Words in an online space are particles, wafting out to who knows where, being cupped into eager palms or blown out of dismissive ones. When they land, are re-blogged, replanted, you know — long after whatever you wrote ceases to matter to you — that your words are growing in someone else’s heart, that they’ve planted themselves in someone’s memory. It isn’t often, though, that you get an opportunity to meet the people who’ve been tending your discarded gardens.
When I decided, just hours ago, to apply for a scholarship to this year’s Blogging While Brown, a networking and personal development conference to be held in New York on June 21 and 22, I knew this event would provide one of those rare glimpses. Blogging While Brown affords introverts whose social media relationships are as important as her analog ones to break a fourth wall of sorts and clap eyes on the folks whose words she reads and those who read hers.
Erika Nicole Kendall, founder of the uber-popular A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, talks about her experience with meeting her blogging peers and allies last year. And the meet-and-greet aspect of Blogging While Brown is also an experience Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie explores in her latest novel, Americanah, where her heroine, Ifemelu, not only makes networking gains with her already thriving blog but also reconnects with a man she was certain she was meant to love. Adichie understands acutely the importance of writers making in-person connections with one another.
I, on the other hand, have always struggled with it. Two weeks ago, in fact, when I stood in the book signing line to meet Adichie at Washington, DC’s wonderful bookstore, Politics and Prose, I silently proffered my copy of her book when the time came, without even mentioning that I’ve frequently written for one of the very blogs she mentions by name in the book.
Introverts need networking as much as anyone, but it can be far more difficult for us than for most people, to network in spaces that aren’t designed for that purpose. I’ve written a bit about introverts and interaction for Clutch magazine back in 2012. I’ve since founded Beyond Baby Mamas, a new blog used to create a safe space for unmarried mothers of color to share their stories and to receive support and advocacy. Since I’ve grown it as much as I can without facilitating many in-person meetups or events, it’s important that I push myself to grow my online community by strengthening my offline one. Blogging While Brown will help with that and it will allow me to meet many of the black and brown “momoir” pioneers who’ve come before me.
The experience will also help me to grow my personal blog readership — which has seen a significant spike in the past two years. I’m in the process of adapting many of the posts here to book form, a process that has been demystified during BWB panels in previous years:
Of course, if I do win a Day Pass to this year’s BWB, I’ll write about my experience here and at BeyondBabyMamas.com. It’ll be my first step toward applying the techniques I’m sure to learn there to build grow even stronger communities for both sites.