What Does It Feel Like to Be a VOTY? 3 More Voices of the Year Share Their Stories

What Does It Feel Like to Be a VOTY? 3 More Voices of the Year Share Their Stories

As your submissions for Voices of the Year (VOTY) and Photos of the Year (PhOTY) continue to roll in, we continue to send virtual high fives in your direction. Whether you're submitting your own work or submitting the work of your fellow bloggers and photographers, you are continuing in our efforts to make BlogHer the conference the community built. Your voices and photos, submitted now and honored later on stage, make our conference unique, personal, and oh-so-awesome.

Still, maybe you're wondering whether or not you should submit your own works or someone else's piece. Last week I interviewed three previous presenters, and this week I'm bringing you another three VOTY presenters -- thus covering six years of this amazing Community Keynote. They once shared your thoughts and fears. They've stood on the stage and have lived to tell us about it -- here.

This week we are hitting the even years with VOTY presenters from 2008 (the first Community Keynote!), 2010, and 2012. Shannon Carroll of Shannonigans (and otherwise known as Mr Lady) was a VOTY OG in 2008 with her post It's Not the Fall that Kills You, It's the Sudden Stop. Marinka NYC was honored in 2010 with her post Fantastic News! Dresden Shumaker of Creating Motherhood presented in 2012 with her post, Welfare Queen.

Like last week's interview, my first question was whether they submitted their own piece or if someone else submitted the post.

Shannon: I submitted myself (and pretty much was ostracized in my online community for the sheer audacity).

Marinka: Stacey, aka Anymommy, nominated me.

Dresden: I submitted two posts for consideration in 2012 and it was so empowering to click "submit". I knew even if nothing happened with the posts I had owned the power of my words. I stood tall and lifted them up.

(Let's take an editorial moment to note the difference in thought of submitting your own work in 2008 versus 2012 (and now, 2014). Submitting your own work is definitely encouraged and respected. Raise your hand. Submit that work!)

I then asked each woman how they felt when they received word when they would be presenting their piece at BlogHer.

Shannon: Yeah, I died. Never in a million years did I think they'd ask me.

Marinka: I knew that it was an amazing opportunity and I felt that weird combination of humbled, ecstatic and nauseated.

Dresden: It was so thrilling to find out I had been chosen to read my post at he conference. Finding out the post had been selected as a VOTY was completely emotional and terrifying. What I wrote about was personal and hard to even say out loud to myself. Finding out that I was going to stand in front of the entire conference and speak this truth and potentially be judged was so scary. And yet - what a gift! I was going to be able to show people what a person on public assistance looked like and that was important to me.

Of course, I wanted to know what our presenters felt like while actually standing on the stage, reading their prized pieces.

Shannon: Less nervous than you'd think. Walking out on that stage was the hardest part. Saying what I said to 1300 women I knew GOT it? Kind of liberating.

What Does It Feel Like to Be a VOTY? 3 More Voices of the Year Share Their Stories
Image Credit: Aimee Giese of Greeblemonkey.

Marinka: My big goal was to remain standing. Success.

What Does It Feel Like to Be a VOTY? 3 More Voices of the Year Share Their Stories

Dresden: It was electric. When I walked out I looked over and instantly saw my friends waving at me. My goal was to speak clearly and not cry. I had worked with Polly beforehand to rehearse and find the rhythm of my post. I knew the parts that were emotional. I still had to stop and collect myself a few times and I was able to look into the audience and feel this radiance of support. Everyone there was on our side, bloggers, writers, storytellers, humans.

What Does It Feel Like to Be a VOTY? 3 More Voices of the Year Share Their Stories

Lastly, I asked these amazing ladies what happened after their time on stage. If you're not familiar with Voices of the Year, after the Community Keynote, we have a reception with food and drink and mingling.

Shannon: I have never been hugged so much in my whole life. I met people because of that who have become close friends and colleagues. I found a community I didn't know existed. It was pretty much amazing.

Marinka: Having people react to something that I'd written was incredible. The people whose writing I admired reached out to me, Deb Rox was especially kind.

Dresden: I was in a blur immediately afterwards. Emotional and raw. People came up to me and shared with me their stories of hardships and public assistance. Some cried with me. There were a lot of hugs. I felt so supported and encouraged. There are people who I met that night that I still email with about food stamps. People have told me I was brave and you know sometimes you hear these things and you shrug them off, but I felt it. I felt myself being brave in a safe and nurtured space. It completely changed the way I approached writing online and the power of storytelling. It healed me to share my story and I will forever be thankful for the experience.

Inspired? Good. Go click through all of your favorite blog posts and all of your favorite photos, and get to submitting those works of art, those pieces of you.


Family & Events Section Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog.

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