Today is a conference prep day. I've had a bunch of these in 2015, after a long drought. Some of the conference appearances have come about by way of my own initial effort, while others are group affairs: another writer with energy, an original idea, and me in her contact list, graciously invites me to join a panel proposal. (And yes, some proposals were rejected, but enough were accepted.)
Each time, during the brainstorming/application/panel proposal submission process—typically many months, sometimes a full year before the conference—it all seems like such a great idea. An interesting topic! Fabulous co-panelists! Inviting location! Promising meet-ups with far-flung colleagues! A break in the routine, sometimes a night or two away from home, restaurant meals! Occasionally, a fee! And yes, to be completely honest, a new CV line.
What I'm prepping for now is a reading and panel this Friday titled, "Death: Italian American Style," at the Italian American Studies Association national conference in Washington, D.C. I'll be reading excerpts from my memoir manuscript, which swirls around my father's death and includes some of the rituals associated with my Italian American family.
This time around, the credit for the unusual, terrific panel idea goes to writer Rita Ciresi, who is one of my fellow faculty members in the Bay Path University online MFA program. Joining Rita and I are writers JosephBathanti and Marisa Labozzetta.
I was so energized when the proposal was accepted.
Then, here's what very often happens to me a few weeks before the event. Potential problems arise: sticky logistics (family and work), scheduling conflicts, travel inconveniences, budget considerations. I begin to question the whole enterprise—time, mental energy, cost, work that will pile up. I worry that whatever I need to do—make a presentation, give a talk, read my work, or participate in or lead a discussion—I will be just awful at it.
Whose great idea was it anyway?
Then, slowly, things begin to fall into place. Challenging logistics get solved, schedules tamed, costs brought into line with available budgets. Travel arrangements solidify, work gets done ahead or (artfully?) postponed. Next, I start the preparations, and that's often the best part of the experience, because I begin to realize: Hey, this IS a good idea after all.
I decide there's no going back, so why not have some fun with it?
Prep time. Today, I'm choosing the excerpt reading selections, practicing to be sure I'll stay within my allotted 15 minutes (of reading time, not fame!), and making a few notes that could help me answer anticipated questions. And doing one of the things I love best about any conference: going over the program slowly to find the other events I want to be sure to attend.
I must admit, the IASA conference would not normally be on my radar, but now that I'm headed that way, I'm so glad that Rita reached out to me for this. In addition to our panel, I'm eager to see the one titled, "Creative Writers on Italian-American Fathers" (Fred Misurella, Vittoria Repetto, Joey Nicoletti, Edvige Giunta, Joseph Ricapito) as well as "Italian-American Daughters and Dads: Love and Loss" (Karen DeLuca, Laura Mangione, B Amore).
Given that I've written about my father for more than eight years now, that I've been fortunate to see many of those nonfiction narratives and essays published, and that I'm just wrapping up a revision of the memoir manuscript (moving it from an essay collection to a more linear narrative)—these sessions seem custom planned just for me.
I'm now in the pre-honeymoon phase of conference-going: excited, curious, and ready (almost). I just need to pay a few bills, answer a dozen student emails...
(p.s. It may be a long shot, but if any blog readers will be there, please be sure to say hello!)
Top image: Flickr/Creative Commons - Julie Garcia