On BlogHer’s Voices of the Year–what it is and what it isn’t

July 3, 2013


(photo credit: BlogHer.com)


It isn’t wrong to feel disappointed if things don’t go the way you hoped when you’ve taken a courageous step and submitted your writing, or art of any kind. Our words or photos, graphic designs, drawings, paintings, etc are born of us. Having someone turn away from our art to choose another’s work feels very personal.

We’re only humans, with fragile egos even if we’re as emotionally and mentally healthy as we can be. Maybe you’re mostly confident and strong, but you still feel pangs of disappointment that feel like rejection.

That doesn’t mean you’re weak and insecure. You’re just normal. It’s not silly.

But let’s talk about negative reactions that go beyond disappointment…

In the social media world, it’s the time of year when we hear The Big News about writing that’s been nominated and submitted. The BlogHer’s Voices of the Year were announced just yesterday and then all the facebooking and tweeting began. There were a thousand I can’t believe its and even more CONGRATS. Then, there were others, tweeting their regret at not being chosen and writing blog posts and facebook statuses about their feelings: pissed, jealous, frustrated

then others chimed in to say not to let it bother them, since Voices of the Year is only a “popularity contest”.

I don’t think BlogHer needs me to defend their honor, but I do think it makes sense to be a Voice of Reason in regards to VOTY. After all, I don’t think this endeavor was ever intended to be looked at simply as a competition or contest. it’s so much more than winning and losing, and I’m not sure I can ever even get comfortable with any of the words of competition or gaming in regard to Voices of the Year.  Sure, the writing is nominated by peers and can even be submitted by the person who wrote it and yes, then pieces are chosen and some are not, but at its core, VOTY is about bearing witness, in person. It is about coming out from behind a screen and raising voices in front of a crowd and then allowing the stories to change perspectives and open minds and really, it’s about having a good time. Some of the posts are exceptionally funny and some heart-wrenching. Some are opinionated and fierce and some are soft and slow, a melodic transfixing time out for something like meditation.

It’s beautiful.

Back when VOTY began, the blogging community felt a lot smaller. People had the time and bandwidth to discover each other’s work and help each other. We had time to remain connected continually and to grow in our creative endeavors together. There weren’t as many blogs to read, and yet there were still a lot. New discoveries could be made, but it didn’t feel quite so overwhelming. With Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest, ETC and the growing number of blogs, things have changed. Change is inevitable and good. We’ve all been doing our best to adjust and keep up and many of us still hang with the same online cronies we met years and years ago.

All that to say, Voices of the Year was born during that time and it was about two things: REALLY exceptional writing and community.

That hasn’t changed.

The number of submissions on the other hand? Well, that sure has changed. This year, there were well over 2,000 pieces for the committees to go through. Them there is a lot of words. A lot of really good words. A lot of gorgeous pieces of writing about a myriad of things in many different styles. Bringing 12 pieces together to create the right flow and leave the audience feeling inspired and connected?


So friends, not having your post picked does not mean you and your work are not worthy of being picked. It means that even if you will not be reading from the stage at the end of July and if you weren’t an honorable mention, your words were taken seriously and felt. They were respected and maybe even admired and there were just soooo many! It can be kind of like one big TIE, you know? And then it comes down to the flow of the pieces and the weaving of topics that go together but can’t be the same and and and….

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like hours and hours of work and then more hours and it sounds HARD. So maybe I’m just asking that we show the people who do this for us some grace and some appreciation. There is nothing fun at all about sending out rejection emails. It hurts, every time. I’ve had to do it as a Listen To Your Mother director and I hated every second of it because those pieces, those people, were certainly worthy, and I knew it was going to hurt.

We were disappointing people and we knew it, but I’ll be honest, we weren’t willing to accept people getting pissed at us or jealous of those we did choose, publicly. Sure, people have a right to feel those things, but may I suggest that we work on feeling them and then moving away from them? Maybe once reality has settled in and minds are more open, it might be a good idea to come to terms with the fact that this isn’t Everything Ever.

There’s something to be said for being grateful that this opportunity to submit our work even exists.

Two of my dearest friends are reading this year, and many others I’ve had the honor of getting connected with will also be hitting the stage. I’m thrilled for them, and I mean that. When you totally dig people and see how talented they are, it’s pretty easy to LOVE watching them “win”.

After all, even though expressing your talent with words (and then submitting them) is personal, not having your piece chosen, is not personal. It is simply the nature of a beautiful beast.


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