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haven 2016


Well, Haven 2016 is in the books.  For those who don’t know what Haven is, it’s a home bloggers conference for DIY/Home Bloggers and readers.  It is always a shot in the arm for me, being around other creatives and taking some time to network, teach, and learn.


I was wearing a lot of different hats at the event.  I was a co-keynote speaker for the opening ceremony with my best blog friend, Shaunna, taught two milk paint classes with Kriste, and was a Haven Mentor, which meant I facilitated a small group of Haven attendees.

The thing that had my stomach in knots was the keynote presentation.  I’m not a world-class speaker and, as talented and awesome as Shaunna is, she isn’t either.  We’re just bloggers, creatives, entreprenuers, and this was a little out of our comfort zone.  As we’re talking over things the day before, we were pretty sure that some temporary insanity was involved in agreeing to do this.

We decided to sit on stools, with our notes on a table (morning talk-show-style), so it would feel more casual for us and the audience.

Once I got up in my seat and looked out over the group of my peers, with my dear friend sitting next to me, I knew it was going to be fine.  We were among friends, kindred spirits, and our people.  And we were just going to share what was on our hearts…a message of encouragement for old bloggers and new about what makes the blog world so special – the readers.


We talked about what readers crave from a blog and how it’s easy to get away from those things in favor of soliciting page views to increase ad revenue.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes the heart gets buried under the weight of analytics.

And we talked about what makes a blog charming and unique in comparison to its counterparts in print and on TV.  A blog is just someone sharing.  Sharing how they do something, what they learned, about their day, their struggles, their accomplishments.  Blogging has become so professional that some of that charm is disappearing and it’s harder to relate to the beautiful images and storybook lives that are doled out on social media and in perfectly knotted posts.

The progression has just happened, just like we all change and grow up, but I feel a pang of sadness about it, knowing that it makes some readers feel like they will never be enough.  And that aspiring bloggers are frozen and they aren’t sharing, because they don’t feel like they are “professional” or enough of an expert.

Shaunna did get an audio recording of the entire presentation, so I’ll share that once it’s been formatted, but here is a snippet of us sharing…

More chicken soup for the soul comin at you… #havenconf2016

A video posted by Shaunna- Perfectly Imperfect (@pishaunna) on

We ended the presentation with a letter we wrote to new bloggers.  It was based on the post I wrote to my young-blogging-self a couple of years ago, but Shaunna added to it and I took a lot away, since it was a long letter!

As I was finishing reading the letter, I looked out over the 300+ bloggers in the seats and choked on the final words, thinking about all of the stories they have to share and how the world is better for it.  It was a special moment that I will remember for a long time.

Kriste and I taught a couple of milk paint classes together on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  They were low key and both had smaller groups, which I really liked.  We were able to be much more casual and I could answer questions as we worked.


(Thanks, Wendy, for the picture!)

The mentoring group was another highlight.  I had a great group with a mix of veteran bloggers and creatives just starting out (or about to.)  I loved hearing about the classes they liked, what they had learned, and what they were excited to get started on when they got home.  The mentoring groups were a great addition to the conference and I hope they do them again next year.

The real moments of encouragement for me, though, were the conversations that happened in between all of the events.  It’s easy to feel alone when it’s so often just you and your computer.  Connecting face-to-face with others who do what I do and have similar struggles, fears, exciting moments, goals, etc. is just good for my soul.

Until next year, Haven…

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  1. Hi Marian!

    Well said! Love this post and thank you again for such an encouraging opening ceremony!


  2. Good morning, Miss Marian. <3

  3. your letter to new bloggers was just amazing and I am sure hit home for many attendees ( new and old). Great job on the key note.

  4. Glad you had a good time. Disappointing that you two sat on low stools behind a high table, with a laptop, causing even more of a barrier.

  5. Your opening at Haven was so encouraging. Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone.
    And by the way, Shaunna is my mentor! I had to pinch myself when I found out. Blogging life is good!

  6. I love your blog. You are honest and don’t try to portray a perfect life, only the life that’s perfect for you…

  7. Marie Claire says:

    Any chance that you could post the revised Letter to a Ne Blogger letter?

  8. It sounds like it was a great conference. I was so disappointed I wasn’t able to go this year because it was pushed into August and fell on the first week of school. I hope they bring it back into July next year. I attended another blogger conference in April but have this one on my list of “must do”.

    Thanks for the message about staying true to who you are and sharing your story. It is easy to lose that.


  9. Thank you for all of the hard time you put into your blog. I have no doubt you were able to provide lots of valuable information at the conference. I used to read blogs for relaxation, much like my favorite magazines I used to subscribe to. However, many of my favorite blogs have become so overrun with advertising, that they are far from relaxing. Please know that I totally understand that bloggers deserve to be paid for all of their very, very hard work. I just don’t visit as often as I used to and I tend to navigate to the ones without advertising.

  10. Cheryl says:

    I am interested in starting a blog. How do I start out? The conference you attended must have been awesome!!

  11. This was my first Haven and I had an absolute blast… It was so nice to see you again!

  12. I think your opening speech went really well, we all needed to be settle in, laugh and be told that its not all about the numbers. They have their place, but they can also suck the life right out of us if we aren’t careful.

    I don’t know if you heard the closing ceremony, but it tied in perfectly with what you and Shaunna were saying. A good way to start and end the conference.

    And how fun to see my card when I opened this email today! So lovely meeting you finally, thank you for sharing so much of your life with us.

  13. Your speech was inspiring. Meeting you and taking your class was one the highlights of this event for me. Thank you for your words of wisdom and taking the time to talk to a newbie like me. I was like a sponge soaking it all up. Your class was so much fun and I may need to order more sweatshirts if you have them. My sisters have decided they all need them too. Thanks again for the years of inspiration and agreeing to the conference. Much love, Laura

  14. April says:

    I love that picture of you and Kriste. Such sweet joy. :)

  15. Naomi S. says:

    I was going to say the same thing April said about the picture of you and Kriste. Two beautiful women!

    So glad you had a fruitful and fun time at the conference. We all need to get refueled from time to time and learn again that we are doing well and are enough just as we are. And connecting with kindred spirits, seeing friends, making new friends is icing on the cake. Happy you and Kriste were able to go!

  16. I have a creative business that began as a hobby and am getting serious about it now that the kids are older. I have a website and excellent Google position, but I know that I need a blog to get interest and keep my Google ranking so that clients can find me. I have been procrastinating…I love to write, but about myself and my talents for a public audience – yikes!
    Tonight I started my 1st draft of my 1st blog. 1 paragraph. Then I just didn’t know where to go with it – how personal to get, what would be of interest to my audience. So, I head over to Miss. Mustard Seed to read her blog because I love it and find it relatable. Then my mind gets blown when this is the blog post! The universe always gives me exactly what I need at exactly the right moment and I want to thank you for being that medium and inspiration. Amazing!

  17. Loved your class and meeting you! And I loved your opening talk. I’m looking forward to checking out more about milk paint – so glad I got to play with a medium that’s new to me.

  18. I can’t wait to meet you next year!

  19. I can’t wait to meet you next year! 😉

  20. Laurie VanLeeuwen says:

    I would love to attend a milk painting class of yours someday! I have a small repurposing business in Westminster, MD, and use both chalk and milk paints.

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