March 13, 2006 6:18 PM PST
To her fans, Dooce is wild
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Each person who talked to her got about three or four minutes, and in almost every case, the quick conversation broke into easy laughter and a kind of intimacy that few people who can draw lines of fans 90 minutes long could engender.
While it's true that the event did, in some ways, feel like a best-selling author's book-tour stop, it differed in several key ways, aside from the feeling of intimacy.
For one, Armstrong stood in the middle of a crowded cafe rather than sitting behind a table. There also was no publicist governing what she said. And befitting her role in the blogosphere, the entire event came about through a single entry on her blog instead of through complex coordination with a venue.
But also befitting something that was planned online, word of the meet-up spread quickly, even reaching the attention of the owner of the cafe.
"The owner of this place found out about the (meet-up) and sent me an e-mail," Armstrong said, adding that she'd been told, "'We heard you're coming, and we're so excited you're coming, and if there's anything we can do to help, let us know.'"
Meanwhile, since Armstrong's writing is strongly from a woman's perspective and talks at length about issues related to being a mother, most of those lining up to meet Armstrong were women. But there was no shortage of men in the line. And while some of those were there with their girlfriends or wives, some had come of their own volition.
"I started reading (Dooce) and found it very amusing, and a great way to break up the monotony of the workday," said Kyle Crouse, a 26-year-old South by Southwest attendee from Richmond, Va. "I think she has a great way of turning everything into a story. She turns it into a great narrative, and it's a great way to live through somebody else's life and get out of your own for awhile. And, she almost always has a happy ending."
For many, one of Armstrong's biggest attractions as a blogger is her hip, peppy and humorous writing style. She is quick with colorful anecdotes and swift with expressive language.
For example, in a March 10 post about her daughter's constipation, she wrote, "Lately we have been sprinkling magic fairy dust into Leta's food to help combat her constipation. It's called MiraLax and looks suspiciously like artificial sweetener. MiraLax has to be taken with food which is all sorts of frustrating since we told the doctor that Leta doesn't eat food. He nodded and said, 'Sprinkle this on the food she doesn't eat.' What then? Is she supposed to stand near it? Spread it on her body so that it soaks in like moisturizer?"
Some of the men who came to meet Armstrong did so on their female partners' behalves, and they asked her to pose for a photograph, or said they had just been asked to meet her and report back to their girlfriends. One couple, however, had a unique way of sharing the experience with each other.
As one man was talking to Armstrong, he pulled out a cell phone and asked her to talk to his wife. She did, though she said later she'd been taken slightly aback.
In the end, though, Armstrong said that getting to meet her fans this way had been great, and something she would like to do again. She said she'd been warned--because she often gets strange or threatening e-mails from anonymous readers--that she might be assaulted at a public meet-up.
Her husband, Jon Armstrong, a blogger in his own right, said he and his wife aren't sure why anyone would threaten her other than possibly because her writing style is so open that some may feel they can say whatever they feel back to her.
Fortunately, there were no such incidents.
Instead, she got to connect with her fans, even if just for a few short minutes. And to her, that was worth spending the time and energy.
"I had an individual conversation with each person," she said. "I talked to this woman who worked for IBM, and my father worked for IBM for 35 years...So each conversation was really fulfilling, and this couldn't have worked out better than it did."