Forest Gump really had it right. Life really is like a box of chocolates.. You never really know what you are going to get. You never really know what sort of chocolate you will be popping into your mouth. There are caramels, nuts, fillings, fudge… But in the end, no matter what chocolate you pick, it never fails that you walk away pleasantly surprised about what’s on the inside. That was last week for me.
Last week I attended the North Dakota Bloggers & Writers Conference in Fargo, North Dakota. I had been asked to speak on a panel made up of two (lovely) women with pretty impressive credentials.. And here I was… “Hi, I’m a blogger”. Much like a box of chocolates, I wasn’t entirely sure “what I was going to get” out of the conference. I was kind of intimidated about attending the conference where I’d only know a handful of faces in the room.
But I convinced myself to go, to push my comfort boundaries, and to meet those handful of faces I’ve been following their blogs for some time now. I got in the pickup and drove myself to Fargo. Which by the way reminded me that I need to get out by myself more often. I can’t tell you the last time I drove on a three lane highway… something I used to do regularly when I lived in CA . I guess I really have become a North Dakotan!
Well… let me tell you, life brought me a pretty amazing box of chocolates through attending the North Dakota Bloggers & Writers Conference. I walked away from that conference feeling humbled, inspired, refreshed, and so very blessed to be living in a great state like North Dakota. I couldn’t believe how many sincerely genuine, creative, and inspiring people I would get to rub elbows with, share experiences, and bond with during the one day at the conference.
I walked away from the morning with knowledge about print media: the ins and outs of pitches, queries, and everything else print. Timelines, how to be professional in the print world, and how to fact check. Editor in Chief, Rachel Hutton, from Minnesota Monthly was full of all kinds of great information!
— Roxane B. Salonen (@Peacegardenmama) April 14, 2014
Next up, my panel… I headed up to the front of the room with my notes. I wasn’t quite sure which of the many questions we were going to hit on, but I had some notes written for most of them. I didn’t want to forget anything. I was nervous, but it was comforting having a fellow Twitter friend & blogger up there. If you don’t follow Beth of Rhubarb & Venison, you should. Her happiness and positive attitude are so contagious. She writes one heck of a food blog with quite a variety of recipes in her repertoire including much of her husband’s wild game he brings home from hunting!
The two ladies I shared the panel with were just as wonderful. Jessie who is a woman of many talents: singing, song writing, blogging, photography. She started a blog, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, to share about life on her families’ ranch in gorgeous western North Dakota. Amity was our other panelist. She is truly a professional in the industry having written and been published in many national travel & art publications like AAA Living & Four Seasons Magazine. Amity shared with us the journey she’s been on in her transition from a full time travel editor to freelance writer.
I felt so at home speaking alongside both ladies that I basically abandoned my notes halfway through. I was honestly blown away at how many people had read one or two of my posts or even recognized my face. It was so humbling to be reminded of the wonderful people (YOU!) who continually come back here and read what I have to say. I don’t say it enough but thank you… from the bottom of my heart.
The rest of the afternoon we had presentations from the North Dakota Historical Society as well as the Fargo Moorhead Visitors Bureau. Both of these organizations have so many new and exciting changes in the works, I invite you to check them both out! We finished off the day with an awe-inspiring presentation from the lovely Sarah & Tony Nasello of Home with the Lost Italian.
I was honestly not prepared for reminder their presentation brought. Sarah is a fifth generation North Dakotan. She talked about how as North Dakotans, they were never really proud of where they came from. She was born and raised in Fargo and had never really ventured West. It took meeting her husband Tony and seeing North Dakota through his eyes to realize how lucky she is to live in North Dakota. Last year, they took a family vacation to “Get Lost of the Prairie”. They spent every weekend over the summer in a different place in North Dakota. They made lots of firsts and discovered what makes North Dakota Legendary. You can read more about their story in Sarah’s post about the conference.
From the photos and the way Tony & Sarah both speak about it, this trip changed their lives. It gave them a new perspective about their home state and let me tell you, these two are on FIRE for North Dakota. Through the two of them sharing their story and their love for North Dakota, I was inspired. I brought me back to when I first moved to North Dakota and how on fire I felt for my new state. That fire has been stoked, refreshed. I walked away from that day feeling SO lucky to live in North Dakota. And with a realization that I still have SO MUCH more to experience in my own state!
A state with so much opportunity booming right now.
I know many people don’t think of North Dakota as the premier spot to take a vacation. But I hope next time you are planning a family vacation, you consider making a trip to North Dakota and finding out for yourself what makes North Dakota legendary.
And even if you don’t ever make it to North Dakota, it is my hope that you take a cue from Sarah & Tony and “Get Lost” in your own home state. I hope you find the same passion and love for your home state as I have found here in North Dakota.
Huge thank you to all of the attendees, to Beth for making me feel right at home talking with you, to Amity & Jessie for allowing little ole me to share the panel with you, to Sarah & Tony for re-invigorating me, and to the North Dakota Dept. of Commerce & Tourism for all that they do for North Dakota.