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IFBC - Seattle 2013 Like so many others who are searching for life balance in our fast-paced world, I have been trying to fit the word “no” into my vocabulary more often.

But last month, I am so glad that I didn’t say “no” to the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) that I attended here in Seattle.

I almost didn’t go.

You see, as much as I had been looking forward to IFBC for almost a year, I was suffering from a horrible migraine that threatened to keep me away. The side effects (nausea, exhaustion, etc.) came and went the entire weekend, but I made the choice to suck it up and not stay home in bed. Instead, experiencing the most impactful three days of my blogging journey.

I was just so inspired.

DSC02353Inspired, of course, by the incredible amounts of stunning, delicious, innovative food.

More on the food to come – I could write a multitude of posts on the food alone!

IMG_1883I was inspired each day by the surroundings of this wonderful city.

Watching the Pike Place Market wake-up and come to life as I walked from my parking spot to the host hotel on Saturday morning reminded me just how lucky I am to be able to call Seattle my hometown.

IMG_1913Inspired by the amazing bloggers that I met (plus the ones I already knew!) and spent time with.

What fun it was to hang out with my good friend and conference buddy, a relatively new blogger – Cynthia of Soil and Cellar. Seeing the world of blogging through her fresh eyes were quite possibly some of the most insightful moments of the weekend for me.

IMG_1892Inspired by companies. Like Pastry Smart (the hosts of our Saturday morning breakfast), who are doing great things to bring humane, sustainable, organic food to the mainstream.

And the Seattle-based Allrecipes, whose mission it is to inspire, teach and encourage us all to learn from each other!

AllrecipesInspired by the sessions I attended.

I learned much about food photography and the creative process.

IMG_1873A  series of sessions by Andrew Scrivani, food photographer for the New York Times, taught me about composition, styling, lighting, shooting, and even tips for managing my photographs.

“Don’t be afraid to be fearless to get that shot you want.” Andrew told us. “Get in there – up close, and capture the smoke and flames and drips and pours.”

DSC02401-001He also said something that really struck me, “Your time management is essential to your creative process.”

Imagine that! The better one manages their time, the more freedom they have to be creative.

DSC02453-001A writing session with Kim O’Donnell reminded me how food is the muse that is available to us all.

“Food is the lens that is accessible to all of us. It connects our senses.” she said, “We all have to eat, and we all have memories.”

IMG_1954Kim’s session showed me how writing about food can take many different forms, from creative writing, demonstrated through a timed writing exercise with the prompt, “I remember…”, to the challenges of the very technical writing of a recipe.

She exhibited the later by having us write our recipe for the seemingly basic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was interesting to see how even very simple instructions could be misinterpreted by the reader.

We all bring our own filters to what we read and to what we write. Though we may need to be mindful of this, it is a very human thing and is that which makes it true and connecting for us.

DSC02344But perhaps the most inspiring moment of them all was the keynote speech (as it should be, I suppose), by renowned Dorie Greenspan.

“What we do counts. As bloggers, we have the chance to speak from our hearts.” She said. “It is not about the advertising or the number of hits on our sites. It is about the people who visit us each month and how they relate to us and to each other.”

Sometimes in struggling to balance a full time job, a family and this blog, I wonder – am I making a difference? Do I really have something of value to say? And that is when I  feel the most overwhelmed and want to say, “no” to things. But Dorie encouraged us to not think about the critics – those inside of us and those that surround us – and just…

“Concentrate on the work of being a writer. Do it for yourself. And say yes. Always say yes.”

Maybe I have been going about things all wrong. Maybe instead of no, I should be striving to say yes more. Because it is in these “yes” moments that, perhaps, I will experience something new, or feel something, or learn something. Or even, on a really good day, teach something.