Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guest blog: "Growing pains"

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2008 at 5:07 AM

(The following is by Gambit guest blogger and New Orleans resident Leigh C., who maintains her own blog, Liprap’s Lament: The Line. You can read more of her writing there.)

(Editor's note: This post is in relation to Rising Tide III, a bloggers' conference held last weekend in New Orleans. To learn more about it, go to Rising Tide's Web site.)

Walking out of the bar with Maitri, it hit me.

I have to go get the keynote speaker?

What in hell are these people thinking?????

Over a year ago, at the first planning meeting for the Rising Tide 2 Conference, I walked into the house of Oyster, a key founder of Rising Tide and a blogger at Your Right Hand Thief , with an idea. I had already been reading the many other blogs of the various members of what I had begun to call the NOLA blogpocheh for a few months, and shortly before the Passover holiday, I had dragged my husband and son to a Geek Dinner: a.k.a., a large informal gathering of the New Orleans bloggers, in which I met a good many of them for the first time amidst tables and kitchen countertops positively groaning with the food everybody brought. A few of them talked about previous Geek Dinners, and the home in which this potluck was held prominently featured in one room a large poster from the first-ever Rising Tide Conference. By the time emails were sent out informing the bloggers of this planning meeting for the second conference, I prepared myself to walk into that room and take on whatever job needed to be done – and I tested the boundaries in a manner that happened to resemble an adult version of what my then- four-year-old son was beginning to do.

I walked into Oyster’s living room with a copy of Dave Zirin’s latest book of essays on sports and politics entitled Welcome To The Terrordome, informed the other folks who had managed to come that night about a review of the book I’d written on my blog, told ‘em that I thought it would be great to get him as a speaker for the conference, and braced myself for the dismissal that was coming.

“Okay, sounds good. Send him some emails and keep us posted,” was the consensus.

I was pleasantly surprised, but it didn’t really register until I walked out of the bar we adjourned to once the meeting was over and thought about it some more. These people have given me this opportunity, I thought. Ohhh, boy.

My next thought was, By God, I am not going to let them down.

The beauty of this motley crew of yahoos that welcomed me into their midst on that Geek Dinner night was their basic trust in each other. Their basic sensitivity to each other. The way they came together once they had been seriously hurt by the ruination of their city. I had no clue how rare this was until this past summer, actually, when I went to my in-laws’ out in northern California and my mother-in-law asked me to try to dig up blogs in her area that were doing the same sorts of discussions of local issues I was enjoying in New Orleans. I had a hard time finding much of anything or anyone doing that in Silicon Valley (and I really hope someone reading this points me in the right direction and proves me wrong on that account).

It is truly inspiring, what is going on here.

This year’s Rising Tide conference featured many audience members and participants doing a great deal of live (and dead) blogging, but I found myself moving around so much, meeting new people, introducing them to people I knew and letting them just talk to each other, taking care of details when I could, and basking in the successes of this conference. Taking it all in as it came. And what came were numbers of people that nearly doubled the conference’s attendance numbers from the year before. Bloggers and nonbloggers. People concerned about the issues Rising Tide’s organizers are concerned about –and these same people were comfortable enough with the atmosphere to stand up and ask the participants anything at all about those issues when the time came, and even after the scheduled times for the panels and the talks had concluded. That is the beauty of the conference, that kind of accessibility.

Well, now it is the aftermath. Many folks attending this year’s conference have weighed in with a critical, unflinching eye, among them Gambit’s own Michael Tisserand, Pistolette, The Huck Upchuck, Dorophoria, Editor B, Good Children, Suspect Device, and most likely more people that I am missing (as well as another post by Huck. The man is quick and good.). Part of me reels a little at the responses – but I realize that, for this gathering to grow and become more inclusive of all who are interested in its people, potential, and premise, I now have to take a number of steps back, as do all of us who organized the conference, and put my money where my mouth is.

Now is the time to listen.

It is time for me, personally, to step out of my own critical blogger mode, which I have largely focused on the schools these past few months, and look at this from beyond the computer. I welcome, with open arms, the many other comments and observations I and the other organizers have not read yet – feel free to put them in the comments of this post and/or email them to us at the Rising Tide website. Soon enough, you may be jumping into the organization of Rising Tide 4 yourself, getting together the kinds of speakers you want to see up close and the programs you want to participate in.

Over a year ago, the organizers of the conference gave this stay-at-home mom a chance to give back and act on a suggestion. Here is your chance.

My advice?

Take the chance. Please.

* My big, huge thanks go to Kevin Allman and Clancy DuBos for yet another glorious chance to do something I never would have thought possible when I started down this path of writing a little bit here and a little bit there about raising a family here after the flood – to get my words out beyond my neck of the blogging woods.

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