As an adolescent I went to church camp several times and loved it. We got to canoe, sing around the campfire, do arts and crafts, and try all kinds of sports. There was lots of late-night giggling in the cabins, and we were always sad to go home and leave our new friends. I confess to having wanted to get to go to camp again as an adult. And this last weekend, I got to do exactly that!
Arkansas Women Bloggers is a site that aggregates the many and diverse blogs by women from Arkansas, who live in Arkansas, or who love Arkansas. They’ve been around only three years, but in that short time they’ve developed a collection of 340 bloggers and counting. For the first time ever, they hosted, along with the Ozark Natural Science Center, the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged. Yes, a blogging retreat where we do NOT get on our computers or phones. Instead, we were treated to lots of sessions intended to charge our batteries as writers, techies, and women. We learned from our presenters but also from each other.
The gorgeous backdrop of the wilds of Madison County and the Ozarks provided a peaceful setting for over 40 women to gather and relax. I loved getting to bunk with my good friend Jody, but I also got to finally meet in person a few folks I’ve known only in the cyber world. What a treat! The best part of that is that they are just as great in person as they seem online.
The promoters did a great job of building excitement with two tweet-ups (an online Twitter “party” where participants are invited to chat at a scheduled time on Twitter). We had a chance to start our conversations so that when we arrived at ONSC we were just continuing what we already started. For those of us who love social media, this kind of retreat and group of participants is great. We were talking with each other about all the ways we use social media such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other tools, but we also were able to immediately make connections to each other through those tools so that we can continue those relationships in the future. Unlike the church camp when I was a kid, it will be a lot easier to keep track of these new friends and continue to learn from each other.
Another new experience for me was the interaction we had with our sponsors. I’ve rarely been at any event where people who work for our sponsors were such an integral part of the event as a whole. We had several sponsors but active with us were staff from MurphyUSA (who gave us all gas cards and lots of other great goodies!), Collective Bias (a local innovative company that creates real shopper media using Social Fabric), and Elmer’s (yes, the glue company!).
Just like most camp experiences, we giggled, made new friends, enhanced existing friendships, learned lots of new things, and went home inspired to use media to build writing careers, promote our organizations, and connect with other bloggers. I can’t wait to do it again. I wonder if the ONSC would let us go back next weekend . . .