Saturday, November 22, 2008

Conferencing la la la

I'm at a nice, young conference, in a lovely East Coast city. It's been incredibly busy but basically a lovefest. I get to see my dear friends, talk scholarship and collaboration, get inspired by brilliant but short papers, and pass notes with friends when the papers are less than brilliant. One paper was particularly dull (or maybe Veralinda and I were just sleepy after our delicious vegetarian dim sum lunch), but when the speaker said something that sounded like "their semi-autonomous wombs" and I wrote "semi-autonomous womb"? on my notepad, Veralinda drew a round belly with little feet and I nearly fell over trying to suppress my giggles. It felt a bit like summer camp in high school- giddy and silly and fun. And utterly naughty. We were told we looked like we were up to no good. We won't do it again, I promise. Not at a serious conference, anyway.

My talk and panel actually went quite well, it seems. All of the talks on our panel seemed like great fun to listen to, though I was particularly nervous because my adviser from QSU (Quill & Stylus) was sitting in the front row wearing her serious listening face, which does not include a smile. This is not a conference I usually get nervous about- it's full of short papers, grad students, and down-to-earth people, genuinely interested in new scholarship and collaborative activities. A friend calls it "the little conference that could."

And yet when I saw my adviser, I became anxious. I think it's a little funny that she can still intimidate me like that, even though she is perhaps the most devoutly supportive senior scholar I have known (also the most rigorously critical, but I believe that's part of her being supportive). Thus I found myself making eye contact across the room with complete strangers, especially when I got to the dirty joke in my paper, rather than confront her face of intense concentration. Thankfully, she was encouraging and enthusiastic after the talk, reminding me to send her more of my manuscript, so I was able to relax and finish the evening off with delicious sushi and conversation with a dear friend and two new ones, and then several drinks and general camaraderie in the swanky hotel bar.

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