I’m back from BlogHer ’13 in Chicago and have no less than 372 stories I could share. Some of those stories are funny. Some are bittersweet. Some are so incredibly filthy they cannot be repeated… like… ever. But trust me when I tell you that I can now die a happy woman knowing I made a table full of very funny women laugh this hard even once:

Kim Bongiorno and Kerry Rossow laughing at BlogHer13

Kim @LetMeStart and Kerry @HouseTalkN

I’ve struggled all week with how to write a good BlogHer conference wrap up. There were so many moments I’d love to share, but I’m terrified of leaving anyone out. So instead, I’m going to pick one story to share, and only one.

It’s the story of how a series of awkward mishaps helped me reconnect with my “inner Iris” and change my fate. It’s the story of my BlogHer ’13 Voice of the Year Keynote and Reception experience.

But first, some back story…

Last year I was chosen as one of the 100 BlogHer Voices of the Year. I actually hadn’t planned to attend BlogHer ’12 in NYC for financial reasons, but when I found out I was going to be publicly honored for my writing, I bought a fancy dress and  booked a trip.

Know this: the BlogHer VOTY Keynote is the Academy Awards of the blogosphere. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was going to be awesome.

I was a bundle of nerves the entire day. I raced back to my hotel, changed into my new dress, touched up my hair and makeup, and booked it back to the ballroom where my friend Nora had saved me a seat so we could watch the 12 select keynote readers share their winning posts on stage. It was absolutely magical. One of my other friends really had to pee but didn’t want to leave the room and possibly miss the moment when the rest of the honorees were called on stage.

And then, the keynote readings were over. “OMG. OMG. THIS IS IT!” I thought to myself, throat parched, heart beating nearly out of my chest. I was about to be called on stage in front of 5,000 peers with the other winning writers!

It’s coming!

HOLY SHIT I’M SO NERVOUS!!!

Do I look OK?

Is there any food in my teeth?

HERE IT COMES!!!

And then…

Instead of calling us up there, or even having us stand in the audience for a quick round of applause, this slide was displayed:

blogher12 voty honor

Really?

That’s it?

Do you see my name?

Yeah. Me neither. But supposedly it was on that slide along with the other 99 honorees’ names.

Not gonna lie, I was crushed. And I felt like a fool.

Yes, I know I’m an asshole for saying that out loud because everyone knows the only appropriate response in this situation is “I’m just so grateful to be chosen!”

I am grateful. If I could write “VOTY Honoree” in scratch-n-sniff rainbow glitter on my LinkedIn profile, I totally would.

I just felt like I had been duped into a very expensive trip when I could have felt equally honored at home with my face in a bag of Lays® and my boobs on my lap.

But God bless the BlogHer event coordinators! They really heard all the feedback  and knocked themselves out to make this year’s Voice of the Year Keynote and Reception a much better experience for everyone!

I was fortunate enough to be selected again, for which I am truly humbled.

The official announcement email got us all really pumped:

All honorees will have assigned tables at the front of the Voices of the Year Community Keynote on Friday at BlogHer ’13, and you’ll all be invited to join us on stage along-side the 12 Voices of the Year Community Keynote readers to take a bow and take a group photo. Directly after the keynote, there will be a reception in honor of all 100 Voices of the Year. We can’t wait to see you there!

SWEET! This is going to be AH-MAY-ZING, I thought…

But what’s that they say about the best laid plans?

There were no tables. There weren’t even specially reserved rows up front for the 100 honorees. It was open theater-style seating.

That’s okay. These things happen. I’m sure that was as much of a surprise to the BlogHer event coordinators as it was to us.

At least I was going to get called on stage afterward in front of my peers for a bow and a photo with our celebrity emcee, Queen Latifah!

Only, Queen Latifah, who was 45 minutes late and admitted she stopped for Lou Malnati’s pizza on the way, must have forgotten in her deep-dish-delirium that she was supposed to call us up on stage at the end and closed the show with a rousing “GOODNIGHT EVERYBODY! THANK YOU FOR COMING.”

Oh yes she did.

The majority of the audience got up and headed for the exits as my jaw hit the floor.

BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page kindly tried to salvage the moment by calling the VOTY honorees up for a photo, but getting up on that tiny stage against the flow of traffic was like being in a Beijing subway station during rush hour.

And then trying to get 100 bloggers arranged for a photo? Herding a pack of French feral cats would have been easier. (Mad props to Erin & Ellen, Lisa, Sandra, Lois, Janie, and Julie for their speed, agility, and aim with the kidney punches. I’m proud of you, ladies!)

Not pictured...Leslie Marinelli and about 80 other bloggers.

Not pictured: 90% of the VOTY Honorees.

 

Not to be outdone, I got my own great shot:

 

My view of Queen Latifah at BlogHer 13

Don’t hate.

Hey. No biggie. I shook it off and headed for the reception where I had heard there were life-sized posters honoring each of the 100 VOTY winners! I couldn’t wait to get my photo taken next to mine!

My friend Jennie and I walked around looking for our posters together. We found Jennie’s right away:

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Is that awesome, or what?! Way to go Jennie!!

Oh look, here’s my friend Kim Forde’s! She couldn’t be there… just had a baby.

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So exciting! It’s like being in a gallery of awesomeness. BlogHer really hooked us up this year. Everywhere I looked, radiant bloggers were posing for pictures next to their posters. Here’s my girl Kim:

BlogHer13 #VOTY Kim Bongiorno @LetMeStart

I was chomping at the bit to find mine.

The posters were double sided and spread throughout the ballroom and hallway, so it took a while to wind our way through all 100 of them. But no matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t find one with my name on it.

Really? Would mine be the one they forgot? Oh snap.

Finally, “Oh no, do you think it’s on the back of that one in the corner?” Jennie asked with trepidation.

“No. No way. Even I don’t have luck that bad.”

Holding our breath, we approached the very last one, over in a dark corner, up against a pile of storage trunks…

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I took a deep breath and cautiously walked around the back…

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Oh crap.

It’s mine.

In the dark.

Next to the conference debris.

<Sad trombone>

Dammit. Not again. I can’t. I just can’t do this emotional roller-coaster again.

For a split second, my mind started to cross over to the dark side: Goddammit. Why me? Of all the 100 VOTY posters, why is mine the one in the very worst possible spot? I am such a loser. I wrote about my gecko’s penis! Of course I’m in the dark corner. I’m an abomination. I don’t belong here. 

And then…

…something clicked.

I had a choice.

I could take it personally, sulk, and feel bad about myself; or I could give people the benefit of the doubt and change my fate.

Didn’t I just hear the inspiring Kelly Wickham encourage us to stand up for ourselves, demand what we want, and say “That is unacceptable“?

And didn’t I also tell a conference room full of bloggers earlier that day during my session that being an anonymous blogger when I first started gave me the courage to do things I wasn’t normally brave enough to do?

I’m not anonymous anymore, but what would that brazen Iris Beard do in this situation?

She would say, “That is unacceptable.” Then she would Sheryl-Sandberg-Lean-In to that motherfucker and move it to a better spot.

And so we did (Iris and I).

Location location location

And Lady Jennie got it all on camera. (Thank you, Jennie!)

Leslie Marinelli BlogHer Humor Voice of the Year Honoree 2013

There. That’s better. You know what they say: location, location, location.

Now if I could just apply that same chutzpah elsewhere in my life, there’d be no stopping me.

Thank you BlogHer. Thank you for choosing my piece; thank you for wanting to make this a special night for us; and thank you for inadvertently giving me the opportunity to “Lean-In,” reconnect with my inner Iris, and publicly whip out my lady-balls. I needed that.

The VOTY program is incredibly important to bloggers. It is the ONLY opportunity we have to be validated and acknowledged publicly for our work without begging for votes or page views. It always bugs me when someone complains without offering a potential solution, so I have an idea. How about bringing on one more person to serve as a dedicated VOTY coordinator who can take some weight off the BlogHer Event Staff? This person would tend to all the little details like making sure people get their blog badges, fiddling with the links in the announcement piece, ordering pizza for the emcee to nibble on backstage, coordinating smaller group photos by category, positioning posters, etc.

I know just the person who would rock the shit out of that job…

My BlogHer '13 VOTY Reception Experience on Make A Gif

(You like that? It’s my first GIF! Special thanks to JC Little, The Animated Woman,
and DJ Paris of Thoughts from Paris for encouraging me to make it. I feel fancy.)