Congress Street moved a quieter pace Saturday morning as I walked  over to Maine College of Art, site of WordCamp Maine 2016. People slipped sleepily out of buildings at street-level to fetch their morning coffee. The sun, already awake, was beaming.

Arriving at MECA I paused at the door, where the college logo was seemingly suspended in a lucidity, WordCamp sign positioned on the other side. This image prominently reflected  elements in the background: the brick building across the street, the white-hatched crosswalk, the blue, blue sky. The elements seemed to merge to become one.

Taking a breath, I entered the portal as the adventure was about to begin . . .

Inside the entrance, a display of thick, twine-like rope wound up one side of the stairs, while strands of string hung down from the ceiling in front of me, like a sort of vertical web. The artwork, an inspired greeting . . .

Moved by the welcome I headed upstairs, past the art gallery, beyond the guitar exhibit at the stair landing. Inspiration breathed from the walls of the venue, setting the tone for ideas, inklings, and collaborations.  People were milling about the registration desk, fetching their cup-a-joe, and talking in the hallways.

Proceeding to Room 209, site of my morning presentation in the Business/Ideas track, I arranged my computer and slides. Excited to give a talk about a topic I love, writing and finding one’s voice, I wondered  who would come and why. People have such varied experiences with writing, many of them unfortunately negative, it would be interesting to hear the personal accounts.

9:30 am comes and the talk begins.  We discuss how our experiences shape us and are integral to our development of voice.  We talk about how one can engage with writing and how one can benefit from the practice.

People ask questions about how often I post to my blog, ClunkyShoe, and if I use the scheduler as a way to post consistently.  The audience is curious about why I chose the name ClunkyShoe. Wearing sturdy shoes, one of my signatures, I explain,  is something friends find funny and endearing.  I wear them as a way to be prepared for adventure and to capture good photographs!

Case in point, I shared the story of chasing a black bear with my camera and sinking in the bog near Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a cross-country trip with my spouse. A slide shows  that defining photo.  Muddy up to my knees, pointing in the direction of the bear, camera slung around my neck, hair unkempt and, despite everything, smiling broadly.  Such pleasure and sheer joy  captured at one moment in time!

Even referencing it now, I laugh at the absurdity of it all.  I have no idea where those shoes are, but I suspect, due to their boggy odor, they were discarded, and a lucky black bear in Wyoming is having the trek of her life!

Then, in what seems like a moment, the time is up and my talk is over.  People are smiling and some stick around to chat.

Afterwards, I head to the Happiness Bar, aka support area, to wait for folks who might have questions.  Here, I peruse the WordCamp Twitter feed. “Use our words respectfully, don’t cut others down” is a favorite tweet from my talk.  I love that participants are  reaching out to others and sharing a positive message as the conversation continues beyond the walls of Room 209.

Not long afterwards I spoke with Mendel Kurland, Evangelist of GoDaddy, who had just finished his presentation Why We Build Brands. We discuss voice in image-shaping and I appreciate his successful efforts to reconfigure the company’s image, when previously, its branding had been disparaging and objectifying of women.  Another case in point: we have the power to use our words and build brands for good!

With Mendel I shared what I felt were some of the benefits of having a blog. Benefits like  staying present to your inspiration, even if it requires waking up early with the birds to do so.  Sharing your ideas with a community as they get to know you. Easily demonstrating  your abilities so that folks don’t have to ask.  Mendel reflected on how our thoughts and ideas influence our communities and the value that lies there.

Sharing that conversation for a few moments in time, was inspiring.  Discussing ideas in my presentation with an engaged audience, was inspiring. Encouraging others who were there to start or improve their writing, was inspiring.

At conferences such as WordCamp, ideas are exchanged. Inspirations incubated. Concepts born. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. These are the benefits and beauties of coming together as a community around a common cause or interest.

Since the event has concluded, already, I miss being a part of WordCamp Maine.  However, ClunkyShoe and all, I look forward to seeing familiar faces and being part of the conversation again next year!