Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bloggers at Parties

I've been blogging on a variety of topics for many years, and until now, the only thing I've gained is a bit of short-lived notoriety (from a blog long ago and far away, and no, I don't want to talk about it) and a few bucks in Amazon referral fees.

(Is this a good time to remind you that my search box is to the right? --->)

Confession:  I have written professionally before. I have ghost-written a book, been published in national magazines and had a weekly column on the topic of radio.  So, I'm not blogging because I'm a frustrated, unpublished writer.

Blogging, for me,  is truly a labor of love, and one of my favorite ways to write.

Probably because I have no word count limit.  

Sorry about that.

My first thought after my breast cancer diagnosis was, "I have to blog this experience".  I confess that I didn't turn to friends, or family, join a support group, or cry.   I suspect that puts me into some weird, anti-social computer geek category.

So be it.  I did spend several years working as an IT manager, so I come by it honestly.

Despite my love for, and heavy involvement in New Media, I am a rare breed - I still love Old Media.  I have been a subscriber to the Sacramento Bee for my entire life, and I can't imagine starting my morning without coffee and the Bee.  I rarely agree with their editorial team, (okay, never agree) but I still enjoy the viewpoint. And, what would life be like without Carolyn Hax and her antiquated counterpart, Dear Abby?  It's not only the Bee I read; whenever I travel, I grab the newspaper.   I believe the local paper gives you insight into a city.

I can't imagine the joy some people take in the demise of newspapers.  I don't share it.

So, when the Bee accepted me as one of their blogging  partners, I was truly honored.  Of course, I suspected that being called a Partner with the Bee was the same thing as a Wal-Mart employee being called an Associate.  That employee bagging your $5.00 DVD is never going to associate with Sam Walton, and I figured I wasn't really ever going to have anything to do with the Bee.  I thought we may drive each other traffic with the toolbar (mostly them to me), and it would be a cool marriage between old and new media as well as a unique experiment in linking community writers with a legitimate newspaper - and that would be the end of it.

I was wrong.   Two weeks ago, The Sacramento Bee graciously hosted a mixer for their Sacramento Connect partners. And, they treated us iPhone carrying, nerdish bloggers like actual important people.  We met at Revolution Wines, where we could taste some great grape - a nice change from all that Mountain Dew we drink..  They had some amazing appetizers from I don't even know where.  And, more importantly, they wanted to hear our opinion about how to make this partner connection work.

I even got to meet Melanie Sill, the Editor and Senior Vice President of the Bee.  Amazingly, she said she'd  read my blog and shared it with others.   I was impressed they weren't sending in janitors and secretaries and paying them overtime to meet us, and that the powers-that-bee had actually looked at our content.

Because I'm a stereotypical computer geek/writer, I'm not great in crowds of strangers. My first instinct is to hide in a corner and observe what's going on, and my second instinct is to go find any computer AV system around to see if there is anything cool that I don't have.

I resisted both temptations, because I'm an adult and there to socialize, and I had chemotherapy, so if I can do that, I can do anything, including meet new people, right?

Unfortunately, chemotherapy doesn't kill the nerd inside.  The first awkward part of the evening came as I entered the room and I was handed a nametag.  I have never liked these things because there is really no graceful way for a woman to wear them if she isn't wearing a jacket with lapels.  You kind of have to slap it on your boob, and as you know, boobs are slightly problematic for me at this point.

My dilemma:  Do I put it on my real side with my prosthesis, or my expanded side?   Which one would I least want people peering down at?  I assumed that a few people might know my story, and I worried - would this create a problem for anybody?  Would they read my nametag and wonder: real side?  fake?  Would they be  embarrassed?

I wanted to take a pen and draw an arrow and write "It's this one" on it, but instead, I slapped it on my expanded side and entered the room.

This was also my entree into social life with gray/white hair.  I had shoulder length auburn hair until chemo took it away.  Now, I have silver man-hair.  Would people think I'm a little old lady?  Would they ignore me due to my advancing age?  Would I become invisible, as the elderly are wont to do?

All those times  I silently called somebody a "blue hair" as I sped by them in traffic came back to haunt me.

Not only did I worry that they might ignore me, I worried about how could I ignore them?    I couldn't peer at people through a veil of hair as I used to do    Like an Afghanistan woman whose burqa blows up in a wind storm, with this super-short do, I feel fully exposed and in danger.

Of course, my new mantra of courage is "I've been through cancer treatment, this is nothing" so I went  to the appetizer table, and met a nice young man, owner of Bleed Black and Purple,  my alphabet neighbor in the partner listing.  His pretty wife does graphic design and we talked about that a bit, and she has designed some business cards for me, which I will post as soon as I get them.

I had wanted to meet the author of Nanny Goats in Panties.  She writes a humor blog and she knows her blogging stuff.  I have always hated going up to people and introducing myself, and she was talking to a group of two lovely women, but I took my courage in my hands and went to say hi.

And then, my next awkward moment happened.

Immediately after I introduced myself, one of the women said they'd noticed me and how slim I was.

Of course, this was a blogging event, and you all know the topic of my blog.  So, I joked, "Oh, well, I just had cancer."

Geek in da hizzy!

Their faces fell and they looked stricken. I realized my mistake immediately.  "Oh, I'm so sorry, I'm just kidding, I'm fine. I've always been skinny. I was a skinny baby!"

Too late. They started inching away, and I realized they probably had no idea I wrote a humor blog about breast cancer.

I'd forgotten the cardinal rule: Cancer isn't funny.

Lesson learned.



  1. I will never understand why people think they have the right to comment on someone else's weight! If you were overweight would she have said oh, I just noticed you and how chubby you are?? I don't think so! GRRRR - I real pet peeve of mine! She owed you an apology.

  2. I'm glad you talked to Nanny Goat Margaret since that's how I got here.

    Your hair looks great. I think as long as you don't grow it long and start wearing a bun, you're good.

    I hate name tags, too, just on principle. Maybe next time you can write "Is it real or is it mammorex?" Have prizes for whoever gets it right.

    I think that blogging is a terrific way to sort out your feelings. I think that sometimes talking to friends and family can be hard because they have such an emotional stake in the outcome. And some of us just aren't the sharing with strangers type. Writing down what is happening to you makes it real and gives you a chance to step back and get a different perspective.

    I also understand what you say about people not being able to connect breast cancer with humor. When my sister was going through it people would ask how she managed to keep on going. She used to say that she would have a little pity party but then she'd just get on with it. If she was that way all the time she and everyone around her would be miserable.

    I hope that someone dealing with breast cancer can read your blog and have hope. Chemo isn't fun but you get through it. You'll have good days and bad. Your hair will fall out and it will come back. You'll have scares and hopefully they turn out to be just that. That's something that only someone who's done it can reassure them about. Your blog is like a virtual hand to hold. Keep up the good work.

  3. Is it real or is it Mammorex?!?! Oh my that is genius. Genius! :)

    Thanks Sue.


  4. Mammorex! LOL. Congratulations on the blogging partner. But yes cancer is funny to those of us with it because we have learned to laugh about it.... It still scares a lot of people. And yes I read the paper every morning as well - before I blog.

  5. Cancer is no fun, but you are! What a great post and congratulations on associating with the Bee.
    'It's this one'... LOL!

  6. Thanks for being such a gracious guest. It was great to meet you in person. I agree with the others here - cancer may not be funny, but your writing is.

    BTW - The appetizers were from Mulvaney's catering.

  7. It was nice meeting you Ann. You looked great by the way. Oh....I am not too bruised up so I don't bleed black and's bleed black and purple (Kings colors) :)

  8. Thanks Seán, I enjoyed meeting you too. And, thanks for letting me know where the appetizers came from - Mulvaneys is one of my favs!

    Blake, so SORRY about getting your blog name wrong. :) I don't follow the Kings but from what I understand, last year there were a little beat up. :) I have fixed it though.

  9. Okay, three things:
    A) I'M blogging because I'm a frustrated, unpublished writer, and could use some traffic/tips, please;
    2) You wear the nametag on your RIGHT side so when people are shaking your hand they're looking right at it;
    D) Cancer *is* funny. Those chicks were more nervous in a room full of strangers than you were, that's all. I would have at LEAST smiled. Good for you for being courageous!


  10. Sarah,

    I can't believe you haven't been published and want to be - you are a good writer. Email me, and I'll give you tips. Realize you don't start with Vogue but there are thousands of places you can get published. Thousands. You won't get rich doing it though.

    Traffic is a lot harder then getting published. :)


Thank you for commenting. If the post is over 14 days old, the comment will be moderated and will approved later. This is a spam prevention technique - but I love to hear from you!