At the end of May, I traveled to Toronto for two reasons: TBEX–the largest travel blogger’s conference in the world–and to take part in Blog House. (Think the Real World with less need for confession booths and nearly zero made-for-TV drama. It was more vying for limited WiFi access.) Blog House, hosted by Navigate Media Group–a collective of extraordinarily cool travel bloggers who are using their network to leverage already impressive numbers–is an opportunity for a select group of new travel bloggers to learn from the veterans.
The week that I had received my acceptance letter into Blog House was one of the most memorable weeks of my life. (If this sounds like cheesy hyperbole, stick with me until the end of the paragraph and decide for yourself.) First, I discovered that my novel, The Adventures of Martin Luther Horowitz (or Martin Luther Horowitz and the Sky Fisherman, I’m still working on the title) was selected for the quarterfinals of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award competition. Twenty-four hours later, I received my Blog House invite. And then, at the end of the week, my wife urinated on a plastic wand that magically foretold that we were having a baby. We spent the rest of the night uttering the same phrase: “This is crazy.” (More to come on this in future posts and in my free monthly newsletter, which you can sign up for here .)
“This is crazy,” is also an apt description of Blog House. In all my years, I cannot recall any three-day stretch where I learned as much as I did at our castle. (Did I say we stayed at a castle? Yes, we were given a castle by the lovely folks at FlipKey, and Flight Network supplied the speakers, funds, and fun.) We delved into every aspect of the blogging business: creating media kits, improving our SEO strategies, gaining traffic through social media, taking better pictures manually (you’ll see some of my “creative” shots in this post), manipulating said photos, monetizing our blogs. The list goes on.
When we weren’t learning photography from WhoDaMan Heck and Hotshot Ott, we were getting drilled about niches by General Hodson. Sansei Tieso, the backend specialist and WordPress Wiz, gave Somewhere Or Bust a little makeover. And when I felt like my mind was exploding with information, a pair of mavens, Dalene and Lisa, guided me back to a place of less confusion. Nothing would have worked if Masters Yoder and O’Neil hadn’t marched us around the city to Cheesewerks, where the mac and cheese with roast pork was the Western rival to Wo Hop’s chow fun, to the Hard Rock, where we had time to throw back a few beers, to the Marriott, where we were fed ridiculously good crab cakes and dried kale, (which wasn’t a good combination for chatting with industry folks since we all had green flecks in our teeth.)
Most importantly, Blog House gave me the kick in the ass to tackle a few projects that I’ve held off on. Of course I’m still working on my novel, (and a book about uncovering my grandparents’ experiences in the concentration camps, plus another one about misadventures, and a fourth that begins with the words “This is crazy”). But I’m also putting together a few ebooks. Everyone can receive one of these ebooks for free. All you need to do is sign up for my monthly newsletter. (I’ll send you the code once the book is created. I suspect it will be done in the next month.) I’m also working on another ebook about traveling through the Cambodian Genocide.
So I think I’ll cut this post short so I can actually jump into one of these projects. Hopefully, I’ll have the ebooks available soon, an agent or publisher for my novel by the end of the summer, and a healthy kid by November 16.
By the way, if you’d like to read the blogs of any of my castle-mates, I’ve linked to the awesome senior bloggers above and the incredible junior bloggers below.
Blog House Bloggers
Emma Holliday has the perfect name for a travel blogger. But she also has a cool niche. She write about travel and tea.
Cacinda Maloney is your lady for points and travel, which happens to be the name of her blog.
Kay Rodriguez is the most precocious travel blogger you’ll ever read. This twenty-year-old rocks the student travel niche and is nasty on the ukelele.
Keryn Means is a Mom blogger who refuses to stop traveling.
Mara Gorman is a Mom blogger, too, and you could tell she’s a mother because she felt the need to adjust my name tag at TBEX.
Alouise Dittrick tackles the fine arts of travel.
Stephanie Spencer is a Nerd at Large and proud of it.
Alana Morgan tells cool stories like the one about her aunt being an astronaut.
Megan Smith is a Texan dubbed Megano by her Italian friends.
Lindsay Lewis knows a thing or two about anthropology, geography, international conflict resolution, and travel blogging.
Melissa Hogan walks the line between frugality and indulgence… while in heels.