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Perspective: On Programming – Casey Blair

Tell us about an interesting or inspiring presentation you attended at Sirens.

My first year at Sirens, Valerie Frankel gave a presentation on the archetypal heroine’s journey (much of which is now published in From Girl to Goddess). I’d been familiar with Campbell’s monomyth before that presentation, including a lot of its shortcomings, but that was the first time I had heard anyone address and dissect in an academic way not just what it means to be a woman and a hero, but how the journeys themselves tend to differ—and, importantly, why.

My brain was spilling over with ideas before the presentation was even over. I remember one of the points in that presentation was that, excepting death goddesses, heroines’ powers have historically tended to be associated with life—love, cooperation, fertility, etc.—and that lit a fire in my mind that has only grown since. I love reading and writing stories that subvert tropes—and the status quo—and part of doing that effectively is being able to clearly see what the norm is and how it developed. That presentation was at once the talk I’d unknowingly always been looking for and also the catalyst that helped me learn to think about stories, and the possibilities for women inside and outside of them, in a new way.

 
If you’ve attended Sirens more than once, why did you decide to come back?

When I was living in rural Japan, I felt out of touch, not just with friends, but with the causes that mattered to me. I didn’t really feel like part of a community, and while I didn’t know what community I was missing, I knew I was missing something.

Then I learned the next Sirens theme would be monsters. The tie between women and monsters is something I have—and had—spent a lot of time thinking about on my own; it was at the core of both of my theses in college. I had Strong Opinions on the subject, and I also had a lot of questions, because I always have questions.

Sirens became a lifeline for me. When I wasn’t grading homework, I threw myself into research and writing until I knew I had a solid presentation. I shoved my imposter syndrome into a dark corner of my brain and submitted proposals for a presentation and a roundtable, and to my shock Sirens accepted both.

I flew from Japan back to the US for the first time in over a year solely to attend Sirens. It was my first time attending a conference by myself. I’m introverted to start with, and throwing myself headlong into a culture shock situation seemed like a recipe for crippling social awkwardness at least, if not disaster.

Of course, it wasn’t a disaster at all. As soon as I found the group waiting for the shuttle to Vail, it enveloped me. Sirens that year was almost painfully poignant for me, because it was the first time I understood that this was the community I’d needed all along, and it was even a community that wanted to hear me when I chose to speak. I came back to Sirens for the community of passion and brilliance of people who care and found some of the most supportive and welcoming people I have ever known.

–Casey Blair
 

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