While not my usual sharing of a recipe, this is from my gluten-free, vegetarian, obsessed baker heart. I share this in hopes that it helps you, my 17 readers, know where I’m headed. I also hope it gives you an opportunity to tell me how I can connect with you. Read on, intrepid food adventurers…
I’ve just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. where I attended Eat, Write, Retreat!, a food blogging conference. I signed up for this particular conference, my first food blogging conference, for a couple of reasons. First, an intimate, hands-on learning experience was promised. Second, Gluten-Free Girl Shauna Ahern was speaking and very early on Wendy of Celiacs in the House signed up to attend. I knew I would be in good gluten-free company to learn more about food blogging!
Perhaps more important than what helped me decide to go to Eat, Write Retreat! is what I hoped to gain. I am at a crossroads in my food blogging journey and needed this conference to re-focus, to clarify what I am trying to accomplish. I hoped to gain knowledge that would help me make an informed decision about a DSLR camera, lenses, additional photography equipment. I hoped to figure out where I am headed, should I try to get sponsors, is what I’m doing here worth the time and money I invest in it? Who is benefiting? All of this gluten-free baking I do gets a little expensive. The time I invest is extensive and I do really enjoy it. I am so driven to help people eat well gluten-free, but am not reaching them. I went to Eat, Write, Retreat! in search of balance, in search of clarity, in search of purpose.
When I sat down to write about the conference, I began writing about each of the meals in detail, about each of the workshops, what I took from each speaker. It was turning into a blog post of prodigious length. I’ve decided I will write about some of the workshops, meals and restaurants I visited at a later time. I’ll write about the four cupcake shops I visited, share with you the meal I had at Oyamel, tell you about the dream run, the bike rides and lengthy walks I went on through a stunning city, show you what I plan to do with the extensive amount of swag I toted home. But for now, I want to write about the take-aways, the goal clarification, the re-focus that occured.
First, about that fancy-pants camera I’ve been saving to buy. I’ve spent months visiting with friends in the professional photography business about my camera woes. One friend tells me constantly I am going to be just fine with the camera I currently have, yet I have asked him multiple times since for camera advice. At EWR, I learned he was right, I’m gonna be fine with my tiny little camera for now. I saw bloggers taking photos with iPhones, point-and-shoots and cameras that cost more than my first car. We all have our place in the blogosphere and I’m comfortable with my little corner of that world, low-quality photos and all. My food photos probably won’t be featured anywhere, and that’s perfectly fine with me. I just want to show folks who are learning to bake gluten-free what the finished product will look like. Yes, I want it to be beautiful and well-composed (outside of baking I am an artist by profession), but my primary focus is on food, not photos. I will continue annoying my dining companions by snapping photos of food, however I am going to try to be more in the moment and not make my husband wait so long that dinner becomes cold before I put the camera away.
Second, I realized trying to get paid for my blog might not be for me right now. My readership numbers are not high enough to be of great interest to sponsors, although I did leave EWR with sponsorship of some of my bakeware needs. I don’t want to host giveaways on my blog. I don’t want to ask my readers and friends to constantly vote for me in this contest or that (I did that once, it was awkward for me). I don’t want to accept sponsorship from a company that is not a good representation of who I am. There was some talk at EWR about being true to your brand. Well, I am my brand. I’m Johnna, that’s what you get when you come here, and I am going to stay true to who I am and what I want my blog journey to be. While I am definitely open to being paid to write, I need to make sure I am staying true to myself and my vision for my blog before moving forward. And by paid, I mean actual money. I don’t need 6 cases of breakfast cereal in exchange for a post on my blog. I’m guessing you don’t want to read that post either. I so appreciate all that I learned about this particular facet of food blogging. Casey and Robyn, the EWR producers, as well as the sponsors, seem committed to changing how food bloggers are regarded as writers. I so appreciate all that I gleaned from them. It feels as though a shift is occurring in the food blog community and at least for awhile, I am going to stand back and take it all in while I refine my direction.
And the third big take-away for me came from something Shauna, Gluten-Free Girl, said. While not a direct quote, she said something to the effect of, “If you have only 25 readers and love what you are doing, that is enough.” Many times during EWR I felt smaller than a little fish in a big sea, more like plankton. Talk of companies sending products to be tested, talk of sponsorship, Klout scores, blog traffic in the thousands, number of comments on posts, it all had me feeling like a failure at times. I’ve been blogging for 3 years now and prior to EWR, had accepted product from one company, a company from which I initiated contact. I average 0.79 comments per post. I’ve got the baking part down, reaching my audience through my blog is the hard part. I came away from EWR knowing that I need to work harder at reaching my audience but also knowing that even if I reach one person who thought baking was a thing of the past after going gluten-free, I will have accomplished my goal. If I heard that someone actually used one of my recipes…well, I would just be over the moon.
Eat, Write Retreat! was just what I needed. I met amazing people and learned so much. The food bloggers at this conference were some of the most welcoming people I have met. It was truly enjoyable to spend time with them. Because of this conference, I am more clear on where I am headed, which right now is the kitchen. Baking remains my love, I am passionate about sharing my gluten-free baking with those who really need it. Blogging will remain my primary vehicle to share this information, even if it’s a slow-moving tricycle on a 6-lane freeway. I’ll keep trying to reach those who I most want to serve, to connect with. But first, I will bake!