When I first started blogging, I remember seeing mention of food blogging conferences and wondering what the heck that was all about. Food blogging was, for me, very much a hobby, something to engage my intellect and creative side while staying home with three kids. I couldn’t understand why anyone would need a conference for a hobby like this. Why on earth would anyone spend money to travel and register, just to hobnob with other food blog hobbyists? I simply could not understand how much a blog could be a full-time business endeavour. Fast forward 2 years and not only am I attending such conferences, but I am actually standing up there at the podium, hoping to pass on at least a little of my hard-earned blogging wisdom. How quickly things can change!
I had the great good fortune to attend and be on two panels at Eat Write Retreat in Philadelphia this year, and I have to say, this may have been my best blog conference experience thus far. It was a small group, no more than about 75 blogger attendees and some wonderful sponsors. The ability to really get to know everyone in the room sets EWR apart from some of the larger, more widely attended events. I actually knew several people in real life already, and I “knew” quite a few more from the online food blogger community. I dare not list them here because I am bound to forget someone, but needless to say it was a real treat to get to know some of these online friends in person.
But EWR isn’t just about hobnobing and chit chatting and I felt engaged the entire time I was there. I took home some solid take-aways, things I learned and want to apply to my own blog and business. And to my own life! I had a little revelation when I was there that I am splitting my time too much and finding myself overloaded. I came home with a serious resolution to find better work/life balance and it’s already something I’ve put into action, so thanks to all those who heard me out on that score at the conference. Your advice was invaluable!
Eat Write Retreat is organized by the lovely (and surprisingly tall!) Casey Benedict of Kitchen Play and the uproariously funny Robyn Webb. The two of them had me giggling whenever they played Master of Ceremonies. And the sponsorship for the conference is really not something to sneeze at. We had some wonderful demonstrations by sponsors like Calphalon, Safest Choice Eggs, KitchenAid, and my beloved California Raisins (and California Figs, California Olives and US Potatoes too!). And I have to give a quick shout out to Canadian Lentils, just cause I am Canadian (I didn’t even know we grew lentils in Canada!). I was impressed at the level of engagement by both bloggers and sponsors throughout the event.
You may well wonder what kind of “blogging wisdom” I was spouting while there. Quite some time ago, I approached Casey with an idea for a photography session. I don’t fancy myself a professional photographer by any means, but I’ve learned how to coax a good photo out of my old hand-me-down DSLR. And I do it on the cheap, I really don’t like to spend much money on props, lenses, lighting or even editing software. I wanted to share with newer bloggers the idea that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on equipment to improve your food photography, but you do have to be willing to spend time and energy. Along with Sarah W. Caron of Sarah’s Cucina Bella, I gave out my best tips for teaching yourself how to improve, and little funny tricks of the trade I’ve picked up here and there. And then we went hands-on and got to practice the tips and tricks with Watermelon and Jarlsberg.