the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

A Room of Our Own, Take Two

Last week, I tested an idea for BlogHer’s Room of Your Own, and most of you gave it a thumbs down and booted it off as fast as Jason Alexander’s last sitcom.

You can call me a lot of names, but I am not a quitter. I have another idea.

First, let me remind you what this “Room of Your Own” is about —

Since BlogHer programmed panels typically feature universal topics discussed by diverse voices, the Room of Your Own sessions are the perfect place to dig deeper into any one corner of the blogosphere…its particular challenges, triumphs, concerns, issues. You can lead a discussion alone, or bring a panel of interesting speakers. There will be two full tracks (or 12 individual sessions) reserved for Room of Your Own sessions.

The Room of Your Own tracks are designed to provide BlogHer conference attendees with one more way to customize their own conference experience and contribute in a meaningful way. You must be a registered attendee of BlogHer ’09 to present a Room of Your Own session at the conference.

This year we’re launching a new way to submit, track and improve on Room of Your Own suggestions. Using one of the polling capabilities of our fabulous Drupal interface you will now be able to submit your idea, peruse other people’s ideas, indicate which panels you’d attend, and even indicate which of the panels that others have proposed you would love to join forces with and speak on too!

As I looked over the official schedule, as well as the Room of Your Own submissions, I was surprised at the amount of topics on marketing, monetization, and niche blogging. If I am paying money for a blogging conference, and I consider blogging to be writing, wouldn’t it be nice to have some discussion on… writing? And by writing, I mean the “storytelling” that we all do every day when we are not sucking up to each other or being comment whores.

Proposal Idea:


Personal bloggers are always saying that they are JUST bloggers, NOT “writers,” but guess what? — if you are stringing words into coherent sentences and publishing your stories online, you are a writer. And if content is king, as they say, why do you spend so much time worrying about marketing and promoting your blog, and so little time developing your craft?

This session will try to recapture some of those heady, half-drunken, freshman year discussions that you used to have in your college dorm while in your PJs, as we discuss the principles of storytelling, and how they are fundamentally the same in Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, The Adventures of Curious George, and your own mommyblog.

This session won’t be about about getting an agent or being published. It will be about appreciating blogging, and seeing it as a new chapter in the long tradition of storytelling. Think of yourself as a modern Scheherazade who must come up with 1001 amazing and adventurous Arabian Blog Posts in order to remain alive!

YOU are the author of your own blog. Are you the main character? What is the point of view of this character? On life? On relationships? On writing? How do you want to be perceived by the reader? Are your secondary characters, your family and friends in your life story, presented as three-dimensional personas? Does each blog post require a beginning, middle, and end? Should you be loyal to the facts or is it better to embellish your stories in order to reach a higher truth?

And learn a top secret: Why the best bloggers learn their craft from watching… soap operas?!

Join like-minded writers and bloggers who want to explore their literary side as we discuss the most important aspect of the blogging experience — storytelling.


I haven’t yet submitted this yet, because first I wanted to get your opinion first, being that type of insecure person. Is it written too pretentiously? Anything I should edit out? Would you attend? Would you like to join forces and speak on the subject too? I already received some interest from the cool and creative Amy of Doobleh-vay. And most importantly, will moderating this session help me meet some of the brainier women at the conference?

Idea submitted. Feel free to add your name to the list if you wish to participate in any way. Still making list of supposed best pizza in Chicago, where the BlogHer conference is being held this year, although I am very doubtful that it can compete with the pizza of New York.


  1. headbang8

    Actually, I think it’s a rip-snorter of an idea. The reason why most bloggers get onto the b’sphere is so they can tell their story. But raised in a world of sound-bites, sales-pitches and tweets, they simply don’t know how.

    Do a workshop on what you know best as a screenwriter. How each post, or the entire blog itself, needs a transformational arc.

    Read Annette Simmons’ “The Story Factor”. She’s not just brilliant on this subject, but a personal friend.

  2. Kerry

    I’d definitely attend that.

    I was not an English major though, so unlike a lot of bloggers, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing, writing-wise. I’m curious to see whether the English majors like the idea.

  3. Chris

    This is an excellent idea! I think you’ve nailed it, and you could possibly nail more if Blogher awards you this “room”.

    I think your proposal is perfect the way it is, it will definitely appeal to the “brainier” women at the conference – ALL women actually.

    I don’t know if I’ll be attending Blogher, but if I’m there, I’ll be in that room.

    Not the Brainiest,
    But Sincerely Interested in This Topic,
    and YOU as the Presenter

  4. kenju

    It sounds very interesting. I was an English major, but I’m so far removed from that now that I don’t know what I’m doing (when writing). I just let it pour out. But I’d love to know what soap opera have to do with it!

  5. Avitable

    Dude, just submit it. Let the gaggles of women vote on whether or not it’s any good by deciding whether or not they’d attend it.

  6. Nancy

    Another good idea but if I was being truthful … wait, I am being truthful, what ever room you’re hosting, I’m attending.

    I can guarantee it won’t be as boring as a couple I attended last year and will probably be the one hindsight, many will say, “Damn, I wish I attended Neil’s session, I heard it was awesome.”

  7. Neil

    Headbang — I’ll check out that book. It sounds interesting.

  8. Neil

    OK, submitted —

    If anyone wants to participate as a speaker just tell me or sign up on the BlogHer site.

    If you are going to the conference, you should think about your own topic to present. What is there to lose? I’m pretty good at writing these proposals, so email me if you need help writing it out.

  9. Poppy Buxom

    I’d leave a comment, but soap operas have taught me to leave people wanting more.

  10. Neil

    Poppy – Exactly!

  11. Finn

    This’ll work! I’d go.

  12. patois

    Better than any Jason Alexander sitcom, to be sure.

  13. Mocha

    As an English major I really love this idea. Another weird part of online writing for self is that you pick up all these different ways of syntax and then your former professors die. They do! When I write something like, “That bitch ass better stop calling me out on her blog” then Dr. Sather stops breathing.

    Have I mentioned that I’m on medication today?

    Let me just haul my ass over there and vote for it. Sounds awesome.

  14. maggie, dammit

    I’d go to that if I ever get around to registering. Good writing is all I’ve ever really wanted to do with my blog anyway, even if it makes me the Francis McDormand of blogging.

  15. Tracy

    This is interesting to me. For almost five years, I’ve had the title “Storyteller” at one of my pro writing gigs, but we’ve come at it from the angle of bringing journalistic/communications writing closer to narrative non-fiction. I’ve been on both sides of the “can personal writing be literature/storytelling/you-name-it?” for years, so I hope this session makes it.

  16. Amy Sue Nathan

    The part of blogging that I don’t like, is that all bloggers think they’re writers. I have stopped reading many blogs because they’re poorly written – in the same – well look what happened to me on my way to the cleaners type of style. I prefer proper English (mostly) punctuation and attention to spelling. I think a session on story telling would be great — because most of the time I read a blog and think — the story starts HERE and it’s halfway through the post.

    Not sure I get how these sessions work anyway.

  17. Neil

    Amy Sue — That is a really good point, and I think that is why I am trying to emphasize storytelling rather than writing. I think “writer” is a loaded word, because so many do it as a profession, and it is easily dismissed by others because “everyone writes.” I’m specifically talking about the storytelling aspect of writing. You do not have to be a writer to be a storyteller. We all have grandfathers who told amazing tales of wars and adventures. I remember a babysitter who made up her own stories. At camp, there was a counselor who told scary ghost stories around a fire. Most blog posts are little stories and can be improved by using some of the old tricks of the trade.

    In fact, I think most of the stuff you hear about BRANDING on blogs, is just wisdom that marketers stole from Aristotle’s Poetics, where he was talking about Greek drama.

  18. Danny

    Fantastic proposal, I’m sure your session will be SRO. I’m still confused, however, about BlogHer and your attendance/involvement. Their slogan is “The community for women who blog.” But I guess their policies about welcoming men, including as workshop facilitators, is pretty inclusive? Has anyone from that group ever said, “Why are you coming here? This is for WOMEN?” I’d love to hear your session–maybe you’ll record it and post clips? The only part of your description that made me pause was the first line, “Personal bloggers are always saying that they are JUST bloggers, not “writers.” Really? I’ve never heard anyone say that. How can anyone write a blog and NOT consider him- or herself a writer? I don’t get it. One final critical comment. As much as I’ve encouraged you to try advertising on your site as an experiment, the BlogHer site’s use of ads is grotesque. I can’t believe that enormous ad for that tacky ring appears just after your first paragraph and completely separates it from the rest of the text, at first I thought you had placed it there yourself. And that big ad for Boca Burgers on the right–yuck! I hope they’re at least making a ton of money from those ads because they’re gross.

  19. Miss Grace

    I went to a profoundly awful panel on writing last year.

  20. Neil

    Miss Grace — this one is guaranteed to be good, or I will wash your dishes for an entire week!

  21. Jack

    Storytelling for bloggers 101.

  22. Elisa Camahort Page

    Ooh, I love this one. This is a challenge every year, since 75 minutes isn’t exactly the right length for a writing workshop. And prior storytelling sessions have inevitably become about a couple of bloggers speaking, when everyone wants in. I would love to see what the community does to build their own storytelling session, led by you 🙂

  23. mommyknows

    I think it is a fabulous idea. If I were attending, I’d want be in your ‘room of your own’.

  24. V-Grrrl

    I’d rather attend a one day storytelling workshop at the McDonald’s in Queens. We could discuss storytelling and practice writing blog posts about the characters at McD’s. Then after we’ve caffeinated our brains and clogged our arteries, we could go over to your apt and take turns trying on your mother’s bathrobe and having our pictures taken with the yellow sofa. I love this idea. I’m IN.

  25. Postmodern Sass

    Excellent idea.

  26. Postmodern Sass

    Wait, what am I saying? I don’t want the increased competition! Bad idea, Neil! Bad, Bad! 😉

  27. Twenty Four At Heart

    I like it. But then would we need to break it into subgroups for types of writing? Because if so, Neil … you and I would possibly get stuck in the porn writing room and I don’t think I want to be there.

  28. Neil

    Porn, children’s books, thrillers — they all have so much in common.

  29. kristy

    I think it’s a great idea! (And I feel I must point out that the concept isn’t totally lost on us: “The Art of Storytelling” was a session in Chicago last time.)

    And Danny – BlogHer is really for anyone who’s interested in what women are doing online. 🙂

  30. Neil

    Thanks, Kristy! And Elisa! (sorry everyone else, I have to do a little sucking up to the BlogHer folks)

  31. anymommy

    I like this one too – really great job with the proposal.

  32. Backpacking Dad

    This is a great idea for a panel.

    But I completely disagree about bloggers all being writers.

    I am a storyteller, but not a writer. And I don’t mean to elevate writers by that, or disparage storytelling. I just don’t love language in the way I think a writer should. If I could tell you a story by instantly changing your neural connections so that they resemble a network that contains the story as experience rather than one that doesn’t, I would do that instead. I’m trying to affect minds, and culture, by making it more like me. Words are almost an impediment to that for me.

    I kinda hate words. :}

  33. Neil

    Backpacking — as usual, you write thought-provoking comments. I will need to think about this one. I wonder if we are just disagreeing on the semantics of the word writer. While you are right that not everyone is a true “writer,” I’m sure that you will agree that there is a lot in common between the storyteller in any tradition, written and oral, and the narrative writer. As for the love of language issue, I have read some terrific books for children that were written on a third grade level, with limited vocabulary that blew me away, and I would consider those authors to be writers.

    Most blogs are not great art, but if the author communicates something with words, and gets an emotion from me, why shouldn’t I consider him a writer?

    A zombie movie on cable and Citizen Kane are both movies, and I can enjoy them both.

    But I hear what you are saying.

  34. Backpacking Dad

    It’s not skill with words I mean, but love of, affection for, and attention to them. Like I said, I don’t mean to rank writers and storytellers on the same spectrum, even, because the concerns are different. I know that when some say “I’m a blogger, not a writer” they might have some value-laden statement in mind, that they think they lack some skill or something and that’s why they don’t self-identify. I agree with you if you mean to note that even these are writers; that there is nothing standards-oriented that would validate their strange assertion, so why not claim writerhood? But I mean to remark that someone might be perfectly skilled, and not self-identify as a writer, and do so legitimately.

  35. churchpunkmom

    Dude, if I were going to BlogHer, I would totally attend that. It’s right up my ally! Especially seeing as my blog is really not a ‘mommy blog’ but more of a ‘story telling blog’ anyway. It’s a tool I use to show off my writing.. and more than that.. but I know what most people come to my site for.

    Awesome idea. I hope they’re smart enough to run with it!

  36. Diane Mandy

    I am considering attending BlogHer. This idea interests me so much that it might push me to register today!

  37. sizzle

    I would totally come to that session and not just because we are friends. It’s actually of interest to me!

  38. Momo Fali

    I love this idea. LOVE IT.

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