Come and Hear…Tanya Snook of Spydergrrl.com

Spydergrrl.comWhen it comes to social media, technology, coding, and general geekiness, Spydergrrl is your go-to expert. Tanya’s online alter-ego is a Twitter queen with thousands of followers, a Facebook guru with a growing tech-loving community, and a well-respected public speaker and advocate for UX design. But her blog is the heart of her internet presence, the place to go five days a week for all kinds of geeky goodness.

On any given day of the week, you’re going to find something fascinating, something mind blowing, and something elegantly beautiful on her blog. Maybe it will be an amazing new tech product looking for kickstarter funding. Maybe it will be a YouTube video explaining the secrets of time that will have you thinking about things in a whole new light. Maybe it will be a fabulous LEGO construction – something she’s eager to share with her son, a budding tech-lover himself. The tech world isn’t just a cold, digital place of steel and plastic; it’s a living, growing thing that is expanding the edges of our world and the borders of our thoughts, and Tanya is right there on the cutting edge to lead the way.

She’s passionate about her local community, too. She’s the energetic social media force behind Barrhaven’s Canada Day celebrations, she’s a founding member of the Movember movement in town, and she’s an organizer and speaker for Ottawa’s UXCamp. She’s also been one of the biggest local promoters of Code for Kids, a great way to introduce your kids to computers, design, and tech.

Tanya’s got some really smart thoughts on how technology affects us all. Come hear how it might affect you at Blog Out Loud 2014.

Come and Hear…Jen and Luc of Me Woman You Man/Me Man You Woman

Me Woman You ManJen’s blog is called Me Woman You Man. Luc’s blog is called Me Man You Woman. When a topic comes up that this married couple just can’t agree on, they take it to the internet – with Jen blogging her half of the story, while Luc gets to tell his side, too. Together, they present a he said/she said picture that will have you laughing, pondering, and nodding in agreement – but with which side?

Originally undertaken as a hobby they could pursue together, it’s impressive how their two blogs have grown to showcase their unique writing styles. Both Jen and Luc have delightful senses of humour, and they know that while their differences might never be resolved, they’re something to celebrate, something that makes them who they are. With two kids at home, Jen has plenty to say about being a mom and finding the right balance in life; meanwhile, Luc’s ideas on parenthood might not be exactly the same, but bring a fresh perspective to their family and their children. They like different books, different movies, and different TV shows – but it’s clear that when it comes to the important things, they make it work. Above all their little disparities, there’s love, family, kindness, and a commemoration of all that makes every one of us extraordinary.

Will you be supporting Jen’s argument, or taking Luc’s side? Come make your choice at Blog Out Loud 2014.

Come and Hear…Krista Gray-Donald of Life In The Hutch

Life in the HutchKrista’s blog, Life in the Hutch is all about her – and just reading a post or two will show you that she’s one of the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate people on the net. Her blog is full of quiet reflections on what it means to be a parent in this day and age, and how to live your life to make a positive difference in this world.

Not that it’s preachy at all. Rather, Krista offers great tips on how to be charitable in your day to day life – little things you can do with your whole family, from being considerate to strangers to making cupcakes for charity to just talking to your kids about the myriad of different viewpoints and lifestyles in this world. She’s a friendly lady who is always open to new ideas and the viewpoints of others, and is generous with her time and her thoughts. She’s always the first to notice joy all around her, to stand beside a friend who is hurting, or to celebrate a success.

After spending a year in India with her young family, she has even more to share about change, learning to adapt, and embracing other cultures. And as a bonus, her blog is filled with her amazing photos – really beautiful shots that capture the delight of being a child, the wonder of the small everyday things, and the charm that lies just along the side of the road. She’ll soon have you seeing everything in a whole new light.

Krista is a true lady with some genuinely fresh perspectives to share. Come and hear what she has to say at Blog Out Loud 2014.

Come and Hear…Karie Dufour of Pub Patio Playdate

Pub Patio PlaydateDowntown Ottawa is full of pubs and patios…and playdates? That describes Karie’s urban lifestyle to a tee. When her daughter was born a few years ago, she decided to resist the urge to move to the suburbs and stick it out in the core, and her blog, Pub Patio Playdate, talks openly about all the good, the bad, and the definitely unusual that living downtown can bring.

Turns out, there’s a ton of great stuff going on in centretown. Through Karie’s enthusiastic reviews, links, and lists, you’ll find tons of great ideas, places, and activities to lure you into braving the downtown parking situation. She’s constantly out and about with her daughter, be it to traditionally adult spaces like pubs or “nice” restaurants, to parks, museums, and markets. There’s no better place on the web to really get a feel for what it means to be right in the heart of Ottawa – it’ll make you proud to live here, and eager to get out there and explore all this great city has to offer.

There are challenges too, but Karie’s always up to facing them with an array of original and unique ideas. Living in a small space – a downtown requirement – has led to lots of great posts on how to make rooms do double duty, how to live with the toy crunch when you’re short on storage, and even how to manage street parking when the street is already maxed out. There’s not much in the way of a big lawn when you’re living urban, but you’d be surprised at the range of green spaces she’s been able to discover – and share with the world. It’s a treasure trove of lifestyle ideas that can work for any family, anywhere.

What secrets does this downtown parent have this year? Come and find out at Blog Out Loud 2014.

Come and Hear…Brenda Labelle of Bjutie

BjutieBeauty is all around us, and Brenda of Bjutie has a really good eye for it. Sure, she loves pretty things like a great little red dress, glittery makeup, or a fabulous magazine spread. But she’s about much more than that – she’s always on the lookout for inner beauty, too.

For Brenda, beauty is about ideas. It’s about people, and the way they move, and the way they create. It’s about dance, and the amazing things a human body can do. It’s about women feeling good about themselves, inside and out, and about men and women learning to find the beauty in each other.

But it’s not all serious stuff over at her blog, either. There’s fun, froth, and frivolity inherent in Brenda’s lighthearted, cheeky approach to her (rather fabulous!) life. There’s plenty of pop culture analysis, great book reviews, and inspiring declarations that what makes us older also makes us sexier. It’s kind of like hanging at your best gal pal’s house for an afternoon – there’s light talk, fun talk, and serious talk too. You come away knowing you’ve really shared something with a good friend.

Brenda’s beauty is worth getting to know in person, too. Come say hello to her at Blog Out Loud 2014.

Come and Hear…Ross Brown of The Brown Knowser

The Brown KnowserRoss has found a home on the web with his blog The Brown Knowser. It’s a place for him to ponder life, both his own and what he observes around him. He’s interested in what makes people tick, and anecdotes from his past might share his thoughts on anything from his past travels around the globe, to current political events, to treasured family memories, to friendship and what it means to start, maintain, or even end a real human relationship.

Despite his many foreign adventures, Ross is an Ottawa boy through and through, and over the years his interest in photography has led to plenty of great local shots showing up on his blog. He’s always on the lookout for new perspectives, new views of familiar objects, and you’re sure to find a new way of thinking about this town from his ongoing “where in Ottawa?” contest, his lovely and fascinatingly filtered shots from his Ottawa photo walks, and his major project from last year where he took one photo a day on Bate Island. He invites us all to use our senses to find a new way of thinking about life.

Ross is also a busy author, currently working on his second novel. His first, Sonsaengnim: A Korea Diary, follows the tale of a man who leaves Ottawa to try to escape his past by teaching English in South Korea – a plot that echoes Ross’ own life experiences.

And here’s a poorly-kept secret: Ross is a bit of a beer aficionado. Buy him a drink (after he’s done reading!) at Blog Out Loud 2014.

Come and Hear…Catherine Brunelle of Bumpyboobs

BumpyboobsCatherine hit a major turning point in her life a few years back, when a diagnosis of breast cancer at a very young age tipped her world upside down. Luckily for us, her new life-in-focus brought about tons of great stuff, including some fantastic writing over at her blog, Bumpyboobs. Told with delightful humour, positive thinking, and plenty of pauses for tea and cookies, her stories chronicle how her life has changed these past few years.

There’s a ton to talk about, too – moving from England back to Canada; dealing with ongoing wacky late-night health issues; figuring out what shape her family life will have in the future; and most of all, learning that writing is a calling that she just has to embrace. Catherine knows better than most the importance of chasing your dreams right now, today, and making a life for yourself that looks just like you imagined it would.

To that end, she’s written and published her first novel, The Adventures of Claire Never-ending. It’s a series of linked stories about nine generations of women in the same family, all with the middle name Claire – but each with their own exploits to experience and their own personality to define. It’s a sweet, lighthearted book that’s every bit a dreamy exploration of life and family as Catherine is herself.

What will Catherine have to share about her new views on life? Find out at Blog Out Loud 2014.

Come and Hear…Claire Fowles of Foodieprints

FoodieprintsFoodieprints is Ottawa’s most delicious online word cafe. Created by foodie legends Don and Jenn, it’s become a taste trendsetter for those in the know, a place to go for all the cutting edge news on the best restaurants, food trucks, and coffee shops this town has to offer. A few years ago, they added the delightfully effervescent Claire to their roster as their local wine expert, and the blog has been all the better for it.

Wine seems like kind of stuffy subject, the domain of the uppercrust, the elixir of the snooty. But Claire is anything but; she has a fantastic way of making wine complete accessible, and dare we say it – fun! She’s a down to earth lady who appreciates a good wine, and even better, a great wine and food pairing; but it’s all about the experience, not the prestige. Her reviews are often intertwined with anecdotes from life – it’s not just the wine, but who she was with, how she came by it, and what happened while drinking it that affects the entire taste. Claire lives life in vivid colour, not just red and white, and we’re all welcome to pull up a seat and join in the celebration.

Claire’s writing is funny, direct, and sensible, and her advice to the wine-seeker – be it novice or expert – cannot be beat. Come and buy her a drink – if you dare – at Blog Out Loud 2014.

The Deets!

Just a quick post to share the official details of the event:

When: Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Starts at 6:30 p.m. sharp and ends at 8 p.m. We’re on a tight schedule this year as we have to fit into the Writers Festival time slot.

Where: Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar Street, Ottawa (Link here for directions and a parking map.)

Who: 11 bloggers will read one post from the past year (or so) of their blogging life. Readers will be announced one day at a time, starting tomorrow.

How: It’s free! No tickets are required, so just show up. I’d recommend getting there early if you can, to be sure of a seat.

Good to know: There’s a cafe on site that sells treats, snacks, drinks (including licensed beverages). There’s also a small bookstore area selling titles by this year’s festival authors, so bring a little pocket money for browsing.

More to come in the days leading up to the event – please do post any questions you have in the comments.

Thanks to Our Panel

Well. This was one tough, tough year. We had a record number of submissions this year, and they were literally, all just so wonderful and moving and funny and thoughtful and just straight out great. I really wish we could have picked EVERYTHING. But instead, after many hours of debate and stress and many heartbreaking cuts, we have finally selected a list of 11 (these ones go to 11!) readers for this year’s Blog Out Loud.

We’ll be announcing the readers one day at a time starting on Wednesday. In the meantime, I’d like to thank the panel of lovely, talented ladies who took (a lot) of time to read all the posts and help make some hard decisions.

In the meantime, I’d like to take a moment to thank the lovely ladies who gave up several days of their time to read all the posts, make careful and measured evaluations, and deal with my many, many frantic emails.

Annie is an Ottawa-based writer, consultant, and social media guru. Her blog, PhD in Parenting, is renowned internationally for its smart and insightful discussions of what it means to be a globally responsible parent in today’s world. She advocates attachment parenting and breastfeeding, inspires with sensible, detailed analysis of current events that pertain to families, and doesn’t put up with any nonsense from companies that claim to support parents while not implementing those ideas worldwide. Her dynamic online community – with Annie at the hub – is a true force to be reckoned with online, and it’s her drive and intelligence and powerful writing abilities that make it all happen.

Kim is a long time blogger and writer who, sadly, left Ottawa last summer for a new life in Winnipeg. Her online writing, at her blog Kimperative, can only be described as poetry-prose – beautiful phrases that seem to be spun out of gold, that capture images like dreams pulled from the sky. Her favourite themes are memory, family, and history, and she can evoke powerful emotions with just a few words in a short anecdote – somehow, her deeply personal experiences become universal in the blink of an eye. She’s currently working on her first book.

Lee Ann is a local professional writer, having published numerous magazine articles, short stories, and two books. Her latest book, Muskoka’s Main Street, was released last summer and continues to sell out on a regular basis in Ontario bookstores. She has a knack for transforming history from a dusty, dry subject into a living creature, putting you right in the time and place with her almost-unbelieveable stories of times past. Lee Ann continues to blog about her ongoing new projects – which include many fascinating (tall?) tales of the larger-than-life characters in her own family – over at A Journey in Words.

Kathleen is passionate about blogging and social media, and has been an active lover of all things blog for years. She has her own little home on the net, over at Treehouse Moosilaneous, and although it’s tough to find the time to write – we can all relate! – she shares warm, reflective tidbits when she can about life, blogging, and working motherhood. She’s a longtime fan of Blog Out Loud and one of our most loyal attendees, and has been a judge since 2011.

Thank you so much, ladies – you were amazing!