Nora McInerny Purmort

Humorist, essayist, and the founder of the Hot Young Widows Club and non-profit organization Still Kickin

Nora McInerny Purmort is what at least one stranger would call “a tall glass of milk.” She was voted Most Humorous by the Annunciation Catholic School Class of 1998. It was mostly downhill after that, but she did get to spend three glorious years married to Aaron Joseph Purmort (aka Spider-Man), and she also pushed a live human being out of her body once.

Like most women in their 20s, Purmort bounced from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job. Then one day she met Aaron, a charismatic Art Director. They were kindred spirits, making mix tapes (and pancakes) into the wee hours of the morning, finishing each other’s sentences. They just knew. When Aaron was diagnosed with a serious form of brain cancer, they didn’t let that hinder their courtship. They got engaged in Aaron’s hospital bed and married right after his first brain surgery. They had a baby when he was on chemo and they shared an amazing summer filled with happiness and laughter. A few months later, Aaron died in her arms in another hospital bed. Aaron’s wildly creative obituary, which they wrote together, touched the world.

In her debut book, It’s Okay to Laugh (Dey Street Books), Purmort shares hysterical, moving, and painfully honest stories about her journey with Aaron. Purmort explores universal themes of love, marriage, work, (single) motherhood, and depression through her refreshingly frank viewpoint. A love letter to life, in all of its messy glory, and what it’s like to still be kickin’, It’s Okay to Laugh is like a long chat with a close friend over a cup of coffee (or chardonnay).

Purmort is a humorist, essayist, and the founder of the Hot Young Widows Club and non-profit organization Still Kickin. She lives in Minneapolis with her son Ralph, but swears every winter that she’s going to move somewhere warm. She is very tall and wishes more people cared about her college GPA (3.9).

Sara Critchfield

Founding Editorial Director of Upworthy

Sara Critchfield is the founding Editorial Director of Upworthy—“the fastest-growing media company of all time” (Fast Company). She believes that stories focusing on social issues can be just as viral as any cat video—as long as you market them correctly, using data and emotion to direct decisions. Funny and practical, she speaks on digital marketing and the power of human algorithms.

Critchfield is the Founding Editorial Director of Upworthy, the massively popular (and much-copied) website that curates highly sharable, social-issue driven content that flows organically into our online lives. During her tenure, she helped set the template to draw attention to important social issues (like racial profiling, body image, and child poverty) by making the stories highly shareable. Her contrarian theories have shifted the way companies think about reaching users, and have proven that people are just as hungry to consume content about meaningful issues as they are about celebrity gossip—as long as you market the content correctly. Critchfield’s approach to making good content go viral helped make Upworthy the internet juggernaut it is today.

Sara Critchfield has also worked at MoveOn.org and co-founded an intellectual property firm. She has been a long-time advocate, organizer, and communicator for anti-poverty efforts in Washington DC and Central America. As a keynote speaker, she has spoken at the White House National Conference on Mental Health, Personal Democracy Forum, SXSW, News Foo, and Netroots Nation, and her work has been studied by and featured on PBS, Business Insider, the Nieman Journalism Lab, and Fast Company.