In June 2012 I was a virgin. A Britmums Live! virgin that is, of course. Actually, in all honesty a complete blogging conference newbie.
Over the two days in that first year I diligently attended every session with regard to blogging, in my long planned, schedule of the events. I made a book full of notes, visited every sponsor, signed up to almost everything and left with so many goodie bags I could hardly walk to the station. I made acquaintance with a lot of bloggers, and unbeknown to me at the time, true friendships with two or three others.
I ate and drank too much. And I allowed my mind to be temporarily pulled away from my duties as a mother, wife and housekeeper. It was two days just to think about blogging.
I was exhausted mentally but I loved it.
I swiftly booked for Britmums Live 2013 and looked forward to it wholeheartedly for the entire year. Over the course of those 365 days my blogging continued but my writing ambition also started to develop, so by the time June 2013 came I was thrilled to see the conference also start to include sessions on writing, publishing, and how to approach an agent.
Another new thing was introduced. Speed dating with an Agent. A small time slot whereby you could pitch your idea to that mystical figure : The Literary Agent. I so desperately wanted to think I could do this, but my book idea was so new in the making I had little confidence. However, one of my wonderful fellow blogging friends told me to be confident and do it. With the decision made, next came the hurdle of how, out of 700 delegates were we going to bag ourselves one of those few golden slots.
Time to be brutal. We were outside the doors two hours early, for the first hour and a half, we were the only two people there. I was, still doubting myself and so tightly wound, worrying that a rampage would occur and our wait would have been in vain. That did sort of happen actually, but my dear friend shoved me to the front and practically wrote my name down for me.
My appointment wasn't until quite late in the day, and I felt physically sick for the duration leading up to it. I felt even worse when my time came and I got in front of the Agent, who's mind was obviously going at a hundred miles and hour and she looked at me expectantly.
As my brain and mouth decided to epically fail me, I shoved my synopsis across to her and tried to remember how to breath whilst she scanned it. Ultimately I got amazingly positive feedback and was walking on air in a mixture of sheer relief and astonishment that I had got 'POSITIVE FEEDBACK!'
So, it was worth it. But on reflection my first day had been largely spoilt because I was so stressed out. I decided I had to make day two more relaxed. I realised I didn't need to go to a session if there wasn't something I really wanted to go to. So I largely socialised and mingled. That too was fantastic, I chatted to authors and met Katie Piper. I got as much out of year two, but in a different way.
My ticket for Britmums Live 2014 was booked on my return home and yet again the event was hugely looked forward to the whole year. My plan for this year, to be chilled. I took my time getting to the event, had lunch and a glass of wine whilst perusing the Agenda and then checked into my hotel. I guess I had the comfort of knowing a lot of people that were going to be at the event and consequently it took a lot of the nerves away.
When I walked into BRIT 1 for the opening keynote it felt like just yesterday I had been there and really surrounded by old friends. As we all looked around it was wonderful to be able to nod in acknowledgement to people, to wave frantically mouthing 'speak to you after!' to others. This time it was so much more about the social aspect. I did attend the WRITE sessions and thoroughly enjoyed and felt I benefited from them.
On day one, my friend and I discussed the possibility that we wouldn't attend next year. Maybe it was time to find more writing focused conferences, that we felt maybe we had learnt what we could from this particular event?
By the end of the BiBs, I realised it isn't all about the learning and attending sessions to help us progress. The event for me now is a wonderful opportunity that does not arise very often in the world of a stay at home mum / wannabe writer, to be 'just me' for two days. To enjoy friendships in person that the rest of the year are virtual, to indulge in a bit of time to myself that if I didn't book and come along to an event like this wouldn't happen.
For me the Bloggers Keynote is the pinnacle of the event. They make you realise that other people have sadness in their lives, and that by writing about it you are not silly, weird or stupid. You are all just trying to cope anyway you can, and for us, writing is one of those coping mechanisms. The Bloggers Keynote is the absolute physical representation of a supportive and inclusive community. A community that is called Britmums. A community I am proud to say I am a part of.
And my ticket for Britmums Live 2015 was booked before I had even left the venue this year and I am looking forward to it already.
With special thanks to the following people for making this year so great : Sarah at Older Mum in a Muddle, Anya at Older, Single Mum, Ericka at Mum in the South, Ellie at Mush Brain Ramblings, Amanda Jennings.