vida vegan con news!

Vida Vegan Con III Date Change landscapeAs you may know, I’m one of the trio behind Vida Vegan, home of Vida Vegan Con, the vegan media and lifestyle conference. We started out as purely a blogger conference but have widened our scope a bit to include video, audio, presenting/speaking, publishing, and some general philosophy/sociology/lifestyle aspects of veganism. We figure if folks are better at writing and talking about a cruelty-free life, that’s going to help those around us see that this vegan thing ain’t so weird or tough. Good for the animals. Good for the earth. Good for our health. Boom.

So with that out of the way, two giant bits o’ news:

VVC III

After a gut-punching monkey wrench of a scheduling error, we have finally been able to announce our new date for Vida Vegan Con III, in (one of my favorite vegan-friendly cities) Austin, Texas: May 29-31, 2015. Mark those calendars, ’cause it’s on. Regular registration doesn’t open until August 1, but as part of announcement #2 (don’t skip ahead!), limited Early Bird registration and inclusive packages will be available tomorrow, Friday, June 13, at 8:00 a.m. PST. These are $60 off regular price, so cha-ching! (It’s below cost for us, but it’s fun and we’ll just work super hard to get loads of great sponsors to make it up.) For more information on this and speaker applications, visit our site.

Vida Vegan Membership Drive

One of the coolest things about Vida Vegan Con is that the attendees and speakers are really on equal footing and are able to turn to one another for advice, skill sharing, and general friendstuffs. We hang out when we travel, we consult one another when we’re buying a new camera—you get the idea. We have a private Facebook group for past VVC’ers and it’s great except if you’re not on Facebook. So the grand plan is to expand our website to include member pages and a forum. That costs cash. Like a ridiculous amount of cash.

So we’re baby-steppin’ it. Our members will be part of our inner-circle-type group, which we’ll turn to for input as we move forward with Vida Vegan developments. Members also have a chance to opt in to be connected with vegan-friendly brands for potential samples, reviews, and such—and of course they’ll receive VVHQ discounts and other opportunities.

To kick things off, from June 13 through July 31, we’re holding a Membership Drive, with crowdfunding-style perks: from shout-outs to a personalized postcard or Instagram photobomb from VVC III (if you can’t join us), all the way up to a trip to Portland and brunch with me and my VVHQ co-founders, Janessa and Jess. You know you want to brunch with us. Janessa will have a bag of nooch in her purse, Jess will ask you lots of questions, and I will make funny faces and show you how to order the best breakfast of sides.

So I’m off to do what I can to ensure a smooth launch. Wish me luck, and I hope to see you in Austin!

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my vida vegan con 2013: body image

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This is going to have to be the first of a few post, methinks, because my Vida Vegan Con weekend was a rather full one. There’s bound to be a nice little reflective one, a la my 2011 posts, but I want to dive right in to one of the panels I spoke on, because the issue sort of rippled throughout the conference: Body Image Acceptance & Veganism.

Coincidentally (or thanks to some heads-down hard work), T.O.F.U. magazine released its Body Image issue this same weekend, which includes articles by myself and co-panelist Chelsea Lincoln. And a few other classes touched on social issues including body-shaming tactics and other not-so-compassionate speech used in support of the vegan cause. This conference setting was perfect for the discussion of this relationship between body image and veganism for a few reasons: We were a huge cross-section of vegans (socially, physically, and globally), we were there in a spirit of community, eager to bond with others involved in our common cause of a cruelty-free life, and as most of us were bloggers, we would ideally put this dialogue into our work, reaching thousands of others.

Since I was so busy with the rest of the conference, I didn’t overthink this session as I normally would have. No, aside from a couple of quick emails from moderator Laura Beck and co-panelists Chelsea, Gabrielle Pope, and Nicole Sopko, I was just ready to answer some questions and be honest and, well, uncomfortable. In front of a packed room. Like, more-people-than-seats packed. Like, so-glad-I-was-exhausted-or-I-would-have-been-way-more-nervous packed. OK, so anxiety may have started to creep in after both Laura and Gabrielle mentioned my T.O.F.U. article—I felt a little less anonymous and a lot more exposed. And we were going to be using words like “fat” and “skinny,” words that mean different things to different people, in front of strangers who maybe didn’t know where we were coming from.

But this was an important discussion to be had. Remember the body image survey I set up a while ago? (It’s still open, by the way, and I have more plans for the data, so if you’d like to add to it…) The response and results have really sparked something in me. We, as vegans, are inherently activists and ambassadors, and the more internal issues we have the less effective we’re going to be. Aside from that, simply as people living together on our planet, we must spread compassion in all forms, and that includes toward ourselves.

For those of you (most of you) who were not present at the panel, I just want to give you a snapshot of each speaker:

Laura is a fat vegan. She has tried a gazillion diets and forms of exercise and keeps coming back to the same shape. She has gotten to a place where she can embrace herself, eat what she wants, do what she wants, and say what she wants—and if you don’t like it you can piss off. She owes you nothing (but is still so sweet and caring).

Gabrielle is a skinny vegan. She has recovered from her eating disorder, partially thanks to veganism, in that her food choices are less about her now and more about the animals. She urges people to open up and talk about disorders; as we feel less alone we are better able to break that focus on ourselves.

Chelsea is a fat vegan. She is very physically active and monitors her health (it’s good!), and her weight/shape is her set point. Having put up with bullying for most of her life, embracing “fat” has been the key to her happiness. She works hard to clean up animal activism, calling out people/campaigns for their shaming language.

Nicole is a skinny vegan. A yoga instructor and student, her bodywork is directly connected to her spirit/mindwork. While she is in what could be seen as a fitness industry, she is not striving for any particular body shape—such attachment goes against her teaching. She urges us to listen to our inner dialogue, as it guides us throughout life.

Then there’s me. I’m something in between. I’m just big/loose enough to not be comfortable in a swimsuit but just small enough to not be chubby. I’ve fought with my body in the past, through illness (remind me to tell you about that sometime), and now I’m sort of striving for maintenance. Or something.

So each panelist was coming from a different place, but we all agreed on one thing: Shaming has zero place in our world, especially when it comes to activism. Whether it’s fat-shaming or skinny-shaming, you’re putting someone down to raise your cause, and that’s pretty messed up.

When this type of thing—the “real women have curves” movement—popped up, people were quick to embrace it. As if holding ANY one body type over another is positive! Why is it acceptable to shame a size-zero lady? Because they have it easier? Do they? I pulled this image from MoveOn.org, and the title is “anorexic.” It was used to spread awareness of eating disorders, implying that these women in the top row have eating disorders. Either way, why would it be OK to shame them?

After the “Save the Whales. Lose the Blubber. Go Vegetarian” campaign blew up in its face, PETA has pretty much stuck to male fat-shaming billboards. Seriously, this is available on the media center page of the official website, along with a bunch of others. Because men don’t complain as much? Because men don’t have issues with body image? False. Men also worry about being too fat, too skinny, too old—you name it.

And what does this mean for veganism? Do we all have to look like the right kind of healthy to serve as ambassadors? Do we even have a responsibility to be healthy? Some of the panelists and attendees echoed the sentiment that we do feel pressure to represent vegans in the best light possible. Whether that means changing ourselves (by either masking or modifying our bodies, and appearing vibrant and healthy) or simply being another face of veganism and a source of compassion is a tough question for many. Unfortunately, our society has this ideal so firmly in place that regardless of what you do—whether you’re a politician, a doctor, a teacher, or an activist—your authority and level of respect is linked to how closely your physical being matches up to this ideal. To fight against that is very difficult.

Obviously, I’m not going to cover our hour-plus session completely here (and videorecording the conference would have cost more than my car, so that’s not an option), but I hope I gave you a flavor and a starting point for discussion. And here are a few takeaways:

  • Regardless of how you categorize your body, know that there are others who share this label. Within this group, some are beat down by it, some have embraced it, and some don’t see the point in feeling either way about it.
  • Be mindful of your language and image use. Even if you are using it for what you see as a greater good, it could be a horrifying trigger for someone else. You can’t control or take responsibility for everyone’s baggage, but a little mindfulness and compassion go a long way.
  • Vegans get sick too. We are affected by disease and misfortune, and our vegan diet may or may not have anything to do with it. This is a private matter, and your journey through it is your own.
  • Be a face of veganism. We are all valid. Whatever someone’s singular image of a vegan is, let’s widen it. We are people. We look like people. Be one of the people.

lovin’ on the chimps: the vida vegan galarama + silent auction

vvc-2013-galarama-poster-webSeriously, big promise time right here—I will finish the blog reboot after Vida Vegan Con. Ever try to plan a three-day conference for 350 people, plus off-site events and a big charity gala in the middle of it all? Oh, when it’s not a real job and you don’t get paid to do it? Yeah, so I’m asking for patience and forgiving here.

Side note, speaking of patience and forgiveness and all things lovely: Last weekend, my boy Tom was part of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Portland, so I got to attend the public talks. The videos are here—do give ’em a look or even a listen. This isn’t a religious teaching, but some interfaith/secular discussion and general compassion in regards to Earth and its sentient beings…and non-Earthly beings.

Anyway, back on point! I just wanted to spread the word about the Galarama + Silent Auction we’re holding for Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, a home for chimps who’d spent their lives being leased out for biomedical testing. Check out the CSNW website here, and watch the videos, read the blog, and donate if you can. This is a relatively new sanctuary up in Washington, and they’re doing so much for these chimps that I believe as they are able to grow and take on more residents, they will do it right.

If you’re in Portland next weekend, this party is open to the public, so please get your ticket here or at the door, and bid on some fantastic items from some very generous folks. (And buy a drink or threewe need to cover our expenses, and event insurance ain’t cheap!) We’ll have snacks and a cash bar and DJs and a photobooth and the So Delicious Sundae Bar Spectacular…and one or two food carts on site if you’re still hungry. (And yes, you can get way fancy…or don your coziest hoodie.)

See you there?

you’re going to vida vegan con!

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You guys are the best. I got so many touching, funny, sweet limericks and haiku, and it was so hard to pick just one winner. If you didn’t win this one, I hear there will be a couple other giveaways out there. Keep your eyes peeled. Or just buy a ticket before they sell out, I guess.

The winner for my 2013 Vida Vegan Con registration giveaway is:

Sylvia Oakley!

She’s got a YouTube channel called Sylvia’s Vegan Kitchen, and her limerick, I feel, sums up the journey of so many of us.

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

I once felt so disconnected,
My health and well being, affected.
So I opened my eyes,
And to my surprise,
My heart ached for what I’d neglected.

I’ve since cut out meat, eggs and dairy,
I donate to Farm Sanctuary.
I swear never again,
Will I eat my dear friends,
Looking back, that was so very scary.

I now try to lead by example,
I cook so my food can be sampled,
I speak with a passion
For teaching compassion
And all vegan goodies are ample!

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

I’d planned on making cupcakes to celebrate the winner, but alas, I have run out of day. Sylvia, I promise there will be plenty of treats waiting for you at the conference. Seriously, there’s talk of people doing cleanses beforehand so they are ready to indulge.

Thanks again, everyone who wrote a poem. I still hope to see you at the conference!

my 2013 vida vegan con…test

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So you missed out on (or just plain lost) Janessa‘s contest. Don’t cry, my sweet, because unlike that time you—oh, you know what you did—here you get a second chance.

We at Vida Vegan want everyone to come to our conference so we make sure to give away some scholarship spots (deadline loooong past) and we each hold a contest. Last time mine was an edible self-portrait. This year I’m making it a little easier…or at least requiring fewer ingredients. It’s a little old fashioned, but I’m a sucker for haiku—and if that’s a little too uptight for you, I have an equal love of limericks.

The subject matter? Something vegan or VVC related. Write a haiku about the perfect tofu scramble or adopted shelter kitty. Or a limerick about being the only vegan in your town or the social anxiety of coming out from behind your keyboard to meet other vegan bloggers.

Do you have to be a vegan blogger to attend (or win)? Nope. We have other blog-curious or blogger-to-bes at VVC. Check out the agenda and decide if you can handle three days of hanging out with us. If so, get out your cruelty-free quill and get to writin’.

What exactly do you win? Full-access registration to this year’s Vida Vegan Con, being held at the Portland Art Museum May 24-26, 2013. This covers all classes, conference meals (breakfasts, lunches, snacks) and receptions, the SWAG Bag of Wonder, and a ticket to the Saturday night Galarama & Silent Auction for Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW. You do not win travel or lodging, outside meals, or additional merch. Still pretty good, though, right?

Submission: Email your 5-7-5 or potentially bawdy rhymes to me at VegtasticVoyage [at] gmail [dot] com by Thursday, February 28. I will decide all by myself which piece most delights me and will share the winning poem Friday, March 1. No transfers, no cash equivalent, blah, blah, legal blah.

Good luck to you and you and you.