Recap: Texas Style Council CAMP

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent my weekend in the woods northwest of Austin, Texas, with over 200 creative women at a sleep-away blog conference hosted by Texas Style Council. It was fondly referred to as CAMP: Create A Meaningful Presence. I first heard of Texas Style Council from a few bigger bloggers I follow, and this experience looked like so much fun...but way out of my price range as a poor graduate student. When the 50% off sale weekend happened, I decided to take the plunge (I swear my bank account cried out when I bought my plane tickets!), and it was worth every penny and more. The experience was--simply put--absolutely priceless.


After an exhausting morning and early afternoon of traveling last Friday, I set foot on the grounds of Camp Texlake, the home of a Girl Scout camp. The area was beautifully lush and relatively remote (much to my surprise!), which made for the perfect environment to unplug and be inspired. (Lots of people were able to Instagram/Tweet during the conference, but I could barely send photos via text message, haha!) The first order of business was to have head shots taken by the lovely Chelsea Laine Francis, who graciously photographed us and the conference for free. If you're local to Austin and in need of a photographer, she is your lady!


That evening, we indulged in a delicious dinner (catering provided by The Real McCoy Catering) and a keynote by Jenny of The Bloggess. I loved hearing her take on the blogging world. She told us she changes negative comments from trolls to positive comments, which really angers the trolls and eventually they disappear. Isn't that great?!

We received a drawstring bag from TOMS to decorate during the "Create and Connect" mixer after dinner, and inside was a notebook from Minted and other little goodies. Luckily, I managed to fit all of the beauty samples in my [broken] quart-sized bag for the trip home!

At the mixer, sponsoring brands set out little crafts or activities for us to partake in, all while meeting new people and getting to know each other. I expected to be more outgoing than I was, but the ladies there intimidated me! I wish I had the courage to meet more people (and give out more business cards) than I did, though I still had a fantastic experience overall.


After a restless night in a cabin with eleven other women and a steady, cold rain falling the entire night, I awoke bright and early on Saturday to attend a branding workshop with Jenny and Savannah of Maiedae. I (admittedly) had never heard of Maiedae before, but they are two of the sweetest and most inspirational women! I signed up for a one-on-one session on Sunday morning to talk about my current branding situation, web design, and going about rebranding (!), and Savannah was the biggest help and so encouraging. Big things will happen to this little blog in the next few months. ;)

Following a journaling session guided by Erin of Design for Mankind, we ate a hearty breakfast and listened to a keynote with Bethany of TOMS. Bethany shared how TOMS' One-for-One model came to be as well as shared some insight into how we can each grow our own legacies. She introduced a new term to all of us: friendtor, meaning a friend who is on the same "playing field" as us and can act as mentors as well. At the conclusion of the keynote, we each received waxed canvas backpacks--one of many new products to come out of TOMS. They're continuing the One-for-One model by providing a birth kit to aid in safe births for mothers in need for every bag sold. So awesome!


For the rest of the day, we attended short sessions focused on more specific topics related to blogging and the small business world. The first sessions I chose was the vulnerability session with Carli of Inked Fingers and Tieka of Selective Potential. We talked about how we choose to be vulnerable online and how being vulnerable can affect how our readers perceive us, even if its a negative perception. We discussed how to deal with the backlash of being vulnerable and encouraged each other to find ways to be vulnerable that work for us, since you might not want to be vulnerable in every blog post or talk about every aspect of your life. The stories that were shared during this session nearly brought me to tears!

The second session I attended was the connection session, moderated by Becky of Chipper Things and Indiana, the brains behind Texas Style Council and blogger on Indiana/Elsewhere. This session focused on thinking of our readers as people that we can make real connections with and less as numbers that we must grow in order to gain popularity/more sponsorships. There seems to be an inherent rat race in the blogging world, and it's important to take a step back and remember why you started blogging in the first place (and if you started blogging to make money and not because you're passionate about it, you're likely in it for the wrong reasons). We discussed the difference between transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability and the act of going deeper (creating meaningful relationships with readers) instead of further (increasing readership overall).

Lastly, I decided to attend the support session with Jen of Jen Loves Kev, Julie of Orchid Grey, and Amy of Crompton Collective. They discussed the importance of building each other up in the blog world instead of tearing each other down and not letting envy get the best of us. The idea of the friendtor came back in this session with their suggestion of making friends with the bloggers that started around the same time as your and/or are on the same "playing field" as you and building a mutual partnership with them. It's important to learn how to be happy for each other when good things happen and not let it damper our own spirit if those things don't happen to us. This is something I'm not afraid to admit that I struggle with, especially when I see blogs younger than mine getting more opportunities than me. I'm glad I attended this session for the reminder.


Before dinner, we listened to a keynote on intentionality with Caroline of Unfancy and Jess of The Lively Show (pictured above the previous block of text). They each explained three things they learned in the past, three things they are currently learning, and three things they hope to learn in the future. Caroline talked a lot about her journey with minimalism, starting her blog to document her process, and dealing with negativity that has come with exponential blog growth. Jess talked about her career changes and growth of her podcast, The Lively Show. She discussed downfalls and how she has learned to give herself breaks and not put so much pressure on herself.


The plans for the rest of the night consisted of dinner and a "khaki cool" jamboree! We dressed up in our best khaki outfits--inspired by Moonrise Kingdom, Troop Beverly Hills, Girl Scouts, or whatever we pleased--and jammed the night away. There were some small businesses selling items, and some brands set up photo booth areas where we could take funny pictures. Tagspire had a bunch of Moonrise Kingdom-inspired props we could use. Minnetonka Moccasins had a s'more station (yum!), Flash Tattoos had a wide variety of pretty temporary tattoos for us, and Honest Tea made floats with their fizzy drinks and ice cream. The Flash Tattoos are really cool, and mine is still looking pretty good even a few days later! My outfit was loosely inspired by Sam Shakusky (Moonrise Kingdom), and I thrifted almost all of it! The total came to less than $20, including my shoes (I wore my wonderful red loafers I've featured in many outfits). Because it rained all day Friday and Saturday, we didn't end up having a campfire, but at least we still got to roast s'mores.


The next morning, after my one-on-one branding session with Savannah, we ate a big brunch and listened to a keynote with Sophia Rossi of HelloGiggles (second to last photo below). Holy cow, she is amazing! The keynote focused on sisterhood and how we as women are each other's biggest champions in blog world and in life in general. We all received copies of her soon-to-be-released novel, A Tale of Two Besties, and she signed them for us, too!

After a fun awards ceremony and tearful farewell from Indiana, we headed outside for the final camp activity. We broke up into smaller groups, stood in two lines facing each other toe-to-toe, and sent one person down the line at a time. The person going through the middle had to look down and cover her eyes, and we each whispered a word of affirmation into her ear as she walked by. The point was to empower each other and leave each other with positive, self-assuring reminders. Plenty of laughs and tears happened during this activity. It felt wonderful to hear the words people shared. Someone whispered "girlboss" into my ear, and for some reason that one really stuck. I never really thought about myself as a girlboss, but now I think in some ways, I am. It's nice to have that moment to remember!


Overall, I had such an amazing experience at CAMP! I loved meeting fellow bloggers in real life since I don't have anyone around me that blogs. I chatted with fellow bloggers about trivial blog struggles we share, like having our boyfriends/husbands photograph our outfits. ;) I was so excited to meet some of the bloggers I follow, Tieka of Selective Potential (she's SO sweet and basically the reason why I started blogging in the first place), Liz of Delightfully Tacky, and Caroline of Unfancy (we bonded over Katy Perry and Taylor Swift), and it was wonderful meeting so many other bloggers and inspirational women! I feel like I left Camp Texlake with a group of friendtors by my side, which is more than I could have ever hoped for! I feel honored to have been a part of the final Texas Style Council conference. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped in the planning and on-site organizing of the conference. I truly had an unforgettable time!

If you read this whole post, thank you, and I hope it wasn't too boring! I tried to think of a more creative/shorter way to write this recap, but I decided I wanted to write it all out chronologically so I could better remember it. I also had a very difficult time picking the photos I wanted to share! :) If you're interested in hearing more about the conference, check out #TxSC15 on Twitter and Instagram!


{photo credits & people in photos with me}

Photos 1-3 (headshots) and 16 (Luna Bar photo booth): Chelsea Laine Francis Photography (Austin, TX)
L-R: Maddie of Folk Dreams Jewelry, Emma of Behind the Leopard Glasses, Brittany of Invasion of Personal Space, Hilary of Cutie Cameras

Photos 11-13 (Tagspire photo booth): Jacque Manaugh Photography (Dallas, TX)
Top L-R: Brittany, Hilary, Maddie / Bottom left: Brittany / Bottom right L-R: Jen of Jen Loves Kev, Julie of Orchid Grey, Liz of Delightfully Tacky, Caroline of Unfancy

Photos 14-15 (Squarespace photo booth): Logan Pearce Photography (Austin, TX)
L-R: Maddie, Brittany, Hilary, Emma