Hugging Lauren Marie Fleming at the St. Martin’s Press booth, and having her remember me and hand me a You’re a Big Deal sticker, which I immediately slapped onto my conference badge, causing me to walk around with a little swagger in my step for the next two days.

Queerie Bradshaw's I'm a Big Deal campaign

* Meeting Liz Gumbinner over salted caramel cotton candy (OMG!) from Spin-Spun at the AWESOME party, which far exceeded its name. She is a brilliant writer and I hope I sounded remotely articulate as I gushed over her between mouthfuls of fluff.

* Confessing my pillow issues to Kristi Morris while testing the iComfort Directions Serta Sleep System, falling hard for the Directions pillow she suggested and being assured by my new BFF Kelly Ellis that she would send me one in the mail. As someone who has not been able to find a comfortable pillow for years, I can’t even begin to tell you what this means to me. Kelly, I will thank you every night when I lay my head on that beauty.

Serta exhibits pillows at BlogHer 13

Spending a half hour here with Morra Aarons Mele from Women Online/The Mission List, and a half hour there with Carole Ricks from AARP, discussing life, death and social good. These are smart, thoughtful women who are doing so much for other women – and they are a joy to be around. I can’t wait to work with both of them.

I could easily continue this list – sharing a room with Cathy Chester, who empowers women with disabilities; sharing a cab with Estelle Sobel Erasmus, president of Mothers and More;  sharing laughs with Helene Cohen Bludman as we went straight from a Land of Nod party filled with Huggies diapers to an AARP party thankfully devoid of Depends; sharing a tearfully profound conversation with Ruth Curran, who develops Cranium Crunches to encourage brain health; sharing good times with my peers at the Boombox Network‘s eagerly-anticipated B(l)oomers party – but what it all comes down to is that, at the age of 54, I’ve found my tribe.

Bloggers at BlogHer 13 keynote

The women who blog are amazing. They work harder than most people you know, and they are constantly learning, sharing, helping. They will Tweet about social injustice and get more accomplished with 140 characters than many esteemed writers do with 140 pages. They will raise money for causes, take newbies under their wing and spread the word far and wide about an idea or product that will improve lives. It is an honor to be in their presence.

Yet they – we – have had to fight hard to be taken seriously, being dismissed with flip articles about the rowdiness and silliness of blogging conferences. These criticisms are just plain inaccurate, and they belie the truth of what makes blogging so important – which is, well, the truth.

Good bloggers are authentic. They open their hearts and tell it like it is. They are your virtual best friends and, if you’re lucky — like I am — they also become your real ones.

Lois Alter Mark at Ginos Pizza in Chicago




  1. Lois, this is a fantastic recap and a wonderful set of photos. Glad we got to spend a moment together but it was not enough! Great luck as you launch Oasis.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Thanks so much! I’m hoping to get to NYC in September and we will definitely need to make up for lost time then!

  2. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Lois, I love this. And I love you! So much fun being together and sharing so many laughs.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      You are awesome, Helene, and I loved spending time with you. I laugh every time I look at that flip book! Can you please move to San Diego? xoxo

  3. I was at that bar GenFab bar meet up and did we meet? I was so tired just having flown in so was a little out of it. Great post. Hope you cross-posted it to BlogHer as it covers all and has terrific pics.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Thanks, Sandra! I think we met for a minute but we were all so exhausted by then. Hope to get to know you next time!

  4. What a fantastic post. It makes me sorry that I missed going this year. You really highlighted what is important about blogher and going to a blogging conference.

  5. You ladies have more than convinced me that I am going to find a way to attend next year!! I want to stand next to Queen Latifah!!

  6. Oh, Lois… this was beautiful! You gave me goosebumps. Such a lovely recap. I loved my time with you and so very much look forward to next time. There *will* be a next time, my bloggy and IRL friend! ♥

  7. Yes. The truth.
    I love this… and I love that so many of us had very different, but equally amazing experiences at BlogHer.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Jenni, can’t wait to hear about yours. I think we met for a minute on the cab line but I hope we’ll get a chance to really sit down and talk at the next conference!

  8. I love these experiences & wish I’d had them at the 2 last BlogHer conferences I attended…I didn’t go this year but am waiting with excitement to hear where next year’s conference will be & for sure, I’ll go, just to meet you all IRL! (Can’t wait for these recap posts to stop so I can stop flagellating myself for not going this year!!) Fun to read, though!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      This year’s conference definitely felt different — I think because the midlife bloggers are really starting to make an impact. Because of GenFab, I knew so many women and felt so comfortable. Looking forward to meeting you next year wherever it may be!

  9. Lois,

    You are a gem and so authentic, which comes through in every word you write. It was my great pleasure (and honor!) to be your roommate and share the BlogHer journey with you.

    Only someone who has experienced what we went through will understand the strong bonds we all formed with each other. Empowering, supporting and smiling all the way.

    What will make me completely happy is that Serta pillow! (By the way, I’m impressed you remembered everyone’s name. I hope I remember even one. Thank goodness for the business cards. I do have their faces and their friendly outreach in my heart)

    Love the new site! Thanks a lot for starting the fab song in my head….again.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Oh, Cathy, I just love you. You were a huge part of how amazing this experience was, and I’m so glad we got to share so many hilarious (and also heartfelt) adventures together. xo

  10. It was my pleasure to meet YOU! Your energy is so wonderful and positive, and you have about the best blog name ever. I’m so glad you had such a fulfilling experience–even beyond the insanity of that cotton candy. -Liz

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      That cotton candy may be why I’m still on such a (sugar) high! Thanks so much for the nice words and support — they mean a lot to me, and I hope to get to talk to you without my mouth full at the next conference.

  11. It was great meeting you. I can’t wait until we all see each other again.

  12. what a great recap, wonderful photos 🙂

  13. Sharon Greenthal says:

    It was a truly wonderful experience to be at BlogHer with so many wonderful GenFab women – I’m only sorry that we didn’t get to spend more time together. A midway meetup is due soon!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      I was thinking the exact same thing and was giving you a few days to recover before trying to plan something!

  14. Kim LePiane says:

    I love this Lois! It is as though you carried those of us who didn’t go along in your suitcase! Thank you for sharing my dear friend! I LOVE your new site!! It is perfect!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Kim, thank you for being such an amazing friend. I love you and wish you had come with me in my suitcase! xoxo

  15. So many laughs, so much fun. Spending time with you was most definitely a huge bonus of the conference, and one I will remember always. Looking forward to seeing you in my neck of the woods in October! (And yes, we are Better After 50!) xox

  16. Tricia Thompson says:

    Loved reading the highlights. Sounds like a great time! Do those who aren’t bloggers attend as well?

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      It’s mostly bloggers and PR people for brands who want to work with bloggers. It’s such an incredible experience. I would love to see you there, Tricia!

  17. Ruth Curran says:

    I so love my new partners in crime and companions on life’s journey! Thank you for summing it up so well Lois! Now… stop telling people I cry so I can back to being the serious one in peace :)!

  18. That was great, and interesting to read! I have not been fully immersed in the blogging culture – and I hadn’t ever given thought to attending Blog Her – it’s all so new to me. But maybe…some day…I’ll think seriously of attending. Thanks for this great summary.

  19. Glad you had such an amazing time Lois! I’ll see you in a couple days 🙂

  20. sisters from another mister says:

    So glad I stole a few hugs xxxx

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      We never get to spend enough time together at these things, Nicole. We need a retreat or something!! xo

  21. Good bloggers ARE authentic and we do operate on truth; you are absolutely right. My, how I enjoyed reading this. Your happiness is infectious.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Thank you so much, Arnebya. I loved your Listen To Your Mother video and wish I had gotten to meet you at BlogHer.

  22. Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator says:

    Wonderful post, I really do feel like I was there. And yes to a SoCal meetup soon! Like, San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano?

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      We’re going to start a San Diego Lean In Circle, thanks to Sheryl Sandberg. Details coming! And, yes, let’s go visit Sharon!

  23. It was so great to meet you and share a moment. We really are part of a wonderful and powerful TRIBE!

  24. Great post! Thanks so much for sharing–the pictures made it come alive for those of us left behind:-)

  25. Lois,

    Meeting you was definitely one of the highlights of the show for me too!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      You are the best! My WeMontage came today and I AM SO EXCITED! Can’t wait to write about it and share with the world. Thank you, and I wish I had taken a picture of you holding up your laptop in Starbucks for me!!

  26. What a great recap and what wonderful pictures! I love the picture of all of us from lunch! Thank you so much for making this newbie feel welcome and explaining who people were and why they were a Big Deal. (And then I found out you were a Very Big Deal!!)

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Ha ha! Ask Queerie Bradshaw to make you a Big Deal next time, too!! It was so great meeting you, Julia, and I wish we had gotten to spend more time together. At least we got to experience that yummy Brewed Over Ice Southern Sweet Tea together!

  27. Hi Lois,
    I knew once I saw your smiling face at O’Hare and we shared a cab together to the hotel, that my BlogHer experience was off to a fantastic start. I so enjoyed spending time with you, laughing together and forming a powerful alliance of midlife women. You were one of the highlights of the trip; thanks for including me and Mothers & More in your roundup post.

  28. Thanks for the wonderful recap. We are definitely sisters at heart- as are so many of the girls we spent the weekend with. It was so good to see you and how far both of us have come since we saw each other last. Thanks for the laughter! It was amazing! Virginia

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Loved spending time with you again — can’t wait to see what we accomplish by next year (although we HAVE TO see each other before then). xo

  29. Hey, we’re book ends with the Queen between us.Very cool. Loved your wrap-up. So articulate. Looking forward to more time together and fun reading your blog. Congratulaions on scaling the stage. I never even thought to take home that placard from VOTY! Great idea.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Sandra, I will be your other bookend any time. I didn’t end up taking home the board because it was going to cost $450!! Pictures will have to suffice!

  30. Looks like you had a great time at BlogHer! I always go into thinking I am going to be alone and not meet anyone and end up walking away with a whole new group of friends!

  31. Carpool Goddess says:

    Great seeing you again, Lois! Only wish we had more time together. Next time! P.S. Your new site looks fabulous!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Thanks, Linda. Loved seeing you — let’s not wait until the next conference to get together!

  32. Lois, I was so excited for you being honored with the People’s Choice. But I am even more excited that I got to know you IRL. I think back on the night we all hung out and i think of your smiling face and I just start laughing. If your poster made it home, please let know. I’d like to know where you discreetly put it. Hugs!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Connie, meeting you was such a highlight. That night was the best and I can’t wait to share more great times with you! Poster is probably still sitting in FedEx office in hotel 🙁 xoxo

  33. One of my favorite moments was in the lunch room before Guy Kawasaki started to speak. You came by to say Hi. I actually had a few calm moments and we got to chat. Thank you for that. Beautiful photos – I feel like I was there…

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      I wish we’d had more time to spend together. Next time, for sure, and thank you again for that AMAZING party!

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