Sunday, November 6, 2011

4 Goals Inspired by the FoodBuzz Blogger Festival

Celebrity chef Tyler Florence made a guest appearance at the 3rd Annual FoodBuzz blogger festival.
On Friday, I was getting a little panicky. And for once, it wasn't because I was running late and about to miss my flight. (Who am I kidding? I don't even panic about that any more.) It was because I was running on time, which was giving me too much time to think: Was going to the I <3 FoodBuzz blogger festival a mistake?

About three months ago, I signed up to go to the annual festival, a premiere festival for food bloggers from all over the country and who are all members of the FoodBuzz network. I'd been excited by the prospect of the festival ever since I joined FoodBuzz a little over a year ago, but as my flight to San Fransisco approached, it seemed daunting all of a sudden. I was going by myself, I personally knew only one other blogger who'd be attending (and was worried that her success might mean she wouldn't want to hang out with me), and I'm just so embarrassed by my to-do list for this blog and how so little of it has been accomplished. Wouldn't it be better just to stay in warm LA in my cozy condo and read a book?

Of course, realistically, there was no way the frugal part of me would let that happen. I had already paid for my airfare and hotel room, after all. I'd better be on that damn plane. And, in all seriousness, even with all of saagAHH's shortcomings, or maybe because of all of saagAHH's shortcomings, I desperately wanted to attend the festival to reinvigorate myself about my blog. I wanted to learn about best practices. To meet success stories in person. To find out how to take my blog to the next level. And just formally re-focus myself from wedding mode to blog mode.

Turns out, the festival was just what I needed. It was just amazing. (And well-organized, so kudos to FoodBuzz for that!) I loved all of the gourmet food samples (next year, I'm bringing a bigger suitcase!) for sure, and the fact that for once I wasn't the only person who wants a little bite of everything. But as the type who learns most quickly in a structured classroom environment, I loved the three classes that I took the best. At the stage my blog is in now, the best stuff I took away from the classes is also the stuff that's the most obvious to any experienced blogger. But I think it has the potential to make a world of difference in my blogging experience. These are my new goals for the next six months:

Post regularly, in my case my goal for the next six months is twice a week.
Several of the panelists in the first session said that their readership stats showed linear growth. It was all about posting regularly and just persisting at it that grew them to the HUGE audiences have now. And one said how she had an audience of 37 people for a while and even if she still only had 37 readers, she'd still be blogging just for them. I love that. In my head, I was feeling sorry for myself that I work a full-time job, do all kinds of home-related errands, and make dinner every night, THEN still have to make time to blog. When I'd read an amazing food blog -- gorgeous well-propped photos, clever writing with clean editing, a frequent posting frequency, etc. -- I'd just assume that the person must be a full-time food blogger. But about 95% of the bloggers at this festival work full-time at something else. Some even work full-time, go to school on nights and weekends, AND still blog. And some freakin' have KIDS! My eyes were opened to the fact that I have no excuses anymore. But those Family Guy marathons that my DVR and I like to have, well, I think they will be up first time-sucker to be sacrificed. (Though I'm sure Brian at least would empathize.)

Start a Twitter page specifically for this blog.
It took me an entire year to start a Facebook page for saagAHH. It does take up a little more time, but I've already seen it reflected in improved blog stats. And in addition to reaching readers via Twitter, it seems like that's the best place to stay in touch with the great bloggers I met at the festival. At first, I figure I'll just link it to the blog's Facebook page to make it easier on myself.

Experiment with taking my camera off auto-mode.
A DSLR is definitely on my wishlist, but that list is so long and, well, right now our heater is broken, our shower door won't shut, and I still have to pay for a plane ticket to Anchorage (my hubby's hometown). A DSLR is on my one-year goal list, but for the next six months, I want to mess around with my point-and-shoot and learn exactly what all of the manual setting do. So far I have learned what "white balance" means.

Experiment with fun propping. I love beautiful photos. When it came to our wedding, that was the one thing that caused a huge argument because I just wouldn't compromise on it (and great wedding photos are expensive). It's like gorgeous photos activate some much-ignored part of my brain that just lights up when I see a well-composed photo. And I love the gorgeous and bright things that other food bloggers use to make their food look even more appetizing. The panelists told us about thrift store finds, the joy of IKEA, and even buying cheap samples of fabric and using them as "napkins" in photos. We learned a bit about color wheel basics (relating to how to know what color to put in the backdrop) and what shapes of plates to use to create different kind of energy in a photo. I just kept thinking that I should so get some amazing Indian accessories and use them enhance my photography. Like those metal bowls that you see in Indian restaurants and experimenting with using my Indian clothes as backdrops, as I rarely ever wear them anyway. (Though I'd have to keep that a secret from some aunties.)

I feel like just making those four things and growing with them would be a huge step forward for me. Then I'll move on to my next set of goals :)

Oh, and I thought I'd share one of the many Tyler Florence photos I took (above). I'm not really into celebrity culture (that makes me an anomaly in L.A., but so be it), but I DO appreciate that he took a good chunk of time out of his busy schedule to be so generous with us. He gave away some cookbooks and did a demo on stage at the Saturday night dinner.

I have a ton of other photos from the festival, so I'll try to post those later this week.


  1. It was so nice to meet you this weekend, Sree! And I love the recap of these tips. I also hope to blog more regularly in the next little while :)

  2. So glad you found inspiration! It is hard to keep up and I'm lagging behind myself! :)!!! You can do it though! We can do it :D

  3. Nice to meet you! Glad you took the leap and went. I'm not sure I would have had the courage. I'm working on setting my goals too!

    Megan @ NewlyWife

  4. Great takeaways! I totally agree with all of them. I have a digital macro set up and auto, I need to move away and branch out. Sure, the pics might be crappy but I'll have to learn somewhere!

    It was nice meeting you, and I'm sorry we didn't talk more. I'll be stalking you since I recently found a love for Indian food so I'm learning a lot just reading back posts!

  5. Sree, it was great to meet you. I can really relate to this entry. When I went last year by myself, my blog was very much in the same state as yours and I was overwhelmed by other blogger's success and really just felt like quitting. I walked away with pretty much all your goals and within the year, I did them all and it's helped alot. Good luck on your blog! PS, you're mentioned and pictured in my recap too b/c we're wedding date twins!

  6. Hi Sree! Aw yay! I'm so glad you really enjoyed FBfest, as I did too. :) I agree that everything was amazingly organized, and although sometimes meeting complete strangers can seem daunting at first, it's always worth the challenge and risk of putting our hearts out there. And those are all great tips that you summarized there!

  7. Thanks for posting some of the info you learned! I totally agree with all of that information. Let me know your twitter when you get one. I'm still trying to master the art of "twitter" mysef. So far I've created a page, but that's about it *wah wah*

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