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

In a word, Krista is caring. She’s always the first to sends words of encouragement and support on twitter when someone has big news; she’s always got your back when any big life event is looming on the horizon. Even if you haven’t met her in person, when you make friends with Krista online, you’ve got a real friend for life. She’s sincere and she’s a sweetheart – it’s easy to see that her real-life job as a victim advocate is a perfect fit.

On her blog, Krista’s a caring mom with her finger in a lot of different pies. You might find a post about her charming little ones, a rant about local politics, humorous descriptions sports injuries, ideas for family activities, or thoughts on her history with weight loss. Best of all, she often shares her photographs – amazing, detailed, and colourful shots of her family and her world. They’re as lovely and bright as the lady herself. Like many personal blogs, Krista’s blog is her – and she’s a very nice person to get to know.

Here’s your chance to get to meet her in person – and trust me, you’ll be meeting a friend. Come and see Krista at Blog Out Loud.

Come and Hear…Amanda Jetté (The Maven) of Stay-At-Home-Mayhem

The Maven is one funny, funny lady. She can take the smallest of incidents and turn them into comedy gold – it’s almost impossible to read a blog post of hers without snickering, guffawing, even a little knee-slapping. Amanda has had some sad times, some hard times, and some unbelievably unlucky times, but that never seems to get her down – she approaches every event with an amazing sense of humour, and can make anyone laugh through the tears. Her upbeat nature and way with a one-liner bring joy to every story about her adventures in parenting, in work, and in life.

Hell, you won’t believe what can happen to The Maven at the grocery store.

This year, her health took a major turnaround when she discovered a gluten intolerance – her new diet has revolutionized her spirit, her appearance, and her energy. Although she never seemed to want for moxie in the past, now she’s even more of a firecracker, ready to handle the challenges her three boys throw at her every day with a wink and a nod. Hand her anything, and she’ll find a way to laugh about it.

Amanda proved last year that she’s as good live as she is on paper. Don’t miss her performance at this year’s Blog Out Loud.

Come and Hear…Danielle Donders of Postcards from the Mothership

Dani’s reading from last year is the stuff of legend – funny, entertaining, and also…revealing. She’s back this year for more, and that can only mean good things for the audience. Dani’s one of Ottawa’s top parenting bloggers, known throughout the city for her reports on community events, great ideas for places to take the kids around town, and most of all, her deep, obvious love for this city. Her recent move to Manotick has only helped highlight all the beautiful and quiet little nooks and crannies that can be found off the beaten path.

Dani has been influential as well on local photographers everywhere. Her adoption and promotion of the Project 365 idea – taking one photo a day for one year – has caused many an Ottawa blogger to take on a similar project, and bloggers all over are finding a new love of picture taking. Dani herself has shown such an eye for a good photo that she’s started up her own photography business, and even came back for a second round of 365, many of which feature gorgeous shots of her new small corner of town.

Above all else, Dani’s blog is funny, warm, and good hearted. It’s a place that will make you feel good about family, good about Ottawa, and good about life. The lady herself is just as fun and approachable – so be sure to say hi when you see her at Blog Out Loud.

Come and Hear…Grace of Mothermind

Grace is an explorer – an explorer of art, of words, and of herself. Her blog is a showcase for her art, whether it be a new painting or a new poem. It’s a place for her to reflect on her life, to try to understand why the world works the way it does, and her own reactions to it.

Lately, Grace’s main theme has been motherhood. Her young son is a bright light in her life, but like most parents, there are ups and downs – days when she questions her role as a mother, wonders if she’s doing a good job. Her past struggles with depression inform some of her posts, as she questions if she has really moved on from those dark days, and how her past experiences colour her role as a mother.

Grace is open, confessional, and raw, but most of all, uplifting. She does not shy away from sadness or anger, and yet, she always seems to find a glimmer of hope in every post. She shares moments that every parent can relate to – in incredibly beautiful language – and her own experiences will have you finding a deeper understanding of your own life.

Grace’s blog is one of the lesser known gems of the Ottawa blogging scene, so be sure to check it out. Be sure to say a gentle hello to her at Blog Out Loud, as well.

Send Help!

Are you coming to Blog Out Loud this year? Want to give me a hand?

I’m looking for people to help out on the evening by taking on one of the following jobs:

Greeters will greet attendees at the door, make sure people get a ticket (we are using tickets this year to keep track of the number of people who attend), make sure they get a name tag, and suggest they sign in.

Reader Manager will be in charge of the reader list, making sure that all the readers arrive, check in, and don’t pass out.

Photo Slide Show Manager will keep an eye on the photo slide show equipment and deal with any issues that arise.

Prescott Liaison will be a runner who can talk with the staff at The Prescott if we need any help with anything; will also be in charge of the sound system and dealing with any problems that arise with it.

Photographers will document the event for me.

Any volunteers?

Come and Hear…Karen Wilson of Karen’s Chronicles

Ten years ago, Karen moved from Florida to Ottawa for love. If that isn’t enough to tell you that this is one lady with a big, big heart, then I don’t know what is. Since the big move she’s settled down, started a family, and put down some roots, but it can take a while for a place to feel like home, and sometimes Karen still looks at Ottawa with the eyes of a transplant. She’s open to all new ideas and new experiences, and her blog is a place where she explores who she is, where she is, and how she wants to live her life.

Karen is interested in family, in community, and in the world. At her place, you might find her thoughts on current events, musings on history – both personal and international, and interesting perspectives on Canadian politics from a removed-American point of view. She’s not afraid to call out bad behaviour when she sees it, but at the same time, she’s very open to new ideas and points of view. Her thoughtfulness comes across in every post, and she’ll soon have you thinking, too.

Karen is also one of the group of brave bloggers recording their struggles with weight over at Losing It In Ottawa. There, she talks openly about her drive to get healthy and stay healthy, and tracks her first steps towards becoming an actual runner.

Still wondering why someone would give up Florida for Ottawa winters? Come and ask Karen yourself at Blog Out Loud.

Come and Hear…Nat Hanson of From Nat’s Brain

This is Nat’s third year reading at Blog Out Loud, but that’s still just not going to be enough. Always funny, always sassy, and occasionally a wee bit lewd, Nat never fails to knock ‘em dead when she steps behind the mike. It’s hard to believe she once claimed to be a nervous reader – she never holds anything back when she’s blogging about her life and doesn’t seem shy at all about saying it out loud in public.

Nat’s blog is all about Nat, and her big personality is more than enough to fill a blog. She’s into music, photography, running (when not injured!), and politics. She’s also a fantastic, laid-back parent and her conversations with her son on The Big Issues are profound and fascinating, and also funny as hell. Her irreverent attitude and snappy, hilarious writing style make every post come to life. You can just imagine sitting with her in a coffee shop – every other patron paused over their drinks, leaning in to eavesdrop on Nat’s latest adventure.

Nat’s the kind of lady who stands out in a crowd – trust me, you won’t be able to miss her at Blog Out Loud. She’s one of the most approachable, friendly people in the world, so be stop by and buy her a beer.

To Free, Or Not To Free

I really like it that Blog Out Loud is free. I consider it to be kind of a big party, and all my best friends are invited. Everyone come on over, the more the merrier!

For the past two years I’ve covered all the costs myself, and I’ll be doing that again this year. However, it’s getting expensive. So for that reason, I’ll be putting out a donation jar at the entrance this year, with a suggested donation of $2 per person.

I’d like to emphasize that this is absolutely optional. No one will be turned away (or denied totally awesome swag) for lack of funds. It’s open to all and any and all donations are completely voluntary.

But just because I have advertised the event as being free, I didn’t want anyone to feel gypped when they show up and see a (hopefully discreet) coffee can asking for a toonie.

Many, many people have offered to help me defray the costs of this event in the past and I really appreciate their support. No matter what happens with the donation jar, I just want everyone to have a great time and I’m willing to keep on hosting. So don’t feel obligated.

See you all there!

Come and Hear…Finola Francis of Finola’s Blog

Finola’s blog shows just how much she’s growing all the time. She’s working on her physical health, introducing lots of long-distance running, yoga, and a regular work-out routine. She’s working on her friendships, both online via Twitter and blogging, and offline, as she makes more time to go out and be social. She’s working on her knitting skills, her piano playing, and her passion for reading; she’s making time for her community by looking for new places to volunteer.

Best of all, she’s started taking the first small steps towards becoming a writer. She’s dusting off her fiction skills and started, tentatively, sharing some fiction writing; in the meantime, she’s including a few memoir-style posts on her blog that are charming, moving, and sweetly nostalgic. Her writing is so approachable and friendly – it’s like the written version of her open, beautiful smile – and it’s a treat to think that one day, you’ll see her name in print.

It’s almost unbelievable to add that she’s also a busy mom. This is her time to finally find the right balance between family, work, and her own personal growth.

Finola is thoughtful, involved, kind, and energetic. Come see that great smile in person at Blog Out Loud.

Come and Hear…Allison of Bibliomama

Shhhh. Just between you and me, Allison’s blog is the best kept secret in Ottawa. There’s something about her conversational style that makes you feel like you’re sitting on a patio on a warm summer night, cocktail in hand, sharing an evening with your best friend. And trying really, really hard not to let that cocktail come flying out your nose as you burst out with laughter.

Allison is a writer and a reader, but most of all, she’s a wit. Her blog can take a seemingly average tale of daily life and turn it into a tour de force, a snappy and sassy story of an unbelievable adventure. She can make anything seem both hellish and a laugh riot at the same time. You’ll find yourself wishing she was at your side as you battle field trips, baseball season, gardening, and keeping up with the Joneses.

Allison isn’t without her dark side. She has struggled with depression in the past and behind the humour, there’s sometimes a hint of a question, a wondering if she’s as cheerful as she should be. But even when she’s blue she’s funny, and even when she’s bitter she’s still someone you wish were your very best friend. She’s the kind of person you want to be sitting with at a really bad movie, so you can both mock it to death and then go out for pie afterwards.

There’s always one reader at BOLO who thinks they will die of nerves before they ever make it to the mike. This year, it’s Allison who is a wee bit shaky, so be sure to come out and give her a huge round of applause at Blog Out Loud.