Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Joy of Conference Papers

As I sit here writing a conference paper that I'll deliver in two weeks, I am reminded how much I like writing and giving conference papers. And I think I'm starting to understand some reasons why this is the case:

  1. Writing such papers is way better than grading.
  2. Since I will read the paper aloud, I don't have to perfect my footnotes and bibliography in impeccable MLA/Chicago/MHRA style.
  3. The papers are short. 10 pages. It's like writing a poem. It's long enough to be a challenge, but short enough that that I can spend a lot of time tinkering with it and practicing it aloud so that it will sound just right. Also, it's not as unwieldy as a chapter or article. I don't feel like I'm wrangling a giant squid.
  4. I can be playful. Although I want my argument to have substance, I feel like my voice can (and should?) be more conversational and informal that it would be in an article or, certainly, in my dissertation. Therefore, the writing feels a bit more creative and experimental.
  5. I am isolated as I write my PhD thesis. My university is in the UK, and I am in California at a community college. I work in my own little bubble. As such, I really enjoy conferences (even though they intimidate me a bit) because I like to hear what other people are saying, and I like having the chance to throw my own words out into the world.
  6. As I write, I regularly envision myself at the conference, in the hotel. I love staying in hotels.

The paper I'm currently writing is especially fun because I likely won't be presenting to a room full of eighteenth-century specialists. As much as I love my fellow c18 people, I feel great inferiority regarding my own knowledge of the c18. I am not yet an expert even though I feel like I already should be, so presenting to other c18 people scares me. But this conference is not an c18 conference, so I am a bit more relaxed.

Tonight, my family is camping, and I have stayed behind to finish a solid draft of the paper and do a bit of grading. I am having a great time writing (and ignoring the grading). My enjoyment is enhanced by my the three-course dinner that I will consume over a span of several hours:

First course: strawberry-rhubarb pie paired with English Breakfast tea
Second course: boiled peanuts paired with beer
Third course: dark chocolate paired with port

Good brain food, I'd say.

What about you? Do you like writing conference papers as much as I do?


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I love writing conference papers too. I suspect that we might be heading to the same conference actually. Email me at fieuponthisquietlife at Gmail if you're interested in hooking up for coffee. :)

C. Troubadour said...

Now *that* is what I call dinner.

"10 pages. It's like writing a poem." -- cracked me up.

I have yet to present at a conference, but there is a conference I would so love to attend in March in my own town! It means no hotel stay, which is positive for saving $$$ but negative for the luxury missed. Considering the cost of registration alone, I should really stay at home, though.

Enjoy your poetry reading, er, I mean paper presentation ... ;)