My Ethos of Conferences and Other Related Topics

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Well, here's the thing, here's why I keep disappearing for weeks at a time:

I've been busy.

Busy with some stuff that was clearly, from start to finish, thoroughly dreadful; busy with some stuff I thought would be good but wasn't; busy with some stuff I thought would be tedious and obligatory but was actually Tony-the-Tiger, riproaringly loud, extendedly GRRRREAT!

In the last category was the 2007 conference of the Associated Writing Programs, which I returned from yesterday. I have this thing about conferences: when I go to a conference, I go to a conference. I stay at an official conference hotel; I don't arrive late or leave early; I'm there for the whole time, and even if I ditch out on sessions to hang out with people and talk, I'm still talking to people I meet up with at the conference, often about conference-related topics. I mean, it's great that I have an opportunity to go someplace I might not otherwise visit, and see people I might not otherwise see; but I am, after all, a seasoned world traveler, and if I want to visit friends or do the tourist thing, I'll do it without the distraction or time-constraints of some conference.

So I got to Atlanta on Wednesday night (which was good, because it meant I avoided weather-related travel hassles, as Thursday's hurricane in Alabama was really nasty rain in Georgia), the first night of the conference, and even though not much was going on, I was still overwhelmed by how big it was-almost as bad as MLA--worse, maybe, because it was overrun with poets. (More on that later.) In my previous conference-going, I have tended to favor small, focused conferences, and this just seemed gross. I found myself in my hotel room, asking myself, "Why the fuck did I come here? Since I already spent my scholarly allowance on other stuff, this is going to eat the bulk of my tax return and I'm not even presenting!" I called a couple of friends and complained to them about my foolishness, yada yada yada, promised I would gird up my dutiful loins and try to have a good time, then went to bed.

And I really didn't have to try very hard at all.

Before I go any further, let me mention one of the benefits of not changing your look substantially for, oh, 18-19 years: people who haven't seen you for a decade or more still recognize you when you walk right by them. Half a dozen times someone said, "Holly!" And I turned and there was an old dear friend. Sometimes it was someone I didn't know would be at the conference but still would have recognized without their calling my name, had I not been intent on getting to the bathroom before a line formed out the door; other times it was someone I did know was at the conference, but who looked so altered--different hair, glasses when they only wore contacts before, significantly more or less weight--that I recognized them as much by their voice as their look. And perhaps there were other old friends whom I missed because when I was heading intently for the bathroom they passed me heading intently for the coffee counter; but I am nonetheless glad to have met up with as many people as I did.

So the people were the best part--isn't it always that way, really? But I also attended some interesting panels, and perhaps, if I can find time in this hectic week before spring break starts (that's right! I have next week off!), I'll write about some of them.

But what I should really write about, is the way I was inspired. I came home with so many ideas for my own work, so many new projects started, so many new perspectives on old, languishing projects. THAT is what is going to save my life.

3 Comments

Holly! Yay! We shall find our barbaric yawps! AAHHHHHH!!!!

Welcome back! I'm still recovering from the jet-lag earned by flying over the ocean to attend my major conference of the year. Like yours, it was inspiring. Each year, I find myself dashing madly about trying to finish up papers and presentations, getting things packed, worrying about how to pay for the conference and swearing that next year, I am not going to do this to myself again. And most years -- and this year in particular -- I came home energized and inspired by the terrific work I got to see other people doing and by the professional and personal relationships I got to spend a little time renewing.

There was something in the air this year that made this conference especially good. Maybe it's Chicago, which is cold and miserable this time of year and so the conferees tend to stay inside and see the conference rather than using the time for a little vacation in an pretty city. The last time this conference was in Chicago, the near consensus was that it had been the best one for many years.

Now it's back to the grind here, dealing with the petty annoyances and the real problems of the job. The trick is going to be to see how to keep that wonderful energy burning and focused, without having to wait another year to recharge these batteries. You're right -- this is what saves our lives.

Good to see you back Holly. :) Glad that your absence was only, as I had suspected, due to your busy schedule.

Take Care.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on March 5, 2007 9:07 AM.

Accumulations Less Than One Inch was the previous entry in this blog.

Where I've Been Lately is the next entry in this blog.

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