Years ago, when I was working in the publishing industry, I would travel at least once a month and spent nights in hotel rooms, all by myself. Typically, I would be away from home for 3 – 5 nights and feeling quite lonely by the final day. The beds were extremely comfortable, I got a great nights’ sleep and ate well, but I really couldn’t appreciate the alone time since I was missing my son and needing to feel connected.
Fast forward to now, when the conferences I attend are bringing me closer to friendships I’ve made online and reuniting me with people I only see on occasion.
This past weekend, I traveled to Orange County for the first annual Entertainment New Media Network conference. Because I not only wanted to meet new people but wanted to save some money, I opted to share a room with women I had never met before, in fact, my roommates were women I had not really interacted with much, if at all, online.
Only at a blogging conference would women agree to share a room with complete strangers.
I can’t imagine this is normal for any other industry, although I have a feeling the American Library Association may be an exception. Those ladies (and gents) know how to party!
When I first arrived at the Hyatt Regency Orange County, I wasn’t able to check into the room since that would require a credit card. Since one of my roommates was putting it on her card (and we all paid her in advance), I didn’t want to jinx it. I have had issues with roommates and payment in the past.
I reached out to the conference attendees in our private Facebook group, wanting to see if anyone was available for dinner. Lucky for me, there were a few people looking for a place to eat within walking distance, so the four of us headed across the street to Oggi’s Pizza, which I totally recommended based on the fact that there are so many locations here in San Diego. Ironically, none of us ordered pizza.
To make a long story even longer, I want to share with you, the amazing people I met that night and over the following few days in Anaheim. These are just a few, but certainly the number one reason why I left feeling so positive about the entire weekend and eager to jump online to connect with them again. So, here goes.
Rachel is a mom of seven, although you look at her and you’d wonder how she ever carried a child. She’s tall and slim and extremely talented. She’s funny and inspirational. She’s also part of Blogging Concentrated, which I now plan on attending only to get more of her time.
Dan stood out the entire weekend because he was one of a handful of men in the crowd. His personality shines, on stage and off, and the ideas he has to help bloggers monetize their words, their ideas, their videos, and talent will astound you. During dinner, my first introduction to Dan, he provided a blogger with a full outline of an idea she could use for a YouTube series, along with storylines and episodes I Can Not Wait to see. And that was all free advice. Imagine what you would get if you paid him for his time.
Alisha ended up being one of my roommates since the women she was originally supposed to room with were stuck on the East Coast and couldn’t make it to the conference. We bonded over dinner at Oggi’s with Rachel and Dan, and then walked separately to our rooms only to discover that we were staying in the same room. We immediately clicked, and the two of us were not too far from one another during the weekend. She has two daughters, seven years apart, while my boys also have a seven year age gap. She likes wine and so do I. Beyond that, we probably would have not ever met online considering she mostly writes about hair and nails. Bringing us together in the same room allowed us to realize we have a similar (and perhaps warped) sense of humor and now I have a new friend to stalk stay with when the Entertainment New Media Network lands in Nashville next year.
Speaking of Nashville, we got to see the first two episodes of TNT’s Private Lives of Nashville Wives while we were at this conference and I cannot wait to see the rest. Those ladies are fun to watch, especially the twins.
Back to the amazing people I met. There were many and I was first introduced to Jaime Jenkins from Polka Dots on Parade when I drove up to the hotel. She immediately knew I was a blogger when I pulled the Pretzel Crisps bag out of my car. I’ve been following Jaime online for years, so it was awesome to finally meet her in real life.
She grabbed Sarah Drew when it was her turn to take a picture with the cast & crew of the upcoming Moms’ Night Out movie. I loved her enthusiasm and infectious smile, along with every single outfit she wore.
Andrea Nasfell, Kevin Downes and Sarah Drew were there with us to watch a rough cut screening of Moms’ Night Out, which comes out May 9th, and to answer some questions after the movie. This comedy is hilarious, and I highly recommend you go see it with your mom friends, your own mom or blogging buddies.
The film also stars Sean Astin, who was in Anaheim with us early Sunday morning for a Q&A. He is super sweet and down to earth and pretty awesome in the movie as well.
Sean’s latest project, in between filming and being a dad to his three daughters and husband to his wife of twenty+ years, is his podcast. Sean brings together great voices and discussions in the political arena, giving people the chance to truly be heard, something that you won’t find on traditional news outlets. No interrupting one another and a respectful discourse from opposing viewpoints.
One of the responses Sean provided to a question from another blogger had to do with his being one of the few child stars who grew up in front of the camera and turning out perfectly normal. His response was a long one and though he acknowledged the issues of addiction and mental illness in his immediate family, it was a great inspiration to hear that, despite this, his parents, and in particular his father, John Astin, insisted on putting his commitment to sports and school before his career.
Sean spoke of his daughters as well, and I can’t express how much his love for them shone through in the way he talked about each of them. Although children have a hard time understanding it when they’re young, I could totally relate to the way he treats each of them as the unique individuals they are. While one daughter may not be “ready” to jump into the Hollywood scene, another is not interested and Sean and his wife have been doing an amazing job preparing them for whatever path they end up on.
Another child star who turned out normal is Ricky Schroder. While he wasn’t in Anaheim for me to swoon over (Silver Spoons was one of my favorite shows from the 80s), his wife, Andrea was. She recently started her own business and spoke beautifully on finding one’s voice.
After being known as Ricky Schroder’s wife most of her adult life (the two have been married for over twenty years as well), she found it difficult to step inside her own voice and really find herself. I loved the questions she asked us all to reflect on and will be blogging about that separately.
The three days I spent in Anaheim, networking and learning from the best in the industries (entertainment and travel) were well spent. I make great connections, laughed harder than I have in a while and got some decent sleep (considering I shared a room with 4 other women).
In other words, I didn’t have alone time in Anaheim but every single minute of my experience at the Entertainment New Media Network conference was a good one. Thank you to everyone there who made me feel welcome and let me share a table with you.
Want to join me in Nashville next year? Go over and purchase your ticket and get ready for another star-studded event.
One last note: Our room, with 5 guests, had trouble sharing the plugs for all our devices and when Liz Parker, who blogs about movies at Yes/No Films, tweeted about it, the hotel staff dropped off two power strips for us to use. You’ve never seen a group of bloggers get more excited!
— Yes/No Films (@yesnofilms) February 15, 2014