ALT Summit

Go Mighty Party & My Blog Crushes by Leslie Fandrich

Go Mighty asked me to photograph the Friday night Mini party that they hosted at ALT Summit with Red Envelope. What a fun party to shoot. Creative Bug made an incredible piece of pin art that spelled out the words "crush on you" and guests decorated hearts for their blog crushes. By the end of the night, the wall was covered with beautiful love notes for everyone's favorite bloggers.


I love to see a little love thrown around. Everyone in the room was smiling and it was such a great energy to experience. Check out the rest of the pictures on Flickr.

Here are a few of my blog crushes! I have met all these lovely people in person and they are just as wonderful in real life as they are on their blogs. I'm going to keep it simple and just link to them, go read for yourself and you'll see how amazing they are.

Do you have blog crushes? Have you told them lately? I encourage you to leave your blog crush a comment today or send them a tweet and let them know that you love the work they do. It might just make their day.

Speaking of love, you have two more days to order my Tinsel Heart print for Valentine's Day


After ALT: The Value of Friends by Leslie Fandrich

Photo by Justin Hackworth

Photo by Justin Hackworth

I am one lucky girl. I have the most incredible friends. The gorgeous picture above of Jen Cooper, Jill Vaughn and myself was taken by Justin Hackworth. It is one of my most treasured take aways from ALT. These girls were my roommates and my goodness, I really do love them. I have lots to say about ALT, there were so many fabulous moments, new people to meet and incredible experiences to share, but what I want to say first is how much I love my ladies.

Just look at these guys:

Smilebooth photos from the Method/ Girls With Glasses  Friday night Mini-party.

Smilebooth photos from the Method/Girls With Glasses Friday night Mini-party.

These ladies are my brain trust. In the isolated world of writing, blogging and making art, you need a group that you can turn to for trusted advice and support. They have my back and they ensure that I am not letting self doubt, lack of confidence or naivety influence the decisions I make surrounding my business. In a traditional workplace, you have co-workers or a board of directors. I have a posse of fierce women who will mug with me in a photo booth at a Clue themed party. (I was Mr. Green in the Billards Room with the revolver.)

Photo by Brooke Dennis

Photo by Brooke Dennis

If you find yourself drawn to a few people, formalize your brain trust with a private Facebook group, weekly emails and video chats or a message board. Find or set up a photo booth and take awesome pictures! Stay in touch with each other and offer (and ask!) for support and encouragement whenever it's needed.

I feel very lucky to have had amazing groups of friends over the years. My college brain trust is in touch less frequently, but still a very important part of my life. See that tattoo on my wrist? That is for them. I am still in touch with the group of New York co-workers that I had ten years ago despite most of us relocating all over the country. I also joined a Mom's Group when I became a mother and currently have local Mom friends who I can turn to for advice and get togethers with the kids. And then there are my sisters, the ultimate in brain trusts, right?

Do you have a crew of people that you trust and enjoy working or spending time with? Cultivating those relationships while we work on what is important to us is just as critical to our success as the work that we are doing.  

Photo by Justin Hackworth

Photo by Justin Hackworth

Today, make a list of your brain trust people and send them a message to let them know you value their presence in your life. This crazy life is all the better for the fantastic people that we share it with.


Limited Edition Print for ALT by Leslie Fandrich


I made a limited edition print of "Nothing is Perfect" to give to anyone who asks to see my Portfolio book (printed thanks to Blurb!) at Alt Summit this week. It's the image I chose for the cover of the book. The prints are four inches square with a border and you can put it on your bulletin board to remind yourself to stop looking for perfection. Nothing is perfect. In fact, the beauty is in the imperfections, like the amazingly gorgeous rust pattern on an old iron furnace door I found at an antique shop.

I'm so happy with how my book turned out! I opted to upgrade to the lustre paper and it looks and feels amazing. I divided the book into six sections to match the Creative Work galleries on this site. Each section has ten images from each gallery. While it's lovely to view images on screen, there is something wonderful about holding a real book in your hands. I can't wait for you to see it for yourself.

I also made a protective sleeve for the book out of a linen bag and a red felt pocket I had that happily matches the spine of my book. I tend to collect packaging remnants like these and it was fantastic to combine them together to make a new item. The book and limited edition prints fit in them just right.


Will you be one of the lucky 50 to get a limited edition print? I hope so. Remember, ask to see my Portfolio and you can take your print out of the red pocket! They are all signed, numbered and dated on the back. Which number will you be?

See you at ALT! I can't wait for the internet to come alive! It's slightly freaking me out, but I'm trying to follow my own advice: Don't freak out!


PS. If you won't be attending ALT, you can view my Portfolio Book online at Blurb.

Going to ALT? Don't Freak Out! by Leslie Fandrich

There is already a ton of information out there about ALT Summit and how to prepare so I thought I'd round up all the resources that I have seen so far. It's all great advice and there are so many different ways to approach a conference, there should be something here for everyone. However, I have my own advice to give first...


Don't let all this advice freak you out.

ALT is overwhelming. In a good way, but still overwhelming. I'm already feeling overwhelmed and I'm not even there yet! The jeans and t-shirt people freak out about the fashion, the artists freak out about having to talk business, the introverts freak out about having to talk to real people. If you are an introverted artist who wears jeans and t-shirts, whoa! Just, WHOA. Whoever you are, I'm sure you are freaking out about something. But please, DON'T FREAK OUT. It's all going to be ok. You'll see. On Sunday you will be thinking, "Why was I freaking out so much, that was awesome!" And then you will need a really long nap.

The truth is that there is so much going on all the time that you will mostly likely miss half of it, you will probably have a completely different experience than someone else, and when you are looking at the pictures later you will wonder if you were at a different conference than the photographer because you are not in any of the pictures and you totally don't remember people break dancing in the hallway. (How did I miss THAT last year? Also, I unabashedly ASKED a photographer to take my picture, just to make sure I was in at least ONE.) It's all going to be ok.


You are going to have the experience of a lifetime NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. You could sit in a corner all day and talk to just two people and it will still be amazing if those two people inspire you or want to work with you. You don't have to do all the things. You will probably stare into space at some point. You will forget people's names. You might not like the food. You might catch a cold. (I did and it totally sucked) But listen, IT WILL BE AWESOME no matter what because number one, you are going to be there, number two, you have business cards and number three, you are amazing. The rest is gravy. Those things you want so bad? They WILL happen and if they don't happen while you are at ALT, then make them happen AFTER.

Just remember to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Listen to your body, leave the scene when you have to, and try to RELAX. Of course, do your absolute best to prepare and make sure you are putting your best foot forward but then just try to let things flow and happen naturally. That's when amazing things happen. Trust me.


So, without further ado, here are ALL THE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ALT:

So, read up on all of that, and then STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. Take a deep breath and keep your eyes on your own work. Meaning, absorb what you need, process it in your brain and then do your own thing. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing, just focus on doing what you do best. It's all going to be MORE THAN ok.

I can't wait to see you at ALT! Please say hi. If you are nervous, I give hugs and I want to trade business cards. (Also - if I've missed anything, please let me know and I'll add the link!)


ALT Talks: Collaborations by Leslie

Today I am featuring my illustration of the Collaborations session from ALT Summit, I also illustrated the Growing Your Readership session. I find these drawings to be such a great way for me to process all the information, really aborb it and understand it and also a great way to share it. You can click on the image above to link to a larger version that you can print out if you like!

Collaborations was hosted by:

Each of them covered an aspect of Collaborating:

1. GETTING STARTED - Danielle Krysa

  • Just ASK: Reach out to those people that you admire and just ask them for what you would like to do. If you outline how it is beneficial to both of you, very often they will say YES!
  • Create Guidelines and Rules: The less work that you make people do, and the less that you make them think, the easier it will be for people to say YES. Constraints can yield good material.
  • Keep Trying: There will be mistakes made, and you have to learn from them, revise and try again. When mistakes are made, not all is lost, much of the work can still be used, you might just need to apply it differently.
  • Bonus: "Drive It Like You Stole It"


  • Similar Aesthetic: There is an easy back and forth when styles align and compliment each other. Complimentary styles can bring a fresh look to what you are doing.
  • Trade Skills: Designers and photographers work great together because they have skills that work well together. Find people who have skills that you don't, but make sure to establish the boundaries up front.
  • Have a Connection: It is more efficient and fun to work with people that you vibe with.
  • Bonus: "Don't be an internet DJ"

3. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT - Joslyn Taylor

  • Agree on Goals: Decide at the beginning what the plan is. What are the goals of the partnership? Is it fun? Is it business? How committed is everyone? Are you making money? Driving Traffic? Building communities? The answers to these questions will  inform all your decisions.
  • Always Meet as a Group: If there are more than 2 people, never pair off. Do not gossip. Keep it professional, even if you are friends. 
  • Weighted Voting: If one person feels strongly about an issue one way or another, they should have the right to veto or push through something. If it's that important to them, let them have it.
  • Sometimes you have to Walk Away: If it stops being healthy, if it veers to far from the original goals when you started or if you are no longer pulling your own weight, it's time to step away.

 4. TAKING IT OFFLINE - Victoria Smith

  • Face to Face: Your local area and blogging conferences can be the best places to meet people and build communities
  • Independent Print Magazines: There are many opportunities with small non-traditional media. Look for places with smaller budgets and freelancers. Uppercase, Rue, Kinfolk and Matchbook magazines.
  • Conversations can lead to other opportunities. Be open to talking with people, sharing what you are good at, and listening to what they need.
  • Bonus: "Enhance Creative Lives"

Hope that helps you with your plans for collaborating! It seems that collaborating is a great way to grow. It lightens the load, and makes our creative endeavors more fun and rewarding.

If you are looking for more ALT inspiration, be sure to check out the ALT channel for ongoing online classes that cover many of the topics presented at ALT Summit, including "Creative Collaborations" by Laura Mayes that offers more tips and tools for collaborating.

Check out my other Alt Summit posts:

ALT Talks: Growing Your Readership by Leslie


Today I am featuring and illustrating the Growing Your Readership session from ALT Summit, in the same way that I did the talks from Camp Mighty. I found it to be such a great way for me to process all the information and also a great way to share it. You can click on the image above to link to a larger version that you can print out. (Edit: I also illustrated the Collaborations session!)

Growing Your Readership was hosted by:

They had three main points about how to grow your readership:


  • Create a personal narrative from your own experiences. Examples included Jordan's move to Paris and Nicole's home renovation. Use these narratives to share tips and resources.
  • Use your expertise for DIYs and tutorials. Showing people how you do what you do is a great way to gain readers. It's the old give a man a fish/ teach a man to fish parable.
  • Do your own research and make something new. Don't just link to what other people have said or made, have a look at everything being done in a certain category or on a certain trend and do a comprehensive post that shows a complete picture and showcases your own insights.
  • Make custom layouts, curate and remix. Creating your own content is key, but if you are using other people's content, be sure to ask first, credit sources and then present it in a way that is new. Add graphics, pair things up, put your own personal stamp on it.  


  • Have an editorial calendar. Plan ahead and try to post on the same days every week. If people know what to expect, they will look forward to your posts.
  • High quality posts are better than high frequency posts. Rather than post one item every day for a week in a series, consider posting all five at once on one day. Make it easy for your readers, don't space out content to have a post up every single day. Quality over quantity.
  • Find the right amount of content for your audience. Kelly found that when she was posting three times a day, less people were reading, it was too much. When she scaled back she found more people engaged.
  • Best times to post are 7am (EST), noon, 4pm and midnight. Know who your audience is and when they are more likely to be reading. Sometimes off times can benefit as well. Midnight is a good time for overseas audiences. Or you can just post it when it's done!


  • Invest $ in your blog. Spend money on design if you are not a designer, quality giveaways for things people want, hire assistants and pay contributors, and make sure you have childcare so you can dedicate time to your blog.
  • Masthead and URL should match. This means investing in a dedicated domain name and designing your header to be the same. Make sure you have a domain name secured before naming your blog.
  • Good design is a prerequisite. Good design used to set blogs apart, but now it is common place. You must have a good design that is easy to read and navigate to be successful.

Additional tips:

  • Put stuff out when you are excited about it and tweek it later. Execute the bare minimum of what you need to do to get it out into the world and then update it later.
  • Join Communities, build communities, comment on other blogs (but make sure they are quality comments, not just "cool post"), post on Facebook (have a page for your site) and contribute to other sites that have a similar aesthetic, style and audience with your writing or artwork.
  • Capture search traffic with unique seasonal and event based content. Check out what the trending topics are for the day. You can post about current events and holidays, but make sure it is not something that other people are doing. Make it special.
  • Learn how to do SEO and tags. Check out Google tutorials.

If you are interested in learning more about Alt Summit's Growing Your Readership session, check out Nicole's twitter recap on Storify.

You can also check out the Alt Summit channel for fantastic online classes that cover many of the topics that were discussed at the conference, including Growing Your Readership.

Check out my other Alt Summit posts:

Through my Lens: Friday at ALT by Leslie

I have already done posts about being photographed at ALT by the event photographers and by the wonderful Karen Walrond and about the photowalk that I went on with Tracy Clark. Today I'd like to share my own photographs of the beautiful people that I met and the fabulous things that I saw on Friday at ALT. I will just let the pictures speak for themselves. I will say that I wished I had taken MORE pictures, but I often struggle with being present and in the moment versus documenting the things that I am doing. They are two very different things for me and it's hard to switch between the two. For ALT, I left my camera in my room on Thursday and bought it down for Friday afternoon and the mini-parties. I guess a little glimpse is better than nothing. Enjoy! And if I captured you, leave me comment and let me know what you think. xo

Nicole from Making It Lovely and Heather from No Pasa Nada.

Jenny from Freckle Wonder, Rachelle from Kenziepoo and Alix from Modern Kiddo.

Erin from Design For Mankind and Susan from The Working Closet.

Maggie from Mighty Girl and Gabrielle from Design Mom.

Laura from Blog Con Queso and Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.

Mara from A Blog About Love.

Melanie from Inward Facing Girl, Jill from Terra Savvy, Bri from Design Love Fest and Anne from The City Sage.

William and Susan from the House of Brinson, Gabriel from The Artful Desperado and Julie from Superfly Lullabies.

Mae from Here in This House, Tracey from Shutter Sisters, Lindsey from The Mod Chik and Meaghan from Life Refocused.

Dayna from Your Yoko and Jess from I Rock So What.

Megan from Not Martha.

To see all my pictures from ALT, check out my ALT Summit photo set.

For a complete list of all the people that were at ALT, check out this outstanding list from Megan at Mimi+Meg.

An Environment in which Great Things Happen by Leslie

It takes me a while to process things. I've been thinking non-stop about Alt Summit since I got home. I've been reading all the recaps and continuing to check the ALT twitter feed and my twitter list. I am, quite simply, obsessed. If you were there, and especially if it was your first time, you probably understand. You are likely as obsessed as I am, pouring over business cards, re-reading your notes and devouring all the fantastic posts.

I'm going to delve into the panels and what I learned from each of them next week, but my greatest high level take away was this: Create an Environment in which Great Things Can Happen.

Nobody said this directly, but it was apparent to me in so many different ways. The conference itself epitomized this idea, from the hotel, the bathrooms and the break rooms, and especially the winter white party and the Friday night mini parties. Everything about ALT raised the bar just a little bit higher and asked us all to try just a little bit harder in how we presented ourselves. 

Hearing about Pinterest and how Ben Silberman built his business was inspiring and illustrated how staying true to yourself, building strong relationships with a few key people and setting intentions, all things that contribute to the business environment at Pinterest, have allowed Ben and his business to succeed and soar.

Our blogs and creative businesses are also environments, whether it's online or in real life, and all the learning at ALT was about making those things the best that they can be so that other things, like creative collaborations, book deals, events, or magazine articles can grow out of them. Being organized, being selective and curating our content, and ensuring that our own voice shines through the noise creates an environment that is distinct and rich with opportunities.

Even how you arrange your desk and decorate your home are about creating positive environments in which you can be happy. All the same lessons apply.

If you continue to create environments in which great things CAN happen, then eventually, great things WILL happen. It's hard work, and it takes time, but it's worth it.

Photo Walk with Tracey Clark by Leslie

Another highlight of ALT Summit for me was the photo walk on Saturday with Tracey Clark, pictured above. Tracey is the founder of the Shutter Sisters, a popular blog and also a book for photographers about shooting from their heart. I am a huge fan of both the website and the book and I was so excited to meet Tracey and spend time shooting with her. It was such a pleasure. Tracey is approachable and down to earth and I felt almost instantly comfortable with her and the group that had gathered for the walk. Just check these people out below. Every one of them was awesome and beautiful. (I did not get a picture of Kamille. Sorry Kamille!)

Gabriel, the curator at The Artful Desparado, was so charming and easy to talk to. He's an awesome guy who I met while he was admiring the fabulous colorful glass chandelier at the Grand America hotel. The next day his blog was featured in the "Up and Coming" panel, so I like to think that I befriended him before he was famous.

Patina had a quiet but bold presence, if you can possibly imagine what that might be like. She's from Australia and wore a fantastic necklace that said "I Like You", pictured below. I like you too Patina.

Ania writes a blog called The New Diplomat's Wife and the greatest thing is that her husband is actually a diplomat. She also dresses just like you would expect a diplomat's wife to dress. That's a real fur. She's based in Vienna. Hello!

Lindsey, who blogs at The Mod Chick, is always smiling. Her umbrella blew inside out and she was STILL smiling. Scroll down and see for yourself, she has the BIGGEST smile while trying to wrangle her umbrella in the rain and the wind while the rest of us were taking her picture instead of trying to help.

I did not talk to Dariela enough, but look how adorable she is in that knit hat and scarf. We had a great photo geek moment where we both tried to take a picture of each other at the same time. Awkward! And hilarious!

Jill is so calm and stoic. I met her at Camp Mighty and it was there that she decided she wanted to go to Africa. When she got home, she was given an opportunity to do just that. She's proof that you can live your dreams.

Tracey asked us to choose a random card before we left for the walk to guide us in our pictures for the day. My card was DETAILS, so while walking around I tried to find some interesting details. I'm so pleased with how they are all the photos I captured share a similar color palette. When looking for details to shoot, it's helpful to get close to things, underneath things and to isolate objects. Texture also becomes very important when shooting details. There was a thick cloud cover, but it actual worked to my advantage, like a giant soft box, smoothing out all the shadows and giving everything a beautiful even tone.

I had such a great time walking around shooting pictures with these people! It was cold and rainy and kind of miserable outside, but there are gorgeous pictures to capture anywhere you go and in any weather. Tracey also shared with us ten tips for taking better pictures:

  1. Use the whole frame
  2. Be deliberate
  3. Look for the light
  4. Learn as you go
  5. Tell a unique story
  6. Capture the unexpected
  7. Shoot from the heart
  8. If YOU like it, that's enough
  9. Celebrate your successes
  10. Connect and share.

Her philosophy is focused on composition and she believes that any tools that you have available to make photographs are legitimate, including your iPhone. Tracey and Lindsey are huge Instragram users and if you are on Instagram you can find them at @traceyclark and @modchik. Check out the #umbrellaclub hashtag to see the Instagram pictures from our walk. 

For more information about Photowalks check out Wikipedia: Photowalking and the following links:

When the Fabulous Unexpected Happens by Leslie

One of my biggest lessons (of which there are many!) from attending ALT Summit last week was that when I relax and let things FLOW, my world is a much better place. Things happen, chance meetings occur and all of a sudden I am getting photographed by Karen of Chookooloonks. It was probably the most thrilling thing that happened to me while I was there, and it happened completely by chance, when I was supposed to be somewhere else. 

I first discovered Karen's work after the 2010 Mighty Summit. I saw that she attended and began reading her blog. Her fantastic mix of photography and inspiration was exactly what I needed. Her story inspired me to re-focus myself on my photography and to work on building that part of my creative life. Last fall, she offered an online course called Pathfinder, and I signed up right away looking for some guidance out of the intensive, early years of parenting and into a potential career in photography and writing. The course was awesome and I threw myself into it, fully engaged in all the projects and interacting heavily with the other people taking the course. It was just what I needed. I also attended Camp Mighty, which continued me on the path of self-discovery and inspiration and now all of the ideas that began emerging last year have begun to grow with the knowledge and experience that I gained at ALT Summit.

ALT Summit. A place I had been dreaming of going for a year. It was the morning of the round-table discussions and while there was plenty of information to gather from all kinds of talented people, nothing was jumping out at me. I wandered around and finally sat down at a table where I was comfortable, but where I already knew everything the speaker had to say. I listened for a bit, but finally drifted off and chatted with Melanie Biehle of Inward Facing Girl and Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother. Both are fantastic ladies and I loved chatting with them, but something was still pulling me out of that room, so I left.

It was strange. I knew all the action was there in that conference room, but I wandered into the break room. Immediately, before I even looked around the room, Karen said "Hi Leslie!" and asked if she could take my picture for her 1000 Faces project. We had officially met two days before and had chatted the day before, again in the break room after I had escaped from an intense panel, so we had already established a face to face rapport. I said that it would be awesome if she took my picture and tried to remain calm but inside I was doing cartwheels and giggles and feeling like a stupid school girl when the boy she really likes asks her out for ice cream. Seriously. On the outside I thought I was being totally cool, until I saw my picture.

Have you ever seen anyone look happier? Just look at me. Every single molecule on my face is smiling. ALL OF ME. I was so thrilled in that moment and it just totally shows. You guys, you can't hide enthusiasm, nor should you. It's contagious and people love to see it.

You see, I didn't know this was going to happen and I don't think I could have planned it. Maybe Karen did, but more than likely she was just letting things flow too, and seeing who might appear. These kind of chance encounters is what thrills me about life. When things seem to line up and just happen, when it seems like the universe is talking to you. There is a lot of work you can do to cultivate these kind of moments, but they can't be forced, they just have to be. I had built a relationship with Karen through her course, I had decided to attend ALT, I wore lipstick that day. All these things add up to an environment in which great things can happen, but then it's the randomness of deciding to leave a lecture or turning a different corner or trading a gift box for another one that can make all the difference in the magical things that happen in our lives.

So, in addition to creating the most thrilling moment of the conference for me, Karen also gave me a reality check. While we were chatting I mentioned, with a little thrill, that I showed my business cards to Amy Butler (who is tall, lovely, kind and generous) and she told me that I was a talented photographer. Karen immediately said, "Well, you don't need Amy Butler to tell you THAT! Just look at your pictures!" It sort of surprised me, the conviction with which Karen declared this, but of course she is absolutely right. The truth is that I might not really NEED Amy Butler to tell me that I am a good photographer, but it certainly feels super good to hear it and it's something that I kind of WANT. Especially at this beginning stage of things. Obviously Karen is right, we really shouldn't look for outside validation of what we do, but I also reminded her that this was literally my first blogging conference and stepping into the water with all these super talented people can leave a new participant like myself full of doubt. Unless Amy Butler tells us that we rock, and then we feel awesome.

Maggie, from Camp Mighty, said a similar thing to me. First of all, I had entered one of the mini-parties alone on Friday night to take some pictures and I saw her on the other side of the room. She did this cute little wave in my direction, through the sea of people, and I literally had to look around to see who she was waving at before I realised it was me. Me! Of course I went over to talk and she told me that she had read my post about being nervous before ALT and was like "Wha...?" all exasperated with me. She didn't understand how I could be nervous, presumably based on my behavior at Camp Mighty where I was doing my best to put it all out there, all the time.

I thought it was just so interesting that these two people whom I really respect, and who are well established in this community, were surprised to learn that I was nervous and had some self doubts. Apparently I am very good at checking that stuff at the door, which is a good thing, because really the last thing people want to see is a lack of confidence. Still, everyone is human and it's normal to feel these things, but it's just so important to breathe and work through the fears so that you can put yourself in fantastic situations.

I suppose it will come, with more conferences, with more experience. I do know that I have found a place where I THRIVE. I love going to these kinds of events and I... gulp... want to be a part of them in a bigger way. I have TERRIBLE stage fright, but something is telling me I need to start leading more. I think I would like to be on a panel or teach a class someday and even though the thought of it almost terrifies me to the point of paralysis, there it is. 

Before I left to head home, I walked over to say thank-you to Gabrielle Blair and Sara Urquhart, the sisters who plan and run and make ALT Summit happen. I blurted out that I was thinking of submitting an application to speak at next year's conference. My ambitious fearless side said that. After I left, my self doubting, nervous side was screaming at me: You're not ready! You'll be too nervous! You won't be able to speak! You don't know anything! and for a moment I regretted saying that I wanted to do it. But I took deep breath and I reminded myself that I might not be ready right this second, but I have a year or two to figure it out. This fear I have, I can overcome it. The first step is saying these things out loud.

So there. I said it. I can go put it on my life list now and start planning out how to make it happen. Because when it happens, I am quite sure that I will be full of nerves and self doubt, but the important things is that IT DOESN'T MATTER, you can't let those things lead your life. You have to set aside all the things you think you should do and all the things you think you can't do because otherwise, how will fabulous unexpected things happen? How will you be great and do great things if you don't leave those things that aren't working for you and walk into the unknown?

Photographed at ALT Summit & Roundup of Links by Leslie

Jill and I at the "Dinner en Blanc" party. It was magical to see a sea of light colors floating around the room. © Moss & Isaac

My trip to Salt Lake City to attend ALT Summit was amazing and overwhelming. There were lots of wonderful people, lots of fantastic information and I'll be posting over the next few weeks about what I learned, what I saw and most importantly what I experienced as a first time attendee. If you are a creative person, you HAVE to come with me next year. I am certainly going back. The conference is not just for bloggers, although that is the primary focus, anyone who is involved in a creative field can find something to learn.

Very briefly, one of my top moments was being photographed by Karen of Chookooloonks. I have more to say about it, but it really was a magical moment for me. I also loved the photo walk that I took with Tracey Clark from Shutter Sisters, I met some wonderful people and really enjoyed hearing about Tracey's approach to shooting and teaching photography. More about that too, including the pictures that I shot on the walk. It's no surprise that the photography moments resonated with me the most and I had my eye on the event photographers the entire time. I enjoyed meeting William and Susan Brinson and I scored a beta test invitation for Squarespace 6. Sweet! I also collected 80 business cards and I can't wait to show you the trends that I saw. Almost every card at ALT is amazing.

My top priority over the last few days has been my family, who missed me very much, especially my three year old. It's been three days of emotional turmoil from him and I hope tomorrow will bring calmer seas and more time for me to write and process photographs. In the meantime, these are the event photographs that I appeared in and down at the bottom of the post you will find links to a few recaps that have already been posted. Stayed tuned for more!

Dinner at J. Wongs with Juli Alderson (Inspiration Bug), me, Jill Vaughn (Terra Savvy), Jordan Ferney (Oh Happy Day), Alix Bannon (Cute and Delicious), Lisa Congdon (Lisa Congdon Art & Illustration), Dottie van Every and Alix Tyler (Modern Kiddo). © Brooke Ashley Dennis

Jenny Mitchell (Frecklewonder), Danielle Krysa (The Jealous Curator), Tracy Benjamin (Shutterbean), Dottie and Alix (Modern Kiddo), Victoria Smith (SF Girl by Bay), Rena Tom (Rena Tom), Kelly Beall (DesignCrush). Juli and I are peeking out from behind Jenny on the left. © Brooke Ashley Dennis

The keynote talk from Ben Silbermann, the creator of Pinterest was inspiring, moving and excellent. Game changing inventions are still happening on the internet. Success and innovation are possible. He got a standing ovation from a room full of people who adore him and what he stands for. (I'm sitting directly to the left of him.) © Justin Hackworth
Sitting in on Melisa Russo's (Lil Bee) roundtable discussion about how to "Bridge the Design/Lifestyle/Mommy Blogger Gap." © Justin Hackworth

Cutting paper in Allison Chapman's class about bookbinding. She's a fabulous teacher and runs Igloo Press in Ohio. © Brooke Ashley Dennis

Jill and I posing for photographer Justin Hackworth at the Ru La La Friday night Mini party. © Justin Hackworth

At the Ru La La photo booth with Melanie Biehle (Inward Facing Girl), Jill Vaughn (Terra Savvy), Megan Reardon (Not Martha) and Brianne (The Ravenna Girls).

Photographers: Moss & Isaac, Justin Hackworth Photography and B.A.D. Photography.

Sarah Bryden Brown at BlogStar: 38 Things I learnt at ALT Summit 2012

Amy Ferguson at Old Sweet Song: Eight (More) Steps to Get Over Post-Alt Summit Depression

The Secret Society of Enterprise: Top Tips from Alt Summit

A Blog About Love: Highlights of Alt Summit

Growing a Readership panel, Storified by Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely.

From Blog to Book, Storified by Kate Woodrow of Chronicle Books

Illustrator Tammie Bennett: Alt Summit and Me

Laurie Smithwick at Kirtsy: The Business Cards of ALT

Chrysula Winegar: Finding Work Life Balance When the Muse Calls

Melanie of Inward Facing Girl is rounding up her favs on Pinterest.

Victoria at SF Girl by Bay: So... What's ALT Summit Really Like?

Danielle from The Jealous Curator: Alt Summit 2012

Anne Sage at The City Sage: The Rundown: Alt Summit 2012

Bri at Design Love Fest: Alt Summit Highlights

Alix and Dottie at Modern Kiddo: Alt Summit // You Should Read These Blogs

Rena Tom: Weeknotes 2012/4

Susan at The Working Closet: It Must Be the Altitude

Additional links can be found on the Alt Summit Blog: Recaps Galore, More Alt Love

And ALL the photos can be found on the ALT Summit Flickr stream.

(I'll be adding to list as I find more posts!)

Get Over the Nerves and Shine at Alt Summit by Leslie


Tomorrow morning I board a 7am plane with my traveling/blogging pal Jill and fly to Salt Lake City, Utah for our second networking/learning/inspiration event, the Altitude Design Summit. (Our first was Camp Mighty last November.) You would think that I would be jumping off the walls, all smiles and giggles at the fact that after deciding last year to attend Alt Summit, I am ACTUALLY attending Alt Summit. (10 points for setting AND accomplishing goals.) Instead, I am a ball of nerves, feeling full of self doubt and wondering what the heck I am going to say about myself to hundreds of stylish, awesome and smart designers, photographers, bloggers and various other amazing people.

Where is that self-assuredness that people seem to have? Why is it that I sometimes forget that I am awesome? My husband gave me a pep talk last night and I decided today to do the same for myself. Here's how I am going to get over my nerves and shine at Alt Summit. 

  1. Be Enthusiastic. There is such a thing as too much enthusiasm, however it is so ridiculously over the top, you will know way before you even get close to it. Enthusiasm is your greatest asset at an event like this. Get into it! Know your stuff. Do your homework. Put yourself out there! You will not regret it. You will get out of it what you put into it.
  2. Say Hi to Strangers. Take a deep breath and just go say hi to those people who you know and admire. Before you know it you will be chatting like old friends. And if you aren't? Move on. Not every single person you meet is going to be your best friend, but at least you tried. If you are standing next to someone you don't know, say hi! They are probably nervous too. They might need a hug.
  3. Assume Everyone is Nervous. I would guess that even the veterans who are speaking or organizing are nervous about something too. Those people are putting themselves out there the most and it takes a lot of guts to be a leader. Tell them you appreciate their hard work. And for all the other new people like you and me? Give them a high five, tell them you are nervous too, laugh about a stupid thing that happened. It's all going to be ok.
  4. Ask For Cards. People will appreciate not having to offer it and you will get to give them yours. Also, don't be afraid to just hand out your card first! You worked hard on those puppies, show them off!
  5. Take Notes. Write down everything, including people's names, and try to process everything and store it in memory as it happens. It will go by too fast and before you know it you've forgotten that person's name and the important bit of advice they told you. Listen as much as you can and ask people questions. 
  6. Take a Break. If you feel overwhelmed, tired or nervous, take a step back. Go to the bathroom for some deep breathing, take an hour nap in your room or go for a walk. Keep something that grounds you in your pocket and let it remind you to take care of yourself first.
  7. Be Confident! You've totally got this. Remember why you came here and what it is that you do best. The best way to stay confident is to avoid comparing yourself to others. The only person you can compare yourself to is yourself. Remember where you were a year ago? Five years ago? Yeah - so much better now. Right? You rock, and don't you forget it.
  8. Just be yourself. Relax. Take a deep breath and just be the person you are with your best friends and family. That is the person that everyone wants to meet and hang out with.
  9. Have fun! Do something you've never done before. Dance in the snow. Ask to take someone's portrait. Draw someone a picture. Sing at the piano. Be bold. But... don't drink too much. The last thing you want is a wicked hangover in the morning for the first panel. Space out the drinks, make sure to drink lots of water and take some Advil before you go to bed. 

I'm really looking forward to meeting so many new people starting tomorrow! And after writing this post, I think I am finally more excited than nervous. Check out my About page for a picture of me and who I am. Be sure to come find me and say hello, I'll probably give you a hug and a high five, and my card. Safe travels!

What I Learned at Alt Summit (on Twitter) by Leslie

I still have not gone to my first blog conference. With a two year old who NEEEEEDS me at night and limited childcare options, it hasn't become a reality. One of these days. Soon. So for now I tune in from afar, and like being inspired by Mighty Girls without actually going to the Mighty Summit, I was still able to learn a lot even though I wasn't at the Altitude Design Summit in Salt Lake City this week.

The Alt Summit, organized by Design Mom and Kirtsy, is geared towards design, style and photography blogs. All kinds of fabulous people from all over the country and the web gather at the Grand America Hotel and attend lectures and events for three days. They get advice, network and meet new people, get inspired and just generally get smarter about what they are doing. The people there are leaders and trend setters and they all have something to say.

I checked in to the #altsummit hashtag on Twitter every once and a while and found a bunch of wonderful new people to follow and got a ton of wisdom in under 140 characters. Here were some of the best ones from just Friday alone:

1. Tina Roth Eisenberg of Swiss Miss gave the final keynote talk and inspired quite a few people on Twitter. These points were given as blogging "rules", however I really think they can apply to life in general.

  • Your enthusiasm and integrity are your biggest assets.
  • Don't talk, just do it.
  • Surround yourself with smart/creative people.
  • Don't wait for a solution to fall in your lap. Go out and make it happen.
  • Have the right intentions. It shouldn't be about the money. Focus on what's important.
  • Surround yourself with beautiful things.

2. Liz Stanley of "Say Yes to Hoboken" has a list of the best up and coming blogs.

3. Photographer Nicole Hill Gerulat said "You can do anything with a tripod and a slow shutter speed."

4. Writer and designer Meg Mateo Ilasco said "The more technology we have in our lives, the more we need to touch things" referring to the fact that print and books are not dead. 

5. DJ Spooky gave a lunch keynote and many people were surprised by him. He talked about Copyright Criminals, a documentary about the history of sampling and said "I wasn't planning to go into music, I was planning to be a diplomat." and also  "The number one selling album of all time is the blank CD."

6. Heather Armstrong from Dooce talked on a panel with Federated Media about the art of pitching to advertisers if you have a blog. Her advice for bloggers?

  • Dealing with ads/ad networks can easily become a full-time job, if you're serious about generating $ you need an assistant, an intern or a clone.
  • You need your own domain for people to take you seriously.
  • Most of the best ad leads are in your inbox. Be sure to reach out the them and send them your media kit.

Overall, on Twitter, people were utterly raving about this conference. It was clear that many of us who weren't there had plans to go next year and were, quite honestly, jealous that we weren't there this year. It's a fantastic opportunity to meet with creative people in an environment perfect for networking and building relationships. It's also a pretty small conference, since it is specifically for design-type blogs. It's far easier to meet the people doing the work that you admire and be able to ask questions about how they do what they do. 

Attending this conference next January is a must for me. I will fly my Mom out from Canada or just bring my husband and kids and somehow raise the money to afford the plane ticket, hotel and conference fee. Anyone want to come with me? Or sponsor me? Let's talk.