Alt Summit NYC Report

September 4, 2012

Image by Justin Hackworth. See more images from the event here.

It’s been fun to go over Alt Summit NYC in my mind the last few days. It felt exactly as I expected (and hoped!) — a gathering a creative, hard-working people, ready to learn and share. But as an organizer, it also felt like a brand new conference, with some of the last minute glitches that a first time event inevitably faces. It kept me on my toes! And my dear friend, Laurie Smithwick, graciously stepped in to assist with technical issues throughout the day. (What would I do without Laurie!?!)

One of my favorite parts of Alt Summit NYC was the chance to moderate a panel (see the photo above), of some of the most talented people I know of: Pilar Guzman, Lucinda Scala Quinn and Kevin Sharkey — all 3, key editors at Martha Stewart Living. The panel topic was about process. How ideas come to be, and how many people it takes to make them happen. I knew I was lucky to have access to a microphone and asked lots of questions. : )

For those of you who are curious, my sister Sara and I are the principle founders and owners of Alt Summit. We also have a 3rd partner, named Kate, who handles many of the logistics — if you’ve ever attended an Alt Summit conference, you were probably greeted by Kate at the registration table. As for Sara and I, we split the duties as follows: I arrange classes, panels, topics and speakers. Sara does the lion’s share of the work. She handles sponsorships (which is big job!), and every thing else that isn’t covered by Kate or me. If you see tweets from Alt Summit, that’s usually Sara as well.

When I started Design Mom, I certainly had no idea that something like Alt Summit would be in my future. But it’s a hugely satisfying undertaking, and the more we organize these conferences, the clearer it is to me how important face-to-face meetups are for this industry.

Have you ever been to a blogger meetup or conference or anything like that? Did you find it worth your while?

P.S. — A huge thanks goes to Bing. Without them, Alt Summit NYC wouldn’t have happened. Watch for more Alt Summit NYC recaps on the Alt blog.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 susan September 4, 2012 at 5:57 am

Who knew you started Alt, you clever girl? Very exciting that we can take on-line classes at such a reasonable price. Love your shoes too.


2 Sandra September 4, 2012 at 7:22 am

Alt Summit this past January was my very first bloggy-type conference. I knew NO ONE and thought I’d just take the plunge and go.

What I loved about it was that it was smallish – about 500 or so – and everyone was pretty friendly and open and supportive. If I wanted to talk to someone, there was someone to talk to. Business cards in hand, I’d zoom away from the wall (that’s me, standing to the side observing!), go up to someone and introduce myself.

And the sessions and workshops were soooo worth it. Learned a lot AND took away a lot of links to resources to learn more. Made some friends that I am still in contact with – one I met up with at ALTNYC.

For me blogging is about being creative and building community/making friends. You can do a lot online with social media but meeting face to face at a conference is like gold.


3 Design Mom September 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm

That kind of feedback is so helpful, Sandra! Thank you.


4 Melina Smith September 4, 2012 at 7:29 am

I would love to learn more about your upcoming conferences. I live in NYC and would have loved to been able to attend. I love your blog and inspiring creatives everywhere to step out!




5 Design Mom September 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Hi Mel! It’s so tricky because the conferences are really popular at the moment and they sell out in minutes. The best way to find out about upcoming events is to sign up for the newsletter over at

But if you can’t make it to an event, you might want to give the online classes a try.


6 Giulia September 4, 2012 at 7:33 am

It was such a great conference. Thanks for all your work and getting people together!


7 Beth September 4, 2012 at 8:34 am

Not about the conference, but I love your haircut! I have similar curly hair and wish it looked that good.


8 Design Mom September 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Thank you, Beth! I was actually really worried about the humidity and my hair. New York in August can be tricky for curly girls!


9 {plum} September 4, 2012 at 9:13 am

I love behind-the-scenes tidbits. Thank you so much for sharing a few details on how Alt comes together. I’m fascinated by hardworking, multi-tasking women and love to gain insight to success.

Side note, Design Mom, I would LOVE, LOVE to see a post one day on what your overall nutrition/diet looks like. You look amazing and while great genes surely play a part, I ache for any tips you can share on looking great and feeling better. From your bouncy curls and alabaster skin, to your skinny waistline ~ do tell!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m sure many of your followers like me would love to know how you manage to look so good, all the while raising such delightful little peeps!

continued success to you and yours.


10 Design Mom September 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm

You’re making me blush!

I’m always shy about that kind of post because I’m such a non-expert about skin, hair — and waistlines too. I’ll think about it and see if I’m brave enough. : )


11 joanne September 4, 2012 at 9:52 am

Can you share the behind-the-scenes tidbit of where your shoes are from?!


12 Design Mom September 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Those shoes. I adore them. They have been my summer uniform. I bought them in Rome… at The Gap! They’re covered all over in a bright floral pattern. I really need to instagram them so you can see them up close. : )


13 Susan September 4, 2012 at 11:00 am

I love your leopard? shoes in that first photo…do you mind sharing where they are from? Might be Paris or near you, I know ;)

Hoping to attend Alt Summit next year, always hear amazing things!


14 emily @ clementine September 4, 2012 at 11:01 am

Alt looks like such a fantastic program…it’s on my ‘hope to soon’ list for sure!


15 Janae @ Bring-Joy September 4, 2012 at 11:03 am

I’ve attended a few meet ups when I lived in Utah. Sad that I no longer live there, because there’s quite a bit of action going on there! I think the face-to-face connection is crucial to blogging, didn’t realize this until just this year when I realized I wanted to actually take my blog from hobby to more full-time pursuit.

I attended BlogHerFood this past June & loved the connections I made. No replacement for networking in real life! I’m super duper excited to go to Alt SLC next year, I have many friends I look forward to meeting for the first time (only know them as online buddies right now) & reconnecting w/ some old friends.

I love the online classes too. Surprisingly, I’ve actually made quite a few connections & good friends through those classes, even though we’ve never met in real life!


16 Sarah Barksdale Design September 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I have not been to an Alt Summit yet but I would LOVE to got o one. I have done some of the online classes and those are great. I would love to meet some bloggers face-to-face in my area (nashville)… any suggestions on how to go about doing that?


17 Design Mom September 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Great question, Sarah! To find local social media friends, my friend Laurie (the one I mentioned in the post) does twitter searches for anyone mentioning Charlotte (which is where she lives). When she finds someone interesting she’ll follow them and get to know them a bit. Then if she wants to meet up, she’ll @ them. That might work for you too!


18 Veronique Vaillancourt September 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Gabby, what I really want to know is WHERE DID YOU GET THOSE GREAT WEDGES? They are GORGEOUS!


19 Reichel September 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I just attended BlogHer for the first time. It was huge, overwhelming and I felt like most of the sessions were geared to the novice blogger. I plan on coming to Alt one of these days (when I can get a ticket!). I think the smaller attendance and more specialized talks/sessions of Alt Summit will be more up my alley ;) Great work on a successful venture! Can’t wait to see it in person.


20 Shannon { A Mom's Year } September 5, 2012 at 6:49 am

When I opened this post I saw the photo and thought, “That looks like Lucinda Scala Quinn.” And it IS Lucinda Scala Quinn! I have a huge food-crush on her, and use her Mad Hungry cookbook all the time. How fun to get to spend time with her!

I’ve been to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conferences and writerly get-togethers at The Loft, a local writer’s center. Writing (like blogging) can be such a solitary activity that it’s nice to meet face-to-face with people!


21 Design Mom September 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

It was such a TREAT to meet Lucinda Scala Quinn! You can imagine, the whole crowd was star struck.


22 tere September 5, 2012 at 7:05 am

Any chance someday Alt could invite or save some spots for foreigners? ;^) I almost made it last january to SLC, but couldn’t work the dates, I was in the US! In South America we don’t have these kind of conference yet, just some startups seminars. Although we are starting to grow the idea at a blog community named Blad ( ), we really look forward to meet each other, hope it turns out great!


23 Design Mom September 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Hi Tere! Blad sounds awesome. I attended The Hive (mentioned it here: here in Europe and it was great! I hope Blad will be The Hive of South America. : )


24 Erin | House of Earnest September 6, 2012 at 10:58 am

You are such an inspiration. Hearing you talk about what you and you sister go through to put this together – and the success Alt has had – really inspires me and gets me excited for the future of this industry!
I went to AltSummit in UT last year as a novice blogger and knew not a soul. I felt that I walked away with a brainful of information, a hundred new friends, and a foot in the door of the blogging business.
I cannot thank you enough.


25 Jordan - Polkadot Prints September 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Oh Gabby, who knew you and Sara were sisters….(you have sisters everywhere) but then again you do look alike!

I blinked and missed a ticket to AltSLC! But, I think you’re right, I’ve done some Alt classes and made some good online friends, but there is nothing like conversations, responses and banter in real time! One year I will be there with bells on!


26 Rhonda September 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I had the pleasure of meeting your sister Sara at Mom 2.0 in New Orleans. She is a wonderful conversationalist with such interesting stories. How fun that you get to work together!

PS your haircut is so pretty on you.


27 Sarah September 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I am thrilled to be attending the Alt Summit this Jan for the very first time! Thank you for creating such a wonderful opportunity for creatives to meet up. This are my people.


28 Sarah September 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm

oops, got too excited.

*These* are my people :)


29 Lexy | The Proper Pinwheel September 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I’m so happy you shared this! I was wondering a few days ago about the creation of Alt. I’m amazed with what you’ve done and am STILL learning every day. You come from a very talented family and I’m so grateful to you for giving me an opportunity to better myself and my blog!


30 Lisa September 8, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I find it so helpful to meet up with other bloggers occasionally. We’re poor college students and dream of going to conferences like Alt. But in the meantime, meeting up for quick cup of hot chocolate or an evening of shared appetizers is pretty sweet. So great to meet local bloggers and talk about everything.


31 cassie {hi sugarplum} March 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

So I had lunch with Laura Tremaine (Hollywood Housewife) today…and she’s telling me all about fabulous YOU! So I’ve spent the last hour all up in your blog business…and totally loving it all! And now to find out you started Alt…that is so amazing. Congrats to you for such an enormous success. I didn’t make it this year, but absolutely will not miss it next year! I’m speaking at a small conference this Summer, so hopefully that will calm any ‘blogger conference’ nerves.

Off to poke around here some more! :)
xo. C


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