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Read Along with Faye: Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Monstress, Vol. 1

Read Along with Faye is back for the 2017 Sirens Reading Challenge! Each month, Sirens communications staff member Faye Bi will review and discuss a book on her journey to read the requisite 25 books to complete the challenge. Titles will consist of this year’s Sirens theme of women who work magic. Light spoilers ahead. We invite you to join us and read along!

Whoa, whoa, whoa. People, I have thoughts about Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening, issues 1-6. First, that I didn’t read the flap copy nor did I know much about it except that it was highly recommended, which challenged me to formulate the details of the intricate world as I was reading (thanks Professor Tam Tam!), and second that the art was beautiful. Takeda’s artwork is an inventive combination of Art Deco architecture, steampunky science, manga-style characters icon magic inspired by Arabic or Egyptian myths, set in an alternate world Asia. It’s a stunning feast for the eyes and the cover alone is a showstopper.

Raika Halfwolf is a teenage Arcanic and former slave girl, with a missing arm and a past she can’t remember. Arcanics are a mixed breed race resulting from humans and the immortal, animal-shaped Ancients. Some of them, like Raika, look human barring a slight detail like animal ears, others have paws or a fox’s tail (Kippa! My innocent lamb!). Monstress, Vol. 1 is set in the city of Zamora on the edge of truce lands, with a bloody history of violence between the magical Arcanics and the scientific “witches” of the Cumaea (humans) who experiment on them. Raika’s story starts with revenge, and a quest for answers, all with the teenage angsty anger I love and a monster living inside her.

Personally, my mind jumped immediately to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I read in my early twenties and became formative in my deciding what kind of fantasy I like. Monstress, while set in a wholly different world and in a different format, touches on similar themes and conflicts: a girl main character with a mysterious past and game-changing magical powers; an ongoing, extremely violent war between races, one of which has animal parts; an interesting religious overtone/alternate creation story; sumptuous world details in every way possible; hamsas all around; what makes a monster. If you like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you’ll really like this.

But on the other hand Monstress is its own ball game. It’s epic in scope, and there are 10 more volumes and counting. It’s predominantly matriarchal and there are very few male characters, at least in the first volume. In interviews, Liu has mentioned basing some of the stories of war, slavery, torture and trauma on her Chinese grandparents’ experiences in World War II, and the very fact of its alternate Asian setting makes it a clear commentary on racial politics, feminism and identity. Even if the Arcanics “pass” as human, they’re still seen as beasts, subject to constant abuse and scientific experiments.

Ultimately, even with the gorgeous setting and peeled-onion worldbuilding, the series is centered around Maika—her rage, her power, and her agency. She’s flawed, defensive, and can’t always control the monster within her, physical and metaphorical. And that makes her perfect. (But bonus points for Master Ren, who can now make my list of top 10 fantasy cats!)

 


Faye Bi works as a book publicist in New York City, and is a member of the Sirens communications team. She’s yet to read an immigrant story she hasn’t cried over, and is happiest planning nerdy parties, capping off a long run with brunch, and cycling along the East River.

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Sirens Newsletter – Volume 9, Issue 5 (April 2017)

In this issue:

 

PROGRAMMING PROPOSALS DUE MAY 8

Only 12 days left to submit programming proposals for this year’s conference! As you all know by now, programming for Sirens is crafted, proposed, and if accepted by our independent vetting board, presented by attendees. We just finalized our vetting board for this year, and they’re eagerly anticipating your proposals!

Remember, we’re looking for papers/lectures, workshops, roundtables, panels, and even afternoon classes teaching common fantasy-literature skills like archery or knitting. Further, there’s no requirement to become a presenter: anyone and everyone is welcome to propose programming. Not sure where to start? Want to strengthen your abstract? Need advice? We invite you to look over our Annual Programming Series:

If you need inspiration, check out our #SirensBrainstorm hashtag on Twitter, with fresh ideas free for the taking! Everything else you need to know is on our Programming and Proposals pages on the Sirens website, but if you have questions, please contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org). Again, the deadline for proposals is May 8, 2017.

 

SCHOLARSHIPS REMINDER

Thanks to the generosity of the Sirens community, we fully funded ALL NINE scholarships for 2017. Pat yourself on the back (or on your fairy wings)! If you’d like to attend the conference this year and need a scholarship, we highly encourage you to apply.

Con or Bust will award three Sirens scholarships to people of color in accordance with their policies.

Those who submit exemplary programming proposals can also apply for one of three scholarships as part of their proposal submission by May 8. These will be determined by our scholarship committee.

The final three scholarships are designated as financial hardships scholarships, open to anyone. A short application is required, and due by May 8. Recipients will be chosen randomly.

 

NEW YORK CITY MEET-UP THIS WEEKEND

If you’re in New York City area this Sunday, April 30, please join us for a casual Sirens meet-up! We’ll be at Radiance Tea House & Books from 2–4 p.m. Bring your friends, your book recommendations, and your questions! See here for more information.

 

DENVER MEET-UP MAY 25

If you’re planning to be in the Denver area on Thursday, May 25, hold that date! Sirens is planning a Denver meet-up for drinks and dinner that evening, with more details to come!

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

Three Dark Crowns

For April, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink read the Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns and really liked it, but “couldn’t find her way into this book.” Check out what she calls “the world’s most conflicted book review ever” over on the blog and on Goodreads.
 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

Monstress Vol. 1

For the Reading Challenge this month, Faye read Marjorie Liu’s and Sana Takeda’s Monstress Vol. 1, which she’s excited to share ALL HER THOUGHTS in her review, coming later this week, on the blog and Goodreads.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…


Interesting Links

 


Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

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Book Club: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns

Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her books from the annual Sirens reading list. You can find all of her Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!

It has taken me seven days to realize that the reason that I can’t find my way into this book review is because I couldn’t find my way into this book. Which is not to say that I didn’t like this book. Like, really like it. Because I did.

And thus began the world’s most conflicted book review ever.

I don’t, usually, love books unreservedly. I’m generally a quite critical reader, and I rarely find books where I don’t struggle with something: plot, world-building, characters, magical systems, pacing, logic, cliff-hangers, something.

But I do, quite commonly, love pieces of books: a character, a fictional political system, surprise plot twists, a beautifully crafted narrative voice. And I, also quite commonly, extrapolate love for the entire book from love for pieces of the book. Does that make any sense? I really love The House of Shattered Wings, despite that I loathe books about angels, because of how de Bodard handles colonialism in an alt-reality fantasy book. I love The Rabbit Back Literature Society, despite its so-very-vague ending, because of my great love of basically everything else in that book. I love Throne of Glass, despite its overwhelming YA sparkliness, because Assassin Barbie is all that. And I love Silver on the Road, despite its molasses pacing, because being the Devil’s Left Hand is that interesting to me.

Which is to say, through a rather circuitous route, that as long as I can find something about a book that I love – a way in, if you will – I often love the book itself.

But I don’t think that I’ve ever before loved a book when I didn’t love any of its pieces. Enter Three Dark Crowns.

Three Dark Crowns is the incomparable Kendare Blake’s first foray into high fantasy. Many of you will remember Kendare from Sirens in 2014, when she was a Guest of Honor and I made everyone read Anna Dressed in Blood because I heart it so.

Three Dark Crowns takes place on Fennbirn, an island protected from the mainland by mysterious mist, an island whose people have magic, an island that crowns magical queens once every sixteen years. But Fennbirn’s traditions are so much more than that: Every generation, the then-current queen bears triplets, all girls, all magical: one a poisoner, one a naturalist, one an elemental. Upon birth, the queen cedes her right to the island, and leaves, with her king-consort (never king, always king-consort), to live happily ever after (or whatever) on the mainland. Meanwhile, her daughters are raised separately, within the seats of their respective power on Fennbirn – and when they turn sixteen, will spend the year trying to kill each other to take the crown.

Yes, you read that right: sixteen-year-old sisters are raised to kill each other. No, Three Dark Crowns doesn’t really explain why that is the case.

We open, of course, on the sisters’ sixteenth birthday, four months before Beltane, when the killing can start. And you spend the first 180 pages on, basically, world-building and character development. You meet Katharine, a poisoner, whose gift is weak, but who is expected to take the crown for the poisoner line that has held it for a century. Her training, especially given her weakness, is thinly veiled abuse and readers might have a hard time with her chapters. Then you meet Arsinoe, a naturalist, whose animal familiar refuses to appear – but whose best friend (with her cougar familiar) is the most powerful naturalist in over half a century. Finally, you meet Mirabella, an astonishingly powerful elemental, who is controlled by the Temple, Fennbirn’s priestesses who want, in equal parts, to stop the poisoner control of the island and put in place a queen who will do their bidding. The presumption, as Three Dark Opens is that Mirabella will easily dispatch her sisters to claim the crown.

Beginning about page 180, though, the plot thickens. (Or starts. Whatever.) It’s not too much of a spoiler to tell you that a fleeing Mirabella saves Arsinoe’s friend’s boyfriend from drowning – and with that, the first unplanned contact between the players in this toxic game, things become a lot more interesting. Murder isn’t allowed yet, but positioning, gamesmanship, and misunderstood communications certainly are.

So here’s the thing about Three Dark Crowns: The world-building, magical systems, and politics were opaque, the characters were mostly boring and dithering, the pacing was ridiculously slow, the book has three main point-of-view characters so it took a long time to learn to care about any of them, the book probably needed a good edit for metaphors, and the bloody thing ends on a cliffhanger.

BUT. Somehow, improbably, I loved it anyway. I think because Kendare, in many ways more than a lot of authors that I read, takes risks that I respect. She built a world in which powerful women kill each other for a throne – regularly, as part of a tradition, a beloved tradition. She built women who are unlikeable, who make stupid decisions, who fail and pick themselves back up and try again. She made poison, of all things, a magical trait. She wrote a suffocating book that, simply because it’s about deadly women with ambition seeking power, has something remarkable to say.

And not to spoil things too much, but by the end of this book, when these women finally do find both their power and their resolve, Kendare hooked me for round two: One Dark Throne.

Amy
 


 
Amy Tenbrink spends her days handling content distribution and intellectual property transactions for an entertainment company. Her nights and weekends over the last twenty years have involved managing a wide variety of events, including theatrical productions, marching band shows, sporting events, and interdisciplinary conferences. Most recently, she has organized three Harry Potter conferences (The Witching Hour, in Salem, Massachusetts; Phoenix Rising, in the French Quarter of New Orleans; and Terminus, in downtown Chicago) and seven years of Sirens. Her experience includes all aspects of event planning, from logistics and marketing to legal consulting and budget management, and she holds degrees with honors from both the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and the Georgetown University Law Center. She likes nothing so much as monster girls, Weasleys, and a well-planned revolution.

 

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Our Annual Programming Series, Part Six: Workshops and Afternoon Classes

Part one of our programming series covered general proposal preparation, part two described presentation styles, part three explained papers, talks, and presentations, and part four described panels, and part five delved into roundtable discussions. Not sure what to present? Consider these perspectives.

In this last part of our annual series on programming proposals, we’ll cover workshops and afternoon classes. While the focus and structure of these types of presentations are a little different, the proposal process is very much the same.


Workshops
Workshop sessions are led by an instructor and focus on the application and practice of craft. Generally, an attendee will expect to gain or expand upon a particular skill at a workshop, and the opportunity for participation marks this style of presentation.

Workshops often focus on some aspect of fantasy-related craft, like writing or art, but might also take a practical turn. Some examples:

  • how to plan a book club/reading group
  • how to write a satisfying ending
  • resources for library collection planning and development
  • how to self-edit your fantasy book
  • how to draw La Llorona
  • resources for blogging about and reviewing books

Seating specifics depend on the allotted rooms and overall program schedule, but typically, workshops have limited seating so that the instructor (or instructors) can answer questions and provide assistance to all of a workshop’s attendees.


Afternoon Classes
Afternoon classes are less formal demonstrations or classes in areas related to fantasy literature. They are not meant to replace workshops; instead, they are an opportunity for presentations that are of interest to fantasy fans but that are less closely related to the conference’s focus or theme, or topics that are fantasy-based but not necessarily related to a particular work. Afternoon classes may be similar to workshops or be more demonstration- or participation-based than how-to, and may be led by one instructor or by a group. Some examples:

  • historical dress and music
  • martial arts
  • weaponry
  • battle strategy
  • costume construction
  • folk dancing
  • displayed collections of related works, like comics about women in fantasy

Afternoon classes are scheduled in blocks that range from one hour to 90 minutes, depending on available space and time during the conference, but instructors should plan for a shorter time block rather than a longer one.

Please note: If you’re unsure about which particular proposal type to choose, we’re happy to help. You can leave a comment here, attend an open chat, or write to (programming at sirensconference.org) for a consultation.

Timing
If you choose to propose a workshop or class and it is accepted, you’ll be scheduled in a 50-minute time block (unless you’ve explained and justified a request for additional time and we’re able to provide it—we won’t be able to confirm the length until the schedule is complete, usually in August).

If you have a workshop or class idea that could be presented in less than one hour, please consider teaming up with another presenter to team-teach or present on two items in a 50-minute block.

Afternoon classes are usually scheduled in the late afternoon, as more formal presentations wind down, and so we can rearrange chairs without worrying about what’s next on the schedule, or make some noise if needed. We’ll try to find the best fit on the schedule, however, even if that means a different time during the day.

 

Getting Started

First, you’ll need to choose a focus for your workshop or class. What do you know that you can teach to someone else in about an hour? How can you make your workshop interactive and relevant? Are you aiming your workshop at beginners, intermediates, or advanced participants?

Once you’ve focused your idea, you’ll need some information ready to make your proposal.

 

Personal Information to Gather

  1. Your contact information (which is not shared with the vetting board). All correspondence about your proposal will be sent via email, so make sure to use an address that you’ll have through the end of 2017 and that you check regularly. Please add (programming at sirensconference.org) to your safe sender list so that correspondence is delivered to your inbox.
     
  2. Name to be published for presenter on website, schedule, and program. While we ask for some personal information to allow our registrar to confirm your status as a registered attendee, we know you might want to use a different name for your presentation, whether that’s a pseudonym, an online handle, or a formal name that you use professionally. (Please note that we drop titles on our schedule and with presentation summaries, but you’re welcome to note titles and professional credentials in your biography.) The “name to be published” will be the name we show to the vetting board, programming volunteers, and other attendees.
     
  3. Your biography. Tell us, in under 100 words, a little about you. A couple of sentences work fine! You can explain any experience, studies, or long-term interest in your topic; tell us where you’re going to school; or what you do as a job or as a hobby. If you’d like to highlight any professional affiliation that you may have, such as a university or employer, please do so here. Shorter is better, because space is limited.

 

Proposal Information to Gather

There are three items that you’ll need for a complete workshop or afternoon class proposal.

  1. Title. Remember that this title will be shown to the vetting board, so neither “Untitled” nor “TBA” is a good title idea! On the other hand, you don’t have to come up with something witty—just explain what the workshop or afternoon class is about.
     
  2. A summary of no more than 100 words. This is the very short version of your presentation that will be published in the program book and on the Sirens website. This is where you have the chance to attract an audience who will be interested in attending your workshop or afternoon class. It should be concise, written for a general audience (in other words, avoid slang and jargon, if you can), and give people a sense of your perspective(s) on the topic. Here are a few examples from past years that we think are excellent:

    What brings people together better than the written word? If you’re looking for a way to increase the appreciation and readership of speculative fiction in your city or school, you might consider creating your own literary journal or zine! We’ll learn about the simple steps to create your own journal and then develop a unique concept to take home! [workshop]

    Would you love to include horses in your manuscripts, but find that you don’t actually know much—or anything—about them? Many authors write horses into their books without consulting a professional horsewoman (okay, or horseman) first. The result might be an amusing mistake, or a total turnoff to the reader. Don’t worry; with a basic understanding of horses and the equipment related to them, anyone can write horses into their stories as a mode of transportation or as fully realized secondary characters. [workshop]

    The radical potential of speculative fiction resides in its potential to ask radical questions. With fiction, we can ask “What if?” How would that different world look and feel? How can we change the world we live in as a result of having written those fictions? This mini-workshop will provide tips and tools for writers who want to build new dynamic worlds and break old writing patterns. [workshop]

    Bring your curiosity to this presentation on dark ages armor. Dave will show you materials commonly used to make dark ages armor such as leather, hides, and wrought iron, as well as a few dark ages weapons. He will demonstrate the effectiveness of these weapons in penetrating these armor materials. Attendees may be able to try on various bits of armor. By the end of this class, you’ll have an appreciation for armor used in the dark ages and how effective it would be at enhancing the survivability and combat potential of those who wore it. [afternoon class]

    You are invited to an introductory class about Scottish Country Dancing, an eighteenth century style of ballroom dancing that is still popular today. This is a fun and social style of group dancing (and it’s really hard to step on your partner’s toes!). The class will include two ceilidh (informal) dances and one basic ballroom dance. Enthusiastic participation is necessary, but previous experience is not. [afternoon class]

    This afternoon class is designed to teach attendees the very basics of faerie wing construction using at least two distinct types of materials: fabric and cellophane. Other materials and types of wings will be discussed to show attendees the variety of options they have when creating costume pieces. Each person will be given a pre-built wire frame as a base to build their individualized wings. Participants are asked to donate a small amount to material costs. [afternoon class]

    As a storyteller, a public person in the world, your voice is an important and powerful instrument. Your whole body, your whole being is your voice! This workshop will give you a toolbox of warm-ups and exercises that will set you on the path to your own sound. Would you like to explore vocal techniques that help keep an audience riveted as you read to them? Would you like to learn how to project your voice powerfully without fatigue or soreness? Would you like to feel freer using your voice? Come prepared to work your breath, move your body, and make noise with Pan Morigan, music director of Chrysalis Theater and award-winning vocalist/songwriter. You absolutely do not have to be a singer or experienced “voice person” to attend! Even experienced singers have to deal with vocal basics every day, and you can do it too. Come play! [afternoon class]

    When fighting the establishment, it helps to have a few picks up your sleeves. Or in your hair, under your collar, clipped to your belt…you get the idea. Come join us in some subversive fun! Tumblers, bumpers, Bogota picks, and shims. Work your way free from cuffs, and hone your hands with the tips and tools of professionals. [afternoon class]

  3. An abstract of no more than 500 words. An abstract is a complete—but short—version of your presentation.

For a workshop or afternoon class, you can choose to summarize your workshop in a paragraph or two, or you might put together a lesson plan for your workshop instead. Be sure to explain any terms that might be unfamiliar.

You are welcome to submit a lesson plan; an outline of your plans can be more helpful than a summary of your philosophy. Please note, however, that a lesson plan is more than just an outline. A lesson plan includes, very specifically, the purpose for the lesson, what a student will learn, how the teacher will go about the lesson, and what the outcome will be.

The basic outline made popular by Madeline Hunter can be used as a template for creating a more detailed lesson plan.

If you’d prefer to write a formal abstract, these resources might help:

 

More tips:

Most abstracts range from 100 to 300 words, though they can be up to 500 words, and are 1–3 paragraphs long. Aim for about 300–350 words, and at least a good, solid paragraph, unless you need more space to explain a theory or cite sources. If you’re taking the lesson plan route—highly recommended—you’ll need to walk through the content and timing of your workshop or afternoon class.

Your abstract should not be the same as your proposal summary. An abstract is the part of your proposal where you get a little more room to convince the vetting board that your presentation should be chosen. It is the short version of your eventual workshop or afternoon class, and helps the vetting board see the value of what you’ll teach, and why it’s important.

“See my other proposal for X [biography, summary, alternate abstract]” may result in a declined presentation. The vetting board members may not have access to your other proposal for a variety of reasons: it could be on hold while collaborators check in, and the board members may not yet be reviewing your other proposal or they may simply decide they are unwilling to search through the proposals to do this comparison for you. Take a moment to copy and paste in your information again.

Make sure that your proposal is complete. The vetting board wants to know that you have a clear plan. No “maybe we’ll do this, or maybe someone in the audience will suggest something, or if you want, I could do this or that.” There’s a difference between allowing room for audience participation and not having a plan!

Have a volunteer who is willing to provide you with honest feedback look over your proposal, both to proofread it and to offer suggestions for organization, focus, and purpose. Remember, the vetting board will decide whether to accept or decline your presentation based on your summary and abstract.

 

Audio-Visual Requests

Workshops typically seat 25–40 attendees, so the provision of microphones depends on the overall schedule, the size of the room we have available for your workshop, the content of the workshop, and so on. You can make a request for computer and LCD projector, but please remember that we prioritize use of equipment for visually-oriented presentations, and consider what you might do if extra audio-visual support isn’t available. (We’re typically able to offer projection to workshops, but we can’t confirm availability until the schedule is complete. Please do explain how you’ll use a projector at the end of your proposal!) An easel and a small dry erase board will be provided.

We do try to fulfill as many audio-visual requests as possible, particularly for presentations like workshops, but it never hurts to have a plan B in mind. Afternoon classes are supported with audio-visual equipment in much the same way.

Typically, we schedule afternoon classes in larger spaces than workshops, particularly if they’re demonstration-based or if materials aren’t needed for each person.

 

FAQ about Proposals for Workshops and Afternoon Classes

What are the requirements for presenting? Do I have to be a teacher or scholar?
Our only requirement is that you be eligible to attend Sirens, which means that you must be at least 18 years old by October 26, 2017. We have no academic or professional requirements, and in the past we’ve received excellent presentations from high school students, grandmothers, professors, musicians, fans, and teachers, among others. Remember—your voice is important.

When is the proposal deadline?
May 8, 2017.

Do you accept all workshops/afternoon classes?
No; we forward all proposals to the vetting board, which selects the presentations that will be accepted for Sirens.

If my proposal is declined, can you tell me why?
Unfortunately, we can’t. We simply have too many proposals, and we don’t ask the vetting board members to write up formal feedback. We can say, however, that proposals are never declined because they include unpopular opinions or controversial takes, or on the basis of personal relationships; the board is designed so that no single person accepts or declines a submission. In the past, we’ve found ourselves in the lucky position of having more excellent ideas than we could include, and that will likely be true in the future as well.

Should I contact the vetting board about my workshop or afternoon class?
Please do not contact the vetting board members about your proposal. It puts them in a very awkward position. They make their decisions confidentially, and can’t answer questions about the status of your presentation. Instead, please write to (programming at sirensconference.org) if you have questions. We’re happy to help!

How many proposals can I make?
As many as you like. However, we want to emphasize that one or two presentations is a good maximum number that enables you to be part of the presenting side and part of the listening side, so we recommend that you focus on just one or two proposals that you’re most excited about.

What if I make a proposal and it’s accepted, but I can’t come?
If you find out that you won’t be able to attend before May 8, 2017, you can ask around to see if someone can take your place or withdraw the presentation. Perhaps another attendee would be willing to fill in at the conference if you can provide your lesson plan. We have a Facebook page where you can post for assistance. We appreciate it when you make an effort to ensure that your presentation can remain on the schedule. If you’re unsure what to do, write to (programming at sirensconference.org) and we’ll talk about options.

Can I change the title of my workshop or class later? Can I change the format or focus of my presentation?
If you provide us with the information before the presentation is given to the vetting board, then yes, you may make changes to the title or summary, as long as the focus of your presentation is not substantially changed. We will ask you for a final confirmation upon acceptance, and you will have a short time to make updates before the information is published and final.

You may not make major changes to your presentation’s direction or format once it has been accepted; the proposal that you entered is the one that the board approved. If you wish to make substantial changes to your presentation, and it is earlier than May 8, 2017, please write us to withdraw your existing presentation and then create a new one through the submissions system.

Can I request a specific day and time for my presentation?
Unfortunately, no. While we will take certain immovable factors into account, like presenting at another conference during the same weekend, we have so many presenters and constraints that we’re unable to take scheduling requests. The schedule depends on our ability to create thematic tracks of presentations, our need to accommodate presenters with multiple presentations, any restrictions on space and available hours, and availability of audio-visual equipment. You should expect your presentation to occur on October 27 or 28, 2017.

Do you “track” presentations?
We make an attempt to schedule presentations into morning and afternoon tracks by theme and by type of presentation, and sometimes by format and audio-visual needs. The advantage here is that an attendee could spend half a day absorbed in a topic or theme without needing to move from room to room. That’s not always possible, of course, because of the different styles of presentation and the variety of topics in a given year, as well as the schedules of guests and volunteers, and other logistical concerns, but we do try not to schedule two presentations on closely related topics at the same time, whenever possible.

How can I connect with other presenters or collaborators?
Please feel free to tag @sirens_con on Twitter and to post on Facebook to suggest ideas that you’d like to see someone propose, to search for collaborators, and to brainstorm topics.

Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 
Quick links:
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)

 
If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook, leave a comment here, or tag us on Twitter so we can retweet?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’ll be hosting two chats on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas—and for books, travel, Sirens, and meeting potential travel buddies and roommates. Join us on Sunday, April 9, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern or Saturday, April 22, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during those hours; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

 
Or a Tweet!
Check out our Twitter, and the hashtag #SirensBrainstorm for ideas.
 

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Our Annual Programming Series, Part Five: Roundtable Discussions

Part one of our programming series covered general proposal preparation, part two described presentation styles, part three explained papers, talks, and presentations, and part four described panels. Not sure what to present? Consider these perspectives.

Next up in our ongoing series on preparing a programming proposal: roundtable discussions!

Roundtable discussions are group chats led by a single moderator. These discussions are scheduled in rooms that accommodate no more than 25 attendees so that everyone can take an active part in the discussion, and so that it’s possible for the moderator to keep the discussion on track.

Roundtables depend on audience interaction for success. If you’re trying to figure out whether a topic is best suited to a roundtable or a panel, consider the degree of interactivity and the scale of participation, as well as whether you have a topic broad enough for the audience to dig into as individuals. For a roundtable, the interest is in the discussion the audience brings to the presentation, and the moderator proposes questions for everyone to answer; for a panel, the interest is in the perspectives, expertise, and discussion of the panelists, and the panelists do the majority of the talking.

A roundtable is:

  • a small and highly interactive discussion,
  • led by one person who keeps order and keeps the conversation moving
  • about a topic that is familiar or accessible to most of the audience
  • designed to engage all of the members of the audience

Roundtable discussions are scheduled as 50-minute blocks. Plan for at least 40 minutes of lively discussion, and you’ll probably find that audience questions and contributions easily fill 50 minutes!

 

Getting Started

First, you’ll need to choose a topic and focus for your roundtable. Consider the potential directions that the discussion about your topic might take and make notes of works that might be relevant. You’ll need to propose at least ten thoughtful questions and follow-ups for 50 minutes of discussion. Once you’ve focused your idea, you’ll need some information to make your proposal.

 

Personal Information to Gather

  1. Your contact information (which is not shared with the vetting board). All correspondence about your proposal will be sent via email, so make sure to use an address that you’ll have through the end of 2017 and that you check regularly. Please add (programming at sirensconference.org) to your safe sender list so that correspondence is delivered to your inbox.
     
  2. Name to be published for presenter on website, schedule, and program. While we ask for some personal information to allow our registrar to confirm your status as a registered attendee, we know you might want to use a different name for your presentation, whether that’s a pseudonym, an online handle, or a formal name that you use professionally. (Please note that we drop titles on our schedule and with presentation summaries, but you’re welcome to note titles and professional credentials in your biography.) The “name to be published” will be the name we show to the vetting board, programming volunteers, and other attendees.
     
  3. Your biography. Tell us, in under 100 words, a little about you. A couple of sentences work fine! You can explain any experience, studies, or long-term interest in your topic; tell us where you’re going to school; or what you do as a job or as a hobby. If you’d like to highlight any professional affiliation that you may have, such as a university or employer, please do so here. Shorter is better, because space is limited.

 

Proposal Information to Gather

There are three items that you’ll need for a complete roundtable proposal.

  1. Title. Remember that this title will be shown to the vetting board, so neither “Untitled” nor “TBA” is a good title idea! On the other hand, you don’t have to come up with something witty—just explain what the roundtable discussion is about.
     
  2. A summary of no more than 100 words. This is the very short version of your presentation that will be published in the program book and on the Sirens website. This is where you have the chance to attract an audience who will be interested in attending your roundtable discussion. It should be concise, written for a general audience (in other words, avoid slang and jargon, if you can), and give people a sense of your perspective(s) on the topic.Here are a few examples from past roundtable discussions that we think are excellent:

    In recent years, there has been a growing acceptance and inclusion of gay and lesbian characters in fantasy literature. But these still fall into binary patterns: men and women, heterosexual and homosexual. What about people who fall outside of this binary? Asexuals, demisexuals, transgender people, and people without gender? How are they represented? This roundtable encourages discussion on these topics as well as reading recommendations for those interested in books that fall outside the binary.

    Female political leaders in fantasy include hereditary rulers and elected leaders, women warriors, and civil servants. This roundtable will consider the different types of political leadership demonstrated by women in fantasy literature. How is their leadership shaped by their gender, their age, and the political system in which they work? How do these characters gain and exercise their political power? Have depictions of female political leaders in fantasy changed over time?

    Having once read about the “invisible hands” of the off-page servants and staff in Austen’s work and other historic literature, I wonder about how much history-inspired S/F either relegates off the page or forgets entirely the community required to run a great house, fortress, or even ranch. Who is raising the corn? Who is hauling the bathwater? Do they have stories to tell?

    This roundtable discussion will examine and dissect everyday sexism found within fantasy literature. We will focus both on the sexism women writers encounter within the publishing industry in regard to their characters and stories as well as in regard to themselves as writers, and how they’re subsequently represented to the public at large. Participants will be prompted to discuss commonly known facets of sexism, such as the encouragement of J. K. Rowling’s publisher that she use only her initials because they feared boys would be less interested in reading a book written by a woman, as well as lesser known incidents or personal experiences of sexism. This can include anything from writing under a pseudonym, to being asked to change a character’s sex simply for audience appeal, or the always popular “Your female character isn’t likeable or approachable, change her.” In addition to looking at female authors and the sexism they’ve faced, we’ll explore the fact that under certain circumstances, a male writer having written the same thing might not have been asked to alter their characters or the name under which their work is being marketed.

    Why can only a virgin girl tame a unicorn? And what is the origin of the succubus—always a beautiful, seductive woman, who is not only hyper-sexual, but often intent on killing her male lovers? How have these portrayals of women in mythology and folklore affected fantasy writing to this day? And how much of women’s sexuality in current fantasy novels is reflective of our own modern social mores?

    Let’s talk about heroines as catalysts in revolutions. Not all heroines are battle commanders, though we can take time to appreciate the ones who are. Many begin with little besides their wits and skills. Some have special gifts, some do not. Some are born to rank, others are outsiders in various ways. In this roundtable discussion, we will talk about the different ways heroines in genre literature bring about change.

    For more inspiration, you might visit the Sirens archive to read summaries that have been accepted in the last few years.
     

  3. An abstract of no more than 500 words. An abstract is a complete—but short—version of your presentation.

For roundtable discussions, you have the option of submitting sample discussion questions instead of an abstract, and this option is highly recommended. You’ll need at least ten thoughtful questions. An example of how you might approach your abstract as a series of questions is included below.

  1. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Luna refuses to be bullied, in part because she does not respond to that sort of attention. How does this illuminate her decision to become part of Dumbledore’s Army?
  2. Do you think she’s inclined toward resistance due to her beliefs about what is right, or because she’s already inclined to be unconventional? Or some other reason?
  3. How has Harry’s understanding of and relationship with Luna changed over the last few books? What about Luna’s relationship with other members of The Six?
  4. J. K. Rowling uses Luna as the commentator for the last Quidditch match we see in the books. Why Luna? What particular meta commentary can only Luna make here? What other characters might have worked in the same role, if not Luna?
  5. What role do you think Luna played in Dumbledore’s Army at Hogwarts during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?
  6. How do you think Luna responded to punishment she received while at Hogwarts during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?
  7. We finally meet someone from Luna’s family: Xenophilius Lovegood. Is this the home life you’d imagined for Luna?
  8. During the Battle of Hogwarts, Luna is briefly matched against Bellatrix with Hermione and Ginny. Is there something more here—is this partly because Bellatrix and Luna are both guided by faith, or perhaps to show Luna as having “grrl power”?
  9. Many of the women in the Harry Potter series could be said to represent ideas for Harry—love, family, etc. If that’s so, what might Luna represent?
  10. J. K. Rowling has mentioned in an interview that she imagines Luna going on to become a naturalist and marry a grandson of Newt Scamander. Is this what you imagined for her? What other alternatives would seem likely, given what we learned about Luna in the series?

If you’d prefer to write a formal abstract, some of the previous posts in this series included more in-depth information. View them using the annual programming series tag on our blog.

 

More tips:

Most abstracts range from 100 to 300 words, though they can be up to 500 words, and are 1–3 paragraphs long. Aim for about 300–350 words, and at least a good, solid paragraph, unless you need more space to explain a theory or cite sources. If you’re taking the discussion questions route, you’ll need at least ten solid sample questions. (And one extra tip: avoid having more than one or two yes/no questions for these!)

Your abstract should not be the same as your proposal summary. An abstract is the part of your proposal where you get a little more room to convince the vetting board that your presentation should be chosen. It is the short version of your eventual roundtable discussion, and should be able to stand alone. A good abstract will include your thesis or approach, supporting details or arguments, and most importantly, your results, recommendations, or conclusion. The vetting board wants you to spoil the ending! (In a summary, you probably want to write something more like book jacket copy, but for the abstract, summarize the plot.) Alternatively, for roundtables, your complete question set can be your roundtable—or you can write a short statement summarizing the roundtable and provide questions.

“See my other proposal for X [biography, summary, alternate abstract]” may result in a declined presentation. The vetting board members may not have access to your other proposal for a variety of reasons: it could be on hold while collaborators check in, and the board members may not yet be reviewing your other proposal or they may simply decide they are unwilling to search through the proposals to do this comparison for you. Take a moment to copy and paste in your information again.

Make sure that your proposal is complete. The vetting board wants to know that you have a clear plan. No “maybe we’ll do this, or maybe someone in the audience will suggest something, or if you want, I could do this or that.” There’s a difference between allowing room for audience participation and not having a plan!

Have a volunteer who is willing to provide you with honest feedback look over your proposal, both to proofread it and to offer suggestions for organization, focus, and purpose. Remember, the vetting board will decide whether to accept or decline your presentation based on your summary and abstract.

Remember that the roundtable discussion option allows for only one moderator/presenter. Please don’t plan a co-moderated roundtable discussion; if you’re looking for an option that allows for collaborators, try another presentation style. Not sure what to do? Email us! We’re happy to help.

 

Audio-Visual Requests

Roundtables are meant to be interactive and conversational, and so they are scheduled for smaller spaces. No microphone will be provided, and projection is not available. Need a visual aid? Consider printing out one or two copies to pass around the room. An easel and a small dry erase board will be available.

 

FAQ about Proposals for Roundtable Discussions

What are the requirements for presenting? Do I have to be a teacher or scholar?
Our only requirement is that you be eligible to attend Sirens, which means that you must be at least 18 years old by October 26, 2017. We have no academic or professional requirements, and in the past we’ve received excellent presentations from high school students, grandmothers, professors, musicians, fans, and teachers, among others. Remember—your voice is important.

When is the proposal deadline?
May 8, 2017.

Do you accept all roundtable discussions?
No; we forward all proposals to the vetting board, which selects which roundtables will be accepted for Sirens.

If my roundtable discussion is declined, can you tell me why?
Unfortunately, we can’t. We simply have too many proposals, and we don’t ask the vetting board members to write up formal feedback. We can say, however, that proposals are never declined because they include unpopular opinions or controversial takes, or on the basis of personal relationships; the board is designed so that no single person accepts or declines a submission. In the past, we’ve found ourselves in the lucky position of having more excellent ideas than we could include, and that will likely be true in the future as well.

Should I contact the vetting board about my roundtable discussion?
Please do not contact the vetting board members about your proposal. It puts them in a very awkward position. They make their decisions confidentially, and can’t answer questions about the status of your presentation. Instead, please write to (programming at sirensconference.org) if you have questions. We’re happy to help!

How many proposals can I make?
As many as you like. However, we want to emphasize that one or two presentations is a good maximum number that enables you to be part of the presenting side and part of the listening side, so we recommend that you focus on just one or two proposals that you’re most excited about.

Can I have more than one moderator for my roundtable?
No, a roundtable can only have one moderator. We have found that single-moderator roundtables flow better, are less confusing to audience participants, and are generally better received.

What if I make a proposal and it’s accepted, but I can’t come?
If you find out that you won’t be able to attend before May 8, 2017, you can ask around to see if someone can take your place or withdraw the proposal. Alternatively, perhaps another attendee would be willing to take your place at the conference if you can provide them with your sample questions. (Tip: Try asking for a substitute moderator on Facebook.) We appreciate it when you make an effort to ensure that your roundtable can remain on the schedule. If you’re unsure what to do, write to (programming at sirensconference.org) and we’ll talk about options.

Can I change the title of my roundtable later? Can I change the format or focus of my presentation?
If you provide us with the information before the roundtable discussion is given to the vetting board, then yes, you may make changes to the title or summary. We will ask you for a final confirmation upon acceptance, and you will have a short time to make updates before the information is published and final.

You may not make major changes to your presentation’s direction or format once it has been given to the vetting board; the proposal that you entered is the one that the board reviewed. If you wish to make substantial changes to the content of your presentation, and it is earlier than May 8, 2017, please write us to withdraw your existing presentation and then create a new one through the submissions system.

Can I request a specific day and time for my presentation?
Unfortunately, no. While we will take certain immovable factors into account, like presenting at another conference during the same weekend, we have so many presenters and constraints that we’re unable to take scheduling requests. The schedule depends on our ability to create thematic tracks of presentations, our need to accommodate presenters with multiple presentations, any restrictions on space and available hours, and availability of audio-visual equipment. You should expect your presentation to occur on October 27 or 28, 2017.

Do you “track” presentations?
We make an attempt to schedule presentations into morning and afternoon tracks by theme and by type of presentation, and sometimes by format and audio-visual needs. The advantage here is that an attendee could spend half a day absorbed in a topic or theme without needing to move from room to room. That’s not always possible, of course, because of the different styles of presentation and the variety of topics in a given year, as well as the schedules of guests and volunteers, and other logistical concerns, but we do try not to schedule two presentations on closely related topics at the same time, whenever possible.

How can I connect with other presenters or collaborators?
Please feel free to tag @sirens_con on Twitter and to post on Facebook to suggest ideas that you’d like to see someone propose, to search for collaborators, and to brainstorm topics.

Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 
Quick links:
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)

 
If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook, leave a comment here, or tag us on Twitter so we can retweet?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’ll be hosting two chats on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas—and for books, travel, Sirens, and meeting potential travel buddies and roommates. Join us on Sunday, April 9, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern or Saturday, April 22, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during those hours; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

 
Or a Tweet!
Check out our Twitter, and the hashtag #SirensBrainstorm for ideas.

 

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Our Annual Programming Series, Part Four: Panels

Part one of our programming series covered general proposal preparation, part two described presentation styles, and part three explained papers, talks, and presentations. Not sure what to present? Consider these perspectives.

On to panels!

Panels are, essentially, small-group discussions of a topic in front of an audience. Successful panels generally feature individuals with differing perspectives, expertise, or opinions, either in discussion (where each panelist’s expertise contributes something unique) or in debate (where the panelists’ opinions diverge significantly).

If, for example, you have:

  • two people who have different expertise on a particular topic
  • three people who have different opinions about the use of dragons in fantasy
  • four people who are all at different points in their publishing careers
  • or a big question, like the future of fantasy, and you’d like to host a debate about the genre’s path among knowledgeable people with differing viewpoints

…you might want to organize a panel.

 
New Submissions Requirement: So that the Sirens vetting board has a preview of how a panel discussion might go, all panelists must, as part of their confirmation of their participation on the panel, submit a supplemental abstract. A supplemental abstract might be a brief, panelist-specific version of the panel abstract itself (demonstrating, for example, the panelist’s views or special expertise that they expect to contribute to the discussion); if the panel submitted discussion questions as its abstract, a supplemental abstract might instead be a response to one or two questions. The vetting board will consider all abstracts for a panel collectively in its review. (Here is our explanation for what an abstract is.) Moderators, take note! You’ll want to share this new requirement with your panelists in advance so that panelists can prepare their supplemental abstracts.

Panels are scheduled in a 50-minute time block, and you should expect to spend most of that time presenting your panel’s discussion. It’s okay to build in some time for audience questions, but the focus of your panel should be the discussion among panelists themselves. (If you prefer to take more audience questions, you might be more interested in presenting a lecture  or a roundtable.)

Panels usually consist of 3–4 panelists and a moderator. Panels are best received when they have between three and five total participants (including your moderator). In the past, we’ve typically received negative feedback on larger panels: the audience tends to feel like they don’t get to hear enough from any one panelist, and that they don’t get to hear in-depth discussion among the panelists. Remember, the panel is only 50 minutes long! (That’s why we only give you four slots on the submission form; if you’re certain you need more, you must email (programming at sirensconference.org) to have a panelist added manually.)

The role of the moderator depends on your panel. Some panels have a moderator who is there simply to moderate a discussion. In this role, a moderator is almost like the leader of a roundtable, but moderating the discussion among a few panelists rather than the audience; this kind of moderator offers few or no opinions of her own, but rather focuses on guiding the discussion itself. Alternately, some moderators, often with panel experience, serve as both moderator and panelist, and actively participate in the discussion. We recommend that your panel determine in advance of submitting your proposal what role your moderator will fill.

Regardless of your moderator’s role on the panel, your moderator will serve as your panel’s primary contact for the Sirens programming team. Your moderator will submit the panel and when we have questions or administrative tasks for your panel, we will contact your moderator.

Whether to choose a panel or another presentation format can be a difficult discussion. Panels are best for small-group discussions among experts who bring divergent perspectives, expertise, or opinions to that discussion.

  • Perhaps strangely, panels are not great a great format for agreement. If your panelists all wish to agree, or share the same opinions or perspectives, then your topic might be better served as a lecture presented by collaborators.
     
  • Panels are not a great format for spending much time on audience questions. Panels sometimes take a few, but generally panel audiences wish to see the panel discuss a topic. Lectures and roundtables tend to lend themselves better to audience inquiry or discussion.
     
  • Panels aren’t great for explaining or teaching. Because panels are about group discussion, they aren’t a great method for teaching the audience something. If you want to teach, you might consider a lecture or a workshop instead.

 

Getting Started

First, you’ll need to choose a topic and focus for your panel, and you’ll need to recruit panelists whose differing perspectives, expertise or opinions bring breadth and depth to your intended panel discussion. You can approach people you know or people that you don’t, but in any event, we encourage you to ensure that your panel represents a number of different perspectives, expertise, opinions, and identities. Moderators, please contact potential panelists before you submit their email addresses as panelists; we also recommend that you send them the panel summary and abstract (and any sample questions you provide with the abstract), especially because panelists are now required to submit a supplemental abstract as part of their confirmation of their panel participation.

Panelists can also take a role in preparing the summary and abstract for your proposal, not to mention leading the discussion and asking questions of other panelists at the conference, and they should be prepared to answer questions from the moderator, other panelists, and even the audience.

Once you’ve focused your idea, you’ll need some information ready to make your proposal.

 

Personal Information to Gather

  1. Your contact information (which is not shared with the vetting board). The presenter who submits the initial proposal will be the de facto panel moderator and point of contact for the proposal. All correspondence about your proposal will be sent via email, so make sure to use an address that you’ll have through the end of 2017 and that you check regularly. Please add (programming at sirensconference.org) to your safe sender list so that correspondence is delivered to your inbox.
     
  2. Name to be published for presenter on website, schedule, and program. While we ask for some personal information to allow our registrar to confirm your status as a registered attendee, we know you might want to use a different name for your presentation, whether that’s a pseudonym, an online handle, or a formal name that you use professionally. (Please note that we drop titles on our schedule and with presentation summaries, but you’re welcome to note titles and professional credentials in your biography.) The “name to be published” will be the name we show to the vetting board, programming volunteers, and other attendees.
     
  3. Email addresses of the panelists. You will need to provide valid email addresses for your panelists, but you won’t need to give us the names, biographies, or supplemental abstracts for your other panelists; instead, we’ll send them an email request for that information. They will need to respond to the information request email by the programming submission deadline for your panel to be considered, so please let your co-presenters know that this email is on the way and ask them to reply promptly. Again, starting in 2017, in addition to biographical and contact information, panelists will be required to submit a supplemental abstract on the panel topic. As with the rest of your information, presenters’ emails and confirmations must be provided before your proposal is reviewed; you can’t submit a panel and find other panelists (or confirm panelists) only after (or if) the panel is approved.
     
  4. Your biography. Tell us, in under 100 words, a little about you. A couple of sentences work fine! You can explain any experience, studies, or long-term interest in your topic; tell us where you’re going to school; or what you do as a job or as a hobby. If you’d like to highlight any professional affiliation that you may have, such as a university or employer, please do so here. Shorter is better, because space is limited.

 

Proposal Information to Gather

  1. Title. Remember that this title will be shown to the vetting board, so neither “Untitled” nor “TBA” is a good title idea! On the other hand, you don’t have to come up with something witty—just explain what the panel is about.
     
  2. A summary of no more than 100 words. This is the very short version of your presentation that will be published in the program book and on the Sirens website. This is where you have the chance to attract an audience who will be interested in attending your panel. It should be concise, written for a general audience (in other words, avoid slang and jargon, if you can), and give people a sense of your perspective(s) on the topic.
     

Here are a few examples from past panels that we think are excellent:

Manga and anime feature a wide variety of monsters, from the morally ambiguous homunculi of Fullmetal Alchemist to the bizarre demon-weapons of Soul Eater to the charming creatures of Fruits Basket. Sometimes the monster is female, and sometimes the monster-slayer is—and, as in Claymore, sometimes the line between them blurs. This panel will discuss the monstrous female and the “monster girl” in anime and manga.

From The Descent of Inanna to Dante’s Divine Comedy to Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Farthest Shore, journeys to the underworld/afterlife have been a staple of fantastic literature. This panel will discuss both the ancient tradition of underworld journeys and how this tradition is used in modern fantasy. Why does this theme have such an enduring appeal? How do modern novels use and transform it?

In the midst of “strong female characters” going it on their own, what happens to cooperative fellowship, shared labor, and the femme side of being revolutionary? How do female villains play a role in revolutionary narratives? The revolution often begins at home, and the lone heroine approach devalues many female experiences and forms of labor. Hermione, Katniss, Maleficent, and Sansa all have their place—let’s talk about what real heroines and villains look like and why only some are celebrated.

For more examples, please check out the archives of past years’ presentations.

  1. An abstract of no more than 500 words. An abstract is a complete—but very short!—version of your presentation. It demonstrates the depth, breadth, and sophistication of your panel and its treatment of your topic. For a panel, it should outline the topic you plan to address and points for discussion, and point to major sources, movements, or theories that have influenced your thinking. You may want to include some thoughtful sample discussion questions.

Here are a couple of resources you might use to put together a brief but cohesive abstract section for your proposal—just keep in mind that details may differ:

  1. Supplemental Abstract (for Panelists)

If you’re a panelist, you will receive an email inviting you to confirm your participation on the proposed panel, provide your biography, and submit your supplemental abstract. A supplemental abstract might be a brief, panelist-specific version of the panel abstract itself (demonstrating, for example, the panelist’s views or special expertise that they expect to contribute to the discussion); if the panel submitted discussion questions as its abstract, a supplemental abstract might instead be a response to one or two questions. Your supplemental abstract is a response to the panel topic, and you might write 1­–3 paragraphs explaining some or all of these things: your overall thoughts on the panel topic and why it’s important; your perspective and agreement/disagreement with some or all of the abstract; any special approaches or perspectives you want to highlight during the discussion; or how fantasy-related work exemplifies the panel topic. These supplemental abstracts will be provided to the vetting board, which will consider all abstracts collectively in reviewing the panel proposal.

And here’s why Sirens now requires panelists to provide supplemental abstracts:

Supplemental abstracts help the vetting board understand the panel as a whole and how the discussion among panelists might go. Previously, the vetting board had only the moderator- or group-prepared single abstract and panelist bios, and could only guess as to the shape the panel discussion might take. Also, we wanted to ensure that scholarship applications could be evaluated fairly across all types of presentations, and this gives individual panelists a better way to be recognized on academic merit.

 

More tips:

Most abstracts range from 100 to 300 words, though they can be up to 500 words, and are 1–3 paragraphs long. Aim for about 300–350 words, and at least a good, solid paragraph, unless you need more space to explain a theory or cite sources.

Your abstract should not be the same as your proposal summary. An abstract is the part of your proposal where you get a little more room to convince the vetting board that your presentation should be chosen. It is the short version of your eventual panel, and should be able to stand alone. A good abstract will include your thesis or approach, supporting details or arguments, and most importantly, your results, recommendations, or conclusion. The vetting board wants you to spoil the ending! (In a summary, you probably want to write something more like book jacket copy, but for the abstract, summarize the plot.) Your supplemental abstract should not be the same as the panel’s primary abstract. Supplemental abstracts are intended to demonstrate what individual panelists will bring to the panel discussion. Each supplemental abstract should be a unique demonstration of the panelist’s perspectives, expertise, or opinions.

“See my other proposal for X [biography, summary, alternate abstract]” may result in a declined presentation. The vetting board members may not have access to your other proposal for a variety of reasons: it could be on hold while collaborators check in, and the board members may not yet be reviewing your other proposal or they may simply decide they are unwilling to search through the proposals to do this comparison for you. Take a moment to copy and paste in your information again.

Submit your proposal with enough time to allow your panelists to check in and provide their contact information, biographical information, and supplemental abstract no later than the programming submission deadline. Since your panelists may have different schedules and be in different time zones, you shouldn’t wait to the last minute—you want to be sure that everyone has a chance to answer thoughtfully, by the submission deadline, and without feeling rushed. You may also want to discuss the proposal with panelists in advance so that panelists have a chance to plan their supplemental abstract.

Make sure that your proposal is complete. The vetting board wants to know that you have a clear plan. No “maybe we’ll do this, or maybe someone in the audience will suggest something, or if you want, I could do this or that.” There’s a difference between allowing room for audience participation and not having a plan!

Have a volunteer who is willing to provide you with honest feedback look over your proposal, both to proofread it and to offer suggestions for organization, focus, and purpose. Remember, the vetting board will decide whether to accept or decline your presentation based on your summary, primary abstract, and supplemental abstracts.

 

Audio-Visual Requests

  • Panels are routinely provided with microphones when the space is larger than a small classroom. We request that presenters use the microphones to assist the audience in hearing the entire presentation. Usually, one microphone is available for the moderator, with one or more shared microphones for panelists.
     
  • You can make a request for an LCD projector (with computer), but please remember that we prioritize use of equipment for visually-oriented presentations, and consider what you might do if extra audio-visual support isn’t available. We’re typically able to provide this support for panels—we just can’t guarantee it at the time we notify presenters of acceptance. Generally, panels focus on discussion, however, so if there are more requests than equipment, other presentation styles will have priority. Presentation rooms have an easel and a small dry erase board as standard equipment.
     
  • Some presenters will bring several copies of a handout to pass around and then collect email addresses of those who would like a copy after the conference, which saves room in everybody’s suitcase and is environmentally friendly. We approve!

 

FAQ about Proposals for Panels

What are the requirements for presenting? Do I have to be a teacher or scholar?
Our only requirement is that you be eligible to attend Sirens, which means that you must be at least 18 years old by October 26, 2017. We have no academic or professional requirements, and in the past we’ve received excellent presentations from high school students, grandmothers, professors, musicians, fans, and teachers, among others. Remember—your voice is important.

What is the proposal deadline?
May 8, 2017.

Do all panelists need to confirm their participation by the programming submission deadline?
Yes, all members of the panel need to confirm their participation by the programming submission deadline, so that we can send the proposal to the vetting board as promptly as possible. For this reason, we recommend submitting panel proposals a few days before the deadline, to ensure that all panelists can confirm by the deadline. Late-responding panelists hold up the scheduling and confirmation process for everyone, so we may remove panelists who do not respond in a timely manner.

What is a supplemental abstract, and do panelists need to provide them?
When a panel participant checks in on the online collaboration confirmation system, they will be prompted to provide a supplemental abstract. As explained above, these supplemental abstracts allow our vetting board to understand the perspectives, expertise, and opinions that each panelist brings to the panel discussion. Supplemental abstracts are required for panelists.

Do you accept all panels?
No; we forward all proposals to the vetting board, which selects the panels that will be accepted for Sirens.

If my panel is declined, can you tell me why?
Unfortunately, we can’t. We simply have too many proposals, and we don’t ask the vetting board members to write up formal feedback. We can say, however, that proposals are never declined because they include unpopular opinions or controversial takes, or on the basis of personal relationships; the board is designed so that no single person accepts or declines a submission. In the past, we’ve found ourselves in the lucky position of having more excellent ideas than we could include, and that will likely be true in the future as well.

Should I contact the vetting board about my panel?
Please do not contact the vetting board members about your proposal. It puts them in a very awkward position. They make their decisions confidentially, and can’t answer questions about the status of your presentation. Instead, please write to (programming at sirensconference.org) if you have questions. We’re happy to help!

How many proposals can I make?
As many as you like. However, we want to emphasize that one or two presentations is a good maximum number that enables you to be part of the presenting side and part of the listening side, so we recommend that you focus on just one or two proposals that you’re most excited about.

How many people can I include on the panel?
As explained above, the submissions system allows between three and five members of the panel, including the moderator (in other words, the moderator may submit up to four additional panelists. If you are certain that you need to include more panelists, you must email (programming at sirensconference.org) to have a panelist added manually.

What if I make a proposal and it’s accepted, but I can’t come? What if one of the panelists can’t come?
If you find out that you won’t be able to attend before May 8, 2017, perhaps another panelist can act as moderator for your panel, or perhaps another attendee you know would be willing to fill in at the conference and will take your place. You may find that a post on the Sirens Facebook works to find a replacement as well. We appreciate it when you make an effort to ensure that your panel can remain on the schedule. If there are not at least two people able to attend and present your panel, please have the panel moderator write to (programming at sirensconference.org) and we’ll talk about options.

Can I change the title of my panel later? Can I change the format or focus of my presentation?
If you provide us with the information before the panel is passed on to the vetting board, then yes, you may make changes to the title or summary, as long as the focus of your panel is not substantially changed. We will ask you for a final confirmation upon acceptance, and you will have a short time to make updates before the information is published and final.

You may not make major changes to your presentation’s direction or format once it has been given to the vetting board; the proposal that you entered is the one that the board reviewed. If you wish to make substantial changes to your presentation, and it is earlier than May 8, 2017, please write us to withdraw your existing presentation and then create a new one through the submissions system.

Can I request a specific day and time for my presentation?
Unfortunately, no. While we will take certain immovable factors into account, like presenting at another conference during the same weekend, we have so many presenters and constraints that we’re unable to take scheduling requests. The schedule depends on our ability to create thematic tracks of presentations, our need to accommodate presenters with multiple presentations, any restrictions on space and available hours, and availability of audio-visual equipment. You should expect your presentation to occur on October 27 or 28, 2017.

Do you “track” presentations?
We make an attempt to schedule presentations into morning and afternoon tracks by theme and by type of presentation, and sometimes by format and audio-visual needs. The advantage here is that an attendee could spend half a day absorbed in a topic or theme without needing to move from room to room. That’s not always possible, of course, because of the different styles of presentation and the variety of topics in a given year, as well as the schedules of guests and volunteers, and other logistical concerns, but we do try not to schedule two presentations on closely related topics at the same time, whenever possible.

How can I connect with other presenters or collaborators?
Please feel free to tag @sirens_con on Twitter and to post on Facebook to suggest ideas that you’d like to see someone propose, to search for collaborators, and to brainstorm topics.

Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 
Quick links:
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)

 
If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook, leave a comment here, or tag us on Twitter so we can retweet?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’ll be hosting two chats on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas—and for books, travel, Sirens, and meeting potential travel buddies and roommates. Join us on Sunday, April 9, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern or Saturday, April 22, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during those hours; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

 
Or a Tweet!
Check out our Twitter, and the hashtag #SirensBrainstorm for ideas.
 

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Our Annual Programming Series, Part Three: Papers

In part one of this series, we discussed some general information on programming. In part two, we detailed different ways to structure your proposal. Not sure what to present? Consider these perspectives. Our next few posts will show you how to prepare proposals for each type of programming. In this post: papers!

We’re going to use “paper” as shorthand, but please note that this post applies to other sorts of talks, lectures, and presentations.

This presentation style can range from a formal reading of a prepared paper to a more relaxed speech, where the presenter refers to notes to make her points. The presenter can go solo or work with others on a paper, or several presenters can read short papers as a set.

If your topic…

  • documents patterns
  • looks for hidden, subtle, or alternative meanings
  • brings together knowledge from different areas to expand on what’s in the books you’ve read
  • compares and contrasts works, characters, or authors
  • reports on research
  • uses a specific lens for interpreting literature or art
  • presents meta!
  • or critiques literature, media, themes, or approaches

…it could make a fantastic paper.

This is a good presentation style if you prefer to speak from a pre-written paper or speech, and it’s especially good if you need to lay significant groundwork for your audience, be persuasive, or delve into information that your audience might be unfamiliar with.

A group of several people may submit pre-empaneled papers, meaning that those papers have some connection, no matter how small, and the group would like to share a 50-minute time block for presenting. The only difference in the submission process is that person who begins the proposal in the system will need to provide a title and summary for the group as a whole, as well as the email addresses for all co-panelists, who will be contacted separately to provide their information. Each presenter in the pre-empaneled group will need to provide an individual biography, summary, and abstract.

Presenters may choose either 25-minute or 50-minute time blocks, which will include your reading or speech as well as any discussion and questions from (or for!) the audience. For pre-empaneled papers with more than two presenters, we’ll give you extra time, and contact you about the time block at a later time.

If you’ll be reading from what you’ve prepared in advance, a 6- to 10-page double-spaced paper is about right for the 25-minute time block; assume a range of 2,000 to 3,000 words. For a 50-minute time block, assume a little less than twice that to leave time for discussion and to catch your breath or take a drink of water. Of course, it depends also on how fast you speak, whether you take time out for explanations, and so on, so determine in advance whether you need to err or the short side to make it to the conclusion during your allotted time.

 

Getting Started

As with other types of presentations, you’ll need to choose your focus, as well as a target for how long you’ll need to present your thoughts. From there, you’ll need to put together a strong abstract. (You don’t have to write a complete paper to turn in; we won’t ask for it at all, unless you’d like to be published in the conference compendium.)

 

Personal Information to Gather

  1. Your contact information (which is not shared with the vetting board). All correspondence about your proposal will be sent via email, so make sure to use an address that you’ll have through the end of 2017 and that you check regularly. Please add (programming at sirensconference.org) to your safe sender list so that correspondence is delivered to your inbox.
  2. Name to be published for presenter on website, schedule, and program. While we ask for some personal information to allow our registrar to confirm your status as a registered attendee, we know you might want to use a different name for your presentation, whether that’s a pseudonym, an online handle, or a formal name that you use professionally. (Please note that we drop titles on our schedule and with presentation summaries, but you’re welcome to note titles and professional credentials in your biography.) The “name to be published” will be the name we show to the vetting board, programming volunteers, and other attendees.
  3. If you are starting a proposal for a group of pre-empaneled papers, you’ll need the email addresses of the other presenters. You won’t give us the names, biographies, or abstracts of your other presenters; we’ll send them an email request for that information. Your other presenters will need to respond to the information request email for your pre-empaneled papers to be considered, so please let your co-presenters know that this email is on the way and ask them to reply no later than the programming submission deadline. As with the rest of your information, presenters’ emails must be provided before your proposal is reviewed; you can’t submit a panel of papers and find other presenters only after (or if) the panel is approved. Also, please note that the presenter submitting the initial proposal will be the de facto moderator and point of contract for the pre-empaneled papers.
  4. Your biography. Tell us, in under 100 words, a little about you. A couple of sentences work fine! You can explain any experience, studies, or long-term interest in your topic; tell us where you’re going to school; or what you do as a job or as a hobby. If you’d like to highlight any professional affiliation that you may have, such as a university or employer, please do so here. Shorter is better, because space is limited.

 

Proposal Information to Gather

  1. Title. Remember that this title will be shown to the vetting board, so neither “Untitled” nor “TBA” is a good title idea! On the other hand, you don’t have to come up with something witty—just explain what the paper, lecture, or presentation is about.
  2. A summary of no more than 100 words. This is the very short version of your presentation that will be published in the program book and on the Sirens website. The summary gives you the chance to attract an audience who will be interested in hearing your paper. It should be concise, written for a general audience (in other words, avoid slang and jargon, if you can), and give people a sense of your perspective on the topic.Here are a few examples from past papers that we think are excellent:

    This presentation examines Holly Black’s and Melissa Marr’s works of faerie fantasy and explores how each author’s series complicates and/or subverts faerie tale conventions both to deconstruct gender binaries and to resist new (and equally constraining) reconstructions of gender roles. Through their respective reimaginings of faerie tale narratives, Black and Marr effectively problematize the traditional dualities of the faerie tale: good and evil, virtue and vice, self and other, and—most particularly—masculine and feminine.

    The myths and legends of India and many of its neighbors feature beautiful snake women and cannibal demons, celestial dancers, and nature spirits, most of whom are largely unknown in the West. Through storytelling, discussion, and slides from popular Indian comic books, we will introduce the magical and monstrous women of South Asian tales, with a focus on the fluidity and ambiguity of their classification as monstrous or simply supernatural.

    This essay examines the way in which Angela Carter and Karen Russell recast the historical rehabilitation of savage girls in their respective short fictions, “Wolf-Alice” and “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.” These narratives, along with poetry by Janet McAdams and Bhanu Kapil, will serve as imaginative interrogations of the gendered pedagogy that informed the attempted re-educations of Marie-Angélique Leblanc, the Wild Girl of Champagne, in the eighteenth century—and Kamala and Amala, the so-called Wolf Girls of India, in the twentieth century.

    Many first-person novels use the conceit that the book itself is being written by the narrator. Fewer make that act of writing an integral part of the plot. In C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, Orual’s telling of her own story transforms her, as she comes to understand how she has been telling stories to control others and justify herself all her life. Her journey becomes an exploration of the ways in which stories are inherently participatory and transformative—and sometimes redemptive.

    Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw” is known for being a ghost story, but it is also a love story. This paper looks at both love story and ghost story, and at the three couples that feature in them: Uncle and Governess; Miles and Flora; Quint and Miss Jessel. In doing so it hopes to discover exactly what kind of dangers the ghosts of Bly—an abandoned woman and a thoughtless rake—represent to the heroine.

    The women of Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles are queens and pawns, survivors and victims, exiles and prisoners, young and old. This paper will explore how the author complicates traditional narratives of male heroism by offering alternative narratives of female political leadership through the stories of Isaboe, Quintana, and Phaedra. It will compare and contrast their leadership styles and journeys, and consider how their leadership and power is influenced by their age, sexuality, and romantic relationships.

    For more examples, please check out the archives of past years’ presentations.

  3. An abstract of no more than 500 words. An abstract is a complete—but very short!—version of your presentation. For a paper or lecture, it should outline the topic you plan to address and points for discussion, explain your analysis and conclusion, and point to major sources or theories that have influenced your thinking. Here are a couple of resources you might use to put together a brief but cohesive abstract section for your proposal—just keep in mind that details may differ:

 

More tips:

Most abstracts range from 100 to 300 words, though they can be up to 500 words, and are 1–3 paragraphs long. Aim for about 300–350 words, and at least a good, solid paragraph, unless you need more space to explain a theory or cite sources.

Your abstract should not be the same as your proposal summary. An abstract is the part of your proposal where you get a little more room to convince the vetting board that your presentation should be chosen. It is the short version of your eventual paper, and should be able to stand alone. A good abstract will include your thesis or approach, supporting details or arguments, and most importantly, your results, recommendations, or conclusion. The vetting board wants you to spoil the ending! (In a summary, you probably want to write something more like book jacket copy, but for the abstract, summarize the plot.) And don’t forget to explain how you’d use projection, if your presentation depends on having it available.

“See my other proposal for X [biography, summary, alternate abstract]” may result in a declined presentation. The vetting board members may not have access to your other proposal for a variety of reasons: it could be on hold while collaborators check in, and the board members may not yet be reviewing your other proposal or they may simply decide they are unwilling to search through the proposals to do this comparison for you. Take a moment to copy and paste in your information again.

Make sure that your proposal is complete. The vetting board wants to know that you have a clear plan. No “maybe we’ll do this, or maybe someone in the audience will suggest something, or if you want, I could do this or that.” There’s a difference between allowing room for audience participation and not having a plan!

Have a volunteer who is willing to provide you with honest feedback look over your proposal, both to proofread it and to offer suggestions for organization, focus, and purpose. Remember, the vetting board won’t see your entire paper, and they won’t know if you’re the most engaging speaker to present in a hundred years. They’ll decide whether to accept or decline your presentation based on your summary and abstract.

 

Audio-Visual Requests

  • Paper presenters are routinely provided with microphones, and we request that presenters use the microphone to assist the audience in hearing the entire presentation.
  • A table and podium will be available, allowing you to stand or sit down.
  • You can make a request for an LCD projector (with computer), but please remember that we prioritize use of equipment for visually-oriented presentations, and consider what you might do if extra audio-visual support isn’t available. We’re typically able to provide this support for papers, lectures, and presentations—we just can’t guarantee it at the time we notify presenters of acceptance. If you desire projection, be sure to explain how you’ll use it in your proposal.
  • Presentation rooms have an easel and a small dry erase board as standard equipment.
  • Some presenters will bring several copies of a handout to pass around and then collect email addresses of those who would like a copy after the conference, which saves room in everybody’s suitcase and is environmentally friendly. We approve!

 

FAQ about Proposals for Papers, Lectures, and Presentations

What are the requirements for presenting? Do I have to be a teacher or scholar?
Our only requirement is that you be eligible to attend Sirens, which means that you must be at least 18 years old by October 26, 2017. We have no academic or professional requirements, and in the past we’ve received excellent presentations from high school students, grandmothers, professors, musicians, fans, and teachers, among others. Remember—your voice is important.

What is the proposal deadline?
May 8, 2017.

Do you accept all papers/presentations?
No; we forward all proposals to the vetting board, which selects the papers that will be accepted for Sirens.

If my paper is declined, can you tell me why?
Unfortunately, we can’t. We simply have too many proposals, and we don’t ask the vetting board members to write up formal feedback. We can say, however, that proposals are never declined because they include unpopular opinions or controversial takes, or on the basis of personal relationships; the board is designed so that no single person accepts or declines a submission. In the past, we’ve found ourselves in the lucky position of having more excellent ideas than we could include, and that will likely be true in the future as well.

Should I contact the vetting board about my paper/presentation?
Please do not contact the vetting board members about your proposal. It puts them in a very awkward position. They make their decisions confidentially, and can’t answer questions about the status of your presentation. Instead, please write to (programming at sirensconference.org) if you have questions. We’re happy to help!

How many proposals can I make?
As many as you like. However, we want to emphasize that one or two presentations is a good maximum number that enables you to be part of the presenting side and part of the listening side, so we recommend that you focus on just one or two proposals that you’re most excited about.

What if I make a proposal and it’s accepted, but I can’t come?
If you find out that you won’t be able to attend before May 8, 2017, you do have the option of withdrawing. After that, we strongly encourage you to advertise on Twitter and Facebook for a proxy reader: someone who will be attending Sirens and can read your paper in your place. In order to complete our schedule as quickly as possible—so that we have the necessary lead time to make arrangements for equipment, so that we can proofread and publish the final schedule, and so on—we do not keep a waiting list for presenters. And it’s always a disappointment to have to cancel your presentation.

Can I change the title of my paper later? Can I change the format or focus of my presentation?
If you provide us with the information before the paper is passed on to the vetting board, then yes, you may make changes to the title or summary, as long as the focus of your paper is not substantially changed. We will ask you for a final confirmation upon acceptance, and you will have a short time to make updates before the information is published and final.

You may not make major changes to your presentation’s direction or format once it has been given to the vetting board; the proposal that you entered is the one that the board reviewed. If you wish to make substantial changes to your presentation, and it is earlier than May 8, 2017, please write us to withdraw your existing presentation, and then create a new one through the submissions system.

Can I request a specific day and time for my presentation?
Unfortunately, no. While we will take certain immovable factors into account, like presenting at another conference during the same weekend, we have so many presenters and constraints that we’re unable to take scheduling requests. The schedule depends on our ability to create thematic tracks of presentations, our need to accommodate presenters with multiple presentations, any restrictions on space and available hours, and availability of audio-visual equipment. You should expect your presentation to occur on October 27 or 28, 2017.

Do you “track” presentations?
We make an attempt to schedule presentations into morning and afternoon tracks by theme and by type of presentation, and sometimes by format and audio-visual needs. The advantage here is that an attendee could spend half a day absorbed in a topic or theme without needing to move from room to room. That’s not always possible, of course, because of the different styles of presentation and the variety of topics in a given year, as well as the schedules of guests and volunteers, and other logistical concerns, but we do try not to schedule two presentations on closely related topics at the same time, whenever possible.

How can I connect with other presenters or collaborators?
Please feel free to tag @sirens_con on Twitter and to post on Facebook to suggest ideas that you’d like to see someone propose, to search for collaborators, and to brainstorm topics.

Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

Quick links:

Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive

Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)

If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook, leave a comment here, or tag us on Twitter so we can retweet?

Join Us for a Chat!
We’ll be hosting two chats on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas—and for books, travel, Sirens, and meeting potential travel buddies and roommates. Join us on Sunday, April 9, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern or Saturday, April 22, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during those hours; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

Or a Tweet!
Check out our Twitter, and the hashtag #SirensBrainstorm for ideas.

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Our Annual Programming Series, Part Two

See part one for general information on programming, including who can participate, how it’s selected, and where to find the information you’ll need to make a proposal.
 
Once you have an idea for a topic or two to present, you’ll need to decide on a format for your presentation. This post describes different presentation styles and offers some basic guidelines and tips for preparing proposals.
 
Sirens programming typically includes:

Papers, Lectures, and Presentations

You might have written an essay, a research paper, an article, or an in-depth blog post that could become the basis for a paper, lecture, talk, or presentation. Most of the time, you’ll need to do some research and reading, and at minimum, you’ll need to come with speaking notes for yourself, even if you choose not to write a more formal paper. If you have a lot of information to present to an audience, a paper/lecture/presentation is probably the best presentation fit. It’s also a good presentation style choice for people who like to think things through in advance, and for people who like to organize and express their thoughts in writing or through reading. Analyses, research, comparisons, perspectives from literary and non-literary fields, theories, histories, arguments, deconstructions, critiques, and the like work well here.
 
Time allotted: 25 or 50 minutes for reading and any questions or discussion
 
A/V availability: Microphones will be provided. LCD projection will probably be available; however, projection is provided on a most-needed basis and not announced until after the final schedule is complete, so it’s best to plan your paper, lecture, or presentation as though you won’t be able to show slides, just in case. If you do wish to use projection, be sure to note in your proposal how and why you’d use it to support your presentation, so we can use that information when arranging equipment.
 
If projection is offered once the schedule is complete, you’re welcome to use it even if you didn’t request it!
 
Other considerations:

  • We don’t require you to write a paper, or to turn in your paper to Sirens, but we strongly encourage you to prepare a written document. It’s helpful to have some text even if you plan to wing it during your presentation and speak more informally. The paper will be eligible for inclusion and publication in the post-conference compendium.
     
  • Papers are usually written by a single author, but co-authors and author groups are welcome! At least one author must attend the conference to make the presentation.
     
  • Prepare for a 25- or 50-minute time block. If you include 5–10 minutes for questions and discussion following the presentation, that’s roughly 6–10 double-spaced pages (or 2000–3000 words) for the 25-minute block, and 10–15 double-spaced pages (or 3000–5000 words) for the 50-minute block.
     

Pre-empaneled Papers

If you and your friends, colleagues, or acquaintances have a set of papers, lectures, essays, or speeches, and you would like to offer these as a group (or you want to ensure that you present sequentially as part of the same time block), you may present these as pre-empaneled papers by submitting a single proposal. The information about papers above applies here as well. We encourage pre-empaneled papers to have a connecting theme—a particular author or series, depictions of female warriors in graphic novels, gender in fairy stories, subverted monster tropes, analyses of character relationships in fantasy, and so on. Another idea might be to take on different approaches to the same subject, such as the application of different theories to the reading of a story, or different professional approaches and reactions to that story. You could combine two or three essays about justice, or economics, or organization in fantasy. There are lots of ways to approach pre-empaneled papers!
 
Time allotted: 50 minutes; however, sets of three or more papers may be allotted additional time
 
A/V availability: Microphones will be provided. LCD projection will probably be available; however, projection is provided on a most-needed basis and not announced until after the final schedule is complete, so it’s best to plan your paper, lecture, or presentation as though you won’t be able to show slides, just in case. If you do wish to use projection, be sure to note in your proposal how and why you’d use it to support your presentation, so we can use that information when arranging equipment.
 
If projection is offered once the schedule is complete, you’re welcome to use it even if you didn’t request it!
 
Other considerations:

  • One member of your group will make the initial proposal, and provide information about their own paper and the group’s overarching theme, if any; then, the other group members will be contacted for more information about their individual parts of the presentation, including their individual proposal abstracts.
     
  • The structure and use of the 50-minute period for reading and questions is up to the panel.
     
  • A set of pre-empaneled papers can have an active or an inactive moderator. An active moderator might lead a brief question-and-answer period for each paper, or ask questions of all of the panelists between their presentations. An inactive moderator might be the point of contact for the panel, and during the conference, they might just introduce each panelist and paper in turn. The moderator might make only a very brief statement on the topic and then introduce the panelists for longer speeches, or they might also act as a panelist and deliver their own lecture or paper. The structure is up to the group.
     
  • We recommend that 2–3 papers, lectures, or presentations (or some combination) be included in a set of pre-empaneled papers. That gives you time to read your papers—or excerpts from your papers—and time for discussion. If you have three or more presenters, we will give you more time for your presentation than the 50-minute time block.
     

Panels

Panels are discussions among 3–5 people. For the most part, the panel’s moderator directs the discussion: they ask questions of the panelists and ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation flowing; they ensure that each panelist has the chance to speak; they have plenty of provocative questions to ask to fill silences; and they keep everyone on topic and on time. The moderator is also the one to decide whether and when to take questions from the audience during the presentation. Panels are great choices for topics that benefit from multiple perspectives or types of expertise, for people who—though they’ll prepare in advance—like to share information through discussion, and for people who enjoy asking questions of and moderating a small group, rather than a large one. Panels are best suited for gathering several people with relevant experience in an area, for weighing pros and cons, for sharing very different viewpoints, for debating, and so on.
 
Time allotted: 50 minutes
 
A/V availability: Microphones will be provided (panelists may have to share). Because the panel is focused on discussion, projection is less likely to be available than it might be for other types of presentations. You’re welcome to request it; however, please remember that LCD projectors are prioritized for presentations where visual examples are an integral part of the session. (If you need to have a lot of visuals, your group might prefer to propose a presentation; each person could provide a few minutes of information and discussion on your topic.) If you do wish to use projection, be sure to note in your proposal how and why you’d use it to support your presentation, so we can use that information when arranging equipment.
 
Other considerations:

  • One member of the panel will make the initial proposal, provide the general summary and abstract for the panel, and serve as the de facto moderator and contact person for the panel. Then, the other group members will be contacted to provide a supplemental abstract or other analytic response to the panel abstract, as well as their personal information. When panelists respond to the invitation to join the panel, they’ll review the panel’s main summary, abstract, and any sample questions, and then be asked to respond to the abstract/theme or to provided questions.
     
  • It’s okay to wrap up early if the panel comes to a natural stopping point, but the moderator and panelists should prepare for at least 35–40 minutes of discussion, with significantly more time devoted to panelist discussion than audience questions.
     
  • The majority of the discussion should be generated by the moderator and panelists, rather than drawn from audience questions. Panelists are the experts—if you will, the guests on the talk show. They should think about the panel topic in advance, make notes if necessary, and consider bringing their own questions for the other panelists. To put it another way, the strongest panels come from having prepared a good discussion to fill at least 2/3 of the time, and then letting the audience build upon the discussion with questions, rather than leaving the structure to the mercy of audience questions!
     

Roundtable Discussions

Roundtable discussions involve everyone at the presentation. In a roundtable discussion, the moderator comes prepared with a set of open-ended questions to be answered by the audience. The discussion is the purpose of the presentation; the moderator engages the audience members and directs the conversation. Roundtable discussions might work best when they’re constructed in such a way that an attendee doesn’t have to be an expert on the topic to participate; they seem to work best for broader topics, where attendees can offer up examples from many sources. (A good way of thinking about it might be that friendships in a specific set of books could become the basis for a good paper, and friendships in fantasy in general might work better for a roundtable.) This style of presentation can be a great choice for people who like to listen, but aren’t afraid to jump in to keep things on topic. Be prepared: Discussions can range from docile to very spirited! Roundtable discussions are well-suited to open-ended questions on subjective analyses, book/character explorations, and conversations where the audience’s knowledge and opinions are of highest importance.
 
Time allotted: 50 minutes
 
A/V availability: No microphones or projection are provided for roundtables; these presentations are scheduled for smaller rooms and a limited audience. We do provide a small dry-erase board and marker.
 
Other considerations:

  • A roundtable discussion can have only one moderator. We’ve found that the discussions flow more easily when there is just one person acting as moderator, and that the discussions are much better received by the participants when they have only one person “in charge.”
     
  • We recommend preparing at least ten thoughtful, open-ended questions and follow-ups to fill a 50-minute block. You’ll probably find that this is plenty—your audience will often have questions of their own to pose—but you can, of course, prepare a few extras.
     
  • Roundtable discussions are designed to be like the discussion session of a big university class. We want these discussions to be very participatory, and we want everyone in attendance to have a chance to speak—and thus, we limit the audience to approximately 25 participants.
     
  • Moderators should bring along an extra copy or two of their proposed discussion questions. If time and space allow, volunteers will attempt to set up additional discussion sections on the fly if the originally scheduled discussion fills up.
     

Workshops

Workshop are instructor-led presentations that are related to women in fantasy literature and are designed to help the audience members walk away with new or expanded skills. As with roundtables, we want everyone who attends the presentation to be able to participate fully and to be able to ask questions and get individualized help, so the seating is typically limited. Workshops are good presentation choices for people who enjoy teaching and can break down a topic into components. Writing and art workshops, advice on setting up blogs/websites/reading lists, how to do something connected to fantasy (like understanding and writing horses, or using social media to promote your work in fantasy, and so on) and other hands-on activities are just a few ideas for workshops.
 
Time allotted: 50 minutes
 
A/V availability: Considered on a case-by-case basis. Please be sure to include and explain any A/V requests in your proposal. Because of the limited audience, you may be placed in a room without a microphone, but with projection available—and please do make requests if necessary.
 
Other considerations:

  • Team-taught workshops are welcome!
     
  • Instructors are responsible for acquiring any needed materials for workshops. To keep costs down for materials-heavy workshops, instructors might consider using one or two larger demonstration items, providing limited materials to be shared in small groups, or asking workshop participants to donate a small amount toward the cost of materials. If this will be your situation, please don’t hesitate to consult the Sirens programming team for estimating assistance in figuring out which will be the best option for you, as well as how to communicate requests to your workshop’s attendees.
     
  • To ensure that the instructors can assist all workshop attendees, the audience size is typically limited to a maximum of 40 attendees. (If your workshop doesn’t rely on materials, or if you’re not planning to give individualized feedback, there may be more seats available so as many people as possible can listen in, but we’ll work with you in advance.) Workshops may have as few as 25 seats available.
     

Afternoon Classes

Afternoon classes are a way to present topics of interest to fantasy readers that might not be directly related to women in fantasy literature. Afternoon classes are especially suited to demonstrations and hands-on lessons. (There is some overlap between workshops and afternoon classes; please feel free to email us if you’re not sure which presentations style is the best fit.) Historical dress or music, dance, martial arts, weaponry, battle strategy, costume makeup, needlework, photo manipulation, vidding, and similar topics are great options for afternoon classes, and if you know something about fencing, archery, falconry, or knitting, those are oft-requested presentations. Afternoon classes are limited by the size of the space available, and by request, by materials. Please see the information about workshops, above, for general information.
 
Time allotted: 50 minutes; more time may be available during the evening break (please explain in your abstract if you expect the class to run a little longer)
 
A/V availability: Considered on a case-by-case basis. Please be sure to include and explain any A/V requests in your proposal.
 

Combination Presentations

Most presentations, even if they make some use of multiple presentation styles, usually fall within one of the broad groups above. Combination presentations might take elements from two or more categories, and use them at length: a workshop might start out with a short paper on the topic, a paper might be followed by a panel, or a roundtable discussion might be followed with a hands-on workshop. You might also have a more formal offering that doesn’t fit neatly into the categories above, such as a screening of your original fantasy film paired with a talk on its themes and production. The combination presentation option allows you to describe your presentation and its components.
 
If you’re considering this type of presentation, we encourage you to write to the programming team in advance; we often find that what’s planned for a presentation is in fact quite similar to what’s normally found in one of the presentation types listed above, and we can advise on which category might be best suited to your proposal. (We can help you save a little time, too, during the submissions process, by giving you information on what to include in your combination proposal.)
 
Time allotted: 50 minutes
 
A/V availability: Considered on a case-by-case basis. Please be sure to include and explain any A/V requests in your proposal.

 
Quick links:
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)

 
If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad on Facebook, leave a comment here, or tag us on Twitter so we can retweet?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’ll be hosting two chats on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas—and for books, travel, Sirens, and meeting potential travel buddies and roommates. Join us on Sunday, April 9, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern or Saturday, April 22, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during those hours; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

 
Or a Tweet!
Check out our Twitter, and the hashtag #SirensBrainstorm for ideas.
 

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April Fantasy New Releases

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of April book releases of fantasy by and about women. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, please get in touch and leave a comment below.

 

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Programming Perspectives: Presentation Styles

Are you ready for our annual programming posts series? We’ve just kicked it off! Before we go on, though, we thought you might want to explore some perspectives on presenting different types of programming. These perspectives were first published several years ago, but we think they’re still very relevant.

Presenting a Paper by Hallie Tibbetts, one of Sirens’s past programming coordinators

Presenting a Panel by Amy Tenbrink, one of this year’s conference chairs (but one note: the process for proposing panels will be changing this year—more information coming soon!)

Presenting a Roundtable Discussion by Sarah Benoot, a longtime staff member

Presenting a Workshop or Afternoon Class by Manda Lewis, a longtime staff member

We’ll be offering other perspectives in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we hope you’ll put together a programming proposal.
 
All proposals are due by May 8, 2017.
 
Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).
 

Quick links:
Programming Overview
Call for Proposals/Guidelines/Additional Preparation Information/Submit a Proposal
Past Conferences Archive
Specific Questions for the Programming Team: Email (programming at sirensconference.org)

 
If you’re looking for co-presenters, why not post on Facebook, leave a comment here, or tag us on Twitter so we can retweet?
 

Join Us for a Chat!
We’ll be hosting two chats on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas—and for books, travel, Sirens, and meeting potential travel buddies and roommates. Join us on Sunday, April 9, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern or Saturday, April 22, from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during those hours; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.
 

Or a Tweet!
Check out our Twitter, and the hashtag #SirensBrainstorm for ideas.
 

Share
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