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Saturday, May 28, 2011 @ 7:43 AM
starting small - not your average EWR post

Last weekend I attended Eat Write Retreat in D.C. I was invited via Twitter and bought the ticket on a whim as a graduation present to myself. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary with the hopes that being around serious bloggers would help me figure out if I wanted to pursue 'something' in food--Should I bake? Should I write about restaurants? Did I want to take my blog in a new direction? Does my writing suck? Should I bother blogging at all?

My poor brain was a whizzing tornado of anxiety. Thoughts were dashing around my head. I had doubts about my ability, about how professional my blog looked and whether I would be taken seriously at all, being that my blog has few followers and a small readership. After all, didn't I start this blog for fun? I wanted to stop spamming my facebook newsfeed with pictures of the delicious photos I would take of practically everything I baked and whatever I ate at restaurants. How would it stand up against serious bloggers?

Do me a favor. Read that last question again. [I'll wait.]

That, dear readers, was my problem. At the start of the conference, I was so intimidated by everyone because they had beautiful DSLR cameras with huge lenses and business cards with tiny pictures of vegetables and appetizing dishes. I showed up empty handed [didn't even bring a notebook!] except for my slightly-scratched point & shoot which always seems to have flour on it. Frankly, I didn't think I belonged. I wasn't sure if I should take my swag bag and hop on the Megabus back to PA. Sure, I had paid the fee, but had I paid my dues in the blogging world?

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Instead of being my normal, bubbly, slightly-awkward extraverted self who sees no issue with talking to strangers, I was much more demure and reserved than I had ever been in such a setting. Instead, I did a lot of observing and even more listening. I heard a lot of people discussing terms I was unfamiliar with--about gluten-free eating, for example--and mention bloggers and foodies whose names were completely lost on me. During the first day, this was all pretty overwhelming. I thought maybe I had made a mistake by coming. Then, at lunch on the second day, something amazing happened.

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I got a reality check via Twitter. My friend Dave tweeted to make sure I was taking a ton of pictures, like I always do, and at that moment I realized how much I had been holding back. I was so intimidated that I had barely taken any photos. I had maybe a shot or two of everything I ate, which was completely unlike me. I replied that I had been a bit intimidated and he immediately followed up with a reminder that I had nothing to worry about. He reminded me that I was doing something I loved and that I had never let these kinds of things bother me before, so I shouldn't start now. And, with that, a simple tweet changed my whole perspective of the conference.

I started to relax and make a bigger effort to talk to people. I began to truly enjoy myself. I laughed through lunch with a great group of gals. At the CulinAerie workshop, I didn't care if my grapefruit slices were a bit off; I'm a baker, not a cook! I was sitting in a cooking class, something I'd wanted to do since sitting on a stool in my dad's catering kitchen, and I was not going to let doubts ruin my experience. 

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One of the most important things I realized was what a wonderful, encouraging community I was a part of. [Yes, I belonged.] Other bloggers had questions about how to style food or how to improve their writing, just like I did. People openly shared about their families, their blogs, their jobs and their pets. In fact, at dinner on Saturday night, a bunch of us started pulling out our "baby" pictures on our phones to share our adorable cats and dogs. Most importantly, though, I realized how supportive everyone was of one another. I was happily overwhelmed with insightful suggestions about how to improve my blog or take a good photograph. And, in my moment of greatest doubt, I was going to give up a coveted spot to speak with the Food & Travel editor of The Washington Post, but a fellow blogger refused to let me cross my name off the list. For that, I am so grateful. [Thank you, Wendy!]

I initially wanted to write this post chronicling the contents of my swag bag and describing each plate of food in delicious descriptive detail, but when I got home from the conference, I realized that I had learned more about myself than what had been on the conference schedule. I realized that I am in a unique position in the blogosphere, as many conference attendees have successful blogs and go to improve upon their marketing, photography and writing skills. Essentially, they want to make a good thing better. Me? Well, even though I've had my blog for just about a year, I feel like I'm just starting one. After listening to the speakers and panels and taking in the anecdotes and insight from other bloggers, I feel like I can approach my blog with new eyes. 

When I got home from the conference, my brain was reeling with ideas of how I wanted to write more and learn to use my camera properly. Google became my best friend. I sat down and created a plan with a detailed to-do list of all that I needed to fix or learn if I wanted to get serious about blogging and confidently call myself a blogger. I think it's about time I started taking myself seriously, wouldn't you agree?

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8 Comments:

It really is all about learning and realizing there is not a huge difference amongst us all. I had similar reservations about the conference.
And don't be fooled by the cameras, I may have a DSLR camera, but it doesn't mean I know what i'm doing with it:P
I was glad to meet you and chat with you during the walk to the market. Can't wait to see what new plans you have in store for your blog!

By Anonymous Ethan, at May 28, 2011 at 10:33 AM  

I am going to second exactly what Ethan said. Esp the dslr camera part, lol. And I took no pictures--if the conference taught me anything it was that I am writer first, and cook/baker second, and eater third and I just don't care that much about photography (alas for my blog--I do keep trying to fake it though). I also took a while to warm up--I had this moment somewhere, I forget at what point, where I suddenly realized I might look standoffish to others whereas in reality I was feeling shy and overwhelmed. I was glad i stayed and am glad you did too!

By Blogger Laura, at May 28, 2011 at 10:55 AM  

it was really great to meet you at the conference! i think underneath it all we were all feeling just as you described... so glad we all decided to stay and be brave and make friends! i look forward to all that you do here in this space and more...

By Blogger gretchen, at May 28, 2011 at 11:56 AM  

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! It's so interesting to see all of the different things that we took away from the conference--about ourselves and our blogs! And of course, it's nice to know that other people felt the same way, even if they didn't show it.

Before EWR, I was definitely unsure of what I wanted to do with my blog and if I was making something worth reading. Now I realize that I have a story to tell and it's worth writing about (and photographing!). Overall, it just helped me to get excited about self-expression and finding new ways to convey my love of food to my readers. So, I'll be spending the summer learning a bit about photography and writing because I want to, not because it's required :)

By Blogger kelly, at May 28, 2011 at 1:38 PM  

I'm glad you stayed too and I wish that I would have gotten to get to talk with you! I also want to see that checklist you created...I guess spreadsheets are all the rage these days (haha)

By Blogger Amanda, at May 28, 2011 at 5:34 PM  

It was so fun to meet you last weekend! I had much of the same issues as you did going into it. I felt like such a small fish and that no one would want to talk to me, I'm so glad everyone was so open and welcoming!

By Blogger Beth @ Kitchen Minions, at May 30, 2011 at 5:06 PM  

Kelly, great post! I have often felt the same way...not knowing what I am doing, not "connected" but at the end of the day many of us that blog about food really are hear to support one another and have fun virtually with one another - at the end of the day we are all passionate about food right :) To me you are a wonderful spirit, full of life and excited about what you want to do (on all counts) and where you want to go! It was so wonderful meeting you (and as a perk) being your roomie!

By Anonymous Colleen (Souffle Bombay), at July 6, 2011 at 5:00 AM  

aww thanks, Colleen! You gave me such inspiration as to what is possible with a food blog. Before I met you, I had never met anyone who had written a cookbook before! I can't imagine how you juggle being such a great mom with working and cooking and blogging and all of the things that each of those entails... you have a ton of energy and passion for everything you do and it was truly motivating to see all that you've accomplished and how happy and caring you are as a result! Good things will continue to surround you in life :)

By Blogger kelly, at July 7, 2011 at 10:06 PM  

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about
about me.

i'm kelly.
26 year old stressbaker.
about-to-graduate grad school.
new england transplant.
eating through philly & the burbs.
baking my way into the hearts of friends.
way more than cheesesteak

think Philly's only got cheesesteak? think again!