VVC2013 Saturday: Blog/Life Balance. Sensitivity and Trigger Words. Galarama.

PicMonkey Collage

Oh man. This was going to be my final VVC post, but…it became epic. Too epic. So the final installment of Portland adventuring will arrive at the end of this week. Next time, I’m going to have to figure out a way to describe the conference without writing #VVC2013: A Novel.

On Saturday, I woke up looking forward to a juice date with the lovely Angela. We hadn’t had a chance to hang out since 2010, so we were delighted to catch up. We went to Kure, an incredible juice and smoothie bar in Portland. I made my way there several times during the conference. On the first few trips, I got the “lovely Lisa,” which was a hot carrot/green juice with cayenne. A perfect antidote to feeling poorly. By the time Ange and I sat down to eat, I was well on the mend, so I went with a green smoothie (pineapple, banana, green powder, hemp milk) and a side of hemp granola.


Delightful–almost as delightful as the company


Saturday was full of encounters with blog friends. My first event of the day was watching Sayward moderate a panel on privacy lines/oversharing. I thought it was a really interesting exploration of safety and privacy issues. My takeaway was that bloggers need to make conscious choices about how much they share and what the implications of sharing are. And once we set a precedent, we need to be prepared to deal with its consequences.

After the panel, I had a chance to catch up with Carrie, who was smiling brightly and sweetly as always. She caught a cute photo of me, her, and Angela together:


Later that day I saw Dreena, who is without a doubt one of my blog heroes (read my review of Let Them Eat Vegan here). She is so lovely and kind, just as I knew she would be. Here we are (Dreena’s pic!).


At lunch, over delicious plates of quinoa and greens and tempeh, I caught up with a group of admirable, inspiring women: my friend Ricki Heller, smart and soulful Heather Nauta, superstar chef Christy Morgan, Dreena, my soul sista JL Fields, and (to my right) the hilarious and talented Tess Masters. I already miss these ladies!


After lunch, I had two back-to-back panels. My first was on blog/life balance and time management. My co-panelists were Jamie Hagen and Kelly Peloza. So nice to get to know these dynamic blogger/writers!

Some takeaway tips from the presentation include:

  • Set realistic goals, rather than setting goals that will overwhelm you or make you feel badly about yourself.
  • Don’t get too caught up in downloading organizational apps to help you do everything; a lot of these will go unused, and then you’ll feel badly about not using them! Pick one or two that are truly helpful, and use them selectively (I just use my iPhone reminders). And I use an academic planner for school stuff–a good old fashioned bound book. Works like a charm.
  • Connect with others who are in the same boat, through forums, blogging, and the like. Get inspiration and tips from friends.
  • If you’re a PC user, blog in Windows Live Writer. Period. End of story. It’s a lifesaver.
  • Treat blogging like a professional commitment or an appointment; mark out time for it in our calendar, so that it doesn’t seep into your whole day. When you don’t create boundaries, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I put blogging, preparing food, and photography into my calendar, along with academic deadlines and schoolwork. Everything gets scheduled–including free time! Which brings me to our next point:
  • Do things for pleasure. If you say no to everything fun, you’ll go nuts. If scheduling breaks and social time (anything as minor as ten minutes of deep breathing or as significant as a night out) helps you do it, then schedule them! But don’t forget to nurture your non-work/blog life.

My next panel was on sensitivity and trigger words. Boy, was this one interesting! My copanelists were Gabrielle Pope and Chelsea Lincoln. I met Gabrielle when she was working with VegNews, and I’ve admired Chelsea’s work since the last VVC. We had immediately decided that we were interested in talking about eating disorders and the triggers/sensitivities they create, body image, and fat shaming within the vegan community (which I tend to think is on the rise lately). We also wanted to talk about privilege, class, race, gender, and a slew of other topics, so we knew going into the panel that we’d have more ideas and discussion than time.

I think the panel was very thought-provoking. It stands to reason that it wasn’t always comfortable; talking about triggers and sensitivity can, of course, be triggering! But so many good points emerged. I’ll try to sum up both questions and comments:


  • How do we draw the line between being sensitive to others and stifling our own creative voice? How can we choose words carefully while also sounding like ourselves?
  • What particular sensitivities/triggers have we each become aware of from blogging?
  • How can we discuss fitness goals while also being respectful of body image triggers? Can we write about personal health goals without making others feel poorly about themselves?

Here were some of the takeaway points:

  • Language should be chosen carefully. Be aware that not all readers have the same perspective as you–socio-economic, gender, sexuality, shape, health, race, etc.–so don’t use words that imply broad generalizations.
  • If you want to write about fitness or your body, try to focus on how reaching goals makes you feel, rather than numbers or measurements. If you do want to talk about measurements or numbers as a part of your weight loss or fitness journey (which is totally understandable) it may be wise to offer readers a disclaimer (“warning: I’m about to talk numbers. If you find this triggering for any reason, skip the next graf”–or something like that!).
  • Words that feel totally innocuous to you might not come across that way to others. Jason Das noted that “lame” is an ablist term. I must say, I use the word all the time. It was interesting to hear it framed this way.
  • Health enthusiasm within the vegan community can often take the form of fat shaming. You guys know my thoughts on this one, but it bears repeating. It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate the health possibilities of a vegan diet, but we shouldn’t identify health with any one particular size or shape.

It was an emotional 45 minutes, but I emerged more conscious, and consciousness is always a good thing. In my years as a blogger, I’ve uttered just about every foolish or insensitive thing I possibly might have. I’ve said things that (I’m sure) reflected all sorts of bias and privilege. And I’ve certainly said a lot of things about health and food, especially in my early blogging days, that I wish I could take back (more on this on my personal evolution and blogging responsibility post). I cringe when I think about this, but I also realize that the best any of us can do (whether we write blogs or not) is to learn, learn, and learn some more from our mistakes. Panels like this are important to me, not only because I think that open dialog around these issues matters, but also because they encourage me to always think harder and do better in my writing.

After that, my long day was done! I left the conference and went back to my hotel room to change for dinner with my gorgeous galarama date, Sayward!

photo 4

Sayward and I met at Prasad for a long chat about life, love, blogging, and all the rest. In the short time since we met “IRL” in New York (we’ve read each other’s blogs forever), Sayward and I have become really close friends. Her intelligence, humor, and capacity for self-reflection always really impress me.

For dinner, I ordered the Dragon Bowl (quinoa, beans, sea vegetables, avocado, steamed greens, sesame seeds, scallions & red cabbage) and ate it with lemon ginger sauce. It was delicious.

And with that, it was off to the galarama we went! What fun: desserts, dresses, a silent auction, and more quality time with Christy and Dreena:


Jared and Ange:

 photo 5

Lovely and eloquent Amber:

photo 2

New besties Kristy and Chris, as well as Cadry (whom I was so psyched to meet!) and her husband, and the peerless JL:


So. Fun. And JL and I may or may not have hit the dance floor when “These Boots Were Made For Walking” came on.

photo 1

And that was the end of VVC Saturday. One more day–and one more post–to come soon. But right now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the panels and the topics covered. You know how I value your feedback!


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  1. I’m loving your recaps Gena and so happy we had a chance to enjoy each others company in Portland! Looking forward to seeing you again (hopefully) much sooner than last time. xo

  2. Great recap, thanks! I think the points you made are applicable to any writing, texting and emailing not just blogging. It can be so easy for people to misunderstand the written word as they don’t have other cues such as facial expressions, voice intonation etc. Making sure you use the right/politically correct words in the first place helps too.

  3. Hi Gena,

    Thanks so much for addressing the issue of responsible blogging and trigger words. I’m just starting my blogging journey, so your post really gave me food for thought! I find that sometimes I have to consciously stop reading blogs, because although I’m sure the bloggers mean well, they can sometimes spark comparisons and self-criticism in me. I want to make sure that the things I read bring out the best in me and move me forward, not make me fall back into old thought patterns!

    Iris @anatomyandintuition

  4. I like your “novel” recaps! Thanks for doing the body image panel, even though I wasn’t there. The more bloggers (and people in general) can be aware of triggers and (sometimes inadvertent) shaming, the better. Your idea of warning readers that they might want to skip a post or paragraph is, I think, great. There are some blogs I no longer ever check because they’ve been triggering in the past.

  5. I have literally never thought twice about calling something “lame,” thanks so much for writing about that. Having read about the VVC on several blogs now, it sounds like a truly epic event. I would love to attend some day!!

  6. I really found the way you wrapped up the conclusions from each of your panels insightful — I didn’t attend those sessions but I’m glad you were able to share the information. Tips on time management and scheduling are great for a hyper-organized person like me. Another awesome recap! And I agree, somehow I need to figure out next time how to show more of my experiences yet actually write less…

  7. Thank you so much for the recap! What a wonderful help that is .. I love that you have been able to have personality in your blog as well as honesty and kindness. It’s hard to please everyone but it seems you do it so well 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Thanks so much for sharing. It really does look like such a fabulous event- what a community!
    Thanks for the recaps of the sessions too, some really great points in there, particularly useful for someone who’s just starting blogging 🙂
    P.S. I keep seeing pics of you in that pink and white striped shirt and am in love with it! Looks great on you.

  9. I don’t know if you meant to link to this post but I just got an email from you. All it was was an attachment labeled HTML. It looked suspicious so I deleted it. Just thought you should be aware.

  10. LOVED this recap and your presentations. LOVE that photo of all of us. Miss all of you already too, and counting the days until we all get together. xxx

  11. I hope you don’t scale down your recaps in the future. I feel like I not only learn vicariously, I am introduced to many new bloggers I hadn’t discovered yet through links on your posts. So many wonderful vegans out there! It’s inspiring.

  12. I completely understand your dilemma regarding writing a novel where VVC is concerned! From the classes, to the food, to the people, there is so much to say. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer bounty of it!

    It was such a delight getting to meet you, Gena! I was able to attend your session on creating a balance between blogging and real life. You were just as bright and articulate as I knew you would be. Getting to spend a bit of time with you at the Gala, I was blown away by how very genuine you are and the warmth that you ooze. I’m looking forward to spending more time with you at a future event!

  13. I really liked this post. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts from the different panels. I was really sorry to miss the body image panel. It sounds like it was such a great dialogue. I try to keep an eye on that when I’m writing. My blog has a relatively light and cheery tone – I’m not tackling big issues or serious topics – but I still end up editing out certain thoughts or words. I started counting calories last year, and I’ve lost about 25-30 lbs, but I’ve hardly mentioned it on my blog. Obviously the food I make has gotten a bit healthier, and there are fewer cookie posts, but I didn’t want to make anyone feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. It was great to exchange smiles with you at the VVC… And I hope one day we get more time together!

  14. Amazing recap and thanks for giving us takeaways from the classes. There were so many! It was such a great time chatting with you! Until next time 🙂 <3

  15. Thank you Gena for the panel discussions recaps, they’re wonderful thought provocations. I wish I had been there. I’m following the Vida Con website for the next event.

    I’m struggling with finding a way to talk to a person in my life who keeps using fat shaming language casually. I remember your post about talking to the receptionist at a yoga studio about using triggering words. How do I bring it up with out being confrontational?

  16. Wow, I feel that I have so much to learn! I’ve been blogging not even a year and when I read posts like this I feel I have a long way to go yet. But as you said, we must be open to always be learning, and just when you thin you’ve got it challenge yourself with something new.
    Thank you for sharing more indepth of what VCC has to offer. I was so close to registering but realized it wasn’t good timing for me and went to Blend the weekend before instead. I needed the relaxation and downtime more! I definitely need to put this on my radar for next year, I have loved reading everyone’s reviews and posts! It has all been true food for thought xoxo

  17. I have some thoughts on triggers as well, which may appear to contradict my comment above. But while I’m a big fan of editing (I know, not obvious from my unedited comments), I’m entirely opposed to censorship. I think it’s great that you are so sensitive to the different experiences of your readers, that you choose words so as not to offend, trigger, etc. But you will never please everyone. There will always be people who wish you’d write more about this or less about that. I believe (and I think Abby, above, commented to this effect on another post of yours) that the responsiblity doesn’t lie entirely with bloggers – readers have a responsiblity too, to avoid material that is offensive, triggering, whatever.

  18. Thanks for the recap of the conference, Gena. Of all the panels you’ve mentioned, the one I’m most curious about is the one on sharing … I have such mixed feelings about … I think most of my favorite blogs err on the side of discretion, to the point where I find myself wondering between the lines. Others are right at the border of “oversharing.” I’ve decided there can be no hard and fast rules for bloggers when it comes to how much to share. It depends on a number of factors: how well you can write, how interestingly you live, etc. Interestingly, while memoir is just about my favorite genre, some of the worst books I’ve read are memoirs! Writing about oneself is an art, really – very few people can it pull off, which is why I avoid blogs that read like diaries – I find them boring in the extreme. Or downright nauseating. Food blogs are interesting things in that the food becomes a prism through which to talk about oneself, one’s life – as someone who’s always devoured cookbooks like novels, I *love* reading recipes in context. But even with food blogs, it’s easier to get it wrong than to get it right. Which is why so few make it into my blog reader.

  19. What a recap. I swear, with each one I read I become a) even more insanely jealous and b) even more in awe of how beautiful and radiant all you guys look. I’m not just talking about physical beauty, but about a healthy glow of happiness from all of your faces.

    Food aside, the panel discussions sound intriguing and I appreciate your “take away” points shared here. I also would have been very interested to hear the discussion regarding the trigger words and concerns about not being “vegan enough” in some ways. Great points.

  20. Thank you for this post! This event sounds like it was a lot of fun! I really want to go to Portland now and try out all these cool vegan restaurants!

    I really liked your discussion about the sensitivity and trigger words panel, especially about health enthusiasm turning to fat shaming. Something I feel happens far too often and is really a turn off to me. I feel that often the opinion is held that if you’re vegan and overweight or not fitting the ideal body image of our society you’re doing something wrong. Which I don’t think represents the goal or main value of veganism.

    Thank you again, I really appreciate you continuing to bring up the hard issues on your blog, it keeps me coming back!