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Perspective: Presenting a Panel

Today we present thoughts from conference chair Amy Tenbrink on why presenting a panel worked for her.

I have two go-to presentation formats: panels and roundtables. You might wonder why, since it might seem strange at first that someone might have preferred presentation styles—but I bet that most people have presentation styles that make them most comfortable or that most often allow them to accomplish their presentation goals.

For me, it’s panels and roundtables because both formats include multiple viewpoints and multiple voices. Let me assure you that it’s not about the workload; I am a meticulous planner of questions for both panelists and roundtables. And if you know me, you know that it’s not about alleviating nerves with friendly panelists or a discussion room of participants—though lots of people choose these formats because they find them less intimidating.

Since lots of people submit roundtables, Sirens asked me to talk a bit about panels. I tend to choose panels when I want two things: (1) to present a topic that requires input from more than just me, either because I don’t have sufficient expertise or because having multiple voices is vital to the vibrancy of the topic; and (2) it’s a topic that is best presented by experts to an audience (perhaps with questions), rather than a topic that is best presented through a moderated audience discussion (as a roundtable is).

One example is the 2014 Sirens panel, “The Importance—and Business—of Diversity in Fantasy Literature by Women.” As you might expect, the panel discussed the importance of diversity in fantasy literature, but focused more specifically on the business challenges of diversifying the books that are ultimately published and sold in stores. Since most Sirens attendees have a lot to say about diversity, but very little insight into the publishing industry, I assembled a panel that included a librarian, an agent, and a marketing expert from a publishing house (and also invited both an editor and an author, who were not able to attend). The expertise of the panel—and the range of expertise on the panel—was vital to the success of the topic, though we did invite questions from the audience.

Another example is the presentation below, which I prepared for one of Narrate Conferences’ Harry Potter conferences. The topic is “Love Is a Battlefield: Authorship, Ownership, and Fan Appropriation,” which addressed the complex relationship between copyright owners and fans in 2008, when fandoms were exploding, despite copyright owners’ then-aggressive attempts to leash them. My co-panelist and I combined my copyright knowledge with her academic work in fan studies to present a panel that required both in order to be successful. This topic would not have made a great roundtable discussion, because it relied on us providing information and discussing our perspectives on the topic more than on audience discussion.

This was my summary for “Love Is a Battlefield: Authorship, Ownership, and Fan Appropriation”:

As participatory culture blurs the lines between creators and fans, the definitions of “authorship,” “ownership” and “control” likewise become distorted. Creators continue to hold the trump cards of copyright and money, but fans level the field through group action and the speed of the internet. Join us to review the history of creator/fan relations in the Harry Potter fandom: cease and desist letters for fan sites, then adult-oriented archives; the Harmonian uprising; the queering of canon characters and the rejection of Dumbledore’s sexuality; the LiveJournal Strikethrough; and even the RDR Books lawsuit. Then discuss with us this shifting battlefield and what it is that creators and fans really want, and what’s culturally and creatively at stake.

And this was my abstract, which is on the longer side; it’s also okay to have a paragraph or two and some sample questions:

Since the invention of the printing press and the accompanying advent of the concept of copyright, creators have sought total control over their work, and others—later users, developers, artists, fans—have attempted to wrest pieces of that control away for the collective good, for personal creativity, even for profit. Creators claim authorship and therefore ownership, but others argue that their use of a creator’s work is legal, permitted by policy, or sometimes morally valid.

Copyright law has given the legal advantage to creators and corporations, but copyright law, even with the complications of fair use, is only one piece of a larger whole. Both creators and corporations have frequently employed money, attorneys, and until recently, a near-monopoly on access to media outlets to fight battles by any means necessary. Modern communications, however, have provided secondary users with additional tools, and they have begun to use those tools to significant advantage. The capabilities of the internet and the speed at which groups of later users can disseminate information has changed the game, especially when contrasted with the snail’s pace at which creators and the corporate world can react when governed by Boards of Directors, lawyers, and incomplete information.

As groups of users gain more ground, the battles between creators and corporations, on one hand, and fans and other groups on the other, grow more heated, more equal, and more complicated. While creators and corporations still hold the traditional advantages, they grow frustrated with the hydra-like qualities of the fan community and the speed at which it moves. While fans and other groups have created loose collective units, they are impatient with the measured steps of creators and corporations and the willingness to employ resources to which fans have only limited access.

The Harry Potter fan community is a fascinating microcosm when examining evolving relationships between creators and fans because the examples abound. In the early days of fan sites, Warner Bros. sent many threatening letters, some of them to teen fans. Warner Bros. eventually backed off, but several years later Rowling went after archives that allowed minors to view NC-17 fan works. Plagiarism is a battle that the fans more or less wrested from creators other than Rowling, but the cost was the loss of respect from other fans. Conferences changed the landscape by forcing Warner Bros.’s hand on many fair use issues, and were followed by Warner Bros.’s allowing other fan creations, such as wizard rock. The publication of Order of the Phoenix raised a new issue: fans eviscerating Rowling for writing “bad fanfic” and killing characters; that was the first time that a group of Harry Potter fans wholly rejected a canon work. Half-Blood Prince triggered another fan uprising, this time from the Harmonians, when Rowling paired Hermione with Ron instead of Harry. 2007 brought a list of clashes: Strikethrough 2007 on LiveJournal, the backlash and division following the announcement that Dumbledore is gay, the utter rejection of the Epilogue, discussion of whether Rowling’s ever-changing additional information is canon, and of course, RDR Books facing down the Warner Bros. juggernaut over Steve VanderArk’s encyclopedia. Indeed, sometimes even businesses end up on the fan side of the equation, as evidenced by Warner Bros.’ significant restrictions on booksellers’ Deathly Hallows release parties. Finally, 2007 saw the founding of the Organization for Transformative Works, an effort by a group of fans to level the legal playing field that has been excoriated by the media—and by other fans.

This panel will examine relationships between creators and those who consume their work. It will briefly dissect the law underlying the issues, including the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Miller and Communications Decency Act cases governing obscenity. It will review the history of creator/fan relations, including how the participatory leanings of new media and participatory culture have affected that relationship. Ultimately, it will discuss how the battlefield between creators and fans has shifted over the years and where it is now.

In short, I love panels. I love putting together experts and voices from different fields with different experiences for a moderated, sophisticated conversation. For me, that’s one of the best things about Sirens: the opportunity to have those conversations in ways that, for whatever reason, aren’t always available. Bring on the panels!

Go back: All the posts tagged with programming

 

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 Friday, April 22, from 9 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern or Sunday, May 1, 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.

On to panels!

Panels usually consist of 3–4 panelists and a moderator. The moderator and panelists discuss a topic of interest, with most of the discussion coming from the panel (though the moderator may take some questions from the audience).

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 questions, but have enough discussion prepared in case there aren’t many—and consider that structuring the panel’s discussion around some thoughtful questions means you’ll get to the good stuff.)

Panels are particularly well-suited for finding out about a group’s experiences or for discussing a topic among several people with very diverse viewpoints.

If, for example, you have:

  • two people who have different perspectives on a particular theme
  • three people who are really interested in 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

…you might want to organize a panel.

If you’re thinking that you’d really like to see an item on the schedule, but you have more questions than answers, you could organize the panel as the moderator!

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. A panel is meant to be a small and highly interactive discussion among 3–4 panelists, with one person keeping order and keeping the conversation moving. A roundtable is meant to be a small and highly interactive discussion among no more than 25 people, with one person keeping order and keeping the conversation moving. For a roundtable, the interest is in the discussion the audience brings to the presentation, and for the panel, the interest is in the viewpoints of the panelists.
  • From a moderator’s standpoint, panels take a little more prep time than roundtables, because you’ll need to ask people to be part of your panel, and because you’ll want to (and probably need to!) have a conversation in advance about the shape of the panel, the emphases, potential questions, how to manage your time, and so on.
  • Roundtable discussions don’t involve others at the proposal stage, but can be more challenging to moderate, because you won’t have any idea who will attend or how the attendees will shape the discussion.

 
Getting Started
First, you’ll need to choose a topic and focus for your panel, and you’ll need to gather panelists. You can approach people you know or people that you don’t, but we highly recommend that you contact potential panelists before you submit their email addresses as panelists. That way, no one is surprised!

For panels, it’s often a good idea to narrow down your focus with input from your panelists—you never know what experiences they might have to share that can help shape the panel. Also, if you’ve disagreed amicably with someone on a topic, consider forming a panel that explores different aspects of an issue or theme.

The 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). 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 2015 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. Professional affiliation. This is for those presenters who wish to note their current association with a university, and occasionally, a business or professional organization if their presentation is related in some way and they’re speaking with the endorsement of their job. Some people use this field; most don’t unless they’re currently teaching at a university.

4. Email addresses of the panelists. You won’t give us the names or biographies of your other panelists; we’ll send them an email request for that information. They will need to respond to the information request email 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. As with the rest of your information, presenters’ emails must be provided before your proposal is reviewed; you can’t submit a panel and find other presenters only after (or if) the panel is approved. (Also, a panelist who is not the moderator can be the one to submit the proposal, but it’s probably easiest all around if the moderator takes care of this task and becomes the point of contact.)

5. 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. 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 couple of examples from past panels that we think are excellent:

Much fiction, and much of our society, is viewed from “the male gaze.” This is a perspective in which expectations of what matters and what is worth being written about, as well as the way in which characters and events are seen and described, is from what might be called a “male view” of the world. What, then, is the female gaze? How do stories change when seen from the point of view of female desire and female agency? How do we read those stories differently? And does the critical establishment view such stories differently than those written with the more “normative” male gaze?

Food in fantasy is often unthinkingly patterned on our own world and on clichés—aren’t we all tired of journeyers mindlessly eating stew? Consider that fantasy is thinner and weaker without thoroughly considering the foodways of the world. Unpacking food questions gives rise to musing on land types and land usage, food storage and preparation, nutritional needs, and also larger social constructs.

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?

3. An abstract of no more than 500 words. An abstract is a complete—but very short!—version of your presentation. For a panel, it should outline the topic you plan to address and points for discussion, explain your panelists’ perspectives, and provide a couple of sample questions. Here are a couple of resources you might use to put together a brief but cohesive abstract section for your proposal, if you’d like it to be more formal:

 
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.)

“See my other proposal for X [biography, summary, alternate abstract]” usually results in a declined presentation, because the board members may not have access to your other proposal for a variety of reasons: it could be on hold while collaborators check in, 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.

Three to four panelists, including the moderator, is a good size for a 50-minute panel. Everyone has ample time to speak, there will be minimal microphone sharing, and you have enough people for multiple perspectives. The submissions system will allow a moderator to name up to four additional panelists; beyond that, you must email us to add participants.

 
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—we just can’t guarantee it at the time we notify presenters of acceptance. Generally, panels focus on discussion, however, so extra equipment is less likely to be available. 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 8, 2015. 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 15, 2015.

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. They make their decisions confidentially, and can’t answer questions about the status of your presentation. Instead, please write to (programming at sirensconference.org). 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? What if one of the panelists can’t come?
If you find out that you won’t be able to attend before May 15, 2015, 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 or message boards 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 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 15, 2015, 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 (everyone wants to present at the same time, but without being at the same time as any other presentation). 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 9 or 10, 2015.

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, 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, to post on Facebook, and to check out our message boards 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 or the Sirens message boards?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’re hosting a chat on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas. Join us on Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during that time; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

We’ll also be holding a chat on Twitter: Sirens will hold a Twitter brainstorming session for programming topics. It will be held on on April 8 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Our Twitter account is @sirens_con and our hashtag is #Sirens15.

Also, #SirensBrainstormMonday on Twitter has topics free for the taking (and if you have too many ideas, please feel free to contribute your extras).
 

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Perspective: Presenting a Paper

Today we present thoughts from Hallie Tibbetts, Sirens’s programming coordinator, on why presenting a paper worked for her.

Last year, I decided to propose a paper for Sirens. I knew I’d be going back to school, and a paper is a really, really good excuse to miss class—and for me, as an introvert and a staff member, the more we get into the weekend that is Sirens, the more I need something pre-written to help me organize my thoughts. I’m tired—happy, but tired—and I’m not really able to think on my feet, which can make participating on a panel, teaching a workshop, or leading a roundtable challenging for me. (Really. I’m not sure that what comes out of my mouth makes sense by Friday afternoon, sometimes!)

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a paper at first, or even whether I wanted to have a shorter paper (a 25-minute time slot) or a longer one (a 50-minute time slot, for slightly longer papers and audience discussion). Papers, lectures, and presentations are great ways to inform the audience when you know about something they might not, to analyze things, to compare and contrast, and to go into research. I had some blog posts that would make great jumping-off points, and I thought about grabbing a couple of people to put together a set of short, pre-empaneled papers, too.

In the end, I proposed “It’s Coming from Inside the Dollhouse,” about haunted toys in middle grade books. Over the summer, I (re)read the books and jotted down thoughts on each, so that when it came time to write my paper—which isn’t, actually, a requirement, but something I needed to do so I had something to read from—it was easy work. Since I had my presentation finished in advance, I just read over it a few days before my presentation to check on my timing, made a few notes, and brought a copy along to Sirens. After I read my paper, the audience had a lively discussion about the topic, which was pretty amazing.

This was my summary:

Literature for young people in the 1970s and ‘80s included a number of scary stories, including The Dollhouse Murders and The Doll in the Garden. Haunted toys can still be found in books like Doll Bones. This paper will explore haunted objects in books that have been aimed at young readers of yesterday and today.

My abstract, which is a little on the short side, but still okay:

Much “middle grade fiction” limits its scope is to family, friends, or a child’s immediate community, and to finding a place for oneself within those boundaries; young adult fiction typically pushes the young person toward adulthood. Haunted toys, or hauntings that include toys, seem to occupy a liminal space between young adult and middle grade, where no bookstore dares go, but where children must leave behind games and face a harsher reality. These stories show up in works including The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Wren Wright (originally published in 1948, and in new editions as recently as 1995), The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn (1989), and Doll Bones by Holly Black (2013). This paper will examine the use of haunted toys in these and other books as markers of the unnatural, particularly for children, and explore what makes a scary story for young readers, as well as address the shift in focus for these books over the years from younger to older middle grade readers.

I recommend giving papers (or lectures, or talks) a try! I’m already brainstorming one for this year.

Go back: All the posts tagged with programming

 

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 Friday, April 22, from 9 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern or Sunday, May 1, 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, Presentations, Lectures, and Pre-empaneled 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. Our next few posts will show you how to prepare proposals for each type of programming.

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 or subtle 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 novels, 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 person 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. We’ll match up shorter papers and presentations so that they fill a 50-minute time block; for pre-empaneled papers with more than two presenters, we’ll try to give you extra time on the schedule.

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 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 2015 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. Professional affiliation. This is for those presenters who wish to note their current association with a university, and occasionally, a business or professional organization if their presentation is related in some way and they’re speaking with the endorsement of their job. Some people use this field; most don’t unless they’re currently teaching at a university.

4. 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 or biographies 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 promptly. 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, a co-presenter, rather than a moderator, can be the one to submit the proposal, but it’s probably easiest all around if the moderator takes care of this task and becomes the point of contact.)

5. 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. 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’s one example that we’ve borrowed from a paper that was presented at Sirens in 2009:

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.

Here are four more, from 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, that we think are excellent examples:

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.

For more examples, please check out the archives of past years’ presentations (look for the links in the navigation bar at the top to move from year to year).

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 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:

 
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.)

“See my other proposal for X [biography, summary, alternate abstract]” usually results in a declined presentation, because the board members may not have access to your other proposal for a variety of reasons: it could be on hold while collaborators check in, 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—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 abstract.
  • 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 8, 2015. 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 15, 2015.

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. 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 15, 2015, you do have the option of withdrawing. After that, we strongly encourage you to advertise on Twitter, Facebook, or on the message boards 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 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 15, 2015, 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 (everyone wants to present at the same time, but without being at the same time as any other presentation). 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 9 or 10, 2015.

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, 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, to post on Facebook, and to check out our message boards 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 or the Sirens message boards?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’re hosting a chat on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas. Join us on Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during that time; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

We’ll also be holding chats on Twitter: Sirens will hold two Twitter brainstorming sessions for programming topics. The first will be held on March 28 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, and the second will be held on April 8 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Our Twitter account is @sirens_con and our hashtag is #Sirens15.

Also, #SirensBrainstormMonday on Twitter has topics free for the taking (and if you have too many ideas, please feel free to contribute your extras).
 

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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 often 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 abstract how and why you’d use it, 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 the childhoods of rebels and revolutionaries, 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.

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 abstract how and why you’d use it, 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.
  • 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, she 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 she might also act as a panelist and deliver her own lecture or paper.
  • 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 attempt to 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 good choices for people who—though they’ll prepare in advance—like to share information through discussion, and they’re great choices for people who enjoy asking questions of and moderating a small group. Panels are best suited for gathering several people with shared 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.)

Other considerations:

  • 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 more time devoted to panelist discussion than audience questions.
  • Panels may have a large audience, but the majority of the discussion should be generated by the moderator and panelists, rather than drawn from audience questions. Panelists are the experts—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, 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 open-ended questions 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, related to fantasy literature, 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 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.

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 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.) 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 readings of 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, and similar topics are great options for afternoon classes, and if you know something about fencing, archery, falconry, or survival, 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 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 or the Sirens message boards?

 
Join Us for a Chat!
We’ll be hosting two chats on the Sirens website for talking about programming ideas. Join us on Monday, March 16, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern or Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern. The linked page will turn into a chat during those times; no software or downloads are required, but you may need to refresh the page.

We’ll also be holding chats on Twitter: Sirens will hold two Twitter brainstorming sessions for programming topics. The first will be held on March 28 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, and the second will be held on April 8 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Our Twitter account is @sirens_con and our hashtag is #Sirens15.

Also, #SirensBrainstormMonday on Twitter has topics free for the taking (and if you have too many ideas, please feel free to contribute your extras).
 

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Our Annual Programming Series, Part One

The deadline for proposals is May 15, 2015.

To help you prepare, we’ll explain our programming selection process (including any updates), discuss different types of programming commonly seen at Sirens, and show you how to put together a strong programming proposal. Here’s the first thing you should know:

Everyone who is eligible to attend Sirens is eligible to present at Sirens.

You have something to share.

Your voice is important.

While we don’t want to make you feel like you’re not important should you choose to participate from the crowd—perhaps by asking great questions, or participating in group discussions—or should you choose to be simply an active listener, we want to make it very, very clear that presenting is not just for published authors, or professors, or professionals. Our programming is designed, developed, and presented by attendees, because the perspectives and inquiries of attendees make for an exciting, relevant programming schedule. In fact, we prefer that our programming be presented by a mix of scholars, professionals, and fans. Readers, authors, moms, publishers, cousins, scientists, psychologists, friends, mathematicians, librarians, historians—and any other broad category you might be able to think of—all have interesting perspectives to share.

This year’s theme is rebels and revolutionaries, and we hope you’ll consider how that’s reflected in fantasy. We’ll also be happy to receive programming proposals more generally applicable to women in fantasy, and presentations might focus on particular authors, stories, or themes, related topics in gender studies and community, the business and enjoyment of books, and so on. For inspiration, take a look at what attendees have presented over the last six years.

 
Here are some quick facts and answers to frequently asked questions about programming for Sirens:

  • Proposals are accepted via our online system only and are due no later than May 15, 2015.
  • We have some guidelines for presentations so that we can create a coherent schedule that will fit in the time and space we have available.
  • Collaboration is encouraged! Except for roundtable discussions, where the participants need to have a single moderator, you’re welcome to make your presentation with another person or with several other people.
  • One or two presentations is usually a good maximum number of presentations for any one person. Likewise, one or two proposals is a good maximum number of proposals to submit.
  • Proposals are kept confidential by the vetting board.
  • Decisions will be made by June 8, 2015 so that you have the time you need to prepare.
  • You may submit a proposal even if you are not registered yet, but you must be registered by July 7, 2015, to confirm your participation if your proposal is chosen for Sirens.

 
You’ll Want to Know About…

The Call for Proposals
A call for proposals (or papers) formally sets out a conference’s theme, desired presentations, and presentation requirements. It also gives a brief overview of the process by which proposals will be selected.

 
Vetting Board
An independent vetting board will read all of the proposals and decide which proposals to accept for Sirens in 2015. We enlist a board to make sure that proposals are evaluated by people who have a strong collective knowledge of current trends, scholarship, events, and so on; we feel it is most fair to have proposals evaluated by a group of people who know and appreciate what you want to talk about.

 
Tips and Tricks

  1. Make sure you include all requested information when you make your proposal. (More on what to include is coming up in the next posts in the series.)
  2. If you’re working with collaborators—perhaps co-writing a paper, grouping together for a panel, or team-teaching a workshop—be sure to verify that your collaborators want to be part of the presentation before you submit it! Let them know that they’ll receive an email asking them to confirm their participation and to input their contact information and a short biography.
  3. You’ll receive all proposal and presentation communications via email. Please use one that you’ll have access to for all of 2015 and that you check regularly.

 
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 Monday, March 16, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern or Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 2:30 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 #SirensBrainstormMonday for ideas. We’ll hold two Twitter brainstorming sessions for programming topics. The first will be held on Saturday, March 28 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, and the second will be held on Wednesday, April 8 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.


 
Our next posts will describe different types of proposals; what to put in a biography, summary, and abstract; and posts simply for exchanging ideas and finding collaborators. If you have questions, we’re happy to receive them, here or via email.

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

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Sirens Newsletter – Volume 7, Issue 5 (March 2015)

In this issue:

 

REGISTRATION PRICE INCREASE
The next price increase for Sirens will happen on March 31, 2015.

It is currently $185, and jumps to $195 at the very end of March. Visit http://www.sirensconference.org/attend/ for more information or to register now.

Registrations for Sirens include access to all of our conference programming and events, including the keynote addresses by our guests of honor (and accompanying meals or receptions), as well as a conference T-shirt available only to attendees.

 

PROGRAMMING NEWS
Starting next week, we’ll be posting our annual guide to programming, with information applicable to all types of presentations. If you’d like to submit a programming proposal, we hope you’ll take a peek at our tips.

The deadline for programming proposals is May 15, 2015.

Offering opportunities to discuss and debate the remarkable work of women in fantasy literature is vital to Sirens, and the voices of our attendees—including your voice—are critical to those discussions and debates. Therefore, as you know, Sirens’s programming—the presentations, panels, roundtables, and workshops that make up most of our daytime schedule—is created, submitted and presented by our attendees, for our attendees. Our schedule can be as extraordinary as our collective brilliance, but also, as you might expect, when we receive more programming proposals, the Sirens conversation, and our programming schedule, becomes more diverse and more vibrant.

We know that presenting a programming topic isn’t for everyone, but we very much hope that, as you consider whether to do so, you know that your voice is essential, your thoughts are unique, and you are just as welcome to submit and present programming as anyone else attending Sirens. Please see the guidelines section of our website for more information on putting a proposal together. If you’re curious about past programming, check out our archive.

 

PROGRAMMING BRAINSTORMING!
If you’re looking for programming ideas—or you have ideas for programming you’d like to see others present—why not share them on Facebook or on Twitter using #SirensBrainstormMonday. Or why not come to one of our programming chats or Twitter brainstorming sessions? They are a great way find co-presenters or just think out loud.

Our first programming chat will be March 16 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here: http://www.sirensconference.org/chat/.

Our first Twitter programming brainstorming session will be March 28 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern; our Twitter is @sirens_con and our hashtag is #Sirens15.

In the meantime, why not put together a proposal for one of the topics from #SirensBrainstormMonday, listed below? You can find more via the hashtag—and you can contact people other than @sirens_con if you might want to collaborate with them on a topic they’ve shared. (We didn’t want to give away any ideas you contributed to the hashtag here, just in case they were already in progress as proposals.)

  • Rebellious Reading Choices: Diversity, Representation, Revolution
  • That’s Logistics: Operations of a Successful Revolution
  • Covert Operations: Spies, Assassins, and Guerrillas in Fantasy Fiction
  • Rise Like a Girl: Hallmarks of Women-Led Revolutions
  • Whispers of Dragons from Across the Sea: Propaganda, Rumors, and Lies in Revolution
  • Writing as an Act of Revolution
  • Lessons Fantasy Literature Learned from The Art of War (or The Prince)
  • If I Only Had a Brain: The Role of Strategists and Tacticians in Revolution

 

2015 SIRENS READING CHALLENGE
As many of you know, each year Sirens posts a reading list featuring works by that year’s Guests of Honor and other thematic works by and about women in fantasy literature. The list generally tops 60 books, and we never thought of it as a reading challenge—more of a place to go to start with your thematic reading for the year.

But it turns out that you want a reading challenge—so now we have one! Each year, our staff reads widely in women in fantasy literature, partly within our theme and partly more broadly, and we’d love for you to join us. So we present the 2015 Sirens Reading Challenge. Just like our staff challenge, it’s 25 books, some that are required and some that you’ll select from a variety of lists. Finish it by September 12, and we’ll give you a special button at Sirens, suitable for gloating. Game on.

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB
Sunbolt In our revolutionary year, why not join us in reading some revolutionary books? Each month leading up to Sirens, co-founder Amy will read a fantasy book, written by a woman, about revolutionary women—and will then post thoughts on our Goodreads group. This year, she has already read Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, and for this month, Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani.

As Amy said in her review of Sunbolt, “Give me a disobedient girl who makes her own decisions, and I’ll give you a revolutionary.” Come read with us!

We also continue to post our weekly reading on our Sirens Twitter feed, using #FridayReads. We hope you’ll share with us what you’re reading; until we’re completely buried in our to-be-read pile, we’re looking for more recommendations!

 

GUEST OF HONOR SPOTLIGHT
Each year Sirens features a fantasy-related theme—and in 2015, that theme is rebels and revolutionaries. Women are revolutionary in countless ways, whether their interests lie in political, domestic, scientific, creative, or divine arenas. To further our discussion, we have invited three guests of honor, each of whom writes powerfully and provocatively about rebellion and revolution: Rae Carson, Kate Elliott, and Yoon Ha Lee. This month, we’d like to highlight Yoon Ha Lee.

ConservationofShadowsAVectorAlphabetofInterstellarTravelFAndSFClarkesworld

Yoon Ha Lee is a Korean-American science fiction and fantasy writer who majored in math and finds it a source of continual delight that math can be mined for story ideas. Yoon’s fiction has appeared in publications such as F&SF, Tor.com, and Clarkesworld, as well as several year’s-best anthologies, and has ranged from military science fiction to fairy tales. Yoon’s work includes 2010 WSFA Small Press Award finalist “The Pirate Captain’s Daughter,” Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award nominees “Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain” in 2011 and “Ghostweight” in 2012, and 2014 World Fantasy Award finalist “Effigy Nights.” Conservation of Shadows, a debut collection of short fiction, integrates tropes of science fiction with elements of myth and is a finalist for the William L. Crawford Award. Yoon graduated from Cornell University, majoring in mathematics, and earned a master’s degree in secondary math education at Stanford University.

For more information about Yoon, please visit Yoon’s website, blog, or Twitter.

 

YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT…

Interesting Links:

Obituary: We regret to hear of the passing of Suzette Haden Elgin (1936-2015).

The Finnish National Opera performs a ballet of Comet in Moominland.

Under the Radar spotlights Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, a collection of speculative feminist short stories featuring writers, illustrators, and editors from India and Australia.

Via Ellen Kushner (@EllenKushner): My Winter Queen Story: “The City in Winter.”

To the Best of Our Knowledge highlights African Genre Fiction.

Gender on The Mirror Empire and Ancillary Justice.

For Steampunk Hands 2015: The Raj Revised: Steampunking History.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announce the 2014 Nebula Award nominees!

A Webcomic About A Sworn Maiden, Raised As A Boy, And A Deadly Trial.

Colleen Atwood wins the Excellence in Fantasy Film award at this year’s Costume Designers Guild Awards.

Short film Oya, Rise of the Orisha, an African superhero film with two Black women protagonists, is available to stream.

Disney is launching a Latin-inspired Sofia the First spinoff.

 

Recent Releases:

2015MarchCollage

Click the image for a closer look at the covers.

February 10:
The Glass Arrow, Kristen Simmons
The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, Amy McCulloch
Sword, Amy Bai

February 12:
Banished: Book One of The Grimm Laws, Jennifer Youngblood and Sandra Poole

February 17:
Unseen (Unborn Series #2), Amber Lynn Natusch
Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy (Tales From Shadowhunter Academy #1), Cassandra Clare

February 23:
Mantle of Malice (The Tudor Enigma), April Taylor
Unicorn Seasons, Janni Lee Simner

February 24:
Who Needs Magic?, Kathy McCullough
A Wicked Thing, Rhiannon Thomas
The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales, Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth, ed. Erika Eichenseer

March 1:
Prairie Fire (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim #2), E. K. Johnston

March 3:
Bone Gap, Laura Ruby
The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy #3), Shannon Hale
Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier
Flunked, Jen Calonita
Infinity Bell (House Immortal #2), Devon Monk
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (Fairyland #4), Catherynne M. Valente, ill. Ana Juan
The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2), Marie Rutkoski
Of Silk and Steam (London Steampunk #5), Bec McMaster
Vision in Silver, Anne Bishop
The Storyspinner, Becky Wallace
Death Marked, Leah Cypess
Kin, Lili St. Crow

March 10:
Burning Kingdoms, Laura DeStefano
Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2), Rachel Hartman
The Orphan Queen, Jodi Meadows
Nightbird, Alice Hoffman
The Infinite, Lori M. Lee
The Exile, C. T. Adams

March 17:
Prudence, Gail Carriger
Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions, Sheila Grau, ill. Joe Sutphin

March 24:
Catalyst, Lydia Kang
Half Wild, Sally Green
Shadow Study, Maria V. Snyder
The Walls Around Us, Nova Ren Suma
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, Paige McKenzie with Alyssa B. Sheinmel
In the Time of Dragon Moon, Janet Lee Carey
The Door in the Moon (Chronoptika #3), Catherine Fisher

March 31:
The Cemetery Boys, Heather Brewer
King (The Dragon King Chronicles #3), Ellen Oh
Sisters of Blood and Spirit, Kady Cross
Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent, Marie Brennan
The Lost Track of Time, Paige Britt, ill. Lee White
The Wicked Will Rise, Danielle Paige

 

SIRENS REVIEW SQUAD
We’re looking for a few more volunteers to supply us with short reviews of works they have read and loved. If you think you could contribute a book review of at least 250 words sometime during the next year, we would love to work with you to publish your critique right here in our Sirens newsletter.

Review squad volunteering is quite flexible; we simply ask that you share information about books you’ve enjoyed. (We are, of course, especially interested in fantasy books by and about women, and we hope you’ll consider interesting, diverse selections.) You can contribute once or on an ongoing basis, and on a schedule that works for you. Please visit the volunteer system and, when we ask you what position you’re interested in, type in “Book Reviewer.”

 

PropheciesLibelsDreamsProphecies, Libels, and Dreams: Stories
Ysabeau Wilce
Small Beer Press (Oct 2014)

Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams: Stories is a collection of seven tall tales and brief adventures from the brilliant Ysabeau Wilce. Fans, like myself, of Wilce’s Flora Segunda series, will quickly recognize the magical world of Califa represented here, but even readers who have never visited Califa before will be swept up in this dark, gritty, yet sparkling world. Califa is a thoughtful and highly original mash-up of modern California, the Wild West, Victorian Europe, and Mexican myth, among other cultures and times. The swash-buckling characters who inhabit this kaleidoscopic world are as magnetic as they are complex.

Take, for example, the devastatingly gorgeous Hard Hands, reluctant keeper of his small niece (and fiancée), Tiny Doom, a bouncing and mischievous young lady who attracts abundant trouble. Hard Hands wants nothing more than to conjure a bad-ass demon drummer, rock out in front of his adoring hoardes, and then ka-noodle with one of his lovers, but, much to his chagrin, Tiny Doom consistently lures him into misadventure and mayhem. As gruff and self-absorbed as he is loving and brave, Hard Hands is featured in four of these stories and frankly, I couldn’t get enough of him.

Although the Flora series was marketed as young adult, Wilce has brought Califa soundly into adult literature with this collection. Califa is rife with tarts, dandies, and demons of frightening lust and hunger. In the arid lands outside the city, there are re-animated corpses and monsters who terrorize the foolish or smug. Wilce has a background as a scholar of military history and has lived and traveled in many regions of the world. Her mastery of language and character is extraordinary and I highly recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys their fantasy with some grit and intrigue. – Edith Bishop


Questions? You can comment here or write to us at (help at sirensconference.org).

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