How Much Do I Love Americans for Prosperity? THIS MUCH.

Have I mentioned recently how much I like Americans for Prosperity? Because I totally do. The first time I attended one of their events was Right Online 2010 in Las Vegas, when I was still a newbie to this whole professional blogging thing, and probably in way more over my head than I knew at the time.

Being American-y with Pamela Gorman

On that maiden adventure with AFP, I got to meet so many fun people – AFP President Tim Phillips, fellow San Diego resident and former mayor Roger Hedgecock, Arizona State Senator Pamela Gorman, and poker superstar Johnny Chan. That last one wasn’t there with the convention, he just happened to be in Vegas. But I totally met him. And looked like an idiot doing it. Oh well, it all worked out in the end.

The next time I met up with AFP was the following January, when my friend Erik Telford, their Director of Online Strategy at the time tapped me to teach a training session on Twitter and Facebook at a regional event in San Diego. I’d given speeches at rallies before, but this was the first time I’d be teaching grassroots activists how to do something that other people believed I was good enough at to do. Eeeek! It ended up being fantabulous!

Around that same time, I drove up to Orange County to cover a School Choice Week event. There I met Hugh Hewitt and Dick Morris, and got a chance to chat with state directors David Spady (California) and Teresa Oelke (Arkansas). I was nervous as all get out, but the people at these things are so friendly that it’s easy to feel comfortable once you’re there. I ended up writing a pretty solid piece in support of school choice too (one of my pet issues) too, so yay!

That's Spark, not a mimosa. I'd probably look more relaxed if it were a mimosa.

A few months later AFP contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in covering the San Diego portion of their Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on a Government Pension tour. Basically, I’d be spending the afternoon in a limo with David Spady and Jen Jacobs, visiting various tax day tea parties around the county. Um, ok! Let’s roll. I wrote this about it, but I will always remember that afternoon for the most awkward photo ever taken of me in the back of a limo.

Last June, a year into my adventures with AFP, they asked me to come teach a podcasting class at Right Online 2011 in Minneapolis. I’d basically gotten my sea legs at my strange but wonderful job at that point, so I went to Minnesota with a bit more confidence than I’d had the year before. Plus I was teamed up to teach with Ed Morrissey, who is not only amazing at what he does, but also one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet.

Right Online 2011 was full of adventures, like finding the Target Mother Ship, eating the world’s most perfect sandwich at Hell’s Kitchen, and infiltrating a Netroots Nation event. Plus there was a piano bar, rooftop lawn bowling, and tons of friends to just hang out with.

After that was Defending the American Dream in November, where I spilled my blogging secrets with Erik Telford. I also met up with my boyfriend Abe at the Lincoln Memorial, met some real-life heroes, and made a ton of new friends like Melissa Ortiz of Able Americans, an advocacy group for handicapped Americans.

Occupy had taken some sort of force by then, and I captured this awesome video about shaking your booty for freedom, shaking it for peace, shaking it against the police. So frickin’ lame. Get a job, hippies!

She likes pina coladas ... especially in the pool at the Palazzo in Vegas.

Since then, I did another regional event in San Diego, this time with famed California blogger Jon Fleischman of the Flash Report, and last weekend I was in Vegas once again for Right Online 2012. Vegas was special this time because Leif got to come with me and meet all my cohorts.

Oh, and it gave me an excuse to see Ashley. And stay an extra day and hang by the pool with her drinking pina coladas.

So yeah, AFP and I are buds by now. I love their commitment to grassroots training and activism, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. There’s another Defending the American Dream summit coming up in August in DC. I highly recommend attending – it’s an experience you won’t regret.

The Doolittle Raiders: Heroism in Action

When I was in DC last week, I got the incredible opportunity to meet some real life heroes. The Doolittle Raiders were soldiers during WWII that that went on a super secret and scary dangerous mission to bomb the Japanese mainland.

A fishing boat saw their aircraft carrier about 600 miles off the coast, and worried that the captain might have radioed in the sighting before they could take him out, Jimmy Doolittle decided that they needed to get moving now.

There were 16 B-25 twin-engine bombers containing five men each, and none of them had enough fuel to get back. The planes would have to land in occupied China, and the soldiers would have to find their way out.

Yeah, that’s an awesome feat of bravery if ever I’ve heard one.

They were all smiling and taking photo-ops with us, and when it was my turn, I shook this man’s hand and said, “I can’t believe I get to meet a real live hero. What an honor it is to meet you!”

He didn’t miss a beat before replying, “Are you kidding me? What an honor it is for me to get to meet such a beautiful girl!”

And then I melted into a puddle.

Lost In DC

My Favorite Place On the Planet

So I’m in DC for AFP’s Defending the American Dream Summit, where I’m feeling all professional and stuff. I’m even wearing pantyhose! And I can’t get Dolly Parton out of my head.

Working nine to five! What a way to make a livin’!

(Sorry for the earworm.)

Except that it’s now 2pm and I’m just now sitting down to clack something out on my keyboard. Because I got lost in DC. I love this city, but man are the road signs confusing.

It started out innocent enough – 2 blocks down to the CVS to pick up some deodorant, because of course I’m a dork that forgot to pack it. Attendees of the conference; you are welcome. Then I decided that I wanted to wear my jeans today, but I only packed t-shirts, and that just won’t suit when I’m supposed to be all fancy.

So off I went in search of a Macy’s.

The very nice cashier at the pharmacy pointed me in the right direction, and I’m sure I would’ve been totally fine, had there not been a detour due to road construction. Crap.

So I did what any rational Apple-lover would do and whipped out my iPhone and pulled up the maps. I entered the address of the Macy’s after looking it up on the internet in the palm of my hand, clicked the walking directions button, and assumed I was good to go.

I walked the mile or so to the spot that my phone was telling me was a Macy’s. I could’ve taken the metro or something, but I love to walk, and I love DC, and the weather was gorgeous, so why the heck not?

Only when I got there, I found myself staring at George Washington University. That’s not Macy’s. Oh hey, I think I can see the Lincoln Memorial! Forget Macy’s, I want to go there and gaze upon the marble immortalization of my favorite president, and read the words of his second inaugural address carved into the wall.

I love doing that.

It was a bit more of a trek than I’d thought, with tons of detours and wacky signs, and I started to feel like I was trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Finally found it. Loved it. Decided to ditch the effort to find a cute top and suit up instead. Started the trek back.

And then I got lost.

And then I thought I was found.

Except I was still lost.

Then my phone said to go one way, and I’d go that way, only to check it again a block or two later and have it say I needed to go the other way. Then I’d turn around, go the other way, and check the phone, and it happened again. Those mice in the mazes deserve more candy or crack or whatever it is that they reward them with, because that job suuuuucks.

I know. I could’ve grabbed the metro, since there’s a stop right next to my hotel. But I never accidentally came across one (or I wasn’t paying attention), and then there are all those colored lines (not racist, I swear), and I really do like walking, and since I ended up wandering around the city for FOUR hours, I get to have mac-n-cheese for dinner if I want! Yay for cheese and carbs!

Obviously, I eventually made it back. With a new appreciation for leprechauns and mice.

I’m Going to Share My Blogging Secrets This Friday in DC! (Come Say Hi!)

On the way to DC, before I was allowed to open my laptop and start blogging about blogging, I picked up the in-flight magazine for US Airways. Perusing the pages, I found an interesting excerpt from TLC’s The Cake Boss’s memoir/cookbook, due in stores this month. The Boss (Buddy Valastro) chronicles his journey from a grunt making cookies in the family bakery to the master baker that he is today.

He talked about the importance of starting at the beginning of things; learning and mastering one skill at a time to accumulate knowledge and the feel of things, until it becomes like second nature. “Repetition leads to mastery,” he tells his readers.

This basic concept can be applied to everything in life; I remember when my kids learned to walk, and they struggled with each step. Now, they run around like little hooligans, without a second thought as to how to work their short little legs.

It can be applied to blogging. Above all else, blogging is writing – word crafting – and it, like baking, takes practice and repetition to get good, and it takes passion and love for the art to keep going.

I’ve always kept a journal. I have a vivid memory of being about three years old, sitting on our family’s patio, doodling into a notebook that someone had given me to entertain myself keep the toddler out of their hair. Most pre-literate kids would draw pictures. Me? I carefully scribbled line by line, wishing I knew which letters would make up the words that were in my head. I thought if I scribbled enough, they would automatically turn into letters and words, and my story would be recorded for posterity. I don’t remember what I wanted to record, but I do remember that determination to write my story down.

I’ll confess something to you guys: I’ve only had one teacher in my entire life that ever told me I was a good writer. In fact, I struggled for B’s in my English classes all the way from kindergarten (my penmanship was horrid) through University. The one exception was my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Riis, who told me that she thought I was a wonderful writer.

Mrs. Riis, if you’re out there, thank you.

If you have that passion to write, to string words together and share them with the world, a blog is a perfect vehicle to hone your skill. It’s simple and free to set up, no one can fire you, and you only need to know the basics to start.

I’ve been blogging personally since 2005, and professionally for the last two years, and believe me; I’ve learned some tips and tricks. When I first got hired by someone to write for their site, they sent me a list of SEO guidelines. I had to Google SEO to figure out what that even was.

Yup, I was a total professional.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to set a tone and create a brand. I’ve learned the difference between keeping it real and over-sharing. I’ve learned the importance of networking with other bloggers. I’ve learned how to be good at this, and I want to help you get good too.

I’ll be teaching a blogging 101 class with my friend Erik Telford this Friday in Washington, D.C. at AFP’s Defending the American Dream Summit. If you’re attending, come listen to me blather on about blogging trade secrets. Oh, and please ask me stupid questions. I love stupid questions. Asking them is how you learn things.

If you’re not here in DC, let me know if there’s interest in me writing up some blogging basics. Oh never mind, I’ll probably do it anyway.

It’s the writer in me.

Last Night At the Bar

Mercury. Almost as bad as falling whales.

Last night I went super undercover to infiltrate a crowd of Netroots people at a bar in downtown Minneapolis. Netroots is like RightOnline, except totally not as cool, because while we have people like S.E. Cupp and Michelle Malkin, they have Al Franken.

So there you go.

Anyway, my friend Dave Spady dragged me invited me to chat with some of our lefty counterparts wearing pink womyn shirts and saving the children from whales and trees falling on them and stuff. Because if a whale falls you, you’ll probably die. Plus it would hurt.

So in we went, where we met up with this guy named Daniel from LA. That’s Lower Arkansas, not Los Angeles, in case you were wondering, which is strange to me since I wasn’t aware that Arkansas had an upper and a lower. As you’ve probably guessed, being from LA and not LA, Daniel is on our team.

The Planned Parenthood chick from DC? Not so much. Can’t get more left than that. Unless you’re an African-Chinese- American lesbian, and while DC Chick may have loved her some girl love, she was definitely a white girl. We did talk about race though, since it was a liberal event, so it was either that or dead babies fetuses.

DC Chick decided to reference The Shawshank Redemption, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies. Seriously, I could probably quote the whole thing. I. Freaking. Love. It. Anyway, DC Chick brought it up for some reason or another that I’m sure made sense her head but not in reality.

“You know that … that … black guy in that movie? He’s like black and stuff. You know, the black one? What’s his name?”

“Morgan Freeman?”

“Yeah! He’s so black! And it’s so weird because I shouldn’t call him black, but you HAVE TO categorize people. You just do.”

And there you go. Conservatives see people, and liberals see voter blocks.

Thanks DC Chick, for your prodigious insight into the liberal mind. It was quite a trip.

In Minneapolis

I’m in the Midwest again (yay!), this time in Minneapolis for AFP’s Right Online. Hey Koch Brothers – if you’re reading, can you do it in Vegas again? Because Vegas is like, totally awesome.

I have to say though; my first trip to Minnesota is not disappointing. For example, did you know that Target was born here? A couple blocks from my hotel, I noticed this huge Target store. There were three stories. THREE STORIES OF TARGET. I’m going to go later and pick up Ziplock bags and detergent, because we’re out of those.

Wait. I’m in Minnesota.

Maybe I’ll wait until I’m home.

But I will visit this three story Target. Check my Twitter page for TwitPics later!

I’ll probably be using the hashtag #epic.

Oh wait. I’m totally here to like work or something. I told the people planning this thing I’d be happy to help out in any way they needed, so they put me on a podcasting panel. With Ed Morrissey.

Here’s the thing. Ed is seriously one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met in this strange little blogging world. He’s also one of the smartest, most on the ball people ever. So I’m supposed to sound smart or something about podcasting, while standing next to Ed in a roomful of people.

I’m a bit skeered.

I’m going to run to the Target Mecca afterward.

PS- there are a LOT of lakes here. Maybe even 10,000.

Right Online is Less Than a Month Away!

Here’s some info for yah!

This summer Americans for Prosperity Foundation will host the fourth annual RightOnline conference in Minneapolis, MN on June 17-18th.

This year’s conference will feature leaders in government, new media, and grassroots mobilization such as Governor Tim Pawlenty, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Fox News Contributor and best selling author Michelle Malkin, conservative commentator and author Andrew Breitbart, Fox News Contributor S.E. Cupp, RedState.com’s Erick Erickson, HotAir.com’s Ed Morrissey, TownHall.com’s Guy Benson, the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, and many more. Click here to learn more about RightOnline.

I’ll be there at RightOnline and AFP Foundation has give me the below discount code for my readers.

Click here to register with the discount code “fightback” to receive 25% off.

For the fourth straight year RightOnline will be at the same time and place as NetRoots Nation, the largest annual gathering of liberal bloggers and activists. The national media will converge on Minneapolis to report on the latest news from both events. If we don’t keep up the pressure at RightOnline it won’t be long before the liberals get to go back to their tax and spend ways.

RightOnline will also feature workshops and panels hosted by experts in their respective fields. The areas of focus will include Online Activism 101, Advanced Online Activism, Tools and Resources, Investigative Reporting/Citizen Journalism, Public Policy Issues, and Grassroots Activism.

This will be a great opportunity to network and meet with grassroots activists, influential bloggers, and other representatives of conservative organizations.

I hope you will join us in Minneapolis for this important event. Remember to use the code “fightback” for 25% off.

RightOnline in San Diego

This weekend, Americans for Prosperity will be holding a regional RightOnline training seminar right here in my beautiful San Diego.

Join Americans for Prosperity Foundation for our regional RightOnline training seminar on January 28-29th at the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter. The training seminar will bring together an impressive lineup of America’s leading experts in new media, grassroots mobilization, and public policy for cutting edge training in online activism.

We’ll be joined by Conservative Commentator Andrew Breitbart, Talk Radio Host Roger Hedgecock, Fox News Contributor Stephen Kruiser, Conservative Blogger and Radio Host Ed Morrissey, and many other leading conservative voices.

Guess who one of those ‘leading conservative voices’ is? Some chick named Jenny Erikson. Hey, that’s me! I’ll be running a Social Media 101 session with guru James Hickey on Saturday morning from 10:00-10:45.

Tickets for the whole event (Friday evening through Saturday evening) are still available and only $40. Click here to find out more, and I hope to see you there!

PS- If you’ve never been to one of these, they are super fantastically fun.

PPS- Trust me, I know most of these people. They are not boring.

PPPs- One of them even has a mohawk. That is definitely not boring. Not even a little.