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There's not room for two big egos in this photo.

There’s not room for two big egos in this photo. (Instagram)

Dear Readers,

I started this blog almost two years ago because I wanted to practice writing and get good at it. I didn’t mean for it to turn into a travel/food/my falling in love with my long-distance suitor stories/sometimes rant blog. Some of you are my family and friends and even coworkers who either felt pressured to subscribe or had a real sincere desire to find out what makes me tick. Some of you also follow my other blog The Accidental Birder because, frankly, you probably got tired of my pestering you to follow my badass birding adventures around the globe. To you, I apologize for the abhorrent writing you’ve had to face and the random and inconsistent posts.

Sometimes I vomit out too many adverbs on a page. And other times, I’ve hit “publish” and then gone back three times (at least) to clean up the mess. I know that, and the first step in overcoming any problem is admitting it. The second step, I’m certain, is to go to a conference for bloggers to get some rehab, which happened to be TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange).

When people and speakers think you’re weird. And that’s okay.

I was over the moon on my first day at TBEX. It began wonderfully with the writing workshop, led by Pam Mandel, Andy Murdock and David Farley. We broke into small groups of about 12 people and I got a chance to read part of one of my Accidental Birder posts. The look on David Farley’s face when I explained that I’m a global birder was priceless. You know that look someone gives you when they’re not sure you said what you said? Like you were speaking in tongues? I got that look. Turns out I got a lot of those weird looks all weekend. Yes, y’all. Looking at birds around the world. It’s a thing.

Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Pam Mandel, David Farley and Andy Murdock help us not suck as much at writing.

Pam Mandel, David Farley and Andy Murdock help us not suck at writing.

My second small group session during the workshop was with Pam Mandel and we didn’t really workshop anyone’s writing, but rather workshopped ideas and challenges. I received sage advice on how I might tackle my latest adventure in Ecuador where it didn’t exactly turn out so awesome. You, my dear reader, don’t know that yet—the part about Ecuador not being so awesome—because I haven’t had the nerve to write it. I’ve only shown you super fun stuff like the custom-made red boots I got in Quito.

If there was one thing that impressed me most, it was the genuine advice and feedback I received at this workshop and in their follow ups with me. These are the connections that are the most meaningful at a conference like TBEX. I only wish this could have been an all-day workshop.

When people are surprised you don’t make money at this. That’s okay too.

The other workshop I attended was the Instagram walking tour with Katja Presnal. As we were walking around Toronto in the crazy heat and humidity I was having a nice chat with a woman about my Accidental Birder blog when she asked, “So how do you make money at that?”

“Uh, I don’t.”

I thought everyone did this for the love of writing and have regular careers and never have a tidy home.

It wouldn’t be the last time someone would ask me about the business side of my blog. And guess what—there is no business side of either of my blogs.

So, it turns out there were Monetizing sessions at TBEX. I thought that was another conference. (No, not really, but it kinda felt like it.)

Meanwhile, back on the walking tour….

Apparently, reading small print like, “It’s a walking tour so wear comfortable shoes,” got lost on me. Also, rules like “keep up with the group” seem to be important. I got turned around and separated from the group so I walked back to the hotel and noticed that the CN Tower had been stalking me.


CN Tower is totally stalking me. [Enter creepy music.]

This is how old people party. Or not.

So readers, I hate to report that I didn’t go to any of the parties. Instead I spent the evenings with Steve, the husband, because we’re that weird couple where each lives in a different country. Toronto was a rendezvous point and to be honest, I’m just kind of too old for those parties. But I heard they were really fun.

Did someone lose her shoe? That must have been some party the night before.

Parties so fun that someone lost her shoe. That must have been some party! (Instagram)

I should have been tormenting you differently

Back at the Toronto convention center ranch of 1300 bloggers I stuck to the content track at TBEX, which gave me really good tips and direction to improve my writing, photography, content development, and to be quite honest, make it easier for you to follow along. I even learned, ala Mike Sowden, how to torment you and make you want to read my blogs to the end. I have no idea if you finish reading any of what I’m posting. I’m lucky if I get three comments and I’m assuming those people have read to the end. I think I’ve been tormenting you all along, but not in the way Mike suggests. Sorry about all the bad writing tormenting. (<–See? even this sentence is bad. Ugh.)

See anything good?

I also met some lovely people, one of whom happened to be another birder, Laura Kammermeier of Nature Travel Network. On the first day we had lunch with my husband (the real birder) where we shared stories and adventures. Laura’s insights on the difficulty in networking were spot on when she said:

I don’t know how to break into this group here at TBEX. In the birder world you just go up and say, ‘See anything good?’ and that starts the conversation. Here? I don’t know.

Yeah, I couldn’t figure it out either. Gosh, 1300 attendees is a lot of people and kind of difficult to connect. But there was a really cool sculpture of birds right outside the convention center. Thanks Toronto, that was a swell welcome for us two birders. Made us feel kind of special. And smart because everyone else was calling them just woodpeckers. But we birders were geeking out about it and, of course. knew what species they really were.

In case you didn't know, that there is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

In case you didn’t know, that there is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (the other one was the Pileated Woodpecker). You totally want to party with me, right?


By the way, there was a GOB of construction going on in Toronto. (Instagram)

A cheap date. (Not in the sense that she’s a trashy girl.)

Did TBEX meet all my expectations? Kind of. But it was sort of a cheap date and I got what I paid for. I bought my conference ticket ûber early and paid under $100 for it. I maybe passed out seven of my cards with my blog info because they were people I genuinely wanted to connect with. I didn’t speed date. I don’t even know what the Marketplace thing was. And as I mentioned above, I didn’t do the parties. Or the after parties. I just stayed the course with the content track and felt like I took advantage of 1/5 of the conference, which was okay. TBEX was a cheap date and that’s fine. If I want more out of a conference I will need to invest a little more for that. I don’t need all the other stuff the sponsors were paying for—the parties and the monetization breakouts. Not saying they’re bad, but it just wasn’t my focus.

I took pages and pages of notes, so I know I learned a great deal. Most importantly, I learned to not just slap up crap on my blog just to stay consistent. It’s more important to really work through a piece, edit, sleep on it, and edit some more. So that means I may not post something weekly. It just might even be once a month. I don’t know yet. I liked working in a rhythm, but I was only making incremental improvements in writing, not monumental steps.

You see, it’s about you, not me. That’s a tough thing to learn and rather counterintuitive to personal blogging if you think about it. Blogging started about me, but if this is going to be about engagement I have to respect your time as well and give you something for your time, like something interesting to read. Or something you learn. Or at least one embarrassing photo of me.

And then I’m sure you’ll always finish my posts to the end.

Warmest regards,