Kelby Carr will be the first to tell you she's not really a girly girl.
"I'm not a pink-powder-puff, teddy-bear kind of chick," she says. But surfing the Web a couple of years ago, that seemed to Carr to be the general flavor of parenting blogs written by women.
Carr envisioned a Web site that got more to the heart of her experience as a mother of three trying to meet all the demands of home and career. Dreading the weekly mountain of laundry. Spacing on filling out school forms. Recalling the days going out on a weekend to share a drink with friends.
So one long holiday weekend in the spring of 2007, she created a site called Type-A Mom with the tag line: "real moms sharing real advice." It features a range of writers covering all sorts of topics, from practical tips and advice to personal essays.
The site took off, and Carr has established herself in the blogosphere. Later this month, she will draw on her extensive virtual connections to host about 250 mommy bloggers in Asheville at her inaugural Type-A Mom Conference. The gathering has attracted women from around the country interested in workshops and panel discussions about blogging and writing, as well as networking.
The conference's other benefit, for Carr, is simply spotlighting Asheville. Carr, who worked as a newspaper reporter and at the Asheville Convention and Visitor's Bureau before leaving to concentrate on her Internet writing, has scheduled tours around town as well as a series of "Accents on Asheville" speaker dinners at local restaurants.
"I realized the potential of having all these bloggers who are highly influential and saw an opportunity to showcase Asheville as a tourist destination," says Carr. The conference also includes a "mommy mart," where businesses — mostly small, local shops — will offer their goods for sale.
Over the past few years, more and more companies have realized the sales and marketing punch that mom bloggers pack. A 2009 Social Media Study by BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Partners found that there are about 42 million women online, and noted that 43 percent of them read blogs for advice and recommendations. With women making key decisions about household spending to the tune of billions of dollars, more and more companies have sought them out.
The maturation of blogs has caught the attention of the federal government. Later this year the Federal Trade Commission will consider adopting new rules requiring bloggers to disclose whether they've been paid by an advertiser to write about a product. The potential action has set off an ongoing debate — especially among mom bloggers — about blogging ethics. Carr says a "town hall" discussion during the conference will tackle those issues.
Women planning trips to Asheville for the event say they're looking forward to solidifying the already strong bonds they've created through their blogs and Web sites like Carr's.
Sarah Pinnix, a 35-year-old mother of three who lives in Boone, started blogging 12 years ago as a hobby. The success of her Real Life Blog led her to create an online magazine called High Country Mom Squad, which she says "has become a central location for family information here."
Pinnix, who is branching out into social-media marketing and consulting, finds the beauty of mom blogging in the opportunities it provides to talk with others about your shortcomings, before laughing them off and learning from your mistakes. She says she's looking forward to the conference because "once you get that many creative individuals in one room together, the ideas just come flying."
Blog conferences help women support one another "in motherhood, in sisterhood and in livelihood," says Mishelle Lane, a mother of four who lives in Dawsonville, Ga. Lane blogs as Secret Agent Mama and has her own photography business. She'll be teaching conference-goers how to improve their photography.
"As an only child, I value all the friendships I have made — and will continue to make — on line, because they help me get through the daily grind. The times spent together, at conferences, fasten and strengthen the bonds that we have formed online. We learn from each other and grow accordingly."
Megan Jordan, a 32-year-old mother of two boys in Gulfport, Miss., began blogging after Hurricane Katrina hit her home in 2007 and she lost 50 hardback journals containing decades of entries. Her blog, Velveteen Mind, led to another Internet site, Blog Nosh magazine, which aggregates the best literary work of bloggers. Jordan says she's excited about the connections she'll make at the Type-A Mom conference. She's a conference speaker who will be talking about social and collaborative blogging.
"I write a lot about community," Jordan says. "You have to identify a niche when you're writing, but if your end goal is not building community, you probably won't get there. The most important thing is still the people you connect with."
With Type-A Mom, Carr has created a vibrant online community and, along the way, established herself as one of the 50 most influential women in social media based on Internet search rankings, according to the Immediate Influence blog. She hopes her conference, with break-out sessions on everything from banishing blog trolls to burnishing a brand, will improve bloggers' skills while putting Asheville in a positive light.
"These are multitasking super moms," Carr says. The world is taking note.