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.



Momo July 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm

YES! YES! YES! A million times, yes.

Sarah Kimmel {Tech4Moms} July 3, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Thank you for this! I was on the committee to help judge the entries… yes there were A LOT. No I didn’t just read the ones I knew, I read EVERY. SINGLE. POST. on my list. It made my head swim for WEEKS.

Anyway, just wanted to say thank you for your post! Couldn’t agree more!
Sarah Kimmel {Tech4Moms} recently posted..Sports Bras With Tech in Mind #SwoobFit

Leigh Ann July 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm

What a beautiful description of the program. Honestly, I did not expect to get picked. When the submissions opened, I combed through my blog and realized that I had about 12 months of crap. Due to being busy and distracted, my blog hasn’t been the recipient of my best writing. If anything, the process helped me realize that I needed to be more thoughtful in my writing process.

(And congrats to you!)
Leigh Ann recently posted..Austin products you need

Wendi July 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Thanks for this, Heather. I’ve seen some very ungracious comments from both sides and that type of thing definitely isn’t in the spirit of what VOTY is all about. I was chosen for VOTY in 2009 and it’s been interesting to see how it’s evolved from people saying they were “a VOTY reader” to “I’m BlogHer’s VOTY 2012” since then.

Tara July 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Well said, lady.

Ellie July 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Oh, my friend, I needed this. Your post made me cry. I can’t even put into words all the strange feelings I have been having since finding out I was a reader at this year’s VOTY, but the strongest feeling is “wait – not me.. HER! Or HER! Those posts are far more worthy!”

I saw some of the harsher words flung towards those picked to read and it made me sick. And sheepish. I have never felt anything but honored to hear prior year VOTY speakers read, and now it’s my turn and I want to curl up in a ball. To say this sounds like false modesty, or compliment fishing, and it’s neither. It’s just good old fashioned fear, I guess.

Your words help me keep my perspective — of what it is and what it isn’t. As always, thank you. I adore you.

Ellie recently posted..Through The Looking Glass

Elisa Camahort Page July 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm

This is lovely, Heather. And yes, if there’s any email that is most deeply considered and sent with the most trepidation and a variety of pangs, it is those “not this year ” emails.

Sarah @Toddler Summer July 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Yes. Sitting in that audience last year was a validating and inspiring and emotional experience. You can’t lose if you are part of that community. Whether you “won” or not.

Jenny July 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Love this, Heather. I was one of those honorable mentions and you know what? To little old me it felt like I had just been chosen Miss America.

Thanks to LTYM I’m becoming stronger in my belief that what I write may resonate with more people than just me and the group of friends who read my blog. I have to smile when people say that VOTY is a popularity contest…I have less than 100 followers on my blog (love each of those 96 people with all my heart, though) and despite hanging around BlogHer like a wannabe sniffing around the Popular Girl’s table in the cafeteria, nothing of mine has been featured there. Ever.

It’s sad that we live in a time that makes it all too easy for spur of the moments bursts of emotion to be flung out into the universe, for all to see. I think we ALL know what it feels like to not “make it”….just three days ago I received a pat rejection letter from Brain, Child, and my mental replies were insolent and childish and petulant: “Oh I guess I’m not intellectual enough, huh????”. The only difference between me and the bloggers you have written about is that I didn’t post anything about it. Yet. :)

I’m beyond bummed that I won’t be able to be in Chicago, to see my name and my blog post written IN ACTUAL WORDS AND WRITING at BlogHer. It would be a big dream come true. But that’s life. I’ll just keep plugging along, and pray that my 96 followers keep enjoying what I write. Like you so simply and eloquently put it, it isn’t Everything Ever.

Thanks for your thoughtful viewpoint.

It makes me sad that those who were chosen
Jenny recently posted..Hell, Fury, Woman Warmed…Part Two

Jenny July 3, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Holy typos. Apparently my editing skills aren’t going to be honored anytime soon!
Jenny recently posted..Hell, Fury, Woman Warmed…Part Two

Heather July 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm

you made total sense to me, editing or no editing.

I think you should feel like a million trillion bucks. Just like it’s find to feel disappointed, it’s fine to feel HIGH on having your words chosen! Revel, my friend. Your words DO matter, no matter how many readers you have, you’re making waves more than you realize. xoxo

Wendi July 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Thanks for this, Heather. I’ve seen some very ungracious comments from both sides and that type of thing definitely isn’t in the spirit of what VOTY is all about. I was chosen for VOTY in 2009 and it’s been interesting to see how it’s evolved from people saying they were “a VOTY reader” to “I’m BlogHer’s VOTY 2012″ since then.
Wendi recently posted..I Stand With Texas Women

Britt Reints July 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I was one of the judges, and I can tell you there were pieces I LOVED that ultimately weren’t chosen. I wish I could email those people and tell them that.

But I can say that I know for a FACT that there is good stuff that doesn’t get read.

BUT, and this is another one, diminishing the ones that are being read by saying it’s all about popularity helps no one shine brighter.
Britt Reints recently posted..Book Review: Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi

Molly July 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I was one of those bloggers that received the “not this year” email. Honestly? It sucks. But that’s probably because I know what it feels like to get the email saying I was picked! Lol.

But instead of focusing on the negative I went and read the names and was in awe. I am “friends” with so many of these writers and their nods are well-deserved! So I congratulated those that won. Then I thought of all the possibilities of what I could write this year! You just never know what’s in your future.

I never thought I would win a VOTY. I don’t know if I’ll ever win again. But that certainly doesn’t make it an unfair contest.
Molly recently posted..Eight Years After the Proposal

Ann July 3, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Beautifully said–from the heart but also from the head–the rational one that is.

Suzy Soro (@HotComesToDie) July 3, 2013 at 7:03 pm

This is from an article on the guy who chooses all the New Yorker cartoons, Bob Mankoff:

“Mankoff gleefully alludes to the 2000 rejection letters he himself received between 1974 and 1977, following an unceremonious dismissal from psychology school. Then, finally, he got his first acceptance.”

So some of the nasty commenters, take note. Rejection makes you work harder or quit.
Suzy Soro (@HotComesToDie) recently posted..Win A Copy Of My Book, Celebrity sTalker

Beth Zimmerman July 3, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Amen all over the place!
Beth Zimmerman recently posted..Changing Again – and I’m Excited About It

Alison July 3, 2013 at 9:35 pm


I submitted. I didn’t win. I am okay with it. To me, the step of submitting anything was a big one. Believing in myself, allowing myself the grace of knowing that I did my best job at the time, that’s a win to me.

My not-winning does not and should not undermine those who DID win, because they were all well and truly deserved. Many of my friends are on the honoree list, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

There’s always next year, yes?
Alison recently posted..The Easy Way Out

Nicole Leigh Shaw July 4, 2013 at 2:13 am

Well said. I won’t lie, like you’ve already noted, I was—bummed—not to be choosen as an honoree this year. And as I saw friends, “cronies” of my own getting picked, I did not feel angry that they were choosen. I just kept wondering, like all writers and artists do, “Why not me?” I was happy for my friends and very, very sad for me.

Until the next morning when the rejection was 12 hours old and I found I was happy for my friends, and not all that sad for me. By the next evening, I was excited to see my friends on stage, planning what damn fool thing I would do to applaud them and, God willing, publicly embarrass them with my enthusiasm.

So, I’ll submit again next year. And if I’m lucky, like I was this year, someone will submit a piece for me, letting me know in a very public way that they thought enough of my voice to put it forward for consideration. And I’ll be really effing bummed if I don’t get picked—until the next morning when I’ll get back to writing and get over it. Like most of us do, without a tantrum.

Mytwicebakedpotato July 4, 2013 at 11:33 am

I am so glad that Another writer showed me this piece and i took the time to read it! Yes-mixed feelings were there so I wrote a little post about it :)
Mytwicebakedpotato recently posted..Defending A Gift

Melisa July 4, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Awesome, awesome, awesome post. Well said!
Melisa recently posted..Foiled again.

molly campbell July 4, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Great post. I am proud to know many of the BlogHer VOTY winners. They all deserve it.
molly campbell recently posted..STEREOTYPES R US

Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms July 5, 2013 at 3:18 am

There is such strong emotion both positive and negative because we are incredibly courageous people to put our word babies out there to judged day in and day out. Hooray for all of us who work to touch the world with our blogs.
Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms recently posted..Ghetto Chic Swimming Pool Design

Casey July 5, 2013 at 7:40 am

“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.”

This. Thank you.

I am one of the incredibly insanely lucky ones that has been chosen this year. But, with a little bit of confusion, I at first thought that I hadn’t been chosen. I went through the moment of feeling sad, but realizing quickly that there are just SO MANY. When I submitted, I read some of the submissions and immediately felt like my piece wasn’t worth being with such great work. That’s the nature of what we’re doing here. We’re putting our best selves and sometimes our not so best selves out there for the great jury of our peers. Every day, not just in VOTY season. It’s hard and beautiful and terrifying and such an incredible honor. All of it.
Casey recently posted..Roozle’s First Fall

Sandra Sallin July 6, 2013 at 12:06 am

You have a wonderful abiltity to be so soothing in your writing. Somehow it feels that everything will be OK. I’m a new blogger and had no idea what VOTY was. A friend submitted my work and then told me when I was chosen to be a VOTY. I was stunned and beyond grateful. Truly it is not a popularity contest. I’m a new blogger. No one knows who I am.

The piece I wote was about my mother. I wish she could have read it.
Sandra Sallin recently posted..I Shook Hands With Steve Jobs

tracy@sellabitmum July 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Love this – and I’ll be there hugging, clapping for and supporting my amazingly talented friends…while I work even harder, write even better, and throw my name in again next year. xoxo
tracy@sellabitmum recently posted..Why I’m Not A Travel Blogger #girlsaretrippin

Robbie July 8, 2013 at 12:59 am

I’m new on scene & have never been to BlogHer but some of my favorite writers were chosed and some were not. I hope they all keep writing no matter what.
Robbie recently posted..Monday Listicles: SUMMER

Elaine A. July 9, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I cannot tell you how big I smiled when I saw names of people I know and love on the list! But there were a ton of names of people I know and love not on the list and I think they are amazing too. We all need to support each other, of course, in this crazy (and yes, LARGE) endeavor. We are blessed to have a place to put our words and have friends who care to read them, even daily.

I, like a dummy, did not even submit anything this year. But next year, I will put myself out there. I mean, why not?

Great points, as always, my friend.
Elaine A. recently posted..I Did Not Want to Leave…

Suzanne Perryman July 24, 2013 at 9:41 am

You are one of the bloggers I am most hoping to meet at BlogHer. Love your vulnerability in your writing. It is truly beautiful. I am a total newbie to this world, I have been quietly writing and blogging for years, but only this year committed to following my heart and writing every day- I have been published a lot this year but have no bloggie BFFs, that’s why I never thought I would be chosen for VOTY.But I was and that’s testament to why your words here are so true- it is not a contest nor a club- it is a honor, the act of selecting a group of voices to represent the collective BlogHer voice,a sampling. One voice is no better than another, many voices that come together to tell the BlogHer story as a whole.

I am taking a red eye out Thursday, and returning sat. To balance my special needs mama job, but I can’t wait. Thanks for taking a stand on this!

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