Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I'm going off to San Francisco (and vicinity) later this week. The American Literature Association annual conference alternates between San Francisco and Boston and this year it happens to be in SF (and those friends of mine in the Boston area, you can be damn sure I'll be there next May).

I went to this conference in 2006—just for one day, just to see what it was all about and how different things were between a wee graduate conference (of the type I had been to) and a conference consisting of major scholars in my field. What I found in 2006 was that people were nice, speakers were smart (and sometimes funny), and people at all levels (grad students, junior faculty, senior faculty) were sometimes nervous and self-conscious. In other words, I didn't learn anything new about the profession or about people, but I had a lot of suspicions confirmed—namely, that people are human and the only thing keeping me from giving my own presentation was an interesting thought or two of my own. Nothing I couldn't overcome.

Now, two years later, I have original and interesting thoughts of my own. However, I couldn't get my shit together in early January and submit an abstract of anything for consideration, so I'm not presenting anything of my own. But I am presenting.

Make that "reading"...I'm pinch-hitting for someone who can't make it to her panel. I will read her paper at the first panel on the first day of the conference. It's a favor, and if academics are anything like business (or life itself, I suppose), favors are always good things to do.

I am not really nervous about it, despite the fact that the paper is full of hifalutin' language that I read more than I hear (let alone speak), and despite the fact that the subject is not something in which I am well-versed (or even minimally versed), and despite the fact that the person I am standing in for is a major player in that particular area. Of course, now I'm nervous about not being nervous.

To do this favor, I'm flying in a day earlier than planned, which means that I'll pick up my buddy Michelle from the airport the next day. Like true literature geeks, we have panels all mapped out for two others days of the conference. Some of our grad school buddies and profs are presenting and we will be supporting them by going to their panels and cheering wildly (ok, not the last part). I'm particularly interested to see what the DMC does with Edith Wharton and Aquaman...yes, from Entourage. If there's one thing I've learned in my short time here at WSU it is to trust the DMC. But still...should be interesting.

Oh and on one of the days on our trip, we're doing a particularly insane Yosemite experience. Believe me, I will report back.