the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

A Mini Writing and Blogging Retreat Idea Before BlogHer

This is an idea for a mini writing and blogging retreat that I had yesterday, and I think it could work on the day before BlogHer, since so many bloggers are converging on San Diego anyway.    This is just an idea.   It is not happening… as of yet.   But like everything else, I like to float ideas to see what others think.  The aim here is not to make money or sell anything, but to come up with an idea to make these yearly conferences more constructive creatively.

The mini-writing/blogging “retreat” in San Diego would take place on Thursday, August 4, 2011 — the day before BlogHer officially begins.  It would meet at a cheaper San Diego hotel, like a Hampton Inn, to make it reasonable for the participants to stay on Wednesday night, if they so choose.

There would be NO COST for this retreat — yes, NO COST — other than your hotel room if you need one.  This is a completely grassroots event.  It is up to the participants who choose to do it to make it work.  My role is to create a few groundrules, make sure the groups are on schedule, and then be a participant myself.   The hotel itself would hardly be involved.

Participants would come to the Hampton Inn, for example, on Wednesday night, August 3rd, or just show up on Thursday morning, August 4th at 9AM.  The event would run from 9AM to 5PM, giving you enough time to change for the People’s Party at the San Diego Marriot, the traditional beginning of BlogHer.

The mini-retreat would offer people an opportunity for some real brainstorming and workshopping of whatever project they were dreaming about BEFORE the chaos of the big conference.  This would be a full day — 8 hours — of workshopping your ideas, writing it out, and presenting it to the others.

Here’s how it would work —

Make believe 50 people sign up for the mini-retreat. I would create TEN groups of FIVE people each.  One in each group will be considered the MODERATOR.  The moderator is a participant as well, with no special credentials or awards. Her only role is to make sure everyone gets an equal chance to talk about their project.

I will choose all the moderators and create all the groups in order to avoid conflict.

Each group meets from 9AM to 5PM.  You decide where you want to meet, whether in a hotel room, the hotel lounge, an adjacent Starbucks, or a combination of them all.

Everyone must commit to a full day at the mini-retreat, because the others are depending on you.  You will be working all day, pitching a website, a book, or a blog re-branding — a project that you have been struggling with on your own.  The others will help guide you, giving feedback and honest critiques.

The moderator’s main responsibility is to keep things organized.  In the afternoon, everyone will write up a short outline based on the suggestions of the others, and later on, discuss it with the other members of the group.  Since there is no salary for the moderator, you can thank her by chipping in for her lunch.

If, by chance, your group sucks and it falls apart, or if there are other issues, such as hurt feelings over a critique, and there WILL be, tough luck.  We’re all adults, and you can handle it on your own.  You didn’t pay for the retreat other than a one night hotel room, and besides, you were coming to San Diego anyway, so you didn’t lose much.

I think it can work.

Anyone see any holes in this scenario?  Does it seem realistic or worthwhile?


  1. Headless Mom

    I actually think it sounds like a great idea, Neil! I’ll be watching for more information, and maybe even put my hat into the ring.

  2. Angella

    FANTASTIC idea, Neil. Brilliant.

  3. anymommy

    I’d be interested. One thing I’d suggest is a wrap up at the end. Maybe where the moderator’s give the highlights to the whole group? Or we all sit around and talk about how awesome we are? Or we could mix up the groups half way through the day. Just thinking out loud of ways to shake up group dynamics during the day.

    • Neil

      Since there is no cost, I guess we would need to find a place in the beginning and end of the “retreat” for everyone to gather. Maybe if enough people stay at the Hampton Inn, they will throw in a conference room. I would suggest having it at the Marriott instead, where BlogHer will be, but I’m not sure everyone would want to spend another $200 a night for a hotel room for Wednesday night. I figured having it at the Hampton Inn for $50 would just make it easier for those on a budget to come a day earlier, then on Thursday everyone can move over to the Marriott. Or maybe making this whole event on Sunday at the Marriott is better, but i doubt it because everyone is burnt out by then, and not sure people are going to want to stay in San Diego so late in the day before flying home at night.

  4. usedtobeme

    I like it@

  5. usedtobeme

    @ = !

  6. subWOW

    Sounds like a great, worthwhile idea.

    I am however nervous for you about the part of picking the groups and the moderators… (A fox. A sheep. A cabbage. A man is crossing the river…) Here’s wishing you a drama-free mini retreat!

    • Neil

      Someone needs to be a benevolent dictator. If we did it as a true democracy… It would be three days before anyone decided anything. I thing Egyptians are going to soon learn that democracy has some pitfalls as well!

  7. But Why Mommy

    This is such a great idea. I would love to attend.

  8. Ann's Rants

    Sounds amazing. Wonder if some of the groups could just be prompt writing instead of “Big Idea focused”

    (I say this b/c I’m currently working on about as many Big Ideas as I can handle, but would love a writing retreat).

    Love your Big Idea!

  9. Twenty Four At Heart

    I’m in! : )

  10. A Vapid Blonde

    I think it’s a great idea. I am still on the fence about Blogher this year. Leaning in favor of it, but only got a party pass since I found the actuall sessions to be, uh, how does one say it tactfully? Shitty? Yeah, that’s it. I would like to be kept up on the details if you are going to end up doing something.

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